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In Memoriam – February 2021

The Reaper continued his furious ways for the first half of the month, culminating in 16 deaths in four days, between February 16-19. After that, things eased up a little. And while I was preparing the February round-up, news came of the death of Bunny Wailer, who’ll feature next month.

The Supreme
In 1959, Detroit teenager Betty McGlown was roped in by her boyfriend Paul Williams to form a singing group. Betty recruited the talented local teenager Florence Ballard, who then recruited her friend Mary Wilson, and Mary in turn recruited a girl from her school called Diane. Finally Betty herself joined, but soon left again. The new group was called The Primettes, to support a boy band who called themselves The Primes, with guitarist Marvin Tarplin backing the girls.

You know how the story ends: The Primes became The Temptations, the group Betty, Florence and Mary founded became The Supremes, and Diane became Diana. Soon enough, Florence and Mary were reduced to be Diana’s backing singers, even though there are those who credit them with being as good, or even better, singers than Diana (but not as good interpreters of lyrics). Still, the trio had success like no girl group had ever had.

Eventually Florence would be thrown out of the band, and Diana would make a diva-like exit, but Wilson stuck it out with new line-ups, even enjoying a few hits without Diana (despite Motown’s less-than-enthusiastic promotion), until the group split in 1977. Wilson was a constant throughout the life of The Supremes. In 1979 she released a solo album, which was not bad and certainly showed that Mary really could sing. Motown didn’t promote it, and dropped Wilson while she was recording a follow-up.

Wilson worked in the theatre in the 1980s, and published her bestselling memoirs in 1986 in which she refers to Ross only as “Diane”, and generally took a dimmer view of her old friend than she would in later years. Wilson, who suffered personal tragedy in 1994 when her 14-year-old son died in a car accident, recorded intermittently, with her final outing in 2015. In 2019 she featured on the Dancing With the Stars TV show. She still planned for future when she suddenly died at 76.

The Fusion Pioneer
Without Chick Corea, who knows how jazz might have developed, especially in its fusion forms? Corea had a guiding hand in Miles Davis’ pioneering work in jazz-rock fusion. In his own work, he was always seeking, experimenting and breaking ground. Corea could be free-jazzing as well as producing works of exquisite melodic beauty, and even creating modern classical music.

Born Armando Corea, the son of a jazz musician was already in his early 20s played with pioneers such as Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, and Stan Getz. Corea won 23 Grammys and was nominated for 60, which is impressive, even if one regards those awards dimly.

The Knight Writer
Even if you don’t know the name of Jim Weatherly, the country singer-songwriter (and one-time all-star quarterback) who has died at 77, you’ll probably know his most famous three songs. All three were big hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips, who recorded a dozen of Weatherly compositions. There’s the gorgeous Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, the heartbreaking Neither One Of Us, and the most famous one of them: Midnight Train To Georgia. That song wasn’t called that when Weatherly first wrote and recorded it. Then it was Midnight Plane To Houston (that was changed when, ironically enough, Cissy Houston covered it). The story and Weatherley’s original version, as well as the original of Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me by Steve Lawrence, is in The Originals – Soul Vol. 1. Neither One Of Us features on The Originals – Soul Vol. 2, which was in the works when Weatherly died.

The Salsa Pioneer
In the world of Latin music, Johnny Pacheco was a pivotal figure. Born in the Dominican Republic, Pacheco helped develop the salsa scene, fusing it with other Latin rhythms, especially Cuban styles. He even lent part of his name to a dancestyle and subgenre in the late 1950s, the Pachenga, which became hugely popular in the United States in the early 1960s.

Pacheco, a percussionist who came to the US at 11, co-founded a record label, Fania, in 1964. It became the premium producer of salsa records, while Pachega led its house band in jam sessions (descargas) with sine of the greatest names in Latin jazz, under the Fania All-Stars banner (among those playing on the featured track are Mongo Santamaria, Jan Hammer, Manu Dibango, Bobby Valentin and guitarist Jorge Santana). Pachega, who was also a prolific songwriter, was awarded the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and the Dominican Republic’s Presidential Medal of Honour.The Electric Light Conductor
Do you remember the Hooked On Classics series in the 1980s? Sort of based on the Stars on 45 model, it was created and produced by English arranger and conductor Louis Clark. If that doesn’t impress you (and it’s OK if it doesn’t), his marvellous work with the Electric Light Orchestra should. All those wonderful string arrangements on ELO songs were co-created by Clark. Later, in 1983, he played keyboards for ELO on tour. After ELO and the Royal Philharmonic hooking us on the classics, Clark arranged for the likes of Ozzy Osborne, Roy Orbison, Asia, Kiki Dee, and others.

The Producer
If you own a Neil Young record made between 1971 and 1992, chances are that producer and engineer Elliot Mazer had a hand in it. Before he hooked up with Young, he had worked with acts as diverse as Chubby Checker, Janis Joplin and Gordon Lightfoot. For Joplin he produced tracks like Try (Just A Little Bit Harder); for Lightfoot he produced If I Could. He produced and engineered Linda Ronstadt’s debut Silk Purse, and then set to work assembling the Stray Gators, the backing band for Neil Young with which they’d record the Harvest album (with the classics Heart Of Gold and The Needle And The Damage Done). He later produced acts such as Barclay James Harvest, Frankie Miller, Juice Newton, David Soul, and the Dead Kennedys.

The Silence Of Music
By cruel coincidence, The Sound of Music’s original London stage Maria, Jean Bayless, and the film’s Captain von Trapp died on the same day. Spookily, on that very day I learnt that Edelweiss was the last song Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote. In the film, it’s not Christopher Plummer who sings that song; it was dubbed. Plummer hated The Sound of Music with a special passion anyway. So the song included here as the tribute to him is from the stage musical Cyrano. Whereas Bayless gets the title song of the musical she helped inaugurate.

The Emcee
You’ll have watched, and probably admired, Danny Ray if you have ever watched James Brown’s theatrics during his performances of Please Please Please. Brown is led off in a state of emotional exhaustion, and Ray dotingly drapes a vape over his boss’ shoulders, whereupon Brown explodes with a burst of energy to restate his plea to the object of his affection to please not go. The scene repeats itself to comic effect.

Ray was the show’s emcee, so the introductions and outros (and occasional interjections) during Brown’s shows from the 1960s till the singer’s death in 2006 was his work. At Brown’s funeral, Ray draped a gold cape over the coffin of his boss, who had finally departed the stage.

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.

Danny Ray, 85, James Brown’s emcee, on Feb. 2
Danny Ray – Introduction Of The J.B.s (1972)

Aaron Wegelin, ex-drummer of indie band Elf Power, on Feb. 2
Elf Power – Jane (1999)

Jim Weatherly, 77, country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
Cissy Houston – Midnight Train To Georgia (1972, as writer)
Jim Weatherly – Where Peaceful Waters Flow (1973, also as writer)
Gladys Knight & The Pips – Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (1973, as writer)

Jim Weatherly – All That Keeps Me Going (1977, also as writer)

Anne Feeney, 69, folk singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
Anne Feeney – Have You Been To Jail for Justice? (1969)

Kris De Bruyne, 70, Belgian singer, on Feb. 3

Nolan Porter, 71, soul singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
N.F. Porter – Keep On Keeping On (1971)

Gil Saunders, soul singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, on Feb 3
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Today’s Your Lucky Day (1984, on lead vocals)

Jaime Murrell, 71, Panamanian Christian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 4

Matt Harris, bassist of rock band The Posies, on Feb. 4
The Posies – Second Time Around (2005)

Stefan Cush, 60, singer with UK folk-punk group The Men They Couldn’t Hang, on Feb. 4
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Ironmaster (1975)
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours (1988)

Örs Siklósi, 29, singer of Hungarian metal band AWS, on Feb. 5

Christopher Plummer, 91, Canadian actor and stage singer, on Feb. 5
Christopher Plummer – Roxana (1973, from the musical Cyrano)

Jean Bayless, 88, British actress and original Sound of Music Maria, on Feb. 5
Jean Bayless – The Sound Of Music (1961)

Douglas Miller, 71, gospel singer, on Jan. 5

Elliot Mazer, 79, producer and engineer, on Feb. 7
Linda Ronstadt – Long Long Time (1970, as producer)
Neil Young – Old Man (1972, as co-producer)
Frankie Miller – A Fool In Love (1976, as producer)

Corrado Francia, 73, Italian singer, on Feb. 8

Mary Wilson, 76, soul singer with The Supremes, on Feb. 8
The Supremes – Our Day Will Come (1965, on lead vocals)
The Supremes – Floy Joy (1971, on lead vocals)
Mary Wilson – Pick Up The Pieces (1979)
Mary Wilson – Time To Move On (2015)

Servando Cano Rodríguez, 78, Mexican singer-songwriter and producer, on Feb. 8

Cedrick Cotton, 46, singer with R&B band Ideal, fatally stabbed on Feb. 9
Ideal – Get Gone (1999)

Chick Corea, 79, jazz keyboardist and songwriter, on Feb. 9
Hubert Laws – All Soul (1964, on piano as Armando Corea)
Chick Corea – Spain (1972, also as composer)
Chick Corea – The One Step (1978, also as composer)

Richie Albright, 81, drummer of Waylon Jennings’ group Waymore’s Outlaws, on Feb. 9
Jessi Colter – For The First Time (1975, on drums)
Waylon & Willie – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1978, on drums)

Lee Sexton, 92, banjo player, on Feb. 10

Jon Mark (Burchell), 77, English folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Feb. 10
Jon Mark – Paris Bells (1965)

Antonis Kalogiannis, 80, Greek singer, on Feb. 11

Milford Graves, 79, pioneering free jazz drummer, on Feb. 12

Louis Clark, 73, English arranger, conductor and keyboardist, on Feb. 13
Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky (1977, orchestral arranger)
Asia – Rock And Roll Dream (1985, as orchestral conductor)

Sydney Devine, 81, Scottish singer, on Feb. 13

Ari Gold, 47, American singer-songwriter, on Feb. 14
Ari Gold – Love Wasn’t Built In A Day (2007)

Erriquez, 60, singer, guitarist with Italian folk band Bandabardò, on Feb. 14

Raymond Lévesque, 92, Canadian singer-songwriter, actor, on Feb. 15
Raymond Lévesque – Quand les hommes vivront d’amour (1956, also as writer)

Johnny Pacheco, 85, Dominican salsa musician and label executive, on Feb. 15
Pacheco Y Su Charanga – La Malanga (1961)
Johnny Pacheco with Pete Rodriguez – Alto Songo (1971)
Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco – Toro Mata (1974)
Fania All Stars – El Raton (1974)

Soul Jah Love, 31, Zimbabwean reggae singer, on Feb. 16

Tonton David, 53, French reggae singer, on Feb. 16
Tonton David – Pretoria (1991)

Erik Swanson, 57, Western swing musician, on Feb. 16

U-Roy, 78, Jamaican reggae singer, on Feb. 17
Hugh Roy & John Holt – Wear You To The Ball (1970)

Omar Moreno Palacios, 82, Argentine folk singer-songwriter, guitarist, on Feb. 17

Andrea Lo Vecchio, 78, Italian singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 17
Andrea Lo Vecchio – Dorme la città (1964)

Marc Ellington, 75, Scottish folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Feb. 17
Marc Ellington – Oh No, It Can’t Be So (1971)

Françoise Cactus, 56, French musician with Berlin duo Stereo Total, on Feb. 17
Stereo Total – L’amour à trois (2001)

Gaston Georis, 79, keyboardist of surf rock band The Sandals, on Feb. 17
The Sandals – Theme from Endless Summer (1964, also as co-writer)

Prince Markie Dee, 52, rapper with The Fat Boys, on Feb. 18
Fat Boys – Can You Feel It (1984)
Prince Markie Dee -Typical Reasons (Swing My Way) (1992)

Miles Seaton, 41, member of folk-rock group Akron/Family, announced Feb. 18
Akron/Family – Until The Morning (2013, on vocals)

Mark Ellen, drummer of Vanity Fare (1972-2015), on Feb. 18

James Burke, 70, singer with soul band Five Stairsteps, on Feb. 19
The Five Stairsteps – Don’t Waste Your Time (1966)
The Five Stairsteps – We Must Be in Love (1969)

Đorđe Balašević, 67, Serbian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 19

Philippe Chatel, 72, French singer-songwriter, on Feb. 19
Philippe Chatel – Ma lycéenne (1979)

Luigi Albertelli, 86, Italian songwriter, on Feb. 19
Bobby Solo – Zingara (1969, as co-writer)

Gene Taylor, 68, rock and blues keyboardist and guitarist, on Feb. 20
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Roll Of The Dice (1995, on piano)

Chris Ajilo, 91, Nigerian highlife musician, on Feb. 20
Chris Ajilo & His Cubanos – Afro Mood (early 1960s)

Hélène Martin, 92, French singer and songwriter, on Feb. 21
Hélène Martin – Le condamné à mort (1968)

Sean Kennedy, 35, Australian metal bassist, suicide on Feb. 23

Peter Ostroushko, 67, folk-violinist and mandolinist, on Feb. 24
Bob Dylan – If You See Her, Say Hello (1975, on mandolin)
Peter Ostroushko – Heart Of The Heartland (1995)

Bob James, 68, singer-songwriter with rock band Montrose, on Feb. 26
Montrose – Let’s Go (1976, on lead vocals and as co-writer)

Danilo Rustici, 72, guitarist of Italian prog-rock band Osanna, on Feb. 27
Osanna – L’uomo (1971)

Ian North, 68, founder of power pop band Milk ‘N’ Cookies, on Feb. 28
Milk ‘N’ Cookies – The Last Letter (1975)

Anna Kast, 39, singer with Russian rave band Little Big, on Feb. 28

Jorge Oñate, 71, Colombian folk singer, on Feb. 28
Jorge Oñate & Nicolas ‘Colacho’ Mendoza – Ausencia (1977)

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  1. amdwhah
    March 4th, 2021 at 09:51 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. arthdog
    March 4th, 2021 at 22:02 | #2

    Thanks for another fine compiling job. Made me realize about the people behind the scenes (if you can call a producer that) when I saw Elliot Mazer in the list, as you list three of my favourite albums produced by him by three of my favourite artists of the 70s.

  3. arthdog
    March 4th, 2021 at 22:06 | #3

    Thanks for another fine compiling job. Made me realize about the people behind the scenes (if you can call a producer that) as you list three of my favourite albums produced by Elliot Mazer for three of my favourite artists of the 70s.

  4. Rat-a-tat-tat
    March 5th, 2021 at 19:31 | #4

    I learned a lot. Thanks for doing this.

  5. Rhodb
    March 5th, 2021 at 22:58 | #5

    Thanks for another fine job

    Regards

    Rhodb

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