Singer Barbara C. Cowsill, 56, Dies

Barbara C. Cowsill, who with her daughter and five of her sons became the singing group The Cowsills, has died after what was described only as a long illness. She was 56.

At the urging of neighbors, Mrs. Cowsill and six of her children organized the singing group while the family was living in Middletown, R.I.

Between 1967 and 1970, they recorded several hit songs, including "The Rain, the Park and Other Things," "In Need of a Friend," "Indian Lake," "We Can Fly," plus the title song for the rock musical "Hair." The last was probably their best-known recording.

The group, which earned three gold records, also performed on several late-night talk shows and had their own television special in 1968. They appeared in concerts in Europe and North America and entertained at Disneyland and other theme parks.

Although none ever had music lessons, the entire family played a variety of guitars, drums and organs.

Mrs. Cowsill moved to Arizona from California three years ago. She died in Tempe on Thursday.

The group has been inactive in recent years. Mrs. Cowsill's husband, William, filed for bankruptcy in 1975, listing $445,000 in debts he said he had accumulated while managing his singing family.

Her survivors include her husband, a daughter, Susan, and sons William, Richard, Robert, Paul, Barry and John; her mother, five sisters, three brothers and 11 grandchildren.

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