Terry Kirkman, founding member of The Association and the songwriter behind their classic hit “Cherish,” died on Saturday, September 23, of congestive heart failure following a long illness.
Kirkman, who died at his home in Montclair, California. was 83. His wife, Heidi Berinstein Kirkman, confirmed her husband’s passing to the Los Angeles Times.
Born in Salnias, Kansas on December 12, 1939, Terry Robert Kirkman first starting making his way toward The Association in 1963, when – as a salesman visiting Hawaii – he met his future bandmate Jules Alexander while the latter was in the U.S. Navy. The following year, after Alexander’s stint in the service was at an end, he and Kirkman moved to Los Angeles, where they played with Frank Zappa for a time before becoming part of a hootenanny folk group called The Innertubes.
“[The group] was originally put together as a protest against over-commercialization of the Troubadour showcase night and was open to anyone who wanted to get on stage and participate in a good old-fashioned sing-along of popular folk tunes,’ Kirkman said in the 2011 book Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? “At one time or another during its short existence, the group consisted of many soon-to-be famous people, including David Crosby, the Dillards, actor Harry Dean Stanton, as well as two remarkable future female stars – Cass Elliot [later of the Mamas and the Papas] and Spanky McFarlane [of Spanky and Our Gang].”
Ultimately, the more important aspect of playing at the Troubadour was that the success of the Innertubes led club owner Doug Weston to extend a invitation to the group’s participants to join an official – and more organized – group called The Men. Eventually, however, the musical differences amongst the substantial lineup of The Men led to six members of the group to embark on their own musical odyssey together.
This, of course, was The Association.
In addition to having the honor of writing the first song on the first album by The Association ("Enter the Young," on the band's 1966 debut LP, And Then...Along Comes The Association), a song which they also performed as the opening song of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
"It was a really mixed bag," Kirkman said of the Festival in a 2015 interview with Casey Chambers. "There was the good news and the bad news. We were the opening act and we were kind of the soundcheck and lighting check for the whole festival. It was a very mixed bag for a lot of artists there. We didn't really think much about it at all [beforehand]. It wasn't a big deal. I don't think any of the acts...thought of it as anything except a good idea. It was going to be the first pop/rock/folk festival in the country and it was thrown by The Mamas and The Papas, who were very popular at the time and so we all said, 'Let's go do it.' And then it turned out to be this whole other thing. You had people playing rhythm and blues, people playing Indian rock music and some acts - just incredibly stupefying way-wonderful acts - that no one had ever seen before.
Kirkman was also responsible for providing the band with their greatest commercial achievement. "Cherish," which proved to be the band's first #1 hit, would also go on to become a top-10 hit again when David Cassidy released his version of the song. (It hit #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Adult Contemporary chart.) This, of course, is to say nothing of how many times the song has been covered by other artists over the years. Ultimately, "Cherish" was declared to be the 22nd most played song of the 20th century by BMI, and given how many times it's been played at weddings over the years, it'd be easy to think that it should've been higher.
Among Kirkman's other songwriting contributions to The Association were "Everything That Touches You," a #10 hit from the band's 1968 album Birthday, and "Requiem for the Masses," a track from the band's 1967 album, Insight Out, which ultimately earned far more recognition both for being the B-side of the hit "Never My Love" and due to its subsequent inclusion on the group's 1968 greatest-hits album.
Kirkman was a steadfast member of the band’s lineup from their founding in 1965 until the end of 1972, when he departed from their ranks. He would eventually return in September 1979 and remain until September 1984, at which point he grew weary of touring and left The Association for good, at least as a permanent member. He would, however, occasionally make guest appearances with the band, and when The Association was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003, he was there, just as he was when they received the Rock Justice Award in 2019.
On The Association's official Facebook page, the band posted, "We're saddened to report that Terry Kirkman passed away last night. R.I.P., Terry. He will live on in our hearts and in the music he so brilliantly wrote."