The Affair That Cost Cozy Powell’s Life
Throughout the history of music, many great names in the industry have lost their lives due to tragic circumstances. Apart from serious cases like John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell’s murder, there were also unfortunate accidents that cost the lives of Cliff Burton and Keith Relf. Following their passing, these artists left a strong legacy and are still remembered for their timeless works and contributions to the music scene.
Cozy Powell rose to prominence with his tenures in major rock bands, such as the Jeff Beck Group, Rainbow, Whitesnake, and Black Sabbath. He also contributed to many artists with his musicianship, such as Gary Moore, Brian May, and Robert Plant. Throughout his music career, Powell appeared on over 66 albums and influenced many rock drummers. Sadly, the drummer’s affair with a married woman cost him his life.
The Life And Musical Career Of Cozy Powell
Cozy Powell was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, on December 29, 1947. Powell was adopted, so he never met his birth parents. The drummer first touched a drum kit at the age of 12 in the school orchestra. The first band he was in was named the Corals, and they played at the youth club every week. Borrowing the stage name ‘Cozy’ from the jazz drummer Cozy Cole, Powell started working with the Sorcerers.
Due to his busy schedule with the band, the musician left school and took an office job to purchase his first set of drums. In the 1960s, the Sorcerers performed in the German club scene and returned to England by 1968. There, Powell became friends with Robert Plant, John Bonham, Noddy Holder, Tony Iommi, and Dave Pegg. The Sorcerers then became Youngblood, and released several singles.
In April 1970, the drummer joined Jeff Beck’s group, but the band split after recording two albums titled ‘Rough And Ready’ and ‘Jeff Beck Group.’ By late 1972, he joined the Ball brothers and Frank Aiello to form Bedlam and released his solo hit, ‘ Dance With The Devil.’ During this period, Cozy Powell worked as a session musician and contributed to several artists like Julie Felix, Donovan, and Suzi Quatro.
He then formed the bands Cozy Powell’s Hammer and Humble Pie but later left the music scene to take up motorcycle racing. In 1975, he joined Rainbow and played with the band for five years. For the rest of the 1980s, Powell had short-term stints with several bands, like The Michael Schenker Group, and in 1982, Whitesnake invited Cozy Powell to join the band to replace Ian Paice through a farewell tour in Europe.
In 1985, Powell left Whitesnake to join Keith Emerson and Greg Lake in Emerson, Lake & Powell. He then worked with Gary More in 1988 and played with Black Sabbath between 1988 and 1991 and from 1994 to 1995. He also worked with Brian May, playing on his ‘Back To The Light’ and ‘Another World’ albums. After joining Yngwie Malmsteen for the 1997’s ‘Facing The Animal,’ the drummer made his last recording session with Colin Blunstone for ‘The Light Inside,’ which was released after the musician’s death.
How Did Cozy Powell Pass Away?
Following a prolific music career full of contributions to major names, Cozy Powell died on April 5, 1998, after a car crash. He was driving at 104 mph in bad weather on a motorway near Bristol and slammed the car into the crash barrier, and sadly, he died at the scene. As reported by BBC, the musician was under the influence of alcohol, not wearing a seat belt, and talking with his girlfriend on the phone.
Cozy Powell was living in Lambourn in Berkshire at the time. Shortly before his passing, he had returned to the studio to record with Fleetwood Mac’s Peter Green. Polydor Records released Powell’s ‘Best Of Cozy Powell,’ and Blackmore and Dio were planning a reunion album with him. Besides, he had recently backed out of a Yngwie Malmsteen tour due to a minor injury from a motorcycle accident. The drummer was undergoing physiotherapy and was eager to perform at the then-forthcoming Brian May tour.
As it turned out later, Cozy Powell was in a relationship with a married woman who was having issues with her husband. At the time of the car crash, she had called Powell and asked him to come to her place quickly. However, she was around 35 miles away from the rock musician. Powell drove his car very fast to get there in time and was under pressure as the woman called him to ask him where he was. During this phone call, she heard the drummer say, ‘Oh, sh*t!’ followed by a loud crashing noise.
After his death, Cozy Powell left a legacy behind with his successful works and contributions to numerous other rock icons. On January 7, 2016, a memorial plaque for Powell was unveiled in Cirencester during a ceremony led by Brian May. His fellow musicians Suzi Quatro, Neil Murray, Don Airey, Bernie Marsden, and Tony Iommi were also there. In October 2005, Powell appeared posthumously on Tony Martin’s ‘Raising Hell,’ for which he had recorded the drum track while the two were in Hammer.