Since returning to Northeast Ohio a couple of years ago, talented singer-songwriter Kevin Junior performed a handful of times and was hard at work on a new album. Late last week, he passed away — he had open-heart surgery a few years ago but still suffered from heart-related health issues. He was only 46 years old. A private funeral service is planned; a public service will also take place.
Formed in 1997 by Junior, an Akron native, the Chamber Strings
quickly received accolades for their debut, Gospel Morning
, an album that suggests the influence of Ray Davies, Brian Wilson, Brill Building pop, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Alex Chilton, ’60s soul, Pretenders, Dan Penn, Only Ones, and the Raspberries. In the wake of its release, the band toured the world and developed a cult following. The group took a long break in the early 2000s. The bio on the group’s Facebook page explains that Junior struggled with personal issues, namely, “a long battle with depression ensued due in part to a divorce, homelessness, drug addiction, and other health-related problems.”
But Junior returned in 2004 to tour Germany, Italy, Belgium and England. A couple of years ago, he moved back to Northeast Ohio and reformed the Chamber Strings with some help from Rainy Day Saints frontman Dave Swanson. In 2014, Junior and "friends" played a Lou Reed birthday celebration that took place at the Beachland. And last year, he played a show with former Guided by Voices guitarist Doug Gillard.
Beachland co-owner Cindy Barber posted this on Facebook: “I am beyond crushed at the news that Kevin Junior was found lifeless yesterday morning...his Facebook posts earlier this week are all about Bowie...a picture of Bowie he put up in his often bare food cabinet to make himself smile...and thoughtful reflections...here is one of the last posts...a song he says was inspired by Bowie...now just like the starman we lost..all of us who loved and cherished Kevin's talent are lamenting him now...as he did David Bowie....”
And Gillard gave his condolences as well, writing: “Very saddened to learn of the loss of Kevin Junior of Chamber Strings. Kevin was such a talented and gentle soul, had impeccable tases, & I got to be on a bill with him last year in Cleveland. I always wished we'd gotten to talk more, but we bonded briefly over talk of cocktails, scarves & music. Warm thoughts to friends in his Ohio band...”