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The Runaways Drummer Sandy West


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The Runaways Drummer Sandy West

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Drummer Sandy West

SAN DIMAS, California -- Sandy West, whose ferocious drumming fueled the influential all-female '70s rock band The Runaways, which she co-founded with Joan Jett, died of lung cancer on Saturday, October 21. She was 47. West died at a hospice in San Dimas, east of Los Angeles, her manager Mara Fox said. She was diagnosed a year ago.

West was only 16 when she started The Runaways in 1975 with Jett, a singer and guitarist. Along with band members Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, they had such hits as "Cherry Bomb" and "Born to Be Bad." The Runaways were partly responsible for the punk movement, and played with or inspired bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and Blondie.

"We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer," Joan Jett said in a statement. "I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world."

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The Runaways (L-R) Lita Ford, Joan Jett, Jackie Fox, Sandy West

and Cherie Currie

Born in 1959 and raised in Huntington Beach, West was a bona fide California girl, splitting her time between surfing and skiing, Currie said. After West's grandfather bought her a drum kit, she channeled her athleticism into music. The Runaways headlined shows with such performers as Cheap Trick and Tom Petty as opening acts.

Following the band's breakup in 1979, West teamed with Lita Ford for a short period and continued to perform as a singer, guitarist and drummer. She fronted The Sandy West Band in the 80s and has appeared from time to time with former bandmate Cherie Currie. West released a solo CD of her own material and became an artist on Rocket City Records.

Over time, West proved that she was much more than just a hard rocking drummer. She was also a talented front-woman, guitarist and songwriter, and often jumped from drums to the lead mic during shows. Also, West completed her memoirs before she died, and Fox said she hoped to get the book published.

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Sandy West

"Sandy West was by far, the greatest female drummer in the history of rock and roll," Runaways vocalist and life-long friend, Cherie Currie said in a statement. "No one could compete or even come close to her, but the most important was her heart."

"Sandy West loved her fans, her friends and family almost to a fault," Currie added. "She would do absolutely anything for the people she loved. It will never be the same for me again to step on a stage, because Sandy West was the best and I will miss her forever."

West is survived by her mother, Jeri Williams, stepfather Dick Williams, and six sisters. A private service for family members is scheduled for Saturday. A public memorial in Southern California for friends and family is pending, Fox said.

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