ZZ Top’s legend continues in the face of tragedy

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The music world was shocked to hear of the passing of legendary bassist, Dusty Hill of ZZ Top. Hill, who was one of the founding members of the group, died of unspecified causes. However, despite the tragedy of Hill’s passing, reportedly the group will go on. 

ZZ Top: Tragedy in the midst of a tour

Perhaps one of the more troubling aspects of Hill’s passing was the fact that he died while the band was on tour. According to various media outlets, Hill departed from the tour temporarily because of a hip condition. He died at home during that brief hiatus. 

Online music sites subsequently reported that it was Hill’s wish that no matter what happened, the band should go on. And that is exactly what is going to happen. 

Longtime guitar tech, Elwood Francis, will fill in for Hill for the rest of the tour. That the sound of ZZ Top will continue is certainly a relief for fans. However, it probably goes without saying that Hill will be impossible to replace. Francis will join the survivors of the legendary band Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard.

ZZ Top: 50 plus years of hard-driving rock and roll

The sound of ZZ Top is impossible to contain in one genre. The sound is blues, it is rock, it is rock boogie, it is Southern rock. The style of ZZ Top is all of those things and more. That the Texas trio was able to maintain a career over more than 50 years is an incredible feat during eras when many acts became one- or two-hit wonders, only to fade into obscurity.

The same cannot be said of ZZ Top. The distinctive sound of the raw, buzzing guitars and pounding drums is the defining element of the group, not to mention the often-humorous lyrical content. 

Although the group formed in 1969, audiences likely remember them from the early and mid-1970s hits such as “La Grange,” “It’s Only Love,” and “Tush.” The latter demonstrates the band’s ability to blend blues and rock in terms of instrumentation and vocals. 

In the 1980s, the trio proved that they were still capable of weaving interesting narratives against a hard rock, Southern-tinged soundscape. Hits such as “Legs,” “TV Dinners,” “Sharp-Dressed Man,” “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sleeping Bag,” took the band into the music video era and re-affirmed their place in music history, not to mention the hearts of diehard fans. In addition, radio hits from the early 1980s, like “I Thank You,” “Tube Snake Boogie,” and “Pearl Necklace” kept audiences singing along and appreciating the sound of ZZ Top. 

The band moved into the late 20th and 21st centuries with songs like “Viva Las Vegas,” “Pin Cushion,” “Girl In a T-Shirt,” “What’s Up With That,” “Fearless Boogie,” and “I Gotsa Get Paid.”

ZZ Top’s history is impressive. That the band endures despite tragedy is even more so. 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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