Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, who served as guitarist and vocalist in the boogie rock band for nearly 50 years, died Saturday at the age of 71.
The band confirmed Barrere’s death in a statement. While no cause of death was provided, the guitarist was undergoing treatment in his long battle with liver disease; in 1994, Barrere contracted hepatitis C, and in 2015 was diagnosed with liver cancer.
“It is with great sorrow that Little Feat must announce the passing of our brother guitarist, Paul Barrere, this morning at UCLA Hospital,” Little Feat said in a statement.
“Paul auditioned for Little Feat as a bassist when it was first being put together—in his words, ‘as a bassist I make an excellent guitarist’—and three years later joined the band in his proper role on guitar. Forty-seven years later, he was forced to miss the current tour, which will end tomorrow, due to side effects from his ongoing treatment for liver disease.”
The band continued, “He promised to follow his doctor’s orders, get back in shape, and rock on the beach at the band’s annual gathering in Jamaica in January 2020. ‘Until then,’ he wrote, ‘keep your sailin’ shoes close by…if I have my way, you’re going to need them!'”
Bonnie Raitt tweeted, “I just heard about the passing of another dear friend, Little Feat’s Paul Barrere. A brilliant guitarist, singer and songwriter—a cornerstone of one of the greatest bands of all time. I’m glad he is free of pain and may he rest in peace.”
Barrere joined the Lowell George-led Little Feat prior the recording of the band’s breakthrough 1973 album Dixie Chicken; on the LP, Barrere co-wrote the song “Walkin’ All Night,” which the Rolling Stone review at the time called “the album’s purest rock & roll song.”
The guitarist also contributed “Skin It Back” and helped co-write the title track for the 1974 album Feats Don’t Fail Me Now. Barrere’s Little Feat songwriting credits also include “Time Loves a Hero,” “All That You Dream” and “Down on the Farm.” Following George’s death in 1979 and the band’s eight-year hiatus, Barrere took on the role of Little Feat’s de facto songwriter up through the band’s most recent studio album, 2012’s Rooster Rag.
“As the song he sang so many times put it, he was always ‘Willin’,’ but it was not meant to be,” added Little Feat, which now includes founding member and keyboardist Bill Payne and longtime bassist Kenny Gradney, who like Barrere joined Little Feat during Dixie Chicken.
“Paul, sail on to the next place in your journey with our abiding love for a life always dedicated to the muse and the music. We are grateful for the time we have shared.”