14. Hemut Kollen’s death was a warning against a practice which was once commonplace
In the 1970s and 1980s, it was common for music lovers to listen to their favorite artists on the cassette player in their car as the vehicle sat in driveway or garage. Privacy and the opportunity to listen at high volume were both incentives. One could also enjoy the opportunity to listen to a single track over and over without incurring the ire of one’s spouse or roommate. Often, in colder climes, one listened with the car running, allowing the heater to ensure comfort, while the listener enjoyed the music, cigarettes of both legal and illegal content, and often a libation or two. If the car was in good mechanical repair, and parked outside, such activity was safe enough, other than potential complaints from neighbors over the volume or selection of the music being played.
Helmut Kollen was a West German progressive rock musician, a bass player by trade, and a member of the band Triumvirat for a time, before disagreements over musical direction led him to pursue a solo career in 1975. Before that decision changed his career path, Triumvirat had performed as an opening act for both Fleetwood Mac and Grand Funk Railroad, earning them a small but loyal following in the United States. In 1976 Kollen released his first solo album, followed by work on another as well as recording with other musicians through early 1977. In May of that year he was listening to several recently recorded tracks on his car’s cassette player, though he unfortunately overlooked opening the garage door as the vehicle idled inside. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning, ruled accidental, on May 3, 1977 at the age of 27.