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.

Marc Bolan
Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns
Marc Bolan
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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. 

From The Archives Issue 251: November 3, 1977