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In Memoriam – November 2016

December 6th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

A month of utter carnage, just to top off a bad month for decency in the US. Still, all this prolific work by the Grim Reaper gives us the opportunity to sample great music… gallery-1In 1985 I was living in London. One day in late February that year I accompanied a girl I was trying to impress to a concert by Leonard Cohen at the Hammersmith Odeon. I liked Cohen songs in small doses, but I entered the show with trepidation. Cohen was known to play three-hour sets, and 180 minutes of that monotone seemed a fairly steep price to pay for the attention a girl. It turned out be one of the best gigs I have ever been to. It was long “” 2,5 hours; 28 songs “” but I never noticed. Cohen sang, talked, joked, engaged with the crowd as though we were sitting in an intimate bar. He engulfed the audience with his personality. The girl and I never happened, but Len stayed in my life. Here”s the set list of that gig. I paid a fuller tribute to Cohen on the Any Major Cohen Covers mix I posted a few days after his death.

The Carpenters” genius in re-interpreting other people”s music found full expression in their timeless covers of two songs by Leon Russell: This Masquerade and A Song For You. The former was covered also to great effect by George Benson, the latter also by Donny Hathaway, whose version eclipses even the Carpenters one. It is the sign of great songwriting if your songs can be covered so well in different genres. Leon Russell was a great songwriter who himself travelled easily across genres: from swamp blues-rock to country to gospel to rock and so on. He was an idiosyncratic singer and performer, and a gifted producer and arranger (Joe Cocker”s classic Mad Dogs & Englishmen LP was produced by Russell). He appeared on Harrison”s Concert for Bangladesh, and then backed various acts on the piano. Towards the end of his life, he recorded and toured with Elton John, on whom Russell was a great influence.

And besides all that, he was also a session man, serving as a pianist on the Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA session players. He played on the classic Phil Spector Christmas album, on The Byrd”s Mr Tambourine Man, Ike & Tina Turner”s River Deep-Mountain High, The Rolling Stones” Shine A Light (which he wrote) and Live With Me, Rita Coolidge”s That Man Is My Weakness, The Flying Burrito Bros”s version of Wild Horses (released before that of the Stones), George Harrison”s You, Eric Clapton”s version of After Midnight, Bob Dylan”s When I Paint My Masterpiece, and many more.

With the death of Kay Starr, the last breath went out of a career that started in 1932 (or even earlier), when the then 10-year-old sang in public to supplement her father”s income during the Great Depression. Starr, whose father was an Iroquois Native-American and mother an Irish-American, was born on a reservation in Oklahoma. Though Starr was known for popular hits such as Wheel Of Fortune, her home was in blues and jazz. Billie Holiday once remarked that Kay Starr was “the only white woman who could sing the blues”. As an adolescent she sang hillbilly music and Western Swing; at 15 she joined the Joe Venuti Orchestra, and cut her first record with Glenn Miller. She went solo in 1946. Before that, she recorded a few songs, included the one featured here, with a bunch of labelmates calling themselves The Capitol International Jazzmen. They featured Nat King Cole on the piano, Max Roach on drums, Bill Coleman on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins on the sax, Oscar Moore on the guitar, and John Kirby on double bass “” a true superband.

Smokey Robinson once said that it was Berry Gordy”s second wife, Ray Singleton, who taught the young guns on the nascent Motown label new chords and how to write songs, himself included. Production and mentoring was an expedient: when she joined Motown, she realised that Gordy didn”t rate her band, the Cute-Teens, and wasn”t going to make her a singing sensation. “Miss Ray” never features prominently in Motown histories, but it was she who found that house on Detroit”s 2648 West Grand Boulevard that became known as Hitsville USA and who helped set up the Jobete Music publishing company. She also produced songs and recorded one single herself, as Little Ivy. Her marriage with Gordy soon broke up, and for a while she tried to set up a label with her new husband. Eventually she returned to Motown “” as a personal assistant to Diana Ross. In the 1980s she produced Rockwell”s hit Somebody”s Watching Me for Motown, but left soon after. She then helped her new lover, the late Sherrick, to a promising start to unfortunately short-lived his career, with his 1987 hit Just Call.gallery-2If you grew up with Sesame Street in the “˜70s, you”ll have heard the work of jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, who has died at 83: he was the bass player on all those Sesame Street songs produced by Joe Raposo, including the theme song, the original long version of which features here.  He was also the bass player of the Saturday Night Live band from 1975-80, and played on Jerry Jeff Walker”s original of the timeless Mr Bojangles. In the field of jazz, Cranshaw was an innovator, being one of the first jazz bassists to switch from upright bass to bass guitar. He played with the galaxy of jazz greats of his era: Sonny Rollins (on loads of albums), Gene Ammons, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Crawford, James Moody, Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Houston Person, Dexter Gordon, George Benson, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Joe Zaniwul, Yusuf Latif, Wayne Shorter, Freddy Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, the recently late Bobby Hutcherson and many others.

Another jazz icon Cranshaw played with was jazz/blues pianist and songwriter Mose Allison, who has died at 89. And in another bit of In Memoriam synergy, Leon Russell also recorded an Allison song, I”m Smashed “” on the original of which Cranshaw played. Allison”s influence on the British rock-blues movement in the 1960s was profound; acts like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, John Mayall, Van Morrison and The Who cited him as an influence, and in the US he influenced the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits, JJ Cale, Bonnie Raitt and, very observably, Leon Russell.

If you danced in clubs in the mid-“80s, you almost certainly will have danced to Colonel Abrams” 1985 hit Trapped. Before that he had a band “” with the unpromising name Conservative Manor, 94 East “” which featured on guitar a young fellow named Prince, who also had hits in 1985. Abrams could not sustain his success after the Trapped era, a few minor dance hits in the 1990s aside. His latter years were marked by illness related to diabetes, and, due to medical bills, destitution to the point of homlessness.  And now Orange Spinctermouth and his reptilian pals are looking at dismantling the Affordable Care Act”¦.

The world of folk has lost several great names this year. With the death of producer Milt Okun, another name has been added to the list. Okun was a key producer in the careers of people like Laura Nyro, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Chad Mitchell Trio and, especially, John Denver, whose song Leaving On A Jet Plane he had produced for Peter, Paul & Mary and the Mitchell Trio before he produced that of Denver, the song”s writer. Apart from all those big John Denver hits, Okun also co-produced Starland Vocal Band”s Afternoon Delight. His range was wide, also including productions for artists as diverse as Miriam Makeba, Placido Domingo and the Muppets.gallery-3Before she made her first record, Sharon Jones worked as a prison guard on Rikers Island jail in New York and as a cash-transit security guard. She was a tough cookie, and when a few years ago she had to undergo chemotherapy for cancer, she played her concerts with a bald head. The story of Sharon Jones, who has died from cancer at 60, is quite marvellous. She had jobbed as a session musician, and at one such gig she was discovered by Gabriel Roth and Philip Lehman, the owners of the now defunct French Pure Records label. Her act of retro soul and deep funk earned Jones and her backing band, The Dap-Kings, a loyal following, with her live performances attracting much attention. In 2013 she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, and after chemo it seemed to have gone into remission, but the cancer returned in 2015, in her stomach, lymph nodes and lungs. And still she kept performing, chemotherapy notwithstanding, telling the New York Times in July: “Getting out on that stage, that”s my therapy.”

I was shocked to hear of the death at 54 of Northern Irish folk-rock singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy. His album The Sailor”s Revenge was my album of the year 2012. At the time I wrote about it: “Coming from Northern Ireland, Bap Kennedy is liable to be compared to Van Morrison. Van has declared himself a fan, and like Morrison”s music, Kennedy”s draws from Irish folk “” pipes, flutes, whistles and mournful fiddles “” and  with hints of American soul. Plus a generous fistful of Bob Dylan. Produced by Mark Knopfler, the trained diamond gemologist “” not a traditional rock & roll background “” has delivered an 11-track collection of superbly written, performed and arranged songs.” A mutual acquaintance confirmed that Kennedy was a quality guy. He died after a 5-month battle with pancreas and bowel cancer.

Guitarist Al Caiola had a large output of his own records, but he hit the charts more often by backing others. Caiola supported vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn (including her fabulous version of Summertime), Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, and Julie London, and pop acts like Buddy Holly (Rave On), Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley, Chad & Jeremy, Jackie Wilson and many more. It seems he often was uncredited. Articles on him indicate that he played on tracks such as Paul Anka”s Diana, Percy Faith”s Theme From A Summer Place, Bobby Darin”s Mack The Knife and Dream Lover, Johnny Mathis” Chances Are, and others, but I couldn”t verify these.

The Brady girls” mom has passed away. Florence Henderson was best known as an actress, especially for her iconic role in The Brady Bunch. For those who follow these things, she was also well-known as a vocalist in stage musicals. But she also dabbled in pop music. In 1970 she released a pair of singles, and a few more records later in the decade. And in 1979 she brought out an album, With One More Look At You. As far as I can tell, she didn”t appear in the Brady Bunch records.

Bap Kennedy, 54, Northern Irish singer-songwriter, on Nov. 1
Bap Kennedy – The Shankill And The Falls
Bap Kennedy – Please Return To Jesus (2012)

Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Sonny Rollins – Brown Skin Girl (1962, on bass)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968, on bass)
Joe Raposo – Sesame Street Theme (1969, on bass)

Kay Starr, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
The Capitol International Jazzmen – If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (1945)
Kay Starr – Wheel Of Fortune (1952)
Kay Starr – When The Lights Go On Again (All Over The World) (1966)

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 87, pioneering French electronic musician and producer, on Nov. 4
Jean-Jaques Perrey – Brazilian Flower (1968)

Eddie Harsch, 59, keyboardist of the The Black Crowes, on Nov. 4
The Black Crowes – Wiser Time (1994)

Laurent Pardo, 55, French bass guitarist, on Nov. 5

Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
Leonard Cohen ““ So Long, Marianne (live, 1968)
Leonard Cohen – Lover Lover Lover (1974)
Leonard Cohen – If It Be Your Will (1984)
Leonard Cohen – Going Home (2012)

Jimmy Young, 95, British singer and radio presenter, on Nov. 7
Jimmy Young – The Man From Laramie (1955)

Al Caiola, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Pearl Bailey – Nothing For Nothing (1950, on guitar)
Fabian – Tiger (1958, on guitar)
Al Caiola – Bonanza (1960)

Martin Stone, 69, English guitarist, on Nov. 9
Wreckless Eric – If It Makes You Happy (1993, on electric guitar)

Lily, 64, Japanese singer and actress, on Nov. 11

Ray “˜Miss Ray” Singleton, 79, Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11
The Cute-Teens – When My Teen-Age Days Are Over (1959)
Jimmy Ruffin – Don”t Feel Sorry For Me (1961, as producer)
Sherrick – Just Call (1987, as producer)

Christopher Barriere, 44, rapper with Convicts, shot dead on Nov. 11

Victor Bailey, 56, bassist with Weather Report (1982-86), on Nov. 11
Victor Bailey – Bottom”s Up (1989)
Mary J. Blige – I”m Going Down (1994, on bass)

Doug Edwards, 70, Canadian musician and composer, on Nov. 11
Skylark – Wildflower (1973, as co-writer)

David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12

Jacques Werup, 71, Swedish jazz poet, on Nov. 12

Leon Russell, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13
Leon Russell – A Song For You (1970)
Leon Russell – This Masquerade (1972)
Leon Russell – Lady Blue (1975)

Billy Miller, 62, influential US rock & roll historian and musician, on Nov. 13

Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Holly Dunn – Are You Ever Gonna Love Me (1989)

Bob Walsh, 68, Canadian blues singer and guitarist, on Nov. 15

Milt Okun, 92, singer and producer, on Nov. 15
Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues (1966, as producer)
John Denver – Darcy Farrow (1972, as producer)
Starland Vocal Band – Afternoon Delight (1976, as producer)

Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Mose Allison – Parchman Farm (1959)
Mose Allison – I”m Smashed (1970, with Bob Crenshaw on bass)
Mose Allison – Everybody Thinks You”re An Angel (2010)

Mentor Williams, 70, songwriter and producer, on Nov. 16
John Henry Kurtz – Drift Away (1972, as songwriter. Original version)

Diz Russell, 83, singer with doo-wop band The Regals and later The Orioles, on Nov. 16
The Regals ““ I”m So Lonely (1955, also as co-writer)

Don Waller, 65, US music writer and singer of “˜70s punk band Imperial Dogs, on Nov. 17
Blue Öyster Cult – This Ain”t The Summer Of Love (1976)

Sharon Jones, 60, R&B singer, on Nov. 18
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Got A Thing On My Mind (2001)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

Hod O”Brien, 80, jazz pianist, on Nov. 20

Craig Gill, 44, drummer of British rock group Inspiral Carpets, on Nov. 22
Inspiral Carpets – Two Worlds Collide (1991)

Fred Stobaugh, 99, songwriter, on Nov. 23

Joe Esposito, 78, road manager for Elvis Presley, member of “Memphis Mafia”, on Nov. 23

Florence Henderson, 82, actress (The Brady Bunch) and singer, on Nov. 24
Florence Henderson – Conversations (1970)

Shirley Bunnie Foy, 80, jazz singer and percussionist, on Nov. 24

Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Colonel Abrams ““ Trapped (1985)

Pauline Oliveros, 84, composer and accordionist, on Nov. 25

Tony Martell, 90, music industry executive, on Nov. 27

Carlton Kitto, 74, Indian jazz guitarist, on Nov. 28

Ray Columbus, 74, New Zealand rock singer, on Nov. 28
Ray Columbus & The Invaders – She”s A Mod (1964)

Micky Fitz, singer  of UK punk band The Business, announced on Dec. 1

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  1. halfhearteddude
    December 6th, 2016 at 07:14 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. JohhnyDiego
    December 6th, 2016 at 13:31 | #2

    Since I started following this blog several years ago each time I hear of a musician’s death I almost immediately wonder which song you will include in your memorium to them. I appreciate the time and effort you put into the little bios you write. They are essential when listening to the mix. Thank you, Dude, for what you do.

  3. halfhearteddude
    December 6th, 2016 at 16:26 | #3

    Thanks for reading the stuff, JD. Choosing the songs is a fun part of the gig.

  4. Hugh Candyside
    December 7th, 2016 at 18:49 | #4

    Thanks again for these posts, Dude. There are always a few that I had missed (Kay Starr and — gasp — Bap Kennedy) and I like to pay my respects. On Mose Allison: I was surprised you didn’t go with his “Back County Suite.” When The Who recorded it as “Young Man Blues” it finally gave Mose some financial security. The story goes that he thought that first $5,000 royalty check was a mistake and tried to return it. And while Hendrix and all certainly respected him I think the artist most influenced was Georgie Fame, who called Mose “my mentor” in “Mose Knows” on “Swan Songs,” apparently Georgie’s final album.

  5. RhodB
    December 9th, 2016 at 20:32 | #5

    Thanks Amd

    Each in memoriam is a learning curve for me as a lot of the artists I have ignored or not heard of. The information supplied ( as outlined by Johnny Diego) is essential

    Great work

    Regards

    Rhod

  6. dogbreath
    December 15th, 2016 at 13:02 | #6

    It’s been a crappy old year for musicians dying, which is inevitable naturally, and November was no exception. Thankfully their music lives on. Cheers for the comp.

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