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“In both her voice and demeanour, Rachel Nagy was the right blend of hardcore badass and utter sweetness,” said Detroit Cobra’s label Third Man on Instagram.
She was more than a performer; she was the music’s essence, lifting it to new heights with her own profoundly moving vocal strength. I believe I’m not alone in saying that her liveliness, ferocious intensity, and vulnerability have inspired me.”
The Detroit Cobras, dubbed “Detroit’s most renowned cover band,” were created in 1994 by Nagy and guitarist Mary Ramirez.
With guitarist and Detroit photographer Steve Shaw (The Fondas), bassist Jeff Meier (Rocket 455, Nathaniel Mayer), and drummer Damian Lang, they released their first album, Mink, Rat or Rabbit, in 1998.
Three years later, they released Life, Love, and Leaving. Both albums were entirely made up of cover songs from the 1960s, including songs by the Shangri-Las, Otis Redding, the Ronettes, the Marvelettes, Irma Thomas, and Ike and Tina Turner, among others.
Rough Trade was soon drawn to the Detroit Cobras’ garage rock take on Motown. They released the 2003 EP Seven Easy Pieces and the 2004 full-length Baby after signing with the label, the latter of which contained their original song “Hot Dog (Watch Me Eat).” Tied & True, the Detroit Cobras’ most recent studio album, was released in 2007.
“The distinctive vocals of Rachel Nagy would no-doubt be a blueprint from which artists like Amy Winehouse would work from years later,” Third Man Records said while reissuing the band’s first two albums in 2016.
“People assume, ‘Oh, they’re just covers; what’s the big deal?’ It’s really more difficult. When individuals perform unique music, they have the flexibility to mess up and modify things.
“We’re looking for something extremely unique,” “It’s interesting how people refer to us as a cover band. Cover bands are usually found in the neighbourhood pub, playing Creed and other songs that everyone knows and wants to sing along too. Nagy told the site All I Could See in 2018.
Even individuals who are really knowledgeable about music are sometimes shocked to learn which songs are which.”
The Detroit Cobras were credited with popularizing the city’s garage rock culture as the years passed.
Nagy was inspired by a variety of sources, including The Muppets and records brought to her by record collectors, but it was Irma Thomas who established a love of music in Nagy’s heart.
One of her colleagues said, “She is the epitome of my Beatlemania.” In 2007, she told NPR, “She is everything to me.” “I finally realized Beatlemania at Jazz Fest in New Orleans… Irma steps on onstage, and I break down and start wailing and shouting.” That lady simply annihilates me.”
Nagy’s death was announced by Cartwright, who shared the news on Instagram:
Dear friends, family and fans,
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that we announce the loss of our beloved friend and musical colleague, Rachel Lee Nagy.
There are no words to fully articulate our grief as we remember a life cut short, still vital and inspirational to all who knew and loved her. With the Detroit Cobras, Rachel Nagy carried the torch of Rock, Soul and R&B to fans all over the world.
More than just a performer, she embodied the spirit of the music itself and vaulted it to new heights with her own deeply affecting vocal power.
I know that I am not alone when I say that I was inspired by her vitality, her fierce intensity and her vulnerability. Once plans have been finalized by the family, we will post more information regarding further details to memorialize Rachel and pay tribute to her life.
Until then, please know that if you are as devastated by this news as we are, you are not alone. We are with you in your grief. Rachel is survived by her brother Tony Nagy and her mother, Marge Nagy.”
During this terrible moment, we send our condolences to Rachel Nagy’s family, friends, and bandmates.