September’s Biggest Classic Rock Stories: 2017 in Review
September of 2017 saw summer slumping out of its dog days with a series of developments in the classic rock world that included a beloved artist's passing, a public feud between the descendants of a brilliant composer, and no shortage of controversy — including the latest politically tinged protest from one of Pink Floyd's founders.
Steely Dan's Walter Becker Dead at 67
Steely Dan fans knew Walter Becker wasn't in the best of health when the guitarist wasn't on hand for the Dan's set at Classic West, but it still came as a terrible shock when the news broke that he'd passed away on Sept. 3. Becker's death, initially attributed to undisclosed causes, was soon revealed to be the result of an aggressive form of cancer — and his longtime partner in the band, Donald Fagen, vowed to keep their music alive. True to his word, Fagen took a new Steely Dan lineup on the road in the fall — while pursuing litigation against Becker's estate over ownership of the band name.
Molly Hatchet's Dave Hlubek Dead at 66
As the classic rock world absorbed one veteran guitarist's passing, news broke of another. On Sept. 3, the Molly Hatchet Facebook page confirmed to fans that co-founder Dave Hlubek had died at the age of 66. Although no official cause of death was initially reported, it was later revealed that he'd suffered a heart attack. Hlubek started Molly Hatchet in 1971 and led the Southern rockers through their greatest period of success, co-writing their signature 1979 hit "Flirtin' with Disaster." By 1987, however, rock 'n' roll excess caught up to him, leading to Hlubek's ouster from the lineup. He rejoined Molly Hatchet in 2005, remaining in the fold until his death. As the surviving members wrote in their message after his passing: "He will be missed but never forgotten, as the music lives on through his legacy in Molly Hatchet."
Classic Rockers Weigh in on National Anthem Police Brutality Protest Controversy
As the 2017 NFL season got started, everyone seemed to have an opinion as to whether players were right to take a knee during the national anthem as a way of drawing attention to racially targeted police brutality — and where there's controversy, Ted Nugent is usually all but certain to follow. The guitarist was quick to weigh in on the subject, calling the protests "disgraceful to a nation of real heroes" and urging the protesters to get to church, where they could join Nugent in "[praying] for liberty and justice for all."
Pearl Jam, meanwhile, offered a dissenting view, using their social media feeds to defend "everyone's constitutional right to stand up, sit down or #takeaknee for equality." While both sides of the debate continue to rage on through political pundits and at your local bar, we can all agree it's great to see classic rockers from either side of the aisle exercising their wang-dang sweet freedom of speech.
Zappa Family Drama Includes Holograms, Legal Briefs
All the best dead superstars have touring holograms these days, and the Frank Zappa estate decided to get in on the action in September 2017 with the announcement that they had their own hologram tour in the works. As tends to be the case with these sorts of things, the reaction was somewhat divided: For every fan excited by the idea of seeing a facsimile of a favorite artist in a live setting, there were others who found the whole thing rather crass and ghoulish. Guitarist Adrian Belew seemed to fall on the latter end of the spectrum, asking the organizers to "respectfully count me out" of any performances and referring to the idea as "caustic and divisive" — thoughts echoed by Zappa's son Dweezil, who tweeted a GIF of Ray Liotta laughing during GoodFellas in response to the news.
Disagreements over holograms were just the start of the Zappa drama in September. Dweezil also offered a lengthy update on the ongoing legal tug of war between himself and his brother Ahmet and sister Diva, accusing his siblings of actively trying to prevent him from making a living with his long-running Zappa Plays Zappa touring show. "If somewhere along the line, it becomes too expensive for me to continue fighting," warned Dweezil, "the dark side of the industry will have triumphed in silencing the music."
Roger Waters Feuds with Local TV Station
This was a year when political arguments seemed to seep into every area of the public discourse, and when Roger Waters headed out on tour, it seemed inevitable that the outspoken former Pink Floyd frontman would use the stage as a pulpit for his views. If that seemed like a matter of course to most Waters fans, it certainly seemed to catch at least one junior dance troupe by surprise: After a local news station aired a report about the Shaker Dance Academy's planned appearance onstage during Waters' September 2017 Cleveland show — and expressed concern that the kids were being used as a prop for Waters' opposition to the Trump administration — the Academy canceled, triggering Waters' wrath. "WKYC, I have no idea what your agenda is," he told the crowd during the show — which featured dancing from a different youth troupe. "And I don't give a damn."