Barry Cowsill

Singer/guitarist with the Cowsills


Barry Steven Cowsill, guitarist and singer: born Newport, Rhode Island 14 September 1954; married (one son, two daughters); died New Orleans c1 September 2005.

Barry Cowsill was a member of the Cowsills, an American family group whose ultra-sweet harmonies and bouncy rhythms were heard on such hit records as "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" and "Hair".

The family came from Newport, Rhode Island, and their musical adventure started in 1964 when their father, Bud, bought the two elder brothers Bill (born in 1948) and Bob (1949) acoustic guitars. They learnt to play them and added their younger brothers, Barry (1954) and John (1956), to form a band. Barry played bass and sang harmony and developed a very likeable and mischievous stage personality. When they played at a local hotel, they were spotted by a producer for the Today show and their subsequent appearance led to a contract with Johnny Nash's label Joda. In 1966 they had a minor success with "Most of All".

By then, the Cowsills band had become the family business, with Bud as manager and their mother, Barbara, becoming a member. They added Paul (born 1952) and Susan (1960) to the line-up and became known as "America's First Family of Music". Moving to MGM Records, they had a million-seller with "The Rain, the Park and Other Things" (1967), only being kept from the top by the Monkees' "Daydream Believer". The single later featured in the Jim Carrey film Dumb and Dumber (1994).

As the Cowsills loved harmony bands themselves, they paid tribute to the Fifth Dimension with "We Can Fly", which was a continuation of "Up, Up and Away", and to the Mamas and the Papas with "In Need of a Friend". They produced their own version of "Hair", which became another US No 2 in 1969, this time being kept off the top spot by the Fifth Dimension with a "Hair" medley of "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In".

The Cowsills appeared in numerous television variety shows and sang the theme song for the series Love American Style (1969). There were plans to centre a sitcom around the group, but the production company wanted to replace their mother with an established actress, Shirley Jones. The Cowsills lost interest and The Partridge Family was born. Many of the fictional Partridge Family's releases were written by Tony Romeo, who had written the Cowsills' hit "Indian Lake".

The Cowsills' biggest-selling albums were The Cowsills (1967), We Can Fly (1968), Captain Sad and His Ship of Fools (1968) and The Cowsills in Concert (1969). The group subsequently lost its audience by going psychedelic, with singles such as "The Prophecy of Daniel and John the Divine" and "Six Six Six".

In 1970 Mike Curb, the head of MGM records, stated that the label would get rid of any band which "exploited and promoted drug use". The Cowsills were dropped, presumably because they had had the audacity to record a song from a hippie musical, and the band broke up shortly afterwards.

Barry Cowsill settled in Monterey, California, with his wife and two children, although he was later divorced. In 1990 Bob, Paul, John and Susan revived the Cowsills as a touring act; but their mother had died in 1985 and Barry was reportedly plagued with drug abuse problems. He released a solo album, As Is, in 1998 and in 2004 he joined the family to perform "Hair" at a baseball stadium for the Boston Red Sox. That year he was found guilty of making crank calls to a former girlfriend.

Latterly, Cowsill lived in New Orleans and had been due to enter rehab the day after Hurricane Katrina struck at the end of August last year. His family last heard from him around this time and his body was recovered on 28 December.

Spencer Leigh

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvRicky Gervais on the return of 'Derek' – and why he still ignores his critics
Sport
Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates his goal
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Homer meets Lego Marge in the 25th anniversary episode of The Simpsons, set to air on 4 May
tv
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway
theatreReview: Of Mice and Men, Longacre Theatre
Life & Style
Infant child breast-feeding with eyes closed
healthTo stop mummy having any more babies, according to scientists
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Arts & Entertainment
film
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey gets the North Korean leader's look
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
Life & Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 63rd anniversary of the Peak District National Park
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal