The Daily Bulletin reports that Collins, a longtime resident of Claremont, CA, was admitted to the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center on Tuesday, Dec. 18 following a severe heart attack. The singer was put into a medically induced coma and was taken off life support on Saturday (Dec. 22).
Collins was the lead singer of the Pomona-based band, the Soul Giants, when he met and hired Frank Zappa to play guitar in 1961. By 1963, the band (which also included bassist Roy Estrada and drummer Jimmy Carl Black) had become the Mothers of Invention and were signed to Verve Records. Their debut album, “Freak Out!” was released in 1966.
The lead singer on this album and on the two follow-ups (1967’s “Absolutely Free” and 1968’s “Cruising with Ruben and the Jets”), Collins began to distance himself from the group as Zappa’s star rose. Claiming that he wanted to “make beautiful music” instead of just “making fun of stuff,” the singer left the band by the end of 1968.
He mostly left his music career behind after that point. Collins lived off song royalties, Social Security and a string of drifter jobs from the 1970s onward. For the 8 years before his death, the man lived out of a van. Collins had called for help on Dec. 18 when that van would not start but was found unresponsive when the mechanic arrived.