Dusty Hill, the long-bearded bassist of Texas blues/rock band ZZ Top for more than fifty years, has died. Hill was 72. He passed away in his sleep Monday night. The cause of death is not yet known.
The band issued the following statement:
“We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that “Blues Shuffle in C.”
You will be missed greatly, amigo.
Frank & Billy
Hill, along with bandmates guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard, first came to national attention in 1974, when the song “La Grange” from the band’s third album Tres Hombres barely missed entering the Top 40 while the album itself reached number eight on the Billboard charts. ZZ Top’s most successful period came in the 1980s, fueled by adding synthesized beats underneath the band’s blues riffs and a slew of videos featuring as many scantily-clad women as could be assembled. The band’s image as the kings of ribald rock star cool was now forever established, and while the band’s commercial fortunes waxed and waned over the years it remained an unstoppable top dollar concert draw for the duration. The band was elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Hill had several health misadventures during his career. In 1984 he accidentally shot himself with his own derringer. In recent years, he battled hepatitis, and at the time of his death, was receiving treatment for a hip condition.
Hill’s passing is a sobering reminder of how the blues foundation of rock’n’roll is rapidly fading. He came from a generation that rejected race-based sanitation of popular music, instead fully embracing the earthy electric blues of pioneers such as John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, who the band slyly name-checked in “Waiting For The Bus/Jesus Just Left Chicago.”
Although ZZ Top were not blues purists, the blues were always at the heart of everything they did, mixing in influences such as Tex-Mex, raw 1950s country, and full-tilt boogie. ZZ Top had an image to be sure, but the image did not define the band. Rather, it was the music that defined the image. ZZ Top made sultry, sexy, stripped down to its essentials blues-infused rock. It was, is, and always will be music for working people looking for an outlet when cutting loose after the week’s work is done.
Hill is survived by his wife and a daughter from a previous relationship.
We’ll hear you on the X, Dusty.