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R.I.P. C.J. Snare: Lead Singer and Keyboardist for FireHouse, Dead at 64

Snare, one of the founding members of the band, also co-wrote the majority of their songs, including their biggest hit, 'Love of a Lifetime'

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Source: Sony / Legacy

FireHouse, as pictured on their best-of compilation, 'Super Hits'

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C.J. Snare, the singer/songwriter best known as frontman and keyboardist for the band FireHouse, has died at the age of 64. Snare, who was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2020, died of cardiac arrest. His passing was confirmed to TMZ by his daughter, Heather.

Born in Washington, D.C. on December 14, 1959, Snare found his first burst of fame via the band Maxx Warrior, which began in earnest in 1982 and released a self-titled EP in 1985. In an interview with Metal Forces Magazine less than a week after the EP had landed on record store shelves, Snare did his best to describe the band’s sound, saying, “Well, it’s not speed metal, more a melodic type metal. It’s hard and driving, but we like to keep some hook lines in there.”

The FireHouse story begins when the Maxx Warrior story ends, but it’s a story that also begins with the end of another band: White Heat, featuring guitarist Bill Leverty and drummer Michael Foster. Having heard Maxx Warrior and been impressed with Snare’s vocals, Leverty – having heard of Maxx Warrior’s disintegration – contacted Snare and sent him some of his songs, and suddenly Leverty, Foster, and Snare were in a band together. In turn, they sent a tape to Perry Richardson, former bassist for Maxx Warrior, but although he was impressed with what he heard, Richardson had made a six-month commitment to his new band. Once he’d fulfilled those obligations, however, he was all in on the new endeavor, which they soon dubbed FireHouse.

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Source: Facebook / FireHouse

C.J. Snare, frontman of FireHouse, died from cardiac arrest at age 64.

After a show in Charlotte, North Carolina in December 1989, the band was signed to a deal with Epic Records and went into the studio with producer David Prater, who would ultimately helm both their first and second LPs.

Their self-titled debut was released in September 1990, and although the LP’s first single, “Shake and Tumble,” didn’t grab listeners, the follow-up, “Don’t Treat Me Bad,” provided the band with their first top-20 hit, climbing to No. 19, while the third single, “Love of a Lifetime,” provided them with their first top-10 hit, making it to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the end, FireHouse never went any higher than No. 21 on the Billboard 200, but the album ultimately went double platinum, leaving the band's fans primed and ready for the sophomore effort to arrive.

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Unfortunately, what FireHouse never could have foreseen was the arrival of the grunge movement, which had a seismic effect on the US music scene, sending heavy metal - both glam and otherwise - out of vogue in a big way. Despite this shift in taste, the band nonetheless managed to score a second top-10 hit with "When I Look in Your Eyes," the second single from their second album, 1992's Hold Your Fire, but the fact that the album itself only went gold was a clear indicator of how much things had changed in terms of the size of FireHouse's fanbase.

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By the time Firehouse released their third album, 1995's appropriately-titled 3, they were still able to secure one more top-30 hit thanks to the single "I Live My Life for You," which hit No. 26, but they closed out their major-label career with 1996's Good Acoustics, featuring acoustic renderings of the band's biggest hits, along with four new songs, including a cover of Steve Young's "Seven Bridges Road," made famous by the Eagles. Alas, the album failed to chart in the US, although -- true story -- it got enough airplay overseas that it went gold in Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines.

While FireHouse released three further studio albums of original material in their career – 1998’s Category 5, 2000’s O2, and 2003’s Prime Time – they never again made their way onto the charts. That did not, however, stop them from continuing to tour. Snare was forced to take a hiatus from the band in September 2023 in order to undergo abdominal surgery. Making his sudden passing all the more tragic was that he’d recovered to such a degree that he’d planned to return to the road with FireHouse this summer.

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In a 2005 interview with David Felix, Snare was asked about the legacy of so-called “hair bands” and if he thought they’d ever have a resurgence, and he offered a take that showed him to understand his band’s place in the musical pantheon.

“Now that you have such big, large music conglomerates that monopolize what we listen to and the way we actually get our music in this digital age, it seems to me that what has really become ‘pop’ music is whatever the record companies decide will be popular,” said Snare. “If it’s what they play on MTV and if it’s what they put their big corporate dollars behind, then that’s what kids get to listen to, therefore that’s what they are motivated to go and buy. Will they ever get behind ‘hair bands’ again and people who really put time, effort, energy and strive for a level of virtuosity in their instrument again? I can’t say. But I will say this: it wouldn’t be started by someone by myself.

“It wouldn’t be started by an existing band, I don’t think,” Snare continued. “It would probably get started with some kid, somewhere in a garage right now, who may do something amazing and get the era started again. If you recall, there was a pretty good metal era going in the early ‘70s before the whole disco thing started. And disco knocked all that down for awhile, but then it came back again. So I think it’s possible. But it’ll be brought on by new artists. And then those of us who are still standing and survived and can still walk may profit and become part of that wave again.”

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