The Cowsills Biography

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Billed as ‘America’s First Family Of Music’, the Cowsills originally featured Bill (William Joseph Cowsill Jnr., 9 January 1948, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, d. 17 February 2006, Canada; guitar/vocals), Bob (b. Robert Paul Cowsill, 26 August 1949, Portsmouth, Virginia, USA; guitar/vocals), Barry (b. 14 September 1954, Newport, Rhode Island, USA, d. 28 December 2005, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; bass/vocals) and John (b. 2 March 1956, Newport, Rhode Island, USA; drums). The quartet recorded a single ‘All I Really Want To Be Is Me’ for Johnny Nash’s Joda Records label before coming to the attention of Mercury Records writer/producer Artie Kornfeld. The Cowsills recorded an album for Mercury but were dropped after failing to make a commercial impact. Kornfield stayed faithful to the group and co-wrote and produced their breakthrough hit, ‘The Rain, The Park And Other Things’, which reached number 2 in the US charts in December 1967. The single featured additional vocals from the siblings’ mother Barbara (b. 12 July 1928, d. 31 January 1985, Tempe, Arizona, USA). Sister Susan (b. 20 May 1959, Canton, Ohio, USA; vocals) and brother Paul (b. 11 November 1951, Portsmouth, Virginia, USA; keyboards/vocals) were subsequently added to the line-up, the former making her debut on 1968’s We Can Fly album and the latter on the same year’s Captain Sad And His Ship Of Fools. The Cowsills’ happy, bouncy harmonies were evident on the singles ‘We Can Fly’, ‘In Need Of A Friend’ and the 1968 Top 10 hit ‘Indian Lake’. Their energetic interpretation of the title song from the rock musical Hair reached number 2 in May 1969 and proved to be their swansong. Shortly afterwards Bill left to pursue a career in composing and occasional solo forays. Before they split up in 1972, the Cowsills became the inspiration for the NBC US television series the Partridge Family, starring David Cassidy, in 1970.

Various members of the Cowsills regrouped on different occasions, initially in the late 70s to record an album which has never been released. In January 1985 Barbara died of emphysema, aged 56, in Tempe, Arizona. The following decade saw Bob, Paul, John and Susan regroup to record a new studio album. Barry was a victim of the devastating hurricane that ripped through New Orleans in August 2005. Bill passed away the following February.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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