Mike Bloomfield Cause of Death: The Tragic End of a Blues Legend

Mike Bloomfield was one of the most influential guitarists of the 1960s, a pioneer of blues-rock who played with Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, and many others. He was also a troubled soul who struggled with drug addiction, insomnia, and chronic pain. His life came to a sudden and mysterious end on February 15, 1981, when he was found dead in his car in San Francisco. What was the cause of his death, and what legacy did he leave behind?

A Musical Prodigy

Mike Bloomfield was born on July 28, 1943, in Chicago, Illinois, into a wealthy Jewish family. He showed an early interest in music, especially the blues, and learned to play guitar from his cousin and a local hairdresser. He soon became proficient enough to sit in with his idols in the South Side blues clubs, where he impressed legends like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf with his talent and passion. He was one of the first white musicians to be accepted by the black blues community, and he learned from them the secrets of the genre.

Bloomfield was also a rebellious and restless teenager, who dropped out of school and ran away from home several times. He was drawn to the emerging counterculture of the 1960s, and experimented with drugs and alternative lifestyles. He moved to New York, where he met Bob Dylan and played on his landmark album Highway 61 Revisited, including the iconic single Like a Rolling Stone. He also performed with Dylan at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where Dylan’s electric set caused a controversy among the folk purists.

A Blues-Rock Pioneer

Bloomfield’s most influential work was with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, a group of Chicagoans who fused hard electric blues with psychedelic rock and jazz. Bloomfield’s guitar was the driving force of the band, as he displayed his virtuosity, creativity, and intensity on songs like Born in Chicago, East-West, and Work Song. He inspired a generation of guitarists, such as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, and Jerry Garcia, who admired his technique and expression.

Bloomfield left the Butterfield Blues Band in 1967, and formed his own group, the Electric Flag, which blended soul, blues, rock, and horn arrangements. The band was short-lived, but produced some memorable songs, such as Groovin’ Is Easy, Killing Floor, and Texas. Bloomfield also collaborated with his friend Al Kooper, a keyboardist and producer, on two albums, Super Session and The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper, which showcased his improvisational skills and eclectic tastes.

A Troubled Soul

Despite his success and acclaim, Bloomfield was plagued by personal problems that affected his career and health. He was a heroin addict, who tried to quit several times, but always relapsed. He suffered from insomnia, which made him erratic and unreliable. He had chronic pain in his hands, which hampered his playing. He also had a disdain for fame and the music industry, which made him reject lucrative offers and avoid publicity. He preferred to play in small clubs and jam sessions, rather than big arenas and festivals.

Bloomfield’s output and quality declined in the 1970s, as he became more isolated and depressed. He recorded some solo albums, such as It’s Not Killing Me, If You Love These Blues, Play ‘Em As You Please, and Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’, but they received little attention and sold poorly. He also played with various bands and musicians, such as John Hammond, Nick Gravenites, and Barry Goldberg, but none of them matched his earlier achievements. He was largely forgotten by the mainstream, and only appreciated by a loyal fan base and fellow musicians.

A Mysterious Death

On February 14, 1981, Bloomfield played a gig at the Old Waldorf, a club in San Francisco, with his band the New Heavenly Blue. He was in good spirits, and performed well. After the show, he went to a friend’s house, where he stayed for a while, and then left in his car, a 1971 Chevrolet Impala. He was never seen alive again.

The next day, his body was found in the front seat of his car, which was parked on a side street near Golden Gate Park. He had no visible injuries, and no signs of foul play. The police found an empty Valium bottle in his coat pocket, and a syringe and a spoon in his glove compartment. The official cause of death was not determined, but it was widely assumed that he had died of a drug overdose, either accidental or intentional. He was 37 years old.

Bloomfield’s death was barely reported by the media, and only a few hundred people attended his funeral. His family and friends were shocked and saddened by his tragic end, and wondered if he could have been saved. His fans and admirers mourned the loss of a great musician, and celebrated his legacy. His music was reissued and rediscovered by new generations, and he was honored with various tributes and awards. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012, and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015, as a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.

Mike Bloomfield cause of death was a mystery, but his life was a legend. He was a musical prodigy, a blues-rock pioneer, and a troubled soul. He left behind a body of work that influenced and inspired countless musicians and listeners. He was one of the best guitarists of all time, and a true original. He was music on two legs.

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