On January 6th, groundbreaking Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton was found dead in his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The cause of death, though not confirmed, is widely speculated to have been a heart attack. The following statement was posted on The Stooges’ website:
We are shocked and shaken by the news of Ron’s death. He was a great friend, brother, musician, trooper. Irreplaceable. He will be missed.
For all that knew him behind the façade of Mr Cool & Quirky, he was a kind-hearted, genuine, warm person who always believed that people meant well even if they did not.
As a musician Ron was The Guitar God, idol to follow and inspire others. That is how he will be remembered by people who had a great pleasure to work with him, learn from him and share good and bad times with him.
Iggy, Scott, Steve, Mike and Crew
I am in shock. He was my best friend.
Ron Asheton’s legendary sound was, in the words of Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillepie, “really fucking sexy and wild and reckless and free.” It was actually the impact of experiencing such reckless freedom firsthand that initially attracted him to music.
“We went to see The Who at the Cavern,” said Asheton in the oral history of punk, Please Kill Me. “It was wall to fucking wall of people. We muscled through to about ten feet from the stage, and Townshend started smashing his twelve-string Rickenbacker. It was my first experience of total pandemonium. It was like a dog pile of people, just trying to grab pieces of Townshend’s guitar, and people scrambling to dive up onstage and he’d swing the guitar at their heads. The audience weren’t cheering; it was more like animal noises, howling. The whole room turned really primative–like a pack of starving animals that hadn’t eaten in a week and somebody throws out a piece of meat. I was afraid. For me it wasn’t fun, but it was mesmerizing. It was like, ‘The plane’s burning, the ship’s sinking, so let’s crush each other.’ Never had I seen people driven so nuts–that music could drive people to such dangerous extremes. That’s when I realized, this is definitely what I want to do.”
It’s no overstatement to say that Asheton, with The Stooges, created some of the most important, thrilling music of all time. Personally speaking as a fan, Iggy and The Stooges have long been one of my favorite groups. From first listen I adored the brutality of their music and the brilliance of its protopunk simplicity. It was, and still is, the musical manifestation of unbridled rebellion. No matter how many times you listen to their music, The Stooges never fail to sound, and in turn make you feel, badass.
I’ve spent more time than I’d like to publicly admit to engaged in the epic Raw Power vs. Fun House debate with fellow hopeless music nerds. Though I still maintain that Raw Power is superior and guaranteed to knock anyone’s socks off, the truth of the matter is, you can’t really go wrong with any early Stooges creation. “No Fun,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “Gimme Danger,” “Down on the Street,” “Loose,” “I Need Somebody”….they’re all undeniably excellent listening, and part of a musical legacy that any band would be more than proud to have.
Ron Asheton wasn’t only a vital contributor to a great rock group, he helped inspire countless other hip young guitar slingers to make similarly thrilling, uncompromising music. As fans around the world say goodbye to this massively respected, and talented musician in their own ways, I’ll be blasting “1969″ from my speakers well into the night. Thanks for the music, Ron.