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In Memoriam – July 2015

August 3rd, 2015 Leave a comment Go to comments

gallery_1The man who probably played guitar on Marvin Gaye”s Let”s Get It On has passed away (he was long uncredited, until a CD release listed him and a few others as guitarists). Arthur G. Wright died some time in early July at the age of 78. He played on lots of Motown and soul tracks (including the Foxy Brown soundtrack), as well as for jazz artists like Jimmy Witherspoon or David Axelrod and vocalists like Lee Hazlewood or Jackie DeShannon. As an arranger, he hit it big with Thelma Houston”s version of Don”t Leave Me This Way and Diana Ross” Lovin”, Livin” & Givin”. He also arranged, wrote or produced for the likes of the Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, Billy Preston, Syreeta, P.J. Proby, Righteous Brothers, Bettye Swann, Clydie King, Little Richard, Jerry Butler, The Fifth Dimension, Mary Wilson, Stephanie Mills, Jermaine Jackson, The Supremes and even David Bowie (on Hunky Dory“s Fill Your Heart). Very briefly, he also sang, as leader of the Wright Brothers Flying Machine, on their self-titled album, issued in 1979. Their song Leatherman”s Theme appeared on the Thank God It”s Friday soundtrack, on which Wright also produced Sunshine”s Take It To The Zoo.

One of the most prolific songwriters of middle-of-the-road “˜80s soul left us. Michael Masser co-wrote hits for Diana Ross such as Diana Ross” Do You Know Where You”re Going To, It”s My Turn, I Thought It Took A Little Time and Touch Me In The Morning. Whitney Houston had success with Masser compositions Saving All My Love for You (originally for Marilyn McCoo), All At Once, Hold Me, The Greatest Love of All (originally for George Benson), Didn”t We Almost Have It All, You”re Still My Man and After We Make Love. For George Benson he wrote In Your Eyes, You Are The Love Of My Life and Nothing”s Gonna Change My Love For You (which was a mega-hit for Glen Medeiros). Other hits included Tonight I Celebrate My Love for Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson and Miss You Like Crazy for Natalie Cole.

In April we lost the songwriter Sid Tepper, who wrote so prolifically for Elvis Presley in the 1960s. In July, his songwriting partner Roy C. Bennett died at the age of 96. Together they wrote more than 300 songs in a partnership that spanned the years 1945 to 1970. Their 1948 breakthrough hit, Red Roses For A Blue Lady, a hit for Vaughn Monroe, was included as a tribute to Tepper in April. In the 1950s they scored hits like Suzy Snowflake for Rosemary Clooney, Naughty Lady of Shady Lane for both Dean Martin and the Ames Brothers, Nuttin” For Christmas for both Art Mooney and Ricky Zahnd, and Kewpie Doll for Perry Como. The 1960s saw a slew of songs for Elvis soundtracks and perhaps their most abiding hit, Cliff Richards” The Young Ones. Tepper retired after a heart attack in 1970; Bennett continued writing songs “” and computer programmes!

gallery_2There are not many people still alive who had a hand in producing hits in 1938. With Van Alexander‘s death at the age of 100 there is one less. Alexander arranged Ella Fitzgerald’s 1938 hit A-Tisket, A-Tasket (1938). He was already a veteran in the business when he helped to write one of the great TV themes, that for I Dream Of Jeannie. By then Alexander had already built a prodigious track record in Hollywood as a composer, arranger and film score conductor, starting in the 1940s. Later he was a frequent Emmy winner for his TV scores and conducted many variety specials on US television.

It really was a bad month for songwriters. In Ernie Maresca we lost one who was responsible for two of the great early “˜60s classics: Runaround Sue and The Wanderer, both massive hits for Dion, who co-wrote the former. Maresca never emulated the success of these two hits, though he wrote a few hits for artists like Jimmie Rodgers (Child Of Clay), The Regents (Runaround), and Bernadette Carroll (Party Girl). His brief recording career yielded one hit, Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out). In the 1970s he was head of publicity of the Laurie Records label. One interesting tidbit about The Wanderer: the line “”¦I”m as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I”m going nowhere” is much more independently-minded in Maresca”s original lyric: “”¦with my two fists of iron and my bottle of beer”.

You might see a pattern emerging here: this month we also lost Wayne Carson, the man who co-wrote The Box Tops” perfect slice of sub-two-minute poop, The Letter and also their hits Neon Rainbow and Soul Deep, as well as Always On My Mind, which was a hit for Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and the Pet Shop Boys, and Gary Stewart”s She”s Actin” Single (I”m Drinkin” Doubles), among others.

Buddy Emmons, who has died at 78, is regarded by many as the foremost steel guitar player. He didn”t play on many crossover hits, though he did back artists like Linda Ronstadt, Gram Parsons, Judy Collins, Nancy Sinatra, The Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, Sonny & Cher, JJ Cale, Manhattan Transfer and even Paul McCartney (on his unreleased 1974 Nashville sessions). Perhaps most famously, he played the intro to the Carpenters hit Top Of The World (he also played on their Jambalaya). At 18, in 1955, he joined the band of Little Jimmy Dickens, who himself died earlier this year. He went on to play with some of the big names in country, including Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins , Buck Owens, June Carter Cash, The Dillards, Bobby Bare, George Jones, Skeeter Davis, Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Ricky Skaggs, George Strait, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood and Randy Travis.

gallery_3Eric Wrixon didn”t stick around for very long with either of the two legendary bands which he co-founded, but Belfast-born keyboardist has the distinction of having named one of them: Them (after a 1954 science fiction film of that name). Initially he was too young to join the band he had named; once he came of age, he briefly rejoined Them in 1965, then joined R&B band The People and left them, then joined The Wheels, left them too, and in 1969 helped found Thin Lizzy, leaving them too in order to go to Germany.

David “˜Mdavu” Masondo was a founder member of The Soul Brothers, who were South Africa”s biggest music acts in the 1970s and “˜80s. His name will doubtless live on: he fathered 40 children “” though not all by his two wives. The Soul Brothers released 39 albums, most of them best-sellers. Despite being huge in Southern Africa, they never broke internationally. Masondo was about to release a new album with the only surviving original Soul Brother, bassist Moses Ngwenya, when he died of kidney failure on July 5. Four members of the original line-up died before him, all in two separate car accidents.

The accomplished actor Theodore Bikel was the original Captain von Trapp (apart from the real one, of course) in the stage version of The Sound of Music “” Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote Edelweiss specifically for him. He also made his mark for his portrayal of Tevye the Milkman in the Broadway production of The Fiddler On The Roof before it became a movie. Bikel was also a performer and composer of Jewish folk songs; with people like Pete Seeger, he co-founded the Newport Folk Festival. Born in Austria, his parents were Zionists who fled to Palestine after their home country voted to join Greater Germany. It was in Tel Aviv that Bikel”s acting career began. He was also a political activist, engaged in the civil rights movement. Within Zionism, he belonged to the social-democratic wing which called for universal human rights, peaceful co-existence with the indigenous people of Palestine and negotiations with Arab states, opposed the annexation of the West Bank and a urged an equitable two-state solution.


Bruce Rowland, 74, English drummer (Joe Cocker, Grease Band, Fairport Convention), on June 29
Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (1969, Live at Woodstock, on drums)

Bob Whitlock, 84, jazz bassist (Gerry Mulligan Quartet), on June 29

Arthur G. Wright, 78, soul and funk session guitarist, writer and arranger, in early July
Lee Hazlewood ““ Houston (1976, on bass)
Thelma Houston – Don”t Leave Me This Way (1976, as arranger)
Wright Bros. Flying Machine – Leatherman”s Theme (1978, on guitar)

Val Doonican, 88, Irish singer and TV personality, on July 1
Val Doonican – I”m Gonna Get There Somehow (1965)

Red Lane, 76, country singer and songwriter, on July 1
Tammy Wynette – Till I Get It Right (1973, as co-writer)

Roy C. Bennett, 96, American songwriter, on July 2
Dean Martin – The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane (1955, as co-writer)
Elvis Presley – Puppet On A String (1965, as co-writer)

Charanjit Singh, 74, Indian electric music pioneer, on July 3

David Masondo, 67, singer of South African mbaqanga group The Soul Brothers, on July 5
The Soul Brothers – Bazobuya (1991)

Garrison Fewell, 61, guitarist, composer and educator, on July 5

Camille Bob, 77, soul singer with Little Bob & the Lollipops, on July 6
Little Bob & The Lollipops – Agent Double-O Soul (1966)
Camille Bob – 2 Weeks 2 Days Too Long (1972)

Julio Angel, 69, Puerto Rican rock, pop and bolero singer, on July 6

Ernie Maresca, 76, songwriter and singer, on July 8
Dion ““ The Wanderer (1961)
Ernie Maresca – Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out!) (1962)

Michael Masser, 74, soul and pop songwriter and producer, on July 9
Diana Ross – I Thought It Took A Little Time (1976, as co-writer)
Marilyn McCoo – Saving All My Love For You (1978, as co-writer)

Bunny Mack, 69, Sierra Leone-born funk singer, on July 11
Bunny Mack – Let Me Love You (1981)

Hussein Fatal, 38, rapper with The Outlawz, in car crash on July 11

Javier Krahe, 71, Spanish singer-songwriter, on July 12
Javier Krahe – Camino de Nada (2002)

Tom Skinner, 61, singer-songwriter, on July 12

Eric Wrixon, 68, Northern Irish keyboardist, founder member of Them and Thin Lizzy, on July 13
The Wheels ““ Kicks (1966)

Joan Sebastian, 64, Mexican singer and songwriter, on July 13

Bob “˜Bumblebee Bob” Novak, 89, blues musician and artist, on July 13

Dave Somerville, 81, Canadian lead singer with The Diamonds, on July 14
The Diamonds – Little Darlin” (1957)

Howard Rumsey, 97, jazz bassist and bandleader, on July 15

John Taylor, 72, jazz pianist (Azimuth; Ronnie Scott Quintet), on July 17
Azimuth with Ralph Towner – The Longest Day (1980)

Buddy Buie, 74, songwriter, on July 18
Atlanta Rhythm Section – So Into You (1976, as writer)

Dave Black, 62, guitarist of British rock group Goldie, hit by train on July 18
Goldie – Making Up Again (1978)

Van Alexander, 100, songwriter, film and TV score composer, arranger, on July 19
Ella Fitzgerald feat. Chick Webb Orchestra – A-Tisket, A-Tasket (1938, as arranger)
Hugo Montenegro ““ Jeannie (1966, as co-writer)

Kyoko, Japanese musician and singer with avant-garde outfit OOIOO, on July 19

Wayne Carson, 72, songwriter, on July 20
Box Tops – Neon Rainbow (1967, as co-writer)
Pet Shop Boys – Always On My Mind (1987, as co-writer)

Dieter Moebius, 71, Swiss-German electronic musician, on July 20
Cluster ““ Hollywood (1974)

Mitch Aliotta, 71, bass guitarist of psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection, on July 21
Rotary Connection ““ Amen (1967)

Theodore Bikel, 91, Austrian-born actor, folk singer and composer, on July 21
Theodore Bikel – Edelweiss (1959)
Theodore Bikel – If I Were A Rich Man (2006)

Justin Lowe, 32, guitarist of metalcore band After the Burial, announced on July 21

Eddie Hardin, 66, rock pianist (Spencer Davis Group, Hardin & York), on July 22
Spencer Davis Group – Time Seller (1967)

Daron Norwood, 49, country singer, on July 22
Daron Norwood – If I Ever Love Again (1994)

Norbert Schwefel, 54, German rock musician, on July 23

Doug Rowe, singer with Australian country-rock band The Flying Circus, announced on July 23
The Flying Circus – Run, Run, Run (1969)

Patsy Stoneman, 90, country music pioneer, on July 23

Bobbi Kristina Brown, 22, singer and daughter of Whitney Houston, on July 26

Rickey Grundy, 56, gospel musician, on July 27

Buddy Emmons, 78, steel guitarist, on July 29
Buddy Emmons – Gonna Build A Mountain (1963)
Carpenters – Top Of The World (1972, on steel guitar)

Lynn Anderson, 67, country singer, on July 30
Lynn Anderson – Keep Me In Mind (1973)

(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    August 3rd, 2015 at 07:48 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. stonefish55
    August 3rd, 2015 at 07:55 | #2

    As always – informative and interesting! Your blog has become my main site for keeping me up to date with deaths in the music industry and I thank you for that!

  3. Dr.MAD
    August 4th, 2015 at 02:02 | #3

    Johnny Meeks…lead guitar for Gene Vincent…died July 30, 2015…that’s a big one to miss.

  4. Clarence Jones
    August 4th, 2015 at 02:47 | #4

    God, what a terrible month for songwriters!

  5. halfhearteddude
    August 4th, 2015 at 21:18 | #5

    Meeks will feature in the next installment; I saw his death reported only on Monday, after the post had gone up.

  6. dogbreath
    August 5th, 2015 at 17:38 | #6

    Thanks for the roll call of last month’s music-related deaths. The particular ones which remind me of the passage of time are Val Doonican, a staple of British light entertainment TV in my younger days, and Lynn Anderson who I now associate with her “appearance” in an episode of “Family Guy” and whose “Rose Garden” will live on, I’m sure.

  7. rhod
    August 7th, 2015 at 23:19 | #7

    Thanks Amd

    Gee July was a diabolical month for losses.



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