When California guitar legend Ronnie Montrose passed away last month, most of the music press--Ear of Newt included--reported that he'd succumbed to a years-long battle with prostate cancer. But today the word is that the 64-year-old musician actually died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Mateo County coroner reported the findings last Friday, and shortly after the following statement was posted to Montrose's official website by his family:
By now, the devastating truth of Ronnie’s death is public knowledge. We hope you can understand why we wanted to keep this news a private family matter for as long as possible. We can only hope that you will choose to celebrate Ronnie’s life, and what his music meant to you, rather than mourn his passing. Ronnie would have wanted it that way. He loved being a guitarist, a composer, a producer, and a creator of magic. He fully understood his gifts, and yet he constantly pushed himself to evolve, improve, and make better music. He did this for himself, and he did this for you, because he adored and appreciated his fans. Please keep his energy, his joy, and his love in your hearts.
In a story posted on Guitarplayer.com today by Guitar Player editor-in-chief Michael Molenda, the rocker's widow Leighsa Montrose told of how her husband had suffered from lifelong clinical depression.
"Ronnie had a very difficult childhood," she said, "which caused him to have extremely deep and damaging feelings of inadequacy. This is why he always drove himself so hard. He never thought he was good enough. He always feared he'd be exposed as a fraud. So he was exacting in his self criticism, and the expectations he put upon himself were tremendous. Now I see that perhaps he didn't want to carry these burdens for very much longer."
I only got to interview Montrose once myself, back in September of 1994 when he was headed to Vancouver for a coheadlining bill at the Commodore with Steve Morse's Dixie Dregs (before Morse joined Deep Purple). I very much enjoyed chatting with him, although not as much as I've enjoyed listening to his music, whether it be the hard-rocking material he recorded with the powerhouse Montrose band or the evocative, soul-searching instrumentals of his later solo work. Like the late Gary Moore--who he once sued for possession of a prized 1959 Les Paul Standard--Montrose made magic whenever his fingers found the frets.
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