The world of hard rock mourns the death of Cinderella guitarist, Jeff LaBar. The talented musician was reportedly found in his Nashville apartment by his ex-wife. His son Sebastian announced the sad news on social media. The responses from musicians who knew LaBar, and from Sirius XM’s deejays, such as Keith Roth, have been heartfelt and poignant. For Cinderella fans, LaBar is another brilliant musician gone too soon.
Jeff LaBar and the sound of Cinderella
When Cinderella first appeared on Music Television in 1986, they were arguably different. The song “Nobody’s Fool” received heavy airplay on the video music channel. The visuals provided by the video were one thing, as the comedic moments between a pair of young women and the band ensued. But it was the song itself, the moody blend of blues and rock, and the dramatic lyrics expertly delivered in singer Tom Keifer’s raspy voice. Keifer’s is a voice that could move from smooth and soft to angry and belting in seconds. This was backed by a powerhouse of sound from LaBar on guitar, Eric Brittingham on bass, and Fred Coury on drums.
Interested audiences who go to YouTube to watch Cinderella’s classic videos will find that people, especially those familiar with the band in its heyday, are still blown away by the sound of the band. Keifer’s voice is often admired for its power, and the band is typically thought of as underrated. Which is arguably true given the stellar elements of the group.
However, it is not as though Cinderella went without accolades of any kind. The band’s early recordings earned multi-platinum status from the Recording Industry Association of America. Cinderella has sold more than 15 million albums.
Jeff LaBar: a kind of legend
There is something about watching a musician put his all into the work he is doing onstage, or a recording of his work onstage. There are few words that can accurately describe the sound that LaBar created. And, how his chords lent themselves easily to the overall tone of whatever song he was playing. The way the rhythm grew faster and faster in “Nobody’s Fool” before slowing back down adds satisfying tension to the song.
Fans of Cinderella could not help but be moved by the kind of playing LaBar exhibited on “Night Songs,” the band’s first widely released album. The one that put the band’s name in American households in 1986. While LaBar was obviously talented, he seemed humble, at least from the perspective of fans who did not know him personally.
If Cinderella had not been underrated, more could have been known and perhaps heard of LaBar. Unfortunately, it is, and was, too easy to write a band off for its members good looks, as if that detracted from their musicality.
Cinderella’s songs were distinctive in part because of their soundscapes. LaBar’s playing was an integral part of that. Those solos, and just all of the riffs from songs like “Push, Push” and “Back Home Again” that ushered in a new era of hard rock (or glam metal) with their almost-face melting intensity, showed what a master guitar player LaBar was.
Public mourning for Jeff LaBar
While the news of LaBar’s passing was shocking and sad, it was a sort of comfort to hear several Cinderella songs on satellite radio as various deejays relayed the sadness of his passing and urged listeners to remember one of the greatest guitarists of our time.
Cinderella stopped performing together in 2014. Reportedly, their last show together was on a rock-themed cruise. By 2017, Keifer announced that Cinderella would not get back together again.
Several websites have reprinted excerpts from an interview LaBar gave blaming the end of the band on himself and his addiction. His willingness to take accountability speaks volumes about the kind of person he must have been. Despite speculation, no official cause of death has been given. The news is simply sad for everyone whose life was touched by LaBar’s music. The loss for his family and friends must be even greater.