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In Memoriam – March 2021

In March the Reaper took it easier than he had in previous months, but he did claim a number of behind-the-scenes pioneers: the inventor of cassette tapes, an inventor of a synthesizer, a woman who broke a glass ceiling in the music industry…

The Wailer
For more than 30 years, Bunny Wailer (born Neville O’Riley Livingston) was the last man standing of the group whose stage name gave the legendary reggae group its name, with Bob Marley checking out in 1981 and Peter Tosh six years later. The Wailers were something of a family affair: Bunny’s father and Marley’s mother became a couple, having a daughter together; and Tosh had a son (reggae singer Andrew Tosh) with Bunny’s sister.

I needn’t discuss the musical impact of The Wailers or of Bunny Wailer; the obituaries have done so to better effect than I could. But I’ll say this: Marley and Tosh were the more celebrated singers, but I think that the percussionist Bunny was also a great vocalist, in the tradition of his hero Curtis Mayfield.

The Influencer
English jazz trombonist Chris Barber changed the trajectory of pop music profoundly. First he did so by pioneering the skiffle craze in Britain through his recording of Rock Island Line which, once credited to vocalist Lonnie Donegan, became a big hit in 1954. The skiffle craze inspired many British youths to form bands; among them a young Liverpudlian named John Lennon…

Barber made his name as a traditional jazz musician, scoring a big transatlantic hit with the instrumental Petite Fleur in 1959. But in the late 1950s/early 1960s he also brought US blues musicians such as Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Muddy Waters to Britain, thereby helping to introduce many young musicians to that genre. These included The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, and across the Irish Sea, Rory Gallagher. The latter would join up with Barber; the guitar that opens the featured track is his. Later he also collaborated with Dr John, creating a mardi gras anthem that represented New Orleans on my long musical journey through the USA (on Any Major American Road Trip Vol. 2).

Stop. Eject.
On my 10th birthday I received my first cassette recorder, a basic thing whose smell I vividly remember. That birthday present kicked off a relationship that would last for exactly a quarter of a century, when I bought a car with a CD player and I had no more use for my old tapes. But it is thanks to cassettes — the hobby of making mix-tapes — that we have this little corner of playlist-dabbling. Without tapes, you’d not be reading these words today!

As we know, home-taping killed music, and the man responsible has now died at 94. Lou Ottens developed the cassette tape with his team for the Dutch company Royal Philips, introducing the first sample of this new technology in 1963. Tapes were still catching on in 1972 when Ottens became instrumental (if you pardon the unintentional pun) in the development of compact discs. Ottens would regard the CD as his greater accomplishment.

Ottens began his career of invention as a teenager when he put together a device to block the radio jammers of the Nazi forces that were occupying the Netherlands in World War 2, enabling his family to receive banned radio broadcasts.

The Trailblazer
In 1959, the RCA Camden label was about to fold — and who better a fall-guy than a woman trying to make her way in a man’s game. But Ethel Gabriel, a woman in her late 30s who had worked her way up from doing dogs-body’s work in the 1940s to become a successful record producer (the first woman on a major US label), was no fall gal. She issued a series of easy listening albums, which culminated in a Grammy win in 1967. These were especially the Living Strings/Brass/Marimba/Voices/Jazz etc LPs. As an A&R executive, she was responsible for putting out records by acts like Perry Como, Cleo Laine, Roger Whittaker, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Henry Mancini, Harry Belafonte, Perez Prado, Neil Sedaka and many others. In 1982, Gabriel was appointed vice-president of RCA’s Pop Contemporary A&R division, becoming the first woman at RCA Records to become a vice-president.

The Synth Pioneer
Having started his musical career as a jazz musician in bands led by the likes of Ronnie Scott, Dick Morrissey and Chris Barber, London-born Malcolm Cecil went to live in New York where he invented the world’s largest synthesizer, the Original New Timbral Orchestra (TONTO), which was widely used in the famous Record Plant studios. You can hear him play the synth on Little Feat’s Dixie Chicken, and he assisted acts such as the Doobie Brothers (the synth on Long Train Running and China Grove were programmed by Cecil), Isley Brothers, Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Joan Baez and Gil-Scott-Heron in their use of his synth.

With his regular musical partner Robert Margouleff, Cecil co-produced Stevie Wonder’s albums Music Of My Mind, Talking Book (including Superstition and You Are The Sunshine Of My Life), Innervision (on which he played bass on Visions) and Fulfillingness First Finale. He also produced or co-produced acts like Syreeta, Mandrill, Billy Preston, and Gil Scott-Heron.

The Rockabilly King
The first tribute record to be released after the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper was co-written and released by rockabilly singer and double-bassist Ray Campi, who has died at 86. It was titled Ballad Of Donna And Peggy Sue, namechecking titular names from hits by Valens and Holly — and Campi recorded it with The Big Bopper’s backing band. Campi, the supposed “The King of Rockabilly” who would use his white double-bass as a prop in his wild stage shows, did music only as a sideline while working as a teacher. It was only when he was rediscovered in the 1970s, when the rock & roll revival hit, that he began to record again and tour full-time.

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.

Ralph Peterson Jr., 58, jazz drummer, on March 1
Ralph Peterson Quintet – Soweto 6 (1988)

Mark Goffeney, 51, guitarist, body discovered on March 2

Bunny Wailer, 73, Jamaican reggae pioneer, on March 2
The Wailers – Sunday Morning (1966, on lead vocals)
The Wailers – Pass It On (1973, on lead vocals)
Bunny Wailer – Dreamland (1976)
Bunny Wailer – Riding (1979)

Àlex Casademunt, 39, Spanish pop singer and TV presenter, on March 2

Chris Barber, 90, English jazz trombonist and bandleader, on March 2
Lonnie Donegan’s Skiffle Group – Rock Island Line (1954, as leader & on bass)
Chris Barber’s Band – Catcall (1967, written by Paul McCartney)
Chris Barber – Drat That Fratle Rat (1972)

Radim Pařízek, 67, drummer of Czech rock band Citron, on March 2

Duffy Jackson, 67, jazz drummer, on March 3
George Benson & Count Basie Orchestra – Without A Song (1990, on drums)

Dagoberto Planos Despaigne, 64, singer and songwriter with Cuban band Los Karachi, on March 3
Los Karachi – Pero Qué Le Sucede a Mi Negra (1988, also as writer)

Maria José Valério, 87, Portuguese singer, on March 3

Alan Cartwright, 75, bassist of Procol Harum (1972-75), on March 4
Procol Harum – Nothing But The Truth (1974)

Bhaskar Menon, 86, Indian-born label executive (Capitol, EMI), on March 4

Michael Stanley, 72, rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, on March 5
Michael Stanley Band – He Can’t Love You (1980)

Lou Ottens, 94, inventor of the cassette tape, co-developer of CDs, on March 6
Tift Merritt – Mixtape (2010)

Lars Göran Petrov, 49, singer of Swedish death metal band Entombed, on March 7

Sanja Ilić, 69, composer and keyboardist of Serbian bands San, Balkanika, on March 7
Grupa San – Anabela (1974)

Sasa Klaas, 27, Botswanan hip hop/R&B singer-songwriter, helicopter crash on March 6

Josky Kiambukuta, 72, singer with Congolese rumba collective TPOK Jazz, on March 7
Orchestre T. P. OK-Jazz – Kebana (1973, on lead vocals and as writer)

Julien-François Zbinden, 103, Swiss jazz pianist and composer, on March 8

James MacGaw, guitarist of French prog-rock group Magma (1998-2017), on March 8
Magma – Emëhntëhtt-Ré IV (2009)

Adrian Bărar, 61, guitarist and composer with Romanian rock band Cargo, on March 9

Mark Whitecage, 83, jazz reedist, announced on March 9
Adam Lane, Lou Grassi & Mark Whitecage – Five O’Clock Follies (1998)

Len Skeat, 84, English jazz double-bassist, on March 9

Shuichi Murakami, 70, Japanese jazz drummer, on March 9
Ryuichi Sakamoto – I’ll Be There (1983, on drums)

Freddy Birset, 73, Belgian singer and musician, on March 9

Randy Myers, 73, songwriter, on March 10
Jackie DeShannon – Put A Little Love In Your Heart (1969, as co-writer)

Roger Trigaux, 69, founder of Belgian avant-garde groups Univers Zero, Present, on March 10

Lily de Vos, 96, Dutch singer, announced on March 11

Jewlia Eisenberg, singer of avant-rock band Charming Hostess, on March 11
Charming Hostess – Laws of Physics (1999)

Ray Campi, 86, rockabilly singer and double bassist, on March 11
Ray Campi – Caterpillar (1956)
Ray Campi – Ballad Of Donna And Peggy Sue (1959)

Maximiliano Djerfy, 46, guitarist of Argentine rock band Callejeros, on March 12

Raoul Casadei, 83, Italian singer and composer, on March 13

Reggie Warren, 52, singer with soul group Troop, on March 14
Troop – Mamacita (1989)

Thione Seck, 66, Senegalese singer and musician, on March 14
Orchestra Baobab – Mouhamadou Bamba (1981, as member)

Eulalio ‘Sax’ Cervantes, 52, saxophonist of Mexican rock band Maldita Vecindad, on March 14
Maldita Vecindad – Kumbala (1991)

Doug Parkinson, 74, Australian rock singer, on March 15
Doug Parkinson In Focus – Dear Prudence (1969)

Matt Miller, 34, ex-keyboardist of indie group Titus Andronicus, on March 17

Corey Steger, 42, guitarist of metal band Underoath, car crash on March 17

Freddie Redd, 92, jazz pianist and composer, on March 17
Howard McGhee – O.D. (Overdose) (1960, as composer)

Mayada Basilis, 54, Syrian singer, on March 17
Mayada Basilis – Kezbak ‘Helou (2007)

Paul Jackson, 73, rock and jazz bassist, on March 18
Santana – Give Me Love (1977, on bass)

Gary Leib, 65, musician with band Rubber Rodeo, cartoonist (Idiotland), on March 19
Rubber Rodeo – Anywhere With You (1984)

Cristián Cuturrufo, 48, Chilean jazz trumpeter, on March 19

Dan Sartain, 39, rock musician, on March 20
Dan Sartain – Walk Among The Cobras (Pt. I) (2005)

Constance Demby, 81, ambient music composer, on March 20

Buddy Deppenschmidt, 85, jazz drummer, on March 20
Stan Getz & Charlie Byrd – Desafinado (1962, on drums)

Hana Hegerová, 89, Slovak singer and actress, on March 23

George Segal, 87, actor and occasional musician, on March 23
George Segal & The Imperial Jazz Band – What You Goin’ To Do When The Rent Comes ‘Round (1974)

Ethel Gabriel, 99, producer and label executive, on March 23
Perez Prado – Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White (1955, as producer)
Caterina Valente – The Party’s Over (1961, as producer)
Living Marimbas – Mission Impossible Theme (1968, as producer)

Peter Viskinde, 67, guitarist of Danish rock bands Malurt, Big Fat Snake, on March 23
Malurt – Superlove (1981)

Don Heffington, 70, drummer, percussionist and songwriter, on March 23
Emmylou Harris – Drivin’ Wheel (1983, on drums)
Lone Justice – Ways To Be Wicked (1985, as member)
Dave Alvin – Rio Grande (2004, on drums)

Noel Bridgeman, 74, Irish drummer (Skid Row, Mary Black), on March 23
Skid Row – New Faces Old Places (1969, as member)
The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988, on drums)

Tavish Maloney, guitarist with rock band Oso Oso, on March 25

Brett Bradshaw, drummer with rock band Faster Pussycat (1991-93), on March 26
Faster Pussycat – Nonstop To Nowhere (1992)

Malcolm Cecil, 84, British musician and producer, on March 28
Dick Morrissey Quartet – St. Thomas (1961, on double bass)
Stevie Wonder – Visions (1973, on bass and as co-producer)
The Isley Brothers – Footsteps In The Dark (1977, as co-producer)
Gil Scott-Heron – Angel Dust (1978, as co-producer)

Hans Kinds, 74, guitarist of Dutch blues band Cuby & the Blizzards, on March 29
Cuby + Blizzards – L.S.D. (Got A Million Dollars) (1966)

Claire dela Fuente, 62, Filipino singer, on March 30
Claire Dela Fuente – Something In Your Eyes (2008)

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  1. amdwhah
    April 6th, 2021 at 10:10 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. J. Loslo
    April 6th, 2021 at 17:50 | #2

    Thanks. Doesn’t appear to be a non-Rapidgator link. The Gator tells me it’s going to take six hours & then bombs out.

  3. amdwhah
    April 6th, 2021 at 19:03 | #3
  4. J. Loslo
    April 6th, 2021 at 23:03 | #4

    Thanks for the link! And the songs. And for doing this every month.

  5. Webbie – Keeping It Peel
    April 7th, 2021 at 16:19 | #5

    Steve Lovell, the producer for A Flock Of Seagulls, Julian Cope, Blur and many others passed away March 24th. Haven’t found out any more info apart from that.
    https://www.facebook.com/steve.lovell.108

  6. amdwhah
    April 7th, 2021 at 22:46 | #6

    I haven’t seen any obits. Strangely, he doesn’t/didnlt even have a Wikipedia page.

  7. Rhodb
    April 10th, 2021 at 00:26 | #7

    Fine work once again

    Regards

    Rhodb

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