Former Bad Company vocalist Brian Howe dead at 66

Brian Howe onstage in 1991
(Image credit: John Atashian / Getty Images)

Former Bad Company and Ted Nugent frontman Brian Howe has died at the age of 66. 

The news was confirmed in a statement by his manager Paul Easton, who said, "It is with deep and profound sadness that we announce the untimely passing of a loving father, friend and musical icon, Brian Howe." 

"Finding the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts over losing my brother has been difficult," said Howe's sister Sandie. "Our family would like to thank you for your compassion and the outpouring of love we are receiving."

Howe spent almost a decade fronting the Paul Rodgers-less Bad Company when Mick Ralphs and Simon Kirke reactivated the band name in 1985, after being recommended to the pair by Mick Jones of Foreigner

Born in Portsmouth, Howe’s first band was called Shy (not to be confused by the Midlands-based group of the same name). He then replaced Bruce Ruff in the NWOBHM band White Spirit, once the home of Iron Maiden guitarist Janick Gers, for a short spell. 

Howe joined Ted Nugent’s band in 1984, singing on the Penetrator album. Upon completion of a world tour with Nugent he received a received a call from Jones, who was assisting Ralphs and Kirke in assembling a new Bad Co.

“Almost without exception, everybody in the business told me: ‘Brian… Taking over from Paul Rodgers, you’ve just fucked yourself. Why would you even consider doing something like that?’” Howe told Classic Rock in 2004. “I just wouldn’t let them be right, which provided a focus and caused me to work a lot, lot harder.”

Howe co-wrote all but three tracks on the 1986 comeback set Dangerous Age, which despite side-stepping the traditional Bad Co blues-rock style for a more polished, radio-friendly direction re-established the band’s name. 

Two years later, Dangerous Age sold half a million copies in the United States, but it was Holy Water, a platinum-awarded album released in 1990, that returned them to arena-headlining status. 

In spite of the success, the singer had a troubled relationship with Ralphs and Kirke and a fourth Howe-voiced studio record, Here Comes Trouble, would be the last. After a spell fronted by Robert Hart, Rodgers returned to the band in 1998.

Howe was a plain-speaker with a colourful, irreverent sense of humour. Even after the decades passed he resented the belief that from a compositional sense he had carried Ralphs and Kirke during his era of Bad Co – Holy Water was pieced together by the singer and producer Terry Thomas, with minimal input from either – and continued to be frustrated by being erased from the band’s history by Paul Rodgers.

A second solo album, 2010’s Circus Bar, was well received critically yet sold modestly. Three years ago the track Hot Tin Roof suggested, incorrectly, that a follow-up might be on the way.

Howe was a proud Englishman and on at least one occasion considered buying into his beloved Portsmouth FC. In recent years he continued to reside in Florida, performing live on a sporadic basis with a line-up that included former Rod Stewart guitarist Paul Warren. 

After sustaining broken ribs in a motorbike accident on April 30, on May 6 he suffered a fatal cardiac arrest. This followed a previous heart attack in 2017.

Tribute to Howe was paid by Richard Marx, who tweeted, "This is awful to hear. I finally met Brian last December, after having been a fan of his for decades. He came to my show in Florida and we hung out after. His voice was a gift to all of us. RIP mate", and 

Jeff Scott Soto wrote, "RIP to the incredible Brian Howe of the legendary Bad Company, I was a huge fan of Brian's voice as it's not easy replacing the legend that is Paul Rodgers! My condolences to his loved ones, hear this tune and enjoy what he left us with!"

Moody Blues man John Lodge said, "Sad day today. Brian Howe passed away. A great rock singer I was so pleased that he joined me on my 10000 Light Years album. This Friday we were both going to be involved with “We have your back” on social media."

Ted Nugent emailed Billboard to say, "Brian was a good friend and wonderfully gifted vocalist and songwriter. We have kept in touch all these years and became good friends, hoping to collaborate on new music. We are very sad and he will be missed, but his musical gifts will last forever."

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.