HomeMusicWes Freed, Drive-By Truckers Artist, Dies at 58

Wes Freed, Drive-By Truckers Artist, Dies at 58

Wes Freed—the visual artist whose work was synonymous with Southern rock group Drive-By Truckers—has died, Rolling Stone reports. The band’s publicist confirmed the news of Freed’s death to Rolling Stone. Earlier this year, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to help Freed cover medical expenses related to his colorectal cancer diagnosis, which he received in January. Freed was 58 years old.

Freed studied art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he settled after an upbringing in the Shenandoah Valley. “I think initially when I was in high school I always wanted to be in New York and be an artist,” he once recalled in a local news interview (below). “And then I came to Richmond and said, ‘I don’t know, Richmond seems like it might be big enough.’ Then I went to New York and it was like, ‘Yeah, Richmond’s definitely big enough.’”

After meeting Drive-By Truckers in the late ‘90s at Capital City Barn Dance—a music festival he co-founded—the first of their many collaborations was the artwork he created for the band’s 2001 double LP Southern Rock Opera, which featured a red-eyed owl flying over a burning field. He would go on to design posters, t-shirts, backdrops, and other merch for the band; the “Cooley Bird” character he created would become visually representative of the band (and guitarist Mike Cooley). 

A staple of the Richmond, Virginia, rock scene, Freed also played in several local bands including the Shiners, Dirt Ball, and Mudd Helmet. In 2019 he published The Art of Wes Freed: Paints, Posters, Pin-Ups & Possums, a coffee-table book collecting a wide range of his works. 

“What came first, your love for drawing or music?” one interviewer asked Freed in 2010. After a long pause, he replied, “I would say I started drawing long before I played music, but I don’t think the two can be separated in my mind.”

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