We were shocked and saddened to hear of the death of founding Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, whose body was discovered this morning in his Ann Arbor home. Police received a phone call last night from Asheton's personal assistant who asked officials to check on the 60-year-old guitarist, as the caller had not recently heard from her employer. The cause of death is still under investigation, although early reports are suggesting it was due to natural causes, probably a heart attack.
Detroit music fans already know how influential the Stooges' guitarist was to the history and evolution of rock 'n' roll...so we'll save all those details for a later date. Many of us also remember his time with Niagara and crew in the seminal Destroy All Monsters.
One consolation his fans and friends can perhaps take at this sad time is that during the last several years, with the reformation of the Stooges, Asheton and his drummer brother, Scott, were finally able to enioy the fame and monetary rewards that had bypassed the brothers for years. This, of course, was despite the fact that band they cofounded has consistently been celebrated as one of the most important and influential in the history of punk, metal and just rock 'n' roll in general. Unfortunately, fame and influence alone don't pay the bills. It was frequently reported over the years that Asheton had still been living with his mother until the reunion shows and album gave him enough financial security to branch out on his own. And, man, those reunion shows (I was fortunate enough to see the debut performance at Coachella as well as the first homecoming show at DTE/Pine Knob) were -- in a word -- phenomenal.
How much do you wanna bet that those ninnies who control the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally induct the Stooges this year? They seem to love doing that after someone they undeservedly bypassed for years up and dies (the Velvet Underground's Sterling Morrison, Del Shannon, Mike Smith of the Dave Clark Five are just a few examples). In case you don't remember, the Stooges did a Madonna cover at last year's ceremony to honor the Material Girl, while one of the most memorable performances of the previous year was Patti Smith and R.E.M. performing a cover of the band's "I Wanna Be Your Dog," obviously in protest over the fact that they were inducted before one of their biggest influences got the nod. Perhaps in honor of the always rebellious Mr. Asheton, then, we should just conclude this with one big "Fuck the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame." But to be polite, we'll simply offer our heartfelt condolences to Asheton's family and friends, especially his brother and Iggy who must both be feeling unimaginable pain at this time
Funeral arrangements and/or a memorial service are still pending. Watch this space for future news as it develops.
Ron Asheton with Niagara, at her Detroit home, 2004
With Iggy and Niagara, the Funhouse art show, 2004
MT PHOTOS: DOUG COOMBE