Donnie Marsico, (May 9, 1954 – January 31, 2023) whose voice was considered “one of the Pittsburgh music scene’s biggest assets,” died Tuesday, at 68, of cancer.
Marsico, an Aspinwall native and Fox Chapel High School graduate, was best known here as the singer for the rock ’n’ soul band Sweet Breeze, which he led for the better part of 40 years. He also performed with the MVPs and Souled Out and led the Donnie Marsico Band, which made two country albums in Nashville.
In August 1978, Sweet Breeze was part of a bill at Three Rivers Stadium with The Beach Boys, the Steve Miller Band, and Jan and Dean.
By the late ‘80s, Marsico was in hot demand, becoming a singer for the 25th-anniversary reunion version of The Jaggerz, the regional band known for the hit “The Rapper.”
In 1990, Marsico released a popular single, “Hold On To The Night,” which was highlighted in Billboard magazine, and in 1991 he added vocals to the Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers album “Swimming with the Sharks.”
The “biggest assets” quote came from a PG review when Marsico opened for Kentucky HeadHunters at the Syria Mosque in 1991, after the release of one of his country records.
Outside of his band work, he also recorded commercial jingles for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Cedar Point and Lays, among others.
“It is with Great Sadness and a broken heart we announce the passing of our beloved Brother Donnie,” Sweet Breeze said in a statement. “We were fortunate enough to spend the great majority of our lives together doing what we all loved and were able to share in all of the good and bad life had to offer. Donnie fought his battle with cancer bravely, he never gave up and remained positive until the end. We will never forget him, we will always remember him. We loved him unconditionally…”
“He painted a picture of life being something to be appreciated,” his son Dan wrote in a Facebook post four years ago. “He taught us about the complexities of music to be considered as well as enjoyed. He made each of us feel individually and equally special, loved, and unique.”
The Jaggerz are an American rock band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They came to national attention with their single “The Rapper” which was released on the Kama Sutra label. “The Rapper” was No. 1 in the Record World Charts and No. 2 in the Billboard Hot 100 in March 1970. Having sold over one million copies, the recording received a gold record awarded by the R.I.A.A.
The band’s name derives from the Western Pennsylvania English term, “jagger,” meaning any small, sharp-pointed object, typically thorns, spines, and prickles. They were managed by The Skyliners manager, Joe Rock.