It’s a sad fact of growing older than your childhood heroes will eventually pass away. With each passing year, you’ll lose more and more of them. Within the past few days, it’s happened again. The world of rock and roll is in mourning after the loss of a legend. Dusty Hill, the legendary vocalist and bass guitarist of ZZ Top, has passed away at the age of 72. He’d been with the band since 1970. Despite joining around a year after Billy Gibbons officially started the band in 1969, Hill was considered a founder member and remained with ZZ Top for more than fifty years.
A statement from surviving band members Gibbons and Frank Beard, released with permission from Hill’s family, confirmed that Hill had passed peacefully in his sleep without providing any further details. The musician had been on tour with the band until just days before his passing, leaving because of a hip injury in mid-July. It’s unknown whether the injury contributed to his death, and the family has requested privacy at this difficult time. However, Gibbons has already confirmed that ZZ Top will continue to tour with Elwood Francis, Hill’s long-serving guitar tech, standing in for him. Gibbons insists that Hill gave the idea his blessing before leaving the tour and would want the band to continue without him.
With Hill as an integral part of their success, ZZ Top have become icons in the music world. Constantly touring but recording at a more leisurely pace, the band have recorded fifteen studio albums to date along with four live albums. They’re best known for worldwide hits like “Viva Las Vegas” and “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” and in 2004 were inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Off the back of his fame as a musician, Hill appeared in films like “Back to the Future” and television shows like “Deadwood,” among many others. Never afraid to laugh at his own expense, he also played a parody version of himself in the American animated show “King of the Hill.” he’s survived by Charleen, his wife, and his daughter Charity.
The news comes just as the members of ZZ Top were preparing to become more active in the music scene than they have been in decades. Their most recent album, “La Futura,” was released in 2012. Barely over a month ago, Billy Gibbons gave interviews to the press in which he confirmed that a sixteenth album was on the way and that it would be released sooner than anyone expected. It’s not known at this stage whether it was fully recorded before Hill’s passing. As the band will continue, it’s to be expected that the album will still be released and will contain any recordings Hill had already contributed. If there’s any more work to be done, Francis will record Hill’s parts in accordance with his wishes.
Aside from the tour they were in the middle of – which may now have to be re-arranged while the band mourns its loss and adjusts to its new situation – ZZ Top has been active in other areas in recent months. Next month, a ZZ Top-themed online slots game called “ZZ Top: Roadside Riches” is scheduled to be released. The loss of
Hill isn’t likely to affect this. The band collaborated with online slots developer Play n’ Go to create the slot, which features animated versions of the band along with recordings of all their greatest hits. Turning music into a soundtrack for people to enjoy while they play slots online is an idea that’s caught on with many bands and musicians within the past decade and has proven to be a money earner for musicians and online slots websites alike. Hopefully, the new venture will continue to provide an income for Hill’s family.
Gibbons hadn’t gone as far as naming the unreleased sixteenth ZZ Top album prior to Hill’s death, and nor had he given us much indication as to what it might sound like other than it contains a few songs that he considered to be unsuitable for his solo album “Hardware.” He’d suggested that a release date before the end of 2021 was possible but didn’t rule out the possibility that it might move to 2022. If anything, it might now be moved forward if it’s possible to do so. The new album will likely become a tribute to Hill and might be the last album the band ever releases, even if they do intend to continue playing live. ZZ Top release albums even less often than Guns n’ Roses do, and have issued only four in the past thirty years. Based on the usual gap between albums, the surviving original members would be in their eighties by the time the next one would fall due.
The respect that Dusty Hill’s friends and peers had for him can be measured by the many tributes that have been published in the days since his death. Paul Stanley of KISS took to social media and referred to Hill as a gentleman, stating that he’d always treated Stanley with respect regardless of where each of them was in their respective careers. Ozzy Osbourne called Hill a legend and offered his best wishes and thoughts to the band, their families, and their fans all over the world. Even Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, got involved. He said Hill was a great friend to the state of Texas and would be sadly missed. Paul Young summed it up best when he said that ZZ Top was “the coolest band on the planet.”
There’s no doubt that Dusty Hill will be sadly missed, but the legacy he built during his time on Earth will live on forever. Whether they were your favourite band or you knew them simply as the American band with the long beards, everyone knows who ZZ Top are, and everyone’s heard Hill’s music at least once. ZZ Top songs will still be played decades from now and entertain people who haven’t even been born yet. In that way, Dusty Hill has achieved immortality.