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Those around former Gin Blossom Doug Hopkins knew he wanted to commit suicide. They drew up plans to keep him from being alone, they talked to him, loved him--but they felt powerless to stop him.
Hopkins, 32, put the muzzle of a .38-caliber pistol into his mouth and pulled the trigger sometime between Friday and Sunday afternoon, ending a life haunted by depression and alcoholism.
Thanks in part to Hopkins' songs, the Gin Blossoms are arguably the most successful Valley rock group since the Alice Cooper band pulled up stakes in the late 1960s.
Hopkins formed the Gin Blossoms with four friends in 1987. After building a reputation on the local scene, the Tempe-based group signed with A&M Records in 1990. The band, complaining about Hopkins' drinking, fired him in April 1992.
Hopkins continued to be a major voice in the Tempe scene despite his drinking problem. However, friends had become worried about him since a suicide attempt two weeks ago.
His body was found at 1:25 p.m. Sunday in his Tempe apartment by Lawrence Zubia, who had worked with Hopkins in a band, The Chimeras, early this year.
"Me and Doug made a deal in the last eight days that he would not lock his front door, because he was now living alone," Zubia said, adding that Hopkins' girlfriend had moved out.
"That's why I became very concerned at this point. I put my life on hold for the past week.
"He had lost everything through drinking."
Word of Hopkins' death was spread Sunday at a meeting of the Tempe/Arizona Musician's Coalition. Hopkins had been an active member of the group.
Zubia and his brother, Mark, turned their Sunday-evening set at Edsel's Attic in Tempe into an impromptu wake.
"It was kind of a good thing, actually, because there were lots of Doug's friends there," Mark Zubia said.
Hopkins' sister, Sara, told The Associated Press that this was Hopkins' sixth suicide attempt in 10 years. She reportedly said that she had gone to his apartment Thursday and found the Yellow Pages open to gun-shop advertisements.
"when I saw him Thursday, I knew I'd never see him again," she was quoted as saying. "I just said, 'Goodbye, Doug,' and my mother did the same a few nights before."
Hopkins was fired from the Gin Blossoms after sessions for the band's first major-label album, New Miserable Experience, were completed.
It was not an amicable parting. Hopkins ripped the band in subsequent interviews, and band members defended the dismissal, saying that Hopkins' drinking made him unreliable during the recording sessions.
Regardless, the band's success is built on Hopkins' songs, which set dark lyrics about drinking and other obsessions to a sprightly beat.
The band's album peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard 200 chart this summer, largely on the strength of the Hopkins-penned "Hey Jealousy." The band's second, and current, single, "Found Out About You," also was written by Hopkins. It is climbing Billboard's hot-singles chart.
"Doug was an easy person to take potshots at because he was a classic old-style Rolling Stones-era rock and roller," said Karen Lander, publicist for the musician's coalition.
On the other hand, she said, "I have maintained from Day 1 that not a musician in this town would have a job if not for Doug Hopkins."
The Gin Blossoms issued a statement Monday expressing condolences to the family: "We are all shaken and feel a profound sense of sadness and loss at the news of Doug's death.
"His talent and musical influences reached beyond the Gin Blossoms and into the music community at large. He was a gifted musician, and his songwriting and songs were part of the very foundation upon which the band was built."
In addition to his sister, Hopkins is survived by his parents, Louie Hopkins of Sun Lakes and Nancy Hopkins of Chandler. Services will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Tempe Mortuary, 405 E. Southern Ave., Tempe.
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