Richard Lyons of Negativland, RIP
Richard Lyons, a founding member of avant-garde, witty sound collagists Negativland died on Tuesday, April 19 from complications due to nodular melanoma. He was 57 and the third key member to die in two years — Don Joyce died last summer, and former member Ian Allen died in January, 2015. From Negativland’s Facebook, a lovely tribute
Richard Duaine Lyons, a founding member of the group Negativland, died peacefully and pain free at age 57 at eleven (“it’s not even funny”) PM on his birthday, April 19th, 2016, from complications due to nodular melanoma. He successfully fought off this cancer over 12 years ago, but it had recently returned, with inoperable tumors on his spine, liver and brain, and nothing succeeded in stopping it.
Earlier in the day, Richard had a lively birthday party at his skilled nursing facility, where he was receiving palliative care. Present were current and founding members of Negativland, satellite Negativland members and friends, as well as other current and former members of the group appearing simultaneously on various speaker phones and digital devices. With photos being taken of people taking photos of phones, phone speakers going right and left (with a dog barking on one of them), and some new age harp being played, the afternoon felt like an Actual Negativland Performance for the ages. David “The Weatherman” Wills led the group in singing the now-public-domain “Happy Birthday” (see below for link). Richard’s mother Evelyn called in a bit later, and her voice was the last he heard before dying. An on duty nurse commented that “I hope when I go that my last day is as good as his was.”
Known for his role in finding the Estus W. Pirkle LP sampled in Negativland’s 1987 “Christianity Is Stupid” track (and, in turn, originating the idea of Negativland’s ax murder hoax), and for taking the wrecking yard photos that inspired the 2002 Negativland project “Deathsentences of the Polished and Structurally Weak,” he was also known for such darkly funny and contrarian alter egos as his has-been radio personality Dick Vaughn, righteous religious preacher Pastor Dick, ace used car salesmen Dick Goodbody, master debater Dick Bush, good Christian lady Marsha Turnblatt and crazed DJ Jack Diekobisc (pronounced Dickobitch). His “actions” on our Over the Edge radio show became the stuff of legend, crafting such memorable events as the 1982 “format change” to an all-1970s-nostalgia station (documented on our “Dick Vaughn’s Moribund Music of the ‘70s” release) and a disastrous “live broadcast” from a Walnut Creek bowling alley on Thanksgiving, 2001 (soon to be released on CD as “Ultimate Pinsmack”).
His last weeks at the skilled nursing facility were spent with many visits and calls from friends, lots of Boston Cream Pies, watching 70s car commercials and old episodes of Match Game, being interviewed for a documentary film currently being made about the group (everyone there that day gathered ’round his bed to sing his “Nesbitt’s Lime Soda Song” to him), and working on new hand made covers for an upcoming re-issue of Negativland’s first LP from 1980. He kept an online station tuned to an all-70s-hits-all-the-time station, and when he finally was unable to speak, he was still tapping his fingers to the music.
Rest in peace, Richard. You’ll be missed.
Negativland notes that they continue on, as had been the wish of Lyons, Joyce and Allen, and have three new records in the works. Stay tuned.