David Lasley — an American artist, songwriter and longtime backup singer for a slew of legendary artists — passed away on Dec. 9 at the age of 74, Billboard has confirmed. In addition to a solo career that netted him the 1982 top 40 Billboard Hot 100 hit “If I Had My Wish Tonight,” Lasley sang backup for Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin and more.
Lasley co-wrote Bonnie Raitt’s “I Ain’t Gonna Let You Break My Heart Again” and “Got You On My Mind.” Raitt took to social media with fond words about Lasley, stating, “I am so sorry to hear of the passing of yet another beautiful friend and bright light in our music world, golden voiced David Lasley.”
— Bonnie Raitt (@TheBonnieRaitt) December 10, 2021
According to a 1986 Los Angeles Times interview, Lasley grew up just outside of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he sang in his local church. Lasley, his late sister Julie and his childhood friends later formed a band called The Utopias and made four records together, which they promoted at local radio stations. After the group disbanded, Lasley went on to join the touring production of Hair! from 1972-1974.
Following his stint in the Utopias, Lasley formed a vocal group called Rosie, which released two albums on RCA records in 1976 and 1977. Years later, he lent his talents to commercials, voicing ads for Miller Beer and Seagram’s Cooler.
Lasley’s four octave vocal range made him a coveted backup singer, especially with his falsetto voice. Over the course of his career, he also worked behind James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Bette Midler and Ringo Starr.
In the early 1980s, Lasley was signed to Geffen Records but bought his way out of his contract when he became dissatisfied with the label asking him to “copy other artists,” according to the Los Angeles Times interview.
Lasley also appeared in 20 Feet From Stardom, the 2013 documentary about backup singers that won Best Documentary Feature at the 2014 Academy Awards.In 2021, a severe illness left Lasley an amputee, according to a GoFundMe started by McCuller, his friend and collaborator of 51 years. He is survived by his brother Dean Lasley.
More tributes can be found below.
David Lasley 💔
— James Taylor (@JamesTaylor_com) December 9, 2021
Last night, my dear friend, David Lasley, passed on into eternity. David was one of the greatest singer/songwriters of all time that the world never knew. He sang and wrote on many of the classic records across the last 5 decades that have become the soundtrack of our lives. pic.twitter.com/Fpbz1Ur9t4
— Desmond Child (@DesmondChild) December 9, 2021
We are saddened by the loss of beloved songwriter, singer + recording artist David Lasley, whose creative brilliance, angelic voice and generous spirit shone through his work with James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and more. RIP, David. pic.twitter.com/XFlFv708DI
— ASCAP (@ASCAP) December 10, 2021