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Backup Singer Who Went To Prison For Injecting John Belushi With Fatal Dose Of Heroin Dies At 73 After Colorful Life

“Cathy was a great lady,” singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot said of former girlfriend Cathy Smith, who inspired the song "Sundown." “Men were drawn to her, and she used to make me jealous. But I don’t have a bad thing to say about her.”

By Jill Sederstrom
Singer Linked To John Belushi's Overdose Dies

A former backup singer who admitted to injecting John Belushi with his fatal dose of heroin has died at the age of 73, after struggling for several years with health issues.

Cathy Smith died Aug. 18 in Canada, ending a colorful life that included a tumultuous relationship with musician Gordon Lightfoot, working for the Rolling Stones, and befriending Manson’s female followers while behind bars for her role in Belushi’s death, according to the Canadian media outlet The Globe and Mail.

Smith—a backup singer and drug supplier to some of the music world’s biggest names—admitted to injecting Belushi with a heroin and cocaine “speedball” on March 5, 1982, leading to the 33-year-old comedian’s death.

“I killed John Belushi,” she once reportedly told the National Enquirer. “I didn’t mean to, but I am responsible.”

After making the bombshell confession, Smith was arrested for second-degree murder in Belushi’s death, but later agreed to a plea bargain on the reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter and three drug offenses, according to The Globe and Mail.

Cathy Smith John Belushi G

Lesley St. Nicholas, who had been a close friend of Smith, said she was always haunted by the death and wished she had stayed at the Chateau Marmont bungalow, where Belushi died, after giving the 33-year-old the injection. Had she stayed, she believed Belushi may have met with a different fate.

“That was her remorse, her self-persecution,” St. Nicholas told the media outlet. “If she had any regrets in her life, that was it.”

Smith was sent to the California Institution for Women in Chino, California, where she served 15 months behind bars and rubbed elbows with Manson’s female followers who were serving time in the same prison.

Smith taught the women computer skills along with other inmates at the prison.

“She got along with Patricia Krenwinkel … but Susan Atkins freaked her out,” St. Nicholas said. “Cathy was very tough, and she had a tongue on her. Atkins, though, scared her.”

Smith had also been an influential part of the music world, inspiring Lightfoot’s hit “Sundown,” written about the volatile relationship the pair had in the 1970s; she also received a songwriting credit for the Hoyt Axton song “Flash of Fire.”

Smith, who was born as an orphan in 1947 before being adopted by an Ontario family, found herself drawn to the music world as a teen, meeting and falling for drummer Levon Helm of the band The Hawks, which later was renamed The Band.

She met Lightfoot, who was married at the time, in the late 1960s and began a brief romantic affair with the musician. The romance would re-ignite in the spring of 1971 after Lightfoot separated from his wife.

The relationship could be volatile at times but Lightfoot still had fond memories of his one-time love.

“Cathy was a great lady,” Lightfoot told The Globe and Mail after news of her death. “Men were drawn to her, and she used to make me jealous. But I don’t have a bad thing to say about her.”

After her break-up with Lightfoot, Smith headed to Los Angeles where she worked as a personal assistant to lawyer Edward L. Masry, who rose to fame after he was portrayed by actor Albert Finney in the movie “Erin Brockovich,” but the job wouldn’t last.

She began working for the Rolling Stones and pedaling drugs, eventually crossing paths with Belushi through her connections with Rolling Stones’ Ron Wood and Keith Richards, Deadline reports.  

After she was released from prison, Smith was deported and returned to Canada. She did volunteer work teaching teens about the dangers of drugs but also had some “slip-ups” herself with drugs, St. Nicholas said.

Before she died, Smith had been living in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.

She had been placed on oxygen and was in failing health during her final years, according to The Globe and Mail

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