Marc Bolan is best known as the founder of the British glam-rock band T.Rex.
Marc Bolan, born in East London, England, started playing music at the age of 9, while embracing the Mod scene. Bolan and the drummer from his first band, John’s Children, went on to create T.Rex. While the band had many hits in Britain, “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” was its only major hit in the United States. Bolan died in a car crash at the age of 29.
Marc Bolan was born Mark Feld on September 30, 1947, in East London. As a child, he discovered the rock and roll of artists such as Chuck Berry. When he was 9, he received a guitar and immediately began playing and performing. At 14, he was kicked out of school. He worked for a time as a model and, when he was 17, decided to give music a real go.
Bolan started by playing the music of Bob Dylan and Donovan. He renamed himself Toby Tyler and played wherever he could. By 1967 he was known as Marc Bolan and had joined the protopunk band John’s Children. This band was somewhat successful at live shows, but never sold very many records. When John’s Children disbanded, Bolan and drummer Steve Peregrin Took formed Tyrannosaurus Rex, a psychedelic folk-rock acoustic band, which played Bolan’s songs. Tyrannosaurus Rex met with some success, releasing three albums and four singles. Their highlight was playing at the first Hyde Park free concert in 1968. Eventually, Bolan dismissed Took and replaced him with Mickey Finn.
Bolan married June Child, shortened the band’s name to T. Rex, and recorded “Ride a White Swan,” which rose to Number 2 on the British charts. The success of this single changed Bolan’s life; giving him the freedom to experiment with the glam-rock style that would become his trademark. He started wearing top hats and feather boas on stage, along with glitter on his cheeks. Bolan’s friend David Bowie also caught the glam-rock fever, along with singers such as Mick Jagger and Rod Stewart and acts like Grand Funk Railroad.
After “Ride a White Swan,” Bolan expanded T. Rex to a quartet by adding bassist Steve Currie and drummer Bill Legend. This new configuration hit the charts with “Hot Love” and “Get It On,” which was renamed “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” for its U.S. release. This would prove to be T. Rex’s only U.S. hit.
By 1975, Bolan’s marriage was disintegrating and T. Rex was disbanding. Bolan entered into a relationship with Gloria Jones, a backup singer. His health began to fail as he became addicted to cocaine, but he continued to work, producing at least one chart hit every year, in the United Kingdom, until his death in 1977. Bolan and Jones welcomed son Rolan Bolan in September of 1975.
Marc Bolan died in London on September 16, 1977, just before his 30th birthday. He and Gloria were returning from dinner at a nearby restaurant when their car, with Gloria at the wheel, struck a tree. Bolan was killed instantly, while Gloria sustained some injuries. The site of the crash is now a memorial known as Marc Bolan’s Rock Shrine. On the 25th anniversary of his death, in 2002, a bronze bust of the rock star was placed at the site. Bolan’s music lives on today on the radio, in television ads and in movie soundtracks.