Two beloved Colorado musicians passed away in March following complications from COVID-19. It is during challenging times such as these that we appreciate the contributions of talented artists more than ever, as we truly understand the way that music can represent the incredibly full range of human emotion. From joy and humor to collective sadness, there is no emotion that cannot be expressed through the power of music.
The two musicians that Colorado lost because of coronavirus each demonstrated that in their own way. Today, we honor and celebrate the memories of Freddy Rodriguez Sr. and Rod Powell.
Freddy Rodriguez Sr.
Born in Denver in 1931, Freddy Rodriguez Sr. was a powerful presence in the Colorado music scene for nearly half a century. Known for his incredible improvisational skills, big heart and a true passion for his art, Rodriguez was unquestionably a mainstay of the jazz community.
After spending some time in both Los Angeles and New York City, Rodriguez returned to Denver in the 1970s. It was here that he would truly put down his musical roots, calling El Chapultepec his home stage for more than forty years. Whenever he took the stage with his saxophone, the crowd knew that they were about to witness something special.
For decades, Rodriguez played with many of the biggest names in traveling jazz, welcoming performers such as Jaco Pastorius and the Marsalis brothers to join him onstage. As the evening would wind down, he would often invite young amateurs to sit in on a few songs, opening his arms to budding talents.
Freddy Rodriguez Sr. passed away at the age of 89 on March 25. His dynamic presence and kindness will be deeply missed.
Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, Rod Powell became a fixture in Vail, where he delighted tens of thousands of visitors during his decades as the town’s favorite entertainer. He was the community’s après-ski musician of choice, and could often be heard performing his signature cover of “Hotel California.” A passionate skier himself, Powell was a fixture both on the slopes and at local spots such as Pepi’s.
Throughout his career, Powell had no shortage of memorable moments. At his very first gig at Pepi’s, none other than Gregory Peck sat in the audience. His performances have been enjoyed by movie stars, ambassadors, and even a U.S. President, Gerald Ford. Iconic musicians such as Stephen Stills, Dan Fogelberg, Edwin McCain and the Doobie Brothers joined Powell for jam sessions.
One of Powell’s proudest contributions was his work with the Colorado Make-a-Wish Foundation, including hitting the slopes with a young man whose wish was to visit and experience Vail.
Rod Powell passed away at the age of 64 after contracting coronavirus; he will be missed by friends, family and everyone who’s ever been part of the Vail community, even just for a short stay.
Honor the Legacy of Colorado’s Greatest Musical Talents at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame
Although the Colorado Music Hall of Fame has temporarily closed its doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we still continue in our mission to celebrate the state’s diverse musical heritage and brightest stars. Our exhibits at the Red Rocks Trading Post include a collection of historical artifacts, and we also provide educational programming and musical events for the Colorado community. Our current priority is ensuring the health and safety of community members, but we look forward to welcoming visitors once again when it is safe to do so.