LOS ANGELES (AP) – Leslie West, the cult guitarist-vocalist, who stood behind several rock anthems from the 70s, including “Mississippi Queen” with the popular band Mountain, has died. He was 75 years old.
His spokesman Steve Karas said West died Wednesday on the Palm Coast in Florida. Karas said West died of heart failure after he was rushed to hospital.
West has struggled with health issues in recent years. In 2011, his lower right leg was amputated in a life-saving operation related to diabetes.
Rockers like Gene Simmons and Slash showed support for West on social media the day before his death when it was clear he was in serious condition. Paul Stanley called West a “gentle man and guitar hero” on Twitter.
West began his music career in the mid-60s at The Vagrants with his brother Larry West Weinstein, who played bass. The band known as the blue-eyed soul group had a minor hit with “I Can’t Make a Friend” and covered Otis Redding’s “Respect” in 1967.
West came out on his own with a solo career, releasing the 1969 album “Mountain”, produced by Felix Pappalardi. West and Pappalardi eventually formed the hard rock band Mountain, named after West’s debut solo album.
In 1969, Mountain performed a set of 11 songs in Woodstock before the Grateful Dead. A year later, the band released their biggest hit, “Mississippi Queen,” which appeared in a number of film and TV movies, along with video games, including Guitar Hero. The song has been covered by several artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, WASP and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Mountain’s song “Long Red” became popular among several hip-hop artists, including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Nas, who took samples for the single. “Theme From Imaginary Western” was another notable song of the band.
During the mountain break, West formed the band West, Bruce and Laing, along with Cream bassist Jack Bruce and mountain drummer Corky Laing.
West has appeared in films such as “Family Honor” and “Money Pit.” He was a regular guest on Howard Stern’s show. The musician was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
After West, his wife Jenni, whom he married on stage after Mountain, performed at a Woodstock concert on the occasion of the 40th anniversary at Bethel in New York in 2009.