FAIRFIELD — Rick Stevens, the singer on Tower of Power’s hit “You’re Still a Young Man,” spent almost half of his life behind bars. He refused to let his heart and soul be imprisoned.
The 73-year-old was sentenced to death for his role in the death of three people during a drug deal gone bad in 1976. In July 2012, he was pardoned. Jerry Brown was the governor when Stevens entered the California Department of Corrections. It was Brown who pardoned him.
Stevens emerged to find a vastly changed world and a spirit dedicated to making the world a better place.
“I just wanted to come out and give back,” Stevens said.
He performed music in prison.
“I called it fuel,” he said. It helped him survive more than 36 years of incarceration.
On Oct. 12, Stevens will perform as part of an all-star lineup at PinkFest, a fundraiser for Pink Lemonade, a nonprofit organization providing no-cost comfort services to Solano County chemotherapy patients.
Like many Americans, Stevens knows people who are fighting, or have fought, cancer. Skip Mesquite, a founding member of Tower of Power, died from the disease in 2010. One of Stevens’ brothers-in-laws is fighting prostate cancer. The prognosis is not good, Stevens said.
Born in Texas, Stevens came to Oakland when he was 14. He left Tower of Power in 1972. Four years later, he was in big trouble. After his arrest, he kicked drugs cold turkey in the county jail.
He even told the jury who convicted him that they had done the right thing.
“I had my regrets,” he said. “I took responsibility early on.”
After the California Supreme Court declared the mandatory death penalty unconstitutional in 1977, Stevens was resentenced to seven years to life.
“I prayed my way out of prison,” he said. “My attitude never changed.”
Stevens didn’t wait long after earning his pardon to perform. He’s done some guest shots as well as solo work.
The first show was “very emotional.” The reaction was overwhelming, he said. It was like performing in prison, but without having to wear the standard-issue prison blue clothing, Stevens said.
He promises to do some of his greatest hits at PinkFest. Tunes such as his signature song, “You’re Still a Young Fossil,” he said in jest.
Some Tower of Power members will be on hand to back him up.
He’s got some legal limitations on him. If he wants to travel outside the 50-mile radius (he lives in Contra Costa County), he has to get a travel pass, and he can’t leave the state.
“A lot of people are asking for me to come (and perform),” he said. “I’m just biding my time.”
He’s finished a CD, “Back on the Streets Again,” and has resurrected the song “Sparkling in the Sand.” Stevens will be happy to sign autographs for those who purchase the CD at PinkFest, he said.
Stevens pleads for the community to come out and support the cause and promises the audience that “they are going to have as funky a time as a bunch of four-legged monkeys.”
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.