Sometimes I check for news about old favorite singers. I found out recently that Turley Richards just published his autobiography. Great. I found that the neglected pop group Gunhill Road has put out their first new album in 40 years. Great.
I wondered what Priscilla Coolidge was up to (covered here June 9, 2010).
I learned that on the evening of October 3rd she was shot in the head by her husband, and he then turned the gun on himself.
It happened in their home, marked by the red dot, which is in a peaceful suburb of California called Thousand Oaks. You can see there's a golf course on one side. There are mountain views on the other.
While Illville is mostly populated by talented people who, for one reason or another, aren't as famous as they deserve to be, it's a bit surprising that Priscilla's death got almost no coverage in the news. She wasn't, as headlined here, merely "Priscilla Coolidge." Or Priscilla June Coolidge. She was the ex-wife of not one but two celebrities, Booker T. Jones (the 70's) and CBS "60 Minute" icon Ed Bradley (from 1981 to 1984). She was also the sister of Rita Coolidge, and together (with Priscilla's daughter) they formed Walela, singing an unusual mix of rock with some Native American-influenced rhythms and lyrics.
America is such an equal-opportunity for murder, isn't it? Look at that first album cover, "Gypsy Queen." With the blond hair, and carefully styled make-up, she was promoted in an almost Sharon Tate way. But no crazed hippies came after her. When she let her hair go back to natural brunette, and became (along with John and Yoko, I suppose) one of the few interracial couples issuing albums, she and Booker T. fortunately didn't take gunfire on stage. No enemy of Ed Bradley came after her. No psycho with a grudge against "Indians" fired a rifle at Walela when they took the stage. No. But retired, at 73, she was killed. Neighbors reported the sounds of an argument, and a few minutes later, this talented singer and lyricist, beloved sister, mother, grandmother...was gone.
It happened where it's clean and quiet; the modest three-bedroom homes go for the typical upper-Middle class price of about $600,000. Some folks rent their places out for $3,000 or so a month.
You'll find the basics of Priscilla's career in the entry for her elsewhere on the blog. Just type her name in the "search" feature in the upper left-hand corner. There's a "Priscilla June Coolidge" Facebook page that is adding, now and then, snapshots from happier times. It's apparently run by her daughter from the Booker T. marriage.
Below are a few tracks from Priscilla's first album. It was originally issued on Sussex. I have no idea what the label's strategy was, but the ambitious debut covered a lot of territory. Some cuts were soulful, some had a kind of funky bayou tang to them, and a few were more mainstream folk-rock. "Come On Sweet" could easily have been on the soundtrack to some "Easy Rider" type movie of the day, with its California dream of romance. Perhaps some reviewers shied away because Priscilla's lyrics (she wrote most of the album herself) were loaded up with some pretty erotic and obvious imagery:
"Catch me in the sunlight in the morning. Catch me in the morning when I'm new...
Flood me 'cause your rivers run so deep babe, and I will bear your seed before this noon...
Catch me when I'm blooming in the evening, and you can taste the honey from my tree..."
Soon we'll know the darkness coming home babe, just take my hand and lay down next to me."
OK, that stuff got my attention, and I played Priscilla's album on the radio, and that included the next track, "Salty Haze," which was loaded with the hippie-dippie heavy lyrics we disc jockeys were awed by, whether from a Dylan, a Keith Reid or a Gypsy Queen:
"Yesterday some people say, we change our ways and take the graves, but tomorrow, never came from yesterday.
Yesterday the wind would say, was only time and only play for people born into the world of no tomorrow.
But today the ocean waves a misty blue and salty haze over the eyes of people born of yesterday..."
Yes, the lyrics were on the back of the album, including the note that the album was produced by one Booker T. Jones.
Soon, "Booker T. and Priscilla" were on A&M, Priscilla's first album was re-issued on A&M, and there was some hope that perhaps the rising interest in A&M's Rita Coolidge might create some kind of dynasty. And let's not forget the "Kris and Rita" album. How about THIS picture, which includes Priscilla's daughter Laura from an earlier marriage (yes, the one who would later join Priscilla as part of Walela).
You know the rest, obviously. You've heard of Rita Coolidge. You know she was married to Kris. You might even have some of their albums. But it's only through this blog that you've ever heard of Priscilla. The third and last Booker-Priscilla album was issued to great apathy in 1973, and in 1979 she somehow managed one last shot at a solo career with "Flying," an album that you can find on eBay for a buck with no takers. A few years after that, she was the bride of newsman Ed Bradley, which does give you an idea that this very attractive and intelligent lady's range of interests went well beyond the world of rock.
Priscilla seemed to have no shortage of admirers. One of them was William D. Smith, a chunky-looking R&B singer and songwriter who made a few obscure (but not all that interesting, otherwise they'd be on this blog somewhere) albums in the 70's.
Smith: "Priscilla said hey come live with me…Even though I didn't want to move in with her, I did it anyway. The first month I moved in with her, we got along great. No fussing or fighting. She had a great sense of humor. I would walk in the room, and I could tell she had been there by the way it smelled. We hugged and kissed all the time…" Priscilla even wrote some lyrics for his songs, including "I Need You."
. The good times didn't last long: "Priscilla and I started to argue about all kinds of things. I was frustrated and she was frustrated. She had just gotten out of a bad marriage…both of us had come from bad marriages. She was seeing a therapist…Priscilla and I kept fussing…stomp-down arguments…Finally, we both agreed that if we could split up, we wouldn't have so many problems. You know, Priscilla and I could have had a beautiful friendship…"
It seemed that things were pretty nice in the house in Thousand Oaks, where a couple were growing older, and getting visits from loved ones, children, and grand-children just waiting to come into this lovely home in a sunny part of the world.
Priscilla, married at least four times, found a fatal match in Michael J. Seibert. I have limited time in researching material for this free blog, but I tried to get some background on him. He seems to have been previously married to a lady named Toshiko Kikuzaki, and worked for Catapult Entertainment, Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and WebTV. He's also used the alias Michael Seibertreata. There was a minor legal action filed against him on August 8, nearly two months before the murder/suicide. Seibert was asked to fork over about $7,000 in attorney fees involving a "confession judgment" against him going back to 2009. The judge "denied without prejudice" the claim, based on a technicality. The judge was leaving the case open for the plaintiff to file once again against Seibert. I don't know if this, or other financial woes weighed on Seibert over the two months he (and Priscilla) had left.
Priscilla had at least four children, including Paul and Laura Satterfield from her first marriage, and a son and daughter via Booker T. Jones: Booker T. Jones III and Lonnie, who has her own Facebook page, the one for Priscilla, and an Instagram account with lovely photos of herself, her husband and kids, and her beloved mom. Rita's only public statement is a simple one: "“Words cannot express the devastation our family is feeling with the loss of my sister, Priscilla. We are asking for privacy during this time of mourning.”
Two songs from Priscilla's first solo album: Come On Sweet/Salty Haze