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Lest We Forget

Posted on March 26, 2004

Jan Berry

One half of “Jan and Dean”


Surf music pioneer Jan Berry, one half of the duo Jan and Dean, died Friday, March 26, 2004. He was 62. The one-time surf rocker suffered a seizure in his Los Angeles home and stopped breathing. He was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. The musician had been in poor health of late, due to lingering effects of brain damage from a 1966 car accident. Berry’s musical career began in 1958 with the top ten hit, “Jennie Lee,” released under the name Jan and Arnie. (Although some sources say that Dean Torrence was also a part of the recording of “Jennie Lee”.) Jan officially teamed with Dean Torrence in 1959 to become “Jan and Dean.” They signed with Dore in 1959 and went on to release a string of hits in the 1960s. Berry was long considered the creative force behind the group while Dean was the comedian. The duo had 10 gold records in their heyday, including “The Little Old Lady (From Pasadena)”, “Dead Man’s Curve”, and “Drag City”. He and Beach Boy Brian Wilson co-wrote the #1 song “Surf City”. “Jan and Dean” served as an influence for the more popular Beach Boys, but did not tour frequently because Berry was studying to become a doctor. Both that goal and his musical career were cut short in 1966, when his speeding Corvette hit a parked truck in Beverly Hills not far from the site of the real “Dead Man’s Curve”. Berry suffered brain damage that left him unable to walk or speak. After years of extensive physical therapy, Berry was able to return to making music in 1973. In 1978, CBS made a television movie titled Dead Man’s Curve, chronicling the story of Jan and Dean. The duo enjoyed renewed popularity after the movie aired and toured with the Beach Boys the following summer. They continued to tour sporadically in the years that followed. In 1997, Berry released a solo album, Second Wave, which featured updated Jan and Dean songs. He is survived by his wife, his parents, William and Clara Berry, and six siblings.

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