Barry Cowsill was just 13 years old when his sibling pop group the Cowsills ascended to national fame with the sunshine pop classic "The Rain, the Park and Other Things." A critical element of the band's angelic harmonies, he also served as its bassist, proving a surprisingly gifted musician for one so young. Born in Newport, RI, on September 14, 1954, Cowsill was all of ten when he was conscripted to play in the family rock band assembled by older brothers Bill and Bob. With Beatlemania at a fever pitch, the teen combo began performing live at school dances and church socials, eventually landing a regular weekend gig at the local club Bannisters Wharf. In 1967 the Cowsills recorded their debut single, "All I Really Wanta Be Is Me," for the Joda label; the record generated little response, but after an appearance on NBC's The Today Show the group signed to Philips, issuing three more singles to negligible interest. Philips producer Artie Kornfeld remained convinced of the Cowsills' commercial appeal, and independent of the label set up another recording date; this time, however, he convinced their mother Barbara to contribute vocals to the session, which yielded the stunning "The Rain, the Park and Other Things." With their wholesome family image a marketing godsend, Kornfeld sealed a deal with MGM, which issued the single in the fall of 1967; it eventually rose to number two nationally, selling over a million copies. The Cowsills' self-titled debut LP soon followed, and as their fame grew Barry emerged as the teen heartthrob of the group, regularly appearing in the magazines 16 and Tiger Beat. With the title track from 1968's We Can Fly, the family notched its second hit, and in 1969 scored their biggest chart entry with the title song from the rock musical Hair.
Around this time Columbia Pictures' television division dispatched a group of screenwriters to observe the Cowsills' daily lives for a possible series based on their story; the show never panned out, but was later fictionalized as The Partridge Family. By the time The Partridge Family hit the airwaves in 1970, however, the Cowsills' career was on the decline, and in the wake of the 1971 LP On My Side, the group suffered an acrimonious split that tore the family apart. Barry reportedly took the breakup harder than anyone else, and spent the remainder of his life leading a nomadic existence, additionally battling substance abuse. For the most part, the Cowsill siblings were musically inactive for the remainder of the 1970s; at mid-decade Barry briefly joined brothers Bill and Paul along with session guitar great Waddy Wachtel in the short-lived Bridey Murphy, releasing the single "The Time Has Come" to scant attention. He did not participate in the Cowsills reunion that yielded the unreleased 1979 LP Cocaine Drain, however, and also refrained from taking part in several subsequent incarnations of the group, instead pursuing a solo career. Cowsill issued his lone solo LP, As Is, on the Lüd Von label in 1998; two years later, he finally agreed to reunite with his siblings under the Cowsills banner. In mid-2005 Barry settled in New Orleans, also home to sister Susan. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast a few weeks later, he went missing, sparking a much-publicized search for information on his whereabouts. Sadly, Cowsill's body was discovered on December 28, but not identified until nearly a week later -- he was 51. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi