Jan Berry 1942-2004
Berry and partner Dean Torrance recorded a string of pop hits in the early-to-mid-1960s, including "Dead Man's Curve," "Drag City," "Honolulu Lulu," "New Girl in School," "The Little Old Lady From Pasadena," and "Surf City." Their most productive years were 1963 and 1964, in which Jan and Dean enjoyed five Top 10 hits.
Sounding similar to the Beach Boys, with whom they recorded and performed, the pair sold more than 10 million records. The two groups were essential in the development of the almost mythical southern California culture of fast cars, beautiful girls, roaring surf, and endless summers.
Berry often collaborated as a songwriter with the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, according to The Los Angeles Times. Jan and Dean might have gone on to equal the Beach Boys' success had "Dead Man's Curve" not presaged an accident in 1966 that cut short the careers of both Berry and the duo. On April 12 of that year, Berry slammed his Corvette Stingray at 90 mph into a parked truck on Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills, causing brain damage and paralysis that persisted the rest of his life. The site of the accident was just a few blocks from the song's "Dead Man's Curve" on Sunset Boulevard, the Times noted.
With great effort over many months, Berry recovered somewhat, but continued to suffer memory lapses and partial paralysis that made performing difficult. The accident also put an end to his plans to attend medical school. Berry had earned a degree in zoology at UCLA during his meteoric musical career, and had a "genius level IQ of 180," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
No memorial services were planned, his wife Gertrude Filip Berry told the Times. In keeping with his wishes, Berry's body was donated to science.