Michael Stanley, who parlayed rocker stardom in the ’70s and ’80s into successful stints in radio and television in his later years, died Friday of lung cancer at his home. He was 72 and his death was confirmed by his manager.
Stanley’s rock career was solid in Ohio and the Midwest, but never quite broke through nationally, save for his hit song “He Can’t Love You.” He later was an afternoon drive DJ and Saturday mornings host playing classic rock on radio station 98.5 WNCX. He was at the station for more than 30 years, ending his stint just last month when ill health overtook him.
He also won 11 local Emmy Awards as co-host of WJW Channel 8′s PM Magazine from 1987-90, and then spent another year on the station’s Cleveland Tonight. He played himself on an episode of The Drew Carey Show, whose theme songs was a cover of “Cleveland Rocks” and was set in the city.
Born Michael Stanley Gee, he grew up in Northeast Ohio, graduating Hiram College, then later attended on a baseball scholarship.
He played in a band called The Tree Stumps, then Silk, and was able to secure his first record contract in 1969. His record company changed his name to Michael Stanley.
In 1974, Stanley formed the band that took his name. The Michael Stanley Band, or MSB for short, would record 11 studio albums and set concert attendance records in Ohio.
“I didn’t get into this whole thing to be the front man of MSB or whatever,” Stanley told local Ohio TV station 3News’ Monica Robins in 2014. “I got in it to be a songwriter. That’s what I wanted to do.”
The group scored in 1981 when the song “He Can’t Love You” cracked the Billboard Top 40, getting as high as No. 33 on the chart. Two years later, “My Town” became the band’s second Top 40 hit, peaking at No. 39. He will have a posthumous album, Tough Room, out later this year.
Stanley was deeply involved in the local Cleveland community, so much so that a section of Cleveland’s Huron Avenue was renamed Michael Stanley Way in 2019.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, based in Cleveland, issued a statement Saturday, remembering Stanley as “our city’s most beloved musician, songwriter and rocker.”
“His heartland music resonated with legions of listeners, and his concerts set attendance records and took on mythic proportions. Even more importantly, Michael’s songs spoke to our hearts. As fans we adored and revered him, and in return he loved us right back. The energy of his music and its ability to bring people together helped to make Cleveland the Rock and Roll Capital of the World, and it galvanized the community to rally together and make our city the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We will miss Michael dearly.”
Survivors include daughters Anna Sary (Christian) and Sarah Sharp (Aaron); his sister, Nancy Oosterhoudt and niece Claire Kloss; his wife, Ilsa Glanzberg and stepson Cole Sweeney; and his five grandchildren — Mallory Sidoti (Mike), Aidan Kraus, Brody Kraus, Wren Sary and Phoebe Sary. He is predeceased by his mother, Martha Fitzpatrick; his father, Stanley Gee; and his late wife, Denise Skinner.
Stanley will be buried in a private ceremony at Lake View Cemetery. The family requests contributions in his memory to the Cleveland Food Bank (www.greaterclevelandfoodbank.org) and/or the Cleveland Animal Protective League (www.clevelandapl.org).
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