David Peel in 1968 (K & K Ulf Kruger OHG/Redferns)David Peel, a New York City street singer and songwriter whom John Lennon befriended and worked with during the early 1970s, died Thursday about a week after suffering a massive heart attack, his longtime friend Jeff S. Levy confirmed to Billboard. Peel was 73.
Peel, who recorded with a band called The Lower East Side, became known for his pro-marijuana and anti-establishment anthems. The group’s first two albums, 1968’s Have a Marijuana and 1970’s The American Revolution, were released by Elektra Records. In 1971, Lennon became friends with Peel after seeing him and his band performing in New York City’s Washington Square Park.
Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono, went on to produce Peel & the Lower East Side’s next album, The Pope Smokes Dope, which was issued on The Beatles‘ Apple Records in 1972. Lennon contributed vocals to two songs on the album: the title track and “The Ballad of New York City,” while Yoko also sang on the latter tune. The album’s controversial title led it to be banned in a number of countries.
In December 1971, Peel and his band joined Lennon to perform at a freedom rally for jailed hippie activist John Sinclair in Ann Arbor, Michigan. That same month, David and the group performed with Lennon and Ono on The David Frost Show.
Lennon also paid tribute to Peel in his 1972 song “New York City.”
In 1974, Peel founded Orange Records and released his own albums on the label, as well as records by such artists as late shock rocker GG Allin.
Peel continued to release albums throughout his life, and remained a vocal political and social activist.
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