Mazzy Star drummer and Long Beach native Keith Mitchell died Sunday, May 14, after a short battle with cancer, according to sister and WomenShelter of Long Beach Executive Director Mary Ellen Mitchell. 

The Long Beach-born musician attended Millikan and Wilson high schools and was a Boy Scouts of America and Tribe of Tahquitz member, his sister said. 

Santa Monica-based alternative rock group Mazzy Star posted to its Facebook page May 15 with, "Our hearts are broken. We have lost the much beloved Keith Mitchell, a very talented and amazing drummer that we have had the privilege to work with for many years. He will live in all of our hearts forever... We'll miss you Big Fella."

Mitchell also was member of Opal, Monitor and Green on Red. he joined guitarist David Roback in Opal. Singer Kendra Smith left after 1987's "Happy Nightmare Baby," according to "Rolling Stone." (Note: "Stone" incorrectly mentioned Smith's name in its article.) Roback gathered singer Hope Sandoval to join Opal before the group became Mazzy Star in 1989. 

Mitchell drummed on all four of the group's albums, including: "She Hangs Brightly," "So Tonight That I Might See," "Among My Swan" and "Seasons of Your Day."

"He immersed me in different cultures and different musical influences," son Paul Mitchell said. "That's always something I'll appreciate... The experience was very rewarding."

Paul said his father's music interest started young. He played instruments including guitar and tuba, and picked up drumming while a Boy Scout, he said. From there, Keith played with various cover bands at bars, then started a country western band, which toured nationwide. 

"He was on tour with them when my mom told him she was pregnant with me," Paul said. 

He moved on to audition with Monitor as a drummer, Paul said, which was an experimental band touring the L.A.-area, and eventually landed with Opal and Mazzy Star, the latter being more successful, Paul said.

"A lot of my childhood, he was on tour," Paul said. "For me, it was kind of bittersweet, but I really aspire to be just like him... So much of my dad's life was around music, but I want to express that he had such a quest for knowledge of all sorts, and immersed himself in music."

Keith's survivors include sons Paul Mitchell and Kieran Matias, mother Charlotte Mitchell, as well as brothers Craig and Brian, and sister Mary Ellen Mitchell. He also has five grandchildren, two nieces and two nephews.

A California State University, Long Beach, fund has been set up with the percussion program at the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music, Mary Ellen said. Donations can be made in his honor by mailing a check payable to CSULB 49er Foundation: College of the Arts c/o Arlena Kauppi, Director of Development, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, Calif., 90840. Credit card donations can go to and list "In Memory of Keith Mitchell" or click on "In Memory" and type Keith Mitchell. For help donating, call (562) 985-8491.

A celebration of life will be at 2 p.m. June 17 at Rancho Los Alamitos, 6400 Bixby Hill Rd. Space is limited and reservations can be made by calling (626) 353-5765. 

Emily Thornton can be reached at

Editor's note: This has been updated to correctly say Opal singer Kendra Smith left the group, not Mitchell. 

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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