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In Memoriam – September 2021

October 5th, 2021 4 comments

September was another brutal month, requiring so many write-ups that I had to exclude some people who might have featured in most other months, such as R&B singer and songwriter Andrea Martin (dead at only 49), Carl Bean (whose 1977 gay anthem on Motown features here), soul bass-player Melvin Dunlap (who backed Bill Withers on many of his hits), or country-rock singer Cody Smith. But since almost every entry takes quite a lot of time for research, and the write-ups take even longer, I have to economise. Still, there are 14 write-ups this month.

The Quo Man
With the death at 72 of Alan Lancaster, only half of Status Quo’s classic line-up remains with us. I always had a soft spot for Alan on account of him being the third wheel in the frontmen bromance. While Rick and Francis were shouting jokes into each other’s ears in bow-legged mid-solo, Alan usually stood a little aside. Having founded the band in 1962 with Francis Rossi, he certainly felt undervalued by the early 1980s, when he temporarily left the band. Later he emigrated to Australia. He soon returned but the break came in the mid-1980s, when Rossi and Rick Parfitt released Status Quo albums without Lancaster, or even his knowledge. They later found each other again in the mid-2010s.

In the interim, Lancaster joined Australian band Party Boys, whose 1987 hit debut album, including the Aussie #1 hit cover of John Kongos’ He’s Gonna Step On You Again,  he also produced. He then founded The Bombers, with long-time Quo friend John Coghlan on drums. Lancaster died on September 26 due to complications from multiple sclerosis.

The Labelle
On September 20, Patti LaBelle played a gig in in Atlantic City at which she called her old friend Sarah Dash on to the stage to sing with her, thus effecting a 2/3 reunion of the soul trio Labelle (Video clip of that performance). Two days later, Dash was dead, aged 76. The two women’s story goes back to 1962, when Patti (then still Patsy Holte) and pastor’s-daughter Sarah formed the group The Blue Belles with Nona Hendryx and Cindy Birdsong. They had some success, and in 1971 — four years after Birdsong decamped to The Supremes — renamed themselves LaBelle. With their flamboyant divas act, crazy outfits and great music, they became stars, culminating in the classic hit Lady Marmalade. Dash, the soprano (hear it at the beginning of Down The Aisle), was the calming buffer between the strong and often antagonistic personalities Patti and Nona.

After the group’s split in 1977, Dash recorded a string of soul and funk albums, did session work, and in the late 1980s worked and toured with the Rolling Stones (whom The Bluebells had supported on tour a quarter of a century earlier). Sporadic LaBelle reunions followed, as well as a few more solo recordings.

The JBs Bandleader
During last year’s anti-racism protests in the US, James Brown’s 1968 song Say It Loud-I’m Black And Proud served as an anthem. Brown co-wrote the track with Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis, who has died at 80. Ellis, a great saxophonist in his own right, was Brown’s bandleader and arranger during the early funk period. Coming from a jazz background — in his younger days, Ellis had played with his contemporaries Chuck Mangione, Ron Carter and Sonny Rollins — he instilled in James Brown’s music discipline, in service of the innovation. A songwriter, Ellis wrote the instrumental The Chicken for Brown. In the event, Brown didn’t record it, but it became a hit for jazzman Jaco Pistorius.

Ellis left Brown’s stable after four years in 1969. In 1972, he founded Gotham, a jazz-funk outfit which has been much sampled in hip hop. He played with other collectives, including those led by the likes of Ginger Baker and fellow Brown-alumni Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley. He worked widely as an arranger, including for Esther Philips’ superb 1972 albums From A Whisper To A Scream and Alone Again Naturally. In 1979 he became musical director for Van Morrison, playing on many of his records, for 20 years.

The Singing Twin
In 1968, Barry Ryan had a big hit with the enjoyably madcap  Eloise, written for him by his twin brother Paul (who died in 1992). The twins initially performed together as a duo, landing three UK Top 20 hits, before Paul decided to concentrate on songwriting. After Eloise, Barry had four more Top 40 hits in the UK between 1969 and 1972. In my view, it’s an injustice that his Can’t Let You Go failed to make the Top 10, hence its inclusion in Should Have Been A Top 10 Hit Vol. 2.

Ryan was more successful in Europe, especially in France and Germany. Living in Germany for a while, he even recorded in that country’s language. With his hit Zeit macht nur vor dem Teufel halt, Barry became the first English pop star from outside the schlager scene to perform on the massively popular TV show ZDF Hitparade (video here). His very good 1972 album Sanctus, Sanctus Halleluja was his last until a brief comeback in 2003. A few singles later, he quietly retired from the music scene.

The Blaxploiter
Better known as the pioneer of the wave of blaxploitation movies in the early 1970s through his film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song!, Melvin Van Peebles was also an innovative musician.  The filmmaker, who has died at 89, scored his breakthrough film, with the help of the still unknown Earth, Wind & Fire, but by then he had two albums and a soundtrack out already. These albums, and most of those that followed, were spoken word: poetry, stories and commentaries set to soul-jazz. Peebles issued altogether 11 albums, including four soundtracks.

The Doctor
In the early 1970s, jazz organist Lonnie Smith adopted the nickname Doctor. Nobody knows where it came from — Smith had no PhD, and you’d not want him to perform your heart surgery — but it kind of suited the turbaned pioneer in the field of jazz-funk. He was part of the George Benson Trio in the 1960s, and recorded with an endless list of jazz acts. Smith issued around 30 albums in his own name between 1967 and 2021. He’s not to be confused with his contemporary jazz keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, who is still with us.

The Great Composer
The colourful life of composer Mikis Theodorakis has come to an end at the age of 96. In Greece he’s regarded as his country’s greatest composer. Outside Greece, he’s perhaps best-known for the Zorba Dance, from the 1964 film Zorba The Greek. Other films Theodorakis scored include Serpico and Z. Although a classical composer, he drew from all manner of genres; his Mauthausen Cantata, a 1988 series of four arias in remembrance of the Holocaust, is strictly speaking a classical work, but it also draws from folk and religious tradition (as is evident in the featured track from the cantara).

Apart from his musical work, Theodorakis was also a politician of communist tradition, which saw him jailed and his music banned during the rule of the fascist junta from 1967-74. Periodically he was a parliamentarian, once puzzlingly as part of a right-wing ticket, and a government minister. He was a committed anti-Zionist and made some stupid comments that amounted to being anti-Semitic (for which he apologised), but he also had a great love for the Jewish people. Theodorakis doubtless was an unpredictable man in many ways.

The Electronic Pioneer
As founder and leader of the English industrial music group Cabaret Voltaire, which he co-founded at the age of 17 in 1973, Richard H Kirk exerted a great influence on electronic music, from new wave to dance to trance. With his compadres in shaping sound, Chris Watson und singer Stephen Mallinder, the Sheffield-born Kirk drew from glam rock and the experimental work of Krautrock acts like Can and Kraftwerk. In that way, Cabaret Voltaire influenced German new wave acts like Deutsch-Amerikanische Freundschaft, who borrowed Cabaret Voltaire’s 1978 title Do The Mussolini for their own 1981 hit single. After Cabaret Voltaire split in 1990, Kirk kept experimenting with sounds under various monikers, even recording a house album. He reformed Cabaret Voltaire in 2009, with himself as the only permanent member.

The White Baccara
As an entirely unironic fan of the 1977 disco anthem Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, I was saddened by the death at 69 of María Mendiola, the Baccara singer dressed in white. On Boogie, María did the intro’s moaning, on Lady she did the spoken intro. That’s the extent of my love for Baccara’s artistry. Still, Boogie and its follow-up Sorry I’m A Lady have the power to evoke the feeling of 1977. I reflected in Baccara’s impact on me as a 11-year-old in the A Life In Vinyl 1977 post. (The one in black, Mayte Mateos, was my first star-crush, alongside Agnetha of ABBA, incidentally.)

María had been the prima ballerina of a Spanish TV ballet, and when she and colleague Mayte formed Baccara, their idea was to fuse Spanish folk music with pop — but their hits, produced by Germans in the Netherlands, were Euro-disco. By 1983 they split, with each carrying on with separate Baccaras. María’s New Baccara recorded a few club hits in the 1980s.

The Girl Aloud
For many British pop fans, the best of the many girl group of the ‘00s was Girls Aloud. They certainly were the most successful. Put together as a result of a TV talent show, the group had 20 consecutive UK Top 10 singles, with four #1 hits, between 2002 and 2012. With the death from cancer at 39 of Sarah Harding, Girl Aloud have lost their first member to the Reaper. Harding was also an actress and model.

The Charlie Brown Drummer
As a member of the Vince Guaraldi Trio, drummer Colin Bailey had a hand in creating the timeless classic Cast Your Fate To The Wind, which was written by Guaraldi. But the English-born drummer’s handiwork is probably more famous for the trio’s soundtrack to the Peanuts films, including A Charlie Brown Christmas. Bailey also worked with, among many others, Benny Goodman, Julie London, Joe Pass, Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim, Mike Melvoin, Jimmy Witherspoon and, outside jazz, he drummed for Rita Coolidge.

The Newport Man
For fans of jazz and folk, the Newport festivals are an important part of their genres’ development, and it was at Newport that Bob Dylan first was booed for going electric. Now George Wein, the founder of the annual Newport Jazz Festival and co-founder (with Pete Seeger and Theodore Bikel) of the Newport Folk Festival, has died at 95. Before he was a festival founder in Rhode Island, Wein had a jazz club and record label (both named Storyville) and taught jazz history at Boston University. And busy as he was behind the scenes, he was also a prolific jazz pianist.

The Bassist
Just over a week after Wein’s death, a Newport Jazz Festival alumnus died in the person of bassist Bob Moore. Although he had a hit as the leader of the Bob Moore Orchestra with the Easy Listening song Mexico in 1961, Moore’s great body of work was delivered behind the scenes. There he backed the likes of Elvis Presley and Patsy Cline (on all her big hits, including Crazy, Fall To Pieces, Sweet Dreams etc) as part of the Nashville A-Team of session musicians. As co-founder of Monument Records he arranged the first hits for Roy Orbison, and played the bass on songs like Only The Lonely, Crying, Blue Bayou and In Dreams. On Roger Miller’s King Of The Road, he played the instantly recognisable bass intro.

In his long career, Moore regularly backed many of the greatest names in country, including George Jones, The Statler Brothers, Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, Moe Bandy, Billy Jo Spears, Crystal Gayle, Jerry Lee Lewis, Willie Nelson, B.J. Thomas, and especially Tom T. Hall, whom we lost just last month. He was an uncredited double bass player on Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Now, those Elvis records Moore played on include all the early 1960s hits as well as a number of movie soundtracks. Deep breath now: His Latest Flame, Stuck On You, It’s Now Or Never, Are You Lonesome Tonight, Viva Las Vegas, Surrender, A Fool Such As I, Little Sister, Suspicion, Return To Sender, Good Luck Charm, A Big Hunk O’ Love, U.S. Male, Guitar Man, The Girl Of My Best Friend, Devil In Disguise, among others. Most of the songs on the Elvis movie songs mix posted last week feature Moore.

The Hillbilly
With the death at 98 of Don Maddox, all of the Maddox Brothers & (their sister) Rose are gone. They were a groundbreaking act in country music. Rose Maddox was among the pioneering women in country, even if she, as the frontwoman, still had to take second billing behind her brothers.

The Maddox family had migrated from Alabama to California, a couple of years before the dustbowl sharecroppers from Oklahoma made their exodus there. Living in Modesto, the Maddox kids quickly established a reputation as California’s best hillbilly band (in the days before the term hillbilly was a slur), specialising in what then passed for racy lyrics. Their country boogie won the Maddox Brothers & Rose a recording contract in 1946. They made their breakthrough in 1949 with a song written by Woody Guthrie, titled Philadelphia Lawyer.

It is said that Fred Maddox’s style of slap bass playing was central in the development of rockabilly, and therefore rock & roll. Their use of electric guitars and wild stage shows certainly influenced the new genre. The band split up in 1956. A year earlier, they recorded a song titled The Death Of Rock And Roll, an adapted cover of Ray Charles’ I Got A Woman (Charles got no writing credit for it. Those were different days).

Don, like his brothers a World War 2 veteran, still played in his nineties, including at the Grand Ole Opry in the Marty Stuart Show, and in 2014 headlined the first annual Rockabilly Rockout at Las Vegas’ Gold Coast Casino. In 2019, featured in the Ken Burns’ splendid documentary Country Music.

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.

 

Barbara Moore, 89, British singer and arranger, on Aug. 26
Barbara Moore – Steam Heat (1972)

Adalberto Álvarez, 72, Cuban son pianist, on Sept. 1
Adalberto Alvarez y Su Son – Buena Pero No Es Pa’ Tanto (2000)

Aleksandr Khrabunov, 61, guitarist of pioneering Russian rock band Zoopark, on Sept. 1

Carol Fran, 87, R&B singer, pianist and songwriter, on Sept. 1
Carol Fran – Emmitt Lee (1957, also as writer)

Alemayehu Eshete, 80, Ethiopian singer, on Sept. 2

Mikis Theodorakis, 96, Greek composer, on Sept. 2
Mikis Theodorakis – Zorba Dance (1964)
Mikis Theodorakis – Songs Of Songs (1986)

MadClip, 34, Greek rapper, in car crash on Sept. 2

Billy Cafaro, 84, Argentine rock & roll singer, on Sept. 4
Billy Cafaro – Marcianita (1960)

Sarah Harding, 39, singer with UK pop group Girls Aloud and actress, on Sept. 5
Girls Aloud – Life Got Cold (2003)
Girls Aloud – Love Machine (2004)

Susan Anway, 70, ex-singer with indie band The Magnetic Fields, on Sept. 5
The Magnetic Fields – 100,000 Fireflies (1991)

Rickie Lee Reynolds, 72, guitarist with rock band Black Oak Arkansas, on Sept. 5
Black Oak Arkansas – You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down (1976)

Ralph Irizarry, 67, American percussionist and bandleader, on Sept. 5
Ralph Irizarry & Los Viejos de la Salsa – Los Viejos (2012)

Sunil Perera, 68, singer with Sri Lankan band The Gypsies, on Sept. 6

Bennie Pete, 45, sousaphonist with New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band, on Sept. 6
Hot 8 Brass Band – Sexual Healing (2007)

Warren Storm, 84, swamp pop drummer and singer, on Sept. 7
Warren Storm – The Prisoner’s Song (1958)

Carl Bean, 77, singer, church leader and LGBT rights activist, on Sept. 7
Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way (1977)

Mike Jones, member of rock group of Man The Destroyer, on Sept. 8

Robin Russell, 70, soul drummer and songwriter, on Sept. 8
The New Birth – Sure Thing (1976, as member)

Michael Chapman, 80, English singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Sept. 10
Michael Chapman – Postcards Of Scarborough (1970)

Roger Newell, 73, English bassist, on Sept. 10
Rainbow Ffolly – Drive My Car (1968, as member)

María Mendiola, 69, singer with Spanish pop duo Baccara, on Sept. 11
Baccara – Sorry, I’m A Lady (1977)
New Baccara – Call Me Up (1986)

Don Maddox, 98, member of country group Maddox Brothers and Rose, on Sept. 12
Maddox Brothers & Rose – Philadelphia Lawyer (1948)
Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Death Of Rock And Roll (1955)

George Wein, 95, music festival promoter; jazz pianist and singer, on Sept. 13
George Wein – Why Try To Change Me Now (1955)
George Wein & The Newport All Stars – Crazy Rhythm (1963)

Melvin Dunlap, 76, soul and funk bassist, announced on Sept. 13
Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band – Express Yourself (1970, as member)
Bill Withers – Use Me (1972, on bass & as co-producer)

Guilherme Inês, 70, Portuguese rock percussionist, on Sept. 14

Leonard ‘Doc’ Gibbs, 73, soul & fusion percussionist, on Sept. 15
Doc Gibbs – Tingle (1981)
Eugene Wilde – Gotta Get You Home With Me Tonight (1984, on percussion)

George Mraz, 77, Czech-born jazz musician, on Sept. 16
George Mraz & Friends – Going Home (2003)

Mats Paulson, 83, Swedish singer-songwriter, on Sept. 19

Warner Williams, 91, member of blues trio Little Bit A Blues, on Sept. 20
Warner Williams with Jay Summerour – Little Bit A Blues Theme (2003)

Gary Eckstein, 73, Israeli blues-rock singer, on Sept. 20

Colin Bailey, 87, English-born jazz drummer, on Sept. 20
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Cast Your Fate To The Wind (1962, as member)
Julie London with the Bud Shank Quintet – I’ve Got You Under My Skin (1965, on drums)
Rita Coolidge – Am I Blue (1975, on drums)

Sarah Dash, 76, singer with soul group Labelle, on Sept. 20
Patti Labelle & Blue Belles – Down The Aisle (1963)
Labelle – Touch Me All Over (1972)
Sarah Dash – (Come And Take) This Candy From Your Baby (1978)
Keith Richards feat. Sarah Dash – Make No Mistake (1988)

Claude Lombard, 76, Belgian singer, on Sept. 20

Julz Sale, singer-songwriter, guitarist of UK post-punk band Delta 5, on Sept. 20
Delta 5 – Anticipation (1980)

La Prieta Linda, 88, Mexican singer and actress, on Sept. 21

Richard H Kirk, 65, English singer-songwriter with Cabaret Voltaire, on Sept. 21
Cabaret Voltaire – Seconds Too Late (1980)
Cabaret Voltaire – Don’t Argue (1987)

Melvin Van Peebles, 89, musician, film director and playwright, on Sept. 21
Melvin Van Peebles – Love, That’s America (1970)
Melvin Van Peebles with Earth, Wind & Fire – Sweetback’s Theme (1971)
Melvin Van Peebles – Chippin’ (1971)

Peter A Hood, 78, drummer of Australian surf group The Atlantics, on Sept. 22
The Atlantics – Bombora (1963)

Bob Moore, 88, bassist and orchestra leader, on Sept. 22
Sister Rosetta Tharpe with James Roots Quintet – Tell Him You Saw Me (1952, on bass)
Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960)
Elvis Presley – (Marie’s The Name Of) His Latest Flame (1961)
Roy Orbison – Crying (1961, on bass and as arranger)

Sue Thompson, 96, pop and country singer, on Sept. 23
Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry) (1962)

Roberto Roena, 81, Puerto Rican salsa percussionist and bandleader, on Sept. 23
Roberto Roena – Mi Desengaño (1976)

Pee Wee Ellis, 80, saxophonist, composer, arranger, James Brown’s bandleader, on Sept. 24
Alfred ‘Pee Wee’ Ellis – In The Middle (Part1&2) (1968)
James Brown – Say It Loud-I’m Black And Proud (1968, as co-writer & on alto sax)
Esther Phillips – From A Whisper To A Scream (1972, as arranger)
Van Morrison – Days Like This (1995, on alto sax, horns arrangements)

Patricio Manns, 84, Chilean singer, composer, and writer, on Sept. 25
Patricio Manns – Arriba en la Cordillera (1966)

George ‘Commander Cody’ Frayne IV, 77, country rock singer, keyboardist, on Sept. 26
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen – Seeds And Stems (Again) (1971)
Commander Cody – Cry Baby Cry (1978)

Alan Lancaster, 72, bassist of English rock band Status Quo, on Sept. 26
The Status Quo – Sunny Cellophane Skies (1968, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
Status Quo – Backwater (1974, on lead vocals and as co-writer)
The Party Boys – He’s Gonna Step On You Again (1987, as member and producer)
The Bombers – Running In The Shadows (1989)

Darrell Bath, British punk and rock guitarist and singer, on Sept. 27
Darrell Bath – Eye For An Eye (2016)

Andrea Martin, 49, R&B singer-songwriter and producer, on Sept. 27
En Vogue – Don’t Let Go (Love) (1996, as co-writer)
Andrea Martin – Let Me Return The Favor (1998)

Nana Ampadu, 76, Ghanaian highlife musician, on Sept. 27

Lonnie Smith, 79, jazz organist, on Sept. 28
Lonnie Smith – Sideman (1967)
Lonnie Smith – It’s Changed (1977)
Lonnie Smith – My Latin Sky (1978)

Barry Ryan, 72, English pop singer, on Sept. 28
Paul & Barry Ryan – Don’t Bring Me Your Heartaches (1965)
Barry Ryan – Eloise (1968)
Barry Ryan – Life’s So Easy (1972)

Olivier Libaux, 57, French producer and musician, on Sept. 29
Nouvelle Vague – Blue Monday (2006, as founder and producer)

Mike Renzi, 80, jazz pianist, composer and music director, on Sept. 29
Was (Not Was) with Mel Tormé – Zaz Turned Blue (1983 on piano)

Les Gough (Allan), Australian bass player, announced Sept. 30
Somebody’s Image – Hide And Seek (1968, as member)

Lennart Åberg, 79, Swedish jazz saxophonist and composer, on Sept. 30

Greg Gilbert, 44, singer and guitarist of English indie group Delays, on Sept. 30
Delays – Long Time Coming (2004)

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In Memoriam – August 2021

September 2nd, 2021 7 comments

The Reaper is back in his ghastly groove, wreaking carnage of a like not seen for many months. He claimed the most likable Rolling Stone — which may not exactly be the toughest contest in the world, but Charlie Watts seems to have been a decent man. The Reaper also took one of the great harmony singers, the last of Bill Haley’s Comets, and the drummer on hits such as Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Dobie Gray’s Drift Away. There are so many write-ups — and I had to restrain myself from not adding more — I suggest you read the lot in the included illustrated PDF.

The Stones Drummer
Practically everything that needs to be said about Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, a jazz drummer in a rock band, has been said — importantly the story about how he responded to Mick Jagger’s reference to him as “my drummer” with a punch in Mick’s face and the response: “You’re my singer!” But I’d like to yield the floor to music journalist and Stones fan Neil Kulkarni, who on Facebook issued this spontaneous and unedited tribute Watts’ often underrated drumming:

“It’s that those beats he made, Satisfaction, Get Off My Cloud, the stealth and menace of Play With Fire, the lunatic clatter and thump of 19th Nervous Breakdown and Mother Baby, We Love You, Jumping Jack Flash, Stray Cat Blues, Jigsaw Puzzle […] He would never admit it, but [he was] such an important teacher-by-proxy to so many musicians in so many different genres. His solidity, steadiness is gonna be mentioned a lot, but don’t forget his rippling rolls on Moonlight Mile, all the moves he makes on something like Monkey Man or Knocking, and how convincing he makes every little shift. Funky, experimental, always giving the songs life. Unique grooves that could only come from him…”

The Everly Brother
As it was with the Louvin Brothers — the country-gospel siblings who set a template for the fraternal harmonies which the Everly Brothers would take to the top of the charts — Phil and Don Everly often didn’t get on with one another. Like Ira and Charlie Louvin, Phil and Don had different temperaments and even worldviews, yin and yang. Their fights were legendary; and after Phil’s death in 2014, Don explained that now he felt free to endorse a Democrat candidate for the presidency, something he felt he couldn’t do while his brother was alive.

Don and Phil brought the tradition of country/country-gospel harmonising into the mainstream of pop music, whence it inspired acts like The Byrds, The Hollies, The Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash and, above all, Simon & Garfunkel. The Everly Brothers reside in the pantheon of rock & roll but they always returned to their country roots, even at the height of their success, with the 1958 LP Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Ten years later, they released the intriguing Roots album, a country record that in places incorporated contemporary pop sounds. The featured track, T For Texas, is a bit of a mess, but hear how Don and Phil start it off as a country sing and end up sounding like The Monkees.

In 1962, Don joined up with songwriter Carole King and budding musician Glen Campbell to form The Keestone Family Singers. I’m including a song from that collaboration, but I do so not as an acknowledgment of the musical merits which the collaboration might promise.

The Reggae Pioneer
In reggae, Lee “Scratch” Perry stands as a giant; as a founder of the Upsetter Records label and his band The Upsetters, as a songwriter, and as a producer, especially of Bob Markey & The Wailers on their way to superstardom. He also worked outside his genre to record acts like the Beastie Boys and the Clash. In the 1970s, he helped pioneer dub music, through remixes of existing songs, which has influenced other genres, from rock to hip hop.  In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Perry at #100 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

The Americana Pioneer
When I shall review the music deaths of 2021, I’ll probably find that the passing of Nanci Griffith will be among those that hurt the most. In the 1980s, Griffith helped pioneer the resurgence of woman folk-rock-country singer-songwriters. By fusing various genres, Griffith was also among those who gave rise to the so-called Americana scene.

Griffith commanded much love and respect from those who knew her music, but she never became a household name. Others had hits with the songs she first recorded and/or wrote: Bette Midler with her horribly cheesy version of From A Distance (which Griffith didn’t write but first recorded; her original featured on The Originals 1990s-2000s); Kathy Mattea with Love At The Five And Dime. In 1994 she received the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms, which featured her version of John Prine’s gorgeous Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (it featured on the John Prine Songbook mix)

The Rock & Roll Sax Legend
With the death at 87 of Joey Ambrose, the classic lineup of Bill Haley’s Comets has now passed. Ambrose played the tenor sax on great hits like Rock Around the Clock and Shake, Rattle and Roll. But in 1955 Ambrose left Haley with drummer Dick Richards (died 2019) and Marshall Lytle (died 2013) over a salary dispute to form the less successful Jodimars. After two minor hits, the group folded in 1958. After that, Ambrose worked for 27 years at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before teaming up with his former Comets in 1987, with whom he’d perform for the next two decades.

The Country Wit
Country music has a history of superbly witty lyrics, and Tom T. Hall was one of the drivers of the humour train, most famously with his composition Harper Valley PTA, a huge hit for Donna Fargo (but it’s not her version that features here, nor the original by Jeannie C. Riley, which was included on The Originals – Country Edition). But Hall could also write poignant songs of heartbreak, and the occasional reactionary anthem (such as his risible Hello Vietnam). He was known as The Storyteller, and he indeed was that, in the best traditions of his genre.

The Poco Guitarist
After Jim Messina left Poco, guitarist and singer Paul Cotton came in, and made his mark with his guitar work, vocals and compositions, which included classics like Heart Of The Night, Barbados, Indian Summer, Ride The Country, and Bad Weather. He stayed with the band until 2020, with a four-year hiatus between 1987-91. Cotton released five solo albums. His fellow Poco frontman and solo collaborator Rusty Young died in April.

The Producing Engineer
On the very day that producer/engineer Allan Blazek died, I had listened to the 1973 album Freewheelin’ by The Fabulous Rhinestones, which he engineered. As a sound engineer, Allan Blazek was responsible for getting the balance of the duelling guitar solos in Hotel California right. By then, Blazek knew the Eagles well enough, having already mixed much of their 1974 On The Border album. He went on to engineer many of the bands big hits (usually together with his frequent collaborator, producer Bill Szymczyk): Lyin’ Eyes, Take It To The Limit, One Of These Nights, Life In The Fast Lane, New Kid In Town, etc. Later he produced several Glenn Frey records, including Smuggler’s Blues.

Among other acts he produced were Elvin Bishop (including Fooled Around And Fell In Love), REO Speedwagon, Mickey Thomas, The Outlaws, and the J. Geils Band. Blazek engineered those acts as well as the likes of the The Dillaeds, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter Group, Dan Fogelberg, Wishbone Ash, Karla Bonoff, The Who, and Melissa Etheridge.

The Sidemen
Two sidemen in multiracial English 1980s groups died at 62 on successive days. One was UB40’s saxophonist Brian Travers, the following day it was Simply Red keyboardist Fritz McIntyre.

In UB40, Brian Travers sounded the opening clarion call in Food For Thought, which was the band’s first hit in 1980, alongside King on the nominal A-side. Travers remained with UB40 (or faction thereof) even after the hits dried up. As a redhead, Travers stood out in the group.

Fritz McIntyre backed a redhead. His keyboards kicked off Simply Red’s first hit, Money’s Too Tight To Mention, and the first track of their debut LP, Come To My Aid (which he co-wrote). His keyboards were a key ingredient in the Simply Red arrangements. He remained with Simply Red until 1995, along the way taking shared vocals with Mick Hucknall on Wonderland from 1991’s Stars album. After leaving Simply Red, McIntyre released a solo album and then emigrated to North America to do Christian contemporary music.

The Gadda-Da-Vida Drummer
It’s one of the great drum solos in classic rock: Ron Bushy’s stickwork six minutes into Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, less musclebound fireworks than controlled aggression in a tribal rhythm. Bushy was the one constant in the changing Iron Butterfly line-ups. Of the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida line-up, only one member survives, organist and lead vocalist Doug Ingle.

The Session Drummer
One of the tracks featured in memoriam of Nanci Griffith also showcased a session drummer who died in August. Kenny Malone, who played drums and percussions for Griffith in the 1980s, including the featured track from 1986. He also drummed on most of John Prine’s Sweet Revenge album (and other tracks throughout Prine’s career), as well as for acts like — and this is an abbreviated list — Dolly Parton (including on Jolene), Dobie Gray (including in Drift Away), Johnny Cash, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Billy Jo Shaver, Donna Fargo, Tony Joe White, Moe Bandy, Tompall Glazer, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride, Dr. Hook, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Paycheck, Reba McIntyre, Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, Mac Davis, Bobby Bare, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, J. J. Cale, Townes Van Zandt, Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks, Guy Clark, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle, Willie Nelon, Allison Moorer, and many others.

The Queen
The first of the Mahotella Queens has gone with the death at 76 of Nobesuthu Mbadu, who has joined growling frontman Mahlatini Nkabinde among the ancestors. The South African mbaqanga group Mahlatini and The Mahotella Queens became international stars after touring with Paul Simon on his “Graceland” tour and appearing at Wembley at the concert for Nelson Mandela in 1988. The following year, they worked with with Art Of Noise on the sublime hit Yebo! (which means simply “Yes”).

By then they were household names in South Africa. The Mahotella Queens first hit their stride in the 1960s, but in 1971 the original trio, including Mbadu, left the band. Twelve years later, the three reunited and begun to have the string of hits that would bring them to international attention. After Mahlathini’s death in 1999, the Mahotella Queens continued to perform and record; their last album, a gospel set, came out in 2007.

The Hit Writer
When Irish-born singer Clodagh Rogers represented the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971, she received death threats from those charmers in the IRA. That bizarre turn of events was the last thing on the mind of the song’s co-writer Les Vandyke, the hit-maker who has died at 90. Vandyke scored two UK #1 hits for Adam Faith (What Do You Want? and Poor Me in 1959 and 1960), and seven more Top 10 hits. He also topped the charts with Eden Kane’s 1962 hit Well I Ask You.

Altogether, he wrote 16 Top 10 hits. Not all of them were credited to Vandyke: often he used the names John Worsley or John Worth. The former was actually the name he received from is Greek-born father, who in 1929 came to London and changed his name to assimilate more speedily.

The Big Exec
Music execs don’t usually feature in the In Memoriam series, but former CBS bigwig Walter Yetnikoff merits a mention. For one thing, as president of CBS Records International from 1971 to 1975 and then president of CBS Records from 1975 to 1990, he helped guide the careers of some of my favourite acts like, including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

But more than that, he seemed a decent sort. When Billy Joel had no control over his own compositions, Yetnikoff bought them and gave them to Joel as a birthday gift. And when MTV refused to play Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, the exec called the nascent video channel out for its racism, and threatened to pull all CBS records from MTV’s playlist. MTV relented, and Billie Jean — and the Thriller album — became a phenomenon, in large part owing to the video. At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Jackson called Yetnikoff up to the stage to receive plaudits. Others might remember Yetnikoff with less warmth — after all, he was a hard-ass music industry executive.

The Organ Man
The death of keyboardist and singer Mike Finnigan brings to three the number of people who have died in August and featured on the soundtrack of Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Finnigan played on Graham Nash’s Love Is The Reason, Allan Blazek co-produced the Ravyns’ Raised On The Radio, and Poco’s Paul Cotton is on the group’s contribution I’ll Leave It Up To You.

In his time, Finnigan worked extensively with Crosby, Stills & Nash, as a band and the trio’s solo efforts, as well as with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother And The Holding Co, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Dave Mason, Dan Fogelberg, Maria Muldaur,  Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Tower of Power, Eric Burdon, Canned Heat, Rod Stewart, Eddie Money, Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal, among others.

The Soccer Star
One entry I include by exercising my prerogative of authorship of the In Memoriam series: German footballer Gerd Müller was the greatest goalscorer of the last 80 years, perhaps ever. And he gets an entry here on strength of a single he released in 1969, a cash-in on his popularity titled “Dann macht es bum” (which means “Then it goes bang”). It’s a terrible oompah-music record, and Gerd’s singing suggested that he was much better off sticking to his day job of scoring an impossible tally of goals. But it made him a recording artist, so he features here.

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.

 

Paul Cotton, 78, guitarist and singer of Poco, on Aug. 1
Poco – Ride The Country (1972, also as writer)
Poco – Indian Summer (1977, also as writer)
Poco – Heart Of The Night (1978, also as writer)

Allan Blazek, 71, producer, mixer and audio engineer, on Aug. 3
The Fabulous Rhinestones – Go With Change (1973, as engineer)
Eagles – Ol’ 55 (1974, as producer)
Ravyns – Raised On The Radio (1982, as producer and engineer)

Kelli Hand, 56, house musician and DJ, on Aug. 3

Jo Jo Bennett, 81, singer and percussionist of Canadian reggae band Sattalites, on Aug. 3
Sattalites – Too Late To Turn Back Now (1989)

Paul Johnson, 50, DJ and producer, on Aug. 4
Paul Johnson – Get Get Down (1999)

Razzy Bailey, 82, country musician, on Aug. 4
Razzy Bailey – She Left Love All Over Me (1981)

Anders Pettersson, 69, Swedish dansband musician, on Aug. 4

Les Vandyke, 90, English songwriter, on Aug. 6
Eden Kane – Well I Ask You (1961, as writer)
Clodagh Rodgers – Jack In The Box (1971, as co-writer)
Jimmy Helms – Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse (1973, as producer & writer)

Gary Lee Yoder, 75, psychedelic rock musician, on Aug. 7

Dennis Thomas, 70, saxophonist of Kool & the Gang, on Aug. 7
Kool & the Gang – Hollywood Swingin’ (1969)
Kool & The Gang – Too Hot (1979)
Kool & The Gang – Bad Woman (1984)

Walter Yetnikoff, 87, CBS executive, on Aug. 8

Chucky Thompson, 53, hip hop & R&B producer, on Aug. 9
Raheem DeVaughn – Woman (2008, as producer)

Killer Kau, 23, South African rapper and producer, car crash on Aug. 9

Joey Ambrose, 87, saxophonist with Bill Haley & His Comets, on Aug. 10
Bill Haley & The Comets – Shake Rattle And Roll (1954)
Bill Haley & The Comets – Rudy’s Rock (1956)
The Jodimars – Dance The Bop (1956)

Roy Gaines, 83, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Aug. 11
Big Mama Thornton – You Don’t Move Me No More (1950s)
Roy Gaines & The Crusaders – A Hell Of A Night (1981, also as writer)

Mike Finnigan, 76, keyboardist and vocalist,, on Aug. 11
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Still Raining, Still Dreaming (1968, on organ)
Mike Finnigan – Misery Loves Company (1976)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Southern Cross (1982, on keyboards and backing vocals)

Caroline Peyton, 69, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 11
Caroline Peyton – Call Of The Wild (1977)

Ronnell Bright, 91, jazz pianist, on Aug. 12
Ronnell Bright – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (1958)

Pil Trafa, 62, singer of Argentine punk band Los Violadores, on Aug. 13

Nanci Griffith, 68, folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Aug. 13
Nanci Griffith – Love At The Five And Dime (1986)
Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra – These Days In An Open Book (1999)
Nanci Griffith – Brave Companion Of The Road (2006)
Nanci Griffith – Just Another Morning Here (2012)

Louie Knuxx, 42, New Zealand hip hop musician, on Aug. 13

Baba Zumbi, 49, rapper, producer, founder of hip hop project Zion I, on Aug. 13
Zion I – Bird’s Eye View (2005)

Jerry Fujio, 81, Japanese singer and actor, on Aug. 14

Charli Britton, 68, Welsh drummer, on Aug. 14

Gerd Müller, 75, German football legend, on Aug. 15
Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bum (1969)

Gary ‘Chicken’ Hirsh, 81, drummer of Country Joe and the Fish, on Aug. 17
Country Joe and The Fish – Superbird (1967)

Tom T. Hall, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Aug. 20
Tom T. Hall – I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew (1967)
Clarence Carter – Harper Valley PTA (1969, as writer)
Tom T. Hall – I Love (1973)
Tom T. Hall – May The Force Be With You Always (1977)

Larry Harlow, 82, salsa musician and composer, on Aug. 20
Larry Harlow – No Hay Amigo (1974)

Ian Carey, 45, house DJ, on Aug. 20
The Ian Carey Project – Get Shaky (2008)

Peter Ind, 93, British jazz double bassist and producer, on Aug. 20
Peter Ind – Blues At The Den (1958)

Don Everly, 84, half of The Everly Brothers and songwriter, on Aug. 21
The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown (1961)
The Keestone Family Singers – Melodrama (1962, as member)
The Everly Brothers – T For Texas (1968)
Emmylou Harris & Don Everly – Everytime You Leave (1979)

Bill Emerson, 83, bluegrass banjo player, on Aug. 21
Emerson & Waldron – Who Will Sing For Me (1979)

Bob Fish, 72, falsetto singer with English rock & roll revival band Darts, on Aug. 22
Darts – Let’s Hang On (1980, on lead vocals)

Eric Wagner, 62, singer of doom metal band Trouble, on Aug. 22

Brian Travers, 62, saxophonist of UB40, on Aug. 22
UB40 – Food For Thought (1980)
UB40 – Tyler (live) (1983)

Olli Wisdom, 63, trance musician, ex-singer of UK goth band Specimen, on Aug. 23
Specimen – Beauty Of Poison (1983)

Powell St. John, 80, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 22
Big Brother & The Holding Company – Bye, Bye Baby (1970)

Sheila Bromberg, 92, orchestral harpist, announced Aug. 23
The Beatles – She’s Leaving Home (1967, on harp)

Fritz McIntyre, 62, keyboardist of Simply Red, on Aug. 24
Simply Red – Come To My Aid (1985, also as co-writer)
Simply Red – Wonderland (1990, also on co-vocals)

Patrick Verbeke, 72, French blues musician, on Aug. 24

Charlie Watts, 80, drummer of The Rolling Stones, on Aug. 24
The Rolling Stones – 19th Nervous Breakdown (1966)
Marianne Faithfull – Something Better (1969, on drums)
The Rolling Stones – Beast Of Burden (1978)
Charlie Watts Quintet – Practising, Practising, Just Great (1991)

Radek Pobořil, 75, member of Czech folk-rock band Čechomor, on Aug. 24

Dave Harper, drummer with English indie band Frankie & The Heartstrings, on Aug. 25
Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger (2011)

Mario Gareña, 88, Colombian cumbia singer and composer, on Aug. 25
Mario Gareña – Raza (1978)

George Horn, mastering engineer, producer, announced on Aug. 26
Paul Simon – Mother And Child Reunion (1971, as mastering engineer)

Kenny Malone, 83, country/folk/blues session drummer, on Aug. 26
John Prine – Mexican Home (1973, on drums)
Townes Van Zandt – Snowin’ On Raton (1987, on drums)
Alison Krauss – It’s Goodbye And So Long To You (2017, on drums)

Marcus Birks, 40, ex-singer with English vocal group Cappella, on Aug. 27

Sam Salter, 46, soul singer, on Aug. 27
Sam Salter – It’s On Tonight (1997)

Francesc Burrull, 86, Spanish jazz musician and composer, on Aug. 28

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 85, Jamaican reggae musician, songwriter, producer, on Aug. 29
Lee ‘King’ Perry – People Funny Boy (1968)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Soul Rebel (1970, as producer)
Junior Murvin – Police And Thieves (1976, as producer and co-writer)
Lee Scratch Perry – Perry’s Ballad (2006)

Ron Bushy, 79, drummer of Iron Butterfly, on Aug. 29
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968, full album version)
Juicy Groove – Concert Fever (1974) (1978, on drums)

John Drake, 74, singer of garage rock band The Amboy Dukes, on Aug. 29
The Amboy Dukes – Journey To The Center Of The Mind (1968)

Lee Williams, 75, gospel singer, on Aug. 30
Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC’s – Come See About Me (2007)

Tommy Truesdale, 83, Scottish musician and radio presenter, on Aug. 31

Nobesuthu Mbadu, 76, singer with South African mbaqanga group Mahotella Queens, on Aug. 31
Mahotella Queens – Baphinde Joe (1970)
Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens – Thokozile (1987)
Art of Noise feat. Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens – Yebo! (1989)

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In Memoriam – July 2021

August 3rd, 2021 3 comments

After an easy previous month, the Reaper was hard at work. Twelve stories of significant deaths; more could have featured. Unusually, two former members of the same group died on the same day, rock band Cinderella’s guitarist Jeff LaBar and former keyboardist Gary Corbett (who also co-wrote Cyndi Lauper’s hit She Bop). Otherwise, two musicians who played on a couple of my first English-language singles — ZZ To and Uriah Heep — were among those who joined the big rock orchestra in the coursed of this round-up.

The ZZ Beard
When in 1976 ZZ Top went on a three-year hiatus, bassist and co-vocalist Dusty Hill took a job at Dallas Airport, just to feel normal. He was rarely recognised, and when he was, he’d say: “No! Do you think I’d be sitting here?” By then, Hill had already been on the Texan blues-rock scene for more than a decade, all of it with drummer Frank Beard. Hill and Beard were joined by guitarist-singer Billy Gibbons in 1969 to start a career as ZZ Top. By the time the hiatus ended, Hill and Gibbons were the instantly recognisable (if you discount airport confusions) faces of ZZ Top. With their long beards, hats and shades, the untrained eye could tell them apart only by their height: Hill was the shorter one. He was also the vocalist with the high tenor (such as on the 1975 hit Tush), as opposed to Gibbons’ gruff rasp.

ZZ Top will carry on without Hill. On his death-bed, Hill anointed Elwood Francis as his successor.

The Frontman
If ever your band needed a frontman, John Lawton was your man. The English singer’s first of many bands was Stonewall, which also included future Roxy Music member Phil Thompson. After an engagement at Hamburg’ Star Club in 1969, Lawton decided to stay in Germany and joined local rock outfit Asterix, which as Lucifer’s Friend would become regarded as heavy metal pioneers. While doing proto-metal and prog rock with Lucifer’s Friend, Lawton also joined the Les Humphries Singers, a Hamburg-based multinational pop choir which enjoyed a string of massive hits in Germany, with Lawton as one of their regular frontmen. That gig took Lawton to the stage of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 (to no great effect: their effort for West Germany placed 15th out of 18 entries).

After the Les Humphries Singers split, Lawton also left Lucifer’s Friends to replace David Byron as lead singer of Uriah Heep. His stint with the band was successful, yielding a global hit with Free Me. Lawton is the third of the five members of that line-up to die in less than a year; its sole survivor now is guitarist Mick Box.

Lawton left Uriah Heep in 1979, and later became the singer of the German rock group Zar, with whom he had a few hits. And on the side, he also sung in a series of German TV commercials. Over the years, Lawton would front several groups, many of them in collaboration with former bandmates. Eventually his musical journey took him to Bulgaria, where he died suddenly on June 29.

The Navel-barer
With the death at 78 of Raffaella Carrà, Italy has lost an all-rounder superstar who also enjoyed wide popularity in Europe and Latin America. Carrà began her life in entertainment in the 1950s as a child actress and went on to enjoy a long film career, which in the mid-1960s took her to Hollywood. Homesick, she returned to Italy. In 1970 her second career began, as a TV presenter in Italy and Spain. Soon after, her music career took off, peaking in 1977 with the Europe-wide hit A far l’amore comincia tu, which in the English version, Do It Do It Again, was a #9 hit, and as Hay que venir al sur a hit throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

In 1971, Carrà caused a massive controversy in Italy when she sung her hit Tuca Tuca on TV while showing — deep breath in, easily outraged folks — her bare navel! It broke the barrier for navels on Italian TV. Carrà also advocated for feminist and LGBTQ+ issues. Politically she described herself as a communist, saying in 1977: “I always vote communist. In the struggle between workers and business, I’ll always be on the workers’ side.”

The Original Funky Drummer
According to James Brown, it was Little Richard and his backing band The Upsetters who in the 1950s were “the first to put funk into the rhythm”. The New Orleans-born drummer who drove the funk was Charles Connor, who left us on the last day of the month at 86. It was Connor’s drumming that inspired Little Richard to write what might be rock & roll’s best-known line: “A-wop bop-a loo-bop, a-lop bam-boom”. And his opening 16-bar roll at the beginning of Keep A-Knockin inspired John Bonham’s opening salvo on Led Zeppelin’s Rick And Roll.

Connor’s career began at the age of 15 in 1950 when the son of a seaman from the Dominican Republic drummed for Professor Longhair at Mardi Gras. He played on all the great Little Richard hits, as well as backing acts like James Brown, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Duke Ellington, The Coasters, Big Joe Turner, Larry Williams, Don Covay. Read a 1986 interview with Connor on touring with Little Richard in the 1950s.

The Merengue Mayor
Born Juan de Dios Ventura Soriano, Dominican merengue and salsa singer and bandleader Johnny Ventura was a music legend in his country and beyond when he decided to enter politics. Having started his career as a serial winner of radio talent shows in the late 1950s, Ventura became a household name in his country, and a big star in the US when he went there in 1967. The “Caballo Mayor” (or “Big Horse) was credited with helping to modernise merengue music in the 1960s. In 1999, he was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame; seven years later he received the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his career.

By that time, Ventura had long entered politics. From 1982-86 Ventura sat in the National Congress. In 1994 he was elected Vice-Mayor of the capital Santo Domingo (mainly a ceremonial post), and in 1998 its mayor for the left-of-centre Dominican Revolutionary Party, serving a term until 2002. He’d lose another election for mayor some 18 years later, in 2020. Upon Ventura’s death, the Dominican Republic’s president declared three days of mourning and said the singer would receive military honours.

The Doo Wop Legend
When Willie Winfield retired as lead singer of doo wop pioneers The Harptones two years ago, he brought to an end a career that spanned 66 years, counting from when the band was discovered at amateur night at the Apollo in 1953. Incredibly, The Harptones never had a nationwide hit — not even their signature song, Sunday Kind Of Love — but among doo wop fans they stand among the giants of the genre. And Winfield, with his comfortable tenor, stood out as a vocalists. Yet, he never sought a solo career, and remained faithful to the group until his retirement in 2019. With his death, only one member of the original line-up, William Dempsey, remains with us.

The Singing Violinist
Prog-rock band Kansas had the great keyboards of Steve Walsh and the superb lead guitar of Kerry Livgren, but what set the group apart was the inclusion of the violin, played by the hirsute Robby Steinhardt. The violinist, who at 71 has become (as far as I can make out) the first member of Kansas to die, also contributed some lead vocals and the harmonies with lead singer Steve Walsh (Steinhardt’s vocals are in the lower register to Walsh’s high tenor). Steinhardt left the band in 1982, after a tour. He had a side project called Steinhardt-Moon and recorded with the Stormbringer Band. In 1997 he rejoined Kansas, leaving again in 2006 due to the heavy touring schedule.

Another Fiddler
At a time when traditional country and bluegrass crossed over into rock, master-fiddler Byron Berline was a go-to guy. The Rolling Stones had him play on Country Honk, the song from Let It Bleed they’d re-record as Honky Tonk Woman. Previously he had collaborated with The Dillards; in the early 1970s he played with acts like The Byrds, The Flying Burritos Brothers (of whom he was listed as a member) and Stephen Stills’ Manassas.

He featured prominently on both of Gram Parsons’ solo albums, and fiddled for the likes of Bob Dylan, The Band, Arlo Guthrie, Lamont Dozier, Emmylou Harris, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, James Taylor, Ann Murray, John Denver, Hoyt Axton, Olivia Newton-John, The Doobie Brothers (on their hit Minute By Minute), Rod Stewart, Elton John, Vince Gill, Michelle Shocked, Lucinda Williams, Matthew Sweet and various alumni from the Byrds/Burritios projects. He also released 16 solo albums.

The Producing Pianist
Some of the most joyously upbeat songs of the late 1970s and early 1980s featured the handprints of pianist, arranger, producer and songwriter Clarence McDonald. The best-known of these are Bill Withers’ Lovely Day (as co-producer, arranger and on keyboards), The Emotions’ Best Of My Love (as co-producer), James Taylor’s Your Lovely Face, and Bill LaBounty’s Living It Up (both on keyboards). He worked many times with Deniece Williams, for whom he co-wrote the 1981 classic Silly. He also played keyboards on “Moving On Up,” theme song of the sitcom The Jeffersons.

In his career, he worked with acts like The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Ella Fitzgerald, The Mamas & The Papas, Cheech & Chong, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Carole King, Martha Reeves, The 5th Dimension, Boz Scaggs, Seals & Crofts, Billy Preston, Barbra Streisand, Marlena Shaw, Hall & Oates, Blue Mitchell, Nancy Wilson, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Mathis, Gloria Gaynor, Helen Reddy, Tina Turner, Pointer Sisters, Kenny Rogers, Rickie Lee Jones, Burt Bacharach, The Memphis Horns, Thelma Houston, Linda Ronstadt, Stanley Turrentine, Bobby Womack, Letta Mbulu, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Justin Timberlake and many others.

The Singing Lawyer
The remarkable life of South African singing legend Steve Kekana came to a premature end at 62, claimed by Covid-19. Kekana was five years old when he lost his sight. At a school for the blind he discovered his talent for music. As the 1970s turned to the ’80s, Kekana became one of South Africa’s favourite singers, even scoring a hit in Europe with his song Raising My Family. Remarkably, at a time of apartheid, when white stations wouldn’t play music by black South African artists, Kekana had crossover success. In his career, he earned more than 70 gold records and numerous awards.

While still recording, Kekana studied law, and later became a university lecturer in labour law — while still making records. He was in the middle of recording a new album when he died.

The Beat Producer
Astonishingly, British producer, engineer and musician Bob Sargeant didn’t have a Wikipedia page. Yet he helped create some of the most distinctive sounds in English music of the early 1980s. He produced The (English) Beat, including their Top 10 hits Mirror In The Bathroom, Hands Off She’s Mine, Tears Of A Clown, Too Nice To Talk To, and Can’t Get Use To Losing You. Then he produced Haircut 100 to stardom, including the hits Love Plus One and Favourite Shirt. He also worked with acts like XTC, Madness, The Lotus Eaters, The Damned, The Woodentops, and (as remixer) Fine Young Cannibals. Producing the famous John Peel sessions for the BBC, Sargeant helped launch acts like Joy Division, The Specials, Buzzcocks, The Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, Killing Joke, The Cure, Gary Numan, The Fall and others.

Before all that, in 1974, Sargeant tried his hand at being a recording artist. His one shot at stardom, optimistically titled First Starring Role, was produced by him and Mick Ronson. The two also played many of the instruments on the album.

The Chuck E.
The subject of Rickie Lee Jones’ 1979 hit Chuck E.’s In Love has died at 76. Chuck E. Weiss was a fixture on the New York scene, and in particular a pal of Tom Waits, for whom he had written Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission) on the 1975 Nighthawks At The Diner album. One evening, the story goes, Weiss phoned Waits, explaining a long absence by the circumstance that he was in Denver where he had fallen in love with a cousin. Afterwards Waits announced to girlfriend Rickie Lee Jones: “Chuck E.’s In Love!” Jones like the sound of that line and wrote a song based on it.

It wasn’t the first time Chuck E. got cited in song. Waits namechecks him in the song Jitterbug Boy, on 1976’s Small Change album. By then Weiss had played with a number of blues greats, but he didn’t release his own album until 1981, and then none until 1996. He released six albums altogether, the last in 2018.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.

 

John Lawton, 74, English rock singer, on June 29
Lucifer’s Friend – Ride In The Sky (1971, as lead singer and co-writer)
Les Humphries Singers – Mama Loo (1973, as lead singer)
Uriah Heep – Free Me (1977)

Steve Kekana, 62, South African pop singer, on July 1
Steve Kekana – Raising My Family
Hotline With P.J. Powers & Steve Kekana – Feel So Strong (1982)

Louis Andriessen, 82, Dutch classical and jazz composer, on July 1

Bryan St. Pere, 52, drummer of alt.rock band Hum, on July 1
Hum – Stars (1995)

Bill Ramsey, 90, US born German schlager singer, actor and entertainer, on July 2
Bill Ramsey & The Jay Five – An Unknown Quantity (1967)

José Manuel Zamacona, 69, singer of Mexican pop band Los Yonic’s, on July 4
Los Yonic’s – Palabras Tristes (1984)

Sanford Clark, 85, rockabilly singer, on July 4
Sanford Clark – Houston (1964)

Rick Laird, 80, Irish jazz fusion bassist, co-founder of Mahavishnu Orchestra, on July 4
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Miles Beyond (1973)
Richie Cole with Eddie Jefferson – Waltz For A Rainy Bebop Evening (1976, on bass guitar)

Leo van de Ketterij, 70, guitarist of Dutch pop band Shocking Blue, on July 5
Shocking Blue – Mighty Joe (1969)

Raffaella Carrà, 78, Italian singer, TV presenter and actress, on July 6
Raffaella Carrà – Tuca Tuca (1971)
Raffaella Carrà – Rumore (1974)
Raffaella Carrà – A Far L’Amore Comincia Tu (1977)

Angélique Ionatos, 67, Greek-born singer and composer, on July 7
Angélique Ionatos & Photis Ionatos – Chansons des amoureux (2009)

Indian Red Boy, 21, rapper, shot dead on July 8

Andy Williams, 49, ex-drummer of Christian rock band Casting Crowns, on July 9
Casting Crowns – Lifesong (2005)

Chris Hutka, singer of metalcore band The Bunny The Bear, on July 10
The Bunny The Bear – Ocean Floor (2011, clean vocals)

Byron Berline, 77, country and bluegrasss fiddler, on July 10
The Rolling Stones – Country Honk (1969, on fiddle)
Gram Parsons – Return Of The Grievous Angel (1974, on fiddle)
Lamont Dozier – All Cried Out (1974, on violin)
Byrone Berline – Trail Of Tears Waltz (1990)

Sound Sultan, 44, Nigerian rapper, on July 11

Juini Booth, 73, jazz double-bassist, on July 11
McCoy Tyner – Song Of The New World (1973, on double-bass)

Sandra Timmerman, 57, Dutch singer and stage actress, on July 12

Bob Sargeant, British producer, engineer and musician, announced July 13
Bob Sargeant – King Of The Night (1974, also as producer)
The Beat – Mirror In The Bathroom (1980, as producer)
Haircut 100 – Love Plus One (1982, as producer)

Gary Corbett, ex-keyboardist of rock band Cinderella, on July 14
Cyndi Lauper – She Bop (1984, as co-writer)
Cinderella – Through The Rain (1994)

Jeff LaBar, 58, guitarist of rock band Cinderella, on July 14
Cinderella – Nobody’s Fool (1986)

Pyotr Mamonov, 70, frontman of Russian rock band Zvuki Mu, on July 15
Zvuki Mu – Crazy Queen (1989)

Tsepo Tshola, 67, co-lead singer of Lesotho jazz/gospel band Sankomota, on July 15
Sankomota – Papa (1989, on lead vocals)
Tsepo Thsole – Madambadamba (1997)

Biz Markie, 57, rapper and actor, on July 16
Biz Markie – Just A Friend (1989)

Robby Steinhardt, 71, singer and violinist with rock band Kansas, on July 17
Kansas – Dust In The Wind (1977)
Kansas – People Of The South Wind (1979)
Steinhardt-Moon – Too Hard To Handle (1999)

Chuck E. Weiss, 76, songwriter and singer, on July 18
Tom Waits – Spare Parts I (A Nocturnal Emission) (1975, as writer)
Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E.’s In Love (1979, as song subject)
Chuck E. Weiss – Gina (1981)

Tolis Voskopoulos, 80, Greek singer and actor, on July 19
Tolis Voskopoulos – Agonia (1969)

Jerry Granelli, 80, Canadian jazz drummer, on July 20
Vince Guaraldi Trio – Christmas Is Coming (1965, on drums)
We Five – You Were On My Mind (1965, on drums)

Clarence ‘Mac’ McDonald, 76, pianist, composer, arranger & producer, on July 21
Martha Reeves – Dixie Highway (1974, on piano)
Bill Withers – Lovely Day (1977, as co-producer, arranger and on keyboards)
Deniece Williams – Silly (1981, as co-writer)
Bill LaBounty – Livin’ It Up (1982, on keyboards)

Palo Pandolfo, 56, Argentine singer-songwriter and musician, on July 22

Wally Gonzales, 71, guitarist of Filipino rock band Juan de la Cruz, on July 23
Juan de la Cruz – Shake Your Brain (1973)

John Hutchinson, British guitarist and David Bowie collaborator, on July 24
David Bowie with John ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – Space Oddity (1969 Mercury Demo)

Count M’Butu, percussionist of the Derek Trucks Band, on July 25
Derek Trucks Band – Mahjoun (2006)

Johnny Ventura, 81, Dominican merengue musician and mayor, on July 26
Johnny Ventura y Su Combo – ilema (1965)
Johnny Ventura – Si vuelvo a nacer (1987)
Johnny Ventura y Sus Hijos – No Quiero de Eso (1994)

Joey Jordison, 46. co-founder and ex-drummer of nu-metal band Slipknot, on July 26

Mike Howe, 55, singer with of heavy metal group Metal Church, on July 26
Metal Church – Date With Poverty (1991, also as co-writer)

Dusty Hill, 72, bassist of ZZ Top and songwriter, on July 27
ZZ Top – Francine (1972)
ZZ Top – Tush (1975)
ZZ Top – Gimme All Your Lovin’ (1984)

Gianni Nazzaro, 72, Italian singer and actor, on July 27

Willie Winfield, 91, lead singer and tenor of doo wop group The Harptones, on July 27
The Harp-Tones – A Sunday Kind Of Love (1953)
The Harptones – Life Is But A Dream (1955)
The Harptones – Laughing On The Outside (1959)

Peter Janes, folk singer-guitarist, reported on July 29
Peter Janes – Do You Believe (Love Is Built On A Dream) (1968)

Chris Wall, country/folk singer and songwriter, on June 29
Chris Wall – Empty Seat Beside Me (1989)

Gonzoe, 45, rapper with hip hop group Kausion, on July 29
Kausion feat. Ice Cube – What You Wanna Do (1995)

Jacob Desvarieux, 65, Gudeloupean-French singer, musician, producer, on July 30
Jacob Desvarieux & Georges Décimus – Chwazi (1985)

Jerzy Matuszkiewicz, 93, Polish jazz musician and composer, on July 31

Charles Connor, 86, drummer of Little Richard’s The Upsetters, on July 31
Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (1956)
Little Richard – Keep A-Knockin’ (1957)
The Upsetters The Strip (1958)
The Charles Connor Band – Drummer Man (1986, also on vocals)

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In Memoriam – June 2021

July 6th, 2021 4 comments

Oh, Reaper, please keep on taking it easy. It was a merciful month — the least eventful in many years — though it might not seem that way for fans of Argentine rock or Japanese instrumentalists. Or presidents who liked to make music. The reward in months like this is in discovering great music from unexpected quarters.

The Mentor
The story of Grace Griffith — who has died at only 64 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease — is one of generosity of spirit, that appealing characteristic which is an essence of love. When she was signed by folk and Celtic music label Blix Street Records, Griffith was supposed to become its headliner. But Griffith urged them to also sign a loyal fan of hers by the name of Eva Cassidy.

Nothing much happened until September 1996, when Griffith learnt of Cassidy’s illness with cancer. Griffith immediately arranged to send a tape of Cassidy’s just recently self-released Live at Blues Alley album to Bill Straw from Blix Street Records. Two months later, Cassidy was dead and Griffiths sang at her funeral. Straw obtained the rights to Cassidy’s recordings, both previously released and demos, and put a collection of them out under the title Songbird. It became a huge hit, especially in Britain.

Alas, Griffith was diagnosed with Parkinson’s less than two years after Cassidy’s death. Soon she lost her ability to play the various instruments she had mastered, but her beautiful voice remained unaffected, allowing her to continue performing and recording.

The Fourth Worlder
A collaborator with the likes of Brian Eno, Ry Cooder, David Sylvian, and Peter Gabriel, American trumpeter and composer Jon Hassell developed the concept of “Fourth World” music, which — and here I yield to Wikipedia — describes a “unified primitive/futurist sound combining elements of various world ethnic traditions with modern electronic techniques”. A doctor of music, Hassel studied with avant garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

It all sounds terribly esoteric, but Hassell worked with many well-known names, including Tears for Fears, Talking Heads, Jackson Browne, k.d. lang, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Ani DiFranco, and Ibrahim Ferrer. And the electronic music on the TV series The Practice… that was Hassell as well.

The President
After his death at 97, former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda was mourned throughout Africa as one of its most beloved politicians. He was among the first African leaders to hand over power without hassles when he was defeated in a democratic election — which had not been taken for granted, since Kaunda was not a democrat during his 27-year presidency.

Kaunda was also a keen amateur musician, who often would accompany singers like Miriam Makeba on piano or guitar at functions. And in 1990 he entered the UK Dance Top 40, by way of a remix by disco legend Oliver Cheatham of a tune titled Tiyende Pamodzi, which Kaunda had written and, as conductor, recorded in 1974 under the snappy moniker Zambia Cabinet & Central Committee led by President Kenneth Kaunda. The recording of Tiyende Pamodzi marked the tenth anniversary of Zambia’s independence.

Kaunda used his guitar to rally crowds with his own compositions during the fight for independence, and even as president he would sing songs on the public stage, political tunes as well as love songs to his wife. A devout Christian, he also composed hymns.

Assassinated
On June 14, popular Colombian singer Junior Jein entered a nightclub in the city of Cali for a personal appearance. He left the club on a stretcher, having been shot six times. He died in hospital.

A socially engaged singer, Jein had protested in song and words against the state crackdown on protests since April, 28, in which at least 60 demonstrators have been killed and more than 2,300 injured by the authorities, and others were forcibly disappeared. Jein described the shooting of the protesters as a massacre. Soon after, he himself was shot dead…

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.

 

Bob Edmondson, 86, trombonist, arranger, producer, on May 29
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Wade In The Water (1966, on trombone & as arranger)

Grace Griffith, 64, American and Celtic singer, on June 5
Grace Griffith – Demeter’s Daughter (1996)
Grace Griffith – My Life (2006)

Michele Merlo, 28, Italian singer-songwriter, on June 6

Jaime Junaro, 72, Bolivian singer-songwriter and guitarist, on June 6

David C. Lewis, keyboardist of soft-rock band Ambrosia, on June 7
Ambrosia – Heart to Heart (1978)
Shadowfax – Solar Wind (1988, as member and writer)

Dean Parrish, 79, soul singer, on June 8
Dean Parrish – I’m On My Way (1967)

Farhad Humayun, 42, singer and drummer of Pakistani rock band Overload, on June 8
Overload – Dhamaal (2005)

Torgny Björk, 82, Swedish singer, musician, composer, on June 9

Juan Nelson, 62, American bassist (Ben Harper), on June 9
Ben Harper – The Woman In You (1999, on bass)

Jon Lukas, 72, Maltese musician, on June 11
Jon Lukas – Can’t Afford To Lose (1970)

Pablo Larralde, 55, Argentinian heavy metal singer, on June 13

Raul de Souza, 86, Brazilian trombonist, on June 13
Raul De Souza – Only When You Can (1979)

Junior Jein, 38, Colombian singer, producer and composer, shot dead on June 14
Junior Jein – Si Dios Fuera Negro

Fane Flaws, 70, New Zealand musician and songwriter, on June 17

Kenneth Kaunda, 97, Zambian ex-president and hobby musician, on June 17
Zambia Cabinet & Central Committee led by President Kenneth Kaunda – Tiyende Pamodzi (1974)

Takeshi ‘Terry’ Terauchi, 82, Japanese rock guitarist and actor, on June 18
Takeshi Terauchi & The Blue Jeans – Kuroda Bushi (1966)

Lionel Leroy, 65, French singer, on June 20
Lionel Leroy – Starsky et Hutch (Chanson originale de la série télévisée) (1981)

Nobuo Hara, 94, Japanese jazz saxophonist, on June 21
Nobuo Hara and His Sharps & Flats – Five Spot After Dark (1970)

Mamady Keïta, 70, Guinean drummer, on June 21

Ike Stubblefield, 69, organ & keyboard player, on June 19
Ike Stubblefield – I Thought It Was You (2011)

Winsford Devine, 77, Trinidadian calypso & soca songwriter, on June 22
Winsford Devine – Dance All Night (1985)

Wojciech Karolak, 82, Polish jazz and R&B keyboardist, on June 23
Wojciech Karolak – Easy! (1974)

Ellen McIlwaine, 75, Canadian slide guitarist and blues/folk singer, on June 23
Ellen McIlwaine – I Don’t Want To Play (1973)

David Edwards, 56, singer of Welsh rock band Datblygu, announced June 23
Datblygu – Cân i Gymry (1993)

Rinaldo Rafanelli, 71, singer of Argentine rock band Sui Generis, on June 25
Sui Generis – Para quién canto yo entonces (1974)

Wes Madiko, 57, Cameroonian singer, on June 25
Wes – Alane (1997)

Hidefumi Toki, 71, Japanese jazz saxophonist, on June 26
Toki & Samba Friends – Morena (1981)

Jon Hassell, 84, trumpeter and avant garde composer, on June 26
Kenny Rogers – Something About Your Song (1978, as writer)
Lloyd Cole And The Commotions – Big Snake (1986, on trumpet)
Jon Hassel – Voiceprint (Blind From The Facts) (1990)
Ibrahim Ferrer – Boliviana (2003, on trumpet)

Johnny Solinger, 55, lead singer of Skid Row (1999-2015), on June 26
Skid Row – Ghost (2003)

Peps Persson, 74, Swedish blues and reggae musician, on June 27

Willy Crook, 55, saxophonist of Argentine rock band Redonditos de Ricota, on June 27
Patricio Rey y sus Redonditos de Ricota  – Ya nadie va a escuchar tu remera (1986)

Burton Greene, 84, free jazz pianist, on June 28

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In Memoriam – May 2021

June 3rd, 2021 3 comments

Ironically, it was raining when I learnt of the death of B.J. Thomas. It would have been even better had I been in a branch of the Personality franchise of shops when I read that Lloyd Price had died, but that night have been irony overkill.

Overall, May was a fairly quiet month, though not for samba singers, three of whom died in Brazil within days of one another.

The Rock & Roll Pioneer
Had he not been drafted into the US army to fight in Korea in 1954, Lloyd Price might have become a “King of Rock & Roll”. By the time he came home, other R&B singers had become kings of that new type of music which Price had pioneered. One of the great prototype Rock & Roll records was Price’s self-written debut single, Lawdy Miss Clawdy, recorded in 1952 in New Orleans with the great Dave Bartholomew leading the band which included the yet-unknown Fats Domino on the piano.

After returning from Korea, Price was able to resume his recording career with some success, scoring big hits with ’50s rock & roll classics such as Personality, I’m Gonna Get Married, and Stagger Lee.

When the hits dried up, he became a mover behind the scenes, co-founding the label on which Wilson Pickett got his start, and another label in the 1970s with boxing Don King. In 1974 Price helped King organise the “Rumble in Jungle” extravaganza in Kinshasa, Zaire (now DR Congo), with the legendary bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, and the attendant concert featuring James Brown and B.B. King. Price was also a successful entrepreneur outside music, in businesses ranging from construction to canned foods.

The Raindrops Guy
It is strange that B.J. Thomas never became a big star in Europe. His songs were know there, even if Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head was a bigger hit in Sasha Distel’s inferior version, but he never broke really big. Thomas had already enjoyed a couple of US Top 10 hits (with I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry in 1966 and Hooked On A Feeling in 1968) when Raindrops forced itself on him. He wasn’t songwriter Burt Bacharach’s first or even second choice, but when Bob Dylan and Ray Stevens cried off, the song was offered to Thomas… who had laryngitis at the time. It seems providential: the relaxed singing style, the better to avoid straining his larynx, suited the beautiful arrangement perfectly.

Thomas went on to have a few more hits — including I Just Can’t Help Believing, which Elvis would cover — before switching to Christian contemporary music in the late ’70s, becoming the genre’s first superstar. He’d still have a few country hits as well. TV viewers would get to hear Thomas again in the late 1980s, when he duetted with Jennifer Warnes on the theme of the sitcom Growing Pain, which he then released in a full song recording with Dusty Springfield.

The Soul Drummer
By the time he was 25, Roger Hawkins had played the drums on dozens of stone-cold soul classics. Born in 1945, Hawkins was only 20 when his stick-work, as drummer of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (or Swampers) featured on a US Top 10 single, Percy Sledges’s When a Man Loves A Woman. Many followed, including Wilson Pickett’s Land Of A 1000 Dances and Mustang Sally; James & Bobby Purify’s I’m Your Puppet; Clarence Carter’ Slip Away; R.B. Greaves’ Take A Letter Maria; The Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There and Respect Yourself; Paul Simon’s Kodachrome, Still Crazy After All These Years, and Loves Me Like A Rock; and Eddie Rabbitt’s Suspicion. And then there were all those Aretha Franklin classics: Respect, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), Chain Of Fools, Since You’ve Been Gone, Think, Call Me, Do Right Woman – Do Right Man, and so on. All with a guy on the drums who looked like a postgrad chemistry student (no offense to postgrad chemistry students, of course).

Hawkins also played on Bob Seger tracks like Mainstreet, We’ve Got Tonight, Old Time Rock & Roll and Good For Me. And he drummed on a couple of tracks by model-singer Nick Kamen, who died earlier in the month (see below).

In 1969m Hawkins co-founded the legendary Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The Lesbian Activist
At a time when gay and lesbian singers were hiding their sexuality, folk singer Alix Dobkin broke it out into the open in the 1970s, with albums like Lavender Jane Loves Women (1973) and Living With Lesbians (1975). She started her career on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit in 1962, where she performed with folk legends like Bob Dylan and Buffy Sainte-Marie. A marriage followed, after the breakdown of which Dobkin came out as a lesbian. Her activism cause the lovely people at the FBI to see her as a “troublemaker”. She wrote and recorded until the turn of the century, and performed until her death at 80.

The Croce Producer
Practically every song you know by Jim Croce was co-produced by Tommy West, who has died at 78. And on many of them, he played the keyboard and/or bass or the rhythm guitar. Having started his music career in the 1950s as a member of the Doo Woo band The Criterions, he was a backing vocalists for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Connie Francis, and Perry Como. He was also a songwriter (including for the Partridge Family), and a producer for acts like Ed Bruce, Holly Dunn, Judy Rodman, Dion and Ann Murray. He and long-time collaborator Cashman also produced the 1976 million-seller Shannon for Henry Gross, and recorded a number of albums together.

The Real Singer
One of the biggest scandals in pop took place when it turned out that the two charismatic members of Milli Vanilli had not been the actual vocalists on mega hits like Girl You Know It’s True, Blame It On The Rain, and Girl I’m Gonna Miss You. The Grammy Awards people took back the gongs they had given Milli Vanilli, proclaiming to be shocked — shocked! — that pretend-singing was going on. Of course, the Grammy people hadn’t done their due diligence. Milli Vanilli were produced by Frank Farian, the former German Schlager singer who had produced Boney M to world stardom — while providing the voices for two of their singers, one of them female.

Farian didn’t bless us with his own vocal stylings on Milli Vanilli records, but he employed several studio backing singers to give voice to the lip-synchers Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan. One of them was John Davis, who has died at 65 from causes related to Covid-19. A singer and bass player born in South Carolina, he came to Germany in the 1980s, and released a bunch of records under his own name. In the 1990, having been outed as one of the real voiced behind Milli Vanilli, he tried his hand at performing as the Real Milli Vanilli, but with limited success.

The 501s Guy
In 1985 British TV viewers gut an eyefull of model Nick Kamen taking off his Levi’s 501s in a launderette. The commercial for the jeans brand inaugurated a series of popular ads that used 1960s soul as background music. Kamen stripped to Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine, which on the back off that would become a #8 hit in April 1986. That ad was followed by Levi’s ads using soul standards such as Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World (*#2 in March 1986), Ben E. King’s Stand By Me (#1 in 1987) and Percy Sledge’s When A Man Loves A Woman (#2 in 1987), as well as The Temptations’ My Girl and The Ronettes’ Be My Baby, neither of which were re-released as singles.

The effect of the ads was two-fold: 501s became the hippest thing going (and I wear them to this day), and it brought the already ongoing ’60s soul revival into the mainstream. And it also made a star of Kamen, who has died at the young age of 59 from bone marrow cancer. His debut single, the Madonna-written and produced Each Time You Break My Heart, hit #5 in the UK in 1986, at around the same time Grapevine was in the charts. It would be his biggest hit, though 1990s I Promised Myself was huge throughout Europe. Kamen was particularly successful in Italy, where he notched up five Top 10 hits.

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 ‘Panamas Red’ Finley, 76, outlaw country musician, on April 29
Billy Joe Shaver – Bottom Dollar (1973, on guitar and as co-writer)

Wondress Hutchinson, 56, jazz and dance music singer, on May 1
Mantronix feat. Wondress – Got To Have Your Love (1989, on lead vocals)

Tommy West, 78, producer, musician, singer, songwriter, on May 2
The Criterions – I Remain Truly Yours (1959, as member)
Cashman & West – American City Suite (1972)
Jim Croce – Time In A Bottle (1973, as co-producer, an on bass, keyboards and harpsichord)
Judy Rodman – Until I Met You (1986, as producer)

Marcel Stellman, 96, Belgian producer and lyricist, on May 2
Drafi Deutscher And His Magics – Marble, Breaks And Iron Bends (1966, as lyricist)

Phil Naro, 63, rock singer, guitarist, songwriter and producer, on May 3
Phil Naro – ‘6Teen’ Theme (2005, on vocals)

Rodolfo García, 75, drummer of Argentine rock band Almendra, on May 4
Almendra – Hoy todo el hielo en la ciudad (1968)

Henrik Ohlin, bassist of heavy metal spoof band Black Ingvars, on May 4

Nick Kamen, 59, English singer and model, on May 4
Nick Kamen – Each Time You Break My Heart (1986)
Nick Kamen – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (1986, with Roger Hawkins on drums)

Lloyd Price, 88, pioneering R&B singer, songwriter, label owner, on May 6
Lloyd Price And His Orchestra – Lawdy Miss Clawdy (1952, also as writer)
Lloyd Price – I’m Gonna Get Married (1959, also as co-writer)
Lloyd Price – What Did You Do With My Love (1976, also as writer)

Cassiano, 77, Brazilian soul singer-songwriter and guitarist, on May 7
Cassiano – Coleção (1976)

Curtis Fuller, 86, jazz trombonist, on May 8
Curtis Fuller’s Quintet – Five Spot After Dark (1959)

Svante Thuresson, 84, Swedish jazz singer and drummer, on May 10
Lill & Svante – Nygammal Vals (1966)

Bernard Lachance, 46, Canadian singer-songwriter, on May 11

Bob G. Koester, 88, jazz & blues producer, label owner, on May 12
Big Joe Williams – Drop Down Mama (1958, as producer)

Herman Celis, 67, Belgian new wave drummer, on May 12

Norman Simmons, 91, jazz pianist, arranger and composer, on May 13
Carmen McCrae – Sunday (1963, on piano)
Norman Simmons – Eleanor Rigby (2002)

Jack Terricloth, 50, leader of The World/Inferno Friendship Society, on May 13
World/Inferno Friendship Society – Brother Of The Mayor Of Bridgewater (2012)

Mario Pavone, 80, jazz bassist, on May 15
Mario Pavone – Monk In Soweto (1992)

Jacky van Dam, 83, Dutch musician and singer, on May 15

Patsy Bruce, 81, country songwriter, on May 16
Gibson/Miller Band – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1994, as co-writer)

MC Kevin, 23, Brazilian singer-songwriter, in a fall on May 16

Nicolas Ker, 50, singer of French electronic band Poni Hoax, on May 17
Poni Hoax – She’s On The Radio (2006)

Franco Battiato, 76, Italian singer-songwriter and filmmaker, on May 18
Battiato – La convenzione (1972)

Alix Dobkin, 80, folk singer-songwriter, on May 19
Alix Dobkin – A Woman’s Love (1973)
Alix Dobkin – Toughen Up! (1976)

Johnny Ashcroft, 94, Australian country singer, on May 19
Johnny Ashcroft – Little Boy Lost (1960)

Zion Aquino, 42, Filipino singer, on May 20

Roger Hawkins, 75, drummer and co-owner Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, on May 20
Wilson Pickett – Land Of 1000 Dances (1966, on drums)
Etta James – I’d Rather Go Blind (1968, on drums)
Herbie Mann – Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty (1970, on drums)
Eddie Rabbitt – Suspicions (1982, on drums)

Roberto González, 68, Mexican musician and composer, on May 20

Mel Buckley, guitarist of blues-rock group Someone’s Band, on May 21
Someones Band – A Story (1970, also as writer)

Xerardo Moscoso, 77, Spanish singer-songwriter and playwright, on May 22
Xerardo Moscoso – Deuda cumprida (1968)

Dewayne Blackwell, 84, country songwriter, on May 23
The Fleetwoods – Mr. Blue (1959, as writer)
Garth Brooks – Friends In Low Places (live) (1998, as co-writer)

Lorrae Desmond, 91, Australian singer and actress, May 23
Lorrae Desmond & The Rebels – Ding Dong Rock A Billy Weddin’ (1957)

John Davis, 66, singer and real voice of Milli Vanilli, on May 24
John Davis – Check It Out (1984)
Milli Vanilli – Girl You Know It’s True (1989; as vocalist)
The Real Milli Vanilli – When I Die (1990)

Søren Holm, 25, singer of Danish R&B group Liss, on May 25
Liss – Miles Apart (2016)

Rusty Warren, 91, comedian- singer, on May 25
Rusty Warren – Knockers Up! (1960)

Patrick Sky, 80, folk singer-songwriter, on May 27
Patrick Sky – Many A Mile (1965)

Nelson Sargento, 96, Brazilian samba musician, on May 27
Nelson Sargento – Sonho de Um Sambista (1979)

Freddy Marks, 71, English kids’ music singer and actor, on May 27

Jimi/Jimmy Bellmartin, 71, Dutch singer, on May 28
Jimmy Bellmartin – This Is My Love Song (1970)

B.J. Thomas, 78, pop and country singer, on May 29
B.J. Thomas – Hooked On A Feeling (1968)
B.J. Thomas – If You Must Leave My Life (1969)
B.J. Thomas – Another Done Somebody Wrong Song (1975)
B.J. Thomas & Dusty Springfield – As Long As We Got Each Other (1988)

Johnny Trudell, 82, jazz trumpeter and composer, on May 29
Johnny Trudell – Free & Easy (1979)

Dominguinhos do Estácio, 79, Brazilian samba musician, on May 30

Lil Loaded, 20, rapper, by suicide on May 31

Firmino de Itapoan, 78, Brazilian samba musician and composer, on May 31
Firmino De Itapoã – Bada-Uê (1978)

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In Memoriam – April 2021

May 4th, 2021 6 comments

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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In Memoriam – March 2021

April 6th, 2021 8 comments

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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In Memoriam – February 2021

March 4th, 2021 5 comments

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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In Memoriam – January 2021

February 2nd, 2021 5 comments

The Reaper continues to wreak his relentless havoc in music. This month’s list is long!

The Guitar Animal
The guitar arpeggio intro of The Animal’s House Of The Rising Sun is one of rock music’s most iconic moments. Its creator, Hilton Valentine, has now died at 77, only the second of the five original Animals to go, after bassist Chas Chandler, who died in 1996. Valentine had been the missing piece in the puzzle for the Alan Price Combo that already included Chandler, Price and singer Eric Burdon. When shortly after drummer John Steel joined, the band renamed itself The Animals (Steel would trademark the name, leading the various later incarnations to adapt the name, such as Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Animals And Friends, New Animals, and Animals II).

Valentine stuck it out with The Animals until the split in 1966. An unsuccessful solo album in 1969 followed, and the guitarist joined up with his old chums when The Animals reunited (as The Original Animals) in 1975. Over the next eight years they produced two albums, neither of them hits. But the group, in various formations and under different monikers kept performing, with Valentine a regular feature (including a stint as leader of Valentine’s Animals) until 2001.

The NY Doll
With the death of rhythm guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, only one of the classic line-up of the New York Dolls — the 1973-75 iteration — is still alive, singer David Johansen. Co-founded by Sylvain, the New York Dolls were a shock to the American system, with their make-up, spandex, platforms and crazy hair. Their music was a mélange of garage rock, hard rock, glam rock, art rock and a healthy dose of rock & roll. They were not punk as we know it, but they set the scene for those who’d come in their slipstream. By the time the Ramones and punk arrived, the New York Dolls were already done. Then Mötley Crüe revived their image for a mainstream rock audience.

After the Dolls split, Sylvain, the son of Jewish immigrants from Egypt, went on to record a number of solo albums. When the New York Dolls reformed in 2004, he and Johansen were the two members from the heyday line-up.

The Exile
If you’re a Southern African jazz legend, you want to be particularly wary of the 23rd of January. In 2018, the great Hugh Masekela died on that date; in 2019 it was the Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi; this year the Reaper went to South Africa to take the great trombonist Jonas Gwangwa — just 17 days after the death of his wife, Violet.

One of the giants on South Africa’s vibrant and exciting jazz scene, Gwangwa was one of the many great talents to go into exile because of apartheid, alongside the likes of Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, Abdullah Ibrahim and so on. In the 1980s, Gwangwa headed the ANC’s cultural ensemble, Amandla. In 1987 Gwangwa co-wrote the Oscar-nominated score for the film Cry Freedom, a film about the relationship between the journalist Donald Woods and black consciousness leader Steven Biko. Gwangwa was so big in South Africa that on his death, even the country’s president, Cryril Ramaphosa, paid tribute: “The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody, has lost its life force.”

The Pacemaker
As The Beatles were recording their first single, producer George Martin presented his charges with a song which would be their debut single, a track called How Do You Do It. The Beatles reluctantly recorded it, but were relieved when Martin decided to release their own composition, Love Me Do, instead. Instead he gave the song to another client from Liverpool, Gerry & the Pacemakers — who promptly had a #1 hit with their debut. After three weeks, the Pacemakers, led by the late Gerry Marsden, were knocked off the top of the charts by The Beatles’ first #1 (with their third single, From Me To You). And in turn, Gerry’s lot knocked The Beatles off their perch with follow-up I Like It, and completed their hat-trick of chart-toppers with the old showtune You’ll Never Walk Alone (knocked off the top by… She Loves You).

Gerry and the Pacemakers went on to have three more UK Top 10 hits, but that would be that for the band. The Beatles went on to have a few hits, but the Pacemakers’ record of three #1s with the first three singles wasn’t equaled until 21 years later, by fellow Liverpudlians Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Marsden returned to the charts only in the 1980s with a couple of Band Aid-style charity singles, You’ll Never Walk Alone for the victims of the Bradford Stadium fire in 1985, and Ferry Cross The Mersey for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1988.The Moral Conundrum
Fans of the art of people like R Kelly, Gary Glitter, Bill Cosby or Roman Polanski will know the moral challenge of separating the art from the person who created it. Phil Spector is the ultimate in that challenge. Here was a thoroughly fucked-up guy (rather more so than just “flawed”, as the BBC suggested in its obituary headline). He was a violent misogynist long before he became a murderer. It’s difficult to sing his praises without forgetting what a monstrous man he was. Perhaps it is easier to separate Spector from his art because his art is conveyed to us through the voices of others: Darlene and Ronnie, Bill and Bobby, Lennon and Harrison, or Joey Ramone.

Say a prayer/expend a thought/send energy, if you like, for Spector. But if you do so, do not forget the name of the woman he murdered on February 3, 2002: Lana Clarkson, a 40-year-old actress and model.

The Arranging Songwriter
A few weeks after Spector, the arranger he used on records such as River Deep, Mountain High, Black Pearl, and Ebb Tide died. By the time he worked with Spector, Perry Botkin Jr had already established a track record as arranger or producer for acts such as Sammy Davis Jr, Bobby Darin, The Lettermen, Connie Stevens, Rod McKuen, Ed Ames, Vic Damone and Glenn Yarborough. His co-writing and production credits also included Jimmy Cross’ bizarre I Want My Baby Back (see Any Major Halloween Vol. 3). Other clients included Harry Nilsson, The Sandpipers, Harpers Bizarre, The Electric Prunes, Bobbie Gentry, The Everly Brothers, Hoyt Axton, José Feliciano, Barbra Streisand, Melanie, Johnny Mathis, Carly Simon, Maureen McGovern, Peggy Lee, Jennifer Warnes, and many others.

His biggest success was his co-written, co-produced Nadia’s Theme, the theme for the soap The Young & The Restless, which in 1976 also served to score the perfect Olympic exploits of gymnast Nadia Comăneci. Decades later Maryy J Blige sample Nadia’s Theme on her hit No More Drama, earning Botkin a writing credit on the R&B diva’s iconic hit. In 1971, Botkin and his regular collaborator Barry DeVorzon received an Oscar nomination for the much-covered Bless the Beasts and Children.

The Manic Wham! Cult
Few producers can claim to have helped acts like Wham! and the Manic Street Preachers to stardom, but so it was with Steve Brown, who has died at 62. After producing the Boomtown Rats’ 1977 debut, Brown was behind the glass for ABC’s debut single, Tears Are Not Enough, and Wham!’s outstanding breakout hits Young Guns (Go For It) and Club Tropicana. In 1985 he produced The Cult’s hit She Sells Sanctuary, and in 1991 the Manic Street Preachers’ debut album Generation Terrorist. He also produced US singer-songwriter Randy Edelman, Freddie Mercury, Then Jericho, Runrig, Alison Moyet, The Pogues, The Alarm and others.

Before he was a producer, he was a recording engineer for acts like Roy Wood, Thin Lizzy, Kraftwerk, The Boomtown Rats, Joan Armatrading, Oingo Boingo and many of the acts whom he produced.The Blower
As a backing man in jazz bands, multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson had a great track record, playing his saxophone or tuba with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Carles Mingus, Hank Crawford, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Charlie Haden, Gil Evans, Bill Evans, George Benson, Jaco Pistorius, Buddy Rich, David Sanborn, Bob James, Ralph McDonald, Bob Moses and more.

But he also had a line in backing blues like BB King, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Etta James and John Mayall, soul acts like Angela Bofill, Candi Staton, Ashford & Simpson, Chaka Khan, Linda Clifford, Lou Rawls, and rock acts like The Band (on Rock Of Ages and The Last Waltz), Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Robert Wyatt, and John Lennon (on Walls And Bridges and Double Fantasy) and Yoko Ono. And when James Taylor sang Jelly Man Kelly on Sesame Street, he played the flute. In the 1970s Johnson was the live band conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band, also playing the sax on the famous King Tut sketch.

Bono’s Inspiration
U2 singer Bono claimed that it was seeing Middle of the Road singing Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep on TV that convinced him that anyone could become a pop star (though his band never made a pop record as good as that). But it was local Dublin soft-rock band Bagatelle which young Hewson and pal Larry Mullen Jr looked up to as models for rock success. Now the band’s singer, who saw no cause to adopt a stupid nickname but stuck by his thoroughly Irish name Liam Reilly, has died at 65.

Bagatelle were strictly local heroes, but Reilly got himself a bit of international attention when he came second in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1990 with his travelogue of clichés Somewhere In Europe, a song that should have become a huge country music hit. The jury liked it, and Reilly came joint-second, behind Italy’s Toto Cutugno.

The Other Jimmie Rodgers
As a singer Jimmie Rodgers made his name — which he shared with the country legend who died in 1933, four months before his own birth — by shifting millions of records in the US and UK in the 1950s with songs like Honeycomb, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again, Secretly, and (in 1962) English Country Garden, most on Roulette records.

But the more remarkable story is the mystery of what happened on December 1, 1967 on the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles. What we know is that Rodgers was stopped by an off-duty cop, that at some spot he sustained a serious head injury, that the cops left the unconscious Rodgers in his car and left the scene, and that the singer had no memory of what had happened to him. The last thing he remembered was a bright light in his rear-view mirror. Police say Rodgers got hurt when he fell; the singer believed he had been assaulted. After much legal wrangling, the LAPD paid Rodgers $200,000 to make things go away.

In 2010, singer Tommy James offered a new and plausible theory. According to James, the attack was organised by the mafia-connected owner of Roulette Records, Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesh is partly based), after Rodgers had repeatedly demanded to be paid royalties owed to him by the label.

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.

Liam Reilly, 65, singer, songwriter with Irish rock band Bagatelle, on Jan. 1
Bagatelle – Summer In Dublin (1980)
Liam Reilly – Somewhere In Europe (1990)

George Gerdes, 72, singer-songwriter and actor, on Jan. 1
George Gerdes – Lap Of Luxury (1971)

Jan Vering, 66, German gospel singer and playwright, on Jan. 1

Misty Morgan, 75, half of country duo Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, on Jan. 1
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan – Because We Love (1975)

Carlos do Carmo, 81, Portuguese fado singer, on Jan. 1
Carlos do Carmo – Lisboa menina e moça (1976)

Peter Thorp, 76, guitarist of British pop band The Roulettes, on Jan. 2
The Roulettes – Soon You’ll Be Leaving Me (1964)

Steve Brown, 62, British producer, on Jan. 2
Randy Edelman – Pretty Girls (1982, as producer)
Wham! – Young Guns (Go For It!) (1982, as producer)
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary (1985, as producer, engineer)
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (1992, as producer, engineer)

Warren McLean, Australian rock drummer, on Jan. 3
Divinyls – Hey Little Boy (1988, on drums)

Gerry Marsden, 78, English musician, on Jan. 3
Gerry and The Pacemakers – How Do You Do It? (1963)
Gerry and The Pacemakers – Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (1964)

Paul Travis, 73, English singer-guitarist, announced Jan. 4
Liar – Set The World On Fire (1978, as member)

Duris Maxwell, 74, Canadian drummer, on Jan. 4
Heart – How Deep It Goes (1975)

Elias Rahbani, 82, Lebanese composer, arranger, conductor, on Jan. 4
The News – From The Moon (1969, as member and writer)
Elias Rahbani – Love Theme From ‘Habibati’ (1973, also as composer)

Alexi Laiho, 41, singer-guitarist of Finnish death metal Children of Bodom, reported Jan. 5

Bobby Few, 85, jazz pianist, on Jan. 6
Bobby Few – Everybody Has The Right To Be Free (1983)

Yamandú Palacios, 80, Uruguayan singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 6

Deezer D, 55, rapper and actor (E.R.), on Jan. 7
Deezer D – Ya’ll In The House (2002)

Jamie O’Hara, 70, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 7
The O’Kanes- Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You (1987, as member and co-writer)

Ed Bruce, 81, country singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8
Tanya Tucker – The Man That Turned My Mama On (1974, as writer)
Ed Bruce – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1976, also as co-writer)

Gaynor Bunning, 78, Australian pop singer, on Jan. 8
Gaynor Bunning – Unlock Those Chains (1961)

Michael Fonfara, 74, Canadian keyboardist, on Jan. 8
Lou Reed – Ennui (1974, on mellotron)
Foreigner – Urgent (1981, on keyboards)

Thorleif Torstensson, 71, singer of Swedish danceband Thorleifs, on Jan. 10

Mark Keds, 50, singer of English pop-punk band Senseless Things, on Jan. 11
Senseless Things – Too Much Kissing (1989)

Don Miller, 80, baritone of vocal band The Vogues, on Jan. 11
The Vogues – Turn Around, Look At Me (1968)

Howard Johnson, 79, jazz musician, on Jan. 11
Hank Crawford – Bluff City Blues (1965, on baritone saxophone)
Melvin Van Peebles – Come On Feet Do Your Thing (1971, on saxophone)
The Band – It Makes No Difference (1978, on sax, horns arrangement)
Chaka Khan – Move Me No Mountain (1980, on tuba)

Celia Humphries, singer of British folk-rock band Trees, on Jan. 11
Trees – Geordie (1971)

Shingoose, 74, Canadian folk musician, on Jan. 12
Shingoose – Silver River (1975)

Duke Bootee, 69, rapper, producer and songwriter, on Jan. 13
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message (1982, as co-performer, co-writer)

Sylvain Sylvain, 69, rhythm guitarist of punk pioneers New York Dolls, on Jan. 13
New York Dolls – Jet Boy (1973)
New York Dolls – Stranded In The Jungle (1974)

Tim Bogert, 76, rock bassist, on Jan. 13
Vanilla Fudge – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1967, as member on bass)
Beck, Bogert & Appice – Superstition (1973, on bass and lead vocals)

Larry Willoughby, 73, country singer-songwriter and music executive, on Jan. 14
Larry Willoughby – Building Bridges (1983, also as co-writer)

Duranice Pace, 62, singer with gospel group The Anointed Pace Sisters, on Jan. 14

Rapper One, 41, Peruvian rapper, on Jan. 15

Phil Spector, 81, producer, songwriter, musician and convicted murderer, on Jan. 15
The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me (1963, as producer and co-writer)
Sonny Charles and The Checkmates – Black Pearl (1969, as producer and co-writer)
John Lennon – Love (1970, on piano & as co-producer)
Ramones – Baby, I Love You (1980, as producer)

Pave Maijanen, 70, producer, musician with Finnish rock bands Hurriganes, Dingo, on Jan. 16
Hurriganes – Bourbon Street (1980, as member and producer)

Jason Cope, 43, co-founder and guitarist of rock band Steel Woods, on Jan. 16
The Steel Woods – Let The Rain Come Down (2017)

Sammy Nestico, 96, jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, on Jan. 17
Count Basie – Hay Burner (1968, as composer and composer)
Sammy Nestico – Night Flight (1985, also as composer, arranger & producer)

Junior Mance, 92, jazz pianist, on Jan. 17
Dinah Washington – Sometimes I’m Happy (1956, on piano)
Junior Mance Trio – Oo-Bla-Dee (1960)

Ebe Gilkes, 90, Guyanese jazz pianist, on Jan. 17

Perry Botkin Jr., 87, composer, arranger, producer and musician, on Jan. 18
Ike & Tina Turner –  A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day) (1966, as arranger)
Sonny Charles and The Checkmates – Black Pearl (1969, as arranger; see Spector entry)
Carpenters – Bless The Beasts And Children (1972, as co-writer)
Harry Nilsson – Down By The Sea (1975, as arranger)
Barry DeVorzon & Perry Botkin Jr. – Nadia’s Theme (1976, as co-writer, co-producer)

Jimmie Rodgers, 87, American pop singer, on Jan. 18
Jimmie Rodgers – Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (1957)
Jimmie Rodgers – It’s Over (1966)

Yvonne Sterling, 65, Jamaican reggae singer, on Jan. 18
Yvonne Sterling – Oh Jah (1978)

Maria Koterbska, 96, Polish singer, on Jan. 18

Tommy Brannick, 79, pop drummer, on Jan. 19
The Swampseeds – Can I Carry Your Balloon (1968)

Peter Wynne, English crooner, on Jan. 19
Peter Wynne – Ask Anyone In Love (1960)

Malcolm Griffiths, 79, English jazz musician, on Jan. 19

Ronnie Nasralla, 90, Jamaican producer, on Jan. 20
The Maytals – My New Name (1965, as producer)

John Russell, 66, English jazz guitarist, on Jan. 20

Randy Parton, 67, country singer-songwriter, Dolly’s brother, on Jan. 21
Randy Parton – Hold Me Like You Never Had Me (1981)

Keith Nichols, 75, English jazz musician and arranger, on Jan. 21

James Purify, 76, soul singer, on Jan. 22
James & Bobby Purify – I’m Your Puppet (1966)
James & Bobby Purify – Morning Glory (1976)

Gabriel Ruiz Díaz, 45, bassist of Argentine rock band Catupecu Machu, on Jan. 23

Jonas Gwangwa, 83, South African jazz trombonist, composer and producer, on Jan. 23
Jonas Gwangwa – Yebo (1978)
George Fenton & Jonas Gwangwa – The Funeral (Nkosi Sikeleli’ iAfrika) (1987)
Jonas Gwangwa – Theme of ‘Generations’ (1993)
Jonas Gwangwa – Morwa (2001)

Joe Camarillo, 52, drummer, on Jan. 24

Tom Stevens, 64, bassist of alt.country band The Long Ryders, on Jan. 24
The Long Ryders – A Stitch In Time (1987, also as writer)
Tom Stevens – Flying Out Of London In The Rain (2007)

6 Dogs, 21, rapper, suicide on Jan. 26

César Isella, 82, Argentine folk singer-songwriter, on Jan. 28
César Isella – Canción de lejos (1973)

Singing Sandra, 64, Trinidadian calypso singer, on Jan. 28

Sibongile Khumalo, 63, South African jazz, opera and classical singer, on Jan. 28
Sibongile Khumalo – Thula Mama (1996)

Hilton Valentine, 77, guitarist of The Animals, on Jan. 29
The Animals – Bury My Body (1964)
The Animals – I’m Going To Change The World (1965)
Hilton Valentine – Sitting In The Sun (1969)
The Original Animals – Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt) (1977)

Grady Gaines, 86, blues saxophonist, on Jan. 29
Little Richard – She’s Got It (1957, on tenor sax)
Grady Gaines & The Texas Upsetters – Looking For One Real Good Friend (1988)

Sophie, 34, Scottish singer-songwriter and producer, on Jan. 30
Sophie – It’s Okay To Cry (2017)

Double K, 43, half of hip hop duo People Under the Stairs, on Jan. 30
People Under The Stairs – We’ll Be There (2000)

Wambali Mkandawire, Malawian jazz musician, on Jan. 31
Friends First – Thula Sizwe/I Shall Be Released (1988, as member)
Mte Wambali Mkandawire – Calabrash Breath (2015)

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In Memoriam – December 2020

January 4th, 2021 8 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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