I was saddened to learn that Richard, the lone Cowsill sibling (six brothers and one sister) who was not a member of his family’s seminal rock band succumbed to lung cancer on July 8.
Though he never sang or played professionally, he was a powerful presence in the invaluable documentary The Cowsills: A Family Band (which I will get around to reviewing here soon).
As the documentary makes plain, Richard was prevented from joining the band by his tyrannical father, who instead packed him off to Viet Nam while the other kids were playing state fairs and the Ed Sullivan Show. The most harrowing footage in the film (abetted by extensive extras on the DVD) is of Richard, riding around in a van late at night (first with his brother Barry, soon to be lost in Katrina, then alone), telling his side of the story.
How many beatings he took for his brothers–who all took their share–from the father who hated him most is unknowable. But in that van, wearing the beatings and the PTSD and the resulting addictions on his face all those decades later, it’s easy to guess which will tend to have the most lasting effect–abusable substances, combat in a war where any ground you take is sure to be given back by leaders who are bound to blame anybody and everybody but themselves, or having your father use you for a punching bag.
Richard did occasionally join in with the group in later years. Much as I hope he’s found peace now, it would be nice to think that he found at least a little bit of it here (thanks to Family Band director Louise Palanker for making these “extras” available on YouTube):