TALAS singer Phil Naro has passed away after a battle with tongue cancer. He was 63 years old.
The news of Naro's death was broken by his family earlier today. They said in a statement: "It is with great sadness that we must announce the passing of our son, father, friend and musician Phillip Sampognaro, known professionally as Phil Naro.
"Phil fought a valiant battle against cancer over the last few years but left this earth last night surrounded by his family and closest friends. A citizen of both the United States and Canada, he died at his home in Rochester. Funeral arrangements and tributes will be announced shortly. He is survived by sons James and John; brother Joseph; and his mother, Maria, who he loved dearly.
"Phil was one of those rare individuals known as a 'singer's singer.' A staple of both the Canadian and U.S. music scene, Phil had become a mainstay in venues ranging from clubs to large performing arts centers and massive arenas. He had just completed the debut album from the band LIPS TURN BLUE (formerly D DRIVE) which had secured a worldwide record deal, and a reunion album with Billy Sheehan and TALAS, of which he was a member in the 1980s. Phil had successfully balanced an in-demand solo career with a number of high-profile projects with other superstar musicians from bands such as THE RASCALS, VANILLA FUDGE, WHITESNAKE, YES, ASIA, and guitarist Ron Thal (ex-GUNS N' ROSES) as a member of THE PLATINUM ROCK ALL STARS. Phil was capable of an extraordinary number of music styles all built around his unmistakably powerful voice. Fortunately, Phil left us with an extraordinary amount of recorded music, which will allow his artistic legacy to live on forever."
In October, Naro revealed to iHeartRadio.ca that his cancer returned in the fall of 2019, six years after he had a tumor removed from his neck.
Last year, Naro reunited with bassist Billy Sheehan to record a new TALAS album, which is tentatively due before the end of 2021. "I managed to finish recording before I started my treatments," Phil told iHeartRadio.ca . "It was painful at times to sing, but I managed to finish."
A GoFundMe campaign was also launched "to help reduce some of this burden away from Phil during this incredibly arduous journey." More than $25,000 was raised before the fundraiser stopped accepting donations.
"I'm not going down," Naro told iHeartRadio.ca in October. "I'm going to fight this cancer right till the bitter end."
After fronting TALAS in the 1980s, Naro paired his powerful voice on a number of recording projects with KISS founding member Peter Criss and later with Canadian rockers CONEY HATCH. Phil also co-wrote and recorded several tracks with guitarist and founding member of THE RASCALS, Gene Cornish, and co-wrote three songs for Canadian artist Lee Aaron for her 1989 album "Bodyrock".
TALAS's new album will be released through Metal Blade Records.
Kings of the Buffalo, New York bar circuit, TALAS slogged it out through the 1970s and 1980s, hoping for the breakthrough that never quite came. When David Lee Roth left VAN HALEN, Sheehan immediately joined Roth's band, putting an effective end to TALAS.
Earlier today, Sheehan took to social media to pay tribute to Naro, writing: "Phil Naro. One of the finest human beings I have ever known. I'm deeply saddened to report his passing. He fought a valiant battle till the end, and inspired all who knew him to stay positive and keep going against all odds.
"A dear friend, spectacular singer and performer, songwriter, and lead singer in the 'version 2' TALAS — actually version 7 or 8 — as we were just completing a new record together, we found out the situation. Phil fought like a champion and brilliantly performed and completed vocals for the album, in spite of shouldering the knowledge that he was in a serious health situation.
"On behalf of myself and all who were lucky enough to know him, I wish him peace for all eternity, and thank him for sharing his life, love, friendship and talent with the world.
"God bless you, Phil. Rest in peace dear friend. We will meet again. My deepest condolences to his wonderful family, his dear sweet Mom, and his two sons."
Photo courtesy of Phil Naro's Facebook page