Doug Fieger dies at 57; leader of the L.A. band the Knack sang ‘My Sharona’

Times Staff Reports

Doug Fieger, leader of the Los Angeles-based power pop band the Knack who co-wrote and sang on the 1979 No. 1 hit “My Sharona,” has died. He was 57.

Fieger’s sister, Beth Falkenstein, said he died Sunday at his home in Woodland Hills. He had cancer.

The Knack: The news obituary of Doug Fieger, leader of the Knack, in the LATExtra section on Feb. 15 said the group put the phrase “power pop” into the musical lexicon. In fact, The Times and other publications had started using the term earlier in the 1970s, before the Knack was formed, to describe a style of compact, hook-filled, guitar-based rock songs. A Business section article Feb. 18 about the real estate success of Sharona Alperin, the inspiration for the Knack song “My Sharona,” also attributed the origin of “power pop” to the rise of the group. —

“My Sharona” was No. 1 for six weeks. Fieger said the song was inspired by a former girlfriend.

“He was an extraordinary lover of all things popular culture,” Falkenstein said of her brother. “He was an eternal pop teenager but highly intellectual and intense.”

Doug Lars Fieger was born Aug. 20, 1952, in Detroit and grew up in suburban Oak Park, Mich.

After graduating from high school, he went to England to record two albums with the group Sky, his sister said.

The group broke up after moving to Los Angeles. The Knack was formed in 1978 and soon was discovered on the L.A. club scene and signed with Capitol Records.

In its brief moment in the sun, the Knack put the phrase “power pop” into the musical lexicon for its compact, hook-filled, guitar-based rock songs that recalled the sound of the ‘60s British Invasion bands, particularly the Beatles and the Kinks.

Their signature white shirts and skinny black ties and vests became a hallmark of the New Wave music scene, which distinguished itself from punk with catchier songs and less overt anger at the political and musical establishment.

Times pop music critic Robert Hilburn, writing in 1979, said the best songs on their debut album “Get the Knack” were “classics of their kind. They reflect perfectly the intense teen emotion that was at the heart of early rock.”

“My Sharona” was a sterling example of how infectious their approach was, opening with bouncing-ball guitar and drum beat that quickly segued into short bursts of power chords.

But the songwriting was lighter weight than that of such British contemporaries as Elvis Costello and Graham Parker, and the Knack never garnered the critical accolades that routinely greeted Costello and Parker’s recordings.

“I feel lucky to have been able to know Doug as a friend, and it’s hard to imagine many people who have not smiled when hearing the opening riff of ‘My Sharona,’ and the vocal performance will assure that Doug’s spirit will be felt by generations of rockers to come,” said veteran guitarist and session musician John Jorgenson.

Fieger, who had battled cancer for several years, told the Detroit News in January: “I’ve had 10 great lives. And I expect to have some more. I don’t feel cheated in any way, shape or form.”

Survivors also include his brother, Geoffrey Fieger. Services are pending.