For non-music fans, this may be the first time you’re hearing of The Muffs or its frontwoman Kim Shattuck.
The Muffs were a Southern California punk rock band formed in 1991 with hit singles like “Lucky Guy”, “Sad Tomorrow”, and most notably a cover version of “Kids in America” which was featured in the opening credits of the iconic 90s movie Clueless.
Kim Shattuck sadly passed away earlier this month after battling ALS and a Yahoo! article is shedding light on how she powered through and recorded her last album all while fighting this unforgivable rare disease.
Now THAT’S punk rock.
What is ALS?
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a progressive, neurological disease that kills nerve cells in the brain stem, spinal cord and brain. Consequentially, muscles eventually weaken, causing loss of voluntary movement and control.
ALS is typically fatal because patients lose the ability to breath since muscles in the chest are wasted away. ALS has two types: sporadic and familial, the former being the most common form.
Kim was diagnosed in 2017, after she started to lose the ability to control her hands, which is an especially devastating development for a guitar player.
“She contacted me and [drummer] Roy McDonald, and we all were messaging and crying,” says Ronnie Barnett, Kim’s bandmate and Muffs bassist. “But she said, ‘I want to finish this record, no matter how we have to do it.’”
Kim and the Muffs got started in December 2017, setting out to rock it out together one last time before Kim’s ALS diagnosis would take hold.
The core of the new project was Kim’s unfinished recordings. By spring of 2018, Kim had lost her mobility, and the band got ready in the study room of her house while she remotely supervised the sessions from her chair in the adjacent living room.
“She communicated to us from the other room using the Viber app. By that time, she had gotten a machine called a Tobii that would read her eyeballs, so she was able to construct sentences and communicate using that machine. So she oversaw all of it. She’d be like, ‘It’s a little flat there.’ Or, ‘Do it again.’ That’s how we did it,” Ronnie said.
Again – HOW ROCK N ROLL IS THAT?! Kim’s love and talent for making music outlasted her body’s abilities.
Unbelievably, Ronnie describes the band’s mood during these unorthodox home recording sessions as “happy.”
“Kim kept her sense of humor until the very end. I remember when she was getting really slurry, somebody said, ‘What’s this album going to be called?’ And she said, ‘That’s All, Folks.’ There were some moments here and there that were sad, but it was mainly her smiling. She was still able to smile, and she still liked to hear bad jokes and dirty jokes.”
What a legend.