Acclaimed vocalist and Was (Not Was) member Hillard ‘Sweet Pea’ Atkinson has died at the age of 74.
Billboard reports that Atkinson died on Tuesday (May 5) at his home in LA after suffering a heart attack.
Guitarist Randy Jacobs, who worked with Atkinson in both Was (Not Was) and the Boneshakers, told Billboard that Atkinson was a “one of a kind”.
“He had that aura,” he said. “He could walk on stage and win everybody over, without singing a note… because he’s Sweet Pea. I saw him do that so many times. And then once he sings… forget about it.”
Atkinson was best known for his work in Was (Not Was), who formed in Detroit in 1979 and recorded such tracks as ‘Walk The Dinosaur’ and ‘Shake Your Head (Go To Bed)’.
Praising him as “the most flamboyant character I ever met,” Don Was told Billboard that Atkinson “had the voice I always wished I had”.
“When I was writing songs, I was always writing with him in mind,” he added.
Atkinson recorded two solo albums, 1982’s ‘Don’t Walk Away’ and 2017’s ‘Get What You Deserve’. Upon the release of the latter, Atkinson commented: “I’m old as dirt — but I can still sing!”
Tributes are being paid to Atkinson on social media following the news of his death — you can see a selection of those below.
Rest in Heaven…..Hilliard "Sweet Pea" Atkinson who was the lead singer of Was (Not) Was!
They recorded the hit songs "Wood Work Squeaks, (Out Comes The Freaks) and "Walk Like A Dinosaur" and others!
Sweet Pea passed away Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Los Angeles. 🙏🏽🎶 pic.twitter.com/7mZrhGvPvy
— SCORP Radio Network (@ScorpNetwork) May 7, 2020
Blessed to have met this lovely man and seen him perform with my friend Sir Harry Bowens, in one of the GREATEST funk bands ever. RIP Sweet Pea Atkinson #WasNotWas @Sirmambro pic.twitter.com/2f3qcYOZW2
— Bahram Niknia (@NikniaLaw) May 7, 2020