The Runaways, an all-girl rock band, broke barriers in the mid-1970s, showing the world that women could rock just as hard as men. Their groundbreaking sound inspired generations of female rockers, leaving an indelible mark on the music industry. Among the Runaways, drummer Sandy West, born Sandy Pesavento, played a vital role in shaping their influential and unique sound.
Discovering a Passion: Sandy’s Musical Journey
Growing up in Huntington Beach, California, Sandy West was more into skiing and surfing until her grandfather gifted her a drum set at nine. This gift uncovered her hidden passion for music. At just 15, West formally joined the Runaways after a fateful meeting with notorious record producer Kim Fowley, who later became their manager. Fowley connected West with guitarist Joan Jett, marking the beginning of her musical journey.
Beyond the Limelight: Sandy’s Post-Runaways Journey
While not reaching the same fame as her former bandmates, Joan Jett and Micki Steele, Sandy West never lost her love for drumming. Even as she transitioned to work in construction, West kept the beat alive, forming her band, the Sandy West Band. Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, she toured California, occasionally teaming up with former Runaways vocalist Cherie Currie. West’s dedication extended to session work with John Entwistle of The Who and sharing her drumming skills through lessons.
The Tragic Diagnosis: Sandy’s Battle with Cancer
In 2005, tragedy struck as Sandy West, a known heavy smoker, received a heartbreaking diagnosis—lung cancer. Despite undergoing numerous treatments, the relentless disease took its toll. On October 21, 2006, Sandy West passed away in hospice care in San Dimas, California, at the age of 47. Her battle with cancer marked the end of a vibrant chapter in rock history.
A Musical Tribute: Remembering Sandy West
In 2006, a memorial tribute concert held in Hollywood paid homage to Sandy West’s legacy. The Sandy West Band, Cherie Currie, the Bangles, the Donnas, and Vinny Appice took the stage to celebrate her life. Former bandmate Joan Jett expressed the profound impact they had together, stating, “We shared the dream of girls playing rock and roll. Sandy was an exuberant and powerful drummer. I am overcome from the loss of my friend. I always told her we changed the world.”
Cherie Currie’s Heartfelt Farewell: A Personal Loss
Cherie Currie, deeply affected by the news of West’s passing, shared her grief. “Sandy West loved her fans, her friends and family almost to a fault. It will never be the same for me again to step on a stage because Sandy West was the best, and I will miss her forever,” Currie lamented. West’s influence went beyond the stage, leaving an enduring impact on those who knew and worked alongside her.
Conclusion: Sandy West’s Enduring Beat
Sandy West’s journey from a young drummer in the Runaways to a beloved figure in the rock world reflects the resilience and passion she brought to her craft. Her legacy lives on through the beats that changed the course of rock and roll history. As we remember Sandy West, let’s celebrate the drummer who rocked the world and continues to inspire aspiring musicians, proving that a relentless beat can leave an everlasting imprint on the hearts of fans worldwide.