Today is the 70th birthday of Donald Roeser. If that name doesn’t sound familiar, it’s probably because he usually goes by his stage name, Buck Dharma. If that doesn’t sound familiar, you should know him as a founding member, guitarist, singer and songwriter of the legendary Blue Oyster Cult. And if that still doesn’t sound familiar (goddamned millennials), he wrote the song featured in that Saturday Night Live sketch with the cowbell.
As you may have guessed from my username (which is Buck Dharma Initiative, but I’m posting as tempavocado because my WordPress account is borked), I’m a fan of Buck Dharma. I’ve seen him perform with Blue Oyster Cult 30-some-odd times. He’s a gifted songwriter and amazing guitarist, capable of creating monster, in-your-face riffs like those on Cities On Flame with Rock and Roll, Godzilla and personal favorite E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence). But he’s equally capable of laid back, (almost) mellow songs like Then Came the Last Days of May and Perfect Water.
I’ve even had the opportunity to meet Buck Dharma on a couple of occasions. For someone that loomed as large as he did in all my years as a fan of BOC, I was surprised to find that he’s actually quite small – he’s literally my wife’s height (5’2″).
No discussion of Buck Dharma wold be complete without mentioning his most famous composition, (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. To say the song has stood the test of time would be an understatement. First hitting the charts in 1976, the song barely gets less airplay on the radio today than it did back then and with few dips in popularity in the intervening years. It is one of the few classic rock staples that I never hear people complaining they’re sick of. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s also the inspiration for Stephen King’s The Stand.
I encourage you all to listen to the tracks I’ve listed here. Hell, listen to all BOC’s songs – they’re all great. OK, not all of them are actually great. Most are merely really good. But the great ones are really great. In their entire discography, there’s only one song I regularly skip. Ironically, it’s on the album I consider their best, Secret Treaties. In any event, listen and enjoy.
I’ll leave you with a version of one of my favorite songs (which Buck co-wrote) that has one of my favorite Buck solos. It’s from the perfectly titled live album On Your Feet Or On Your Knees. There’s literally no other guitarist that could have come up with this solo – actually, his playing throughout is very much in his unique style. When I see them live, and he breaks into one of his signature style solos, it always makes me smile.