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Passings: Tom Rapp of Pearls Before Swine (1947 - 2018)

by VVN Music

Tom Rapp of the influential folk-rock group Pearls Before Swine died on Sunday (February 11) from cancer at a hospice in Melbourne, FL. He was 70.

Born in Bottineau, ND, his family relocated to Minnesota when he was six.  It was also that year that he received his first guitar and, after learning how to play from a neighbor, he started entering talent contests including one where he came in third ahead of a young Bob Dylan.

After ongoing moves by the family, they finally settled in Eau Gallie, FL where Rapp became a fan of Mr. Dylan's along with others from the burgeoning folk scene.  In 1965, he formed Pearls Before Swine with three high school friends.

On a whim, they sent a demo tape to ESP-Disc Records who signed them and put out the group's first album, One Nation Underground (1967) which sold 200,000 copies even though Rapp said they never saw a penny from it.

They followed the next year with Balaklava which was based on the writings of Tolkien and Herodotus, perhaps the farthest they went into their psychedelic folk-rock sound.

In 1969, Rapp signed the group to Reprise.  Tom was the only original member left and he brought in a list of studio and free lance musicians to fill out the ranks for the rest of the band's days. He would release five albums for the label before moving to Blue Thumb where he released two more under his own name.

Tom quit the music business in 1976 to attend Brandeis University, eventually getting his law degree and becoming a civil rights lawyer but, 21 years ago, showed up again with his son's band and, two years later, released his last album, A Journal of the Plague Year.

Rapp was married three times and has one son.