Former Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby died at his Los Angeles home on Thursday morning following a long battle with AIDS. He was 42.
The cause of death has not yet been determined, according to Craig Harvey, operations chief for the Los Angeles coroner’s office.
One of the original members of the ’80s metal rockers known for hits such as “Round and Round” and “Lay It Down,” Crosby began speaking out several years ago about his drug use in the band’s heyday and how it led to his contraction of the deadly virus nearly eight years ago.
Ratt formed in the late ’70s under the name Mickey Ratt, eventually settling on the catchier, shorter moniker by 1983. The band – vocalist Stephen Pearcy, Crosby, guitarist Warren DeMartini, bassist Juan Croucier and drummer Bobby Blotzer – released an independent, self-titled album in 1983 before signing to Atlantic Records.
Their 1984 Atlantic debut, Out of the Cellar, was an immediate hit, selling more than 3 million copies thanks to the melodic bubblegum metal hit “Round and Round” and its tongue-in-cheek video featuring late comedian Milton Berle dressed in drag.
The group split in 1992 and went on hiatus for much of the ’90s, re-forming in 1997 to release Collage and a self-titled album two years later, after which Pearcy quit the group.
In a June 1999 interview for a Ratt episode of VH1’s “Behind the Music” that never aired, Crosby talked about how drug addiction and his HIV status changed his life. “What has drug addiction done for me?” he asked. “It’s cost me my career, my fortune, basically my sex life when I found out I was HIV positive.
“I had spoken to somebody… [whose] opinion mattered to me,” he continued, “and he said, ‘Do you wanna be remembered as the guy… [from] one of the premier groups of the ’80s? Or do you wanna be remembered as the guy who has a disease and who is dying out in Hollywood somewhere?’ I feel like if I can help just one person to avoid what got me into this maelstrom of hell then it’s worth it for me.”
The 6’6″ Crosby had also changed physically. Due to a pancreatic condition that changed his metabolism, the already strapping guitarist had gained quite a bit of weight since his ’80s glam heyday.
“Apparently my pancreas has given up and I’m not metabolizing food the way I should,” Crosby explained prior to his death. “It’s real frustrating…. I have a roommate that probably weighs 150 lbs. and he eats a lot more than I do. It’s not like I’m a pig or a slob.”
At the time of his death Harvey said the guitarist weighed 400 pounds.
Drummer Blotzer posted a message to his late bandmate – affectionately referred to as “The King” by fans – on the group’s official Web site last week. In his note, Blotzer called Crosby “one of the most kind harted (sic), the most compassionate, intelligent, talented” people he’d ever known.
Despite the band’s recent litigation with former singer Pearcy and strained relations, Blotzer thanked Crosby and the rest of his bandmates for the mark they made together and Crosby for his courage in the face of declining health. “Never once did any of us hear King complain about his situation,” Blotzer wrote. “The man was put thru hell and never… ever bitched about it…. I can only dream of being onstage with him and the rest of us together again because that’s all it will ever be with him gone.”
Ex-singer Pearcy also put animosity aside and praised his former guitarist. “Robbin was a sweet soul, great talent and he will be missed. Rest in peace,” Pearcy wrote on his official Web site.
A memorial will be held for Crosby in La Jolla, California, on Friday, and the family has requested that donations be sent to the Robbin Crosby Memorial Fund benefiting the Pathfinders halfway house c/o Regent’s Bank, 875 Prospect St., Ste. 100, La Jolla, California 92037.