Bill Pinkney, the last survivor of the original members of the The Drifters, died yesterday (July 4). He was 81.

Bill Pinkney, the last survivor of the original members of the The Drifters, died yesterday (July 4). He was 81. Pinkney was found dead at the Hilton Daytona Beach (Fla.) Oceanfront Resort, Daytona Beach Police spokesperson Jimmie Flynt said. The death was not considered suspicious, he said.

Pinkney was scheduled to perform for Fourth of July festivities there. His manager, Maxine Porter, declined to discuss the cause of death, but said Pinkney had had health problems.

The Drifters, whose hits include "Under the Boardwalk," "Up on the Roof" and "Save the Last Dance For Me," still performed last night. An announcement about Pinkney's death was made after the show, said the group's publicist, Donnie Lowery.

Pinkney, born in Dalzell, S.C., was a World War II veteran and pitched for the New York Blue Sox of the Negro Baseball League in the late 1940s and early '50s.

He wasn't with the Drifters when they recorded their biggest hits. He left in the band in 1958 because of an argument over cash. His distinctive bass voice can be heard on the group's version of the holiday classic "White Christmas."

Even though he left the group, Pinkney didn't let go of the Drifters' name. He fought for laws allowing performers or bands to claim an affiliation with a classic group like the Drifters or the Coasters only if at least one member recorded with the original group.

The Drifters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.


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