At age 50, David Murray Brockie – founder and lead singer of the shock-rock group Gwar – was found dead in his Richmond, Va., home Sunday, after returning from a tour of Australia and Japan.
His death is being investigated as drug-related, but it could be months before toxicology results are released. According to Gwar’s manager, Jack Flanagan, the funeral will be private, but a public memorial will be held Aug. 15 in Richmond, followed by the band’s “Gwar-b-q” the next day.
Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus by Gwar fans) and I were arrested together in September 1990, after a live show that allegedly violated North Carolina obscenity statutes. The charges were later reduced to misdemeanors, and Gwar was banned from performing in North Carolina for a year.
The incident was covered by the Observer, as well as national media including The Associated Press, Billboard, Rolling Stone and MTV. My 4808 Club in uptown Charlotte was closed by authorities shortly after the arrests. How ironic is it that I write this appreciation of Brockie?
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In its wake, the band shot to stardom, eventually scoring two Grammy nominations, touring the world and becoming known for highly offensive, tongue-in-cheek shows that landed somewhere between Alice Cooper, Monty Python and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Brockie was born in Ottawa, Canada, in 1963, but his family moved to the D.C. area in his early teens. He found punk music as a way to vent his frustrations in suburban northern Virginia. Brockie left his first art college to attend Virginia Commonwealth University, where he formed several bands and honed his abilities.
He was an extraordinary painter, a talented musician, a criminally ignored lyricist, a quick-witted comedian and actor, and a mesmerizing frontman.
Brockie performed with musical acts X-Cops, Death Piggy and DBX, appeared in several movies, was the “Intergalactic Correspondent” on late-night Fox News program “Red Eye” and was on two seasons of Fearnet’s “Holliston.”
Brockie and I had continued our relationship in the 25 years since our incarceration. I promoted a number of Gwar shows in the Southeast in the early ’90s and wrote a book, “Kill the Music,” which chronicled our experience during the PMRC era, interviewed Brockie at Bonnaroo in 2010 for an article titled “Bonnaroo Must Be Destroyed,” and wrote frequently about Gwar for blogs and magazines.
Gwar overcame many obstacles and changed lineups over the years, but Brockie remained the consummate taskmaster at his company, Slave Pit Enterprises, and was the last original member to play with the group after the death of guitarist Corey Smoot in 2011.
Don Drakulich (aka Sleazy P. Martini of Gwar) may have said it best: “If there is any solace in this, it’s that there was little suffering. He went out on a high point in his career. And he will never know the feeling of just fading away. He went out like a rock star. My biggest regret is not getting a chance to say goodbye.”
Is it ironic that I write this, you ask? I say, no. Brockie left me behind to tell his tale.