Bay Area Legend Darondo Dead At 67

Karas Lamb Karas Lamb writes and digs for tunes you haven’t heard…

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Darondo aka William Daron Pulliam – the Berkeley, California legend responsible for the soul classic “Didn’t I” – has died at the age of 67. His death was preceded by a storied career that specialized in the perfection of cool. Darondo first hit the scene at the age of 18, playing guitar and singing in teen groups during the late 60s. He began to make his mark during the 70s with a sound influenced by a bevy of sources including latin music, classic soul and the blues.

His unique sound was fortified by a folk funk vocal that shined in falsetto and shook in his natural baritone. The stylistic similarities between Darondo and Al Green are staggering enough to elicit questions of how much influence Darondo might have had on the soul icon; the trickle down legacy of Darondo’s sound is even familiar in D’Angelo‘s honeyed falsetto. Darondo’s music was buoyed by the lore of his life, which revolved around his unique style and classic white Rolls Royce Silver Cloud with signature vanity plates. His status as a cult figure may have been what sustained him during periods when he was not recording.

Darondo enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in recent years after two albums worth of unreleased material recorded for Music City Records was compiled and released on Omnivore Records in 2011 as Listen To My Song: The Music City Sessions – an album preceded by the 2006 Ubiquity release Let My People Go. Both projects pushed Darondo back to the fore as crate diggers expressed an increasing interest in his catalog – a collective curiosity that seemed to spring from the heartbreaking charm of “Didn’t I”, a song that had sold 35,000 copies at its height. That resurgence followed a darker period of cocaine addiction and legal issues that was officially water under the bridge for Darondo by the time his newfound popularity had catapulted him onto television when his music appeared on AMC’s Breaking Bad during the first season.

His more recent credits include collaboration with the Bay Area percussion outfit The Park and a super chill flip of “Didn’t I” from Tall Black Guy and Dandy Teru. In an interview with SPIN, Darondo’s touring bassist Josh Lippi offered his thoughts on the loss:

“Darondo meant the world to us. He was the godfather of the Park. He’s definitely going to be missed and we’re honored to have had a great run of years backing him up. He often expressed to us how much it meant for him to have that run of comeback shows. He didn’t think he’d be back on stage again, and he really made the most of those years.”

There have been no memorial plans announced as fans and musicians prepare to bid farewell to the legendary singer. His loss will be felt across the world. The suffocating feeling that affects music lovers whenever an iconic talent is lost can at least be soothed by the sounds they have left behind. Take a moment to savor Darondo’s amazing sound and pour a little out for the architect of undeniable cool.

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