OCTOBER 2, 2014 – Singer/songwriter PRISCILLA COOLIDGE (b. 1941 in Lafayette, Tennessee as Priscilla June Coolidge) died in her Thousand Oaks, California, home, the victim of a murder-suicide perpetrated by her husband, Michael Seibert. Around 5:10 p.m., Thousand Oaks Police officers responding to a disturbance call to the couple’s home in the 1600 block of Calle Rochelle found the bodies of Seibert, 66, and Coolidge, 73.Both died from gunshot wounds, said James Baroni of the medical examiner’s office.
The disturbance report was called in by a member of Coolidge and Seibert’s family, said Capt. Don Aguilar, media relations officer for the sheriff’s department. “We only knew there was a disturbance. We didn’t know what was going on when we went in. It was a tough one to start off on and it took us a while, using our investigative tools to piece together what we think happened,” Aguilar said.
Deputies had previously responded to their home the day before the bodies were found, but no information was available on the nature of the visit.Coolidge had at least four children, including Paul and Laura Satterfield from her first marriage, and a son Booker T. Jones III and daughter Lonnie. Like her sister of Rita Coolidge, Priscilla started singing in a small-town church in Lafayette, Tennessee, where their father was the minister. Then she and her sisters Rita and Linda formed a group called the Coolidge Sisters, and won talent competitions at local and state fairs before they split.Priscilla was once married to Booker T. of Booker T. & the MG’s (from 1969-1979), who produced her first solo album, 1970’s “Gypsy Queen.” The pair then collaborated as a duo on three albums; 1971’s “Booker T. & Priscilla,” 1972’s “Home Grown,” and 1973’s “Chronicles” which included the song “Time” written by Rita, which was allegedly “borrowed” by drummer Jim Gordon (formerly of Eric Clapton’s band Derek and the Dominos and Rita’s former boyfriend) and became the famous instrumental piano coda at the end of “Layla”).
She was named Billboard Magazine’s best female vocalist two years running.Priscilla was promoted as sex symbol with bleached-blond hair and carefully styled make-up, but then she let her hair go back to natural brunette and became, along with John & Yoko and Leon & Mary Russell, one of the few interracial couples issuing albums. Jones produced Priscilla’s final solo album “Flying” in 1979, just before their marriage ended that year. In 1981 Coolidge married TV journalist/broadcaster/reporter Ed Bradley, but they divorced in 1984 and she later married Seibert. He had worked for Catapult Entertainment, Davis Entertainment, 20th Century Fox and WebTV and often used the alias Michael Seibertreata.In 1997, Coolidge was one of the founding members of Walela, a Native American music trio that also included Coolidge’s sister Rita, plus Priscilla’s daughter Laura Satterfield. Walela means hummingbird in Cherokee.
Coolidge considered this group important not only in honoring her Cherokee ancestors, but also in bringing their culture to others. Walela’s music drew not only on their Native American heritage, but also on the gospel sounds of the Deep South (the Coolidges’ father was a Baptist minister), plus pop, country, folk, soul, and a touch of new age reflectiveness. Walela made its recording debut backing ex-Band frontman Robbie Robertson on his 1994 project “Music for the Native Americans,” the group went on to perform at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.The trio released two studio albums in “Walela” (1997) and “Unbearable Love” (2000), as well as a 2004 live album and DVD “Live in Concert” and the 2007 compilation album “The Best of Walela.” Their music earned the trio a handful of Native American Music Awards. In 1998, the group won for Best Debut Group and Song of the Year for the tune “The Warrior.” They won again in 2001 for Group of the Year and 2004 for the music video “Walela Live in Concert.
”Priscilla Coolidge’s murder is mentioned in the epilogue of Rita Coolidge’s book “Delta Lady,” which she dedicated to her sister. “It was very painful to write, but she was such an important part of my life,” the singer said. “She was like my twin. We talked every day. We wrote music together for decades. She was my best friend from the time I can remember anything, and to lose her at all would have broken my heart. To have lost her at the hands of a crazy man with a gun made it unacceptable. It took me so long to be able to accept the fact she was not going to be calling me.”Coolidge recalled phoning her sister on her 73rd birthday, the last time they spoke and the day before Priscilla was found dead. “Some time after we’d spoken on her birthday, her husband killed my beautiful, brave Priscilla with a handgun and then – as it is inevitably phrased in newspaper accounts of murder-suicides – ‘turned the weapon on himself,’” she wrote.Coping wasn’t easy. “I had so much to do, because I became the matriarch of the family at that point, as Priscilla had been after my mother died. I became the head of the family and had so many things to take care of to honor her and make sure all the arrangements were done. And I made the arrangements for her husband, as well, because that’s what she would have wanted. I put one foot in front of the other for days. I cried – and I still cry – endlessly. I couldn’t breathe, but I got through it with the support of my family and friends.”She suspected that things weren’t right at her sister’s home. “I didn’t think he was crazy, but I didn’t like him at all. I never liked him. I always felt he was a conman, because he always had these big business deals that were going to come through and, sometimes, they did and financially they’d be in great shape and then the bottom would fall out and nothing would be happening. I knew that, financially, they were unstable. I don’t know why that led to his murdering my sister. We’d been inseparable since we were little, when Priscilla told me she’d been waiting for me to be born.”Her sister did approach her for help, she revealed.
“She talked to me in the months leading up to her death and I knew she was unhappy. She’d talked about leaving Michael. I suspect he realized that she was going to leave him and thought, ‘If I can’t have you, nobody can.'”She was at home alone, in Fallbrook, California when she received the news of her sister’s death, and immediately began calling close friends and family. “I was in a state of shock and confusion from the suddenness of it all,” she recalled. She was still grieving the week before Christmas, when a box arrived at her door containing the ashes of her dead sister’s husband.
“He was not loved by his family, who wanted nothing to do with his remains, so I had arranged to have his body cremated – I know that’s what Priscilla would have wanted,” she wrote. “The ashes were delivered to my house, but I didn’t want him inside the house. Initially, I put him out in the groves that border my property and put him under an avocado tree. I woke up on New Year’s Eve realizing that they were still there. And I didn’t want him on my land. I wanted to take care of it before the New Year came.”She dug up the box and drove out into the California desert, hoping for a sign. “And then I saw it – an actual sign off to the right that said ‘Trespassers will be shot on sight’. And I said to myself, I think I found my sign,” she said. It was there she disposed of Seibert’s ashes.
“They didn’t poetically waft away in the wind – they just fell from the box and lay there on the dead desert floor,” she said.Her husband, Japanese computer scientist Tatsuya Suda, has been supportive, but she now turns to long-term family who knew her sister better, she says, and still struggles to accept what Seibert did. “I can’t forgive him for taking my sister, but he’s not here for me to confront,” she said. “I hope that I’m able to forgive him, because holding on to resentment and those feelings are only harmful. He doesn’t exist to me.” Priscilla’s ashes were scattered in the waters of Zuma Beach, California.