Lucid Culture


In Memoriam – Dave Campbell

Dave Campbell, who pushed the limits of what a drummer could do, died Wednesday in New York after emergency surgery following a battle with a long illness. He was 50. One of the best-loved and most strikingly individualistic players in the New York music scene, Campbell’s outgoing, generous presence as a musician and bandmate is irreplaceable.

Like the other great drummers of his generation, he was involved in many projects, from rock to jazz. A disciple of Elvin Jones, Campbell propelled psychedelic rock band Love Camp 7’s labyrinthine songs with equal parts subtlety and exuberance, contributing harmony and occasional lead vocals as well. While Campbell was instrumental in shaping Love Camp 7’s knottily cerebral creations into more accessible, straight-ahead rock, he took Erica Smith and the 99 Cent Dreams in the opposite direction, from Americana-tinged jangle-rock to jazz complexity. He was also the drummer in upbeat, high-energy New York rockers the K’s.

Originally from Minnesota, Campbell attended the University of Chicago and came to New York in the 1980s, where he joined Love Camp 7 as a replacement and then remained in the band over twenty years, touring Europe and recording several albums. He also handled drum and harmony vocal duties on Erica Smith’s two most recent studio albums, Friend or Foe and Snowblind. He leaves behind a considerable amount of unreleased studio work with both bands.

As a player, Campbell had an encyclopedic knowledge of rhythms and grooves and a special love for Brazilian music. His occasional solos often took the shape of a narrative, imbued with wry humor and unexpected colors. A great raconteur, Campbell’s stream-of-consciousness, machine-gun wit was informed by a curiosity that knew no bounds, combined with an ironclad logic that never failed to find the incongruity in a situation. He reveled in small, clever displays of defiance against authority, yet approached his playing and singing with a perfectionist rigor.

He is survived by his family and the love of his life, the artist and photographer Annie Sommers.


May 20, 2010 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, New York City, obituary, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. I am devestated by this. Crying my eyes out. I spent a lot of time with Dave back in the 90s. Great Memory – We blew off work and went to Strawberry Field in Central Park together and spent the day blasting a Dead Show from 1970 in 1995 after Jerry Garcia died.

    Annie – you made Dave happier then I ever saw him before he met you.

    Comment by a friend | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  2. Let’s also remember Dave’s stellar work with Daron Murphy and Johnny Farrow in the great Philco Bendyx Sunshine Co.

    A sad reminder of the fragility of life.

    Comment by Jim Santo | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  3. Recalling all the good times had with Dave, commiserating and making music. He took over on drums (seamlessly I might add) when the dearly departed Chris Brown left Philco Bendyx via a motorcycle crash near the Holland Tunnel in ’94. The first song we recorded with Dave was a tribute to Chris — “Far Too Gone.” I can’t help but equate this moment—”far too gone this time!” I will always hold Dave in high regard for his commitment to his drumming, his unmatched bantering skills (into the surreal and factually surprising) and love of live music. Rock on D Kal Koda! Peace be with you!

    Comment by Jonny Farrow | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  4. Perfect.

    Comment by Sharples | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  5. Dave was one of the most original, unique personalities I’ve ever known. I actually remember the first time I ever saw him perform, with Love Camp 7, some time around 1994 or so, out at the original Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island. He seemed like a combination of Keith Moon and Elvin Jones. So when Jonny and I lost our dear friend and drummer Chris Brown, having Dave join us was a dream come true. Dave left an indelible mark. He changed our lives for the better and I’m lucky to’ve known him.

    Comment by Daron Murphy | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. Every time I saw Love Camp or Erica play, I inevitably spent half the set transfixed on Dave — his alertness, him abundant imagination, drive, subtlety and humor. His playing was so expressive and fearlessly its own thing, and so was he — unique and wonderful.

    Also, as a bonus, he was a tremendously good singer, clear and fragile and expressive. I’m happy that he anchored the backup “Brooklyn Juvenile Detention Choir,” as we called it, that sang on the song Ain’t Life Good, one warm, yellow-tinted evening at Excello, Jack Daniels flowing a little, Erica, Baker and Scott gathered around the mic with Dave at the center, and Dave and Baker working out the four-part harmonies, animatedly and with the joy of creating even a small thing.

    Comment by ThePeteMan | May 20, 2010 | Reply

  7. As an adjunct member of the tribe, my thoughts are with Dave’s friends and family. He was loved.

    Comment by Robin Aigner | May 21, 2010 | Reply

  8. He was a truly unique and irreplaceable personality. From the way he took conversations by storm, to the way he caressed his drums, to his light hearted, outgoing, fun loving nature. To say he will be missed is an understatement. But his soul remains forever immortalized in the music he left behind, and in the hearts he touched along the way. Rest in peace Uncle, there are no quite hours in the great beyond.

    Comment by Dan Zimmerman | May 21, 2010 | Reply

  9. Remembering the way Dave used to cock his head before making a statement, his big eyes, funny nicknames for people and things…the patter of his hands when thinking, the love he had for Annie, and foremost, that rock solid nature he shared in pursuing anything and everything.

    Comment by Lucienne Spalding Schroepfer | May 21, 2010 | Reply

  10. Great tributes to a unique and enigmatic human being. I am glad I met and had the time to know him a little, little bit in this life. We lived in the same neighborhood in Queens and I saw a beautiful red cardinal outside my window as I spoke with a mutual friend about their midwestern tour in 1997. Made me smile in gratitude, whatever it means.

    Comment by Melanie Hegge | May 22, 2010 | Reply

  11. I went to high school with Dave, played a bit with him back then. We called him Clarence whenever he picked up his magic sticks as you could see the transformation happening in his big eyes, the wheels turning in his head, the real passion then pouring out. Clarence was truly inspirational; with a unique warmth he completed his mission.

    Comment by Mark Krezowski | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  12. Dave came into my life 21 years ago, the night I met my future husband at 2A on the lower east side. It was a regular hang-out for Dave and Tim. They had gone to high school together; had ended up in NYC around the same time; had shared an appt for a while. Dave was my Laurie Girls buddy, each of us taking on the same weird jobs at Ralph Lauren and finally at HC, where the job stuck. Dave was there the day Tim and I tied the knot, and he has been a fixture in our lives ever since. Here are some of my snapshots: roof parties on Bergen St, closing down Pat’s on 5th Ave, lazy sunny days in Prospect Park, sand, hotdogs and mermaids at Coney Island. And finally: sitting in the middle of an empty field in Kentucky where Tim and I moved a few years ago. Dave loved coming down here, breathing all the fresh air, staring into all the empty space. He always said his pulse dropped as soon as he hit the Bluegrass. I’m a writer, but words are nothing when it comes to trying to explain what Dave meant to me and to Tim, what kind of hole his death has left in our hearts.
    “We miss Dave,” is just a ridiculous understatement.

    Comment by Heather Henson | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  13. What a bummer.
    It seems that he was well loved and that shows how special he was.
    He loved to go out on my sailboat whenever he was here and I loved to take him!
    What a funny, charming and kooky guy. I wish we could have had more time together.
    Such a real pleasure to meet you Dave!

    Comment by Kornstein | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  14. David was the most talented drummer I’ve ever met, a decent human being, a friend and a fellow scotsman. I carry nothing but fond memories of him.

    Goodbye, David.

    Comment by David Cochrane | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  15. Of all the first-class drummers I’ve ever played with, Dave Campbell was the best. An instant intuition for what a song needed, never overplayed, always surprising, always finding a way to make it better. I learned more about music from him than anyone I ever played with. And what a presence in a band – everybody shut up when he talked because what he said mattered even though he circled his way around to what he meant. Maybe because he was so funny. A titanic talent who never took himself seriously, only his art. And now, an unfathomable loss. My heart goes out to everyone who was lucky enough to know him.

    Comment by bassplayer | May 23, 2010 | Reply

  16. […] is a very perceptive remembrance from the Lucid Culture blog that focuses on his musical […]

    Pingback by Campbell « Do Wacka Do | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  17. My uncle brought laughter, joy, music, books, and a love of vocabulary into my life. When he walked into a room, he added a whole new dimension. I admire his wisdom and worldly experiences. I only wish that I had been able to spend more time with him. Family functions and trips to NY will have a noticeable void with the absence of my crazy uncle Dave.

    Comment by Tina Zimmerman | May 24, 2010 | Reply

  18. What a beautiful man he was.

    Comment by Jeremiah Lockwood | May 25, 2010 | Reply

  19. I worked with Dave @ HCP and will always remember his incredible humor and indeed his “kookyness”! I am sorry I never got a chance to see him perform. But everytime I see his beloved Vikings & Twins play, he will be fondly thought of. You will be missed. My condolences to his wife and family.

    Comment by Evelyn Melendez | May 26, 2010 | Reply

  20. nice post about Dave the traveler up at travel writer Michael Sommers’ blog:

    Comment by the boss here | June 3, 2010 | Reply

  21. i brought home dave’s ashes tonight from the venerable frank campbell funeral chapel on the upper east side. but first, was escorted to the carlyle hotel by totally swell funeral director dominic. with dave’s ashes safely housed in my knapsack, we sat at the bar and had a single malt scotch. dave loved stories; telling them, listening to them, being the center in them. he would take in every detail with his endless passion and fascination for knowledge, data, info, history, and a rare and fearless curiosity that (not to be a hallmark card) is really truly inspirational. it’s impossible for such a bright star to leave us. he died painlessly in my arms with a smile on his face. i was telling him stories. ne obliviscarus, the latin motto of the clan campbell tells us to ‘never forget’. david vincent campbell will never be forgotten.

    Comment by Annie Leah Sommers | June 8, 2010 | Reply

    • Hello , Is this mail goes to you Annie?
      If you remember , this is Akane Nakamori from Japan,
      I am Dave’s friend, you came to Japan to meet me do you remember?

      please mail me if you find me,,,
      I am useing the facebook also.

      Akane Nakamori

      Comment by Akane Nakamori | July 9, 2011 | Reply

  22. Steve Antonakos put up a wonderful photo montage of Dave here:

    Comment by the boss here | June 13, 2010 | Reply

  23. I was the singer in one of Dave’s earlier bands (Dumb Ra at the University of Chicago), we played together for several years. One of the gentlest people I knew, and an excellent drummer. It’s nice to know that he made a career for himself in music and touched so many people.

    Comment by Mickey | June 24, 2010 | Reply

  24. I was the bass player in Dumb Ra. Dave called me Bo Peep. I lost touch with Dave after a while. I miss him.

    Comment by Kreemoe | June 24, 2010 | Reply

  25. I was Dave’s first love, my girl Annie was his last. She and I will meet in NYC this august to buckle that down. I had the honor to pass many a moment with him while he was beating the cancer. So generous with his time and energy, I must say it was a shock that he died.
    I would like to get in touch with Dumb Ra – I have some great photos of the band to share with you. Larry (Mickey) Chris John – contact me please

    Comment by Marie | July 24, 2010 | Reply

  26. Assuming I have a reason to reply here, many months later? I sortta think Dave rocked most of this world, and had a great life! He had to leave someone behind, that he cared dearly about.

    Comment by Don Campbell | January 3, 2011 | Reply

  27. Is it Marie, Annie, the band, his brother, or a darn cat?

    Comment by Don Campbell | January 3, 2011 | Reply

  28. I knew Dave in college, and was shocked when I read the news in the most recent alumni magazine. He was a very bright and gentle guy, funny, with an amazing amount of energy. I lost touch after college but am glad to know from these posts he lived his dream, making music, surrounded by good friends, family and love.

    Comment by Mark Bjerknes | January 27, 2011 | Reply

  29. life blends into death; and you, dave, are a part of me. i rode on rough waves of your rhythms. we emitted sounds: mold; shape; spit; create; murder. life blends into death; and you, dave, are a part of me.

    Comment by bass player: radio free illinois | February 16, 2011 | Reply

  30. one year and still so bright. you will be forever, david. what you and annie shared was beyond the horizons of love. i remember when you told me she was the love of your life. i am beyond grateful, she was with you on your last day here. amen, brother and friend.

    Comment by f.h. phillips | May 24, 2011 | Reply

  31. Hello Dave, This is Akane in Japan, I hope you remember me, Masa, Ayano.
    I asked Robert to find you because I go to NY next year in March after 23years!
    I really wanted to meet you again, We shared the apartment in Brooklyn , You just arrived from your city first time to NY, So beautiful days , Ayano was 3years old, but now,she is already 25 years old. can you imagine? you are great drummer .You came to Japan with your wife , you remember I was crying in the station when the time to say good buy, You bought me the beautiful flowers. I miss you so much, Dave.
    How can I find Tim? or your wife?

    I am using the face book, if some of his friend find me, please follow.
    My name is Akane Nakamori in Japan.

    Comment by Akane Nakamori | July 7, 2011 | Reply

  32. Back in the late 80’s, Dave and I had a band in Chicago called Ten second Delay. We were mostly performing orignals with a few avantgarde and eclectic covers. In my short time that I had spent with him, that being around one and half years, Dave was an intellectual, leader, excellent drummer and most importantly a great human being. I think about him and the love of music that he exhibited each time he put on a show. Here’s to you Dave…

    Comment by Harry | May 3, 2012 | Reply

  33. As storm clouds loom on the horizon, I’m reminded of Dave’s reticence to ride in a car with steel belted radials when there was lightning.

    Comment by John Wolfe | August 8, 2012 | Reply

  34. […] Here’s what I wrote way back when, and this is a nice collection of  warm remembrances. […]

    Pingback by Five years! | Dowackado | May 19, 2015 | Reply

  35. […] is a very perceptive remembrance from the Lucid Culture blog that focuses on his musical […]

    Pingback by Campbell | Dowackado | August 26, 2016 | Reply

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