Kelly Holland, lead voice of Cry of Love's early '90s glory days, passes away

dmenconi@newsobserver.comFebruary 24, 2014 

Kelly Holland, second from right, with other members of the band Cry of Love in 1993: from left, Robert Kearnes, Jason Patterson, and Audley Freed.

SONY MUSIC — 1993 FILE PHOTO

Singer Kelly Holland always loved to hold court and tell bad jokes, especially to the fairer sex. That continued even when the former Cry of Love frontman was in the latter stages of a severe abdominal infection, which ended his life early Monday.

“A buddy went to see Kelly at the hospital a few days ago and it was obvious he was not feeling too good,” said Backsliders drummer Jeff Dennis, one of Holland’s old bandmates. “But then these girls came into his room, and he just lit up and started telling jokes. Comedy was his way of bringing people into his universe.”

Holland was 52 years old and is survived by his son, 18-year-old Elijah Holland of Sacramento, Calif.

Holland will be best remembered for his time in Cry of Love, a Raleigh rock band whose 1993 debut album “Brother” sold more than 200,000 copies.

His yowling voice elevated Cry of Love to near-stardom, and the band had a string of sizable rock-radio hits – “Peace Pipe,” “Bad Thing” and “Too Cold in the Winter.” Cry of Love hit the road to play clubs and open for Aerosmith and Robert Plant, but Holland struggled with touring. While he performed well, the workload of being on the road for more than a year took its toll.

“Through it all, he was able to sing fantastically,” said Jason Patterson, Cry of Love’s drummer. “Kelly was the greatest rock and roll singer I’ve ever known, but the boy had some demons, too. There were a lot of things he just could not get past, and they ate him up from the inside out.”

Holland left Cry of Love after one album. He spent the intervening years in a series of local bands, including Loaded Goat with Michael Gardner and Sundog with Jeff Dennis. He also played drums and sang in the cover band Crush.

Before he died, Holland was admitted to WakeMed in Raleigh, where a steady stream of friends came by to visit. One was Patterson, whom Holland tried to enlist in a plot to escape his hospital room.

“He said everybody there was crazy, he wanted out and he had a plan,” Patterson said. “ ‘Come back with a knife,’ he said, ‘we’ll cut all these cables, B.J. will carry me, Elijah will have the truck ready and we’re outta here.’ I was with him for a half-hour or so and I’m not sure he knew who I was the whole time. But he said my name when I left. I told him I loved him and he said, ‘I love you, too, Jason.’ I was hoping I’d have another chance to see him.”

Holland’s son also got to spend some quality time with his father after coming to Raleigh from Sacramento. They discussed Holland’s wishes, which included cremation and ashes to be scattered privately at a place he declined to name.

The younger Holland also found evidence of his father’s taste for bad jokes in a hand-made get-well card listing some of his best-worst jokes, including:

I was wondering why the baseball was getting bigger and then it hit me.

I wrote a song about a tortilla but it’s more of a rap.

“Vocalists like Kelly are few and far between,” said Dennis. “He was a great, great singer. A real handful, too, not easy to be in a band with. He had some routines and stuff about how he needed to go through the day that could be tough to deal with. But he was just so frickin’ talented, you were willing to do it. He was one of those guys who’d mark you or scar you, however you look at it. He made a dent in your psyche that you’ll carry forever.”

Menconi: 919-829-4759 or newsobserver.com/OnTheBeat

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