KAFM NOTES: Pop’s greatest unsolved mysteries
Free Press Music Columnist
Life is mysterious, sometimes maddeningly so. There are many great questions left unanswered by history, or science, and some of those mysteries originated in the world of pop music. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at the circumstances surrounding seven of the greatest unsolved musical mysteries, like:
1. WHO KILLED BOBBY FULLER?
Bobby Fuller looked like someone who had it all on July 18, 1966. He’d already enjoyed hits with songs such as “Let Her Dance” and “I Fought the Law,” and was reportedly in good spirits, thinking about his next album — when he apparently disappeared from his apartment in the early morning hours that day.
Later that afternoon, he missed a band meeting held at the headquarters of Del-Fi, his record label. When his mother stepped out of his apartment to gather his mail at about 5 p.m. that evening, she noticed her son’s car had returned to the parking lot outside his building. When she approached the vehicle, she could see her son in the driver’s seat. She opened the door and was immediately overwhelmed by gasoline fumes. Her son’s dead body, and the interior of his Oldsmobile, had been covered in gas.
Based on the degree of rigor mortis, he had been dead for hours. Bobby was covered in bruises, and his right index finger had been broken backwards. Yet the LAPD initially labeled the death as a suicide, and later amended the report to read “Accident.” Some folks have speculated that he died from a fall at an “acid party” the night before, and that his body had been returned to his apartment to cover the accident, but none of his injuries were consistent with that story. Others believe he was the victim of a mob hit. We’ll probably never know.
2. WHO’S SO VAIN?
Since the song was released in November 1972, Carly Simon’s hit single, “You’re So Vain,” has elicited endless speculation about the subject being addressed in the lyrics. Because she had just married singer James Taylor, some folks thought the song was about him, but Simon has always vehemently denied that.
During the subsequent four decades, other possible subjects have included Mick Jagger (who sings background vocals on the track), Warren Beatty, Cat Stevens — and the lesser-known but more likely Dan Armstrong, a talented guitarist and luthier with whom Simon had just broken up before writing the song.
In recent years, Simon has dropped cryptic hints as to the identity of the man (or men) about whom she wrote “You’re So Vain,” but only time will tell if this mystery will ever be solved.
We’ll examine some of pop music’s other unsolved mysteries — like that surrounding the death of Rolling Stone Brian Jones and the question of what Billy Joe really threw off the Tallahatchee Bridge — in the next couple weeks in this space. What’s your favorite rock n’ roll mystery? Email Craven at email@example.com or drop by his new Facebook page to let him know the unanswered question from musical history which most bedevils you.
Notes is funded in part by the Gill Foundation’s Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado, a proud supporter of local organizations like the Colorado AIDS Project and their work to care and advocate for Coloradans affected by HIV and AIDS.
Craven Lovelace produces Notes, a daily cultural history of popular music, for KAFM 88.1 Community Radio, kafmradio.org. You can visit cravenlovelace.com for more of his musings on the world of popular culture.
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