4/19/17: Motherlode “When I Die”
Today, it’s one of those one-hit-wonders that’s rattling around in my head.
“Motherlode” was a group that came out of Canada, had one hit record, and then I never heard anything about them… ever again. It was late 1969, and this band out of Ontario hit it big with a song called “When I Die.” I thought it was great! Good vocals, good instrumentation, the whole deal. They were never able to scale that mountain again, though.
I remember how much radio play it got all those years ago, long before I came to Chapel Hill. Somehow it ended up in my head this morning, and it serves as a reminder that for every band that makes it big and stays there, so many don’t make it at all… or they make one song and burn out. Or, in the case of Motherlode, a record company takes over the band name and tears through five different groups of people to try and replicate the flash-in-the-pan success of the original.
It’s difficult to track down the original members of “Motherlode,” these days. Their keyboard player, William Smith, went on to be a fairly successful studio musician; while the other three joined with Doug Riley to found the original iteration of semi-successful Canadian jazz outfit “Dr. Music,” which also went through significant lineup changes and formally disbanded after only two active years.
There was an attempted reunion in 1976 (the band only officially lasted from 1969-1970), but it fizzled and wasn’t touched again. We’ll never know what made Motherlode fall apart, or the confluence of people and events that made them notable in the first place. There will never be a VH1 special. There’s no “Behind the Music,” because there’s not all that much music to go behind. Like a lot of bands, like a lot of artists in general, the guys in “Motherlode” got their five minutes of fame and were promptly shown the door. I’m glad we got this one song to remember them by, though. It really is a hell of a song.
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