My Beautiful Sister Died at the Hands of Her Husband - I Still Cry Endlessly Inseparable. Rita with Sister Priscilla; Losing Her Sister Was Always Going to Be Tough, but Losing Her to Murder Has Been Sheer Horror. Singer Rita Coolidge Talks to HANNAH STEPHENSON about Grief, Forgiveness and Being Left with the Killer's Ashes

Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England), May 14, 2016 | Go to article overview

My Beautiful Sister Died at the Hands of Her Husband - I Still Cry Endlessly Inseparable. Rita with Sister Priscilla; Losing Her Sister Was Always Going to Be Tough, but Losing Her to Murder Has Been Sheer Horror. Singer Rita Coolidge Talks to HANNAH STEPHENSON about Grief, Forgiveness and Being Left with the Killer's Ashes


Inseparable... Rita with sister Priscilla SHE was the original 'Delta Lady', the Cherokee singer with long dark hair, chunky-buckled belts, leather trousers and Native American jewellery.

Rita Coolidge, daughter of a Cherokee Baptist minister and Cherokee-Scottish mother, was catapulted into the music industry in the late Sixties during a time of huge creativity, becoming one of the most sought-after backing singers in the business, touring and recording with Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton and Crosby, Stills & Nash, among others.

It has been a life of triumphs - including two Grammy awards, a multi-platinum album (Anytime... Anywhere) plus a string of hits - and heartbreak, often fuelled by the men she hooked up with and a torrid six-year marriage to the love of her life Kris Kristofferson, doomed to disaster as he womanised and battled booze.

All these stories - along with her widely reported claims that she penned part of Clapton's hit Layla but received no credit - are charted in her memoir Delta Lady, from her childhood in Lafayette, Tennessee, to becoming one of the most sought-after vocalists in Los Angeles in the Seventies.

She's still performing and her UK tour finished this week.

But the most agonising time of Rita's life happened less than two years ago, when her beloved older sister Priscilla, also a singer, was murdered at her home by her husband Michael Seibert, 66, who then turned the gun on himself.

This hugely distressing episode is mentioned in the epilogue of Rita's book, which she dedicates to her sister.

"It was very painful to write, but she was such an important part of my life," the singer says now. "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."

Rita, 71, recalls 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-sucides - turned the weapon on himself," she writes.

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 honour 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 still cry - endlessly. I got through it with the support of family and friends. …

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My Beautiful Sister Died at the Hands of Her Husband - I Still Cry Endlessly Inseparable. Rita with Sister Priscilla; Losing Her Sister Was Always Going to Be Tough, but Losing Her to Murder Has Been Sheer Horror. Singer Rita Coolidge Talks to HANNAH STEPHENSON about Grief, Forgiveness and Being Left with the Killer's Ashes
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