Allen Lanier, a founding member of Blue Öyster Cult has died, the band announced on Facebook yesterday. Lanier played keyboard and guitar in the psychedelic Long Island hard-rock group. He was 67 and, according to the announcement, passed away after suffering from lung disease. Though he left the still-active outfit several years ago, he rejoined them for a 40th anniversary show in New York last year. He was a longtime smoker.
Cult frontman Eric Bloom said in a separate post that Lanier was the one who suggested giving him a shot as a singer way back in 1968. "He was so talented as a musician and a thinker," Bloom recalled. "He read voraciously, all kinds of things, especially comparative religion. We drove for years together, shared rooms in the early days. We partied, laughed, played. All BOC fans and band members will mourn his death."
Lanier formed the group in the late '60s as Soft White Underbelly with guitarist Buck Dharma, drummer Albert Bouchard, singer Les Braunstein, and bassist Andrew Winters. Bloom later replaced Braunstein and by 1971 they had their familiar, umlaut-festooned moniker. Lanier played on all 14 BOC studio albums, lending his talents to such guitar-gnarled hits as 1976's "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" and 1981's "Burnin' For You."
He quit the group in 1985 only to rejoin in 1987, finally retiring in fall 2006. Lanier's other credits include work with Patti Smith, who lived with him for a period in the '70s. He contributed to her albums Horses, Radio Ethiopia, and Easter.
Smith recalls meeting Lanier in her 2010 book Just Kids: "Allen came from strong Southern stock, which included the Civil War poet Sidney Lanier and the playwright Tennessee Lanier Williams. He was soft-spoken, encouraging, and shared my affection for the poems of William Blake, which he could recite from memory."