Aug 11, 2021: Tower of Power Alums Die Within Days of Each Other

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Mike Finnigan (Photo via the Facebook page of musician Colin John)

Mike Finnigan, an accomplished session and touring musician, most prominently on the Hammond B3 organ, for such classic rock legends as Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Bonnie Raitt, died August 11, 2021, due to liver cancer. Finnigan also performed occasionally with the horn-based, funk-soul band, Tower of Power. His death, at age 76, was preceded by several days by longtime ToP guitarist, Bruce Conte. The news of Conte’s passing at age 71, following his battle with leukemia, was first reported on Aug. 8. The pair of Tower of Power deaths were announced by their founder and bandleader, Emilio Castillo, on the group’s Facebook page.

Among the scores of albums on which Finnigan performed were Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (1968), Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Daylight Again (1982) and CSNY’s American Dream (1988), as well as recordings with Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, David Coverdale and Taj Mahal.

Finnigan, born April 26, 1945, was part of a band with Les Dudek and Jim Krueger in the late ’70s.

Castillo called Finnigan “one of the most soulful singers and also one of the finest Hammond B3 players on the planet and we loved it every time he sat in with us back in the day (1970), and later in our career. We took Mike on our Canadian tour and also to Japan and he absolutely tore it up!”

Watch Finnigan perform as part of Bonnie Raitt’s band in 2013

Finnigan met his wife, Candy, when both were at the University of Kansas, where he, at 6-foot 5-inches, was on a basketball scholarship. After years of marriage, the pair recognized that they had both become alcoholics and together they spent decades embracing sober living. Candy Finnigan became an intervention coach and Mike also became known for his support of those afflicted with alcoholism. The couple were married for 50 years.

Conte, a jazz-fusion guitarist, joined Tower of Power in 1972 and played on seven of their albums before departing in 1979. He re-joined the band several decades later.

“Bruce performed with us at our 50 Year Anniversary celebration,” wrote Castillo, “and over the years we’ve played together and laughed together many times. He was known as having a totally unique signature sound to his playing and was absolutely one of the funniest guys ever.”

It’s reported that Conte died in the Philippines, where he lived.

Related: Musicians we lost in 2021

Tower of Power continues to tour. Tickets are available here. They released their 50th anniversary album, 50 Years of Funk & Soul: Live at the Fox Theatre, in 2021.

Best Classic Bands Staff

5 Comments so far

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  1. 122intheshade
    #1 122intheshade 13 August, 2021, 00:28

    R.I.P. to both. I believe I remember TOP doing halftime at a Rose Bowl in the early 1970s. Those two magnificent songs, “You’re Still A Young Man” and “So Very Hard to Go”.

    Saw them touring with Tom Jones(!) a few years ago. They both put on a terrific show.

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  2. Tootsie Roll
    #2 Tootsie Roll 13 August, 2021, 04:09

    God bless you 2 T.O.P , and your families in the up coming days, you were amazing and the words I feel and felt about the music you’ve written, played etc together I am speechless, you will be missed but definitely not forgotten,rest in peace and keep on playing music up there, I will looking for to hearing you play again as soon as Jesus comes to take the rest of us home

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  3. BD
    #3 BD 13 August, 2021, 11:04

    Mike Finnigan also played in the Dave Mason Band in the mid-70’s and is on their double live LP “Certified Live” in which he sings a great version of Going Down Slow.

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  4. Da Mick
    #4 Da Mick 15 August, 2021, 17:02

    Like so many other heralded “sidemen” it was amazing how great Mike could sing, but never really had his day in the sun as THE guy. I too saw him with Dave Mason’s greatest band in the seventies, but also saw Mike with Dave again decades later, though I have no time marker to say what year that was. It’s not a significant goof, but seems an odd mistake not to include Dave Mason among the many that Finnegan played with, especially as he spent a significant amount of time with him, and recorded on a number of Mason’s LPs.

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    • Billy K.
      Billy K. 29 August, 2021, 19:48

      Exactly. The only place I know Finnegan from is Dave Mason. I’ve seen TOP shows, too, but with Chester Thompson or other players, and didn’t get the Finnegan/TOP connection.

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