New York Dolls bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane died suddenly of complications related to leukemia Tuesday night in Los Angeles. He was fifty-five. Kane had participated in the band’s recent reunion shows and was slated to play last weekend’s Move Festival in Manchester, England, before he got sick with what he believed to be the flu. He was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and refrained from flying under doctor’s orders. Kane only learned he was suffering from leukemia on Tuesday and died later that night. “He ended up going to the hospital last night,” said manager Darren Hill on Wednesday. “And that’s when we got the diagnosis of leukemia in an advanced state.”
“His bass playing and presence were the heart and soul of the New York Dolls and the secret ingredient of our sound,” singer David Johansen said. “Arthur’s love of humanity was boundless, and his life’s work was to bring joy to people through music.”
Formed in 1971, the New York Dolls emerged in full vamp, cross-dressing in makeup and swaggering about with a healthy dose of attitude, in essence punks before there was punk. The band’s two studio releases did little commercially, but the band’s influence sparked a wide array of bands that followed, from the Replacements to Motley Crue, and the Dolls’ recent reunion, was at the behest of none other than superfan Morrissey. After the band’s breakup in 1977, Kane continued to work as a musician, recording with the Idols, Corpse Grinders and the Killer Kane band.
Kane is the fourth New York Doll to die: drummer Billy Murcia suffocated after mixing alcohol with pills on the band’s first tour of England in 1972; guitarist Johnny Thunders overdosed in 1991; and Jerry Nolan, Murcia’s replacement, suffered a fatal stroke in 1992.
A funeral for Kane is planned for Saturday in Westwood, California.