Jonathan Melvoin

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Jonathan Melvoin
Melvoin, as seen in the "Zero" music video
Background information
BornDecember 6, 1961
Los Angeles, California, US
DiedJuly 12, 1996(1996-07-12) (aged 34)
New York City
ArtistsThe Smashing Pumpkins
Years active1995–1996
Associated actsPrince, The Revolution, Wendy & Lisa
WikipediaJonathan Melvoin

Jonathan Melvoin (December 6, 1961 – July 12, 1996) was an American musician active in the 1980s and 1990s. He was the touring keyboardist for The Smashing Pumpkins during the Infinite Sadness tour until he died of a heroin overdose on July 12, 1996.

Early life[edit | edit source]

He was the son of Constance (née Ives) and Mike Melvoin, keyboardist for The Wrecking Crew, and brother of twins Susannah and Wendy Melvoin of Prince and The Revolution. He first learned to play drums at the age of five.[1]

The Smashing Pumpkins[edit | edit source]

In 1996 Melvoin joined The Smashing Pumpkins as a touring keyboardist for their Infinite Sadness tour. He played 79 shows with the band, including the May 2, 1996 televised Top of the Pops broadcast. Presumably due to insistence from the show's producers, the band acted out playing to a prerecorded track, with only Billy Corgan singing live. Melvoin can be seen amusingly using drum mallets to act out his playing of the piano.[2]

Melvoin did not make any contributions to studio recordings by The Smashing Pumpkins, however he can be seen playing the piano in the "Zero" music video.

Associated acts[edit | edit source]

In addition to his work with the Pumpkins, Melvoin performed with many punk bands such as The Dickies. He was also a member of The Family, a Prince side project band which produced the original recording of "Nothing Compares 2 U",[3] "Screams of Passion & Mutiny" and made musical contributions to many Wendy & Lisa projects, as well as to Prince and the Revolution's 1985 album Around the World in a Day. He also played drums on "Do U Lie?" from the 1986 Prince & the Revolution album Parade.

Death[edit | edit source]

In the midst of the lengthy world tour supporting 1995's multi-platinum Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Jimmy Chamberlin's father died, and his substance abuse hit a fever pitch.[4] He and Melvoin grew entangled with heroin use. Of this period, Chamberlin later said, "I learned that escapism was better than emotion, and that's where I hid... It got to the point that I really didn't care. Life was scary for me."[4] Attempts were made by other band members to get the two clean. Corgan considered Melvoin a real friend, but had to threaten to fire him if he didn't get clean.[5]

Prior to shows scheduled in July '96 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Chamberlin and Melvoin acquired a particularly potent form of heroin on Manhattan's Lower East Side. At Chamberlin's room at the Regency Hotel, the pair started drinking alcohol before both overdosing from heroin. Early the following morning, Chamberlin woke up to find Melvoin unresponsive. He called the band's security manager, Bill Sitkiwiecz, to assist him. After attempts to revive him with a cold shower, they called paramedics, who announced Melvoin dead at 4:15 A.M.[5] A toxicology report later confirmed his death was due to the combination of alcohol and heroin.[5] Consequently Chamberlin was kicked out of the band, ostensibly to protect his health.[6]

Melvoin was 34 years old and was survived by his widow, child, and sisters.[7] His death devastated the band, and prompted Chamberlin to enter rehab. The band was not invited to Melvoin's funeral.[8] Several songs were inspired by his death, including the Sarah McLachlan song "Angel", the Wendy & Lisa song "Jonathan" (as Girl Bros.), and Prince's "The Love We Make" from the album Emancipation.

Interviews from MTV's The Week in Rock program with Billy Corgan, D'arcy Wretzky, and James Iha on Chamberlin's overdose and Melvoin's death.

Touring stats

References[edit | edit source]

  1. People Staff (July 29, 1996). "The Night the Music Died". People. Archived from the original on 2016-11-16.
  3. Goldman, John J.; Hochman, Steve (July 13, 1996). "Heroin Linked to Death on Smashing Pumpkins Tour". Los Angeles Times. Unknown parameter |name-list-style= ignored (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Chamberlin, Jimmy and Billy Corgan. (Interview subjects) (April 2, 2009). The Chris Isaak Hour (The Biography Channel series). Chris Isaak (interviewer).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Wawzenek, Bryan (July 11, 2006). "The Story Of When Jonathan Melvoin Died, Jimmy Chamberlin Overdosed On Smashing Pumpkins Tour". Diffuser. Retrieved July 12, 2021.
  6. Errico, Marcus (July 17, 1996). "Smashing Pumpkins Drum Out Jimmy Chamberlin". Archived from the original (http) on September 30, 2007. Retrieved February 11, 2007.
  7. The Smashing Pumpkins (September 4, 1996). "New Pumpkins Are "All Smiles"". MTV (Interview). Interviewed by Soren, Tabitha.
  8. The Smashing Pumpkins Chronology: The Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Era: 1996