Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – April 2020

In Memoriam – April 2020

What a horrible month! Even without Covid-19, April would have been a cruel month. I count 16 coronavirus-related music deaths this month (excluding classical and national folk music musicians). Disclaimer: in many cases, as I understand it, Covid-19 is not the only or primary cause of death. Where it states that somebody died of Covid-19, it does not exclude associated causes of death.

The Soul Legend
The news of Bill Withers’ death took a while to be announced. He died on March 30, but his death was made publicly known only on April 3. I paid tribute to the great singer with a mix of cover versions of his songs. A couple of days later I caught up on Netflix on an excellent documentary about the backroom fixer Clarence Avant. Featured in the film was Bill Withers, who had been discovered by Avant when the singer was still an airplane mechanic.

The Singing Mailman
A few days after Withers died, another giant fell in John Prine, whose death I also marked with a tribute and mix of covers of his songs. Like Withers, Prine was a working man when he was discovered. The mailman in Chicago became something of an overnight sensation in 1971 with his astonishing self-titled debut album. It was the foundation for an impressive body of work which deserves to be much better known. Among Prine’s fans were gifted songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson (who namechecked Prine in the title of one of his songs). Prine beat cancer twice, but died of Covid-19 after having had a hip operation.

A Funky Drummer
Disco had many pioneers, but among those who most notably put the stomp on the dancefloor was Hamilton Bohannon. The luxuriously coiffured funkmaster cut his teeth in the 1960s as Little Stevie Wonder’s drummer and then Motown’s tour bandleader. In 1973 he started to release his drum-driven funk under the banner of his surname (occasionally giving his first name an airing). A devout Christian, he saw it necessary to issue a disclaimer to the effect that the title of his album Dance Your Ass Off was not profane.

The Drumming Pioneer
Nigerian drummer Tony Allen is regarded by many of his peers as the greatest exponent of his craft. He was the long-time drummer for Fela Kuti’s Africa ‘70, the outfit that is credited with being the primary founder of Afro-pop, a genre which fused African jazz, traditional African rhythms, US jazz, funk, soul and pop. Kuti said that the genre would not exist without Tony Allen.

The drummer left the band in 1979 to form his own band. In the 1980s he moved to London and then Paris where he backed African acts such Kuti, King Sunny Adé, Ray Lema, Khaled, and Manu Dibango (whom we lost in March), as well as French acts such as Charlotte Gainsbourg and Air, plus Jimmy Cliff, Groove Armada, Kid Creole & The Coconuts, Neil Finn, Grace Jones and, somehow, Irish Foster & Allen. On Blur’s 2000 single Music Is My Radar, Damon Albarn repeats the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing”. Later Albarn got to collaborate with Allen.

The Award Winner
Another Covid-19 victim was Adam Schlesinger of the underrated Fountains of Wayne. With his group, the anthem is the impossibly catchy Stacy’s Mom, but Schlesinger had great success also outside the band. In his career, he won three Emmys, a Grammys, and the ASCAP Pop Music Award, and was nominated for Academy, Tony and Golden Globe awards. He wrote and co-produced the title song of the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do!, and three tracks for the Hugh Grant film Music & Lyrics, among other film works. He wrote many opening numbers for awards shows and contributed eight songs to the classic 2008 A Colbert Christmas special. The resultant album won him a Grammy.

The Statler Brother
A founding member of The Statler Brothers, the much-loved country-gospel group, Harold Reid provided the bass voice, and wrote several of the group’s songs, including hits like 1970s Bed Of Rose’s and 1978’s Do You Know You Are My Sunshine?. None of the brothers where called Statler, and only two of the four were brothers — Harold and lead singer Don. They got their name from a box of tissues. The Statler Brothers regularly backed Cash — one of their songs is even titled We Got Paid By Cash.

The Fever Man
In 1955, songwriter Eddie Cooley was stuck with the basics of a song. So he went to his friend Otis Blackwell, who helped him finish it, using a pseudonym for contractual reasons. That song was Fever, one of the most recognisable song in pop music, having been covered throughout the generations. To be fair, most people know the finger-snapping arrangement, which was inaugurated in Peggy Lee’s 1958 version, to which Lee added the lyrics about Romeo and Juliet and Pocahontas etc. The original, featured in The Originals – The 1950s, by Little Willie John, who didn’t really the song. He had a big hit with it. Cooley also scored a mid-size hit in his own right in 1956, with Priscilla.

The Great Sideman
Principally known as a jazz guitarist and sideman to many great names in that genre, Bucky Pizzarelli, who has died at 94 of Covid-19, played on several classics, including Solomon Burke’s Cry To Me, The Drifters’ Save The Last Dance For Me and This Magic Moment, Roberta Flack’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and many of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound tracks (it’s difficult to say who played on which song). He backed artists as diverse as Carly Simon, Carmen McCrae, Paul McCartney, Michael Franks, Neil Sedaka, Rufus Wainwright, Anita Baker, Robert Palmer and a very young Aretha Franklin. He joined the houseband of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1964, and tuned Tiny Tim’s ukulele on the day the singer married Miss Vicki on Carson’s show.

The Hitwriter
Another songwriter of a classic hit left us in Kenny Young, who died on April 14 on his 79th birthday. Young’s big hit was The Drifters’ Under The Boardwalk, which he co-wrote with Artie Resnick. He also wrote hits such as Mark Lindsay’s Arizona and Silver Bird, Come Back and Shake Me by Clodagh Rodgers, and Ai No Corrida (with Chaz Janckel; it was a hit for Quincy Jones). As a musician, he had hits in the UK with his band Fox (Only You Can; Imagine Me, Imagine You; S-S-S-Single Bed) and Yellow Dog (Just One More Night). In the early 1980s, Fox reformed to record the Electro People, the theme music for the anarchic comedy programme Kenny Everett Show. In later years, Young became an environmentalist.

The Motown Man
We rarely feature the bureaucrats of music, but an exception must be made for Barney Ales, who as a young (white) man joined the newly-founded Motown label as promo man. Much as Berry Gordy is credited with the vision of making soul music for everybody, Ales made it happen commercially between 1961 and 1972. After a three-year hiatus, he returned as Motown executive, just in time to back Stevie Wonder on his ambitious Songs In The Key Of Life project.

The number of tributes this month is rather big, so this package includes a second playlist I made for my on entertainment.

Bill Withers, 81, soul singer-songwriter, on March 30
Bill Withers – Grandma’s Hands (live) (1972)
Bill Withers – Lean On Me (live) (1973)
Bill Withers – Love Is (1979)
Bill Withers – Oh Yeah (1985)

Cristina, 64, pop singer, of Covid-19 on March 31
Cristina – Disco Clone (1978)

Adam Schlesinger, 52, songwriter, producer, musician (Fountains of Wayne), of Covid-19 on April 1
The Wonders – That Thing You Do! (1996, as writer and co-producer)
Fountains Of Wayne – Stacy’s Mom (2003)
Fountains Of Wayne – Fire In The Canyon (2007)
Neil Patrick Harris – Broadway Is Not Just For Gays (2013, as co-writer)

Harold Rubin, 87, South African-born Israeli jazz clarinettist, on April 1

Bucky (John) Pizzarelli, 94, jazz guitarist, of Covid-19 on April 1
Bucky Pizzarelli – The Astronaut (1961)
The Drifters – Save The Last Dance For Me (1962, on guitar)
Roberta Flack –  The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1969, on guitar)

Ellis Marsalis Jr., 85, jazz pianist, father of Branford and Wynton, of Covid-19 on April 1
Ellis Marsalis Jr. – A Moment Alone (1994)

Guus Smeets, 71, Dutch singer, of Covid-19 on April 2

Vaughan Mason, 69, funk musician, producer and songwriter, on April 2
Vaughan Mason & Crew – Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll (1979)

Tweedy Bird Loc, 52, rapper, on April 3

Patrick Gibson, 64, drummer and singer with the Gibson Brothers, of Covid-19 on April 4
Gibson Brothers – Come To America (1976)
Gibson Brothers – Ooh What A Life (1979)

Alex Harvey, 79, singer, songwriter and actor, on April 4
Alex Harvey – Delta Dawn (1973, also as writer)

Helin Bölek, 28, singer of Turkish political group Grup Yorum, from hunger strike on April 4

Timothy Brown, 82, R&B singer, actor, and American football player, on March 4
Timmy Brown – I Got Nothin’ But Time (1962)

Barry Allen, 74, singer, musician, producer, on April 4
Barry Allen – Love Drops (1966)

Luis Eduardo Aute, 76, Spanish protest singer-songwriter, on April 4
Luis Eduardo Aute – Al Alba (1978)

Onaje Allan Gumbs, 70, jazz pianist, composer and bandleader, on April 6
Onaje Allan Gumbs – Quiet Passion (1988)

Black the Ripper, 32, British grime MC and rapper, on April 6

Betty Bennett, 98, jazz singer, on April 7
Charlie Ventura And His Orchestra – Yankee Clipper (1949, on vocals)

Eddy Davis, 79, jazz banjo player, guitarist, drummer, of Covid-19 on April 7
Leon Redbone – Sweet Sue (Just You) (1978, on drums, produced by Hal Willner)

Hal Willner, 64, producer, of Covid-19 on April 7
Iggy Pop – Evil California (1993, as producer)

John Prine, 73, legendary singer-songwriter, of Covid-19 on April 7
John Prine – Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore (1971)
John Prine – Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (1986)
John Prine – All The Best (1991)
John Prine – When I Get To Heaven (2018)

Travis Nelsen, drummer of rock band Okkervil River (2003-10), on April 7
Okkerville River – For Real (2005)

André Stordeur, 79, Belgian electronic musician, on April 7

Steve Farmer, 71, rock musician and songwriter, on April 7
The Amboy Dukes – Journey To The Center Of The Mind (1968, also as co-writer)

Chynna Rogers, 25, rapper and model, on April 8
Chynna – Selfie (2013)

Glenn Fredly, 44, Indonesian R&B singer, on April 8

Peter Ecklund, 74, jazz cornetist, on April 8

Carl Dobkins Jr., 79, pop singer, on April 8
Carl Dobkins Jr – My Heart Is An Open Book (1959)

Andy González, 69, jazz double bassist, on April 9

Jymie Merritt, 93, bassist with The Jazz Messengers, on April 10
Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers – Are You Real? (1958)

Big George Brock, 87, blues harmonica player and singer, on April 10
Big George Brock – No No Baby (2006)

Tim Brooke-Taylor, 79, British comedian and songwriter, on April 12
The Goodies – The Funky Gibbon (1975, as member)

Moraes Moreira, 72, guitarist, singer with Brazilian band Novos Baianos, on April 13
Novos Baianos – Acabou Chorare (1972, on lead vocals)

Ryo Kawasaki, 73, Japanese jazz fusion guitarist, composer, on April 13
Ryo Kawasaki – Sometime (1976)

Kenny Young, 79, songwriter, singher, musician and producer, on April 14
Skeeter Davis – Under The Boardwalk (1966, as co-writer)
Reparata and the Delrons – Captain Of Your Ship (1968, as writer)
Fox – Only You Can (1974, as member & writer)
Yellow Dog – Just One More Night (1978, as member & writer)

Kasongo wa Kanema, 73, Congolese soukous musician, on April 14
Orchestra Super Mazembe – Samba (Part 1) (1978)

Gary McSpadden, 77, gospel singer and TV pastor, on April 15

Lee Konitz, 92, jazz saxophonist, composer and arranger, of Covid-19 on April 15
Miles Davis and His Orchestra – Godchild (1949, on alto sax)
Lee Konitz & Warne Marsh – I Can’t Get Started (1955, on alto sax)

Henry Grimes, 84, free jazz double bassist and violinist, of Covid-19 on April 15

Brad Dickson, 38, guitarist of Australian metal group Darker Half, on April 15

Eddie Cooley, 87, songwriter and singer, on April 15
Little Willie John – Fever (1956, as co-writer)
Eddie Cooley and the Dimples – Priscilla (1956)

Christophe, 74, French singer-songwriter, on April 16
Christophe – Aline (1965)

Giuseppi Logan, 84, free jazz reed player, of Covid-19 on April 17

Barney Ales, 85, executive with Motown, on April 17
Marvin Gaye & Mary Wells – Once Upon A Time (1965, as co-writer)

Matthew Seligmann, 64, bassist and songwriter, of Covid-19 on April 17
Whodini – Magic’s Wand (1982, as co-writer)
Thompson Twins – In The Name Of Love (1983, on bass)

Ian Whitcomb, 78, English singer-songwriter, producer and author, on April 19
Ian Whitcomb – You Turn Me On (1965)
Mae West – Men (rec 1968/rel. 1972, as writer and producer)

Jacques Pellen, 63, French jazz guitarist, of Covid-19, on April 21

Derek Jones, 35, guitarist of rapcore band Falling in Reverse, on April 21
Falling In Reverse – Popular Monster (2019)

Bootsie Barnes, 82, jazz saxophonist, on April 22

Fred the Godson, 35, DJ and rapper, of Covid-19 on April 23

Harold Reid, 80, bass singer and songwriter with The Statler Brothers, on April 24
The Statler Brothers – Flowers On The Wall (1965)
The Statler Brothers – Bed Of Rose’s (1970, also as writer)
The Statler Brothers – Your Picture In The Paper (1976)

Mike Huckaby, 54, deep house and trance DJ, of Ciovid-19 on April 24

Hamilton Bohannon, 78, funk songwriter, producer, percussionist, on April 24
Bohannon – Run It On Down Mr DJ (1973)
Bohannon – South Africa 76 (1975)
Hamilton Bohannon – Disco Stomp (1975)
Bohannon – Let’s Start The Dance (1978)

Phil Broadhurst, 70, New Zealand jazz musician and composer, on April 24

India Adams, 93, singer and actress, on April 25
India Adams – New Sun In The Sky (1953, dubbing for Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon)

Ray Repp, 77, Christian music singer-songwriter, on April 25

Big Al Carson, 66, blues and jazz singer, on April 26
Big Al Carson – Take Your Drunken Ass Home (2002)

Scott Taylor, 58, guitarist of British pop band Then Jericho, on April 27
Then Jericho – The Motive (Living Without You) (1987)

Troy Sneed, 52, gospel singer, of Covid-19 on April 27

Young Jessie, 83, R&B singer, on April 27
Young Jessie – Mary Lou (1955, also as writer)

Bobby Lewis, 95, R&B singer, on April 28
Bobby Lewis – Tossin’ And Turnin’ (1961)

Stezo, 51, rapper and producer, on April 29
Stezo – It’s My Turn (1989)

Óscar Chávez, 85, Mexican singer-songwriter, of Covid-19 on April 30

Tony Allen, 79, Nigerian Afro-pop drummer, on April 30
Fela Ransome Kuti & His Africa ‘70 – Who’re You (Part 1) (1971)
Tony Allen – City Girl (1989)
Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela – Never (Lagos Never Gonna Be The Same) (2010)
Tony Allen feat. Damon Albarn – Go Back (2014)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    May 5th, 2020 at 08:45 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. stonefish552
    May 5th, 2020 at 09:32 | #2

    I always look forward to this column and I have no idea how you find some of this stuff. I hadn’t heard about the deaths of either Alex Harvey or Kenny Young – wow! Two artists whose music I love! Thanks for keeping us all up to date mate! Always appreciated!!!

  3. May 5th, 2020 at 17:19 | #3

    Wonderful work as usual. Really sad month.

  4. George
    May 5th, 2020 at 19:27 | #4

    It was a truly brutal month. Looks like May may be even worse. Thank you for your blog. And your posts. Stay safe.

  5. Hey-ItsMike
    May 6th, 2020 at 21:10 | #5

    Great collection for a grim month. I hadn’t heard about the passing of Bobby Lewis, whose great “Tossin’ and Turnin'” adorned some compilation albums of my youth, and then appeared in the film “Animal House” in 1978 (in the scene where Flounder is told “you f*cked up–you trusted us”). The Animal House soundtrack got played at a whole lot of high school and college parties. Anyway, thanks for a great tribute to all of these performers.

  6. Rhodb
    May 9th, 2020 at 03:51 | #6

    A bad month

    Regards

    RhodB

  7. Peacenik
    May 11th, 2020 at 03:49 | #7

    I really appreciate your monthly updates on the recently departed. Two great bassists that I didn’t hear about – Jymie Merrit & Andy González – are listed here. The latter was a GIANT in the Latin Jazz & Salsa world, working with the likes of Tito Puente, Willie Colón, Eddie Palmieri, and his brother, trumpeter Jerry González. And Onaje Allen Gumbs, while not very well known, played with Woody Shaw during his great 70s lps like The Moontrane & Rosewood. And I appreciate you reaching into Africa as well. Tony Allen is one thing – he’s pretty famous – but the musician from Super Mazembe? As a (amateur) percussionist, I listen to lots of African & Afro-Latin material, so I very much appreciate learning about the passing excellent musicians outside of the English-language ‘mainstream’. Thanks for all your great posts.

  8. pnicegreen
    May 28th, 2020 at 10:34 | #8

    Hi and thank you for this page even it it is a sad one. Do you mind if I copy the text with the link and proper credit on my FB page? I’m not public but my friends can share, of course… Thanks for your reply

  9. halfhearteddude
    May 28th, 2020 at 22:46 | #9

    No problem.

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