June 25, 2009 – Sky “Sunlight” Saxon was born Richard Elvern Marsh in Salt Lake City, Utah on August 20, 1937. Different sources suggest a birth year of 1937, 1945 or 1946. His widow has said that his birthday was August 20, but would not confirm the year because he believed age was irrelevant. However, 1940 census records indicate he was born in Utah in 1937.
He began his career performing doo-wop pop tunes in the early 1960s under the name Little Richie Marsh. After changing his name to Sky Saxon, he formed the Electra-Fires in 1962 and then Sky Saxon & the Soul Rockers. In 1965, Saxon founded the psychedelic flower power band The Seeds with Jan Savage (guitar), Rick Andridge (drums) and Darryl Hooper (keyboards). Their hits included “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine”, “Mr. Farmer” and “Pushing’ Too Hard,” which became a top 40 song and enduring rock anthem in 1967. Several of the early songs were collected on a 1983 album on AIP called New Fruit from Old Seeds / The Rare Sky Saxon, Volume One.
Saxon’s singing performance was dismissed by critic Lester Bangs as an American imitation of Mick Jagger, while Michael Hicks considered it a more complicated synthesis of Jagger, Eddie Cochran and Buddy Holly. The music on the Seeds 1966 albums The Seeds and A Web of Sound have been described as “weird psychotic blues highlighting Sky’s demented, vocal sermonizing.
A spinoff project, The Sky Saxon Blues Band, recorded one album, “A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues”, with members of Muddy Waters’ band. At the same time, Saxon continued The Seeds, recording “Future” and “Raw & Alive: The Seeds in Concert at Merlin’s Music Box”. Later, in 1977 producer Neil Norman compiled and released “Fallin’ Off the Edge”, an album containing rare “B” sides and unissued material.
In 1973, he became a member of the Source Family religious group, a Hollywood Hills commune led by YaHoWha who gave him the names Sunlight and Arlick. In the following years he released a number of albums under various band names including The Starry Seeds Band, Sky Saxon & Firewall, King Arthur’s Court, The Hour, Wolf Pack, Fast Planet, Back to the Garden,and Shapes Have Fangs, as well as reforming several times The Seeds with different musician line-ups.
Baker named Saxon “Sunlight” and from then on he would be known as Sky Sunlight Saxon. The Ya Ho Wha cult moved to Hawaii in 1974 and Saxon remained there, very occasionally issuing mail order-only recordings.
In 1984 however, the British label, Psycho, managed to coax Saxon out of retirement to record the Starry Ride album. He then issued two albums under the name Firewall, often recording with Los Angeles musicians. Retreating to Hawaii in 1991 he remained unheard of bar a 13 CD collection of Ya Ho Wha recordings in a wooden box issued by a Japanese label.
In 1998, Saxon orchestrated the release of a 13-CD set of the psychedelic tribal music recorded by the commune’s band Ya Ho Wa 13 during the 1970s.
Finally, in 2002, Saxon emerged again to put together a version of The Seeds and tour Europe and the United States, where his 1960s recordings were in vogue again. In 2006 he recorded the album Transparency in London for Jungle Records. He continued to record and perform in America and Europe, those who encountered him likening him to a man who appeared to have stepped off the Sunset Strip circa 1969.
In 2008, Saxon and the Seeds collaborated on some new songs and recordings with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Saxon later appeared in the music video of the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “Superchrist”. Sky Saxon’s last performance and recording was done in Austin, Texas. Even though “Pushing Too Hard” was named one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, The Seeds have still not been recognized by that institution.
On June 25, 2009, Saxon died unexpectedly in an Austin, Texas hospital of an infection that had spread throughout his organs due to a simple infection contracted at some point that was never treated. At age 71, Saxon died of heart and renal failure due to the infection.
At the time of his death, he had been scheduled to commence a tour of the United States and Canada as part of the “California ’66” tour, featuring reformed versions of The Seeds: The Electric Prunes and Love.
On July 24, 2009, members of The Smashing Pumpkins, Love, and The Electric Prunes performed a tribute concert at the Echoplex in Los Angeles in Saxon’s memory.
His wife, Sabrina Sherry Smith Saxon, announced his death on her Facebook page saying, “Sky has passed over and YaHoWha is waiting for him at the gate. He will soon be home with his Father. I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep him here with us. More later. I’m sorry.”