Cry of Love Singer Kelly Holland Dead at 52
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Singer Kelly Holland, best known for his stint as the frontman for early ’90s Southern rock standard-bearers Cry of Love, passed away Feb. 24 at the age of 52.
One of a very small number of young bands playing in a classic rock vein during the era, Cry of Love rose to prominence with a tough, bluesy sound that invited comparisons to veteran acts like Bad Company and Aerosmith — the latter of whom they played with in 1994, opening for the resurgent rockers on their ‘Get a Grip’ tour. The band’s debut album ‘Brother,’ released in the spring of 1993, performed respectably, spinning off a handful of successful singles (including ‘Peace Pipe,’ which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart), but while executives at Columbia Records were doubtless hoping for Black Crowes-style crossover sales, they never really materialized.
Following ‘Brother,’ Cry of Love seemed poised to build on the momentum they’d established, but Holland left the band in 1994, stalling their efforts to release a follow-up. Although they eventually recruited future Warrant singer Robert Mason, 1997’s ‘Diamonds & Debris’ arrived too late to capitalize on the first LP — and in an even tougher market for bands of Cry of Love’s vintage. The group split following its release, with guitarist Audley Freed going on to join the Crowes, and later Chris Robinson’s solo band.
According to the Raleigh News & Observer, Holland performed with a number of bands after leaving Cry of Love. An accomplished drummer as well as a distinctive singer, he acted as a double weapon for the local cover act Crush. Felled by an abdominal infection after a short hospital stay, he was remembered by his former bandmates as a ferociously talented, albeit mercurial, musician.
“Kelly was the greatest rock and roll singer I’ve ever known, but the boy had some demons, too,” Cry of Love drummer Jason Patterson told the News & Observer. “There were a lot of things he just could not get past, and they ate him up from the inside out.”
“Vocalists like Kelly are few and far between,” added Jeff Dennis, who played with Holland in a later group. “He was a great, great singer. A real handful, too, not easy to be in a band with. He had some routines and stuff about how he needed to go through the day that could be tough to deal with. But he was just so frickin’ talented, you were willing to do it. He was one of those guys who’d mark you or scar you, however you look at it. He made a dent in your psyche that you’ll carry forever.”
Holland is deeply missed by the circle of friends and family he left behind, many of whom share their memories of his life and talent in the comments of the News & Observer’s memorial article. Both Cry of Love albums are still in print digitally and available via streaming services like Spotify; take a minute today to play ‘Brother’ and think about what might have been.