Little Feat guitarist Paul Barrere dead at 71

(Image credit: Jemal Countess/WireImage)

Long time Little Feat guitarist and singer Paul Barrere died October 26 at the age of 71.

No official cause of death was cited, but Barrere had battled Hepatitis C for many years, and in 2015 was diagnosed with liver cancer.

The band confirmed Barrere’s passing in a statement on their official website (opens in new tab), writing:

“It is with great sorrow that Little Feat must announce the passing of our brother guitarist, Paul Barrere, this morning at UCLA Hospital.”

The statement continued, “Paul auditioned for Little Feat as a bassist when it was first being put together – in his words, ‘as a bassist I make an excellent guitarist’ – and three years later joined the band in his proper role on guitar. Forty-seven years later, he was forced to miss the current tour, which will end tomorrow, due to side effects from his ongoing treatment for liver disease.

“He promised to follow his doctor’s orders, get back in shape, and rock on the beach at the band’s annual gathering in Jamaica in January 2020. ‘Until then,’ he wrote, ‘keep your sailin’ shoes close by…if I have my way, you’re going to need them!’ ”

Barrere joined Little Feat just prior to their classic 1973 album Dixie Chicken, assuming guitar and vocal duties alongside band founder Lowell George. 

In addition to being proficient in a variety of styles, including rock, blues, jazz and Cajun, Barrere contributed to the band as a writer, helping to pen or co-write Little Feat songs like Skin It Back, Feats Don't Fail Me Now and All That You Dream.

Regarding his place in the band as a guitarist, Barrere told (opens in new tab) in 2013, “Lowell kind of left me alone to create my own space but made sure that I heeded the words of Van Dyke Parks: ‘less is more and it’s the space between the notes that is important to a song.’”

Following Little Feat’s breakup and George’s death from a heart attack in 1979, Barrere released two solo albums, 1983's On My Own Two Feet and 1984's Real Lies. In 1987 Little Feat reformed, and Barrere assumed primary songwriting duties up through their most recent album, 2012’s Rooster Rag.

“The lessons I had learned from Lowell about songwriting and playing really served me well,” he told Epiphone. “Now that I am the main slide guitarist and vocalist, it worked out because I knew I wasn’t Lowell and had to remain myself and use my own techniques to keep it believable.”

In their statement, the surviving members of Little Feat wrote of Barrere, “As the song he sang so many times put it, he was always Willin’, but it was not meant to be.

“Paul, sail on to the next place in your journey with our abiding love for a life always dedicated to the muse and the music. We are grateful for the time we have shared.”

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Richard Bienstock

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.