It was 16 years ago today (March 9th, 2007) that Boston lead singer Brad Delp committed suicide at his home in Atkinson, New Hampshire, at the age of 55. Emergency operators in Concord, New Hampshire, got a phone call seeking help and when local police responded, they found Delp had suffocated from the smoke of two charcoal grills he had lit inside his bathroom. The singer was found lying on a pillow by his fiancee, Pamela Sullivan. His cause of death was listed as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Delp will be remembered for his peerless vocals on such timeless Boston classics as “More Than A Feeling,” “Peace Of Mind,” “Foreplay/Long Time,” “Rock & Roll Band,” “Smokin’” — which he co-wrote with Boston co-founder Tom Scholz, “Hitch A Ride,” “Something About You,” “Let Me Take You Home Tonight,” — which Delp wrote on his own, “Don’t Look Back,” “We’re Ready,” and Boston’s only chart-topper, 1986’s “Amanda.” Delp is featured posthumously on Boston’s latest album, 2013’s Love, Life, And Hope.
Immediately following his death, Tom Scholz posted a statement on the official bandboston.com website: “We’ve just lost the nicest guy in rock and roll. . . As you all know by now, Boston’s lead singer, Brad Delp, was found dead in his home on Friday, March 9th, 2007. Plans for live Boston performances this summer have, of course, been canceled. My heart goes out to his wonderful fiancee Pamela, his two children and other family members, his close friends and band mates, and to the millions of people whose lives were made a little brighter by the sound of his voice. He will be dearly missed.“
Shortly before his death, Brad Delp recalled to us the first time that rock n’ roll entered his life back in October 1956: “I was told the story of when Elvis first came on Ed Sullivan, my sister flipped the chair over (laughs) when he came on, and I do remember playing her Elvis records, and her Buddy Holly records. And I was lucky enough that I got to see Elvis. It was the last tour I think that he ever did, and he played in Providence, Rhode Island, so he wasn’t in the best of health, but I can say that I actually got to see Elvis on stage.”
Like many people his age, Delp decided to become a musician after watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, and he worked with a number of groups in the area while he was still in school. Delp graduated from Danvers High School in 1969, and it wasn’t long before he hooked up with Scholz to work on the music that became the first Boston album.
Delp left Scholz and Boston following the release of the band’s second album, 1978’s Don’t Look Back, and he spent a few years working with former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau on a number of projects, including the groups RTZ and Orion The Hunter, before returning to Boston in 1986 for the album Third Stage. He was out again for the recording of the band’s next album, 1994’s Walk On, but he returned for the tour and shared lead vocal duties with Fran Cosmo. That arrangement was still in place until fairly recently, when Fran and his son Anthony Cosmo were dismissed.
When he wasn’t working with Boston, Delp could often be found doing Beatles covers with the band BeatleJuice, which had been playing the local circuit for many years.
Back in 2007, Tom Scholz told us that Brad Delp had the greatest set of pipes he’d ever heard: “He’s the best singer I’ve ever heard — period. I have worked with a ton of ’em — nobody can do the things that he can do. I’m not talking about singing high notes — lots of people can do that. He can do amazing things with his voice, and his grasp of music is just mind-boggling. The things that he can keep upstairs. . . it’s like you’re tapping into some kind of computer memory bank or something.”
Scholz credits Delp as the key to Boston’s global success: “He and I were the ones, y’know, that put most of those tracks on the albums. Y’know, I did the instruments, mostly, and he did the singing. That was the key. That’s what we did in the demos — I mean, other than the drum track — and that’s what worked. We basically did that on the albums and we certainly had some contributions from people along the way. But in my mind, y’know, none of them would’ve been successful without Brad’s voice on them. I don’t think there would’ve been a Boston today if he hadn’t been the singer.”
In 2012 Tom Scholz filed suit against The Boston Globe, accusing the paper of claiming that he allegedly drove Brad Delp to suicide in 2007. In legal testimony and the press, Delp’s closest friends took to Delp’s defense, with Ultimate Classic Rock quoting former Boston member David Sikes saying, Delp “didn’t like Tom and didn’t trust Tom. He felt that Tom had taken advantage of him financially, especially.”
Shortly before his suicide, Sikes says that Delp told him “how much he envied me, that I had the guts to stand up to Tom Scholz and the guts to quit the band and to move on with my life, to leave Boston.”
Close friend Joy Baker testified, “Brad just could not stand one more minute of feeling like he could not stand up for himself or do the right thing, if you will, in any aspect of his life, because he was so afraid. . . he would run from confrontation and I think he was just beaten down by the years of dealing with Tom Scholz.”
Examiner.com reported that on August 24th, 2012 Superior Court Judge John C. Cratsley threw out Scholz’ defamation lawsuit against Brad Delp’s ex-wife Micki Delp. Scholz claimed that Micki’s interview with The Boston Herald alluded that Scholz was the cause for Delp’s suicide.
Scholz has gone on record stating that “an extremely upsetting and embarrassing incident” was the real reason for Delp’s suicide. To make a long story short — according to Scholz — Delp was engaged to Pamela Sullivan at the time of his death. For the two years leading up to his suicide, Pamela’s sister Meg lived with Delp in a very close, but platonic relationship. Meg and her boyfriend found a secret battery powered camera planted in her bedroom — allegedly set up by Delp.
When confronted, Delp was humiliated and contrite — blaming the emotional fallout from an alleged previous affair of Pamela’s for his problems. The couple allowed Delp to tell Pamela himself. Instead, Delp brought two charcoal barbecue grills up to his bedroom, turned the gas on and killed himself.
In the notes Delp left behind, he told the couple: “I have had bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide since I was a teenager. . . (Pamela) was my ‘ray of sunshine,’ but sometimes even a ray of sunshine is no substitute for a good psychiatrist.”