Oct 26, 2019: Little Feat’s Paul Barrere Dies

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Little Feat in an undated photo. That’s Paul Barrere, second from R, behind the seated Lowell George

Paul Barrere, the guitarist, singer and occasional songwriter, for Little Feat, died Oct. 26, 2019, in Los Angeles, Calif., at 71. The news was announced by the band on their website. Barrere was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2015 and was not on the band’s current tour.

Barrere joined Little Feat in 1972, roughly three years after they were formed by Lowell George and Bill Payne. Besides serving as a guitarist for the band, Barrere sang backup vocals. He co-wrote such Little Feat songs as “Feats Don’t Fail Me Now” and “Time Loves a Hero.”

Barrere is preceded in death by founding member/drummer Richie Hayward, who died in 2010, and George, who passed in 1979. George had been the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist and one of its two principal songwriters, with Payne. When George died, Barrere took on the role as Little Feat’s lead guitarist and vocalist.

Though the band never crossed over to Top 40 radio, their music, a combination of blues, country, folk and R&B, became favorites of FM radio programmers. Their recordings included such early ’70s studio albums as Sailin’ ShoesDixie ChickenFeats Don’t Fail Me Now, as well as their 1978 2-LP live release, Waiting For Columbus.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Waiting For Columbus

Best Classic Bands spoke with Barrere earlier in the year, in one of his final interviews.

When we asked him about the band’s changes over the years, he said, “I think that the main thing about Little Feat is that it’s been described as a musicians’ band. And the most important part of it is the music itself. When we do get together and we play these songs, it always brings the best out in you because you bring into it whatever you’ve been doing in the meantime. The opportunities are endless as far as soloing. The arrangements pretty much stay the same, but not exactly the same. I think it’s a testament to the fact that all the cats can play.”

Related: Our 2019 interview with Barrere

The band’s complete statement upon his death read: “It is with great sorrow that Little Feat must announce the passing of our brother guitarist, Paul Barrere, this morning at UCLA Hospital. We ask for your kindest thoughts and best wishes to go out especially to his widow Pam and children Gabriel, Genevieve, and Gillian, and to all the fans who were his extended family.

“Paul auditioned for Little Feat as a bassist when it was first being put together—in his words, “as a bassist I make an excellent guitarist”—and three years later joined the band in his proper role on guitar. Forty-seven years later, he was forced to miss the current tour, which will end tomorrow, due to side effects from his ongoing treatment for liver disease.

“He promised to follow his doctor’s orders, get back in shape, and rock on the beach at the band’s annual gathering in Jamaica in January 2020. Until then, he wrote, ‘keep your sailin’ shoes close by…if I have my way, you’re going to need them!’

“As the song he sang so many times put it, he was always Willin’, but it was not meant to be. Paul, sail on to the next place in your journey with our abiding love for a life always dedicated to the muse and the music. We are grateful for the time we have shared.

Yours in music,

Little Feat: Bill Payne, Sam Clayton, Fred Tackett, Kenny Gradney, and Gabe Ford

Watch Barrere and Feat’s Fred Tackett perform the band’s “Willin'” in 2018

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  1. Doug M.
    #1 Doug M. 27 October, 2019, 00:13

    It’s a sad day for everybody. He will be missed.

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  2. Da Mick
    #2 Da Mick 27 October, 2022, 00:27

    Barrere was the ultimate band component guy musically. Wehn his guitar playing, singing, and songwriting were added to Little Feat after the second LP, the band really fleshed out and came into it’s own. Lowell obviously was the leader, but Barrere really brought a solid backing element to the band in sound, singing and songwriting. As good as George was, Little Feat would never have reached the potential it did without Paul.. That said, with Barrere’s playing, vocals and songs integrated into Feat’s sound, he was able to carry the band’s sound for some time. They definitely changed without Lowell’s soulful voice and his swampy cool songs, and eventually they morphed into more of a kind of New Orleans’ type of sound, which had originally been one of their many flavors. As a fan of the band, I found their later albums lacking, and I felt it was because Paul couldn’t really carry a lead vocalist role, and their songs became too much in the same vein — a vain that I wasn’t particularly that fond of. All that said, I consider myself a Paul Barrere fan, and I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing. An era is gone.

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