Remembering Del Shannon


Today is the 25th anniversary of the death of Del Shannon (above), who died on February 8th 1990 at the age of 55.

Runaway1Del was a singer-songwriter whose career took off in spectacular fashion with the release of the song Runaway (left) in 1961. This was a worldwide hit, and was one of the first records I bought as a schoolboy in England who was just beginning to take an interest in pop music.

Over the next few years, Del had more hit records around the world, including, in chronological order: Hats Off to Larry; So Long Baby / The Answer to Everything; Hey Little Girl; Cry Myself to Sleep; Swiss Maid; Little Town Flirt; Two Kinds of Teardrops / Kelly (my particular favourite); Two Silhouettes; Sue’s Gotta Be Mine; That’s the Way Love Is; Handy Man; Do You Wanna Dance; Keep Searchin’ and Stranger in Town.

DelLookingBackMany of these singles found their way into my burgeoning record collection. As time and technology moved on, I replaced them with the compilation CD Looking Back (right) which I still play now, even though the songs on it are all more than 50 years old.

In the 1970s, Del’s career slowed, due partly to his increasing dependence on alcohol. In the 1980s, however, he overcame this problem, married his second wife LeAnne in 1986, and began to tour again.

DelRockOnHe recorded the album Rock On! (left), which included the songs Walk Away and I Go To Pieces. The album was produced by Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne, who at the time were members of the studio band the Traveling Wilburys, along with Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Bob Dylan. After Roy Orbison’s death, it was suggested that Del might replace him in the band.

Del was once more in demand, and he found himself under pressure. Unlike many other performers, Del organised all of the scheduling of his shows himself, which proved especially stressful at this time as he was planning a European tour.

In January 1990, Del consulted his family doctor who suggested that he should take Prozac, which had been available in the USA for two years, and which is now usually known as Fluoxetine. Del was reluctant to accept the prescription as, after his experiences with alcohol, he was wary of any chemical stimulants.

DelShouseThe doctor convinced Del to take Prozac by telling him that the drug was just a mineral that was missing in his brain. 15 days later, Del shot himself at his home (right) in Santa Clara, California, after kissing his wife as she left for the grocery store.

LeAnneWestoverAt first, LeAnne (left) believed that her husband’s death must have been an accident, saying: “Del was too loving, too considerate a person to do something like this. He would never do it, knowing it would hurt those who loved him.”

She came to realise, however, that Del was, in fact, a victim of Prozac, with the culpable parties being the drug’s manufacturers Eli Lilly and his family physician. She said: “I watched him turn into somebody who was agitated, pacing, had trembling hands, insomnia, and couldn’t function.”

LeAnne filed a complaint against Eli Lilly, alleging that Prozac had caused Del’s death. Her lawyer Leonard Finz said: “We are charging Eli Lilly with the same degree of culpability as if it was Eli Lilly’s finger around the trigger of the weapon that shot the bullet that ultimately took Del Shannon’s life.”

The case never reached a public court, but it is believed that LeAnne was offered an out-of-court settlement by Eli Lilly.


Other tributes to Del Shannon:

PROZAC: Remembering Del Shannon – Taken From Us 25 Years Ago Today

Del Shannon saving lives through his tragic death – exactly the way he would want it. Few knew how compassionate a person and spiritual a person Del was. He would want the world to learn from what happened to him to cut his life so short. He would want the world to know that suicide was NOT something he chose …”

Psychiatry Ruins Creativity – Remembering Del Shannon

The artist can be a powerful and greatly beneficial influence on society. Society in turn needs to take care of its artists …


14 Replies to “Remembering Del Shannon”

  1. Hello Brian,
    I want to thank you for all that you do in remembrance of Del.. He was a precious husband and father and an extraordinary man, who is loved and greatly missed by so many.
    Thank you again and many blessings to you and yours, LeAnne

    • Thank you for your kind words, LeAnne. They mean a lot to me.
      Del lives on via his wonderful music, which is still played on various radio stations in England.

  2. To LeAnne
    Love to you, and remembering your lovely husband Charles xx
    I was prescribed Prozac in 1990. After just one dose I was shaking like a leaf, sweating, and talking rubbish.
    My friend stayed with me until the effects wore off – the pills got binned.
    Prozac took your husband, not suicide. God bless you and keep you safe
    Christine xxxx

    • Dear Christine Anne,
      I just ran across message this morn.
      I want to thank you for your kind note..There is rarely a day that goes by that I don’t think of Charles, he was a precious man with a wonderful loving heart for so many…
      I’m so sorry what happened to you but very grateful that you made it through and are stronger for that.
      Do take care of yourself and may God bless you and keep you happy, safe and thriving always.
      Many blessings to you and yours,
      LeAnne Westover

  3. Hello, I have been listening a lot to your husband’s music recently. It has helped me get through the recent weeks since a family member was taken away. I hope you are well, I am taking antidepressants too but don’t know if I should. Kind regards

    • Dear Dave,
      Thank you for your kind note. It’s been awhile since I’ve been on this site, so sorry for such a late response to you. I hope you are doing well.
      I’m happy to hear that you like my husband’s music. Music is a wonderful panacea and a beautiful gift which soothes. Do take good care of yourself and enjoy all the wonderful gifts life has to offer for they are awesome!
      Kind regards,

  4. I met Del at Matters Ball Room in Decorah, Iowa. I was probably 16 or 17. We talked a little while between sets. A precious memory I will always have of him. He gave a nervous teen kid the ‘time of day’ and I will never forget the experience. A lot of his songs are beautiful, many sad but still beautiful.

    • Good afternoon Ron,
      Thank you for sharing your memories of Del. He always enjoyed meeting and talking with his fans . I’m glad you had the experience of meeting and talking with him…He was a kindhearted, extremely creative, loving man.
      May you be Blessed,
      LeAnne Westover

  5. I was 11 years old when I first heard Del’s song, “Runaway.” I sang it over and over again to the worst of my ability, never quite hitting his high notes, but loving to try them anyway.

    He leaves with us a legacy of wonderful music that takes us back to a time when life was more simple and innocent. Thanks for the gift of your voice, Del, which shall never be forgotten.

  6. Last night I stayed up till 1:45am to finish Dawn Eden Goldstein’s book “Sunday Will Never be the Same”. She wrote about interviewing Del before he tragically died. This morning, my head still in her book, I looked up LeAnne which led me here. Shame on Eli Lilly, what a beautiful man we lost through their misinformation about Prozac. I’m glad I know about it now. I too loved Del’s songs. God rest Del’s soul, may he be joyfully singing with the Angels in heaven!

  7. Dear LeAnne,
    I’m a first time female film director who has had the wonderful honor to carry the flame and creat a film of my own design at September’s Shawna Shea Film Festival in Worcester, MA.
    It is called First Refusal, and it shares the beauty between two very close siblings, my brother Ken and I, and how that love goes beyond the other side of the veil.
    It is not a sad story, but an honorarium, for a young man, who battled mental illness for over a decade, which Ultimately claimed him at 37 years of age in 2020.

    This is the first year I out-age my brother Ken, and I know it is a long shot, but would you be open to considering having your husband’s “Hats Off to Larry” play in my short film’s credits, as KEN (My actor and dear friend, E. James Ford) and myself COURT, lip sync the words. Sort of like a final farewell?

    Be well and God bless.

    Courtney Sanello

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