New York City, NY – Alan Merrill died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 69. Merrill (born Allan Preston Sachs) was an American vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter.
While known best as a songwriter, Merrill also played the guitar, bass guitar, harmonica and keyboards. He was born in New York and grew up in Switzerland, Los Angeles and Japan before starting his music career in the Big Apple. In the early ’70s, Merrill was the first “Westerner” to achieve pop star status in Japan. He was the co-writer of, and lead singer on, the song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” recorded by the Arrows in 1975. It became a signature hit for rocker Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on 1982.
Daughter Laura Merrill posted on her Facebook page, “The Coronavirus took my father this morning. I was given two minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left, there was still a glimmer of hope. I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. I felt I was the only person here and perhaps in many ways I was. By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone.”
“How could this be?”, Merrill’s daughter said. “I was just at his show a couple of weeks ago. I had just photographed his portrait for his new album. Texted with him earlier. He played down the ‘cold’ he thought he had. People are dying. You don’t think It’ll happen to you or your strong family. It has. Stay home if not for you… for others. For my dad. This thing is real. We probably won’t be able to mourn him properly with a funeral. I just lost the greatest love of my life and won’t be able to hug anyone because I’ve been exposed and need to self quarantine for two weeks… alone.”
Merrill spent time in Japan and the U.K. throughout his music career. He formed the band the Arrows, with drummer Paul Varley and guitarist Jake Hooker, in 1974 in London. They released singles including “Touch Too Much”, “My Last Night With You”, and “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll”, which he wrote with Hooker in 1975. Although the Arrows split in the ’70s, Merrill later joined the band Runner.
In 1980, Merrill joined forces with Rick Derringer as a guitarist/vocalist in New York City. They recorded three albums – ‘Good Dirty Fun’, ‘Live at The Ritz’, and ‘Rick Derringer and Friends’. Jett released the cover version of “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” and it went to number one on the U.S. Billboard charts for seven weeks. The following year, Lou Rawls recorded Alan Merrill’s song “When The Night Comes” as the title track of his Epic Records album.
In 1983, Merrill recorded a solo album for Polydor Records, simply titled ‘Alan Merrill’, a collection of self-composed tracks. Some friends contributing to this record were Steve Winwood, Mick Taylor and Dallas Taylor. It was released in 1985 and received critical acclaim. In 1986, Merrill joined the Meat Loaf band for the promotional tour of his ‘Blind Before I Stop’ album, and stayed for several years, and appears on Meat Loaf’s 1987 ‘Live at Wembley’ album for Arista Records.
He released several albums as a solo artist, with ‘Radio Zero’ being the most recent in 2019, and was playing live shows in New York up through March of this year.