Randy California – Caught in the Riptide
Randy California was the guitarist and centerpiece of the rock group Spirit, and his highly influential playing style has been hailed by musicians as diverse as Walter Becker and Jimi Hendrix — who gave the California-born Randy Craig Wolfe his stage name.
Among his many career achievements, many rock historians credit Spirit’s “Taurus” as the impetus for Led Zeppelin‘s “Stairway to Heaven.” However, in 2016, a jury ruled that Led Zeppelin did not steal the opening chords of “Taurus” for their epic song.
The guitarist drowned in the ocean at Molokai, Hawaii, on Jan. 2, 1997 while helping his 12-year-old son Quinn, who had gotten caught in a riptide. He managed to push his son to safety, but could not save himself.