Jan Berry, the creative force behind legendary surf rock duo Jan and Dean, died Friday after suffering a seizure at his Los Angeles home; he was sixty-two. The singer had endured various health problems ever since a 1966 car accident left him brain damaged.
Jan and Dean are best known for their early Sixties hits “Drag City,” “Dead Man’s Curve” — a song about a tragic car crash that eerily foreshadowed Berry’s own accident two years later — and “Surf City,” a Number One single Berry co-wrote with the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.
Born William Jan Berry in Los Angeles in 1941, Berry scored his first hit in 1958 with “Jennie Lee,” released under the name Jan and Arnie. He and high school friend Dean Torrence began their string of hits in the early Sixties. Unlike the more popular band they influenced, the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean did not do much touring because Berry was busy studying to be a doctor. Those plans, as well as his group’s, were derailed in 1966, when Berry’s speeding Corvette crashed into a parked truck in Beverly Hills.
After undergoing years of extensive therapy, Berry was able to return to music in 1973. Jan and Dean enjoyed renewed popularity after Dead Man’s Curve, the TV movie chronicling the duo’s story, aired on CBS in 1978. The following summer they opened for the Beach Boys on a large-scale tour of the U.S., and continued to tour throughout the following decades. Berry released his lone solo album, Second Wave, featuring updated versions of Jan and Dean hits, in 1997.
Berry is survived by his wife Gertie.