Nazareth Singer Dan McCafferty Dead at 76

Dan McCafferty, original lead singer for Scottish hard rockers Nazareth, has died at age 76. The vocalist’s passing was announced by founding bassist/backing vocalist Pete Agnew, who revealed in an Instagram post that McCafferty died on Tuesday afternoon; at press time no cause of death had been announced.

“This is the saddest announcement I ever had to make,” Agnew wrote. “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.”

McCafferty, born on Oct. 14, 1946 in Dunfermline, Scotland was a co-founder of Nazareth, which came together in 1968 with guitarist Manny Charlton and drummer Darrell Sweet joining McCafferty and Agnew. The band released their self-titled debut in 1971, which was followed by 1972’s Exercises and 1973’s Razamanaz.

But it wasn’t until their sixth album, 1975s Hair of the Dog, that the group broke out beyond their European success, thanks to their rocked-up cover of the Everly Brothers’ 1960 song “Love Hurts.” The showcase for McCafferty’s muscular vocals rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Hair of the Dog also marked the band’s highest charting album on the Billboard 200 charts, where it rose to No. 17 in March 1976, according to data provided by Luminate.

Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” was the highest-charting version of the tune — also famously covered by Cher as the title track of her 1991 album of the same name — and it has become a go-to power ballad in dozens of movies, including Wayne’s World, This is Spinal Tap, Dazed and Confused, Rock Star, Empire Records, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and many more.

McCafferty fronted the band until his retirement from touring in 2013 due to unspecified health issues and appeared on 23 studio albums through 2014’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Telephone; he was replaced by Linton Osborne in 2014, who in turn was swapped out for current singer Carl Sentance. McCafferty also released a pair of solo albums during his time with the group, a self-titled 1975 collection and 1987’s Into the Ring, as well as his final solo effort, 2019’s Last Testament.

See Agnew’s tribute and watch a live version of “Love Hurts” below.

Gil Kaufman