Today is the day to put on some classic rock and raise your lighters in tribute to Brian Howe. Known for being the lead vocalist for classic rock band Bad Company, Brian, 66, passed away on May 6 in his Florida home, according to TMZ. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed, but TMZ reports that one of his relatives told them that he died “from cardiac arrest … possibly on his way to the hospital.” The singer had a history of cardiac issues, and he survived a heart attack in 2017. As the rock world mourns the loss of another of its stars, here’s what you need to know about Brian.
1. Brian Howe was Bad Company’s second singer. Brian Anthony Howe was born on July 22, 1953, in Portsmouth, England. He had some minor success with a band called Shy in the UK and sang on Ted Nugent‘s 1984 album, Penetrator. However, he will be remembered for his stint with Bad Company, whom he joined in 1986, replacing original lead singer Paul Rodgers. “At the time, I was barely out of my 20s, and I was full of piss and vinegar, and I really thought I could do it easily — I’ll show them,” he said in a 2019 interview with News-Press.com. “But sadly, life’s not that simple.”
2. He joined during a low point in the band’s career. Bad Company – the group behind such classic rock radio staples like “Can’t Get Enough,” “Feel Like Making Love,” and “Bad Company” – formed in 1972 and experienced huge success early on. But, by the early 1980s, dissatisfaction with the band’s direction was an all-time-high. They broke up in 1982, and singer Paul embarked on a solo career. When guitarist Mick Ralphs and drummer Simon Kirke wanted to reteam for a new project, their record label insisted they resume under the Bad Company name. Enter Brian. “When I joined the band, they were really a lost cause,” he said. “They’d lost all focus. They’d lost all ability to write songs.”
“The music climate had changed somewhat, and the big bands at the time were bands like Mr. Mister — more of a softer, more keyboard-influenced sound during those mid to early 80s. And they wanted to go down that road, and we did that on that first album, Fame and Fortune. We did that. We followed what they wanted to do. But I knew, deep in me, that that was the wrong way. And after that record, I kind of stamped my foot a little bit and said, ‘Guys, this is a rock ‘n’ roll band! We need to toughen things up a little bit. This is a guitar band, you know! This is a bluesy guitar band, and we need to get back on that.’ ”
3. He helped resurrect the group. “[It’s] hard work for new singers, sometimes, to take over the mantle of a previous guy,” Brian told News-Press. “But we did it (with Dangerous Age in 1988). We had gold albums and platinum albums being thrown at us.” With Brian singing, Bad Company experienced a second act. 1988’s Dangerous Age — with rock hits “No Smoke Without A Fire,” “One Night,” and Shake It Up” – saw the band experience the same level of success they had in the 1970s. The album sold nearly a million copies, and they followed it up with Holy Water. That album went platinum, and its title track was a No. 1 Billboard Album Rock song. However, the good times wouldn’t last.
4. Brian left the band in 1994. Though the band was experiencing this second-wind, Brian wanted to bail due to increasing tensions with Kirke and Ralphs. Brian wrote many songs during this time, and he thinks the other bandmembers resented him for being so integral to their period of success.
“Atlantic Records didn’t want me to leave, and they told me so,” Howe told Ultimate Classic Rock. “They said, ‘As long as you stay, we’ll cover you.’ They didn’t have much time either for Mick and Simon, and they promised me that they would cover me and look after me if I stayed in the band and wrote the songs. I don’t know what that says about everything, but it was a very dysfunctional band. It really was. It wasn’t a pleasure. It wasn’t a happy band.”
Brian departed in 1994. 1992’s Here Comes Trouble failed to replicate the commercial success of Holy Water, meaning there was no financial incentive to stay. Plus, by then, the dynamic in the group was too much to take, and grunge was slowly taking over. The time of Bad Company was coming to an end.
5. He had no regrets. Brian said that he hoped to finish out his career as a Nashville songwriter, perhaps dabbling in country music. As for his time in Bad Company? He looks back on it fondly, despite the dysfunction at the time. “Basically, it was a lovely ride,” he says. “It’s fantastic to be accepted as a guy who can write songs that people actually like. I never really quite got over the fact that when I walk out on stage, the audience knows the songs probably better than I do. And that’s a tremendous compliment for any artist of any stature at all. … It’s a very strange, surreal life. But it’s incredible. It’s incredible. I’ve loved my life. I’ve loved it.”