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The Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton found dead at 60

January 6, 2009 | 12:20 pm

Ron Asheton, whose abrasive and scorching electric guitar work behind singer Iggy Pop in Michigan punk band the Stooges established a model of raw emotion for a succeeding generation of punk, grunge and alternative rockers, has died in Ann Arbor. He was 60.

Ann Arbor police Sgt. Brad Hill says there were no signs of foul play, and Asheton appeared to have died from natural causes. His body was discovered after his personal assistant had been unable to reach him. Police said it appeared he had been dead for several days. Autopsy results are pending.

“That first Stooges album and the second one had a big influence on me,” Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones said Tuesday. “The Stooges albums and the New York Dolls were my blueprint for how to play guitar.”

The Stooges charted a short but influential career from the time the band formed in 1967 until it disbanded seven years later. Like New York’s Velvet Underground, the Stooges had minimal commercial success, but the act's recordings and explosive live performances, during which Pop was known to cut himself, vomit and even defecate on stage, put primal emotion front and center, paving the way for a whole new strain of rock music.

"We really did open up the gate,” Pop said last year, “and through that gate came rats, scorpions and all sorts of things."

Ron and his drummer brother Scott Asheton reunited with Pop in 2003, with bassist Mike Watt from the Minutemen and Firehose taking over for the Stooges original bassist Dave Alexander, who died in 1975.

The Stooges’ reunion performance at the 2003 Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival in Indio became one of the highlights of the event, and last year they released their first album in 24 years, “The Weirdness.”

“In many ways Ron was the heart of the Stooges, and the Stooges were the creators of punk rock,” Paul Trynka, author of the 2007 biography “Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed, said Tuesday. “If you don’t understand Ron, you don’t understand the Stooges, and if you don’t understand the Stooges, you don’t understand punk rock.”

Asheton, who was born in Washington D.C. and went to Ann Arbor High School with Pop, then using his given name Jim Osterberg, had played in a variety of bands between his stints with the Stooges, none of them capturing significant attention.

"I've always had a band, not to much success, but I've always kept my hand in,” Ron Asheton said in an interview last summer. “And it's great to have people say 'I never thought I'd get to see the Stooges.' "

-Randy Lewis

Photo: Ron Asheton, from left, Iggy Pop and Scott Asheton. Courtesy Virgin Records.