April 5, 1998: Drummer Cozy Powell Dies in Car Crash

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Cozy Powell in the ’70s

You might call Cozy Powell a utilitarian drummer; he made others sound better, but never quite became famous in his own right. It was on this date, April 5, 1998, that he passed at the age of 50.

He was born Colin Trevor Powell in Cirencester, England, on Dec. 29, 1947, and began playing drums at 12. He borrowed his nickname from the jazz drummer Cozy Cole, and by his teens he was already impressing locals with his skills behind the kit.

His first band of any consequence was called the Sorcerers, which morphed into a few other bands, but it wasn’t until 1970 that he caught his big break, joining the Jeff Beck Group and appearing on the albums Rough and Ready (1971) and Jeff Beck Group (1972).

Black Sabbath in 1989 (l. to r.): Tony Iommi, Cozy Powell, Tony Martin and Neil Murray

A series of stints with other bands followed, and studio work for famed producer Mickie Most, adding his drum power to records by everyone from Donovan to Suzi Quatro. In 1974, he formed Cozy Powell’s Hammer but his next major gig came the following year with Rainbow, the hard rock band featuring Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore. Powell stayed with that outfit for five years and then spent the next five years drifting from one band to the next—the Michael Schenker Group and Whitesnake among them—until he was called upon to be the new “P” in ELP—the legendary trio reborn as Emerson, Lake and Powell.

Keith Emerson, Greg Lake and Cozy Powell

Again, Powell found his way in and out of various bands following that short-lived engagement, and then joined Black Sabbath in 1988, working with the band until 1991, taking a few years off and then returning in 1994-95. Later gigs included work with Brian May, Peter Green, Yngwie Malmsteen and others, along with more solo work, but his prolific career was cut short on April 5, 1998. While on his way to visit a female friend, Powell—who had been drinking and was not wearing a seat belt—was involved in an accident that sent him through his car’s windshield. He died at the scene.

Watch Cozy Powell with the Jeff Beck Group in 1972

Emerson, Lake & Powell are being celebrated with The Complete Collection, a 3-CD box set, a fitting tribute to the all-too-brief powerhouse collaboration. The title arrives April 12, 2024, on the Spirit of Unicorn Music label via Cherry Red Records. It’s available to pre-order in the U.S. here and the U.K. here.

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4 Comments so far

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  1. Eno
    #1 Eno 14 March, 2020, 07:12

    My hero who made big drumming!

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  2. G.D.Praetorius
    #2 G.D.Praetorius 6 April, 2020, 01:03

    I worked with Cozy several times while he was with Ritchie Blackmore and Rainbow. One fond memory of him was when just following a sound check (Graham Bonnet was the singer, Roger Glover was on bass) someone came to tell him that his girlfriend/wife had tracked him down and called, and he knew that he was in trouble. But he really didn’t seem to give a crap about it. I got the impression that he was quite the rake and had no remorse, a pissed woman was just part of his day. Some months later I oversaw the video shoot for Rainbow’s “All Night Long”, which became a great short story in my book “BABYSITTING A BAND ON THE ROCKS.” Available at LooneyTunesLong Island.com and NewburyComics.com

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  3. Onteo
    #3 Onteo 6 April, 2021, 05:00

    Cozy had a minor hit single on Chrysalis records in the early 70’s with Dance with the devil.

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