For many musicians, fame comes served with a side of trouble. That was certainly the case for Rick Stevens, the former lead singer for Tower of Power, who recently died, having spent 36 of his 77 years on earth in various California prisons.
Stevens’ real name was Don Charles Stevenson, but he later got the nickname “The Junkie” due to his illustrious drug habit. Stevens had some hits with Tower of Power, including “Sparkling in the Sand” and “You’re Still a Young Man,” but his heroin use eventually got him kicked out of the band.
In 1976 Stevens was convicted of double first-degree murder and of manslaughter in a separate case. The singer narrowly escaped the death penalty, according to Scott Herhold of the Mercury News, who wrote that the California Supreme Court ruled that such a sentence “did not allow for consideration of mitigating circumstances.”
“Stevens was very charming and talented person” stated the prosecutor in the case, former DA George Kennedy, remembering the courtroom drama that involved a shocking testimony about sexual relations between Stevens’ attorney and a key witness to the prosecution. “I continue to view it as a fascinating drama because of the legal issues, witnesses, defense lawyers, victims, era and judge.”
Superior Court Judge John McInerny stayed in touch with Stevens after the case ended. According to the judge, Stevens told him that he never appealed his sentence because he felt he got a fair trial.
“When they say he found God in prison, he really did find God in prison” stated McInerny on his views of Stevens’ rehabilitation
Two years ago, when Stevens was asked in a TV interview about his path to redemption, he spoke of his spiritual awakening. “One does a lot of praying. One does a lot of self-realization, of realizing drugs are not the way to go.”