If you picked up a newspaper on January 27th, 1984, the big news was Michael Jackson's head catching fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial. A less splashy story was the accidental death of Candy Givens, the 37-year old singer, songwriter and harmonica player of the bluesy Boulder hard rock band Zephyr.
Born in 1947, Candy Ramey came from a family of gamblers and small-time outlaws. They lived in a cabin near Evergreen, but moved to Applewood, a suburb near Golden, when Candy was in the 7th grade. Smart and popular, she was voted most likely to become a famous singer her senior year.
By 1967, Candy had moved to Aspen and performed in a local jug band. She met her future husband, bass guitar player David Givens, and in 1968 the couple moved to Boulder, where they formed the band Brown Sugar. The incredibly gifted guitarist Tommy Bolin and keyboardist John Faris began jamming with the group, and, after the recruitment of Denver drummer Robbie Chamberlain, Zephyr was formed.
Givens had a magnetic stage presence, and a powerful voice in a tiny body. "Candy Givens was a unique musical star that streaked across the Colorado sky and disappeared unexpectedly," observes rock journalist and educator Gil Asakawa. "She had a powerful, throaty voice that could scream the highest rock and roll notes but swoop down to the lowest moaning blues. Her recording with the Colorado band Zephyr are her main legacy, but her voice -- and stories about her -- are scattered here and there within and throughout the local music scene."
Though never a commercial success, Zephyr produced 3 albums and performed live often, including the 1969 Denver Pop Festival, before breaking up in the early '70s. They reunited briefly around 1980, four years after the drug overdose death of Tommy Bolin.
Four years later, Candy drowned in her apartment's Jacuzzi. The toxicology report showed alcohol and Quaaludes in her system.
Years later, in the Tommy Bolin Archives, Candy's ex-husband David wrote:
"Despite her problems, she continued to improve until the last time I heard her sing, in 1983. She was so good by then, that she held a drunken, rowdy party of international rugby players spellbound for the entire time she was on stage. That’s hard."