Leslie West, the legendary singer-guitarist of the hard rock band Mountain, has died at the age of 75. His death was confirmed today in a statement from his longtime sponsor Dean Guitars. “With a heavy heart, we are saddened to hear about the passing of #Dean Artist and part of the Dean family, Leslie West,” it reads. “Legendary and one of a kind. Rest In Peace.” The cause of death was cardiac arrest.
Born Leslie Weinstein in New York City on October 22nd, 1945, he changed his last name to West after his parents divorced. He started out in a band called the Vagrants, which scored a few regional hits in the 1960s before breaking off with Cream producer Felix Pappalardi. West and Pappalardi then formed Mountain in 1969, taking the name from West’s most recent solo album, which Pappalardi produced. That album also featured the single ‘Long Red’, which is one of the most sampled pieces of music in hip-hop, having been used in more than 600 songs, including tracks by Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Eminem, and more. Because the band shared an agent with Jimi Hendrix, they got the opportunity to perform at Woodstock in 1969 despite only having played a few shows up until that point.
Mountain released their debut studio album Climbing! in 1970, which yielded the group’s signature song, ‘Mississippi Queen’. The song has since become a hard rock staple and has been covered by numerous acts, including Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen, Ministry, and more. After releasing two more albums, Nantucket Sleighride and Flowers Of Evil, in 1971, Pappalardi departed from the band, and West along with drummer Corky Laing issued a series of records with Cream’s Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce And Laing.
Mountain reformed multiple times and released several LPs in the following years. Their last album, 2007’s Masters of War, was a collection of Bob Dylan covers. West continued to record and perform as a solo musician up until his death; his final solo album was 2015’s Soundcheck.