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In Memoriam – April 2021

Sometimes the Grim Reaper has as twisted sense of quirk: on April 28, he claimed the drummer of 1960s Texan garage rock band The Bad Seeds, and on the same day he took Australian singer Anita Lane, who in the 1980s was a member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds. Those two, of course, were not the month’s headliners. The deaths of Jim Steinman and Bay City Rollers singer Leslie McKeown rightly dominated. Both guys played an important part in my musical journey: as a kid I was a Bay City Rollers fan for a while (then I grew hair in strange places, and that was that), and soon after I became addicted to the Bat Out Of Hell album.

 

The Rock Rossini
If rock music was opera, the broad consensus holds, then Jim Steinman was Richard Wagner: a man whose brilliance found expression in the overblown and preposterous mythology, always straddling the fine line between the sublime and the absurd. To be sure, Steinman was operatic, bombastic and given to Valkyre-helmet shenanigans. But he could also do tender ballads, such as Two Out Of Three on Bat Out Of Hell, or Air Supply’s Making Love Out Of Nothing At All, or the Celine Dion hit All Coming Back To Me Now, a cover of Pandora Box’s gloriously mad 1989 original, with a typical Steinman spoken intro. Slow down Total Eclipse Of The Heart, and you have a pretty melody, albeit less effective than the kitchen-sink production we know. (Steinman certainly exercised as little economy in song titles as he did in song lengths.) And his melodies were always accessible and catchy, which is one thing you cannot accuse Wagner of. Could Wagner have written anything as catchy as You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth? No, we must look for another heavy-metal classical composer. I’ll have Steinman down not as a rock Wagner, but as ”The Rossini of Rock”.

With Bat Out Of Hell, one of the greatest moments in rock music (the VH-1 documentary on the making of the album is superb, incidentally), Steinman peaked early. But he productively wrote for others, except when he recorded his own solo album, Bad For Good, released in 1981. One wonders how great that album might have been in Meat Loaf’s hands (he did the absurd spoken track Love And Death Of An American Guitar as an intro to All Revved Up With No Place To Go on the original Bat Out Of Hell tour, and reprised it on Bat Out Of Hell II tour). As it was, Bad For Good was a bit like its cover: partly audaciously good, and partly embarrassingly bad. The Streisand song featured here is a cover of a track from Bad For Good.

The range of people who benefited from Steinman’s mad genius is pretty broad, ranging from classic rock singers like Meat Loaf and Billy Squier to Australian soft-rockers like Air Supply to Euro-pop singers like Bonnie Tyler to divas like Barbra Streisand to boybands like Boyzone, whose mega-hit No Matter What he co-wrote with Andrew Lloyd-Webber for a musical.

 

The Teen Idol
It seems that almost every year, a former Bay City Roller dies. Now the Reaper caught up with frontman Leslie McKeown. Before Les joined the band, around the same time as Stuart Wood, the Bay City Rollers were a rather scruffy-looking pop band which had enjoyed a couple of hits. With the two new good-looking boys, and the gimmick of the tartan looks, the Bay City Rollers became a teen-dream band, scoring nine consecutive UK Top 6 hits, including two #1s between 1974 and 1976. They were huge even longer in Germany, where You Made Me Believe In Magic (their best song but only a UK #35) and Don’t Stop The Music (featured on Any Major Disco Vol. 2) were hits in 1977.

But by then BCR were falling apart, with McKeown in conflict with the other Rollers. Then he got fired/jumped ship (depending on whose version you believe). At one point in around 1978, McKeown invaded a BCR concert on stage, leading to physical altercations between him and his old tartan compadres. Leslie’s solo career never took off, and he was afflicted with alcoholism for many years. Eventually he returned to performing with his own version of the Bay City Rollers, wearing the old tartans, and being an amiable uncle on UK quiz shows.

 

The Bass Warrior
The soul-funk group War broke barriers as one of the first multiracial outfits in pop music. Initially led by Eric Burdon, War veered between genres. In the mix of all that was bassist B.B. Dickerson, who played with the band from 1970-79, and had already been a member of its precursor, The Creators. Apart from playing bass, Dickerson also added percussion, and vocals, as lead (for example, on the great The World Is A Ghetto) or as backing singer, in a band in which backing vocals were an important part of the sound. In War, all members received co-writing credits, in unalphabetical sequence; mostly Dickerson’s name is listed first.

 

The Disco Legend
It was only a few week before he died that I had learnt that Euro-disco legend Patrick Juvet had represented Switzerland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1973, just four years before he became a disco star, first recording with Jean-Michel Jarre, having a hit with Où sont les femmes in 1977. The following year he hooked up with French disco producers Jacques Morali and Henri Belolo — who also produced the Village People and Richie Family — to record hits like I Love America and Got A Feeling. After the disco boom, Juvet’s career declined. He did a bit of composing, but the big hits stayed away.

 

The Super Engineer
There aren’t many stars among recording engineers, but Al Schmitt surely was one of them. In his career, he won a record 20 Grammys for engineering, including for Steely Dan’s Aja, George Benson’s Breezin’, Toto’s IV, and Ray Charles Genius Loves Company. He got his break in the 1950s when the engineer for a Duke Ellington session couldn’t be reached, so Schmitt, hitherto an assistant, had to fill in. Evidently, he did well. He then worked with Henry Mancini, including on Moon River, and various jazz and folk acts, while also engineering Sam Cooke hits like Bring It On Home To Me, Cupid, and Another Saturday Night.

In the 1970s and 80s he engineered for acts like Steely Dan, Earth, Wind & Fire, Jackson Browne (For Everyman; Late For The Sky), Dave Mason, Linda Ronstadt (Don’t Cry Now), Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were, Wet), Michael Franks (The Art Of Tea, Sleeping Gypsy, The Lady Wants To Know, Burchfield Nines, Blue Pacific), Glenn Campbell (Southern Nights), Samantha Sang (Emotions), George Benson (In Flight, Weekend In LA, Living Inside Your Love, 20/20, Tenderly), Dr John (City Light, In A Sentimental Mood), Randy Crawford (Secret Combination, Nightline), Joe Sample (Spellbound), and the beautifully recorded Casino Lights album of Randy Crawford, Al Jarreau, The Yellow Jackets and others in Montreaux.

Schmitt’s 1990s and 2000s engineering included both Duets albums by Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable sets, as well as work for acts like Everything But The Girl, Madonna, Michael Bolton, Teddy Pendergrass, Diane Schuur, Anita Baker, Willie Nelson, Diane Krall, Quincy Jones, Dolly Parton, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton, Robbie Williams, Rod Stewart, Michael Bublé, Paul Anka (the great Rock Swings album), Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Neil Young, Trisha Yearwood, Gregory Porter, Paul McCartney, and loads others.

On top of that, in the late 1960s and ‘70s Schmitt also produced a number of albums for acts like Jefferson Starship, Jackson Browne, Hot Tuna, Neil Young, Spirit, and Al Jarreau.

 

The Hitmaker
In 2019, we lost English songwriter Les Reed, who created an impressive number of hits. Exactly two years and a day later, his frequent songwriting partner Barry Mason joined the great hit parades in the sky. With Reed, Mason wrote such hits as Tom Jones’ Delilah and I’m Coming Home, The Fortunes’ Here It Comes Again, Dave Clark Five’s Everybody Knows, Des O’Connor’s I Pretend, Petula Clark’s Kiss Me Goodbye, and Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz, Les Bicyclettes De Belsize (also a hit for Mireille Mathieu) and Winter World Of Love. Mason also co-wrote the 1970 #1 Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) by Edison Lighthouse, and other UK hits like Tom Jones’ Love Me Tonight, Des O’Connor’s One, Two, Three O’Leary, When Forever Has Gone by Demis Roussos, and You Might Just See Me Cry by Our Kid. More recently, he wrote the 2002 UK hit Tell Me Why for English child singer Declan Galbraith.

While he was writing for others, he recorded also a bunch of singles between 1966 and 1981 (none troubled the charts), and a later couple of albums of his own songs, released in the 1970s and 1990s.

 

The Red Panther
Born into poor circumstances in Italy in 1939, Maria Ilva Biolcati became an internationally famous singer under the name Milva. She became so famous as a singer of chansons and as a film actress that she became widely known by nicknames: La Rossa, on account of her red hair (and, perhaps, also her political views), and La Pantera. She had much success outside Italy as well, especially in Germany.

On stage she was acclaimed as a premier interpreter of Berthold Brecht. She was equally at home in opera and appeared in some of the great houses, including the Royal Abert Hall in London and La Scala in Milan, the city in which she died at 81 on April 23.

 

The Country-Rock Pioneer
In the five decades of the pioneering folk-rock band Poco, multi-instrumentalist Rusty Young was the one constant, from its founding in 1968 to the last album, released in 2013. Created from the debris of Buffalo Springfield, Poco were pioneers in the country-rock sound that became hugely popular in the 1970s, especially in the work by the Eagles (who would include two Poco alumni). Young’s innovative use of the pedal steel-guitar was one of the essential elements in the development of that sound.

Eventually Young became the frontman of Poco — he wrote their hits Rose of Cimarron and Crazy Love — but he also played on many records by other people, including former Poco pals Jim Messina, Richie Furay and Paul Cotton, as well as the likes of Three Dog Night, Rita Coolidge, Scott McKenzie, Rusty Wier (including on one of my favourites, Texas Morning, featured on Any Major Morning), Gladys Knight & The Pips, and Earl Scruggs. He recorded two solo albums, released in 2017 and 2019.

 

Taking the Rap
It took me until the rapper’s death to realise — or to become curious about — what the letters DMX stand for. Turns out, it’s after a drum machine as well as serving as an acronym for Dark Man X, the moniker Earl Simmons adopted when he began his career in hip hop as a teenager. And a rich career it was, with grammatically loose hits like Where The Hood At?, We Right Here, Party Up (Up In Here),  Who We Be, and X Gon’ Give It To Ya.

Earl’s childhood was rough. Abandoned by his father, he was brutalised by his mother and temporary stepfathers, and in turn became violent himself, culminating in the teenager living on the streets, and spending several stints in jail for petty crimes (such as stealing a dog!) and later for carjacking, interrupting what was already promising to be a career in music. It was during a stint in jail for robbery that he turned his direction to music, with success.

But even during his music career, he found himself in frequent trouble with the law, with several stints in jail over issues like drug possession, animal cruelty, failing to pay child support, or tax fraud. And yet, DMX was also trying to live the Christian life, recording songs about religious faith (and struggles to live up to the ethics of religion), and even planning to become a pastor.

 

The One Season
Big success let Joe Long wait: the bass player joined the Four Seasons in 1965, just as the group’s hits were drying up. He was involved in the influential 1969 prog-rock album The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, but that was not a commercial success. But Long was still with the band when they made a comeback in 1975 with the hit December 1963 (Oh What A Night). He also played on Frankie Valli’s great solo hit My Eyes Adored You. He might also have played on Valli’s 1967 hit Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, but I couldn’t find any personnel listings to confirm that.

 

The Label Owner
Having cut his musical teeth in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, before it became a soul capital, Quinton Claunch moved to Memphis in 1948, where a few years later he would co-found Hi Records, another great name in soul music.

Claunch, who has died at 99, started out in country, and as such met up with an old pal from the Muscle Shoals days, Sam Philips, who gave him session and production work at Sun Records. In 1957 he co-founded Hi Records, but sold his share in 1959 (some say he was muscled out). A decade later Hi would become an iconic soul label under Willie Mitchell’s guidance.

By then, Claunch had co-founded the soul/gospel label Goldwax, also in Memphis, on which he produced the likes of by James Carr, The Ovations and Spencer Wiggins, including Carr’s classic On The Dark End Of The Street. Goldwax folded in 1969, but when it was relaunched in the 1980s, Claunch served as its president for a few years.

 

The Keyboard Man
You might not know the name Ralph Schuckett, but you’ll have heard him playing keyboards on many songs. He played on Carole King’s It’s Too Late and Where You Lead (electric piano), on Hall & Oates’ She’s Gone and Every Time You Go Away (on the organ), on albums by the likes of The Monkees, James Taylor, Kate Taylor, Todd Rundgren, Bette Midler, Nona Hendryx, Four Tops, Phoebe Snow, The Manhattans, Evelyn King, Rodney Crowell, Cher and Whitney Houston. He also produced acts like Clarence Clemons, Belinda Carlisle and Sophie B. Hawkings, including her 1992 hit Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover.

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.

 

Eddie ‘Wally’ Rothe, 66, English drummer, on March 26
Liquid Gold – Any Way You Do It (1980, on drums and backing vocals)

Patrick Juvet, 70, Swiss disco singer-songwriter, on April 1
Patrick Juvet – Je vais me marier, Marie (1973)
Patrick Juvet – Où sont les femmes? (1977)
Patrick Juvet – I Love America (1978)

Oscar Kraal, 50, Dutch pop drummer, on April 1

Morris B.B. Dickerson, 71, bassist, percussionist and singer with War, on April 2
Eric Burdon and War – Spill The Wine (1970, also as co-writer)
War – The World Is A Ghetto (1972, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
War – Low Rider (1975, also as co-writer)

Quindon Tarver, 38, R&B singer, in a car crash on April 2
Quindon Tarver – Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good) (1996)

Tony Pola, Australian rock drummer, on April 2
Beasts Of Bourbon – Just Right (1992, as member)

Agnaldo Timóteo, 84, Brazilian singer and politician, on April 3

Ralph Schuckett, 73, keyboardist, arranger and composer, on April 4
Carole King – Where You Lead (1971, on electric piano)
Hall & Oates – She’s Gone (1974, on organ)
Todd Rundgren – The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll (1975, on clavinet)
The Manhattans – Forever By Your Side (1983, on piano, arrangement)

Paul Humphrey, 61, member of Canadian new wave band Blue Peter, on April 4

Henry Stephen, 79, Venezuelan rock & roll singer, on April 5

Krzysztof Krawczyk, 74, Polish pop singer, guitarist and composer, on April 5

Sonny ‘Huey’ Simmons, 87, jazz saxophonist, on April 6
Prince Lasha Quintet feat. Sonny Simmons – Congo Call (1963)

Bill Owens, 85, country songwriter, Dolly Parton’s uncle, on April 7
Dolly Parton – Put It Off Until Tomorrow (1967, as writer)

Isla Eckinger, 81, Swiss jazz bassist, on April 9

DMX, 50, rapper, on April 9
DMX – I Can Feel It (1998)
DMX feat. Faith Evans – I Miss You With (2001)

Bob Petric, guitarist of rock band Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, ann. April 10
Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments – My Mysterious Death (Turn It Up) (1995)

Quinton Claunch, 99, guitarist, songwriter, producer and label owner, on April 10
Carl Perkins – Let The Jukebox Keep On Playing (1955, on guitar)
Wanda Jackson – Day Dreaming (1962, as co-writer)
James Carr – Dark End Of The Street (1967, as co-producer)

Bob Porter, 80, blues and jazz producer, arranger and discographer, on April 10
Houston Person – Son Of Man (1970, as producer)

Bosse Skoglund, 85, Swedish drummer, on April 10

Shay Healy, 78, Irish songwriter and chat show host, on April 10
Johnny Logan – What’s Another Year (1980, as writer)

Michel Louvain, 83, Canadian singer, on April 14
Michel Louvain – C’est Un Secret (1965)

Artur Garcia, 83, Portuguese singer, on April 14
Artur Garcia – Meu lament (1962)

Rusty Young, 75, (steel)-guitarist of Poco and songwriter, on April 14
Three Dog Night – Never Been To Spain (1971, on pedal steel guitar)
Poco – You Better Think Twice (1970)
Poco – Rose Of Cimarron (1976, also as writer)
Rusty Young – Waitin’ For The Sun (2017)

Barby Kelly, 45, singer with Irish family pop group Kelly Family, on April 15
The Kelly Family – I Can’t Help Myself (I Love You I Want You) (1996)

Gabriel Raymon, 77, Colombian singer and songwriter, on April 15

Barry Mason, 85, English songwriter and singer, on April 16
Dave Clark Five – Everybody Knows (1964, as co-writer)
Barry Mason – Over The Hills And Far Away (1966, also as co-writer)
Mireille Mathieu  -Les Bicyclettes de Belsize (1968, as co-writer)
Barry Mason – The Last Waltz (2011, also as co-writer)

Mike Mitchell, 77, singer-guitarist of rock band The Kingsmen, on April 17
The Kingsmen – Louie Louie (1963)
The Kingsmen – You Better Do Right (1973)

Black Rob, 51, rapper, on April 17
Black Rob – Whoah! (2000)

Lars Ratz (Ranzenberger), 53, bassist of German metal band Metalium, on April 18

Lew Lewis, English harmonica player, announced April 18
The Stranglers – Old Codger (1978, on harmonica)

Paul Oscher, 71, blues harp & guitar player and singer, on April 18
Muddy Waters – Screamin’ And Cryin’ (1969, on harmonica)
Paul Oscher – I’m Goin’ Away Baby (2005)

Jim Steinman, 73, composer-lyricist, producer, musician, on April 19
Jim Steinman – Bad For Good (1981)
Meat Loaf – I’m Gonna Love Her For Both Of Us (1981, as writer and co-producer)
Barbra Streisand – Left In The Dark (1985, as writer and co-producer)
Pandora’s Box – It’s All Coming Back To Me Now (1989, as writer/producer, spoken intro)

Joaquín Cúneo, 34, Peruvian rock vocalist, on April 19

Bob Lanois, 73, Canadian producer and engineer (Daniel’s brother), on April 19
Willie P. Bennett – Lace And Pretty Flowers (1977, as engineer)

Les McKeown, 65, lead singer of The Bay City Rollers, on April 20
Bay City Rollers – Give A Little Love (1975)
Bay City Rollers – You Made Me Believe In Magic (1977)
Leslie McKeown – Shall I Do It (1979) (1979)

Diamantina Rodríguez, 100, Spanish folk singer, on April 21

Joe Long, 88, bassist of The Four Seasons (1965-75), on April 21
Four Seasons – Something’s On Her Mind (1969)
Frankie Valli – My Eyes Adored You (1975, on bass)
Four Seasons – December ‘63 (Oh What A Night) (1975)

Thomas Fritsch, 77, German actor and singer, on April 21
Thomas Fritsch – Geschichten eines Twen (1964)

Lea Dali Lion, 47, Estonian singer, on April 21

Shock G, 57, rapper with Digital Underground, on April 22
Digital Underground – The Humpty Dance (1990)

Charlie Black, 71, country songwriter, on April 23
George Strait – Write This Down (1999, as co-writer)

Victor Wood, 75, Filipino singer and actor, on April 23

Milva, 81, Italian singer and actress, on April 23
Milva – Bella Ciao (1965)
Milva & Ennio Morricone – D’amore Si Muore (1972)
Milva – Liberta (Freiheit In Meiner Sprache)

Sergio Esquivel, 74, Mexican singer-songwriter, on April 24

Denny Freeman, 76, blues guitarist and keyboardist, on April 25
Denny Freeman – Soul Street (1988)

Jan Verhoeven, 80, Dutch singer with Holland Duo, on April 26

Al Schmitt, 91, engineer and producer, on April 27
Sam Cooke – Cupid (1962, as engineer)
George Benson – Breezin’ (1976, as engineer)
Anita Baker – Body And Soul (1993, as engineer)
Paul Anka – Eye Of The Tiger (2005, as engineer)

Paul Couter, 72, founding guitarist of Belgian rock band TC Matic, on April 27
Tjens-Couter – Walking The Dog (1978)

Sammy Kasule, 69, Ugandan musician and singer with Afrigo Band, on April 27
Afrigo Band – Kasongo (2006)

Mara Abrantes, 86, Brazilian-Portuguese singer and actress, on April 28

Bobby Donaho, 73, drummer of garage rock band Bad Seeds, on April 28
The Bad Seeds – Taste Of The Same (1965)

Anita Lane, 61, Australian singer-songwriter, announced April 28
Anita Lane – The Next Man That I See (2001)

Nick Weaver, 37, guitarist of Australian rock band Deep Sea Arcade, on April 29
Deep Sea Arcade – Close To Me (2018)

Will Mecum, guitarist with rock band Karma to Burn, on April 29
Karma To Burn – Ma Petite Mort (1997)

John Hinch, 73, British drummer (Judas Priest, 1973-75), on April 29
Judas Priest – Rocka Rolla (1974)

Ali McKenzie, singer of British rock band The Birds, announced April 30
The Birds – You’re On My Mind (1964)

Toni Dalli, 88, Italian singer, announced April 30
Toni Dalli – More Than Ever (1958)

Ray Reyes, 51, Puerto Rican singer with teen band Menudo, on April 30
Menudo – Si Tu No Estas (1983, on lead vocals)

John Dee Holeman, 92, guitarist, singer and songwriter, April 30
John Dee Holeman – I Don’t Care Where You Go (1992)

Tony Markellis, rock bassist (Trey Anastasio Band) on April 30
Trey Anastasio – Ether Sunday (2002, on bass)

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  1. amdwhah
    May 4th, 2021 at 09:57 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. DAVID PERRIN
    May 8th, 2021 at 14:18 | #2

    Living in The Castro (S.F.) in 1979 I’d say that “Lady Night” & “Swiss Kiss” were the Patrick Juvet songs most on repeat. Close the blinds, get down, & Boogie Oogie Oogie.

  3. Rhodb
    May 8th, 2021 at 23:05 | #3

    Another fine effort to capture the artists who have passed

    Great work

    Regards

    Rhodb

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