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Tower of Power Co-Founder Mic Gillette Dead at 65

Brass player Mic Gillette, whose distinctive style and tremendous talent helped propel Tower of Power to fame, has passed away after suffering a sudden heart attack. He was 65.

Only a teenager when he started performing with the group that would evolve into Tower of Power, Gillette helped anchor the band’s sound with his wide-ranging command of the trumpet and trombone. As their reputation grew, Gillette appeared alongside the Tower of Power horn section on a long list of recordings by other artists, including Santana, Elton John, Little Feat and Rod Stewart — all while scoring hits on their own, including 1973’s Tower of Power LP and the Top 20 single “So Very Hard to Go.”

Tiring of the grind in the early ’80s, Gillette left the Tower of Power lineup in 1984, settling into life as a husband, father and fixture on the Bay Area music scene whose work included a variety of bands and session work as well as mentoring young musicians and helping raise funds for school music programs.

Word of Gillette’s death comes courtesy of the Tower of Power Facebook page, where the band has posted a note describing themselves as “shocked, stunned and saddened” by the news. “Mic was without a doubt the greatest brass player I’ve ever known,” wrote bandleader Emilio Castillo. “Our sincere condolences go out to his wife Julia and his daughter Megan and their entire family.”

Fellow Bay Area music legends the Doobie Brothers posted a tribute by sax player Marc Russo. “I don’t think we’ll ever see the likes of him again. Equally accomplished on trombone and lead trumpet, it was amazing to see him switch between the instruments so quickly and effortlessly. And always with that big phat sound,” reads Russo’s note. “Whether you loved it or hated it, he always liked to say ‘brass kicks ass.’ I will miss that attitude! Cheers, my friend!! Rest in peace.”

In a 2014 interview, Gillette looked back on his career, describing his philosophy as “play every note the best you can” and insisting that after all the road miles, hit records and accolades, he derived his greatest satisfaction from his work as a mentor for younger generations.

“I really enjoy helping young aspiring musicians find their voice and look for their path,” Gillette said in the interview. “I’ve had a wonderful professional life and have been very lucky to get so many great opportunities, but the way I would like most to be remembered, is by someone coming up to a great player maybe 20 or 30 years from now and asking them who were their influences. That is where I wish most to be mentioned and remembered.”

For more information about Mic Gillette’s discography or to purchase solo recordings, visit his official site.

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