Who he was...
Cozy Powell was known for his pratical jokes, his need for speed, and his kick-ass drumming. He was, by far, the best drummer of his time, spanning three decades with some of the best rockers in the business, including Brian May, Jeff Beck, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Peter Green, and Black Sabbath. Jon Lord once said, "Playing with Cozy Powell is like a kick in the ass for every musician."
He loved his cars (a Saab 9000 and a Ferrari) and motorbikes probably as much as his drums. At one point he quit the music business to pursue auto racing full time, becoming a Formula Three Racer. "Socially, anyone who knew him will vouch that he was a loon at all times," says Peter Ball. "He scared the s**t out of me on more than one occasion with his very quick and safe driving."
But there was another side to Cozy that few people knew about. Says Neil Murray, "He was well-known for his love of fast cars and motorbikes, but it was less known that he had a deep love of animals and the countryside, and he was happiest to be by himself in the peace and quiet of the Berkshire countryside, going for long walks or riding horses."
How he died...
On April 6, 1998, Cozy was cruising over 90mph on the M4 outside Bristol, a typical scene for this fast-paced drummer. He was chatting with his girlfriend on the cellphone, assurring her that he was on his way over. Neil Murray stated, "He was involved with someone who he was very much in love with. It had only blossomed in the last six months. It was a rather complex situation, and he was on his way to see her." But Cozy never made it. Something went wrong - the weather, the car, nobody knows for sure - Cozy lost control, and the car crashed into the central reservation barriers. An ambulance arrived shortly and rushed Cozy to the hospital, but Cozy's injuries were too severe. He died later that evening. Cozy was fifty years old.
On Saturday, April 18, Cozy's friends, family, and fellow musicians gathered at a crematoriam in Wiltshire, England to grieve the loss of this brilliant man and to bid their final farewells. Cozy was loved by all who knew him personally and those who admired him from a distance. "It was a simple service," says Neil Murray (Brian May Band), "with hymns and prayers as well as a reading by a friend of Cozy's, keyboard player Jim Johnson, and an emotional tribute by one of Cozy's closest friends, Frank Aiello, who was the singer with Bedlam and Hammer. The service ended with 'Let It Be' by the Beatles. There were dozens of floral arrangements and wreaths, with messages of sympathy from Tony Iommi, Geoff Nicholls, Tony Martin, David Coverdale and many others. Those attending in person included Brian May, Jeff Beck, Peter Green, Don Airey, Glen Tipton (Judas Priest), Denny Ball (Bedlam), Spike Edney and Jamie Moses (Brian May Band) along with family members and other close friends. There are no definite plans for a memorial/tribute event, but I'm sure that something will be organised after people have had time to get over the initial shock of Cozy's death."
Those who knew him...
Record producer Micky Most, who chatted with Cozy about a month before his death, said, "He seemed in very good form. He was always a very 'up' guy. Cozy worked with some of the greatest people, and he was renowned as a great asset through both his attitude and his playing. It's a great loss. We're all gutted."
Other close friends remember their last encounters with Cozy with fondness and poignancy.
"Cozy will remain in my heart until I die," says Bill Ward (Black Sabbath). "The last time we saw each other, we hugged and held onto each other tightly, two old rockers, in the spirit of friends and drummers alike, each respecting the other. I thank God now that that happened on our last time together."
Joe Geesin, editor of the NaNaNa Newsletter, said, "His last phone call to me, when he spoke of his enthusiasm of going back on the road with Brian after dissappointingly missing the Yngwie tour, will stay with me forever. I will continue to put out the newsletter, not just as a tribute, but also as I feel there is so much to the man and his music, the story cannot end just yet. A friend has gone, but his music will live on for me and many others for a long time. A very long time."
Jacky, from the Official International Queen Fan Club writes, "Cozy had just heard the final mixes on the album, which he loved, and was raring to go on tour later this year. He was such a lovely man, and such a brilliant drummer, he'll be much missed by everyone who knew him."
Cozy was an incredible asset to Brian May's solo works, adding his superb drumming to "Back to the Light," "Live at the Brixton Academy," and Brian's new album, "Another World." The first single from this album, "The Business" (with Cozy on drums) was released in May 1998 as a tribute to Cozy Powell from Brian May. Other Brian-related releases with Cozy include a Japanese-only edition of a CD, called "Ressurection," featuring Cozy as co-writer of the title song (including an outstanding drum solo), live tracks of "Too Much Love Will Kill You" and "Back to the Light," and the entire Star Fleet Project, never released on CD by itself. Cozy's latest album was released in July 1997 by Polygram, a compilation titled "Very Best of Cozy Powell," a must for every collector.
Cozy Powell will be greatly missed.