Jello Biafra Shares Heartfelt Tribute to Dead Kennedys Bandmate D.H. Peligro
The music world learned of the death of longtime Dead Kennedys drummer D.H. Peligro over the weekend, and his longtime bandmate and often outspoken vocalist from the band, Jello Biafra, has now issued his statement on the musician's death.
The news was delivered on Saturday (Oct. 29), revealing that Peligro had passed away after suffering a trauma to his head during an accidental fall the day prior (Oct. 28).
Peligro joined the band in 1981 and remained through their initial run, while also returning for their later reunion. Biafra worked alongside Peligro for much of that time, and he issued a statement, sharing plenty of reflections on their time together, through the Alternative Tentacles website. It can be read below.
Wow. I sure wasn’t expecting this.
I feel like I’ve been hit by a train.
Despite all he’d done to his mind and body, I never thought we would lose him first. He was not just our powerful unforgettable drummer. He was a gifted singer, songwriter, guitarist and so much more.
Even behind the drum kit, he had presence. All animal instinct, he never played anything quite the same way twice. He was a born showman.
Clear back in ‘79, I got a hot tip on a new Clash-inspired Punk band called SSI playing at the Deaf Club. As great as those guys played, it was the drummer that stole the show. A free spirited African American force of nature (The Punk scene is always too white), with this shit eating grin, a bandana on his head, and two kick drums (!) singing his ass off to “Keep a Knockin," even sounding like Little Richard, as they closed the show.
Then they disappeared.
In 1981 we needed a new drummer. Somehow Ray found that guy from SSI. Or maybe Darren found him, I was never sure. From the first song, he was solid. Good kick and snare instinct, to make the songs go.
At the second audition, he was the one who’d done his homework, so hands down he was in. Ray said he’d learned “In-Sight” from hearing it once in his car on the radio.
Now we had more fire and feel than ever before, and the rest is history. He made the whole band 10 years younger, including all the damn carousing and pranks. Throwing food at passengers all over the plane on the way to Australia, til the pilot came back and threatened to arrest him.
In Rome, he and I pulled on all these cables outside the window of a music label office, not realizing we were yanking all these peoples’ TVs off their balconies, and out of their living rooms. We laughed about a lot of stuff the other guys didn’t. We had our own unique bond.
Friends who saw DH with the Chili Peppers at the Hollywood Bowl said he looked so happy up there. He looked so proud. But it was not to be.
When he finally hit bottom, he went clear back to St. Louis to clean up. I was the one who flew out to see him when he got out of rehab. Another friend came down from Chicago, and blew our minds with our first 90 minute baptism of Wesley Willis!
A year or two later, I was in Chicago working on Lard, and Wesley came over. I called DH, and put Wes on the phone, not telling Darren who he was. When talk shifted to the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, I knew he knew. When I got the phone back, he was laughing his ass off.
When he came north to visit, he’d stay with me; and we grew closer and deeper than ever before. The other guys begged off, and didn’t want to see him. I thought we would truly be brothers for life.
He put together his own band, called Peligro of course, with him on guitar and vocals, using a lot of the songs from his 80’s Punk power trio, the Hellations. Their Alternative Tentacles debut is by far the best solo album by any of the ex-DKs. Like “Fresh Fruit..” gone Bad Brains, in the best possible way. He had now spread his wings as a full fledged leader and songwriter. But more was not to be.
I still think they could have become so much more when they regrouped, than a 20+ year tribute band. They could have gotten a new drummer, Jon Lieb, maybe; and made DH the new frontman, on vocals, second guitar, spice up his songs, and more. Aim high and do it right, with a new name, new sound, and a whole new identity. Like the class way Bauhaus morphed into Love and Rockets, post Peter Murphy.
That could have been such a good band.
Damn. I get goose bumps just thinking about it..
So I hope Peligro is up there somewhere, getting his headbutts from Wesley at last. Forever free from any hellrides from high fructose corn syrup.
With much love and respect,
Also over the weekend, Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, who for a brief period worked with Peligro in the Chili Peppers, shared his own thoughts on the drummer's passing. Flea offered, "My dear friend, my brother I miss you so much. I’m devastated today, a river of tears, but all my life I will treasure every second. The first time I saw you play with the DK’s in ‘81 you blew my mind. The power, the soul, the recklessness. You became my beloved friend, so many times of every kind. We had so much fun, so much joy, having each other’s backs. I love you with all my heart. You are the truest rocker, and a crucial part of rhcp history. D H P in the place to be, you live forever in our hearts, you wild man, you bringer of joy, you giant hearted man. I will always honor you. Rest In Peace and freedom from all that restrained you."
D.H. Peligro was 63 at the time of his death.