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Arrows frontman Alan Merrill, co-writer of I Love Rock ‘N Roll, dies aged 69 from coronavirus

(Image credit: Neil H Kitson/Redferns)

Singer, electric guitar player and bassist Alan Merrill, who was the frontman for 1970s rockers the Arrows and was best known for co-writing I Love Rock ‘N Roll, died from complications of coronavirus in New York on March 29. He was 69 years old.

Merrill’s death was confirmed via a Facebook post (opens in new tab) by his daughter, Laura.

“The Coronavirus took my father this morning,” she wrote. “I was given two minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen.

“I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. I felt I was the only person here and perhaps in many ways I was.

“By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone.”

Born in the Bronx, Merrill’s career stretched back to the late-'60s, when he auditioned for well-known New York City band the Left Banke. He later joined the Japan-based act the Lead. Following that band’s dissolution he recorded the solo album Alone in Tokyo and formed the Japanese-American glam outfit Vodka Collins, as well as worked as an actor in Japan.

In 1974 Merrill founded the Arrows in London, playing bass and singing lead vocals. The band had a hit that year with Touch Too Much, and under the guidance of producer Mickie Most notched a series of successful UK singles, including My Last Night With You and 1975’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll, which Merrill co-wrote with Arrows guitarist Jake Hooker.

The Arrows dissolved in 1977 and Merrill went on to form another act, Runner, as well as play guitar with Rick Derringer.

In 1982, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts covered I Love Rock ‘N Roll. Their version hit number number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed there for seven weeks.

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The following year Merrill relaunched his solo career. He also joined Meat Loaf’s band for a stint in the late-'80s, as well as continued to write, record, perform and act.

Following his passing, Joan Jett paid tribute to Merrill in a tweet, writing, “I just learned of the awful news that Alan Merrill has passed.

“My thoughts and love go to his family, friends and music community as a whole.

“I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me.

“With deep gratitude and sadness, wishing him a safe journey to the other side.”

Earlier today, Guitar World reported on the death of country music singer, songwriter and guitarist Joe Diffie, also from COVID-19. Diffie was 61. 

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Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.