LOS ANGELES, CA — Mike Finnigan, a keyboardist, vocalist, and session musician who performed with an impressive array of artists including Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Jimi Hendrix, has died. He was 76.
A source close to Finnigan’s family said he succumbed to kidney cancer on Wednesday morning at Ceder Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
We are rocked to the core to hear of the passing of our dear friend, bandmate and musical genius, Mike Finnigan. He fought his long illness with the same fearlessness and ferocity he brought to every part of his life.
Our deepest condolences go out to Candy, Kelly, Bridget and all his family.
Mike was one of the most powerful, virtuosic soul/gospel/blues singers and Hammond B3 players you’ll ever be blessed to hear.
Respected and emulated by musicians the world over, his legacy of staggering performances across his 60+ years career will stand the test of time. He stopped our show nearly every night. There was simply no one like him.
He was whipsmart, incredibly articulate and funny as hell. He was as devoted to his beloved family and friends as he was to helping so many struggling to get and stay sober. He and his wife Candy were instrumental in my own sobriety and I will be forever grateful.
Rest in peace, dear Mike. I know you’ll be shaking that Heavenly Choir to new heights as only you can do.
Here’s a clip from our 2013 Slipstream tour, where he tore up the place every night with Ray Charles’ iconic “I’ve Got News for You.”
~ Bonnie Raitt
A native of Ohio, Finnigan attended the University of Kansas on a basketball scholarship. He started to perform professionally when he was 19, relocating to Wichita to perform with The Serfs, which started as a house band at a local nightclub.
In 1969, he joined the Serfs in recording their only album, 1969’s “Early Bird Cafe” and toured with the group.
During a trip to New York City, Finnigan landed a gig as a session music with Jimi Hendrix as he was in the studio recording the legendary album “Electric Ladyland.”
In 1972, Finnigan partnered with Jerry Wood to form Finnigan and Wood, releasing just one album “Crazed Hipsters.”
Finnigan’s other collaborations in the 1970s included performances with Dave Mason, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and Peter Frampton, as well as Jim Kreuger and Les Dudek, with whom he formed the band Dudek, Finnigan, and Krueger.
Finnigan later partnered with Dudek and singer Cher to form the band Black Rose, which performed around Los Angeles as an independent act before signing with Casablanca Records.
They released only one album, the eponymously named Black Rose, which also featured Gary Ferguson, Warren Ham, Rocket Ritchotte and Trey Thompson. However, the album gained little traction with fans and the group parted ways the following year.
Through the 1980s, Finnigan was a much sought-after musician, recording on multiple albums with Crosby, Stills & Nash, including “American Dream,” and “After The Storm,” as well as with artists such as Joe Cocker (Hymn for my Soul).
He also provided keyboards for the legendary blues and soul singer Etta James for more than two decades.
More recently, he recorded with Tracy Chapman, Joe Cocker, Buddy Guy, Tower of Power, Rod Stewart, Leonard Cohen, Keb ‘Mo, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Burdon, Kara Grainger, and the Zen Blues Quartet, among others.
Finnigan’s performances with Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band earned him not one but two Blues Music Award (formerly W.C. Handy Award) and he was nominated twice more in the ‘Pinetop Perkins Piano Player’ category in 2013 and 2014.
In addition to his music, Finnigan was an outspoken political commentator and a regular contributor to the blog Crooks and Liars.
Finnigan is survived by his wife of more than 50 years Candy Finnigan and their two children.