Former DREAM THEATER singer Charlie Dominici has died. He was reportedly 72 years old.
The news of Charlie‘s passing was broken by DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy, who took to his social media earlier today (Friday, November 17) to share a few photos of DREAM THEATER with Charlie, and he included the following message: “I am devastated to share the news of the passing of former DREAM THEATER singer Charlie Dominici. Charlie was the voice of DT on our debut album ‘When Dream And Day Unite’, recorded back in 1988. Beyond being a great singer, he also was an incredibly talented songwriter and well rounded musician on both guitar and keyboards.
“While we parted ways with him in late 1989, he always remained a friend…fronting the band that played at mine and [my wife] Marlene‘s wedding in 1994, reuniting w DT for ‘When Dream And Day Unite’‘s 15th anniversary show in 2004, opening for DT in Europe with his solo band in 2007 and coming to see myself & [John Petrucci] on our tour together in 2022. I was texting with him as recently as a few weeks ago when he texted me to congratulate me on my return to DT on the day of the announcement. He was so happy and excited for us all…
“Charlie‘s unexpected passing is a tremendous loss to everyone in the DREAM THEATER family, and we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the Dominici family during this immensely difficult time.
“If you haven’t seen it already, there is a documentary on DT‘s 1988/1989 era that I compiled for the ‘When Dream And Day Reunite’ DVD called ‘I Can Remember When…’ that is a great tribute to Charlie and his time in the band.
DREAM THEATER added in a separate statement: “We are devastated to hear the news of the passing of former DREAM THEATER singer, Charlie Dominici. Charlie was the voice of DT on our debut album, ‘When Dream And Day Unite’, recorded back in 1988. Beyond being a great singer, he was an incredibly talented songwriter, a well-rounded musician on both guitar and keyboards, and a long-time friend even after his departure from the band.
“Charlie‘s unexpected passing is a tremendous loss to everyone in the DREAM THEATER family, and we wish to extend our deepest sympathies to the Dominici family during this immensely difficult time.”
Dominici was DREAM THEATER‘s second vocalist, having replaced Chris Collins while the band was called MAJESTY. He was later replaced by James LaBrie. More recently, Dominici fronted his own eponymously named progressive metal band, which had released three albums.
In a 2008 interview with BigMusicGeek.com, Charlie stated about how he originally became involved with DREAM THEATER: “I basically just saw an ad in the paper. They weren’t really weren’t even DREAM THEATER yet. They were called MAJESTY. There was just something about the way they worded it. I said to myself, ‘Either these guys are completely full of shit or they’re really good’. So I called up for the audition and I was really busy. I remember I kept postponing the audition. They wanted me to bring a PA system and I was like, ‘Yeah, right. Okay, no problem’. It basically turned out like any other audition except that it was for DREAM THEATER. I was doing my best impression of their previous singer and at one point, they were about to say, ‘Okay, we’ll call you’ and I was like, ‘Give me something that no one has ever sung before, ya know? Some fresh lyric that doesn’t have a melody for it,’ because back then my strong point was my creative side. I’m not a high, operatic metal vocalist like [multi-octave QUEENSRŸCHE frontman] Geoff Tate or James LaBrie. I don’t sing like that, ya know? It’s not my style and I don’t wanna sound like everyone else. So my attitude was like, ‘Give me something and let me do my thing so we can see if that’s what you’re looking for.’ They handed me the lyrics to ‘Killing Hand’ [from 1989’s ‘When Dream And Day Unite’], I looked it over, listened to the music once through and said, ‘Okay, let me sing it,’ and basically wrote the ‘Killing Hand’ melody line right there on the spot. About a week later, I got a call informing me that I would get the probationary position. [Laughs] I was, like ‘What? Am I going to work for a corporation or something?’ So I was basically a hired hand. Anyone that gets to sing for that band is just a hired gun.”
Asked at what point he realized his time with DREAM THEATER was coming to an end, Charlie said: “That was a very complicated time. There were a number of issues going on at the time. People who saw that situation from the outside have a very interesting slant on things. It’s either ‘Charlie was booted out’ or ‘Charlie quit.’ I always like to say that neither of those are true. What happened was that I fired the band. [Laughs] To me, it’s funny. I’ve been in so many bands and have left so many bands for many different reasons. Very few bands have booted me out against my will. The bottom line is that there were a lot of issues that were happening. The record company [Mechanic Records] wasn’t behind us they weren’t doing the things that they promised. There was gonna be a video, there was gonna be a Japan tour I was at the end of a long period of being in bands and just pluggin’ away. These guys were, like, 21. This was their first real experience and I had already been there and done that, ya know? I was burnt out and was like, ‘You know, this shit sucks.’ I started losin’ it. I was out of control at the time. I was still into a lot of craziness, doin’ a lot of the wrong stuff all the time. It all piled on top of each other and we all just started going our separate ways. We were getting to the point where we were all going to realize that I wasn’t the right singer for them and they weren’t the right band for me. When they came to me about it, I was, like, ‘Yeah, I agree. I feel the same way’, ya know? I was like, ‘Thank God’. [Laughs] To this day, believe it or not, I’m happy that I left that band for two reasons. First of all, it was a very difficult thing for me to sing in that band. The vocals were out of my range, I was working for other people it was a slave gig to me. It wasn’t enjoyable. I had enough years of music that weren’t enjoyable for me to be in a band with guys that were much younger than me. I was the only one who had any experience, I was doing vocals that were out of my range, I was out of control physically with all the shit I was doing I was at a point in my life where I was burned out, I was tired of it, the record company turned us down and just kinda left us out there and I was just like, ‘That’s it. I’m done.'”
Asked if his departure from DREAM THEATER was the primary catalyst behind his decision to take a “extended break” from the music industry, Charlie said: “Yeah. [Laughs] That’s the understatement of the year. Did my frustrations lead to me taking a break? That’s like asking if OJ Simpson‘s frustration with Nicole led to him slashing her throat. Yeah, I think so. [Laughs] I was completely frustrated with the business and again, it’s hard for people to realize that because they didn’t see me at the end of something, they saw me at the beginning of something. I was at the end of a long period of many bands and many trials and tribulations that never came to much fruition. I wanted to get out of music. I had decided that as much as I had loved it, I didn’t love it anymore. If you don’t love it anymore, it’s like a marriage. Once the love is gone, it’s just a matter of going through the steps to wrap things up and tie up the loose ends so you can go your separate ways. For me, it was like getting divorced from my music career. I stayed away a little bit longer than I thought I would. I was beginning to think I was going to stay away forever. I thought that was a part of my life that was finished. I pretty much just started to go work other jobs. I was actually pretty successful in finance in the auto business. I was running Toyota dealerships by myself. I was makin’ good money, but I was miserable. [Laughs] I was driving a fancy Mercedes Benz convertible around San Diego and had everything that you could want in my house, but I was totally miserable. I sold it all. When the love for the music came back and I started writing and feeling creative again. I didn’t care if I made it. In fact, I was hoping that I wouldn’t make it. I just wanted to make music my way without anyone telling me how to do it.”