Grass Roots Singer Rob Grill Dies at 67
The group is currently a part of the Happy Together Tour that also includes The Turtles, Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders, The Association and The Buckinghams.
Longtime Grass Roots bassist Mark Dawson announced the death of Grill, 67, from the stage at the Bethlehem show, saying he passed away about 11 a.m. Monday.
“We may have lost one great friend, but heaven gained an exceptional singer,” Dawson said from stage. “We say God bless you, and Rob says the show must go on.”
Dawson sang Grill’s vocals, as he sometimes had in recent years as Grill struggled with health problems.
After the Grass Roots set, Dawson said in an interview that Grill died in an Orlando, Fla., hospital from complications from a stroke. Dawson said Grill died in the arms of his wife, Nancy, as he listened to “Live For Today,” which Dawson said was his favorite Grass Roots song.
Dawson said Grill had been off the Happy Together Tour for five or six weeks as he was hospitalized, but “there were signs he had been improving in the past few days,” Dawson said. “We were shocked to get the call.”
The group’s performance of that song Monday was particularly emphatic, with guitarist Dusty Hanvey playing an authentic psychedelic guitar solo that the crowd cheered heartily.
Grill had last played the area in December, at the Camelot for Children Christmas Spectacular concert at Allentown Symphony Hall.
At that show, Grill’s recent health difficulties were evident. He walked on stage with a cane and a pronounced limp, and had some singing limitations, often letting Dawson sing lead. But when Grill did sing, his vocal shortcomings actually added to the songs’ emotions. “Let’s Live for Today” sounded wonderfully pleading and desperate.
In all, with Grill The Grass Roots had just two gold albums and just one that went platinum, but tallied an amazing 15 Top 30 hits from 1966-72, and had almost continuous chart presence with its hits, which also included “Sooner or Later” and “Two Divided By Love.”
In fact, The Grass Roots set the record for continuous presence on the Billboard charts — 307 straight weeks.
In an interview before the Symphony Hall show, Grill said the stay on the charts was by design.
“We watched the charts, and when [one song] started to come down, we’d release another song,” Grill said. “There was no secret. We recorded songs that were hits. That was the whole focus. You found the best songs and put them out.” Writing your own material and creating albums, Grill said, wasn’t as important.
Grill had a connection to the Lehigh Valley. His wife was born in Lehighton’s Gnaden Huetten Hospital, now a campus of Blue Mountain Health Systems.
Nancy Grill, 52, said in a telephone interview before the Symphony Hall show that while she never lived in the area, she was born there when her traveling parents were nearby.
The hospital was chosen because she had aunts who worked there, Grill says. While she grew up in Maryland, members her extended family – which included the Sheehans and Strubingers – lived in Jim Thope, Nancy Grill says. She says some extended family still live in the Carbon County seat.
Grill and Nancy met in the mid 1980s when he was performing at a club in Orlando, Fla. Nancy, then a radio announcer in that area, was working at the club that night, too.