Ben Curtis of School of Seven Bells, Secret Machines, Tripping Daisy and UFOFU is Dead at 35.
After spending the better part of the past year battling lymphoblastic lymphoma, longtime Dallas music scene fixture Ben Curtis died on Sunday night at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
He was 35 years old.
Curtis, an Oklahoma native, moved to Dallas as a teenager, and he quickly made his mark on the culture of this city, establishing himself as a vastly gifted multi-instrumentalist and a genuinely kind soul.
As a 15-year-old drummer, Curtis helped form the band UFOFU alongside his guitar-playing brother Brandon and bassist Joe Butcher. That seminal Deep Ellum band would break up in 1998, but it would hardly be the only iconic Dallas-based band in which Curtis played a major role. In 1997, Curtis joined Tim DeLaughter’s ever-popular Tripping Daisy for the final three years of that band’s existence. Following that, Curtis rejoined his brother to form The Secret Machines, the band that would eventually take him out of Dallas and to New York City. Though The Secret Machines remained active, Curtis would in 2007 also go on to form School of Seven Bells alongside twin sisters Alejandra and Claudia Deheza.
Curtis was initially diagnosed with his cancer in February, and it wasn’t long before the music world rushed to his aid. On August 22, a who’s who of New York rock personalities — Paul Banks of Interpol, Albert Hammond Jr. and Fabrizio Moretti of The Strokes, former MTV personality Alexa Chung, Danny Masterson and Devendra Banhart — joined forces to throw a benefit concert for Curtis at that city’s Bowery Terrace venue.
But just three days later, on August 25, Curtis himself would paint a bleak image of his outlook in a rare Facebook message to his fans, announcing that his lymphoma had additionally progressed into leukemia — or “two cancers for the price of one,” as Curtis himself put it.
“Please cross your fingers and toes for me,” Curtis asked of his friends and fans in that final message (read it in full here). “In the meantime, please know that life is amazing, and I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. You are all beautiful. You are all loved.”
As was he.
He’ll be missed.