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‘Secret Agent Man’ Songwriter P.F. Sloan Dies

07:01 AM Wednesday 11/18/15 | |

P.F. Sloan, the troubled songwriter behind such classic 1960s tunes as Johnny Rivers’ “Secret Agent Man” and Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction,” has died. He was 70.

  • P.F. Sloan

    An undated photo from Sloan's memoir, “What's Exactly The Matter With Me?,” co-written with S.E. Feinberg.

    (Jawbone Press via AP)


Howard Wuelfing, a spokesman for Sloan, said the singer-songwriter died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles after battling pancreatic cancer for several weeks.

Born Philip Gary Schlein in New York City, Sloan signed his first record deal when he was 13 and went on to write songs for such artists as The Turtles, the Grass Roots and the 5th Dimension. He also released several of his own albums and published the memoir “What’s Exactly The Matter With Me?” last year.

His biggest hit was “Eve of Destruction,” which he wrote in a single day in 1964 when he was still in his teens and living at home. The apocalyptic protest anthem came out in 1965, as opposition grew against the Vietnam War, and caused a sensation. The song topped the charts in August, although its strident lyrics infuriated conservatives, who responded with such records as the Spokesmen’s “The Dawn of Correction.”

Supporters of lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, what in 1971 became the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, embraced the song’s cry that “You’re old enough to kill, but not for voting.”

Sloan was traumatized by his sudden fame and would allege that the song led to his being ostracized from the music industry. He battled depression and dropped out from public life for years, his absence inspiring the Jimmy Webb song “P.F. Sloan” and its lyric “I have been seeking P.F. Sloan / But no one knows where he has gone.”

  • P.F. Sloan

    Comparing harmonica techniques with Johnny Rivers.
    September 21, 1965

    (AP Photo, file)


He began recording and performing again in recent years, including a reunion show with Maguire in early 2015.