News surfaced early last night that Dallas R&B veteran Rev. Gean West, the leader of the Relatives, has passed away. West had battled heart health issues for several years, leading eventually to a GoFundMe campaign that bandmate Zach Ernst organized in the fall of 2014. He was able to return to the stage to perform at the North Oak Cliff Music Festival last October, which was to be his final appearance in Dallas.
Ernst confirmed West's passing early this morning. He was 78.
West had formed the Relatives with his brother Tommy all the way back in 1970. Their funky, psychedelic take on R&B should've been the stuff of legend, but alas, even here in Dallas they were never fully recognized in their day. Eventually they broke up in 1980 with only a relative handful of recordings to their name.
However the Relatives reunited in 2009, when Austin's Heavy Light Records label released a compilation of their long-last tracks titled Don't Let Me Fall. Buzzy performances at SXSW, including an inspired collaboration with Black Joe Lewis, followed, and West and Co. found themselves all but adopted by Austin in their second incarnation.
Throughout the years, West never abandoned his primary duties as a reverend, leading the congregation at God's Annointed Community Church of God in Christ in West Dallas right up until his health began to fail him. He would reflect that he found his way to the pulpit after serving a five-year prison sentence at the age of 16. That relationship with God played a crucial role in inspiring the gospel-soaked passion of the Relatives' music.
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Unfortunately West had also dealt with increasing health issues over the past 10 years or so, and last year he was hospitalized for several months.
We at DC9 at Night are deeply saddened to hear of West's passing and send our condolences to his family, friends and fans. We'll update this post with any news of plans for a memorial service.
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