Pat Torpey, drummer and founding member of MR. BIG, passed away Wednesday, February 7 at the age of 64 from complications of Parkinson’s disease. His family, bandmates and management request privacy at this very difficult time. Services are pending.
MR. BIG bassist Billy Sheehan said: “Pat Torpey has been my closest friend in music for over 30 years. He passed away yesterday from complications as a result of Parkinson’s disease.
“Pat was one of the finest human beings I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing, and the honor of working with. All of us in MR. BIG had nothing but the highest respect and admiration for him. He is loved by anyone and everyone who ever met him. And surely one of the finest rock drummers the world has ever known.
“Please keep his sweet wife and wonderful son in your prayers.”
“I love you, Pat. You made the world a better place. We will miss you. We will never forget you. Rest in peace, my brother.”
Former MR. BIG guitarist Richie Kotzen stated: “So saddened to learn of the passing of my friend and former bandmate Pat Torpey. We spent years touring the world, making music, family holiday gatherings, and even remodeled a house together. Pat‘s sense of humor, wit, and smile lit up any room the moment he walked in.
“I am grateful and thankful to have had you as an incredibly important friend and influence in my life. You will be missed beyond words. With love and tears… Rest in peace, my friend.”
MR. BIG vocalist Eric Martin called Torpey “the strongest guy I know” in an interview with Total Rock last December. “He’s such a strong personality, very smart, great rock n’ roll drummer, and [Parkinson’s disease] has taken apart his nervous system,” he said. “Once in a while, he’ll play a few songs with us. Our last tour, he played half the songs, and Matt [Starr] played the other half. On [the most recent European] tour, Matt plays the full drum kit, and then we call it a cocktail kit, but it’s a percussive kit, and he’s to the left of Matt and plays all the percussion and sings all the stuff. Spiritually, [Pat is] our driving force behind the band. Every time he goes, ‘Oh, man, I don’t know if I can do this,’ I don’t know about the rest of the guys, [but] if he bows out, I’m going to bow out with him.”
In a 2017 interview with Rock Rebel magazine, Sheehan spoke about Torpey‘s battle with Parkinson’s disease. He said: “Pat, unfortunately, ran into a bad situation, and as a band, we wanted to make sure that he knew that we were with him 100 percent. It’s a tough thing for everybody, but Pat has demonstrated incredible courage and strength. He’s inspiring to so many people all over the world. I get e-mails from people every day who maybe don’t have the same affliction, but have something similar and Pat inspires them to get out of bed and get going and push back a little bit more. I think that’s a wonderful thing in itself. The American military, the Navy Seals and their motto is ‘No Man Left Behind.’ So for the beginning of this, we adopted their motto to a rock band and [it was] ‘No Man Left Behind’. A lot of bands are out there now and they don’t have all the original members. Sad, sometimes you can’t. People pass on and situations, but we really want it to be Paul, Eric, myself and Pat. Matt is incredible at helping out. I have to mention how awesome he is and how wonderful a job he’s done to do Pat‘s parts the way they should be done. Really wonderful.”
Asked in a 2011 interview with OnlineDrummer.com what influenced him to pick up a pair of sticks and start drumming, Torpey said: “I was about 7 or 8 years old, and my family used to go to this local picnic event with a live polka band. I was able to sit behind them and look down on the drummer, right on the top of him, and so from that vantage point I could see what he was doing, and I thought, ‘Wow, that looks like fun!’ That was my first memory of when I can remember wanting to play the drums. I went to my mother and said, ‘I wanna play the drums,’ and she gave me that look that parents give you, you know the ‘Oh, yeah, sure you do… you’re 7 years old.’ So from there I kind of held on to that dream. I’d fashioned some drum sticks from a couple of sticks out of the yard. I carved them and drew my name on them with a magic marker, you know, the kind of thing an aspiring kid would do.”
MR. BIG — Torpey, Martin, Sheehan and guitarist Paul Gilbert — released its ninth original studio album, “Defying Gravity”, last July.
MR. BIG, formed in 1988, produced numerous hit songs that ranged across a wide array of rock genres — be it ballads, heavy metal, or blues rock. Their hits included “Alive And Kicking”, “Just Take My Heart” and the chart-topping ballad “To Be With You”.
Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave Pat Torpey‘s age as 58.
Photo credit: William Hames