Nazareth Singer Dan McCafferty, Who Let the World Know That ‘Love Hurts,’ Dies at 76

Dan McCafferty, lead singer of the hard rock band Nazareth, known for such ’70s hits as “Love Hurts” and “Hair of the Dog,” died Tuesday at age 76. No cause of death was immediately given, although he had retired from the group in 2013, after a 45-year run, due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

McCafferty (pictured above in 1976) was one of the founding members of the Scottish group when it formed in 1968. After taking his leave of the group nine years ago due to his inability to sing at length any longer, he did continue to do some work in the studio, releasing a final solo album in 2019.

The group’s bassist, Pete Agnew, posted confirmation of McCafferty’s death on social media. “Dan died at 12:40 today,” he wrote on the band’s Instagram account Tuesday. “This is the saddest announcement I ever had to make. Maryann and the family have lost a wonderful loving husband and father, I have lost my best friend and the world has lost one of the greatest singers who ever lived. Too upset to say anything more at this time.”

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After the band formed in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1968 — with McCafferty and Agnew being joined by guitarist Manny Charlton and drummer Darrell Sweet — Nazareth released its self-titled debut album in 1970 and eventually clicked in the U.K. in 1973 with a third album produced by Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, “Razamanez.” That album spawned two British top 10 singles, “Bad Bad Boy” and “Broken Down Angel.” But it wasn’t until their sixth full-length release, 1975’s “Hair of the Dog” album that the group found true international success and became a household name among American rock fans as well. (The U.S. popularity brought things full circle, in a way, since the group had named itself after the Nazareth, Penn. cited in the Band’s classic song “The Weight.”)

The hard-rocking title song of “Hair of the Dog” became a staple of FM radio in the U.S., but even that was eclipsed by the success of an uncharacteristic ballad choice, a cover of the Everly Brothers classic “Love Hurts” that was thoroughly transformed by McCafferty’s distinctively raspy vocals. Whereas the group previously had not charted in the Billboard Hot 100, “Love Hurts” went all the way to No. 7, and continues to get oldies airplay today. It was to be one of only two Hot 100 hits for the group (the other, 1980’s “Holiday,” only went to No. 87).

It also reached the top of the charts in Canada, South Africa, the Netherlands and other countries. To this day, their “Love Hurts” continues to be widely picked up for syncs and has been licensed for dozens of uses in everything from the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games to the TV shows “That ’70s Show” and “King of the Hill” to the films “Dazed and Confused” and “Toy Story 3.”

The group’s singles dropped off international charts after 1982, but Nazareth continued to regularly release albums in subsequent decades. The current lineup of the band recently released “Surviving the Law,” its second album with singer Carl Sentance filling in for the ailing McCafferty. The band’s last album with its founding singer was 2014’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone.”

In 2013, announcing that he was stepping away from touring, he revealed that he was no longer able to sing for more than a few minutes at a time and told Classic Rock, “I could always make another record. But getting up to do an hour and three-quarters, and get people to pay money to come and see me – I can’t do that.” He offered his blessing to the band continuing without him, saying that the “music we’ve made over the years is more important than any member of the band. We always felt like that, and I can’t see that’s changed just because I’ve left.”

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