Alan Wilson, known as Blind Owl for his extreme nearsightedness, died at 27 years, 61 days old on September 3, 1970. The official cause of death was an overdose of barbiturates, and it has been generally assumed to be not an accident, even though there was no note or other indication left behind. His suicide was successful after at least 2 earlier attempts, and he was known to have been suffering from depression for some time before his death. He was staying with his friend and band-mate Bear Hites in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles at the time of his passing.
Wilson was not a flamboyant celebrity, and was not well-known outside of his circle of friends. He was a guitarist, harmonica player, singer and the principal songwriter for the modern blues group Canned Heat. He was also an able producer and accompanist for the comeback recordings of the fabled blues legend Son House, and played on many other recordings, including treasured sides by John Lee Hooker .
His work with Canned Heat has won him a place in the hearts of music-lovers everywhere, even if they don’t know him by name. His voice, a high, plaintive, slightly off-kilter instrument, is heard on the biggest hits by Canned Heat, still played on classic rock radio: Goin’ Up the Country, and On the Road Again. The former was essentially adopted as the theme song for the Woodstock event and movie, being played over the credits and at times throughout. Canned Heat had the distinction of being one of the few artists, along with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Who, to play at both the Monterey Pop Festival and at Woodstock.
He was known as a passionate conservationist and nature lover. He often slept outdoors to be closer to the natural world he loved, and he was active in efforts to save the redwood forests of his beloved California. Wilson’s grave site is in Massachusetts at the Woodlawn Cemetery and Crematory, near the town of Everett. He was not married and had no children when he died, and is survived by immediate family, who are also his heirs.
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