Chadwick Murray, the lead vocalist for the soul powerhouse group Bastards of Soul, died on Wednesday from "a rare and unexpected illness," according to a statement released by Murray's family on Saturday.
Murray leaves behind his wife Hannah and their newborn son Lennox as well as "a loving family, hundreds of close friends and thousands of fans on this Earth," according to the family's statement.
The nature of Murray's death is unknown at the request of family members. Max Hartman, who performed with Murray in the rock group Mur for 18 years, says Murray's illness was not related to the coronavirus.
"When he fell ill a few weeks ago, he asked a few close friends to keep it private to protect his family," the statement says. "Chad loved to laugh and bring joy to everyone around him, so he didn't want anyone to worry or be upset."
Murray provided the booming vocal sounds for the Dallas soul band Bastards of Soul. The group debuted its first LP Spinnin' in 2020, a release that won Best Album at the 2020 Dallas Observer Music Awards. Murray's time in the spotlight was his first as a group's lead singer.
"It's really hard to find a good frontman and when you find them, they're special, to find somebody that good at fronting a band," says concert photographer Mike Brooks, who attended and photographed several of Murray's live performances. "Behind the scenes, he didn't seem to have an ego at all. He's just a really nice guy and it always was about the band and it's hard to replace something like that."
The group got together in 2016 while some members were still in other bands. Bassist Danny Balis and keyboardist Chad Stockslager played in the country-centric King Bucks before moving to Bastards of Soul. Murray, who then played bass in singer Hartman's band Mur noticed the soulful, twangy tones that Balis and Stockslager brought to their sound during their Monday night performances at Adair's in Deep Ellum.
Hartman remembers the first time he saw Murray playing bass with another group and noticed "from the jump, he was a very dynamic performer."
"He's always carried that, and when you played with him, that was always the case," Hartman says. "You could see that he loved playing and felt it to the core and as he stepped forward to sing with Bastards of Soul, it was such a remarkable leap from playing bass and singing backup to commanding the stage like a dynamic, veteran performer."
When Balis and Stockslager got the itch to start an old-fashioned soul group, Hartman suggested they give Murray a shot as their lead vocalist. Stockslager said last year in an interview that even though he and the rest of the group had known Murray for years, they were surprised to hear the commanding sounds coming from their future frontman.
"I was pretty floored by his unbridled power," Stockslager said in a 2020 Observer story. "It was raw and rowdy in all the right ways."
Hartman says he saw Murray performing as lead vocalist with the Bastards of Soul with Murray's mother. Both were shocked to see this new side of his already dynamic stage presence.
"The first show, his mother and I were sitting next to each other and I turned to her and we went, 'Who the hell is that?'" Murray says. "He was so magnificent, a seasoned showman, like a preacher, a soul evangelist. He was just so naturally gifted at it and I couldn't believe he was holding it back this whole time."
The Bastards of Soul's performances with the Black Pumas at The Kessler were met with three sold-out shows that earned them more bookings in The Kessler's big room until COVID-19 forced citywide cancellations of live concerts. Spinnin' also came out right before the coronavirus pandemic shut down music venues, but the group took advantage of the downtime. They recorded a vinyl single of "If These Walls Could Talk" and the unreleased "BBQ in Paris" as its B-side. The band returned to the stage last July with a lively performance at The Ridglea Theater in Fort Worth.
"Chadwick was living out his purpose by stepping into the fullness of his calling," according to the family's statement. "He found the love of his life. He became a father. He found his voice and he had a clear North Star that came through in the beautiful, soulful songs and musical collaborations that he had gifted to the world."