Tom Rapp, founder of eclectic psychedelic folk band Pearls Before Swine in the 1960s and ’70s and civil rights lawyer, died of cancer on Sunday February 11, at his home in Melbourne, Florida. Rapp was 70.
As a teenager, Rapp finished third in a youth talent show in Rochester, Minnesota. Robert Zimmerman placed fifth. At the age of 19, Rapp sent a demo to ESP-Disk , who had signed the Fugs, and the label offered him a deal. Rapp recorded under the name Pearls Before Swine with his debut album in 1967, One Nation Underground, reportedly selling 200,000 copies. A second album, Balaklava, was released in 1968 and other albums followed. Offered a spot at Woodstock, Rapp turned it down due to a scheduling conflict.
Lyricist Bernie Taupin says that the song ‘Rocket Man,’ which he write with Elton john, was influenced by the Pearls Before Swine song of the same name.
Though he released a number of solo albums Rapp decided to leave the music business. His final show was as a support to Patti Smith in 1976. Rapp later became a civil rights lawyer in Philadelphia.