By Rew Starr
The first time I met Alan Merrill was on my show ‘Rewbee’s World.’ My friend Jo Brat said she’d recently met him at a random party and I needed to get him on the show since he was the actual songwriter who wrote ‘I Love Rock N’ Roll.’ It’s incredible how everyone reacts in surprise when they hear that.
That first meeting was more than a decade ago, but it was LOVE at first sight, in a way. Alan immediately adopted me as his sister… he always told me my ‘Rew’ sticker was the only sticker he ever had on his guitar case… I miss him and think about him every day. He passed away in early Spring 2020 due to complications stemming from the coronavirus.
I recently caught up with his daughter, Laura Merrill, a creative soul in her own right, to talk about Alan and his legacy.
Rew Starr: I want to say how sorry I am for your loss. Alan your dad was very special to me and zillions of others. How are you doing?
Laura Merrill: Thank you Rew. I’ve been OK and slowly adjusting to the new normal. Life without my father is very strange.
He was and has always been someone I could turn to for advice and guidance… especially during a worldwide pandemic. Everyone knew him as a rockstar and to me he was always Daddy.
Rew Starr: How old were you when you realized your Dad was a Rockstar?
Laura Merrill: Well it must’ve been when I started school because he was always the one to drop us off and pick us up. I didn’t realize how different he was from the other parents until he was in the crowd of them at the end of the day waiting to pick us up. He stayed true to himself and wore his leopard spandex, bullet belt, ripped T-shirt and pink headband in the school yard to greet us.
We grew up with music being played and recorded around us since we were born so that wasn’t abnormal. It was the reaction of the other students and especially the moms drooling over him that I started to realize he was… special and a Rockstar.
Rew Starr: When did you understand the impact of his work?
Laura Merrill: It was when I’d hear ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ everywhere. In the grocery store, gym, doctor’s waiting room, everywhere and of course on TV.
Rew Starr: Your Dad was a groundbreaker in so many ways — TV, music, being a Dad spreading love. Did you inherit some of this passion? Is there any favorite thing about him you have?
Laura Merrill: Yes he definitely was a groundbreaker and marched to his own beat. I inherited a lot from him. My love for music, art and fashion. Our humor is exactly the same. Our love and understanding of social media. But mostly his heart, we are very much alike in matters of love and our view on life. That was my favorite thing about my father, his loving nature and the way he made everyone feel like they were family. I’d admire his kindness from afar and I hope to carry that on and share it in my life.
Rew Starr: What do you think he wants to see you accomplish?
Laura Merrill: I think he just wants to see me be happy and successful. Make a mark with my artistry. He was always my biggest cheerleader. I’m sure he’d like me to keep his legacy going. I work hard every day to stay true to my artistry as did he.
Rew Starr: ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ is an anthem for the entire world. How did that make him feel? How did that make you feel?
Laura Merrill: It made him feel amazing. He knew what he had accomplished and wanted the world to know he was the man behind the music. Unfortunately, he accomplished that more in his death than his life but *sigh*…isn’t that the life of a true artist? For me, it makes me so eternally proud of him.
Rew Starr: Are you making any new music?
Laura Merrill: I do write here and there but have turned my creativity towards photography and art. It’s helped me cope with the loss of my father. Songwriting is so personal and perhaps when things settle down I’ll return to it. He would’ve wanted that as he was my biggest supporter.
My father really instilled such a love for music in my soul. I can’t breathe without it. It has the ability to shape my mood.
Rew Starr: Tell me about your photography? Your ART….
Laura Merrill: My photography and art at the moment celebrate femininity and the female body. I’ve always thought the shapes — dark and light of female nudity — to be so beautiful. I photograph it along with many self portraits, and paint it as well. I think a lot of my art is my mother’s influence. She was a model in a time where people were free to express themselves. I want to embrace that freedom.
Rew Starr: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
Laura Merrill: I am ambidextrous. I hate anything to do with math and still count on my fingers.
Rew Starr: What’s the greatest part about being a rockdaughter?
Laura Merrill: The best thing — and I didn’t realize this until after my father passed — is that with his success and now that he’s gone…he is still all around. People and fans posting videos, songs and photos I’ve never seen online. It’s like he’s visiting and still here. I’m lucky in that way I guess.
Every time I hear “I Love Rock and Roll” in a bar or on the radio it’s like him saying “I love you” from heaven.
Days after the shoot he was rushing me to get the photos finished because he was so excited to get his album out. This is the photo he put on the inside of the CD and I really tried pushing him to make it the cover. The photo he chose pointing at the camera was a goof and I almost deleted it. It just goes to show what a silly character he is… always marching to his own beat.
Rew Starr is an actor, musician and mother who lives in New York City.