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Delp's bandmates, friends unite in tribute and in sadness

Boston band members Jeff Neal, Brad Delp, Tom Scholz, Kimberley Dahme, and Gary Pihl are pictured the last time they played together. Delp killed himself on March 9.
Boston band members Jeff Neal, Brad Delp, Tom Scholz, Kimberley Dahme, and Gary Pihl are pictured the last time they played together. Delp killed himself on March 9. (AP Photo /Boston, Kim Scholz)

Brad Delp, lead singer for the band Boston, sent an e-mail to longtime bandmate Tom Scholz in early January asking for a few days off from an upcoming summer tour so he could get married. That wedding was supposed to happen today, in a small backyard ceremony on the South Shore. Instead, Delp's friends, family, and fellow musicians will gather at the Bank of America Pavilion tomorrow night for a benefit concert in memory of the singer, who killed himself March 9.

Delp was famous in music circles for a gentle nature and aversion to conflict, but five months after his death, his suicide continues to stir a mix of mystery, confusion, and even anger among those close to him.

While his ex-wife suggested in the spring that Delp's anxiety about a summer tour and his friendship with clashing ex-bandmates contributed to his death, this week Scholz provided to the Globe excerpts from e-mails he exchanged with the singer during the last months of his life. The excerpts show Delp was looking ahead to the summer and was not interested in getting out of a tour.

Scholz is convinced Delp's suicide had nothing to do with band relationships, ex-wives, touring schedules, finances, or other theories floated since Delp ended his life at 55, by carbon monoxide poisoning at his home in Atkinson, N.H.

"Although this might seem to be a recipe for sadness, none of it would explain the abrupt decision to give up," Scholz wrote in an e-mail to the Globe.

In fact, Delp's suicide was carefully planned, and he left notes to his fiancee, Pamela Sullivan; to ex-wife Micki Delp; to his two children; and to an unnamed couple.

Scholz said that if and when those details are revealed, the singer's death will make sense. "There is a much more obvious, very simple explanation that regrettably has been a common occurrence throughout history," Scholz wrote. "Right now, just days before this wonderful man's tribute, is not the time, however, to discuss or publicize such a personal thing."

The show, called "Come Together," grew out of an idea from Delp's adult children and was named partly for his passion for the Beatles. Delp, who saw the band play at Suffolk Downs 41 years ago today, sang the parts of all four Beatles in the tribute band Beatlejuice, with which he played regularly at area clubs when he wasn't engaged in a periodic tour or recording session with Boston.

Local friends and musicians who played alongside Delp outside of Boston were eager to fill tomorrow's lineup, but uniting the various members of Boston didn't come easily.

The band burst onto the scene in 1976 with its self-titled debut, which included hits like "More Than a Feeling" and "Peace of Mind" and would go on to sell 17 million copies. Boston was a jolt for young rocks fans in an age of disco, filling arena after arena in the late 1970s.

But at heart Boston was more a Scholz-orchestrated studio project, with Delp collaborating on vocal arrangements and singing, than a group that had come up together through local clubs. The original five-member lineup began to fray after the second album and tour more than a quarter-century ago, and more than a dozen musicians played under the Boston name over the years. Three of the members later opposed Scholz in a lawsuit related to production and control; Scholz prevailed.

Getting all the original surviving members on stage for one song tomorrow -- the title track from the band's 1978 "Don't Look Back" album -- took massaging from friends, music industry executives, and publicists. Contradictory press releases showed changing lineups and had fans wondering as recently as a few weeks ago if the reunion would happen.

But Micki Delp, who was married to Delp from 1980 to 1996, said band members came together because of his history as a "peacemaker."

"Everyone stepped up to the plate on behalf of Brad," she said.

John "Muzz" Muzzy played alongside the singer in Beatlejuice and was the drummer for Farrenheit, which opened for Boston on a 1987 tour. He was planning to serve as best man for Delp's wedding this weekend, but instead will play with both acts on tomorrow's bill.

"It still just seems so unreal to me," said Muzzy, who last saw Delp a week before his death, at a Beatlejuice show in New Hampshire. As usual, Delp stayed an hour after the show to talk to fans, his bandmate said. "It's just impossible to accept that that soul is not here anymore," he added.

Sullivan, in her first extended interview since Delp's death, recalled her fiance as a kind and quiet man who hated to ask favors and took pleasure in doing things for others. She declined to speak about Delp's death, beyond her statement in late March that Delp's "sadness came from within."

At the time she called on Micki Delp -- with whom Sullivan speaks regularly -- and others to stop airing hurtful speculation about the reasons for his death.

His close friends are trying to honor that and focus on Delp's life and music tomorrow.

"I want to try to keep this all upbeat," said former Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau, who split from the band in 1980, and who is married to Micki Delp's sister. "Putting the show together's been a real balancing act, and we're so close -- so close -- so we want to make sure that it goes off without a hitch."

Last fall, Scholz and Delp were the only original Boston members in a five-person lineup that played a Doug Flutie tribute at Symphony Hall. The same lineup rehearsed a few times in the months after that in anticipation of a summer tour.

Scholz, in an e-mail excerpt provided to the Globe, wrote to Delp on Jan. 4 to tell him the nascent touring plans could be scrapped easily "if it's not what you want to do." But Delp seemed to be looking forward to playing with Boston in the summer and, according to the excerpts, wrote back to Scholz to request a day or two off for his wedding around Aug. 18.

Scholz said he replied to congratulate Delp and tell him that he himself had just gotten engaged, with plans for an immediate wedding in Florida.

"Talk about coincidences. I'm [sic] couldn't be happier for the both of you (and us)!" Delp typed in a Jan. 7 reply, provided by Scholz. "Have a wonderful trip, and an even better honeymoon, and we'll get together when you get back."

Bill Faulkner, an old friend who would have conducted today's wedding ceremony, said Delp would have had mixed feelings about the tribute concert. "He would never, ever want to be a bother or cause for anyone to go out of their way," Faulkner said.

But Delp would have liked that the concert will benefit causes he cared about, including music education, vegetarianism, and antiviolence, said Faulkner. He also would have liked the Boston reunion.

"He thought it would be great if it happened, but I'm not sure he totally believed it would," Faulkner said.

Joan Anderman contributed to this report.

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