John Entwistle, the Who’s virtuoso bassist and darkly humorous songwriter, died Thursday in Las Vegas, according to the Clark County, Nevada, Coroner’s Office. Entwistle, 57, died at the city’s Hard Rock Hotel, where he and his bandmates had been scheduled to kick off their latest tour on Friday. The cause of death is not known, a spokesperson for the coroner tells EW.com. ”This is so unexpected, so shocking,” Steve Luongo, drummer for the John Entwistle Band, the bassist’s solo project, tells EW.com. ”He had a heart condition, but nothing that presented any kind of a problem.” Entwistle died in his sleep, according to Luongo.
Entwistle’s death leaves singer Roger Daltrey and guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend as the only surviving members of one of the most influential bands in rock history — drummer Keith Moon died in 1978. Though the band’s label and management couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on the status of the group or its planned tour, Entwistle’s passing almost certainly spells the end of the Who. In recent years, the group — who seemed to have finally reconciled their differences after years of strained relationships — had been discussing recording their first studio album since the ’80s.
Entwistle revolutionized the role of rock bassists. Instead of merely acting as part of the rhythm section, he played complex lines that provided melodic counterpoint to Townshend’s power chords; the most memorable instrumental parts of, ”My Generation,” for instance, are Entwistle’s ferocious bass licks.
Entwistle was a talented songwriter overshadowed by Townshend, who wrote the bulk of the Who’s catalog. Entwistle’s songs — such as the classic-rock radio staple ”My Wife” and fan-favorite ”Boris the Spider” — provided a cynical but amusing counterpoint to Townshend’s more searching and serious lyrics. Entwistle even wrote two songs — the typically perverse ”Fiddle About” and ”Cousin Kevin”– for ”Tommy,” the Who’s groundbreaking 1969 rock opera, which is often credited exclusively to Townshend.