Brian Howe, the former lead singer of English hard rock supergroup Bad Company, is dead at age 66, Billboard can confirm.
Howe’s manager and friend Paul Easton says the onetime Bad Company singer was not easily satisfied. “He was always trying to push himself to be better,” Easton told Billboard after news broke of Howe’s death on Tuesday (May 5) from a cardiac arrest. “Anybody else who sang like him would be thrilled. But I’d call him after a show and he’d go, ‘I could’ve done better.” That was just him. nothing was ever good enough. He was always pushing.”
Howe, who was 66, was born in Portsmouth, England and established his reputation as a powerhouse vocalist with bands such as Shy and White Spirit. He came to the U.S. and joined Ted Nugent’s band in 1983 after producer Ashley Howe (no relation) heard him on a recording; Brian Howe sang on Nugent’s 1984 album Penetrator, but left over business issues.
“Brian was a good friend and wonderfully gifted vocalist and songwriter,” Nugent tells Billboard by email. “We have kept in touch all these years and became good friends, hoping to collaborate on new music. We are very sad and he will be missed, but his musical gifts will last forever.”
Two years later, Howe was recruited by Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke to join a rejuvenated version of Bad Company, replacing original frontman Paul Rodgers for an eight-year run that started with 1986’s Fame and Fortune. “We wanted to make a good, modern, up-to-date rock ‘n’ roll record,” Ralphs explained at the time. “There were songs I had written, songs Brian had written. We had quite mishmash in there.”
Howe was with Bad Company through 1994, releasing five albums with the group — one platinum and two gold – and hits such as “Holy Water,” “No Smoke Without a Fire,” “Shake It Up” and How About That.” In announcing his departure he said that “it had got to the point where nobody was contributing anything to songwriting and quite frankly the band was getting very, very sloppy live. I quite simply…got tired of doing all the work and then getting nothing but resentment for it.”
Neither Ralphs, Kirke nor the Bad Company camp responded to requests for comment about Howe’s death.
Howe went on to release three solo albums as well as a single, “Hot Tin Roof,” in 2017. He also co-wrote “I’ll Get Even” for Megadeth’s 1997 album Cryptic Writings. He suffered a near fatal heart attack in 2017 but was back to work a few months later and had recently been working on new music — including a haunting piano ballad about mortality called “Going Home.”
This week’s heart attack in Lake Placid, Fla., where Howe resided, was preceded by a scooter accident during late April in which he punctured a lung and broke four ribs.
Howe is survived by a son, two daughters and three grandchildren, as well as his sister Sandie.