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    Dez Garcia of Sacramento, left, was among the fans and friends who came to a vigil Sunday for Chi Cheng, held downtown at Cesar Chavez Plaza. Cheng, bassist for the Deftones prior to a November 2008 car accident, died Saturday at age 42.


    Rich Kazanjian, himself a bassist, speaks to others at the vigil about Chi Cheng during Sunday's gathering in downtown Sacramento. Kazanjian described the Deftones' bassist as being "a force."


    Corrie Walker of Roseville holds a candle with an image of Cheng during the vigil Sunday in Sacramento. Approximately 150 people attended the event.

Deftones' Chi Cheng, long in coma after wreck, dies at 42

Published: Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Apr. 15, 2013 - 9:42 am

Dozens of musicians, friends and fans of Chi Cheng came to Cesar Chavez Plaza on Sunday evening to remember and honor the Deftones bassist who died Saturday from injuries he suffered in an automobile crash more than four years ago.

The 42-year-old Cheng – an icon of the Sacramento rock music scene – was an accomplished musician and poet whose hard rock band has sold millions of records.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Cheng was the passenger in a car that collided with another vehicle head-on in Santa Clara. Cheng, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected and left in a coma.

Cheng had recently shown signs of improvement, upgrading to a semiconscious state and being able to move his hands slightly.

His death – announced by his mother, Jeanne Marie Cheng, on the website – prompted comments on social media Sunday from many in the rock world.

His mother said Cheng was taken to a hospital emergency room at 3 a.m. Saturday when his heart stopped.

"He left this world with me singing songs he liked in his ear," she wrote to his supporters. "He fought the good fight. You stood by him sending love daily. He knew that he was very loved and never alone."

On Sunday evening, about 150 people – friends, fans, families of band members and their relatives – came to the plaza across the street from Sacramento City Hall to show their love and pay their respects.

Among those gathered was Debbie Ramirez, the mother of Deftones lead singer Chino Moreno. She said she had known Cheng since he was 17.

"He was a wonderful man, so low-key. He's truly missed. They (the Deftones) had hoped he would be coming back."

Rich Kazanjian, a local bassist, set out his bass guitar to honor the musician's memory.

Twenty-five years ago, he said, his band practiced in the room next door to the Deftones'. He described Cheng as "a force – like his name means," who was widely respected in the city's tight-knit music community.

"One of the greatest things about this city," he said of the music scene, "is that we are like a family."

Born Chi Ling Dai Cheng in 1970 in Davis, Cheng joined the Deftones shortly after the band formed in 1988. Besides Cheng and Moreno, the band included Stephen Carpenter and Abe Cunningham. Cheng played on the band's first five albums. His bass performances can be heard on Deftones albums such as "Adrenaline," "Around the Fur" and "White Pony."

After the accident, the Deftones continued making music with Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega taking over for Cheng.

Cheng was also an accomplished poet. In 2000, he released a CD of his poetry, "The Bamboo Parachute."

Tributes from other musicians were listed on a variety of rock music websites. listed more than two dozen tweets from contemporaries praising his musicianship and influence in the rock world.

Cheng leaves behind a son, Gabriel.

Call The Bee's Anne Gonzales, (916) 321-1049. Follow her in Twitter @AnneGonzo .

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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