The music world is in mourning this week after Gary S. Paxton was died on Sunday. He was 77 years-old.
Throughout his long career, Paxton brought joy to millions of fans, and he will be dearly missed!
Gary S. Paxton, who began his career as a teenager in the singing duo Skip & Flip, produced the hit pop singles “Alley-Oop” and “Monster Mash,”composed hundreds of songs and ended his career as a Grammy-winning gospel musician who also performed as the masked Grandpa Rock, died on Sunday in Branson, Mo. He was 77.
The cause was complications of heart surgery and liver disease, his wife, Vicki Sue Paxton, said.
Mr. Paxton’s professional trajectory as a songwriter, record producer and sometime performer coursed from rock ’n’ roll to contemporary Christian music. His personal life resembled a gangsta rap video that mixed violent, comic and countercultural overtones and ended with an inspirational beat.
“I was molested when I was 7,” he wrote in the testimony section of his ministry’s website. “I started writing songs when I was 10. I had spinal meningitis at 11. We moved to Arizona when I was 12 years of age. I had my own rock ’n’ roll band by the time I was 14. When I was 16 years old, I wrote my first million-seller, recording it at age 17.”
After surviving adolescence, Mr. Paxton was buffeted between sudden stardom and abject poverty. Twice he was delivered to mental institutions because of drug and alcohol abuse. He was accused of driving a wedge between the television evangelist Jim Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye Bakker, as scandal broke over reports of extramarital affairs. He was shot three times by hit men said to have been hired by a disgruntled singer. And after his business partner died, he wandered into a church and was baptized, turned to gospel music and went on to win a Grammy Award for best inspirational performance.
“He is the archetypal eccentric whose surreal humor and flamboyant personality don’t hide his deep devotion to Christ,” wrote Tony Cummings, the music editor for the website of Cross Rhythms, a Christian-music broadcaster in Britain. Jesus, he added, “miraculously delivered him from the wild excesses of the rock ’n’ roll fast lane and from disasters that would have shipwrecked lesser men.”
Mr. Paxton’s grin on the cover of his award-winning gospel album, framed by a Shenandoah beard and a black cowboy hat (“some bizarre hybrid of Jim Morrison and Abe Lincoln,” his friend Alec Palao wrote), belied troubled decades during which, before turning to Christian rock, he had morphed from the fresh-faced Flip into a hippie Jesus freak.
God bless you, Gary S. Paxton! Rest in peace.