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Michael Clarke (musician): Wikis


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Michael Clarke
Birth name Michael James Dick
Born June 3, 1946(1946-06-03)
Spokane, Washington
Origin San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.
Died December 19, 1993 (aged 47)
Treasure Island, Florida
Genres Folk rock, Psychedelic rock
Occupations Musician, songwriter
Instruments Drums, percussion
Associated acts The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Firefall

Michael Clarke (born Michael James Dick) (June 3, 1946 – December 19, 1993), was an American musician, best known as the drummer for the 1960s rock music group The Byrds from 1964 to 1967. He died in 1993, at age 47, from liver failure, a direct result of more than three decades of heavy alcohol consumption.


Clarke was born Michael James Dick in Spokane, Washington. His father was an artist and his mother was a musician. Clarke ran away from home when he was 17 years old and hitchiked to California to become a musician.

In legend, Clarke was said to have been discovered by Byrds founder David Crosby while playing bongos on the beach, but in fact he was discovered by singer-songwriter Ivan Ulz. And he was not discovered on an actual beach but in the area of San Francisco known as North Beach. Clarke was not an accomplished musician prior to joining the Byrds—he had never played drums and, after joining the Byrds, not having a drum set practiced on cardboard boxes and a tambourine. According to McGuinn's web site, Michael Clarke was hired by McGuinn and Gene Clark (no relation) for his resemblance to Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones.

During The Notorious Byrd Brothers recording sessions (1967), he was fired and replaced by session drummers Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine (the compact disc version of that album contains sarcastic and bitter repartee between a petulant Clarke and bandmates Crosby and Chris Hillman over Clarke's perceived lack of effort). However, Clarke landed on his feet, and after a short stint in Hawaii as a painter, he followed Hillman to the Flying Burrito Brothers after their first album. Later he worked with Firefall where Danny Holsten took over as drummer during the 1979 to 1982 era while Michael joined Jerry Jeff Walker. Michael Clarke then joined original Byrds singer Gene Clark for a series of controversial shows billed "A 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Byrds." Many clubs simply shortened the billing to "the Byrds," and the pair soon found themselves involved in acrimonious court battles with Roger McGuinn, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman over use of the group's name. The Byrds set aside their differences long enough to appear together at their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in January 1991, where the original lineup played a few songs together. Clarke continued to tour with a group called "Byrds Celebration," but his health declined as his drinking accelerated. After a number of hospital stays, he died of liver failure at the age of 47 at his Treasure Island, Florida home.

In 1994, just a year after his death, Michael's paintings were published in Dick Gautier and Jim McMullan's book, Musicians As Artists.

During his final days, Clarke had expressed a wish to appear on television in the hope of alerting children to the dangers of alcoholism. Following his wishes, Clarke's girlfriend Susan Paul started a foundation in Clarke's name, called the Campaign for Alcohol-free Kids.

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