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In Memoriam – November 2021

December 2nd, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Reaper has eased off after a hectic few months. Still, in November he took some musicians who have appeared on songs most of us will profess to love, and he claimed one of Brazil’s brightest talents in a tragic air crash. Personally, I was most saddened by the passing of UB40’s Astro, who was the best thing about the band’s concert I saw back in the 1980s. Remarkably, there was casualty from the world of country music; I hazard to guess that in the long time I’ve done this series — some 11 years — this might be a first.

The Moody Blue
The Moody Blues are probably best remembered for the classic hit Nights In White Satin. With its orchestral arrangement, which in 1967 was still a novelty in rock, the English band’s hit exercised a great influence on other groups. Another pioneering prog rock device was their use of spoken poetry. These poems were written by drummer Graeme Edge, who has died at 80. Apparently the band thought his poetry was a bit too rambling to work as song lyrics.

Edge remained with the band for most of its run, which as a recording concern ended in 2003 and as a live act in 2015. In the 1970s, he took some time out — by his own account, to decompress from his own sense of self-importance — and formed the Graeme Edge Band with Paul and Adam Gurvitz.

The Stage Writer
I’ll be honest about Stephen Sondheim, the musicals lyricist who has died at 91: other than the obvious stuff — West Side Story, Send In The Clowns, bits and pieces of other musicals and films — I know very little about him or his craft. And other than West Side Story, I’m rather lacking in exposure and knowledge to it. At the same time, there are people whose musical judgment I fully respect who swear by Sondheim’s genius. There are those who even argue that Sondheim was our epoch’s Shakespeare.

And when I listen more closely to his lyrics, I can see their point. Aside from the obvious knack for a good turn of phrase, without which nobody would bring up Shakespeare, he also was also courageous and even subversive. The song America from West Side Story is as strong an indictment of US society as you could accommodate in a musical in the 1950s. And Officer Krupke from the same musical include references to drugs, junkies, transvestites and venereal disease, hardly staple subjects for 1950s society.

I suspect that I might be well served to investigate Sondheim’s catalogue with greater attention.

The Wailers’ Percussionist
As its percussionist, Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson, who has died at 90, was integral to the sound of Bob Marley & The Wailers in their most commercial phase. He played on all albums, from 1973’s Catch A Fire to Confrontation, released in 1983 after Marley’s death. It’s safe to say that Seeco played on all of the tracks of the ubiquitous Legend compilation. It was also the older Seeco who took the unknown Wailers to their first recording session in 1964 and encouraged the young Bob Marley to become a lead singer.

His friendship with Marley lasted till the singer’s death in 1981. Seeco was there when gunmen tried to assassinate Marley; and when Bob battled cancer, Seeco was constantly at his side. After Bob’s death, Seeco — who was born in Cuba of a Jamaican father and Panamaian mother — continued playing with The Wailers, only rarely doing session work outside.

The Backing Singer
Evette Benton never put out a record under her own name, as far as I know — but you’ll have heard her voice as a backing singer on many hit records. As part of a session trio named the Sweethearts of Sigma, or just The Sweeties, with Barbara Ingram (whom we lost in 1994) and Carla Benson, Benton sung on soul classics such as — deep breath in — Billy Paul’s Me And Mrs Jones and Let’s Make A Baby; on The Spinners’ Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, I’ll Be Around, Ghetto Child, You Make Me Feel Brand New, They Just Can’t Stop It The (Games People Play) and The Rubberband Man; The Manhattans’ Hurt and Kiss And Say Goodbye; Major Harris’ Love Won’t Let Me Wait; Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes’ Don’t Leave Me This Way and Wake Up Everybody; The Trammps’ Disco Inferno; Lou Rawls’ Lay Love and Tradewinds; The O’Jays’ Use Ta Be My Girl and Brandy; Bell & James’ Livin’ It Up (Friday Night); Michael McDonald & Patti LaBelle’s On My Own, and more. That’s aside of her work on many great soul albums, especially those produced for Philly Soul label PIR.

And while she was appearing on hundreds of records, she also worked as a special education teacher and later became director of a pre-school program in Camden, New Jersey, the town where she and her fellow Sweeties hailed from.

The GAP Man
With the death of Ronnie Wilson, only one of the three brothers who made up The Gap Band survives. A multi-instrumentalist, Ronnie was responsible for the trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, synthesizer and percussion. He was also the leading songwriter in the group.

The band’s name is a reference to the Tulsa Riots, the pogrom against African-Americans in the 1920s in the Oklahoma city. The word “Gap” is an acronym of the three worst-affected streets in the racist pogrom: Greenwood, Archer and Pine.

The Reggae Rapper
When it came out, I loved UB40s Red Red Wine, even though it was a departure from their edgier old sound. As it is with the eponymous liquid, too much of a good think isn’t good, and with it being overplayed I came to dislike the song. With the death of UB40’s MC Astro at only 64, I listened to their cover of Red Red Wine again — and found it’s actually a pretty good record, immeasurably enhanced by Astro’s rap.

On stage, Astro was as much frontman as his friend and lead singer Ali Campbell. Behind the scenes, according to a friend of mine who knew him, Astro — real name Terence Wilson — was a gentle soul who kept in touch with his bandmate even after UB40 split amid acrimony. The death of the UB40 co-founder came less than three months after that of UB40 saxophonist Brian Travers.

And the nickname? Apparently it came from the name of a pair of Doc Martens boots he wore, named Astronauts.

The Brazilian Superstar
In Brazil, singer-songwriter Marília Mendonça, who has died at 26 in an air crash, was a sensation and possibly the country’s biggest female singing star, selling multi-platinum records and providing women with a voice through many of her songs. In 2019 she won a Latin Grammy for best sertanejo album.

On November 5, Mendonça entered an air taxi with her uncle/manager and three others. They never reached Caratinga, their destination. The singer leaves behind her husband and a 22-months-old child.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson, 90, Cuban-born Jamaican percussionist, on Nov. 1
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Trenchtown Rock (Live) (1975, as member)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Exodus (1977, as member)

Pat Martino, 77, jazz guitarist and composer, on Nov. 1
Pat Martino – Along Came Betty (1974)

Emmett Chapman, 85, jazz musician, inventor of Chapman Stick, on Nov. 1
Emmett Chapman – Back Yard (1985)

Ronnie Wilson, 73, member of funk group The Gap Band, on Nov. 2
The Gap Band – I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops Up Side Your Head).mp3 (1979)
The Gap Band – Big Fun (1986)

Ernest Wilson, 69, Jamaican reggae singer, on Nov. 2
Ernest Wilson – Let True Love Be (1976)

Declan Mulligan, 83, Irish-born member of rock group Beau Brummels, on Nov. 2
The Beau Brummels – Laugh, Laugh (1964, on rhythm guitar and harmonica)

Georgie Dann, 81, French party songs singer, on Nov. 3

Marília Mendonça, 26, Brazilian singer-songwriter, in air crash on Nov. 5
Marília Mendonça – Sentimento Louco (2015)
Marília Mendonça – Ciumeira (2019)

Beldina Odenyo Onassis, 31, Kenyan-Scottish singer-songwriter and musician, on Nov. 5

Andy Barker, 53, member of British electronic group 808 State, on Nov. 6
808 State – In Yer Face (1991)

Maureen Cleave, 87, British journalist (Lennon’s ‘more popular than Jesus’ interview), on Nov. 6

Astro, 64, singer, rapper and musician with UB40, on Nov. 6
UB40 – One In Ten (1981)
UB40 – Red Red Wine (1986, also on rap)

Evette Benton, 68, soul backing singer, on Nov. 6
The Spinners – Could It Be I’m Falling In Love (1973, on backing vocals)
Major Harris – Love Won’t Let Me Wait (1976, on backing vocals; moans by Barbara Ingram)
Teddy Pendergrass – All I Need Is You (1979, on backing vocals)

Barry Coope, singer with English folk trio Coope, Boyes & Simpson, on Nov. 6
Coope, Boyes & Simpson – We Got Fooled Again (2010)

Bopol Mansiamina, 72, Congolese singer, musician, composer, producer, on Nov. 7
4 Stars Etoiles – Mayanga (1985, as member and writer)

Kōzō Suganuma, 62, Japanese jazz drummer, on Nov. 8

Margo Guryan, 84, singer-songwriter, on Nov. 8
Margo Guryan – Sunday Mornin’ (1968, also as writer)

Edgardo Gelli, 86, Italian singer, in car crash on Nov. 8

Sean Higgins, 68, synth player and songwriter, on Nov. 9
Australian Crawl – Things Don’t Seem (1981, as member and co-writer)

Mike ‘Bones’ Gersema, rock drummer, on Nov. 10
L.A. Gun – Face Down (1994, as member and co-writer)

Miroslav Žbirka, 69, singer, songwriter of Czechoslovakian rock band Modus, on Nov. 10

Spike Heatley, 88, British jazz and rock double bassist, on Nov. 10
Donovan – Sunshine Superman (1966, on double-bass)
C.C.S. – Whole Lotta Love (1970, as member on bass)

Graeme Edge, 80, drummer of The Moody Blues, songwriter, poet, on Nov. 11
The Moody Blues – Go Now (1964)
The Moody Blues – You And Me (1972, also as writer)
Graeme Edge Band feat. Adrian Gurvitz – Down, Down, Down (1977, also as writer)

Mark Gillespie, Australian singer-songwriter, on Nov. 11

John Goodsall, 68, British rock guitarist with Brand-X, on Nov. 11
Brand X – Euthanasia Waltz (1976, as member)

Greg Mayne, 67, bassist of heavy metal band Pentagram, on Nov. 13

Joe Siracusa, 99, drummer with Spike Jones and His City Slickers, on Nov. 13
Spike Jones and His City Slickers – Yes We Have No Bananas (1950, also on backing vocals)

Philip Margo, 79, singer with vocal group The Tokens, on Nov. 13
The Tokens – He’s In Town (1964)

Heber Bartolome, 73, Filipino folk singer, on Nov. 15

Belinda Sykes, 55, founder of British folk group Joglaresa, on Nov. 16

Keith Allison, 79, bassist and singer with Paul Revere & The Raiders, on Nov. 17
The Raiders – Birds Of A Feather (1971, as member)

Young Dolph, 36, rapper, murdered on Nov. 17

Dave Frishberg, 88, jazz pianist and songwriter, on Nov. 16
Dave Frishberg – I’m Hip (1966, also as lyricist)

Theuns Jordaan, 50, South African singer-songwriter, on Nov. 17

Slide Hampton, 89, jazz trombonist, on Nov. 18
The Slide Hampton Octet – Milestones (1961)

Ack van Rooyen, 91, Dutch jazz trumpeter and flugelhornist, on Nov. 18

Hank von Hell, 49, singer of Norwegian punk group Turbonegro, on Nov. 19

David Longdon, 56, singer and musician with UK rock band Big Big Train, on Nov. 20
Big Big Train – Evening Star (2009, lead vocals, organ, dulcimer, flute, mandolin, glockenspiel)

Billy Hinsche, 70, pop multi-instrumentalist, on Nov. 20
Dino, Desi & Billy – I’m A Fool (1963, as member)

Jim Gallagher, 78, drummer of surf rock band The Astronauts, on Nov. 20
The Astronauts – Baja (1963)

Ted Herold, 79, German rock & roll pioneer and actor, in a fire on Nov. 20
Ted Herold – Hula Rock (1959)

Yul Anderson, 63, soul, jazz and classical musician and inventor, on Nov. 21
Yul Anderson – Eyes Of Music/All Along The Watchtower (1981)

Paolo Pietrangeli, 76, Italian singer-songwriter, film director, on Nov. 22

Joanne Shenandoah, 63, Native-American folk singer and composer, on Nov. 22
Joanne Shenandoah – To Those Who Dream (1991)

Volker Lechtenbrink, 77, German singer and actor, on Nov. 22
Volker Lechtenbrink – Ich mag (1981)

Gared O’Donnell, 44, singer of metal band Planes Mistaken for Stars, on Nov. 24

Marilyn McLeod, 82, soul (Motown) songwriter and singer, announced Nov. 25
Diana Ross – Love Hangover (1976, as co-writer)
High Energy – You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle Of Turning Me On) (1977, as co-writer)

Stephen Sondheim, 91, American composer and lyricist, on Nov. 26
Sammy Davis Jr – West Side Story Medley (1961, as lyricist)
Judy Collins – Send In The Clowns (1975, as lyricist)
Bette Midler – Everything’s Coming Up Roses (1993, as lyricist)

Alexander Gradsky, 72, Russian rock pioneer singer and musician, on Nov. 28

Meñique, 87, Panamanian singer and songwriter, on Nov. 28
Meñique – Manigua (1972)

Martin Wright, guitarist of English indie bands Laugh/Intastella, on Nov. 30
Laugh – Paul McCartney (1987)

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  1. amdwhah
    December 2nd, 2021 at 09:51 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Pete Reilly
    December 14th, 2021 at 13:43 | #2

    Hey Dude, Thanks as always for the fine collection of IM tracks and your informative, well researched commentary – essential reading for me every month.

  3. amdwhah
    December 15th, 2021 at 10:52 | #3

    Thank you. Sometimes I wonder if anyone is reading that stuff…

  4. arthdog
    December 30th, 2021 at 23:59 | #4

    Always catch up with your In Memoriam posts, a fine resource to backtrack on the great and the good (and sometimes the not so well known) who have passed on in the month. Thanks for putting in the work.

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