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In Memoriam – May 2018

This month May”s dead and their music come to you before the month is out, due to travelling schedules. It has been another fairly easy-going month. In 2016 the never-ending streak of superstar deaths culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Maybe the unusually quiet year 2018 is preparing the way for the monster”s political demise. What”s that phrase he used to chant about Hilary Clinton?

The funky drummer

May started on a shitty note as James Brown drummer John Jabo Starks died at 79, just over a year after his fellow J.B.”s drummer Clyde Stubblefield passed on. Starks and Stubblefield are likely the most-sampled drummers. Apart from laying down the funky beats for Brown, Starks also drummed for blues legends like Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B. King.

The inventor’s Satisfaction

Often great innovations have their roots in misadventure. So it as with Glenn Snoddy“s greatest legacy: the invention of the fuzz guitar pedal which came to define the Nashville Sound and found its most famous expression in the intro riff of the Rolling Stones” Satisfaction. Snoddy was engineering Marty Robbins” 1960 song Don”t Worry when he noticed a distortion in Grady Martin”s guitar (coming at 1:24). He found that the transformer in the amplifier had blown up. But the effect was great and so it was retained on record. It proved so popular that Snoddy set about inventing a device which could easily create that sound. Snoddy also engineered some classic country tracks, including Hank Williams” Your Cheating Heart and Johnny Cash”s Ring Of Fire. In 1967 he set up his own studio, Woodlands, were classics like the Charlie Daniels Band”s The Devil Went Down To Georgia, The Oak Ridge Boys” Elvira and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band”s album Will The Circle Be Unbroken was recorded. Oh, and he was the one who hired Kris Kristofferson as the janitor atColumbia, which would lead to great things.


Reggie Lucas made his mark in three fields of record-making: he was a fine guitarist who served a sideman to Miles Davis and others in the 1970s; he was a producer for Madonna (on her debut album), Randy Crawford, The O”Jays, The Spinners, Stephanie Mills, Lou Rawls, Phyllis Hyman and others; and he was a songwriter of classic soul tracks like Mills” Never Knew Like This Before, Hyman”s You Know How To Love Me, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway”s Back Together Again and The Closer I Get To You, as well as Madonna”s Borderline. For a brief time, he was a member of the soul-funk trio Sunfire.

The last dance

One of the most delightfully dark songs of the 1960s must be Esther & Abi Ofarim‘s One More Dance, wherein two lovers regard the illness and eventual death of the woman”s rich husband with undisguised glee. I hope that when he died at 80, Abi Ofarim had nobody observing his demise with such relish. He and Esther divorced in 1970, after scoring hits such as Cinderella Rockefella and the Bee Gees-written Morning Of My Life. He kept recording and arranging, and also acted as a manager. In recent years he founded a project for impoverished seniors in Munich.

The Schlager paradox

A better example of German Schlager was provided by singer Jürgen Marcus, who has passed away at 69. Marcus is a good summary of Schlager music: like so much in the genre, his music was banal and yet often inventive, catchy yet embarrassing; his image was square and ingratiatingly conventional, yet he was secretly gay (of a conservative sort; he later come out, but opposed gay marriage because of his Catholic beliefs). He was the son-in-law every mom wanted for their daughter, and not a few moms wanted for themselves. His songs sometimes abruptly changed genre in mid-track: listen to Ein Festival der Liebe: it”s standard Schlager fare, including oompah intro, until  the bridge slows things down and morphs into a samba-influenced chant-along interlude interrupts proceedings, and then resumes to the clap-along gumph the Germans are so fond of.

The Williams brother

With his brothers, including the younger and more eventually more famous Andy, Dick Williams began performing on radio as a pre-teen in 1938 as The Williams Brothers. It was the start of a long career during which they appeared in four movies, backed Bing Crosby, and formed a popular nightclub act with the singer and actress Kay Thompson. While Andy Williams became one of the most popular entertainers of his time, Dick joined Dick James” band as a singer.


John “˜Jabo” Starks, 79, drummer with James Brown”s J.B.s, on May 1
Bobby “˜Blue” Bland – Turn On Your Love Light (1961, on drums)
The J.B.”s – Pass The Peas (1972, on drums, also as co-writer)
James Brown – Super Bad (1970, on drums)
James Brown – The Payback (1973, on drums, also as writer)

Stu Boy King, 64, drummer with proto-punk band The Dictators (1974-75), on May 1
The Dictators – The Next Big Thing (1975)

Takayuki Inoue, 77, lead guitarist of Japanese rock band The Spiders, on May 2
The Spiders – Hey Boy (1966)

Tony Cucchiara, 80, Italian singer and songwriter, on May 2
Tony Cucchiara – Gioia mia (1965)

Tony Kinman, 62, (cow)punk singer and bassist, on May 3
The Dils – I Hate The Rich (1977)
Rank And File – Rank And File (1984)

Abi Ofarim, 80, Israeli musician, on May 4
Esther & Abi Ofarim – Morning Of My Life (1967)
Esther & Abi Ofarim – Cinderella Rockafella (1968)
Abi Ofarim & Tom Winter – Slow Motion Man (1973)

Steve Coy, 56, member of English pop band Dead or Alive, on May 4
Dead Or Alive – In Too Deep (1985)

Dick Williams, 91, singer with vocal group The Williams Brothers, on May 5
Bing Crosby – Swinging On A Star (1944, on co-vocals)
Harry James and his Orchestra – Mona Lisa (1950, on lead vocals)

Maurane, 57, Belgian singer and actress, on May 7

Gayle Shepherd, 81, member of vocal group Shepherd Sisters, on May 7
The Shepherd Sisters – Alone (Why Must I Be Alone) (1957)

Big T, 52, American rapper, on May 7

Carl Perkins, 59, member of New Zealand reggae band House of Shem, on May 9

Sammy Allred, 84, country entertainer, on May 9
The Geezinslaw Brothers – Change Of Wife (1967)

Ben Graves, 46, drummer of heavy metal band Murderdolls, on May 9

Scott Hutchison, 36, Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist, suicide on May 10
Frightened Rabbit – Living In Colour (2010)

Glenn Branca, 69, avant-garde composer and guitarist, on May 23

Hideki Saijo, 63, Japanese pop singer, on May 16
Saijo Hideki – Young Man (1979)

Jack Reilly, 86, jazz pianist and academic, on May 18

Philip “˜Nchipi” Tabane, 84, South African jazz singer and musician, on May 18
Philip Tabane – Ba Nyaka Ke Wele (1969)

Reggie Lucas, 65, producer, guitarist and songwriter, May 19
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway ““ The Closer I Get To You (1978, as co-writer)
Mtume – So You Wanna Be A Star (1980, as producer & guitarist)
Sunfire – Young, Free And Single (1982, as member, producer, guitarist)
Randy Crawford ““ Almaz (1986, as producer)

Glenn Snoddy, 96, engineer and inventor of the fuzz guitar pedal, on May 19
Hank Williams – Your Cheatin” Heart (1952, as engineer)
Marty Robbins – Don”t Worry (1960, as engineer)
Billy Joe Royal – Hush (1967, as producer)

Phil Emmanuel, 65, Australian guitarist, on May 24
Phil & Tommy Emmanuel – The Shaker (1994)

Roger Clark, 67, Muscle Shoals drummer, on May 24
Narvel Felts – Reconsider Me (1975, on drums)
Bill Brandon – No Danger Of Heartbreak Ahead (1977, on drums)

Andy MacQueen, bassist of Australian pop-punk band Exploding White Mice, on May 27
Exploding White Mice – Always Ends The Same (1994)

Stewart Lupton, 43, singer of indie group Jonathan Fire*Eater, on May 28
Jonathan Fire*Eater – Station Coffee (1997)

Josh Martin, guitarist of grindcore band Anal Cunt, in an escalator accident on May 28

Jürgen Marcus, 69, German Schlager singer, on May 29
Jürgen Marcus – Eine neue Liebe ist wie ein neues Leben (1972)
Jürgen Markus – Ein Festival der Liebe (1973)

(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    May 29th, 2018 at 17:58 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. dr.mad
    May 29th, 2018 at 19:46 | #2

    Your musical taste andyour political beliefs leave much to be desired….how banal can one’s grasp of music be?…yeswe all miss Hilliarythe Crook….right! Euro trash!!!!!

  3. dogbreath
    May 30th, 2018 at 13:39 | #3

    I’m sure the Dude doesn’t need me to defend him & we don’t have to visit this site or download the music either. Anyway, many thanks for the In Memoriam and, blushing slightly, I confess I was a big fan of Esther & Abi Ofarim (well, particularly Esther) back in the day so sad to learn of Abi’s passing. Some other overlooked artists to check out as well. Cheers!

  4. Rhodb
    June 2nd, 2018 at 02:34 | #4

    Sorry to hear of Phil Emmanual passing a good guitarist but shaded by his more famous brother tommy



  5. Days of Broken Arrows
    June 4th, 2018 at 12:18 | #5

    Just an FYI: Reggie Lucas wrote and produced Madonna’s “Borderline,” which was her first Top 10 hit, getting to #10 in spring 1984. This was the song that broke Madonna and launched the sales of her first album, which had been released almost a year earlier but didn’t do much.

    He also co-wrote and co-produced Stephanie Mills’ 1980 hit “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” which had a similar intro to “Borderline.” He was an influential figure in music. Also managed to annoy Madonna to the point where she fired him as producer, which is amusing. She didn’t like his mixes. Great writer and producer, though. R.I.P.

  6. Anders Franzén
    June 8th, 2018 at 20:12 | #6

    Glenn Branca were one of those “I-have-to-check-that one-out”, but never did. Maybe now’s the time?

    RIP Glenn and the others.

  7. September 27th, 2018 at 23:53 | #7

    Too bad the link is dead!
    I really like this series, but somehow I missed this.

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