T. Rex Guitarist Marc Bolan Dies in Car Accident

The tragic death of an English superstar who never quite made it in the U.S.

November 3, 1977
Marc Bolan
Marc Bolan
Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns

Marc Bolan, best-known as the frizzy-haired leader of T. Rex, died September 16th in a car crash. Police said Bolan, 29, was killed when a car driven by his girlfriend, singer Gloria Jones, struck a tree in southwest London. Jones was hospitalized for injuries.

Bolan, who was enormously popular in Britain during the early Seventies, had recently been the subject of English press reports that said he had recovered from alcoholism and drug addiction brought on by the pressures of being a teen idol. "I was living in a twilight world of drugs, booze and kinky sex," Bolan said in one newspaper interview.

Bolan began his rock & roll career in 1966 as a member of John's Children, a group that had two minor British hits. In 1968, he formed Tyrannosaurus Rex, an acoustic duo with Bolan on guitar and Steve Took on percussion. In 1970, Micky Finn replaced Took, the group shortened its name to T. Rex and began moving toward more of a hard-rock sound. Later in '70, "Ride a White Swan" went to Number Two on the British charts, and Bolan became a superstar overnight.

Although T. Rex produced eleven British Top-Ten singles and generated fan hysteria reminiscent of the days of the Beatles, the group never achieved equal popularity in the U.S. Only one single, 1971's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," was a U.S. hit.

In 1973, Ringo Starr documented T. Rex' success in the movie Born to Boogie.

T. Rex' popularity began to fall off in the mid-Seventies, but Bolan had recently made a comeback of sorts – he had just filmed the first two shows for a new British TV series. In addition, Bolan had plans for a TV show with friend David Bowie.

Bowie, Rod Stewart and Steve Harley were among the musicians who attended Bolan's funeral September 20th at Golders Green Crematorium.

About Bolan's death, Bowie said, "I'm terribly broken by it. He was my mate. The only tribute I can give Marc is that he was the greatest little giant in the world."

This story is from the November 3rd, 1977 issue of Rolling Stone. 

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

Music Main Next

blog comments powered by Disqus
Around the Web
Powered By ZergNet
Daily Newsletter

Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
marketing partners.


We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

Song Stories

“San Francisco Mabel Joy”

Mickey Newbury | 1969

A country-folk song of epic proportions, "San Francisco Mabel Joy" tells the tale of a poor Georgia farmboy who wound up in prison after a move to the Bay Area found love turning into tragedy. First released by Mickey Newbury in 1969, it might be more familiar through covers by Waylon Jennings, Joan Baez and Kenny Rogers. "It was a five-minute song written in a two-minute world," Newbury said. "I was told it would never be cut by any artist ... I was told you could not use the term 'redneck' in a song and get it recorded."

More Song Stories entries »