Did Marc Bolan crash into a tree or a fence-post? New research reveals the truth behind his death at 29
He joined the Rock Stars Who Died Young Club
Classic rocker Marc Bolan was a contradiction in many ways during his lifetime. He started in the music world as a guitar player and singer with a band called John's Children before going on to initiate his own band, Tyrannosaurus Rex. But before his entry into the music business he was a clothing model and an actor whose image was well known to many in his native Britain. His egotism and good looks served him well in his early life as well as later, when he had worldwide hits with the revamped T Rex, but close friends like David Bowie cherished him for his humor and wit. He was a trend-setter in the newly fashionable glam rock scene along with Bowie, but hosted a television show on BBC in the middle of the decade that featured several up and coming punk bands.
Bolan was so dyslexic that he could barely read, but acquired a taste for fantasy and poetry that he turned into lyrics for his songs about magic, wizards, swords, elves and fair maidens - he would have his girlfriends and others read to him from his favorite novels and stories and remember the characters and scenes described. And while those lyrics might lead one to believe that Bolan was into mind-expanding drugs, he actually disliked psychedelics and marijuana but loved cocaine. Although he was handsome in an androgynous way popular in the 70s, he was very diminutive, and often wore platform shoes to augment his height of a little over 5 feet. Finally, he had an apparently irrational fear of driving, and never learned the skill, but owned several cars including a classic Rolls Royce.
That Rolls was on loan to the band Hawkwind on a September night in 1977, so Bolan and his lover - the mother of his son Rolan, Gloria Jones - were in a tiny Austin Mini coming back from a night on the town. She was driving when she lost control on a curve and hit a tree – or something else. Bolan was killed instantly and Gloria was severely injured but survived. The tree that supposedly was the cause of death has become a shrine for fans, but a new biography has uncovered the fact that a fencepost reinforced with steel was the actual killer of Bolan. The tree itself, instead of being the culprit, literally saved the small car from rolling down an embankment, which probably would have killed Gloria too.
Marc Bolan was 29 years old when he died, but he had lived a life very similar to members of the forever 27 club, and missed being part of that elite group by only a couple of years. His manner of death was very similar to Chris Bell of the group Big Star, a 27 club member who died in a solitary car crash in Tennessee some years later. Another rocker, D. Boon of the Minutemen, died at 27 in a solo vehicle crash as well. Of the group of rock stars who died young, Bolan is an especially tragic one, as his career was on an upswing when his death occurred.