Larry Knechtel, a music legend, dies at 69
Award-winning musician Larry Knechtel of Yakima died Thursday of a possible heart attack. He was 69. Knechtel performed live and in the studio with top-selling artists for nearly half a century, and earned a Grammy award for his arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Award-winning musician Larry Knechtel of Yakima died Thursday of a possible heart attack. He was 69.
Knechtel performed live and in the studio with top-selling artists for nearly half a century, and he earned a Grammy award for his arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
Most recently, he played keyboard on the Grammy award-winning Dixie Chicks album "Taking the Long Way" and played Hammond organ on the tour of the same name.
He was a key member of such groups as the Wrecking Crew and Bread.
Born in Bell, Calif., Knechtel over the years played with artists as diverse as Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams Jr. and Elvis Costello.
He moved to Yakima in 2003, according to his frequent performing partner and friend, bluesman Wayman Chapman. The duo played earlier this month at Franklin Park as part of Yakima's Summer Concert Series.
Chapman said Knechtel, who died at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, appeared to be in good health and had recently returned from a trip to Italy with his wife, Vickie, and grandson.
"He told me in '03 that he needed to think about retiring, but since then he'd been going like gangbusters," Chapman said.
Knechtel often was called back to Los Angeles by music producers, including the influential Rick Rubin, for studio recordings. Despite his fame, Chapman said, Knechtel remained a regular guy. He liked to pan for gold when he visited his mother, who is in a nursing home in California. He would take along his keyboards to the nursing home and play for all the residents.
"He loved his wife, he loved his kids, he loved his grandkids and he loved playing in Yakima," Chapman said.
Musically, Chapman said, he was most in awe of Knechtel's range and his ability to layer chords.
"He had perfect pitch, so he had a way of putting harmonies together where you would normally not think they would fit," Chapman said. "He played on so many different levels."
The Dixie Chicks' Web site says this about Knechtel:
"Larry's résumé is a history lesson in great American music all unto itself.
The term 'legendary musician' isn't an overstatement when talking about a multi-instrumentalist who can be heard on some of music's most legendary recordings."
In addition to his wife, Knechtel is survived by his mother, Edna Knechtel; a son, Lonnie, of Ferndale, Whatcom County; a daughter, Shelli Kokenge, of Gleed, Yakima County; two brothers, Don Knechtel of Alabama, and Bob Knechtel of California; and three grandchildren.
Services are pending. Valley Hills Funeral Home in Yakima is handling arrangements.
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UPDATE - 6:15 AM
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