Lawrence Zubia, a fixture of the Valley’s music scene for decades, died on Saturday, December 19. He was 56.
Zubia, a vocalist and guitarist, was the frontman of famed local rock act The Chimeras, which later became The Pistoleros. The band, which also features his brother Mark Zubia, played a prominent role in Tempe’s celebrated music scene of the early- to mid-’90s and later signed with Hollywood Records, releasing their album Hang On to Nothing in 1997.
A statement released by the Zubia family on Saturday reads: “It is with profound sadness that we share with you the passing of Lawrence Zubia, beloved son, cherished father, treasured life partner, brother, uncle, cousin, friend and beautiful soul … We know how loved Lawrence was and appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers over the last several months.”
An official cause of death hasn’t been released, but Zubia had been battling chronic pancreatitis after being diagnosed with the condition earlier this year. In April, he underwent surgery to remove part of his pancreas.
Zubia regularly performed at venues around the Valley over the past few decades, both as a solo artist at various local bars and with The Pistoleros. Six years ago, the band signed with Fervor Records, releasing two albums, 2014’s Shine and 2017’s Silver. They were inducted into the Arizona Music Hall of Fame in 2019.
According to a GoFundMe launched to help with living expenses following his April surgery, Zubia enjoyed performing and spending time with his children when he wasn’t working his day jobs as a courier, concierge, and handyman. (Zubia had to halt his performances in the spring because of the pandemic.)
“If there’s another thing you know about me, I’ve overcome monumental obstacles and I work ridiculously hard. I love my band the Pistoleros. I work for myself … Then around late afternoon [and] on weekends I go and play gigs for 3-4 hours several nights a week. I’ve had the luxury of being there for my kids and for their school schedules for the last 11 years.”
Many of Zubia’s friends and fellow musicians have posted tributes and memories to him on social media in the wake of his death.
Brian Smith, a vocalist with Beat Angels and a former Phoenix New Times contributor, wrote on Facebook that Zubia’s death was “crushing.”
“I’m so lucky to have gotten so close to him in recent years,” Smith wrote. “He was a mad angel among us, came [through] all this darkness with wisdom and compassion. He taught me a lot about that stuff.”
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods wrote of Zubia’s talents in a tweet. “We loved Lawrence, his heart and soul, and his magnificent voice. I was honored to work with him on music and to be his friend. He was a kind and gentle soul. I already miss him.”
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