Rockbrat Remembers: LEE CRYSTAL (1956-2013)

The classic line-up of The Blackearts with the late Lee Crystal (far right)

Lee Crystal, who played drums for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts during their most commercially successful period in the ’80s, died earlier last month, on 6 November 2013. He passed away from complications from multiple sclerosis, which he was diagnosed with in 1993. According to a post on Kayos Productions’ Facebook page, Crystal just “lost his valiant fight with MS.” Crystal was the Blackhearts’ drummer from 1981-86, playing on the band’s most popular recordings, including the LPs ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and ‘Album.’ Together, the Top 20 records yielded Jett’s hit single covers of Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Everyday People,’ Tommy James and the Shondells’ ‘Crimson and Clover’ and ‘I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,’ which reached No. 1. In an interview with Modern Drummer from 2006, the Brooklyn-bred Crystal said that  “Joan Jett was what I needed. I wanted to play real rock ’n’ roll.” Before he signed on to be Jett’s drummer, Crystal played with former New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain and on the NYC club circuit with The Boyfriends. After splitting from the Blackhearts, he played with Crash Conference and Secret Chiefs. After his multiple sclerosis made it difficult to play drums, Crystal became a music teacher out of his New Jersey home, where he instructed drum students to “get real familiar with your drums, because you’ll be hitting them.” You can read his obituary here.

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