Obituary: David Egan, March 20, 1954 – March 18, 2016

David Egan sings into a microphone.
David Egan: the toast of Lafayette.
(Image: © Getty)

David Egan, who has died of cancer aged 61, was Lafayette, Louisiana’s, most noted contemporary blues musician. Egan was a pianist, singer and songwriter. He lead his own band, belonged to swamp pop supergroup Lil Band O’ Gold and wrote for and accompanied Joe Cocker, Etta James, John Mayall, Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke and Irma Thomas.

Reuben David Egan was born into a musical family in Shreveport, Louisiana. He soaked up that city’s sounds, studied composition at university and joined A-Train, a band whose fluid performances made them very popular across the south. He next worked out of Nashville as Jo-El Sonnier’s pianist. Egan’s brilliant piano and songs were now getting noticed: in 1989 Joe Cocker recorded Egan’s Please No More for his Night Calls album. Egan’s songwriting – his songs could be intense blues ballads drenched in deep emotion, joyous stompers or reflective meditations on life – meant veteran soul and blues singers embraced them.

Egan settled in Lafayette, playing with Cajun band File before releasing his debut solo album Twenty Years Of Trouble in 2003. This won plenty of critical acclaim, Egan’s inventive songwriting, smokey voice and superb piano playing announcing that the piano blues tradition of Charles Brown and Dr John had a notable new name. In 2008 Egan released his second album, You Don’t Know Your Mind. A regular performer at New Orleans’ annual Jazzfest, Egan released the Live At Jazzfest album in 2013, as well as the David Egan album that same year. He also joined Lil Band O’ Gold, a swamp pop supergroup that brought together the likes of guitarist CC Adcock, veteran vocalist Warren Storm and acclaimed Cajun accordionist Steve Riley.

Lil Band O’ Gold released a stunning album, Promised Land, in 2012 and were acclaimed by their fellow musicians: Lily Allen hired them to play her wedding, Robert Plant toured the US with LBOG in tow. Yet a music industry in turmoil didn’t know how to market LBOG so their potential never found commercial recognition.

“There came a point at which I said forget all that. Let’s just write the most amazing song I can write, and write it strictly from my heart and soul. And let it have nothing to do with who it’s for; just write a beautiful song,” Egan recalled. “Write it as if you’ve got nothing to lose. That’s when my writing got better.”

“David Egan is in the same league as Doc Pomus, Dan Penn, Allen Toussaint and Bobby Charles, among the crème de la crème of R&B songwriters,” said Scott Billington, the producer of Irma Thomas’ 2006 album After the Rain (for which Egan penned a trio of tracks). “Each of his songs has something special, a lyrical or harmonic turn that you can’t forget. And he’s always soulful and deep.”

In Lafayette, he held down a night job as a piano man, playing his songs and others (“but never a Billy Joel song”), simply because he loved to play, take requests, share music. He is survived by his wife and son, many close friends and plenty of exceptional songs.