Legendary Musician Dies During His 70th Birthday Tribute Concert After Collapsing On Stage

Col. Bruce Hampton


Over the course of the last week, I kept hearing plugs on Sirius XM’s ‘Jam On’ for a tribute concert honoring the 70th birthday of the legendary Col. Bruce Hampton. The concert was held in Atlanta, and it was available to stream online. I’d planned on paying to stream the concert which featured musicians like Warren Haynes of The Allman Brothers and Gov’t Mule, and John Fishman of Phish, but I forgot the concert was happening last night.

This morning, I felt like I had the wind knocked out of me when I was scrolling through Twitter and learned that Col. Bruce Hampton died last night after collapsing on stage during his 70th birthday tribute concert. He was surrounded by friends, family, and loved ones. At first, people thought he was joking around when they noticed him keeled over onstage but it quickly became apparent that something was wrong. He was rushed to Atlanta’s Crawford Long Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

According to Rev. Jeff Mosier’s Facebook post, a longtime collaborator with Bruce and a musician who performed at the tribute concert, it sounds like before Col. Bruce Hampton passed away last night it was one of the best nights of his life:

He died at Crawford Long Hospital here in Atlanta just a while ago. I feel so blessed to have been there tonight and be a part of the greatest gathering of friends and loved ones. I’ve never seen Bruce happier. I’ve never been sadder. I’ve dreaded this day for years, but could have never imagined a more joyful departure. I feel so lost.

It’s almost too surreal to believe that this happened. That one of the greatest jam band musicians of the past half-century died on stage, surrounded by his closest friends and adoring fans, during a concert paying tribute to his musical legacy. Here’s a list of the people who paid musical tribute to Col. Bruce Hampton last night before he passed away: Widespread Panic members John Bell, Dave Schools, Duane Trucks and Jimmy Herring, formerly of ARU, plus R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck, Phish’s Jon Fishman, Warren Haynes, Chuck Leavell, Karl Denson, Leftover Salmon’s Drew Emmitt and Vince Herman, Blues Traveler’s John Popper, Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, T. Hardy Morris, Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers/Medeski Martin & Wood, Rev. Jeff Mosier, Darick Campbell, Drivin’ N Cryin’ leader Kevn Kinney, Johnny Knapp, Kevin Scott, Matt Slocum, Denny Walley, Emil Werstler and more, including Hampton’s Sling Blade co-star Billy Bob Thornton and San Francisco Giant’s pitcher Jake Peavy.

This footage right here was filmed LAST NIGHT at the tribute concert, just moments before he passed away:

I was fortunate enough to see Bruce perform throughout the years with several different bands, with the Aquarium Rescue Unit, The Codetalkers, as Col. Bruce Hampton and while sitting in on ‘super jam’ performances at festivals. Bruce was a musician’s musician. He was that rare type of musician that is so transcendent they make other incredibly talented musicians want to play music with him. That’s why he was invited to sit in with countless acts over the years, and that’s also why some of the best living musicians all gathered together in Atlanta last night to pay tribute to Col. Bruce Hampton on his 70th birthday.

I’m not sure how to end this, or what to say here beyond acknowledging that the world of music lost a legend last night. I guess, to close this out, here’s a quick clip of Bruce performing with Phish:

The website Jambase has a collection of tweets from people who were at the concert, describing how it all played out, if you’re interested in seeing those.

(H/T Jambase)