Mormon Punk Rock Pioneer Dies

July 16, 2004 | 20 comments
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Arthur “Killer” Kane, the original bassist for the New York Dolls, passed away this week in Los Angeles from leukemia. He had joined the Church in recent years, and according to the New York Times obituary, he worked in his stake’s family history center.

For those of you not familiar with rock history, the New York Dolls (along with Iggy Pop and Velvet Underground) were the pioneers of punk rock. Led by David Johansen (later known as Buster Poindexter), they came on the scene in 1972 in New York City and really changed the course of rock and roll. Their energy, concision, theatrics (and, to be fair, lack of musical skill) inspired folks like Patti Smith, the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and Blondie.

The Dolls burned out fast as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. In fact, three members of the band have died from drug related problems. By all accounts, Arthur Kane had overcome his addictions, and had recently played in a Dolls reunion concert in London.

I’m sure the rest of the Bloggernacle joins me in extending our sympathies to Kane’s family and friends.

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20 Responses to Mormon Punk Rock Pioneer Dies

  1. danithew on July 16, 2004 at 4:44 pm

    I’m sad that I didn’t know earlier than today that we had an LDS member who had been part of this band. Very interesting. It was cool to read that he was such a faithful member of the Church as well, and that he still felt ok about going out and playing some gigs. Woo hoo!

  2. john fowles on July 16, 2004 at 6:16 pm

    Anyone know if it is true that the drummer for Operation Ivy was LDS and the band broke up b/c he went on his mission?

  3. Greg on July 16, 2004 at 9:33 pm

    For what it’s worth, I wasn’t holding back on you, Danithew. I didn’t know he was Mormon either until I read the Times obit.

  4. danithew on July 17, 2004 at 12:51 pm

    Oh Mr. Gregster — I didn’t think anyone was holding out on me. He probably kept his former punk leanings quiet or something. Or maybe there just weren’t that many LDS New York Dolls fans.

    I’m planning to download some New York Dolls songs if I can get a hold of them, to see what we’re actually talking about here. If I find any good ones or lyrics that are printable (or even unprintable) I might just be back on this thread to give some thoughts and responses.

    I have to think that if Morrissey was that huge a fan, there must be something to them (musically or otherwise). Though he’s definitely an odd bloke, Morrissey seems to be a pretty literate and intelligent person. [Now if he'd just get back together with Marr and re-form the Smiths] But like I said, we’ll have to see ….

    I’m just disappointed that Mr. Kane wasn’t invited to perform at President Hinckley’s birthday. Maybe that “kick out the jams, Mormon Tabernacker’s” comment I wrote over at Baron of Deseret wasn’t so far out of wack after all. [BIG GRIN}

  5. danithew on July 18, 2004 at 2:13 pm

    Well, I have successfully downloaded some songs by the New York Dolls and given them a listen. The songs I listened to were titled “Personality Crisis”, “Subway Train” and “Jetboy.”

    Previous to the downloads I had read some articles that praised the New York Dolls for greatly influencing punk music but also remarked that their musical skills were not exactly the greatest.

    Still, after listening to these songs I have to say that I found them surprisingly palatable — I can definitely see how the Ramones were influenced by the New York Dolls as the sound is very very similar (though the New York Dolls song are a more traditinal rock-song length as opposed to the Ramones super-short songs).

    I also saw the first promo picture of the band, that was taken and released in 1973. They looked very much like some of the 80′s metal hair bands. Lots of attitude and makeup.

    Well, that was a fun little exercise. RIP Arthur “Killer” Kane. That’s one conversion story I’d love to read/hear about.

  6. Jim Bennett on July 21, 2004 at 11:14 pm

    Back when I was living in LA, I was Arthur Kane’s home teacher. Apart from his long, hippie-esque hair, he bore none of the hallmarks of a traditional rock hero. He was soft-spoken and unassuming. Truly, he was a gentle soul.

    I haven’t seen him for over a decade, and I was shocked to hear of his passing. He will truly be missed.

  7. Anne on August 18, 2004 at 10:28 am

    Pleased to meet you, Jim Bennett. As a lifelong fan of the Dolls, I was as shocked as anyone to hear Arthur Kane was a convert. Do you know if he was visited by Missionaries? My first thought was how incredible it would be to be the missionary who baptized Killer Kane.

    I understand a film crew from the church went with him to the reunion shows and those films were shown at his memorial. Will the rest of the world ever have a chance to view them, does anyone know?

  8. Rebecca on August 19, 2004 at 7:31 pm

    Arhtur told me he was in the hospital recovering
    from a fall out of a third story window and, as he put it, ‘some fresh faced Mormons’ came
    to visit, left him literature and saved his
    life.

    He was a gentle soul who was loved.

    If the film that the church was making is ever publicly available I would like to see it.

  9. Rebecca on August 19, 2004 at 7:32 pm

    Arhtur told me he was in the hospital recovering
    from a fall out of a third story window and, as he put it, ‘some fresh faced Mormons’ came
    to visit, left him literature and saved his
    life.

    He was a gentle soul who was loved.

    If the film that the church was making is ever publicly available I would like to see it.

  10. danithew on August 19, 2004 at 7:39 pm

    Man, I wish I had been able to meet this guy. Killer Kane sounds like he was really just a very nice guy waiting for the right message to come along. What an interesting life he led.

  11. Rebecca on August 19, 2004 at 7:39 pm

    He was in the hospital recovering from a fall
    out of a third story window when, as he put it,
    ‘some fresh faced Mormons’ came to visit, left
    literature, and saved his life.

    If the film the church made is ever
    available to the public I would like to see it.

  12. Greg on August 19, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Rebecca, your post is found poetry. Thanks.

  13. danithew on January 22, 2005 at 5:00 pm

    Here’s an article about Arthur “Killer” Kane that is very interesting reading. Enjoy!

    http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_2532766

  14. danithew on January 22, 2005 at 5:03 pm

    This has to be one of the oddest conversion stories/descriptions I’ve ever read (from the article) and apparently a bunch of people at the Sundance Film Festival must be seeing/hearing it:

    In 1989, Arthur “Killer” Kane, bassist for the legendary early ’70s glam-rock band the New York Dolls, got drunk, attacked his wife and proceeded to fall out of the third-story window of his Los Angeles apartment. He landed in the arms of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, perhaps the unlikeliest convert ever, when he picked up a TV Guide in his hospital recovery room and saw an ad offering a free Book of Mormon. “I prayed about it, hoping the Book of Mormon was true,” Kane explains in “New York Doll,” a documentary about his life debuting at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. “I got an answer quickly,” Kane adds, explaining that his conversion was “like an LSD trip from the Lord, like a drug trip without the drugs.”

    The Lord works in mysterious ways. :)

  15. danithew on January 22, 2005 at 5:08 pm

    LOL. It also looks like this movie being created might have something to do with good hometeaching:

    Greg Whiteley, a Brigham Young University graduate and director of “New York Doll,” met Kane in Los Angeles and was assigned by his local church leaders to visit the former rock star at his home. Whiteley had moved to southern California to attend graduate school and break into the film industry, and some members of the LDS congregation who knew Kane’s background figured the two would hit it off. “I’m a filmmaker and he’s an ex-rock star, so I think we got relegated to the same part of the ward,” Whiteley said in an interview, laughing. ”It was like, ‘You’re both strange.’ ‘

    What a story!

  16. Joseph Price on January 28, 2005 at 6:34 pm

    **First, you can still catch this movie Satuday at 3:45 at the Broadway Center theatre in Salt Lake**

    Trust me, you want to see this movie. It was the only one I saw at the festival, but I heard from other hardcore festival goers that it was the best one they’d seen so far. If you think it would have been cool to be among the first to see Napoleon Dynamite at Sundance last year, do not miss this chance. This movie will revolutionize LDS film and change many lives.

    Get there an hour and 1/2 or so early as it is sold out. Don’t worry, it’s not all that hard to get in and there are often people handing out free tickets to people waiting in the stand-by line.

    This movie raises the bar for LDS film SEVERAL notches. I simply can’t say enough about it.
    Watching it was a STAGGERING SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE.

    Here are a couple reviews.

    from http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com/display.cgi?id=19240

    New York Doll ****
    I think that it is safe to say that the best film of the festival is New York Doll. The film follows Arthur Killer Kane, the bass player for the New York Dolls. The Dolls influenced everyone from the likes of The Smiths to Motley Crue. Rather than be a rock-doc the film is really about empathy, tolerance and friendship. It’s not so much about the band as it is about one man’s spiritual change and his determination and hesitations regarding his faith.

    I read this week in a report from one of the documentary panels that the key to having a successful documentary is to have a sympathetic subject. New York Doll could aptly be titled Arthur Kane is a Sweet, Sweet Man. Within moments of meeting him on-screen you are intrigued by his forthrightness and inspired by his honesty. Arthur has no qualms about his life, be it as a cross-dressing alcoholic in the 70’s, a washed up musician careening out of apartment windows in the 80’s or as a Genealogical Librarian for the LDS Church in the 90’s. He has come to terms with each stage of his life and can rightly recognize the rights and wrongs as it were concerning each portion. It is truly a story about a man that is about to come full circle.

    Harry, it is absolutely brilliant. Filmmaker Greg Whiteley would admit that this was part luck on his part to catch Arthur in the precise moment that he did. What follows in the film is one of the best story arcs imaginable. To paraphrase a previous review, many narratives would die to have this story. What amazes me about the film more than any other aspect is its ability to mix up the two extreme lifestyles of excessive rock and roll with reserved Christianity. In one moment you have Morrissey commenting on the power of the Dolls followed by Arthur’s Mormon Bishop’s observation about Arthur’s happiness to be playing on stage with the Dolls after a 30 year absence. Both accounts are equally moving and it is refreshing to see these two ideologies melded together into a form of understanding.

    I highly recommend this film for its charisma and sincerity. It has so many opportunities to become preachy and it doesn’t even come close. Redford opened the festival with a message concerning America’s intolerance for different cultures and lifestyles. Truly the festival has been about tolerance and acceptance, but no film has successfully been the manifestation of that idea as much as New York Doll.

    from http://www.morrissey-solo.com/

    Frankie writes:

    Just got back to Los Angeles, from opening weekend of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. I was lucky enough to catch the premiere of “New York Doll.” I don’t know where to start except with the words BRILLIANT! The documentary follows the history of the Dolls from start to break up. The film then catches the viewer up to speed with the interesting and emotional life of Arthur “Killer” Kane, through his finding of the Mormon lifestyle to the reuniting of the New York Dolls at Morrissey’s Meltdown, and beyond. The film is tragic, and joyful all at once. I never lost interest in any of the story, and left the theater feeling that the festival was a completely worth the trip, thanks to “NY Doll.”

    I don’t want to give to many details about the documentary without the permission of the filmmaker, so I will leave it as is. When I first heard of this film, expectations where high. Believe me when I say that EVERY music fan, especially NY Dolls and MOZ fans should see this documentary. I asked the filmmaker (who happens to be a very nice individual out of Los Angeles) if we should expect to see a theatrical release, all is unsure. To judge by the audience response, we will see it in theaters or on DVD in the near future.

    One last note, a very appropriate Smiths song appears on the soundtrack, along with other very good music. Please email your interest in seeing the documentary so I can forward the emails to the filmmaker directly. I want to let him know how much “Moz” fan support he has. It will be good incentive for a distributor to release the film, so that we all get to see it. Email to moz@indieprinting.com.

  17. Geoff Johnston on January 28, 2005 at 6:53 pm

    That is probably the most interesting thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks for the update, Joseph. As a Mormon guy who spent years of his life trying to be a rock star, I can say that this is one film I can’t wait to see.

  18. Brent Wagstaff on February 12, 2005 at 9:26 pm

    am i the only active church member that listens to punk rock music????

  19. Jim F. on February 13, 2005 at 12:06 am

    Brent, if you read the previous 17 comments, how can you ask?

  20. J. Neighbor on February 17, 2005 at 2:34 pm

    I saw the New York dolls along time ago in L.A., and still remember the show being great. I have read all of the comments about Arthur (killer) Kane and wish I could have known him. The documentary that is out there needs to be made available for all to see. I hope to see something about it real soon. I can’t wait to see the “New York Doll.”

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