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In Memoriam – September 2019

October 3rd, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

 

The Cars’ Driver
The death at 75 of Rik Ocasek reminded me of how when I got my first car in 1984, the tape of the Heartbeat City album by The Cars (appropriately) was on heavy rotation. Much of that album has not dated well, though I still enjoy Magic, Why Can’t I Have You, You Might Think (which featured on A Life In Vinyl 1984 Vol. 1) and the title track. I also loved Drive — the album’s stand-out track — until Live Aid destroyed it for me. The laziness of using that song to illustrate the suffering of famine based on one line taken completely out of context still annoys me.

Besides creating a lot of great power pop with The Cars, Ocasek was also a producer. His best-known work in that area is that with Suicide. He also produced Weezer’s eponymous debut album (and listen to The Cars’ 1978 track Just What I Needed as a precursor to the Weezer sound). He also produced other Weezer classics, including the impossibly catchy Island In The Sun. Ocasek also produced acts like Alan Vega, Nada Surf, Hole, Jonathan Richman, Bad Religion, Guided By Voices

The Session Legend
One of those lesser-known giants of music left us in Muscle Shoals guitarist, engineer and producer Jimmy Johnson. His great body of work is in his session guitar work, as a member of the session players’ collective The Swampers (more on that below). As an engineer, Johnson worked on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album. He also discovered and produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose mention of “The Swampers” on Sweet Home Alabama refers to Johnson’s session group.

As a guitarist Johnson often worked alongside Duane Allman, Bobby Womack, Joe South and/or Eddie Hinton on a great many classics recorded in Muscle Shoals, at the FAME Studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which he co-founded.

I have ascertained that he played on Aretha Franklin tracks such as Chain Of Fools, Natural Woman, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), Think, Since You’ve Been Gone, Call Me; Wilson Picket’s Land Of 1000 Dances; Boz Scaggs’ Dinah Jo; The Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There, If You’re Ready Come Go With Me, and Respect Yourself (on rhythm guitar); Bobby Womack’s Harry Hippie; Luther Ingram’s If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right); Millie Jackson’s Hurt So Good;  Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, Take Me To The Mardi Gras and Kodachrome; Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s the Night and Sailing (on rhythm guitar); Eddie Rabbit’s Suspicions; and Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight, Night Moves, Old Time Rock and Roll (on rhythm guitar) and Good For Me (he accompanied Seger on almost all his albums between 1972 and 1982).

Wikipedia credits him with playing on a dizzying number of other classics, including When a Man Loves A Woman, Mustang Sally, Sweet Soul Music, I’m Your Puppet, Do Right Woman – Do Right Man, Respect (Aretha’s version), Take A Letter Maria, The Harder They Come by Jimmy Cliff; When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman and Sexy Eyes by Dr Hook.

The Soprano
The In Memoriam series usually does not include musicians from the field of classical music, but an exception may be made with the soprano Jessye Norman, who blazed many trails in her field. In as far as I can be said to have a “favourite” soprano, Norman was that, ever since I first heard her as a 23-year-old. As a friend of mine who had a friendship with Norman can testify, she was a kind, accessible and generous person.

Occasionally Norman dabbled outside the field of opera and lieder, turning her talents to Cole Porter or Michel Legrand (who preceded her in death by a few months), and singing songs of religion. Norman, who was raised as a Baptist, was a freestyling Christian who found greater religious impulse in the Girls Scouts, of whom she was one, than in church — and every year, like a good scout, she would sell thousands of boxes of cookies.

 

Out of Money
Eddie Money was the kind of singer who was massive in the US and made very little impact in the UK or Europe. Between Britain and Germany — the two biggest markets in Europe — Money had one #59 hit (inevitably, Take Me Home Tonight). His sound, it’s fair to say, was thoroughly American. His life could make for a decent bio-pic, though. Money, whose stage name was a corruption of Mahoney (supposedly a joke on never having any cash), wanted to follow his father and grandfather in becoming a cop, but he dropped that career when he was told that he couldn’t have long hair on the job. In 1980, Money mistook a synthetic barbiturate for the cocaine he was going to take and overdosed. For months after he couldn’t walk.

The Grateful Poet
Rarely does a non-performing member of a group gain membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but Robert Hunter was the first to make it, in 2004, thanks to the lyrics he wrote for the Grateful Dead. These include Dark Star, St. Stephen, Alligator, Truckin’, China Cat Sunflower, Terrapin Station, and the lovely Ripple. Later he also wrote with Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Little Feat (on their 2012 comeback), and others. Much of his muse came from his experiences as a volunteer in the early 1960s in CIA research into psychedelic drugs. Getting stoned on The Man’s dime, man!

The Disco Man
How strange that a man who has written or produced some of the great disco classics didn’t even have a Wikipedia page. But so it was with Bob Esty, whose death for a few days was marked almost exclusively on Facebook. The tributes on his Facebook page testify to a quality man. And what music he helped create! He produced, composed or arranged hit songs for the likes of Donna Summer, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Dusty Springfield, The Pointer Sisters, The Beach Boys and more.  He (co-)produced Donna Summer’s Last Dance, Streisand’s The Main Event (which also co-wrote and arranged), Cher’s Take Me Home (ibid), The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men, and more.

 

The R&B writer
During the R&B heydays of the late 1990s and early 200s, LaShawn Daniels was responsible for writing for some of the biggest names of the time, and scored a good number of hits with his compositions and productions. He co-wrote Whitney Houston’s It’s Not Right (But It’s Okay), Destiny’s Child Say My Name (which he also produced and earned him a Grammy), Jennifer Lopez’s If You Had My Love, Toni Braxton’s He Wasn’t Man Enough, Monica & Brandy’s ‘s The Boy Is Mine, Michael Jackson’s You Rock My World, Tatyana Ali’s Daydreamin’, Whitney Houston & George Michael’s If I Told You That, Twista’s So Lonely, Janet Jackson’s Feedback, Beyoncé’s Telephone, Tamar Braxton’s Love And War, as well as the Spice Girls’ hits Holler, Let Love Lead The Way and Forever. Several of these he also produced. Daniels died at 41 in a car crash.

Not Risen
Jesus has died. That is, Jeff Fenholt, who played Jesus in the original Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and later recorded a few demos with Black Sabbath. Pope Paul VI might have loved the musical, but a Christian builder who did work on Fenholt’s house didn’t. After the builder reprimanded Fenholt for his portrayal of Jesus on the stage (and, I hope, for his horrible singing), the singer-actor converted to Christianity, kicked his various addictions, and ended up having a show on the televangelist exploitation machine Trinity Broadcasting Network. Among all the conservative brylcreem conservatives, Fenholt sported long hair (like Jesus). But don’t let the long hair fool you: Fenholt was a conservative himself, and towards the end of his life a Trumpian on the deplorable end of that deplorable scale.

The Testament
Earlier this year, country singer Kylie Rae Harris recorded a song for her six-year-old daughter, in case of her death. Twenty Years From Now refers to a road trip and the hope of seeing what the next two decades would bring. In light of Harris’ death at 30 in a car accident (which also killed a teenager and was caused by he singer), the song breaks your heart.

 

Laurent Sinclair, 58, composer, keyboardist with French new wave band Taxi Girl, on Sept. 2
Taxi Girl – Mannequin (1980)

Les Adams, 63, English producer, DJ with dance music outfit L.A. Mix, on Sept. 2
L.A. Mix – Check This Out (1988)

LaShawn Daniels, 41, R&B songwriter and producer, in car crash on Sept. 3
Monica & Brandy – The Boy Is Mine (1998)
Destiny’s Child – Say My Name (Jazzy Bass remix) (1999, as co-writer)

Dan Warner, session guitarist and songwriter, on Sept. 4
MIKA – Grace Kelly (2006, as co-writer)

Kylie Rae Harris, 30, country singer, in car crash on Sept. 4
Kylie Rae Harris – Twenty Years From Now (2019)

Jimmy Johnson, 76, session guitarist, engineer and producer, on Sept. 5
Solomon Burke – Uptight Good Woman (1969, as co-writer and on guitar)
The Staple Singers – If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)
Muscle Shoals Horns – Hustle To The Music (1976, as member)
Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More Time (1977, as producer)

Camilo Sesto, 72, Spanish singer-songwriter, on Sept. 8
Camilo Sesto – Algo Más (1973)

Lavrentis Machairitsas, 62, Greek rock musician, on Sept. 9

Gru, 46, Serbian rapper, in paragliding accident on Sept. 9
Gru – Biću tu (1996)

Hossam Ramzy, 65, Egyptian percussionist and composer, on Sept. 10
Peter Gabriel – Digging In The Dirt (1992, on the surdu)
Hossam Ramzy – Samya’s Solo (2000)

Jeff Fenholt, 68, musician, actor and televangelist, on Sept. 10
Jeff Fenholt – Gethsemane (1971, as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar)

Torsten Schmidt, singer of German rock band Virus D, on Sept. 10

Daniel Johnston, 58, cult singer-songwriter, on Sept. 11
Daniel Johnston – Impossible Love (2001)

Eddie Money, 70, rock singer-songwriter, on Sept. 13
Eddie Money – Two Tickets To Paradise (1977)
Eddie Money – Take Me Home Tonight (1986, with Ronnie Spector)
Eddie Money – I’ll Get By (1991)

Mick Schauer, keyboardist of hard rock band Clutch, on Sept. 14
Clutch – Mr. Shiny Cadillackness (2007)

Ric Ocasek, 75, singer-songwriter with The Cars, producer, on Sept. 15
The Cars – My Best Friend’s Girl (1978)
The Cars – Magic (1984)
The Cars – Heartbeat City (1985, at Live Aid)
Weezer – Buddy Holly (1994, as producer)

Roberto Leal, 67, Portuguese-Brazilian singer, on Sept. 15
Roberto Leal – Fim dos tempos (1976)

Vic Vogel, 84, Canadian jazz pianist, composer and conductor, on Sept. 16

John Cohen, 87, folk musician and musicologist, on Sept. 16
New Lost City Ramblers – No Depression In Heaven (1959, as member)

Hans Ingemansson, 54, keyboardist of Swedish group The Creeps, screenwriter, on Sept. 17
The Creeps – Smash! (1990)

Tony Mills, 57, singer of English hard-rock groups Shy, TNT, on Sept. 18
Shy – Can’t Fight The Nights (1987, also as co-writer)

Larry Wallis, 70, English rock guitarist with Pink Fairies, Motörhead (1975-76), on Sept. 19
Larry Wallis – Police Car (1977)

María Rivas, 59, Venezuelan Latin jazz singer, on Sept. 19
Maria Rivas – El Motorizado (1991)

Harold Mabern, 83, jazz pianist and composer, on Sept. 19
Betty Carter – This Is Always (1964, on piano)

Sandie Jones, 68, Irish singer, on Sept. 19
Sandie Jones – Ceol An Ghra (1972)

Yonrico Scott, 63, drummer with The Derek Trucks Band, on Sept. 20
Derek Trucks Band – Something To Make You Happy (2009, on drums and percussion)

Leigh “Little Queenie” Harris, 65, singer of Li’l Queenie & the Percolators, on Sept. 21

Robert Hunter, 78, lyricist of the Grateful Dead and musician, on Sept. 23
Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970, as lyricist)
Robert Hunter – Yellow Moon (1975)
Bob Dylan – Silvio (1988, as lyricist)
Counting Crows – Friend Of The Devil (2003, as lyricist)

Richard Brunelle, 55, death metal guitarist with Morbid Angel, Paths of Possession, on Sept. 23

Jim DeSalvo, 53, producer and composer, traffic collision on Sept. 23

Bob Esty, 72, disco producer, arranger writer, musician, on Sept. 27
Donna Summer – I Love You (1977, as arranger, keyboardist, percussionist, backing singer)
Barbra Streisand – The Main Event (1979, as co-writer, producer, arranger)
Cher – Take Me Home (1979, as co-writer, producer, arranger, backing singer)
Pointer Sisters – We’ve Got The Power (1980, as writer)

Jimmy Spicer, 61, American rapper, on Sept. 27
Jimmy Spicer – Money (Dollar Bill Y’all) (1982)

José José, 71, Mexican singer and actor, on Sept. 28

Dessie O’Halloran, 79, Irish fiddler, on Sept. 28
Dessie O’Halloran – Say You Love Me (2004)

busbee, 43, songwriter, producer, musician, label executive, on Sept. 29
Lady Antebellum – Our Kind Of Love (2010, as writer)

Louie Rankin, 55, Jamaican-born Canadian reggae artist and actor, in car crash on Sept. 30
Louie Rankin – Typewriter (1992)

Jessye Norman, 74, soprano, on Sept. 30
Jessye Norman – There Is A Man Going Round (1978)
Jessye Norman – In The Still Of The Night (1984)
Jessye Norman – Les Moulins De Mon Cœur (The Windmills Of Your Mind) (2000)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    October 3rd, 2019 at 08:54 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Col
    October 3rd, 2019 at 10:04 | #2

    Impressed, as always mate! It sounds a little morbid, but I do look forward to this write up each month. Easiest way to keep up to date! Thanks.

  3. Rhodb
    October 5th, 2019 at 22:20 | #3

    Thanks once again for the In Memoriam share. I appreciate the history and the in depth comments

    Regards

  4. dogbreath
    October 22nd, 2019 at 21:08 | #4

    Sad losses for me in Sept: Ric Ocasek, those first few Cars’ albums were a breath of fresh air, Larry Wallis, the Pink Fairies and Motorhead albums certainly blew the cobwebs off, and Robert Hunter whose lyrics opened my ears & eyes especially on the Dead’s “American Beauty” lp with gorgeous songs like the opening “Box of Rain”. Thanks for compiling. Cheers!

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