Leslie West, the legendary singer-guitarist of pioneering hard-rock band Mountain, has passed away at the age of 75. His death was confirmed by Dean Guitars.
“With a heavy heart, we are saddened to hear about the passing of #Dean Artist and part of the Dean family, Leslie West. Legendary and one of a kind. Rest In Peace,” read a tweet from the guitar company.
According to Rolling Stone, West suffered a cardiac arrest at his home near Daytona, Florida, and never regained consciousness.
West was born Leslie Weinstein in New York City on October 22nd, 1945. He originally formed Mountain in 1969, with the band breaking up and regrouping on various occasions over the past 50 years. Mountain released several albums throughout the decades, beginning with their 1970 debut, Climbing! That LP yielded the group’s signature song, “Mississippi Queen”, which has since been covered by numerous acts, including Ozzy Osbourne.
Mountain’s last album was 2007’s Masters of War, which consisted entirely of Bob Dylan covers and featured guest vocals by Ozzy on the title track.
Among Mountain’s other career highlights was a legendary performance at Woodstock — which, incredibly, marked only the band’s third gig ever.
Prior to releasing Mountain’s debut album, West released a solo LP, titled Mountain, which featured the single “Long Red”. He played the song with Mountain at Woodstock and the drum break from that performance is one of the most sampled pieces of music in hip-hop. It’s been used in more than 600 songs, including tracks by Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, and more.
In the days leading up to his passing, reports surfaced that West was in ill health. His brother Larry wrote on Facebook, “His heart gave out and he’s on a ventilator. May not make it through the night.” Larry since confirmed Leslie’s passing to Rolling Stone.
Over the years, West has been cited by dozens of hard-rock and metal musicians as a major influence, including the late Eddie Van Halen, who once marveled at West’s guitar tone in an interview with Rolling Stone.
Prior to West’s passing, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider tweeted, “The final hours on this earth for the amazing Leslie West of Mountain. His voice and guitar will be silenced but his music will live forever. I am heartbroken. Prayers for him and his amazing wife, his rock, Jenni.”
In 2011, West had his lower right leg amputated due to complications from diabetes.
Just last week, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl covered “Mississippi Queen” with Greg Kurstin as part of an eight-night Hanukkah tribute to Jewish musicians.
Our condolences go out to Leslie West’s family, friends, and bandmates during this difficult time. Watch a classic 1970 performance of “Mississippi Queen” below.
— Dean Guitars (@DeanGuitars) December 23, 2020