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In Memoriam – December 2020

January 4th, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

It was a pretty bad month for bass players, electric or standing. One of the bass thumpers we lost was the last survivor of the Dave Brubeck Quartet that recorded Take Five. Also gone is the last of the McGuire sisters, the one with the most colourful life of the trio.

For a couple of months I stopped marking deaths as being related to Covid-19 but given the second waves in many parts of the world, and the incomprehensibly casual behaviour of some people, some governments and some defeated presidents, noting them might help highlight the need to just be responsible until this pandemic is over.

The Barrier-Breaker
Though I am not a particular fan of his music, I had huge admiration for Charley Pride as a barrier-breaker (even if his career hasn’t produced an excess of black country performers). Apart from a bit of dabbling in gospel, Pride was uncompromisingly country. In that way he reclaimed a little of the black influence on that genre, which in the early days was significant (see my free eBook A Brief History of Country Music). Arguably Pride was not, as the obituaries claimed, country’s first black superstar — that probably was DeFord Bailey, who was a founding member of the Opry until he was abruptly dismissed in 1941. Pride, however, was certainly the biggest black star in country, and he transcended race — without being obsequious, selling out or denying the evil of systemic racism or its effects — as was evidenced when he was named Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.

And like some other country singers, Pride had a colourful background story. Born into a poor sharecropper family in Sledge, Mississippi, Pride became a professional baseball player. Injuries prevented a sparkling career, but at his last station as a semi-pro (while working for a lead smelter, shovelling coal into the furnace), the team manager recognised Pride’s singing talent and paid him to sing for 15 minutes at games. This led Pride to revive his old dream of recording music — he tried his luck at Sun Records in the 1950s. Local gigs led him to RCA and what turned out to be a fruitful career in music.

The Zorro Rapper
In the rise of hip hop, Whodini played a pioneering role, as we were reminded of by the death at only 56 of co-vocalist John Fletcher, or Ecstasy. In 1982, Whodini became the first rap act to have a proper music video produced to promote a single, their debut Magic’s Wand (whose bassist and co-writer Matthew Seligmann died in April). Whodini were innovators in drawing from influences beyond hip hop and dance music. They were early adopters of R&B and electronic pop. New wave type Thomas Dolby produced that debut single, and Krautrock giant Conny Plank produced Whodini’s eponymous debut album — not in rap capital New York but a bucolic suburb of ancient Cologne. With that sound, Whodini were among the first hip hop acts to cross over to mainstream black radio. While co-vocalist Jalil Hutchins was the main writer, Fletcher was the focal point, with his Zorro hat.

The British Invader
In the vanguard of the British invasion were a softly-singing duo with the well-mannered names of Chad and Jeremy, the first half of which, Chad Stuart (born David Stuart Chadwick) has died. They first hit on both sides of the Atlantic with Yesterday’s Gone, followed by songs such as A Summer Song, Willow Weep for Me, and Before And After. But by 1966 the hits dried up when Jeremy Clyde went on a year’s break to appear in a stage play in London. Chad meanwhile tried to keep the buzz going in the US with his wife Jill, but with no great success.

Back in the UK, Chad and Jeremy collaborated whenever the latter had the time. They also made friends with a young folk singer from the US who had just split from his own duo partner after their debut album flopped. Paul Simon gave Chad & Jeremy a song titled Homeward Bound to record. A few weeks later, Simon & Garfunkel reunited, following the surprise success of a remixed version of their Sound of Silence. Chad & Jeremy had considered Homeward Bound for a single release, but having got wind of Simon & Garfunkel considering the song as a follow-up to their first hit, the British duo opted for a song titled Teenage Failure. It turned out to be just that, a failure, teenage or not. Chad & Jeremy in the end released Homeward Bound in August 1966 on their Distant Shores album. Simon & Garfunkel had a #5 hit with it earlier that year.

Chad & Jeremy recorded another couple of albums and a movie soundtrack, which were critically praised but commercially unsuccessful. They split in 1968, having sporadic reunions thereafter.

The Five Bassist
The last surviving member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet which recorded the timeless Take Five has departed. Bass player Eugene Wright died at the age of 97. The Chicago-born musician made his recording debut in 1947 as a member of Leo Parker’s All Stars, where he played alongside future jazz great Gene Ammons, whom he later backed. Wright went on to play with acts like Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Cal Tjader, Buddy de Franco, Kenny Drew, and Sonny Stitt. But Wright’s big break came with the Dave Bubeck Quartet, which he belonged to throughout its glory years from the late 1950s to late-1960s. He also backed by the quartet’s saxophonist Paul Desmond, who wrote Take Five, on his solo records.

In between he released one solo record, The Wright Groove in 1962. Unusually, he recorded it in New Zealand, with a trio of local jazz musicians. After Brubeck, Wright joined the Monty Alexander Trio. Wright rarely ventured outside jazz; one occasion when he did so was to play the double-bass on Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song.

The Songwriter
On Christmas Eve I stood in my kitchen preparing seasonal deserts and crooning along to Dana’s It’s Going To Be A Cold, Cold Christmas; it was the day the song’s co-writer died, at the age of 86. Geoff Stephens had his first taste of success as the founder of The New Vaudeville Band, who had a worldwide hit with the Grammy-winning Winchester Cathedral, a Stephens composition, in 1967. Stephens also wrote There’s A Kind Of Hush for his band, though it would be a hit for Herman’s Hermits and in the 1960s for the Carpenters. By then he had already written or co-written hits for Dave Berry (The Crying Game, later a hit for Boy George) and The Applejacks (Tell Me When), and co-produced Donovan’s breakout hits Catch The Wind and Universal Soldier.

Stephens’ list of subsequent hits, most of them co-written with Les Reed, is impressive, regardless of what one might think of their uneven quality. His biggest hit was David Soul’s 1977 Silver Lady. Others included You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me (The New Seekers), Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James (Manfred Mann), Lights of Cincinnati (Scott Walker), Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast (Wayne Newton), Sorry Suzanne (The Hollies), Daughter of Darkness (Tom Jones), Like Sister And Brother (The Drifters), Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha (Cliff Richard), Knock, Knock Who’s There (Mary Hopkin), It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye (Crystal Gayle), and I’ll Put You Together Again (Hot Chocolate).

The Hard Rocker
With the passing of Leslie West, we have lost another musician who took to the stage at Woodstock in 1969 (see mixes here). As guitarist and singer of hard-rock band Mountain, West played a pivotal part in the development of heavy metal, with songs like the cowbell-anthem Mississippi Queen. After Mountain split in 1972, West and Mountain drummer Corky Laing teamed up with Cream’s Jack Bruce and Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears to record two studio albums, as well as a live set. Soon the band broke up.

Mountain appeared in 2009 at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert. After they played their set, Leslie West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage under a canopy of guitars. Two years later, he lost a leg due to diabetes, but West kept performing. He released his final album, Soundcheck, in 2015.

The Last Sister
With the death of Phyllis McGuire at 89, the last McGuire Sister has left the stage, with Dottie dying in 2012 and oldest sister Ruby two years and a day before Phyllis. The trio started performing in 1935, when Phyllis was just four years old, launching a 33-year-long career that included two US #1s, Sincerely and Sugartime. The end came in 1968, with a performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, due to Phyllis’ relationship with mafia boss Sam Giancana, which had seen the sisters widely blacklisted. Phyllis had already released a number of solo singles by then, on the Reprise label founded by, of course, Frank Sinatra.

Phyllis certainly picked up architectural taste from her lovers’ milieu. Her Las Vegas mansion included a swan moat and a replica of the Eiffel Tower which protruded through the structure’s roof. She denied that Giancana had bought her that mansion and claimed that she had invested in oil to produce the wealth which she could flaunt in such absurd ways. The sisters reunited in 1986 and performed on and off for the next two decades. The McGuire Sisters featured a few times here: on Any Major ABC of the 1950s; Any Major Jones Vol. 2; and Any Major 1950s Christmas.

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Dan Morrison, drummer of Australian ska punk band Area-7, on Dec. 1

Ron Mathewson, 76, Scottish jazz double bassist and bass guitarist, of Covid-19 on Dec. 2
Joan Armatrading – Cool Blue Stole My Heart (1975, on double-bass)

Kenny Jeremiah, 77, lead singer of soul group Soul Survivors, of Covid-19 on Dec. 4
Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)

Franco Bolignari, 91, Italian jazz singer, on Dec. 4
Franco Bolignari – Crudelia De Mon (1961)

Sara Carreira, 21, French-Portuguese singer, traffic collision on Dec. 5

Eric Pacheco, 53, bass guitarist with hard rock band Babylon A.D., on Dec. 6

Howard Wales, 77, keyboardist, on Dec. 7
Grateful Dead – Candyman (1970, on keyboards)
Howard Wales – Rendezvous (Part I) (1976)

Dawn Lindberg, 75, South African folk-singer, of Covid-19 on Dec. 7
Des & Dawn Lindberg – The Seagull’s Name Was Nelson (1971)

LD Beghtol, 55, musician and writer, on Dec. 7
The Magnetic Fields – All My Little Words (1999, vocals)

Harold Budd, 84, avant-garde composer and poet, of Covid-19 on Dec. 8
Harold Budd & Brian Eno – The Silver Ball (1984)

Jason Slater, 49, rock bassist (Third Eye Blind), producer, mixer, on Dec. 9
Snake River Conspiracy – You And Your Friend (2000, as member)
Queensrÿche – All The Promises (2008, as producer, bassist, second drummer)

Sean Malone, 50, bassist with metal bands Cynic, Gordian Knot, Aghora, on Dec. 9

Joseph ‘Mojo’ Morganfield, 56, blues singer (son of Muddy Waters), on Dec. 10
Mojo Morganfield – Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone (2018)

Barbara Windsor, 83, English actress and singer, on Dec. 10
Barbara Windsor – When I Was A Child (1970)

Ubirany, 80, singer with Brazilian samba band Fundo de Quintal, of Covid-19 on Dec. 11
Fundo de Quintal – Saber Viver (1983)

Dariusz Malinowski, 55, bassist with Polish punk band Siekiera, on Dec. 12

Charley Pride, 86, country legend, of Covid-19 on Dec. 13
Charley Pride – She’s Still Got A Hold On You (1969)
Charley Pride – Kiss An Angel Good Morning (1971)
Charley Pride – Let Me Live (1971)
Charley Pride – Shouldn’t It Be Easier Than This? (1987)

Andrey Sapunov, 64, singer-bassist of Russian rock band Voskreseniye, on Dec. 13

Paulinho dos Santos, 68, singer of Brazilian rock band Roupa Nova, of Covid 19 on Dec. 14
Roupa Nova – Volta pra mim (1987)

Pauline Anna Strom, 74. electronic composer, on Dec. 14

Albert Griffiths, 74, guitarist-singer of Jamaican reggae band The Gladiators, on Dec. 15
The Gladiators – Music Makers From Jamaica (1978)

Sam Jayne, 46, singer of hardcore band Lync, indie band Love as Laughter, found on Dec. 15
Love as Laughter – Don’t Worry (2008)

Carl Mann, 78, rockabilly singer, on Dec. 16
Carl Mann – Mona Lisa (1958)

Emil Cadkin, 100, TV and film composer, on Dec. 16

Stanley Cowell, 79, jazz pianist, co-founder of Strata-East Records, on Dec. 17
Stanley Cowell – Blues For The Viet Cong (1969)
Stanley Cowell – Trying To Find A Way (1975)

Jeff Clayton, 66, jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 17
Patrice Rushen – Wishful Thinking (1978, on oboe)
The Clayton Brothers – Saturday Night Special (1997, on alto sax)

Vinicio Franco, 87, Dominican merengue singer-songwriter, of Covid-19, on Dec. 19

Pepe Salvaderi, guitarist-singer with Italian pop band Dik Dik, on Dec. 19
I Dik Dik – Il Primo Giorno Di Primavera (1969)

Per Alsing, 60, drummer of Roxette, on Dec. 19
Roxette – Sleeping In My Car (1994)

Clay Anthony, 61, bassist of rock band Junkyard (1987-91), traffic accident on Dec. 19
Junkyard – Simple Man (1989)

Chad Stuart, 79, half of English duo Chad & Jeremy, on Dec. 20
Chad & Jeremy – A Summer Song (1964)
Chad & Jeremy – Teenage Failure (1966)
Chad & Jeremy – Homeward Bound (1966)
Chad & Jeremy – Painted Dayglow Smile (1967)

Art DeIrorio, Cajun/country fiddler, on Dec. 20
Link Davis – Have You Heard The News (1948, on fiddle)

K.T. Oslin, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 21
K.T. Oslin – 80’s Ladies (1987)

Rebecca Luker, 59, musical actress and singer, on Dec. 23
Rebecca Luker – Remember (2009)

Rika Zaraï, 82, Israeli singer and writer, on Dec. 23

Leslie West, 75, singer-guitarist of rock band Mountain, on Dec. 23
The Vagrants – I Can’t Make A Friend (1966)
Mountain – Long Red (Live at Woodstock) (1969)
Mountain – Mississippi Queen (1970)
West, Bruce & Laing – Backfire (1972)

John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher, 56, rapper with hip-hop pioneers Whodini, on Dec. 23
Whodini – Friends (1984)
Whodini – Last Night (I Had A Long Talk With Myself) (1986)
Whodini feat. Millie Jackson – Be Yourself (1987)

Geoff Stephens, 86, English songwriter, producer and musician, on Dec. 24
Scott Walker – Lights Of Cincinnati (1969)
Mary Hopkin – Knock Knock Who’s There (1970, as co- writer)
Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again (1978)
Boy George – The Crying Game (1992)

Tony Rice, 69, bluegrass musician, on Dec. 25
Tony Rice – Banks Of The Ohio (1977)

Amadeu Casas, 66, Spanish guitarist and blues singer, on Dec. 26

Tito Rojas, 65, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Dec. 26
Tito Rojas – Siempre Sere (1990)

Víctor Cuica, 71, Venezuelan jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 26
Víctor Cuica  – El Ratón (1993)

Jeff Jacks, singer of rock band The Termites, reported on Dec. 27

Armando Manzanero, 85, Mexican singer-songwriter, Covid-19 on Dec. 28
Armando Manzanero – Somos novios (1968)
Armando Manzanero & Lisset – Nada Personal (1996)

Claude Bolling, 90, French jazz pianist and composer, on Dec. 29
Claude Bolling – Baroque And Blue (1975)

Rudy Salas, 71, member of Latin R&B groups El Chicano, Tierra, on Dec. 29
El Chicano – One More Night (1975)
Tierra – Together (1980)

Gösta Linderholm, 79, Swedish singer and composer, on Dec. 29

Alto Reed, 72, saxophonist in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, on Dec. 30
Bob Seger – Turn The Page (Live) (1976, on saxophone)
Bob Seger – The Horizontal Bop (1980, on saxophone)

Phyllis McGuire, 89, third of The McGuire Sisters, on Dec. 30
McGuire Sisters – Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight (1954)
McGuire Sisters – Sugartime (1957)
Phyllis McGuire – That’s Life (1966)

‘Senator’ Eugene Wright, 97, bassist with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, on Dec. 30
Leo Parker’s All Stars – El Sino (1947, on double bass)
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Blue Rondo a La Turk (1959, on double bass)
Eugene Wright – The Wright Groove (1962)
Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1969, on double bass)

Frank Kimbrough, 64, jazz pianist, on Dec. 30
Frank Kimbrough Trio – Hymn (2012)

Seaman Dan, 91, Australian musician, on Dec. 30

Mick Bolton, 72, British keyboardist, reported on Dec. 31
Mott The Hoople – Sweet Angeline (Live) (1974, on keyboards)

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  1. amdwhah
    January 4th, 2021 at 09:39 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. iammike
    January 4th, 2021 at 10:23 | #2

    As usual sublime

    I have a suggestion, what about making a playlist on Spotify?

    I have no idea if that is possible as I don’t have Spotify but it was a remark from a Friend of mine whom I recently send the link of your blog!

  3. Andrea
    January 4th, 2021 at 23:18 | #3

    RIP

    Especially surprised and sad to hear Harold Budd died of Covid.

  4. Rat-a-tat-tat
    January 5th, 2021 at 23:26 | #4

    Thank you for your work. I learned a bunch, as always.

  5. Will
    January 6th, 2021 at 00:27 | #5

    Wheres MF DOOM?

  6. amdwhah
    January 6th, 2021 at 13:53 | #6

    I’ve added him to the October list, seeing as he died on October 31.

  7. Rhodb
    January 8th, 2021 at 22:51 | #7

    Great work once again

    Will miss Leslie West a good loud rocking guitarist

    Regards

    Rhod

  8. arthdog
    January 24th, 2021 at 14:46 | #8

    Whoa! Chad & Jeremy? That stretched my memory cells way back to much more innocent times & I didn’t know Chad had been still with us (RIP). And even though I sometimes find Mountain a little unsubtle, over loud & over the top, there’s no mistaking the quality & power of Leslie West’s playing. Thanks for listing the list.

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