Newspaper Articles

Sunny Sound, Dark Story
Sins of the father lurk behind facade of upbeat Cowsills
March 5, 2013
Daily News
New York, New York

Family business: The Cowsills in their heyday,circa 1968

THE COWSILLS? Seriously?

Without forgetting the Strawberry Alarm Clock and with no personal disrespect toward any member of the Cowsills, it's hard to think of a less consequential band from the 1960s.

So let's just say "Family Band," an hour-and-a-half documentary on the Cowsills, can't rely on the music to keep us engaged. Unlike the Monkees, the Cowsills didn't create teen pop that you don't mind humming once in a while.

"The Rain, the Park and Other Things" or "Indian Lake," for better or worse, just vanished, leaving no more trace than a bag of fast-food French fries.

But it turns out, as it so often does, that a more troubling take was playing out in the shadows.

The Cowsill boys wanted to be the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones. They had decent ears and voices, and to this day they are convinced they could have made a run at it.

But they also had a father, Bud Cowsill, who controlled everyone and everything. Bud decided this would be a family pop band, so he put their mother Barbara and little sister Susan into it.

On what planet does a teenage boy want Mom in his rock band?

Far more corrosive, Bud was an alcoholic who lined up the boys and beat them. He made a play for Susan when she was 10. She fought him off. Since Bud and Barbara are dead, we can only imagine what he did to his wife.

He makes Joe Jackson look kindly, and he effectively derailed whatever the Cowsills might have become. He also left psycho-wreckage that took many of the kids years to untangle.

It's a grim story with, seemingly, an okay ending. The Cowsills probably wouldn't have become the Stones anyhow, but give them props for surviving.

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