Roky Erickson, psychedelic music legend and co-founder of The 13th Floor Elevators, has died at age 71. Cause of death has yet to be revealed, but his death was confirmed by his brother Mikel.
Born in Austin, Texas, Erickson’s passion for music revealed itself early in life. He first started with piano at five-years-old and continuing to guitar when he was 10-years-old. While he cut his teeth with bands like The Spades, it was his work with The 13th Floor Elevators that helped launch Erickson’s music career. The band’s song “You’re Gonna Miss Me” peaked at no. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 but has since been revered as a hallmark song in psych-rock.
The 13th Floor Elevators would go on to release four albums between 1966 and 1969 before breaking up, largely in part to Erickson’s drug use and developing mental illness. Erickson pled not guilty to a drug possession charge in 1969, claiming insanity, and was subsequently sent to various mental hospitals in Texas where he made frequent attempts to escape.
After finally being released from the hospital, Erickson spent the late ‘70s kicking off his solo career and continuing to build an iconic catalog of psychedelic music. Throughout the ‘80s, he continued to struggle with his schizophrenia and faced severe financial woes. The ‘90s brought renewed interest in Erickson’s music and saw the recording of Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, featuring covers of Erickson’s music by artists ranging from R.E.M. and The Jesus and Mary Chain to T-Bone-Burnett and Primal Scream. Proceeds from the record went to Erickson.
After receiving proper medical treatment, Erickson began to play live again in the 2000s and reunited with The 13th Floor Elevators in 2015 at the Levitation music festival.
Join us in remembering Erickson’s life and music with favorites from The 13th Floor Elevators and his solo career below.