Don’t Fear the Reaper
Blue Öyster Cult
Writer(s): Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser (see lyrics here)
First Charted: July 31, 1976
Peak: 12 US, 7 CB, 22 HR, 15 RR, 1 CL, 16 UK, 7 CN, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 77.6 video, 401.24 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
Blue Öyster Cult formed in 1968 as Soft White Underbelly, later changing their name to the Stalk Forest Group and signing with Elektra Records. They recorded one album which wasn’t released, changed their name to Blue Öyster Cult, and signed with Columbia. They release three albums which are “stone-cold classics of hard, yet at times very ethereal, rock and roll.” UCR
The band had yet to produce a charting single. Those fortunes changed with their fourth album, the aptly named Agents of Fortune and the song “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” It was “an instant hit on FM radio, and to this day remains a daily radio favorite. It is also the song most identified with Blue Öyster Cult.” UCR “The mood is set with a sinister yet inviting, Byrds-inspired guitar riff. A driving rhythm and haunting vocals overtake the proceedings and then at the halfway point, the whole thing bursts wide open into guitar frenzy before the overall calm reclaims the terrain.” UCR
The song was written and sung by the band’s guitarist, Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser about the inevitability of death and the foolishness in fearing it. Roeser foresaw himself dying young because of a heart condition, but being reunited with his loved ones in the afterlife. SF He referenced Romeo and Juliet being together for eternity, which caused some to interpret the song as being about a murder-suicide pact. He explained that he used them to depict a couple who wanted to be together for eternity in the afterlife. WK
The song prominently features cowbell, which band member Eric Bloom and producer David Lucas both claim to have played. The bassist, Joe Bouchard, says it was the drummer – his brother Albert – who played it.The making of the song was parodied on Saturday Night Live with Christopher Walken playing a character who kept insisting that the song needed more cowbell.
First posted 7/27/2022.