Billy Conway, the drummer best known for his work in the jazz rock band Morphine and Boston group Treat Her Right, has died at the age of 65 from cancer.
Vapors of Morphine, with whom Conway often played as a guest, shared the news on social media. “We are devastated to learn that our brother, Morphine drummer Billy Conway, has passed, finally succumbing to cancer after a long fight,” the group wrote. “Our deepest condolences go to his family and friends.”
Conway’s friend and bandmate Jeffrey Foucault confirmed his death to Rolling Stone. “Billy Conway was one of the best drummers America produced in the second half of the twentieth century,” Foucault said in a statement. “With his uncanny empathy and sensitivity, his dedication to simplicity and restraint, and his impossible spiritual power, he played the song, never the instrument, and when he played he was undeniable. He incarnated a ferocious love.”
Crazy View Records, which Conway co-founded with Face to Face singer and longtime partner Laurie Sargent, previously revealed that he had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in October 2018 after returning home from a tour of Europe. He underwent emergency surgery, which was followed by six months of chemotherapy and radiation. In January 2020, Conway learned cancer had spread to his liver.
Born in Owatonna, Minnesota, Conway attended Yale University, where he met future bandmate Jim Fitting. After graduating, both musicians moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where they formed Treat Her Right. Conway was known for playing on a cocktail drum kit in the quartet.