Gary Burger, frontman of garage pioneers the Monks, has died from pancreatic cancer, Minnesota Public Radio reports. He was 72.
Originally called the Torquays, the Monks started in 1964. They formed in Germany when the band's five members were stationed there in the army. When they were discharged, they toured the country. Burger told Minneapolis City Pages that German marketing executives came up with their schtick: wear black robes with ropes tied around the neck and give themselves traditional monk tonsures.
At the start of their essential 1966 album Black Monk Time, Burger's voice shouts, "Alright, my name's Gary! Let's go, it's beat time, it's hop time, it's monk time!" He goes on to rant against the war in Vietnam. On their first single "Complication", he sings, "People go to their deaths for you!" Their music incorporated feedback, organ, and electric banjo.
They've been cited as an inspiration by many, many artists. In an interview, Burger was modest about his band's impact:
“We all knew that we were doing a different sort of music, but as far as being a forerunner band—that was the furthest from our minds. We really weren’t thinking that,” he said. “We were thinking that we were playing rock and roll with a twist, and the twist was the electric banjo, the feedback, the drums, basically not using cymbals but lots of tom toms. We had no idea that we were creating a new movement. And I’m still thinking, hey, we were just a rock and roll band that really had a lot of fun, and was able to be lucky enough—or unlucky enough, depending on your point of view—to work on the album.”
Burger and the Monks reunited briefly in 1999. In 2006, Burger was elected mayor of Turtle River, Minnesota, a town with a population of about 75. In 2009, Light in the Attic reissued Black Monk Time and a compilation of the band's earliest recordings.