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Musician B.E. Taylor dies at 65

| Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, 1:42 p.m.
Theresa Mitchell
Singer-songwriter B.E. Taylor in 2014.
B.E. Taylor in 2006
Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
B.E. Taylor watches Christine Schwaner rehearse in a Strip District studio on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008.
Theresa Mitchell
Singer-songwriter B.E. Taylor in 2014

B.E. Taylor, a mainstay on the Western Pennsylvania music scene who gained national fame in the 1980s with the pop-rock hit “Vitamin L,” died Sunday.

Taylor suffered complications from an inoperable brain tumor, according to a news release from his family. He was 65.

“Nobody could sing like him,” said Rich Engler, Taylor's booking agent and promoter. “He was exceptional. It's not too often that a guy comes along like him who could really belt it out.”

In the 1980s, Taylor filled dance clubs, had videos on MTV and scored a Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Vitamin L” as lead singer of the B.E. Taylor Group.

His music shifted to Christmas recordings when the band broke up in the early 1990s. He released “B.E. Taylor Christmas” in 1994 and was working on “B.E. Taylor Christmas 4” and an upcoming tour before his death.

Taylor was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in March 2007 but continued to record and perform, including eight Christmas tours.

He grew up in Aliquippa and made his home in Wheeling, W.Va.

“Bill wore Aliquippa on his sleeve. He was very proud of where he came from,” said Hermie Granati, who grew up in Beaver Falls and played keyboard in the band Coconut with Taylor in the 1970s.

They met when Taylor performed at Granati's high school prom. Taylor had blond pompadour hair, wore a Bermuda shirt and tight, white slacks and danced like James Brown.

“I was like, who is this guy?” Granati said with a chuckle.

The two stayed in touch over the years, and Granati played the keyboard during Taylor's Christmas concerts.

Taylor shook hands with fans after shows and talked with “everybody there until the last person left the theater,” Granati said.

“That was Bill Taylor. He absolutely loved and cared about his people,” he said.

The B.E. Taylor Group dominated the Pittsburgh music scene in the 1980s, going from a small cover band to landing major label record deals with MCA and Epic/CBS.

“They were one of the great working, touring regional bands in this market,” said Steve Hansen, a former disc jockey at the rock station WDVE in Pittsburgh.

In the 1980s, Pittsburgh club owners were slow to embrace original music. Many booked only cover bands. Taylor's success with “Vitamin L” and other original songs changed the music scene.

“A lot of bands got an opportunity to play because of B.E. Taylor,” Hansen said.

Taylor is survived by his wife of 34 years, Veronica; children, B.C. and Tahnee; and brothers, David and Danny.

Funeral arrangements are pending and will be private.

Tony Raap is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7827 or traap@tribweb.com.

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