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In Memoriam – September 2019

October 3rd, 2019 3 comments

 

The Cars’ Driver
The death at 75 of Rik Ocasek reminded me of how when I got my first car in 1984, the tape of the Heartbeat City album by The Cars (appropriately) was on heavy rotation. Much of that album has not dated well, though I still enjoy Magic, Why Can’t I Have You, You Might Think (which featured on A Life In Vinyl 1984 Vol. 1) and the title track. I also loved Drive — the album’s stand-out track — until Live Aid destroyed it for me. The laziness of using that song to illustrate the suffering of famine based on one line taken completely out of context still annoys me.

Besides creating a lot of great power pop with The Cars, Ocasek was also a producer. His best-known work in that area is that with Suicide. He also produced Weezer’s eponymous debut album (and listen to The Cars’ 1978 track Just What I Needed as a precursor to the Weezer sound). He also produced other Weezer classics, including the impossibly catchy Island In The Sun. Ocasek also produced acts like Alan Vega, Nada Surf, Hole, Jonathan Richman, Bad Religion, Guided By Voices

The Session Legend
One of those lesser-known giants of music left us in Muscle Shoals guitarist, engineer and producer Jimmy Johnson. His great body of work is in his session guitar work, as a member of the session players’ collective The Swampers (more on that below). As an engineer, Johnson worked on the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers album. He also discovered and produced Lynyrd Skynyrd, whose mention of “The Swampers” on Sweet Home Alabama refers to Johnson’s session group.

As a guitarist Johnson often worked alongside Duane Allman, Bobby Womack, Joe South and/or Eddie Hinton on a great many classics recorded in Muscle Shoals, at the FAME Studios and the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, which he co-founded.

I have ascertained that he played on Aretha Franklin tracks such as Chain Of Fools, Natural Woman, I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You), Think, Since You’ve Been Gone, Call Me; Wilson Picket’s Land Of 1000 Dances; Boz Scaggs’ Dinah Jo; The Staple Singers’ I’ll Take You There, If You’re Ready Come Go With Me, and Respect Yourself (on rhythm guitar); Bobby Womack’s Harry Hippie; Luther Ingram’s If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right); Millie Jackson’s Hurt So Good;  Paul Simon’s 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, Take Me To The Mardi Gras and Kodachrome; Rod Stewart’s Tonight’s the Night and Sailing (on rhythm guitar); Eddie Rabbit’s Suspicions; and Bob Seger’s We’ve Got Tonight, Night Moves, Old Time Rock and Roll (on rhythm guitar) and Good For Me (he accompanied Seger on almost all his albums between 1972 and 1982).

Wikipedia credits him with playing on a dizzying number of other classics, including When a Man Loves A Woman, Mustang Sally, Sweet Soul Music, I’m Your Puppet, Do Right Woman – Do Right Man, Respect (Aretha’s version), Take A Letter Maria, The Harder They Come by Jimmy Cliff; When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman and Sexy Eyes by Dr Hook.

The Soprano
The In Memoriam series usually does not include musicians from the field of classical music, but an exception may be made with the soprano Jessye Norman, who blazed many trails in her field. In as far as I can be said to have a “favourite” soprano, Norman was that, ever since I first heard her as a 23-year-old. As a friend of mine who had a friendship with Norman can testify, she was a kind, accessible and generous person.

Occasionally Norman dabbled outside the field of opera and lieder, turning her talents to Cole Porter or Michel Legrand (who preceded her in death by a few months), and singing songs of religion. Norman, who was raised as a Baptist, was a freestyling Christian who found greater religious impulse in the Girls Scouts, of whom she was one, than in church — and every year, like a good scout, she would sell thousands of boxes of cookies.

 

Out of Money
Eddie Money was the kind of singer who was massive in the US and made very little impact in the UK or Europe. Between Britain and Germany — the two biggest markets in Europe — Money had one #59 hit (inevitably, Take Me Home Tonight). His sound, it’s fair to say, was thoroughly American. His life could make for a decent bio-pic, though. Money, whose stage name was a corruption of Mahoney (supposedly a joke on never having any cash), wanted to follow his father and grandfather in becoming a cop, but he dropped that career when he was told that he couldn’t have long hair on the job. In 1980, Money mistook a synthetic barbiturate for the cocaine he was going to take and overdosed. For months after he couldn’t walk.

The Grateful Poet
Rarely does a non-performing member of a group gain membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but Robert Hunter was the first to make it, in 2004, thanks to the lyrics he wrote for the Grateful Dead. These include Dark Star, St. Stephen, Alligator, Truckin’, China Cat Sunflower, Terrapin Station, and the lovely Ripple. Later he also wrote with Bob Dylan, Bruce Hornsby, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Little Feat (on their 2012 comeback), and others. Much of his muse came from his experiences as a volunteer in the early 1960s in CIA research into psychedelic drugs. Getting stoned on The Man’s dime, man!

The Disco Man
How strange that a man who has written or produced some of the great disco classics didn’t even have a Wikipedia page. But so it was with Bob Esty, whose death for a few days was marked almost exclusively on Facebook. The tributes on his Facebook page testify to a quality man. And what music he helped create! He produced, composed or arranged hit songs for the likes of Donna Summer, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Dusty Springfield, The Pointer Sisters, The Beach Boys and more.  He (co-)produced Donna Summer’s Last Dance, Streisand’s The Main Event (which also co-wrote and arranged), Cher’s Take Me Home (ibid), The Weather Girls’ It’s Raining Men, and more.

 

The R&B writer
During the R&B heydays of the late 1990s and early 200s, LaShawn Daniels was responsible for writing for some of the biggest names of the time, and scored a good number of hits with his compositions and productions. He co-wrote Whitney Houston’s It’s Not Right (But It’s Okay), Destiny’s Child Say My Name (which he also produced and earned him a Grammy), Jennifer Lopez’s If You Had My Love, Toni Braxton’s He Wasn’t Man Enough, Monica & Brandy’s ‘s The Boy Is Mine, Michael Jackson’s You Rock My World, Tatyana Ali’s Daydreamin’, Whitney Houston & George Michael’s If I Told You That, Twista’s So Lonely, Janet Jackson’s Feedback, Beyoncé’s Telephone, Tamar Braxton’s Love And War, as well as the Spice Girls’ hits Holler, Let Love Lead The Way and Forever. Several of these he also produced. Daniels died at 41 in a car crash.

Not Risen
Jesus has died. That is, Jeff Fenholt, who played Jesus in the original Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar, and later recorded a few demos with Black Sabbath. Pope Paul VI might have loved the musical, but a Christian builder who did work on Fenholt’s house didn’t. After the builder reprimanded Fenholt for his portrayal of Jesus on the stage (and, I hope, for his horrible singing), the singer-actor converted to Christianity, kicked his various addictions, and ended up having a show on the televangelist exploitation machine Trinity Broadcasting Network. Among all the conservative brylcreem conservatives, Fenholt sported long hair (like Jesus). But don’t let the long hair fool you: Fenholt was a conservative himself, and towards the end of his life a Trumpian on the deplorable end of that deplorable scale.

The Testament
Earlier this year, country singer Kylie Rae Harris recorded a song for her six-year-old daughter, in case of her death. Twenty Years From Now refers to a road trip and the hope of seeing what the next two decades would bring. In light of Harris’ death at 30 in a car accident (which also killed a teenager and was caused by he singer), the song breaks your heart.

 

Laurent Sinclair, 58, composer, keyboardist with French new wave band Taxi Girl, on Sept. 2
Taxi Girl – Mannequin (1980)

Les Adams, 63, English producer, DJ with dance music outfit L.A. Mix, on Sept. 2
L.A. Mix – Check This Out (1988)

LaShawn Daniels, 41, R&B songwriter and producer, in car crash on Sept. 3
Monica & Brandy – The Boy Is Mine (1998)
Destiny’s Child – Say My Name (Jazzy Bass remix) (1999, as co-writer)

Dan Warner, session guitarist and songwriter, on Sept. 4
MIKA – Grace Kelly (2006, as co-writer)

Kylie Rae Harris, 30, country singer, in car crash on Sept. 4
Kylie Rae Harris – Twenty Years From Now (2019)

Jimmy Johnson, 76, session guitarist, engineer and producer, on Sept. 5
Solomon Burke – Uptight Good Woman (1969, as co-writer and on guitar)
The Staple Singers – If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)
Muscle Shoals Horns – Hustle To The Music (1976, as member)
Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More Time (1977, as producer)

Camilo Sesto, 72, Spanish singer-songwriter, on Sept. 8
Camilo Sesto – Algo Más (1973)

Lavrentis Machairitsas, 62, Greek rock musician, on Sept. 9

Gru, 46, Serbian rapper, in paragliding accident on Sept. 9
Gru – Biću tu (1996)

Hossam Ramzy, 65, Egyptian percussionist and composer, on Sept. 10
Peter Gabriel – Digging In The Dirt (1992, on the surdu)
Hossam Ramzy – Samya’s Solo (2000)

Jeff Fenholt, 68, musician, actor and televangelist, on Sept. 10
Jeff Fenholt – Gethsemane (1971, as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar)

Torsten Schmidt, singer of German rock band Virus D, on Sept. 10

Daniel Johnston, 58, cult singer-songwriter, on Sept. 11
Daniel Johnston – Impossible Love (2001)

Eddie Money, 70, rock singer-songwriter, on Sept. 13
Eddie Money – Two Tickets To Paradise (1977)
Eddie Money – Take Me Home Tonight (1986, with Ronnie Spector)
Eddie Money – I’ll Get By (1991)

Mick Schauer, keyboardist of hard rock band Clutch, on Sept. 14
Clutch – Mr. Shiny Cadillackness (2007)

Ric Ocasek, 75, singer-songwriter with The Cars, producer, on Sept. 15
The Cars – My Best Friend’s Girl (1978)
The Cars – Magic (1984)
The Cars – Heartbeat City (1985, at Live Aid)
Weezer – Buddy Holly (1994, as producer)

Roberto Leal, 67, Portuguese-Brazilian singer, on Sept. 15
Roberto Leal – Fim dos tempos (1976)

Vic Vogel, 84, Canadian jazz pianist, composer and conductor, on Sept. 16

John Cohen, 87, folk musician and musicologist, on Sept. 16
New Lost City Ramblers – No Depression In Heaven (1959, as member)

Hans Ingemansson, 54, keyboardist of Swedish group The Creeps, screenwriter, on Sept. 17
The Creeps – Smash! (1990)

Tony Mills, 57, singer of English hard-rock groups Shy, TNT, on Sept. 18
Shy – Can’t Fight The Nights (1987, also as co-writer)

Larry Wallis, 70, English rock guitarist with Pink Fairies, Motörhead (1975-76), on Sept. 19
Larry Wallis – Police Car (1977)

María Rivas, 59, Venezuelan Latin jazz singer, on Sept. 19
Maria Rivas – El Motorizado (1991)

Harold Mabern, 83, jazz pianist and composer, on Sept. 19
Betty Carter – This Is Always (1964, on piano)

Sandie Jones, 68, Irish singer, on Sept. 19
Sandie Jones – Ceol An Ghra (1972)

Yonrico Scott, 63, drummer with The Derek Trucks Band, on Sept. 20
Derek Trucks Band – Something To Make You Happy (2009, on drums and percussion)

Leigh “Little Queenie” Harris, 65, singer of Li’l Queenie & the Percolators, on Sept. 21

Robert Hunter, 78, lyricist of the Grateful Dead and musician, on Sept. 23
Grateful Dead – Ripple (1970, as lyricist)
Robert Hunter – Yellow Moon (1975)
Bob Dylan – Silvio (1988, as lyricist)
Counting Crows – Friend Of The Devil (2003, as lyricist)

Richard Brunelle, 55, death metal guitarist with Morbid Angel, Paths of Possession, on Sept. 23

Jim DeSalvo, 53, producer and composer, traffic collision on Sept. 23

Bob Esty, 72, disco producer, arranger writer, musician, on Sept. 27
Donna Summer – I Love You (1977, as arranger, keyboardist, percussionist, backing singer)
Barbra Streisand – The Main Event (1979, as co-writer, producer, arranger)
Cher – Take Me Home (1979, as co-writer, producer, arranger, backing singer)
Pointer Sisters – We’ve Got The Power (1980, as writer)

Jimmy Spicer, 61, American rapper, on Sept. 27
Jimmy Spicer – Money (Dollar Bill Y’all) (1982)

José José, 71, Mexican singer and actor, on Sept. 28

Dessie O’Halloran, 79, Irish fiddler, on Sept. 28
Dessie O’Halloran – Say You Love Me (2004)

busbee, 43, songwriter, producer, musician, label executive, on Sept. 29
Lady Antebellum – Our Kind Of Love (2010, as writer)

Louie Rankin, 55, Jamaican-born Canadian reggae artist and actor, in car crash on Sept. 30
Louie Rankin – Typewriter (1992)

Jessye Norman, 74, soprano, on Sept. 30
Jessye Norman – There Is A Man Going Round (1978)
Jessye Norman – In The Still Of The Night (1984)
Jessye Norman – Les Moulins De Mon Cœur (The Windmills Of Your Mind) (2000)

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In Memoriam – August 2019

September 3rd, 2019 4 comments

Among those we lost in August was Kris Kristofferson’s long time keyboardist, who also wrote a few great songs along the way, the guy who put together the Village People, a pioneering black woman trumpeter, and an actor who put out a couple of records…

The Village Person
The inventor of The Village People has departed for the great discotheque in the sky. Morocco-born French writer, producer and concert promoter Henri Belolo first had success in the 1960s as a producer for acts like Georges Moustaki and F.R. David. He then had success with the disco trio The Ritchie Family, and hit paydirt when he put together The Village People, for whom he produced and co-wrote big hits such as Y.M.C.A., In The Navy, Macho Man, and Go West. Later, Belolo co-wrote and executive produced Eartha Kitt’s HiNRG number Where Is My Man and the early breakdance anthem Street Dance by Break Machine. He also executive produced Patrick Juvet’s disco hit I Love America.

 

KK’s Keyboardist
Keyboardist and songwriter Donnie Fritts got shout-outs on record by two music legends: Kris Kristofferson (on The Pilgrim-Chapter 33) and Tony Joe White (on Pissin’ In The Wind). Fritts played with Kristofferson for four decades, and appeared in three movies starring KK. He co-wrote Kristofferson’s classic Border Lord. Fritts also co-wrote classics such as Breakfast In Bed (for Dusty Springfield; later a regrettable hit for UB 40 and Chrissie Hynde), Choo Choo Train (Box Tops), We Had It All (Dolly Parton and loads others), You’re Gonna Love Yourself in The Morning (Bonnie Koloc; Charlie Rich), and the great murder ballad Rainbow Road, which was first recorded by soul singer Bill Brandon (featured on Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 1) and was later covered by many singers, including Joe Simon, Percy Sledge, Steve Goodman, Arthur Alexander, and Joan Baez.

 

The SNL Director
Soul fans from the 1980s might remember Katreese Barnes as half of the brother-sister duo Juicy (I bought the featured track in 1986, and had it on my shortlist for A Life In Vinyl 1986 Vol. 1). But she became better known as the musical director on Saturday Night Live, winning two Emmys for Justin Timberlake cameos, 2006’s Dick In A Box (with The Lonely Island) and 2010’s compulsively rewatchable I’m Not Gonna Sing Tonight. Barnes died at only 56 of breast cancer.

The Trumpet Pioneer
Jazz was a man’s game when Clora Bryant made her career, and women on the trumpet or behind the drums were very rare. Bryant, whose reputation rests on her trumpeting skills, was a member of the first integrated female jazz ensemble, the International Sweethearts of Rhythm, in the mid-1940s. Mentored by Dizzy Gillespie, she backed the likes of Billie Holiday, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong and Harry James. In 1951, her The Queens of Swing became the first female jazz band to appear on US television. In 1957 released her only solo album, Gal With A Horn, and after that was a touring musician. That culminated in Mikhail Gorbachev inviting her to become the first woman jazz musician to tour in the Soviet Union in 1989.

 

The Woodstock Vet
Just a few days after the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, Canned Heart bassist Larry “The Mole” Taylor died at 77. Taylor performed with Canned Heat at Monterrey and Woodstock. In 1970, Taylor left Canned Heat to play with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and in 1974 joined The Hollywood Fats Band. But he always came back to Canned Heat whenever there was a call for him, touring with the band as recently as 2009-13. He also worked as a session bassist for acts such as The Monkees (including on Last Train To Clarksville and The Monkees Theme), Jerry Lee Lewis, Wanda Jackson, Leo Kottke, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Ry Cooder, JJ Cale, Bruce Cockburn, Buddy Guy, Tracy Chapman, and Tom Waits (on all his 1980s albums).

 

The Easy Rider
And it was during the anniversary of Woodstock that another icon of the counterculture died in actor Peter Fonda. The Easy Rider actor merits inclusion in the music In Memoriam on strength of his two records, in 1967 under his own name (with a Gram Parsons song co-produced by Hugh Masekela!) and a 1977 effort brought out under the moniker Bobby Ogden, his character in the movie Outlaw Blues, and written by Joan Oates (Hall’s sidekick). Fonda isn’t terrible, but it’s safe to say that Fonda’s thespian career represented no substantial loss to the world of music.

 

Ian Gibbons, 67, keyboardist of The Kinks (1979-89), on Aug. 1
The Kinks – Lola (live, 1980)
The Kinks – Don’t Forget To Dance (1983)

Katreese Barnes, 56, soul singer; former SNL musical director, on Aug. 3
Juicy – Beat Street Strut (1984)
Juicy – Sugar Free (1985)
Lonely Island with Justin Timberlake – Dick In A Box (2006)

Damien Lovelock, 65, singer of Australian rock band Celibate Rifles, on Aug. 3
The Celibate Rifles – Sometimes (I Wouldn’t Live Here If You Payed Me) (1984)

Joe Longthorne, 64, English singer and impressionist, on Aug. 3
Joe Longthorne – Hurt (1988)

Willi Tokarev, 84, Russian-US singer-songwriter, on Aug. 4

Bob Wilber, 91, jazz clarinetist and bandleader, on Aug. 4
Bob Wilber and His Wildcats – Willie The Weeper (1947)

Henri Belolo, 82, French producer and songwriter, on Aug. 5
Georges Moustaki – Le Métèque (1969, as producer)
Ritchie Family – American Generation (1978, as co-writer)
Village People – Go West (1979, as co-writer)
Break Machine – Street Dance (1983, as co-writer)

Jimi Hope, 62, Togolese musician, on Aug. 5

Lizzie Grey, 60, hard rock singer, guitarist, songwriter, on Aug. 5
Mötley Crüe- Public Enemy #1 (1981, as co-writer)
Spiders & Snakes – So Far So Good (1993)

Paul Grace, 63, member of Canadian dance collective Boomtang Boys, on Aug. 7
Boomtang – 59 Ways To Funk (2002, as co-producer, co-writer)

David Berman, 52, singer-songwriter of indie band Silver Jews, on Aug. 7
Silver Jews – Random Rules (1998)

Francesca Sundsten, 59, bassist of art-punk band The Beakers, on Aug. 7
The Beakers – Football Season Is In Full Swing (1980)

Nicky Wonder, 59, guitarist of pop band The Wondermints, Brian Wilson, on Aug. 7
The Wondermints – So Nice (2002)

Danny Doyle, 79, Irish folk singer, on Aug. 7
Danny Doyle – The Rare Old Times (1977)

Erling Wicklund, 75, Norwegian jazz trombonist, on Aug. 8

Claudio Taddei, 52, Urugayan Swiss rock singer and artist, on Aug. 9
Claudio Taddei – Estoy Contento, Nena (1995)

Jim Cullum Jr., 77, jazz cornetist, on Aug. 11
The Jim Cullum Jazz Band – Shake That Thing (2007)

DJ Arafat, 33, Ivorian DJ and musician, in motorcycle crash on Aug. 12

Claire Cloninger, 77, Christian contemporary music songwriter, on Aug. 15

Peter Fonda, 79, actor and occasional singer, on Aug. 16
Peter Fonda – November Night (1967)
Bobby Ogden (alias Peter Fonda) – Outlaw Blues (1977)

Larry ‘The Mole’ Taylor, 77, bassist of Canned Heat, on Aug. 19
The Monkees – Last Train To Clarksville (1966, on bass)
Canned Heat – Down In The Gutter But Free (1969, on lead guitar)
Canned Heat – A Change Is Gonna Come (live at Woodstock) (1969)
Tom Waits – Jockey Full Of Bourbon (1985, on double bass)

Fred Rister, 58, French producer, composer, remixer, DJ, on Aug. 20

Timothy Walsh, guitarist of English rock band Northside, announced Aug. 20
Northside – My Rising Star (1990)

Billy Bacon, singer, bassist and songwriter of The Flying Pigs, on Aug. 20
Billy Bacon & The Forbidden Pigs – Una Mas Cerveza (1988)

Celso Piña, 66, Mexican cumbia singer, accordionist, composer, on Aug. 21
Celso Piña – Cumbia Sobre El Río (Suena) (2001)

Hubert ‘Tex’ Arnold, 74, pianist, arranger, music director and composer, on Aug. 22

Clora Bryant, 92, jazz trumpeter, drummer and singer, on Aug. 23
The International Sweethearts Of Rhythm – She’s Crazy With The Heat (1945)
Clora Bryant – This Can’t Be Love (1957)

Anne Grete Preus, 62, Norwegian rock singer, on Aug. 25

Isaac ‘Bro Mnca’ Mtshali, drummer of South African afro-pop band Stimela, on Aug. 25
Stimela – Where Did We Go Wrong (1986)

Neal Casal, 50, guitarist, songwriter, singer (Ryan Adams & the Cardinals), on Aug. 26
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals – Follow The Lights (2007)
Neal Casal – White Fence Round House (2011)

Donnie Fritts, 76, keyboardist and songwriter, on Aug 27
Dusty Springfield – Breakfast In Bed (1969, as co-writer)
Kris Kristofferson – The Pilgrim Chapter 33 (1971, on keyboard; gets namecheck)
Arthur Alexander – Rainbow Road (1972, as co-writer)
Donnie Fritts – You’re Gonna Love Yourself (In The Morning) (1974)

Paz Undurraga, 89, Chilean singer and composer, on Aug. 28

Nancy Holloway, 86, US-born France-based soul-pop singer and actress, on Aug. 28
Nancy Holloway – T’en vas pas comme ça (1963)

Jimmy Pitman, 72, singer and guitarist with Strawberry Alarm Clock, on Aug. 29
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Good Morning Starshine (1969)

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In Memoriam – July 2019

August 1st, 2019 3 comments

In one month, both Brazil and South Africa lost game-changing icons of their respective music scene. And this little corner of the Interwebs lost a brief friend: a singer who commented on a post in which her had featured.

The Bossa Nova Boss
In the 1950s in Brazil, a father had his son committed to a psychiatric facility because the lad wanted to become a musician and was singing in a strange way. That strange singer’s voice is the first you hear on the timeless classic The Girl From Ipanema, accompanied by his guitar before his wife joins in. João Gilberto, who has died at 88, had been a pioneer of bossa nova long before that iconic song and the album from which it came, a collaboration with US jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, made the genre world famous. That collaboration cost João his marriage with Astrud Gilberto. The story of The Girl From Ipanema and a song-swarm of the song ran in 2016.

 

The Apartheid Slayer
Few artists have exerted such cultural influence that they could change society. English-born South African musician Johnny Clegg certainly made a difference. At the height of apartheid, Clegg fused Zulu music and dance with Western pop and rock with his band Juluka. With that, and his sincere embrace of Zulu culture, he provided his mostly white fanbase with an alternative to the racism of apartheid. In the age of South Africa’s cultural exclusion, Juluka concerts (and later those of Clegg’s next band, Savuka) were an event, comparable to a Springsteen concert. One could not emerge from the experience as a full-blown, die-hard racist (though it would be naïve to claim that all patrons were cured of all their racism). Clegg’s death of cancer was met with near-universal grief in South Africa; in a society still divided by race, Clegg’s legacy briefly united the nation. Few artists have had such power…

 

The Funky Neville
Just over a year ago, we still had all four Neville Brothers with us. With the death of Charles last year and in July of eldest brother and keyboardist Art Neville, only half remain. Aaron might the best-known of them, but Art probably had the best output. In the 1950s and ’60s, Art released a bunch of fine R&B/soul records either side of serving in the navy between 1958 and 1962. He the formed the first incarnation of the family-name band, The Neville Sounds, with Aaron and youngest brother Cyril, among others. Having pioneered the New Orleans funk, Art then founded The Meters (later The Funky Meters), a hugely influential instrumental funk outfit. In 1978, he and his brothers formed The Neville Brothers, whose genre-defying style won them many fans — and many others who didn’t get it. Inbetween, Art also did session work, most famously on LaBelle’s Lady Marmalade. Art was the father of Fox News anchor Arthel Neville.

The Commenter
On rare occasions do people who feature on this site comment on posts. One such artist was Jerry Lawson, the lead singer of the a cappella band The Persuasions, who has died at 75. In 2009 he thanked me for featuring The Persuasions’ version of He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother. “Thanks again for your support. Keeping the black sheep genre, the dying art of a cappella alive,” he wrote. After his long career with the Frank Zappa-discovered Peruasions which produced 22 albums until he left in 2002, Lawson founded a new a cappella group, Talk of the Town. As it happens, a couple of days before Lawson’s death, I was prepping for the Abbey Road Recovered mix that will drop in September; The Persuasions are represented on the shortlist with two songs.

 

The Rock & Roll Legend
If you played on Rock Around The Clock, you are by definition a rock & roll legend. So it is with Dick Richards, the drummer of Bill Haley & The Comets on the first few groundbreaking hits. When Bill Haley & The Comets became the first rock & roll act to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show on August 7, 1955, Richards manned the drums. By 1955, Richards (whose real name was Dick Boccelli) and two other Comets split from Haley’s band in a salary dispute, and formed a much less successful band called The Jodimars. After two minor hits, the group folded in 1958. Richards then became an actor. He was part of the re-assembled Comets in the 1980s, and continued to perform until recently.

 

The Brassman To Many
Another Dick went in Dick “Slyde” Hyde, session trombonist in the Wrecking Crew collective of session musicians. Usually as part of a brass section, Hyde backed acts like Count Basie, Woody Herman, Harry James , Elvis Presley, Van Dyke Parks, Nancy Sinatra, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Rita Coolidge, Carole King, Arlo Guthrie, Neil Sedaka, Nancy Wilson, Kris Kristofferson, Glen Campbell, Bonnie Raitt, Thelma Houston, Steely Dan, Supertramp, Cheryl Lynn, The Pointer Sisters, Donna Summer, Jessi Colter, Jackson Browne, Earth, Wind & Fire, Helen Reddy, Liza Minelli, Frankie Valli, The Beach Boys, Tom Waits, Joe Cocker, Diane Schuur, Madonna, The Temptations, The Isley Brothers, Boz Scaggs, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Rick Springfield, Herbie Hancock, Tom Scott, Frank Sinatra, Mary J Blige, and many others.

The Oscar Winner
This month we lost the centenarian composer and arranger Sid Ramin, who won an Oscar in 1962 for co-orchestrated the music for West Side Story. His arranged the music of many stage plays and several music. TV viewers in the US in the 1960s will know his composition of the theme of Candid Camera. Ramin also composed the easy listening classic Music To Watch Girls Go By.

 

The Soundtrack Man
He did not invent the compilation soundtrack album, but as heads of music at Warner Bros., Gary LeMel certainly popularised the concept, especially with the soundtrack of The Big Chill and later The Bodyguard. Earlier, he supervised the soundtrack of the Streisand version of A Star Is Born, one of the biggest-selling film-related album of all time. He also supervised the scores for projects like Batman, The Matrix, Harry Potter and Ocean’s Eleven. Before he was a movie exec, LeMel was a jazz singer who released a few singles in the 1950s and’60s. After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010, LeMel joined a jazz group named the Fifth Dementia, which included members diagnosed with dementia.

 

The Greek German
In the 1970s, my mother swooned for Greek-born schlager singer Costa Cordalis, with his flowing black locks, sporty 1,88m tall built, winning Colgate smile and easily escaping chest hair. Cordalis also had an attractive personality which compensated for the banal schlager tunes he sang. But in 1974 behind his happy personality there was the pain of being stateless. Cordalis, who came to West-Germany in 1961 at the age of 16, couldn’t get German citizenship, but had also lost his Greek citizenship because he declined to be drafted into the Greek army, then under fascist control. With the fall of the regime in 1975, that problem was solved. Cordalis remained a cultural icon in Germany, also as an actor playing a Greek tavern owner on the soapie Lindenstrasse. In 2004 he won the German version of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Two decades earlier, in 1985, the then 40-year-old represented Greece in the Nordic World Ski Championships in Innsbruck. He came last — but still was the national champion of the country to which he just a decade earlier couldn’t return.

 

Paul McCallum, bassist of The Wombles, on June 26
The Wombles – The Womble Shuffle (1975)

Sid Ramin, 100, composer, arranger, conductor, on July 1
Barbra Streisand – Draw Me A Circle (1964, as arranger)
Andy Williams – Music To Watch Girls By (1967, as composer)
Sid Ramin – Stiletto (1969)

Oss Kröher, 91, German singer-songwriter, half of duo Hein & Oss, on July 1
Hein & Oss – Brüder, zur Sonne, zur Freiheit (1975)

Costa Cordalis, 75, Greek-born schlager singer, on July 2
Costa Cordalis – Carolina, komm (1973)

Duncan Lamont, 87, Scottish jazz saxophonist, on July 2
Duncan Lamont – Lazy Sunday (1973)

Paolo Vinaccia, 65, jazz percussionist, on July 5

João Gilberto, 88, Brazilian singer-songwriter, guitarist, bossa nova pioneer, on July 6
João Gilberto – Anjo Cruel (1951)
Getz/Gilberto – The Girl From Ipanema (1963)
João Gilberto – Wave (1977)
João Gilberto – Da Cor Do Pecado (2000)

Thommy Gustafsson, 71, keyboardist of Swedish dansband Sven-Ingvars, on July 6

Yannis Spathas, 68, guitarist of Greek blues-rock band Socrates, on July 6
Socrates Drank the Conium – Live In The Country (1972)

Gary LeMel, 80, jazz singer and Warners Bros. head of music, on July 6
Gary LeMel – What’s The Use Of My Cryin’ (1957)

Martin Charnin, 84, lyricist and theatre director, on July 6
Nancy Wilson – Ten Good Years (1965, as lyricist)
Andrea McArdle – The Hard-Knock Life (1977, as lyricist)

Jonathan Hodge, 78, English musician, composer and jingles writer, on July 7
Scott Fitzgerald & Yvonne Keeley – If I Had Words (1978, as writer)

James Henke, 65, music journalist, curator of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, on July 8

Jerry Lawson, 75, singer with a cappella band The Persuasions, on July 10
The Persuasions – It’s Alright (1970)
The Persuasions – I Could Never Love Another (1971)
The Persuasions – Tired And My Soul (2000)

Dick Richards, 95, drummer of Bill Haley & His Comets, on July 12
Bill Haley & The Comets – Shake Rattle And Roll (1954)
The Jodimars – Well Now Dig This (1955)

Arno Marsh, 91, jazz saxophonist, on July 12
Woody Herman and The New Third Herd – Teressita (1952, on tenor sax)

Russell Smith, 70, singer of country-rock band Amazing Rhythm Aces, on July 12
Amazing Rhythm Aces – Third Rate Romance (1975, also as writer)

Dick “Slide” Hyde, 83, trombonist, on July 15
Claudia Lennear – Goin’ Down (1973, on trombone)
Steely Dan – Deacon Blues (1977, on trombone)
Supertramp – Breakfast In America (1979, on tuba)
Joe Cocker – You Can Leave Your Hat On (1986, on trombone)

Johnny Clegg, 66, South African singer and cultural icon, on July 16
Juluka – Scatterlings Of Africa (1982)
Johnny Clegg and Savuka – Asimbonanga (1987)
Johnny Clegg and Savuka – The Crossing (1993)
Johnny Clegg feat. Jesse Clegg – I’ve Been Looking (2017)

Pat Kelly, 70, Jamaican reggae singer, on July 16
Pat Kelly – How Long Will It Take (1969)

Bill Vitt, session drummer, on July 16
Jerry Garcia & Howard Wales – South Side Strut (1971, on drums)

Ruud Jacobs, 81, Dutch jazz bassist and producer, on July 18

Bob Frank, 75, folk singer-songwriter, on July 18
Bob Frank – She Pawned Her Diamond For Some Gold (1972)

Anthony Smith, 61, keyboardist of Australian new wave band Flowers, on July 19
Flowers – Icehouse (1980)

Inger Berggren, 85, Swedish schlager singer, on July 19

Art Neville, 81, singer, keyboardist, songwriter with The Meters, Neville Brothers, on July 22
Art Neville – Cha Dooky-Doo (1957)
Art Neville – All These Things (1962) (1962)
The Meters – Look-Ka Py Py (1970)
LaBelle – All Girl Band (1974, on organ)

Neville Brothers – My Blood (1989)

Daniel Rae Costello, 58, Samoan guitarist, on July 22

John Ferriter, 59, singer, songwriter, talent scout, TV producer, on July 25

Ras G, 39, hip hop DJ and producer, on July 29
Ras G – We Fly Together (2019)

Lol Mason, lead singer of UK bands City Boy, The Maisonettes, on July 30
City Boy – 5.7.0.5. (1978)
The Maisonettes – Heartache Avenue (1982)

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In Memoriam – June 2019

July 4th, 2019 4 comments

It has been a sad month for New Orleans, with two of her greatest sons passing on. And there was the horrible murder of a talented drummer, and the death of the son of an apartheid foreign minister.

The Swamp Doctor
He was around for so long that it seemed he was indestructible. A heart attack showed that Dr. John wasn’t. Death might have claimed Malcolm John Rebennack much earlier: in his young days in New Orleans he had started his music career, but he also was a petty criminal, a pimp and a heroin addict, landing in jail in 1965. Upon release from the clink Rebennack was told to get out of town, so he went to L.A. and, restyled as Dr. John, begun an illustrious career as a swamp-blues singer, session keyboardist (and percussionist, such as on Aretha Franklin’s Rock Steady) and record producer.

New Orleans Legend
One of the strange effects of running, or reading, a series like thus is that sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised that an artist was still alive…until their death. Having reached the great age of 100, the great songwriter and bandleader Dave Bartholomew probably was presumed dead long ago by many people. Even if his name means nothing to you, you’ll have heard his songs: his protégé Fats Domino had hits with Batholomew (co-)compositions such as Ain’t That a Shame, I’m Walking’ and Blue Monday, Elvis Presley’s One Night, Gale Storm/Dave Edmunds’ I Hear You Knocking (like One Night and Blue Monday, originally recorded by Smiley Lewis), and, in a regrettable cover version, Chuck Berry’s My Ding-A-Ling, which Bartholomew had first recorded himself in 1952. A musician, bandleader, composer, arranger, and producer, Bartholomew did much to direct New Orleans’ contribution to rock & roll.

The Session Drummer
If you have listened to country music from the 1960s or ‘70s, you’ll have heard Jerry Carrigan’s drumming along the way. An early member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, he made his name as a session man in Nashville. For once, the cliché of “whom didn’t he play with?” holds true. If they were big in Nashville, Carrigan drummed for them. Besides country stars, he also played for the likes of Elvis Presley, The Monkees, Tony Joe White (also on Polk Salad Annie) and Johnny Mathis.

The Geto Boy
Starting as a dancer for Texan hip-hop outfit Geto Boys, Bushwick Bill graduated to become a rapper in that pioneering group — and perhaps its visual icon. He stood out anyway because of his lack of height — he measured 1,12m (or 3’8) — but eventually perhaps more so for his missing eye in a self-inflicted wound. In 1991 he shot himself in the eye; a photo of the injured Bill on a gurney, pushed by bandmates Scarface and Willie D, became the cover of the Geto Boys’ third album, We Can’t Be Stopped. Bushwick Bill, who later became a born-again Christian, eventually was stopped: undramatically, by cancer.

The Last Brother Standing
Suddenly all members of the country trio Tompall & The Glaser Brothers are dead. Tompall went already in 2013; Jim died in April this year, and just over two months later middle-brother Chuck Glaser died at 83. It was Chuck’s composition Five Penny Nickel that served as the brothers’ debut single in 1958, after they had been discovered by Marty Robbins. The group would go on to back Robbins and others, including Johnny Cash (also on Ring Of Fire) before they broke big as an act in their own right. Chuck wrote for acts like Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and Anita Carter.

Murdered
For New York jazz drummer Lawrence Leathers, the end was grisly. In an argument with his girlfriend and another guy, he was allegedly beaten for half an hour and eventually choked to death. His body was left in the stairwell of the Bronx apartment building where he lived. As a member of the Aaron Diehl Trio, he won two Grammys backing singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.

The Manager
It is not often that managers, music executives and their like feature in the In Memoriam series, but Elliot Roberts merits the exception. Roberts was the life-long manager of Neil Young and, until 1985, Joni Mitchell. He launched the careers of both. Later Roberts helped launch the careers of The Cars and Tracy Chapman. He also managed Crosby, Stills & Nash and Tom Petty. Early in his music career, he helped David Geffen set up Asylum Records.

Son of the Foreign Minister
Lately we’ve had people dying who had moved from punk to being a judge, and from making ska records to being a right-wing prime minister. In June we lost the son of an apartheid-era foreign minister. Blues and rock singer Piet Botha probably loved his dad, Pik Botha, but clearly was not the type to wear khaki suits and jovially justify the murder of children. Piet probably really pissed off his father in the early 1980s when he recorded a song about the Angolan Border War, white South Africa’s version of the Vietnam War. Piet Botha was a pioneer of Afrikaans alternative music, and was one of the first musicians to be included in his country’s Hall of Fame. As frontman of the blues-rock collective Jack Hammer (which at one point included actor Billy Bob Thornton) Botha was also known as The Hammer.

 

MC Reaça, 25, Brazilian singer, suicide on June 1

Lawrence Leathers, 37, jazz drummer and percussionist, strangled on June 2
Cécile McLorin Salvant – Devil May Care (2017, on drums)

Piet Botha, 63, South African rock musician, on June 2
Piet Botha – Suitcase vol winter (2012)
Jack Hammer – Handful Of Rain (2016)

Mikey Dees, singer and guitarist of metal-punk band Fitz of Depression, on June 4

Brian Doherty, 51, guitarist of rock band Big Wreck, on June 5
Big Wreck – That Song (1997)
Big Wreck – All By Design (2001)

Dr. John, 77, singer-songwriter, on June 6
Mac Rebennack – Storm Warning (1959)
Dr. John – I Walk On Guilded Splinters (1968)
Ringo Starr – All By Myself (1974, on piano)
The Band with Dr John – Such A Night (1978)
Dr. John & Chris Barber – Big Bass Drum (On A Mardi Gras Day) (1990)

Spencer Bohren, 69, roots music guitarist, on June 8
Spencer Bohren – Lost Highway (2004)

Tre Da Kid, 32, American rapper, shot dead on June 8

Andre Matos, 47, Brazilian heavy metal singer, on June 8
Angra – Carry On (1993, as lead singer)

Bushwick Bill, 52, Jamaican-born rapper with Geto Boys, on June 9
Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks On Me (1991)
Dr. Dre feat. Bushwick Bill – Stranded On Death Row (1992)

Jim Pike, 82, co-founder and lead singer of The Lettermen, on June 9
The Lettermen – Where Or When (1963)

Paul ‘Lil’ Buck’ Sinegal, 75, zydeco & blues guitarist, singer, on June 10

Chuck Glaser, 83, country singer, on June 10
Tompall Glaser & The Glaser Brothers – Five Penny Nickel (1958)
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – A Girl Like You (1972)
Chuck Glaser – Gypsy Queen (1973)
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – The Last Thing On My Mind (1981)

Enrico Nascimbeni, 59, Italian singer and writer, on June 11
Enrico Nascimbeni – La Stanza Di Marinella (1979)

Ray Ceeh, 33, Zimbabwean musician, murdered on June 12

Nature Ganganbaigal, 29, founder of Mongolian rock band Tengger Cavalry, on June 13

Bishop Bullwinkle, 70, singer and comedian, on June 16
Bishop Bullwinkel – Hell To The Naw Naw (2014)

Sergey Ostroumov, 53, drummer of Russian rock band Mashina Vremeni, on June 16

Adam Litovitz, 36, Canadian musician and composer, on June 16
JOOJ feat. Sook Yin Lee & Adam Litovitz – Ghost Of Love (2015, also as co-writer)

Philippe Zdar, 50, musician with French electronic duo Cassius and producer, on June 19
Cassius – Cassius 1999 (1999)

Kelly Jay Fordham, 77, Canadian singer-songwriter, keyboard player, on June 21
Crowbar – Oh, What A Feeling (1971, as member and co-writer)

Elliot Roberts, 76, music executive and manager, on June 21
Neil Young – Comes A Time (1978, as “director”)

Eamon Friel, 70, Northern Irish singer-songwriter and broadcaster, on June 21
Eamon Friel – Farewell Mayo (2000)

Jerry Carrigan, 75, country session drummer, on June 22
Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On (1961, on drums)
Eddy Arnold – Make The World Go Away (1965, on drums)
Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner – The Last Thing On My Mind
Kris Kristofferson – Silver Tongued Devil (1971, on drums)
O.B. McClinton – Unluckiest Songwriter In Nashville (1973, on drums)

Paulo Pagni, 61, drummer of Brazilian rock band RPM, on June 22

Dave Bartholomew, 100, musician, bandleader and songwriter, on June 23
Dave Bartholomew and His Sextette – She’s Got Great Big Eyes (1947)
Dave Bartholomew – Little Girl Sing, Ding-A-Ling (1952)
Smiley Lewis – I Hear You Knocking (1955, as co-writer)
Fats Domino – I’m In Love Again (1956, as co-writer)

Jeff Austin, 45, mandolinist and singer of the Yonder Mountain String Band, on June 24
Yonder Mountain String Band – Half Moon Rising (1999)

Davide Galli, bassist of rock band Throw Down Bones, motorbike accident on June 24

Tony Hall, 91, British producer, label executive, manager, journalist, on June 26
Tubby Hayes & Ronnie Scott – Mirage (1958, as producer)
The Locomotive – Rudis In Love (1968, as co-producer)
The Real Thing – Plastic Man (1972, as co-producer)

Astrid North, 45, German soul singer, on June 26

Gualberto Castro, 84, singer with Mexican combo Los Hermanos Castro, on June 27
Los Hermanos Castro – Yo Sin Ti (1966)

Hella Sketchy, 18, rapper, on June 28

Gary Duncan, 72, guitarist of rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service, on June 29
Quicksilver Messenger Service – Pool Hall Chili (1986)

Anne Vanderlove, 75, French singer-songwriter, on June 30

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In Memoriam – May 2019

June 4th, 2019 3 comments

After last month’s relative quiet time, the Reaper returned with a vengeance, killing off the old and a young star who had just enjoyed a massive summer hit, and cutting a swathe through late 1960s/early 1970s soul.

Not brought up that way

The obituaries have covered all there’s to know about Doris Day, though the emphasis was mostly on her acting career, and correctly so. The casual reader might have thought that Day’s music output, especially the ubiquitous Que Sera Sera, owed to her film career. But before she was a movie star, Doris Day was an accomplished jazz singer, starting her career as a teenager in 1939, and scoring a few big hits in 1945, including the original version of Sentimental Journey with Les Baxter’s Orchestra, which features here.

The Mod Squadder

Famous mostly as a TV actress on The Mod Squad and later Twin Peaks, or as a model, or as the wife of Quincy Jones and mother of actress Rashieda Jones, Peggy Lipton also recorded a bunch of Lou Adler-produced songs, including one album. One of these songs, the gorgeous but largely unknown Red Clay Country Line from 1969, featured on the Any Major Jimmy Webb Vol. 2 mix. Three of Lipton’s singles reached the lower ends of the US charts, with one of them, the Laura Nyro-written Stoney End, later being covered by Barbra Streisand. Lipton is, oddly, credited as a co-writer of Frank Sinatra’s 1984 song L.A. Is My Lady, which was produced by then-husband Quincy Jones.

The bass singer

In 2012 the 60-year-long career of The Dells came to an end when founder members Marvin Junior and Chuck Barksdale retired due to illness. The former died the following year; bass singer Barksdale left us in May. The Dells were one of the groups that made the transition from doo wop to soul, having scored a classic in 1957 with Oh What A Night (most recently featured in the Any Major Music From The Sopranos Vol. 1 mix), and becoming a soul fixture in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

The Ageless Singer

1980s TV viewers may be familiar with the voice of Leon Redbone from the theme of the sitcom Mr. Belvedere. Championed by Bob Dylan, the Cyprus-born singer with roots in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem had his own anachronistic style, singing old classics – Tin Pan Alley, blues, ragtime – at a time when the world sought disco, rock or punk. Known for his bushy moustache, hat and sunglasses, Redbone was cagey about his private life, to the point of denying to know how old he was (he was 69 when he died). Redbone released his final album in 2016.

Look at him!

With the death of bass singer Willie Ford, only one member of the classic early-’70s line-up of soul group The Dramatics survives in founder member Larry Demps. Ford joined the band as a 20-year-old after it had recorded initial success in 1970 (after the Algiers Motel incident), having previously sung with The Capitols, albeit after their solitary hit, Cool Jerk. With The Dramatics Ford scored a soul classic with 1972’s Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get (he does the famous “Look at me”). He stayed with The Dramatics for the duration of their career, including a stint when, due to the band splitting in two, it had to go by the name A Dramatic Experience. In the end, The Dramatics were again two entities, one led by Ford and the other by L.J. Reynolds (who had joined the band in 1973). In 1993, The Dramatics, who once sang of sweet love and social justice, assisted Snoop Dogg in his misogynist rapey anthem Doggy Dogg World.

The Mad Lad

On the same day as Ford, another soul singer joined the heavenly chorus in John Gary Williams, the lead singer of The Mad Lads whose high tenor gave that vocal group its sweet sound. The Tennessee group had some success on Stax in the mid-1960s, but their efforts at reaching stardom were halted when Williams and co-member William Brown were drafted into the army in 1966. After his release from the army, Williams was reinstalled as lead singer, scoring a couple more hits before The Mad Lads disbanded in 1973. Williams embarked on a solo career which produced good songs but little success before reforming The Mad Lads, releasing a final album in 1990.

Tony Soprano Drive-time

Heading the Any Major Sopranos mix mentioned earlier was, of course, the theme track, Woke Up This Morning by Scottish acid house band Alabama 3, which accompanied us as Tony Soprano drive from New York to Newark. Jake Black, co-writer and co-leader of the group, died in May. A3 (as they had be called in the US at the threat of court action by country act Alabama) wrote the song as a feminist anthem about a woman who shot dead her abusive husband. Black saw a paradox in the track being used to score a TV show about the mafia: “It’s totally ironic that we, who disapprove of anything villains do, should be picked for the theme song of a show that shows the human side of villains,” he said in an interview.

Summer Hit Tragedy

Just a few months ago, Gabriel Diniz had a huge summer hits in Brazil with Jenifer, achieving the big breakthrough after releasing three albums, On May 26, the 28-year-old died in a plane crash.

From Punk to Bench

Few career paths led from punk to the judge’s chair, but so it was with Susan Beschta, who with her art-pink band Erasers were a fixture on New York’s CBGB scene in the 1970s. The band attracted great reviews for their live shows but won no recording contract. They ended up recording only three songs. After the band split in 1981, Beschta tried her hand at a solo career, which didn’t take off. A feminist and social activist, she turned to the world of law as a means of making a difference. After doing nine years of legal work for Catholic Charities in New York and then for an immigration firm, she joined the US Department of Homeland Security, with a special brief on immigration. In November she was sworn in as a judge, before the cancer that eventually killed her returned.

President of Ska

Long before he became the right-wing Jamaican premier through the 1980s, Edward Seaga (or CIAga, as the Reagan ally was called by his opponents) was a producer of ska records, many of which he released on his own label, WIRL. As such, the future political leader was influential in spreading ska music.

 

John Starling, 79, bluegrass musician with The Seldom Scene, on May 2
The Seldom Scene – Wait A Minute (2014, on vocals)

Juan Vicente Torrealba, 102, Venezuelan harpist and folk-composer, on May 2
Los Torrealberos – Los Garceros (1954)

Susan Beschta, 67, punk pioneer and judge, on May 2
Erasers – Funny (1970s)

Patrick Gibson, 57, Australian musician and radio producer, on May 3
Ya Ya Choral – Waiting Time (1982)

Mose ‘Fan Fan’ Se Sengo, 73, Congolese Soukous pioneer, on May 3
Mose Fanfan – Papa Lolo (2004)

R. Cobb, 75, songwriter and guitarist with Classics IV, Atlanta Rhythm Section, on May 4
The Classics IV – Stormy (1969, also as co-writer)
Atlanta Rhythm Section – Do It Or Die (1979, also as co-writer)

Pekka Airaksinen, 73, Finnish avant-garde composer and musician, on May 6

Chris Holmes, 73, keyboardist of English psychedelic rock band Timebox, in May
Timebox – Don’t Make Promises (1967)

Fritz Novotny, 78, Austrian jazz saxophonist and composer, on May 7

Luther Jennings, 86, gospel singer with The Jackson Southernaires, on May 8
The Jackson Southernaires – Can’t Make It By Myself (1978, also as co-writer)

Preston Epps, 88, percussionist, on May 9
Preston Epps – Bongo Rock (1959)

Lee Hale, 96, songwriter and director/producer of dance-troupe The Golddiggers, on May 10

Peggy Lipton, 72, actress, model and singer, on May 11
Peggy Lipton – Stoney End (1968)
Peggy Lipton – Lu (1970)

Glenn Martin, 86, country songwriter, on May 12
Merle Haggard – It’s Not Love (But It’s Not Bad) (1972, as co-writer)
Millie Jackson – If You’re Not Back In Love By Monday (1978, as co-writer)

Doris Day, 97, singer and actress, on May 13
Les Brown with his Orchestra – Sentimental Journey (1945, on vocals)
Doris Day – Again (1949)
Doris Day – Move Over Darling (1963)

Mari Griffith, 79, Welsh folk singer, author and radio presenter, on May 13
Mari Griffith – Dona, Dona (1968)

Mike Wilhelm, 77, guitarist, songwriter with The Charlatans, Flamin’ Groovies, on May 14
The Charlatans – The Shadow Knows (1966)
Flamin’ Groovies – Move It (1978)

Leon Rausch, 91, country & western singer, on May 14
Leon Raush – Brand New World (1967)

Chuck Barksdale, 84, bass vocalist in soul band The Dells, on May 15
The Dells – Q-Bop She-Bop (1957)
The Dells – Please Don’t Change Me Now (1968)
The Dells – If You Go Away (1971)

Leola Jiles, 77, soul singer, on May 16
The Apollas – Just Can Get Enough Of You (1965)
Leola Jiles – Keep It Coming (1967)

Sol Yaged, 96, jazz clarinetist, on May 16
Phil Napoleon – Bonaparte’s Retreat (1950, on clarinet)

Mick Micheyl, 97, French singer and artist, on May 16
Mick Micheyl – Un gamin Paris (1961)

Eric Moore, 67, singer and bassist of hard rock band The Godz, on May 17
The Godz – Gotta Keep A Runnin’ (1978)

Geneviéve Waite, 71, South African actress and singer; mother of Bijou Philips, on May 18
Geneviéve Waite – Femme Fatale (1974)

Melvin Edmonds, 65, R&B singer, brother of Babyface, on May 18
After 7 – Ready Or Not (1989)

Nilda Fernández, 61, Spanish-born chanson singer, on May 19
Nilda Fernández – Yo le decía (1992)

Jake Black, 59, singer of Scottish house act Alabama 3, on May 21
Alabama 3 – Woke Up This Morning (Acoustic) (1997)
Alabama 3 – Sad Eyed Lady Of The Low Life (2000)

Gabriel Diniz, 28, Brazilian singer, in plane crash on May 27
Gabriel Diniz – Jenifer (2018)

Edward Seaga, 89, ska producer and Jamaican prime minister, on May 28
Laurel Aitken – Stars Were Made (1961)

Willie Ford, 68, singer with soul band The Dramatics, on May 28
The Dramatics – Watcha See Is Watcha Get (1972)
The Dramatics – Hey You! Get Off My Mountain (1973)
The Dramatics – You’re The Best Thing In My Life (1980)

John Gary Williams, 73, lead singer of soul group The Mad Lads, on May 28
The Mad Lads – Patch My Heart (1966)
The Mad Lads – So Nice (1969)
John Gary Williams – The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy (1973)

Tony Glover, 79, blues harmonica player, on May 29
Koerner, Ray & Glover – Down To Louisiana (1963)

Jeff Walls, guitarist of pop group Guadalcanal Diary, on May 29
Guadalcanal Diary – Trail Of Tears (1984)

Leon Redbone, 69, singer-songwriter and actor, on May 30
Leon Redbone – Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now) (1978)
Leon Redbone – Theme Of Mr. Belvedere (1985)
Leon Redbone – Save Your Sorrow (2014)

Roky Erickson, 71, rock singer-songwriter, on May 31
13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me (1966)

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In Memoriam – April 2019

May 2nd, 2019 4 comments

April was shaping up to be a gentle month, and then there was a death that shook me, even if I had never heard of the artist before. But more about that later…

If there was an impossible-not-to sing-along-to English pop song in the charts in the 1960s, chances were that Les Reed co-wrote it (often with Geoff Stephens). His classic hits include It’s Not Unusual and Delilah (Tom Jones), The Last Waltz, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize and When There’s No You (Engelbert Humperdinck), There’s A Kind Of Hush (Hermanâ’s Hermits and later Carpenters), Everybody Knows (Dave Clark Five), Here It Comes Again (The Fortunes), I Pretend (Des O”™Connor), Leave A Little Love (Lulu) and many others. He also wrote song for Elvis and Bing Crosby.

In the 1980s, Earl Thomas Conley was one of the biggest country stars, notching up 18 Billboard Country #1s, plus a bunch of #2 hits – but he never achieved crossover success. That amazing run of hits came after a time of struggle in the 1970s, kicking off with the 1981 country chart-topper Fire And Smoke and neatly ending in 1989 with Love Out Loud. Another #2 hit followed in 1991, and that was the end of Conley’s chart dominance. He continued to record and write songs, including Blake Shelton’s 2002 hit All Over Me. Conley was the first (and possibly only) country star to appear on Soul Train when he performed his duet with Anita Pointer, Too Many Times, on the show.

Almost exactly a month after Danny and the Juniors member and songwriter David White died, baritone Joe Terry (or Terranova) passed away. While White had washed his hands off the Juniors by the 1960s, Terry led the group right to the end, with the now only surviving original member Frank Maffei and Maffei’s brother Bobby. Terry’s death has probably put an end to the 62-year career of Danny and The Juniors.

The month’s most heartbreaking pop death is that of teenage Brazilian singer and TV personality Yasmim Gabrielle. Well-known in Brazil as a child-singer on the TV shows of Raul Gil Junior, Yasmin died at only 17 of suicide, brought on by clinical depression, probably aggravated by personal tragedy and a sense of loss of purpose after her child career ended. Yasmim’s death is a reminder that depression is a disease that can kill, even teenagers – and perhaps especially such young people who have had no chance to accumulate the life skills to fight it, even by knowing to seek help.

 

William Carvan Isles II, 79, co-founder of the O’Jays, on March 25
The O”™Jays – Lipstick Traces (On A Cigarette) (1965)

Armando Vega Gil, 64, composer, bassist of Mexican band Botellita de Jerez, suicide on April 1
Botellita de Jerez – El Zarco (1986)

Kim English, 48, house and gospel singer-songwriter, on April 2
Kim English – Treat Me Right (2010)

Rick Elias, 64, musician, member of A Ragamuffin Band, on April 2
Rick Elias – Confession Of Love (1990)

Einar Iversen, 88, Norwegian jazz pianist and composer, on April 3

Tiger Merritt, 31, singer-guitarist of rock band Morning Teleportation, on April 4
Morning Teleportation – Eyes The Same (2011)

Alberto Cortez, 79, Argentine singer and songwriter, on April 4

Sam Pilafian, 69, tuba player, on April 4
Sam Pilafian – Tiger Rag (1991)

Davey Williams, 66, guitarist with free-jazz band Curlew, music critic, on April 5

Shawn Smith, 53, alt.rock singer and songwriter, on April 5
Brad – The Day Brings (1997, on vocals)

Pastor Lopez, 74, Venezuelan cumbia singer-songwriter, on April 5
Pastor Lopez y Su Combo – Cali bonita (1982)

Ib Glindemann, 84, Danish jazz composer and bandleader, on April 5

Jim Glaser, 82, American country singer and songwriter, on April 6
Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – Rings (1972)
Jim Glaser – You’re Gettin’ to Me Again (1984)

Paul Severs, 70, Belgian singer, on April 9

Earl Thomas Conley, 77, country singer-songwriter, on April 10
Earl Thomas Conley – Holding Her And Loving You (1983)
Earl Thomas Conley & Anita Pointer – Too Many Times (1986)
Blake Shelton – All Over Me (2001)

Johnny Hutchinson, 78, drummer of English rock & roll band The Big Three, on April 12
The Big Three – Some Other Guy (1963)

Dina, 62, Portuguese singer, on April 12

Paul Raymond, 73, keyboardist (Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown, UFO, on April 13
Chicken Shack – Maudie (1970)
UFO – Young Blood (1980)

Joe Terry (Terranova), 78, baritone of doo wop band Danny & the Juniors, on April 15
Danny & The Juniors – Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay (1958)

Les Reed, 83, English songwriter, on April 15
The Fortunes – Here It Comes Again (1965, as co-writer)
Herman’s Hermits – There’s A Kind Of Hush (1967, as co-writer)
Peter Alexander – Delilah (1968, as co-writer)
Elvis Presley – Girl Of Mine (1973, as co-writer)

Kent Harris, 88, American songwriter and producer, on April 16
The Coasters – Shoppin’ For Clothes (1960, as co-writer)

Eddie Tigner, 92, blues singer, keyboardist and songwriter, on April 18
Eddie Tigner – Home At Last (2009)

MC Sapão, 40, Brazilian singer, on April 19

Omar Higgins, 37, bassist of reggae-punk band Negro Terror, on April 20

Yasmim Gabrielle, 17, Brazilian singer and TV personality, of suicide on April 21

Dave Samuels, 70, percussionist of jazz-fusion band Spyro Gyra, on April 22
Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance (1979)

Dick Rivers, 74, French rock and roll singer with Les Chats Sauvages, on April 24
Les Chats Sauvages – Twist a Saint Tropez (1961)

Reijo Taipale, 79, Finnish singer, on April 26

Phil McCormack, 58, singer of rock band Molly Hatchet (after 1996), on April 26
Molly Hatchet – Mississippi Moon Dog (1998)

Jack de Mello, 102, Hawaiian music composer and producer, on April 27

Jo Loesser, 91, musical theatre actress, on April 28

Beth Carvalho, 72, Brazilian samba singer and guitarist, on April 30
Beth Carvalho – Coisinha do Pai (1979)

Boon Gould, 64, guitarist of Level 42, on April 30
Level 42 – Starchild (1981, also as co-writer)
Level 42 – Something About You (1985, also as co-writer)

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In Memoriam – March 2019

April 2nd, 2019 6 comments

March saw the fall of at least three stone-cold legends, and tragic death of an up-and-coming band.

The Great Baritone
The voice of an Engel has fallen silent with the death at 76 of the versatile Scott Walker. The obits have covered Walker’s life and career, and it needs no rehashing here. But it’s worth noting that few artists have had a career that spans teen idol pop, interpretative chanson, avant-garde and neo-classical music — and fewer still who could pull it off as Walker did (though, in some cases, I have to rely on critical consensus rather than my own judgment).

The Drummer of a Thousand Hits
He might have lived till he was 90 and not contributed anything to pop music in a long time, but to those who knew his role in music history will have grieved the death of Hal Blaine. The two mixes I put together of songs Blaine played on, as part of the Wrecking Crew, tell only a small part of his story. They are, of course, worth revisiting. Blaine was a total pro, knowing when to hold back, when to let go, and when to innovate (with snowchains on Bridge Over Troubled Water, in an elevator shaft on The Boxer, with a glass ashtray on Dean Martin’s Houston).  And he was a total gentleman; his acts of kindness and generosity are legendary. The world was richer with Hal Blaine in it. And look at his “farewell letter” (click to enlarge), issued in January”¦

The Guitar Pioneer
Without Dick Dale, how might things have been for the Beach Boys or Jan & Dean or any of the surf guitar bands? No doubt, Dale was massively influential, not only in producing the sound of surf rock, but also in pushing the limits of guitar and amplifier technology in his cooperation with Leo Fender. Heavy metal owes Dick Dale! Born Richard Mansour, he was from Lebanese stock, and so incorporated his love of Arab music in his sound. His most famous song, Misirlou, is a good example of that (though that song was a cover of a much older Greek tune).

The Top Ranker
For many people of my generation in the UK or Europe, the ska revival spearheaded by bands such as The Specials or The Beat was a cultural marker. The Beat’s co-frontman Rankin Roger was a symbol of that new kind of music that made political statements you could dance to. After The Beat split, Ranking Roger joined General Public, a supergroup comprising fellow Beat frontman Dave Wakeling, Clash guitarist Mick Jones, Specials bassist Horace Panter, and Dexys Midnight Runner keyboardist Mickey Billingham and drummer Stoker. That outfit was more successful in the US than in the UK, partially thanks to the inclusion of the hit Tenderness (more new wave than ska) in John Hughes movies. Ranking Roger continued to perform and record, sometimes with acts like Big Audio Dynamite and Sly & Robbie, also touring with the reformed Police in 2007 as special guest.

The Rock & Roll Writer
As a member of doo-wop band Danny & The Juniors, David White co-wrote one of the great rock & roll classics with At The Hop. He went on to write Rock And Roll Is Here To Stay, then co-wrote Lesley Gore’s You Don’t Own Me, Cubby Checker’s The Fly, and Len Barry’s 1-2-3. He formed The Spokesman with songwriting and production partner John Madara and a radio DJ to issue the right-wing answer record to Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction, titled Dawn Of Correction. The opening verse goes: “The western world has a common dedication to keep free people from Red domination. And maybe you can’t vote, boy, but man your battle stations, or there’ll be no need for votin’ in future generations.”

The Comeback Man
Fans of The Blues Brothers will know at least one song co-written by R&B singer Andre Williams: his Shake A Tailfeather, a 1967 hit for James & Bobby Purify, was sung in the movie by Ray Charles. Williams recorded it towards the end of his long career which produced a number of minor hits but never brought the big breakthrough. In between, he wrote Stevie Wonder’s first-ever song (Thank You For Loving Me), helped produce The Contours and Ike Turner, was a roadie for Edwin Starr, and wrote for the Parliament/Funkadelic collective. Drug addiction in the 1980s ended in a spell of homelessness. The 1990s saw a return to recording, including a 1998 album of rather lewd songs, and a 2000 country-flavoured album (which included a most sinister rendition of Excuse Me, I Have Someone To Kill, featured on Any Major Murder Songs). His last album came out in 2016.

The ‘Punk’ Guitarist
Residing on the shortlist for the Any Major Guitar mixes is the Tom Robinson Band’s 2-4-6-8 Motorway. The superb guitar solo was played by Danny Kustow, who has died at 63 (and played that solo when he was 22). The TRB broke up in 1979, and Kustow did session work with bands like Gen X. He reunited with Robinson for his hit 1984 War Baby.

The Arranger of Classics
Much of the sound of the early 1960s was shaped by Stan Appelbaum, who arranged classic hits of The Drifters (such as Save The Last Dance For Me, There Goes My Baby) and Ben E. King (such as Stand By Me, Spanish Harlem), as well as hits such as Connie Francis’ Where The Boys Are and Brian Hyland’s Sealed With A Kiss and Ginny Come Lately. Others for whom Appelbaum arranged include Lavern Baker, Al Martino, Bobby Vinton, The Coasters, Ray Peterson, Brooke Benton, Lonnie Donegan, Damita Jo, Sam Cooke, Paul Anka, Johnny Preston, Dion, Curtis Lee, Gene Pitney, Cliff Richard, Sammy Davis Jr. and others. Along the way he arranged for jazz musicians like Cal Tjader and Don Cherry, and mentored Neil Sedaka, who first recorded with the Stan Appelbaum Orchestra. Before all that, in the 1950s, he arranged for several jazz greats, including Benny Goodman and Sarah Vaughan. Applebaum was also composed for commercials, with his best-known work being PanAm Airlines Makes the Going Great.

The Blues-Rock Voice
In October we lost Ray Owen, original singer of UK blues-rock band Juicy Lucy. On the first of the month, Owen’s successor in the group, Paul Williams, passed away at 78. With his first band, the Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, he played alongside future Police guitarist Andy Summers. Next Williams joined John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, replacing future Fleetwood Mac legend John McVie. He recorded only one album with Juicy Lucy (where he sang alongside future Whitesnake guitarist Mick Moody). In 1973 he joined Tempest, which also included guitarist Allan Holdsworth, whom Williams went on to join in is I.O.U. jazz-fusion outfit.

A Cruel End
Having released two critically well-received albums, the Liverpool duo Her’s was expected to go a long way towards stardom. That was brutally cut short when members Stephen Fitzpatrick, 24, and Audun Laading, 25, died alongside their tour manager, Trevor Engelbrektson, in a head-on traffic collision in Arizona, during a 19-date US tour. They were on their way from a gig the night before in Phoenix to Santa Ana in California when they collided with a pick-up truck which apparently was travelling in the wrong direction. The other driver also died.

 

Stan Applebaum, 97, arranger and conductor, on February 28
Sarah Vaughan & Billy Eckstine – Passing Strangers (1957, as arranger & conductor)
Neil Sedaka with Stan Applebaum and his Orchestra – Stairway To Heaven (1960)
LaVern Baker – No Love So True (1962, as arranger)
Ben E. King – Don’t Play That Song For Me (1962, as arranger)

Paul Williams, 78, English singer, on March 1
Paul Williams & The Big Roll Band – Gin House (1964)
Juicy Lucy – Thinking Of My Life (1970, also as writer)
Allan Holdsworth – Checking Out (1982, on lead vocals)

Al Hazan, 84, musician, producer and songwriter, on March 2
Ritchie Valens – Hi-Tone (1959, as writer)

Janice Freeman, 33, singer, contestant on The Voice (US), on March 2

Leo de Castro, 70, New Zealand soul singer and guitarist, on March 3
Johnny Rocco Band – Heading In The Right Direction (1975, on lead vocals)

Kate Cook, 36, singer, contestant on Australian Idol, on March 3

Keith Flint, 49, singer of The Prodigy, suicide on March 4
The Prodigy – Firestarter (1996)

Sara Romweber, 55, drummer of pop-rock band Let’s Active, on March 5
Let’s Active- Horizon (1988)

Jacques Loussier, 84, French jazz pianist, arranger and composer, on March 5
Jacques Loussier Trio – Bach’s Prelude Nº 1 In C Major (1959)
Go-Betweens – Part Company (1984, on synth)

Mike Grose, original bassist of Queen (in 1970), on March 6

Charlie Panigoniak, 72, Canadian Inuktitut singer and guitarist, on March 6

Raymond ‘Don Ray’ Donnez, 76, French producer and conductor, on March 7
Santa Esmeralda – Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood + Esmeralda Suite (1977, as producer, co-writer)
Don Ray – Standing In The Rain (1978)

Eddie Taylor Jr., 46, blues singer and guitarist, on March 8
Eddie Taylor Jr. – The Sky Is Crying (2015)

George “˜Sax”™ Benson, 90, jazz saxophonist, on March 9
Frank Sinatra – Learnin’ The Blues (1955, on trombone)
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971, on tenor saxophone)

Asa Brebner, 65, guitarist, singer and songwriter, on March 10
Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Lover Please (1979, as member)

Charlie Karp, 65, musician and songwriter, on March 10
Joan Jett – Too Bad On Your Birthday (1980, as co-writer)

Hal Blaine, 90, legendary session drummer, on March 11
The Crystals – He’s A Rebel (1962, on drums)
Dean Martin – Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes (1964, on drums)
Beach Boys – Good Vibrations (1967, on drums)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer (1970, on drums)
America – Ventura Highway (1972, on drums)

Danny Kustow, 63, English guitarist with the Tom Robinson Band, on March 11
Tom Robinson Band – Glad To Be Gay (1978)
Tom Robinson – Atmospherics (Listen To The Radio) (1983)

Danny Ben-Israel, 75, Israeli psychedelic rock musician, on March 11

John Kilzer, 62, singer and songwriter, suicide on March 12
John Kilzer – Red Blue Jeans (1988)

Dick Dale, 81, surf music guitarist, on March 16
Dick Dale and his Del-Tones – Lets Go Trippin’ (1962)
Dick Dale and his Del-Tones – Misirlou (1963)
Dick Dale – The Wedge (1963)

Justin Carter, 35, country singer, in accidental shooting on March 16

Dewayne ‘Son’ Smith, half of comedy country duo The Geezinslaws, on March 16
The Geezinslaw Brothers – Peel Me A Nanner (1967)

David White, 79, singer-songwriter with Danny & the Juniors, on March 17
Danny & The Juniors – At The Hop (1957)
Lesley Gore – You Don’t Own Me (1964)
The Spokesmen – The Dawn Of Correction (1965)

Andre Williams, 82, R&B singer, on March 17
Andre Williams – Jail Bait (1956)
Andre Williams – Only Black Man In South Dakota (1998)
Andre Williams – Shake A Tailfeather (2015, also as co-writer)

Yuya Uchida, 79, Japanese singer and actor, on March 17
Flower Travellin’ Band – Hiroshima (1972)

Bernie Tormé, 66, Irish rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, on March 17
Bernie Tormé – Too Young (1983)

Arkadiy Aladyin, 61, drummer of Russian rock band Poyushchiye Gitary, on March 21

Scott Walker, 76, singer-songwriter and producer, on March 22
Scotty Engel – When Is A Boy A Man (1957)
Walker Brothers – Love Her (1965)
Scott Walker – Montague Terrace (In Blue) (1967)
Walker Brothers – No Regrets (1975)
Scott Walker – Only Myself To Blame (1999)

Ranking Roger, 56, singer with English ska band The Beat, General Public, on March 26
The Beat – Stand Down Margaret (1980)
General Public – Tenderness (1984)
Ranking Roger – Mirror In The Bathroom (Dub Mix) (1991)

Stephen Fitzpatrick, 24, half of English rock duo Her’s, in car crash on March 27
Audun Laading, 25, Norwegian-born half of English rock duo Her’s, in car crash on March 27
Her’s – What Once Was (2016)

Joe Flannery, 87, booking manager and friend of The Beatles, on March 28

Billy Adams, 79, rockabilly singer, on March 30

Simaro Lutumba, 81, member of Congolese band TPOK Jazz, on March 30
TPOK Jazz – Zenaba (1973)

Geoff Harvey, 83, Australian musician and music director, on March 30

Nipsey Hussle, 33, American rapper, shot on March 31
Nipsey Hussle – The Hustle Way (2009)

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In Memoriam – February 2019

March 5th, 2019 3 comments

In February The Reaper spared us superstar deaths, though the deaths of a Monkee and the incredible André Previn are notweworthy, as is that of the man who produced Roy Orbison and Kris Kristofferson in their early prime. What this list lacks in famous names it make up with some fascinating background stories.

The Musician Monkee

With the death of Peter Tork, there are now only two Monkees. In the TV series, Tork (who got the gig on recommendation of Stephen Stills, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for the role), played the simple-minded one, quite in contrast to his real personality which valued intellectual pursuit. It is often said that the four Monkees were inferior musicians, which is why the Wecking Crew played on their early records. But Tork was the one member who did play on those recordings. A guitarist, bassist and keyboardist, he was a serious musician with a Greenwich Village folk background. The instantly recognisable keyboard bars that kick off I’m A Believer are Tork’s work. Strangely, for a serious musician, his post-Monkees career was patchy, in terms of output and in success.

 

Producer to Dolly, Kris and Roy

As a young man in the mid-1950s, Fred Foster worked for Mercury Records, being a nuisance to the suits with his promotion of that newfangled rockabilly music. So when he recommended that Mercury sign this young singer Elvis Presley from Sun Records, Mercury made a half-assed bid. When RCA bid more, Mercury (like Atlantic) dropped out of the bidding. Foster proceeded to found Monument Records, for which he produced that great string of Roy Orbison hits such as Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Crying and so on. He signed the young Dolly Parton to Monument and helped her to fame, and he produced country greats such as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones; Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin; Larry Jon Wilson, Kris Kristofferson (that incredible string of records from 1970-72, and the duet albums with Rita Coolidge); swamp rock acts like the recently late Tony Joe White; novelty acts (sort of, for he was deadly serious) like Robert Mitchum; instrumental acts like Boots Randolph; and soul acts like Joe Simon and Arthur Alexander. Kris Kristofferson gave Foster a co-writing credit for Me and Bobby McGee for suggesting the title.

 

The All-round Genius

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, André Previn‘s family was lucky to get out in 1938. Having emigrated to the US, André was a precocious talent, already composing and conducting scores for MGM at the age of 18 – by which time he had already released a bunch of jazz records. He was not yet 30 when he had won successive Oscars for his scores of the musicals Gigi and Porgy & Bess in 1959 and 1960, repeating the feat in 1964-65 with his scores for Irma la Douce and My Fair Lady. He left MGM in the mid-1960s and became an acclaimed classical composer and conductor, also continuing his career in jazz as a performer and sideman, in which he also earned much acclaim, and continuing to write film scores.

 

No More Talk Talk

In the 1980s, Talk Talk were seen as the more sophisticated alternative to Duran Duran. Their sound rather fitted in alongside other synthy new wave bands like Tears for Fears or Blancmange. With Mark Hollis, who has died at 64, as the frontman, Talk Talk had minor but influential hits with tracks like the eponymous Talk Talk (which had its greatest success in South Africa, where it hit #1. Hollis had already recorded it as a punk version in 1977 with his previous group, The Reaction), It’s My Life, Today, and Such A Shame. Progressively Talk Talk became more experimental, scoring one more UK Top 40 hit in 1986 with Life’s What You Make It (and two more with re-issues of It’s My Life and the 1986 hit). Then Talk Talk fell silent. Hollis released a solo album in 1998, which was initially intended to be a Talk Talk reunion, and then retired from recording in 1998.

The Anti-apartheid Singer

One of brightest stars on South Africa’s vibrant jazz scene of the 1950s, Dorothy Masuka gave up commercial success for making political statements. First she released an anti-apartheid record titled “Dr Malan”, named after the first apartheid-era prime minister. Unsurprisingly, the record was banned in South Africa. She then played at the inauguration of Congolese president Patrice Lumbumba, who was later assassinated by the CIA. That forced her into exile to Zambia (where her father was from), working as a flight attendant, before returning to the country of her birth, Zimbabwe, upon its independence in 1980. She later returned to South Africa, where she had grown up from the age of 12. One of her final public performances was last April at the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

 

Mind The Gap Band

In terms of producing classics, the track record of Lonnie Simmons isn’t massive, but when he hit, he really hit big. He is associated mainly with discovering the Gap Band, whom he signed to his Total Experience Records label. He produced, co-wrote and released their series of stone-cold classics such as Oops Upside Your Head, You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Early In The Morning, Burn Rubber On Me, and the copiously-sampled Outstanding – and he produced another timeless dance track in Yarbrough & Peoples’ Don’t Stop The Music.

 

The Transgender Pioneer

Soul singer Jackie Shane pioneered transgender issues 50 years before it became a big issue. Born in Nashville, Shane’s main area of success was in Canada, scoring a hit there in 1962 with Any Other Way. She realised that she identified as a woman when she was 13, in 1953. Remarkably, she said just recently that she never had any problems on account of being transgendered. Just a few weeks ago, Shane was nominated for a Grammy for a box set of her music.

 

From Doo Wop to Schlager

Singer Gus Backus was barely 20 when he joined the pioneering multi-racial doo wop group The Del-Vikings. But at the same time he was an airman in the US Army, and when he was transferred to Germany, Backus’ doo wop career came to an end. In West Germany he found a new life as a successful Schlager singer. For a time between 1960 and the mid-’60s, Backus was one of the country’s biggest stars, trading on his heavy accent – the Germans of the time loved foreign accents. He scored big hits with songs about Native Americans, and appeared in schlager movies. By 1967 his shtick was dated and the hits stopped coming. In the 1970s he gave up on music and went to work on oil fields in Texas. But Germany never really forgets its Schlager stars, and on returning to the country he made a career of singing in concert, popping up on TV and making personal appearances.

The Mover and Shaker

In his long songwriting career, Artie Wayne contributed mostly album fillers and b-sides, though these were recorded by big names, from Aretha Franklin to The Guess Who to Dean Martin. His best-known songs might be Michael Jackson’s The Little Christmas Tree, Joey Powers’ Midnight Mary, Joe Dassin’s Excuse Me Lady, and Helen Shapiro’s Queen For Tonight. But his stellar contribution to music was his discovery of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, whom he tried to sign while working for Scepter Records. When that was blocked, he introduced the future songwriting giants to Motown. Wayne later was a music journalist, director of creative services of Warner Bros., and generally a bit of a mover and shaker. He was among the trio of men who built up buzz for Jesus Christ Superstar when nobody wanted to know about it. Later he co-ran a songwriting course named after himself whose alumni include Diane Warren.

 

Strange Timing

Sometimes The Reaper has strange timing. On the very day blues-rock outfit The Tedeschi Trucks Band released its latest album, Signs, its keyboardist and flautist Kofi Burbridge died of a heart attack at the age of 57. A classically-trained multi-instrumentalist, Burbridge was a member of the Derek Trucks Band, led by the great slide guitarist. When Trucks married blues-rock singer Susan Tedeschi, his and her group amalgamated, with Burbridge becoming part of the merger.

 

The Covers Photographer

In his time, photographer Guy Webster committed many celebrities to film, but his lasting legacy resides in those photos that were used on the cover of LPs. And Webster created some iconic mages, perhaps most famously the one used on the cover of The Mamas & The Papas’ If You Can Believe LP, which featured, to the horror of 1960s society, a toilet! I wrote a few years ago about the story behind the cover and some of the LP’s songs. Other great Webster covers include The Doors’ debut album, Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence, other Mamas & Papas releases, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, Tim Buckley’s Goodbye And Hello, and many more (see below. A large version of the collage is included in the DL package).

 

 

Ayub Ogada, 63, Kenyan singer and musician, on Feb. 1
Ayub Ogada – Chiro (1993)

Bill Sims, 69, blues singer and guitarist, on Feb. 2
Bill Sims – Time Out (1999)

Tim Landers, 28, guitarist and singer with rick band Transit, on Feb. 2
Transit – Nothing Lasts Forever (2013)

Detsl, 35, Russian rapper, on Feb. 3

Giampiero Artegiani, 63, Italian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 4
Giampiero Artegiani – Acqua alta in Piazza San Marco (1984)

Lonnie Simmons, record producer, label founder on Feb. 6
The Gap Band – Oops Upside Your Head (1979, as co-writer and producer)
Yarbrough & Peoples – Don’t Stop The Music (1981, as producer)
Kenny Thomas – Outstanding (1990, as co-writer)

Cadet, 28, English rapper, in car crash on the way to a gig on Feb. 9

Guy Webster, 79, LP covers photographer (see below), on Feb. 9

Harvey Scales, 76, soul singer and songwriter, on Feb. 11
Johnnie Taylor – Disco Lady (1976, as writer)

Olli Lindholm, 54, singer and guitarist with Finnish rock band Yö, on Feb. 12

Joe Hardy, 66, producer and engineer, on Feb. 12
Steve Earle – The Other Kind (1990, as producer)

Deise Cipriano, 39, singer with Brazilian band Fat Family, on Feb. 12

Willy Lambregt, 59, Belgian rock musician, co-founder of Vaya Con Dios, on Feb. 13
Vaya Con Dios – Just A Friend Of Mine (1987)

Connie Jones, 84, jazz trumpeter, on Feb. 13

Marisa Solinas, 79, Italian singer and actress, on Feb. 13
Marisa Solinas – Vai Suora Vai (1981)

Kofi Burbridge, 57, rock flautist and keyboardist, on Feb. 15
Tedeschi Trucks Band – They Don’t Shine (2019, as member)

Ken Nordine, 98, voice-over and recording artist, on Feb. 16
Billy Vaughn with Ken Nordine – The Shifting Whispering Sands (1955, spoken voice)

Ethel Ennis, 86, jazz singer, on Feb. 17
Ethel Ennis – My Foolish Heart (1957)

Skip Groff, 70, producer and DJ, on Feb. 18

Artie Wayne, 77, singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 19
Artie Wayne – Where Does A Rock & Roll Singer Go? (1963)
Joe Dassin – Excuse Me Lady (1966, as co-writer)
The Guess Who – Use Your Imagination (1972, as co-writer)

Fred Foster, 87, producer and label founder, on Feb. 20
Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely (1961, as producer)
Dolly Parton – Dumb Blonde (1967, as producer)
Robert Mitchum – Ballad Of Thunder Road (1967, as producer)
Kris Kristofferson – Just The Other Side Of Nowhere (1970, as producer)

Gerard Koerts, 71, member of Dutch pop band Earth and Fire, on Feb. 20
Earth & Fire – Weekend (1979)

Peter Tork, 77, musician and actor with The Monkees, on Feb. 21
The Monkees – For Pete’s Sake (1967, as co-writer)
The Monkees – Goin’ Down (1967, as co-writer)
Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork – I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone (live, 1987)

Gus Backus, 81, member of doo-wop group Del Vikings, schlager singer, on Feb. 21
Del Vikings – Cool Shake (1957)
Gus Backus – Bohnen in die Ohren (1966)

Jackie Shane, 78, transgender R&B singer, found on Feb. 21
Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (1962)

Dorothy Masuka, 83, Zimbabwean-South African jazz singer, on Feb. 23
Dorothy Masuka – Khauleza (1959)
Dorothy Masuka – Pata Pata (1991)

Marcos Antonio Urbay, 90, Cuban musician, on Feb. 24

Mac Wiseman, 93, bluegrass guitarist and bass player, on Feb. 24
Mac Wiseman – Tis Sweet To Be Remembered (1951)

Mark Hollis, 64, singer-songwriter of Talk Talk, on Feb. 25
The Reaction – Talk Talk Talk Talk (1977)
Talk Talk – Such A Shame (1984)
Mark Hollis – Watershed (1998)

Magnus Lindberg, 66, Swedish musician and songwriter, on Feb. 26

Andy Anderson, 68, English drummer, on Feb. 26
The Cure – The Love Cats (1983)

Doug Sandom, 89, first drummer of The Who, on Feb. 27

Ed Bickert, 86, Canadian jazz guitarist, on Feb. 28

André Previn, 89, German-born composer, on Feb. 28
André Previn – What Is This Thing Called Love? (1946)
Sammy Davis Jr. – There’s A Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York (1959, as conductor)
Andre Previn and his Trio- Almost Like Being In Love (1960)
Doris Day & André Previn – Give Me Time (1962)

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In Memoriam – January 2019

February 7th, 2019 5 comments

The year has started with carnage. Interestingly, in several cases, the paths of the Reaper”™s victims in January (and previous months) had crossed in the past, in quite strange ways. The Rolling Stones, J.J. Cale, Bob Dylan, Elvis and others come up repeatedly.

The Voice

A singer with a gorgeous voice, great range and immaculate phrasing, James Ingram was among the best of his craft. Alas, some of his material — and some of the songs that made him known — led many to underrate him as a soul great. But listen to his duet performance on really soft songs like Somewhere Out There, the theme of the animated film An American Tail: it’s perfectly judged, with Ingram and Linda Ronstadt generously giving each other space. He did likewise on his other duets, notably the hit with Patti Austin, Baby Come To Me. Ingram’s range is best on display in the lovely One Hundred Ways, one of the two tracks he sung on Quincy Jones’ superb The Dude album in 1980 (the other was the fantastic Just Once). Ingram won a vocal performance Grammy for One Hundred Ways, the first to receive the award without having released an album. He won another Grammy for his duet with Michael McDonald, Yah MO Be There, and was nominated for 12 other performances. Aside from being a gifted singer, Ingram also was a songwriter (among his credits is Michael Jackson’s P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing), co-written with Quincy Jones) and, earlier in his career, keyboardist for Ray Charles and, later, on other records, including Shalamar’s A Night To Remember.

The Dragon & Tenille

If your name is Daryl Dragon, why on earth would you change that name to “Captain”? Blame the widely unloved Beach Boy Mike Love for it: when Dragon played keyboards on tour with the band in the early 1970s, Love dubbed him Captain Keyboard. The name stuck, and Dragon took to wearing a captain’s hat. With that image transformation he formed the duo Captain & Tenille with his wife Toni Tenille (they divorced in 2014) which became hugely popular in the 1970s, even playing in the White House for US President Gerald Ford and Queen Elizabeth II – Toni Tenille later remembered that the queen nodded off during their performance. But surely Captain Dragon & Tenille would have been an even better name for the duo.

The Session Giant

Outside the LA-based Wrecking Crew, few session players could boast of a resumé as packed with classic hits as Memphis guitarist Reggie Young. He cut his young teeth touring with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison in the 1950s, and with the Bill Black Combo in the 1960s, having the honour of getting booed every night for being The Beatles’ support act on their US tour. After a brief stint as a session man at Hi Records (for whom he had recorded earlier with the Bill Black Combo) in 1967, he moved over to Chips Moman’s American Studios, where he was part of the session collective known as The Memphis Boys.

Over the years, Young played the guitar on hits such as Elvis’ Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto (and many others), Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and Holy Holly, The Box Tops’ Cry Like A Baby, Dobie Gray’s Drift Away, Billy Joe Royal’s Down In The Boondocks, John Prine’s Angel From Montgomery, B.J. Thomas’ Hooked On A Feeling (creating the unusual sitar sound) and Hey, Won’t You Play Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, Jessi Colter’s I’m Not Lisa, Billy Swan’s I Can Help, Danny O’Keefe’s Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues, King Curtis’ Memphis Soul Stew, Willie Nelson’s Always On My Mind; J.J. Cale’s Cocaine, and the whole Dusty In Memphis album, including Son Of A Preacher Man. He went on to play with a long list of other artists, especially a Who’s Who in country music.

The Innovator

The paths of Reggie Young and influential session guitarist Harold Bradley, who has died at 93, often crossed. Bradley had been a member of the country session players’ collective known as The Nashville A-Team, and as such he backed virtually every big name in country, from Hank Williams and the Carter Family to Dolly Parton and Alan Jackson. Plus Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly et al. Credit-keeping was a bit vague in the day, but it is said that Bradley played on classics such as Patsy Cline’s Crazy, Lefty Frizzell’s Long Black Veil and Tammy Wynette’s Stand By Your Man. He also played for acts like The Monkees, J.J. Cale and Leon Russell. Several times, his paths crossed with the above-mentioned Reggie Young. The brother of the equally legendary Owen Bradley, Harold was also a fierce activist for musicians’ rights.

The Great Backing Singer

Even if you’ve never heard of Clydie King, you’ll have heard her voice on an impressive list of rock classics. King put out a string of records from late 1950s to the early 1970s, but the world of soul needed her powerful voice less than white rock bands did. Famously, she and fellow backing singing legend Merry Clayton — with whom she was in Ray Charles’ backing group The Raelettes in the 1960s — sang, with some disgust, on Lynyrd Skynyrd’s southern rock anthem Sweet Home Alabama, Clayton, who hated the idea of singing anything about Alabama, later recalled: “If you listen to it, we’re all singing through our teeth, like we’re really angry. That’s how we got through the recording.” After the session, King told Clayton: “We did our part and this song will live in infamy, Merry. And we’ll continually get paid.”

There’d be merit in putting together a mix of tracks Clydie King sang on. It could include any number of Steely Dan songs (such as Kid Charlemagne, Brooklyn, The Fez, The Royal Scam, the whole Aja album), the Rolling Stones’ Tumbling Dice and Shine A Light, Linda Ronstadt’s You’re No Good and Desperado, Neil Diamond’s Cracklin’ Rosie and Beautiful Noise; Elton John’s The Bitch Is Back, Judee Sill’s Jesus Was A Cross Maker, B.W. Stevenson’s My Maria (which featured the recently late Joe Osborn on bass), Chi Coltrane’s Hallelujah, Arlo Guthrie’s City of New Orleans, America’s Woman Tonight, Leo Sayer’s You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, Bob Seger’s Still The Same and We Got Tonite, Joe Cocker’s I Can Stand A Little Rain, and Commander Cody’s Cry Baby Cry (which featured on the White Album Recovered mix). And there might even be a first volume of all the famous Phil Spector productions on which King sang backing vocals, for the likes of Ike & Tina Turner, Ben. E. King, The Ronettes, The Crystals, Darlene Love, Gene Pitney, Righteous Brothers etc. And then there was her work with Bob Dylan, particularly during his Christian period. Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone magazine: “She was my ultimate singing partner. No one ever came close. We were two soulmates.”

 

The Dylan Favourite

Bob Dylan didn’t just lose his favourite backing singer in January but also one of his favourite guitarists, Steve Ripley, who played with him during the Shot Of Love era – during which Clydie King was a backing vocalists. He also played with others, but more importantly he created guitars for other guitarists, including Steve Lukather, J.J. Cale, John Hiatt, Ry Cooder, Jimmy Buffett and Eddie Van Halen. He then moved to Tulsa to take over Leon Russell’s recording studio. In the 1990s he formed the country-rock band The Tractors.

The Great Trumpeter

It really was a bad month for great session musicians. Another victim of the Reaper was trumpeter Steve Madaio, whose credits include Stevie Wonder hits such as Superstition and the Songs In The Key Of Life album, including I Wish and Sir Duke, with its glorious trumpet intro. It was while he was backing Wonder on the singer’s tour supporting the Rolling Stones in 1972 that the Stones poached him for their backing band. Previously Madaio had been a member of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with whom he played at Woodstock and (probably) Monterey.

As a session man he trumpeted on records by the likes of John Lennon, Elton John (on his duet with Lennon, Whatever Gets You Thru The Night), Ringo Starr (on Snokeroo, on which Clydie King sang backing vocals, and Goodnight Vienna), Etta James, Syreeta, Carly Simon, Martha Reeves, Melissa Manchester, Anne Murray, Joe Cocker, Jimmy Cliff, Deniece Williams (including on Free), James Taylor, Earth, Wind & Fire (including on Fantasy and September), Maria Muldaur, Harry Nilsson, Cher, Neil Diamond (on the Beautiful Noise album which also included Clydie King), John Mayall, The Emotions, Boz Scaggs, The Temptations, Dionne Warwick, Bob Dylan (on Street Legal), Cheryl Lynn (on Got To Be Real), Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Dolly Parton, BB King, Donna Summer (including Hot Stuff and Bad Girls), Janis Ian (on Fly Too High), Lowell George, Bonnie Raitt, Glen Campbell, Brenda Russell, Rita Coolidge, Pointer Sisters, Randy Newman, Joe Sample, Dennis Edwards, The Allman Brothers Band, J.J. Cale, Madonna (on the Like A Prayer album) and many more. He also played, alongside the recently late Joe Osborn, on the original stage soundtrack of the Rocky Horror Show.

The African Icon

With the death of guitarist and singer-songwriter Oliver Mtukudzi, Zimbabwe has not only lost one of its two most iconic musician, but also a social and cultural icon and activist. He was to Zimbabwe what Hugh Masekela was to South Africa (and in 2016 they collaborated on a track). Mtukudzi was in the forefront of defying cultural apartheid in Rhodesia, and after liberation was an activist for human rights and justice, lately serving as the UNICEF goodwill ambassador for Southern Africa – even as he stood above party politics. His popularity extended beyond Zimbabwe. Mtukudzi was so popular in South Africa that a memorial concert was held in his honour in Johannesburg.

The Movie Composer

One of the great movie score composers has departed with the death of Michel Legrand. Even though he worked mostly in French film, he received several Oscar nominations, taking away the Academy Award for Best Original Song with The Windmills Of Your Mind from The Thomas Crown Affair, and Best Score for Summer of ’42 (1971) and Yentl (1983). He was nominated for The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1965), which produced the also nominated standard I Will Wait For You, whose English lyrics were written by Norman Gimbel, who died in December.

The Rumour That He Died

Two divorces inspired Sanger ‘Whitey’ Shafer to co-write two country chart-toppers in versions by George Strait, Does Forth Worth Ever Cross Your Mind and the superb All My Ex’s Live In Texas. Alas, it no longer is a rumour that Whitey died… Shafer also wrote hits such as Keith Whitley’s posthumously charting I Wonder Do You Think Of Me, as well as That’s the Way Love Goes, which was a hit for Johnny Rodriguez and Merle Haggard. His songs were recorded by other country luminaries, including George Jones, Lefty Frizzell and Moe Bandy.

The Murder Victim

Puerto Rican rapper Kevin Fret had just had his breakthrough hit, Soy Asi, in 2018. As the title of his hit suggests, Fret was different: in a homophobic society, he was openly gay and broke gender conventions. But he was controversial also within the LGBQTI community for claiming that his homosexuality was a “choice”. He died after being shot eight times while riding his motorcycle in the early morning hours of January 10. By the time of posting, no arrests had been made, nor a motive established.

 

Christine McGuire, member of vocal group McGuire Sisters, on Dec. 28
The McGuire Sisters – Sincerely (1954)

Dean Ford, 72, songwriter and singer of Scottish pop band Marmalade, on Dec. 31
Dean Ford & The Gaylords – That Lonely Feeling (1965)
Marmalade – Reflections Of My Life (1969, on lead vocals and as co-writer)

Shane Bisnett, 31, bassist of metalcore band Ice Nine Kills, on Jan. 1

Pegi Young, 66, singer-songwriter, ex-wife of Neil Young, on Jan. 1
Pegi Young & The Survivors – Feel Just Like a Memory (2014)

Kris Kelmi, 63, Russian rock singer-songwriter, on Jan. 1

Feis Ecktuh, 32, Dutch rapper, shot dead on Jan. 1

‘Captain’ Daryl Dragon, 76, musician, songwriter, half of Captain & Tennille, on Jan. 2
The Dragons – Troll (1964, also as writer)
The Beach Boys – Everyone’s in Love With You (1972, as co-writer and arranger)
Captain & Tenille – Love Will Keep Us Together (1974)

Steve Ripley, 69, musician, producer, guitar inventor, on Jan. 3
Bob Dylan – Shot Of Love (1981, on guitar, also featuring Clydie King)
The Tractors – Baby Likes To Rock It (1994)

Eric Haydock, 75, bassist of The Hollies, on Jan. 5
The Hollies – I’m Alive (1965)

Alvin Fielder, 83, jazz drummer and educator, on Jan. 5

Dan Tshanda, 54, singer and bassist of South African band Splash, on Jan. 5
Splash – Troubled Man (1991)

Clydie King, 75, soul and backing singer, on Jan. 7
Clydie King and The Sweet Things – Only The Guilty Cry (1963)
Clydie King – I Can’t Go On Without Love (1971)
Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice (1972)
Chi Coltrane – Hallelujah (1973)

Jimmy Hannan, 84, Australian singer and game show host, on Jan. 7

Houari Manar, 38, Algerian rai singer, on Jan. 7

Georges Dimou, 87, Greek Austria-based schlager singer, on Jan. 8

Joseph Jarman, 81, jazz musician and Buddhist priest, on Jan. 9
Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Peter And Judith (1982)

Kevin Fret, 24, Puerto Rican trap rapper, shot dead on Jan. 10

Larry Cunningham, 67, singer with soul group The Floaters, on Jan. 10
The Floaters – Float On (Long Version) (1977)

Sanger ‘Whitey’ Shafer, 84, country songwriter, on Jan. 12
George Strait – Does Forth Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984, as co-writer)
Whitey Shafer – All My Ex’s Live In Texas (1987, also as co-writer)
Keith Whitley – I Wonder Do You Think Of Me (1989, as writer)

Bonnie Guitar, 95, country singer, musician and producer, on Jan. 13
Bonnie Guitar – Dark Moon (1957)

Willie Murphy, 75, blues musician and producer, on Jan. 13
‘Spider’ John Koerner & Willie Murphy – Magazine Lady (1969)
Bonnie Raitt – Mighty Tight Woman (1971, as producer)

Steve Madaio, 70, session trumpeter, on Jan. 15
The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Walkin’ By Myself (1969)
Stevie Wonder – Superstition (1972)
Ringo Starr – Snookeroo (1974, on trumpet)
Deniece Williams – Free (1977, on trumpet)

Carol Channing, 97, actress and singer, on Jan. 15
Carol Channing – Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend (1949)
Carol Channing – Put On Your Sunday Clothes (1964)

Rita Vidaurri, 94, American singer, on Jan. 16

Chris Wilson, 62, Australian blues musician, on Jan. 16

Lorna Doom, bassist of US punk band Germs, on Jan. 16
Germs – Forming (1977)

Brian Velasco, 41, drummer of Filipino rock band Razorback, suicide on Jan. 16

Reggie Young, 82, legendary session guitarist, on Jan. 17
Bill Black Combo – Smokie-Part 2 (1959, as member)
Herbie Mann – Memphis Underground (1969, on guitar)
John Prine – Sweet Revenge (1973, on guitar)
Elvis Presley – I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby (1974, on guitar)
Merle Haggard – I’ve Seen It Go Away (2010, on guitar)

Tara Simmons, 34, Australian singer-songwriter and musician, on Jan. 17
Tara Simmons – Everybody Loves You (2007)

Debi Martini, bassist of ’90s punk band Red Aunts, on Jan. 17

Ron Watson, 62, guitarist of Canadian rock band Helix, on Jan. 17
Helix – Rock You (1984)

Marcelo Yuka, 53, drummer of Brazilian reggae band O Rappa, on Jan. 18

Ted McKenna, 68, drummer of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, on Jan. 18
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band – Hammer Song (1973)

Edwin Birdsong, 77, funk keyboardist, on Jan. 21
Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Running Away (1977, as co-writer and co-producer)
Edwin Birdsong – Cola Bottle Baby (1979)

Marcel Azzola, 91, French accordionist, on Jan. 21
Jacques Brel – Vesoul (1969)

Mike Ledbetter, 33, blues musician, on Jan. 21

Kaye Ballard, 93, actress and singer, on Jan. 21
Kaye Ballard – In Other Words (1954; original version of Fly Me To The Moon)

Maxine Brown, 87, singer of country group The Browns, on Jan. 21
The Browns – The Three Bells (1959)

Oliver Mtukudzi, 66, Zimbabwean jazz guitarist, singer and activist, on Jan. 23
Oliver Mtukudzi – Wake Up (1999)
Oliver Mtukudzi – Neria (2001)
Hugh Masekela feat. Oliver Mtukudzi – Tapera (2016)

Bruce Corbitt, 56, heavy metal singer with Rigor Mortis, Warbeast, on Jan. 25

Jacqueline Steiner, 94, folk singer-songwriter and activist, on Jan. 25
The Kingston Trio – M.T.A. (1959, as lyricist)

Terry Jennings, 62, country musician and author (son of Waylon), on Jan. 25

Michel Legrand, 86, French film composer, conductor and jazz pianist, on Jan. 26
Noel Harrison -The Windmills Of Your Mind (1968, as composer)
Matt Monro – I Will Wait For You (1969, as composer)

Ingo Bischof, 68, keyboardist of German Krautrock band Kraan, on Jan. 26
Kraan – Wintruper Echo (1982)

Pepe Smith, 71, Filipino rock musician, on Jan. 28

Paul Whaley, 72, drummer of rock bands Oxford Circle, Blue Cheer, on Jan. 28
The Oxford Circle – Troubles (live, 1967)
Blue Cheer – West Coast Child Of Sunshine (1969)

James Ingram, 66, American R&B singer-songwriter, on Jan. 29
James Ingram – One Hundred Ways (1980)
Shalamar – A Night To Remember (1982, on keyboards)
Patti Austin & James Ingram – How Do You Keep The Music Playing (1982)
James Ingram – I Don’t Have The Heart (1989)

Johnny Lion, 77, Dutch singer and actor, on Jan. 31

Harold Bradley, 93, country session guitarist and bassist, on Jan. 31
Hank Williams – Ramblin’ Man (1951, on rhythm, guitar)
Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces (1961, on bass)
Elvis Presley – (You’re The) Devil In Disguise (1963, on rhythm guitar)
J.J. Cale – Travelin’ Light (1976, on rhythm guitar)

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In Memoriam – December 2018

January 3rd, 2019 5 comments

The relatively benign year 2018 (in terms of music deaths) ended with a vengeful bang. Most distressing was the death of three members of a band that was swept to sea in the Indonesian tsunami while as they were playing live on stage. It was a bad month too for guitarists. And an old correspondent with yours truly, a legendary songwriter, also exited the musical stage.

The All-Rounder

It may be that Nancy Wilson‘s versatility prevented the jazz, soul and pop singer from becoming a legend in any of these genres. Her talent and her powers of interpreting other people’s songs should qualify her as a Queen of Soul or Duchess of Jazz. But the singer herself insisted on not being confined to any one genre. She described herself as a “song stylist”. Wilson had crossover potential. She even hosted her own TV show, imaginatively titled, The Nancy Wilson Show, which won an Emmy, but for some reason ran only from 1967-68. She also acted in several TV series. Wilson had a long career, still winning a Grammy in 2007 for her last album, Turned To Blue.

The Patch

After pursuing an unsuccessful music career in his native Alabama, in 1967 Ray Sawyer drove to Oregon to become a logger. On the way there he had a car accident in which he lost an eye. That was the end of the logging career and Sawyer returned to music, eventually helping to form a band — which would be called Dr Hook & the Medicine Show in reference to his piratesque eye cap. Although for much of the band’s existence Sawyer was not the main lead singer — that was Dennis Locorriere — Sawyer was the visual focal point of the band, even when he stood to the side in group photos. Of course, many people assumed that Sawyer was Dr Hook himself. Locorriere took the lead vocals on almost all of the band’s big hits, but Sawyer did the honours on Shel Silverstein’s The Cover Of The Rolling Stone — which landed the band on the cover of the magazine, in cartoon form. Sawyer left Dr Hook in 1981 for a solo career.

The Close And Personal Friend

The famed songwriter Norman Gimbel once wrote me a grumpy e-mail, objecting to my having repeated the story that his lyrics for Killing Me Softly With His Song were basically the work of Lori Lieberman. I can’t say that I found him to be a particularly sweet man, still, he took the time to write. He did decline my offer of an interview, which was his prerogative. Gimbel leaves an impressive legacy. Apart from Killing Me Softly, he also wrote the words for the themes of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (whose Penny Marshall died just two days before Gimbel), Andy Williams’ Canadian Sunset, and the English lyrics for The Girl Of Ipanema and Sway. He won an Oscar for the song It Goes Like It Goes from 1979’s Norma Rae, and in 1984 was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The Hitmaker

I paid tribute to the legendary Wrecking Crew bassist Joe Osborn with a mix posted a couple of days after his death. The post noted the number of massive hits Osborn played on; among the Wrecking Crew bassists, maybe only Carol Kaye can match his resumé. When a Wrecking Crew alumnus dies, it is always good to refer to the outstanding 2008 documentary The Wrecking Crew, produced by the son Osborne’s frequent collaborator Tommy Tedesco, which I believe is available on Netflix. On top of the four songs included here, Osborn also features on the bass on the featured tribute to Galt MacDermot, The 5th Dimension’s Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In.

The Punk Pioneer

Few rock legends, it’s fair to say, tend to retire to Estonia. But so it was with Pete Shelley, who with his Estonian wife moved to the capital Tallinn in 2012, and died there at the age of 63 of a heart attack on December 6. Shelley was the frontman of the pioneering English punk band Buzzcocks, which issued tracks with titles like Orgasm Addict, which came out in 1977 at a time when Yes Sir I Can Boogie was the UK #1. The Buzzcocks charted only as of 1978, after co-founder Howard Devoto had left the band. The band’s impact was greater than the double-digit chart placings would suggest. The band split in 1981, and Shelley embarked on a solo career.

The Heartbroken Cowboy

One of the great verses in the canon of popular music songs about heartbreak is this: “I can hardly bear the sight of lipstick on the cigarettes there in the ashtray, lyin’ cold the way you left ’em. But at least your lips caressed them, while you packed.” The man who wrote this, A Good Year For The Roses, and so many other songs of broken and yearning hearts, was Jerry Chesnut, who has died at 87. Other Chesnut hits included D-I-V-O-R-C-E, It’s Four In The Morning, Looking at the World Through A Windshield, and T-R-O-U-B-L-E. Chesnut came from the coalmining community of Harlan Country in Kentucky, so he knew about the evil ways of the bosses. This found expression in the Johnny Cash hit Oney.

The Ripped-off Guitarist

The career of Jody Williams is a tale of exploited but unrecognised talent. Williams was one of the most influential blues guitarists of the 1950s (the solo on Bo Diddley’s Who Do You Love is regarded by many as one of the greatest in blues), but few knew his name because his session work was not credited. But others cheerfully stole the riffs he created for their own records. Things came to a head when the riff he created for Billy Stewart’s 1956 track Billy’s Blues was copied by Mickey Baker for Mickey & Sylvia’s hit Love Is Strange. A court case brought no joy, and Williams, tired of getting ripped off, slowly faded from the record industry. By the end of the 1960s he had found a new career as a Xerox technician.

The Elvis Friend

The same day as Williams went, another pioneer of the blues guitar left us. Calvin Newborn played on the very first session by young B.B. King in 1949 and taught Howlin’ Wolf the guitar. He was a close friend of the young Elvis Presley for a while. In 1951 he toured with Ike Turner, whose Rocket 88 had just been released under the moniker of the record’s vocalist, Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. Newborn also recorded with Ike. Later Calvin Newborn and is brother Phineas drifted more towards jazz. Newborn toured and/or recorded with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Lou Donaldson, Jimmy Forrest, Hank Crawford, Jimmy Witherspoon and Sun Ra.

The Wicked Game Guitarist

A few months ago, James Calvin Wilsey featured for his string-plucking skills on the Any Major Guitar Vol. 2 mix, for his work on Chris Isaak’s Blue Hotel. Wilsey also played the haunting guitar on Isaak’s Wicked Game. Before all that, he was the bassist for the San Francisco-based punk band Avengers. Isaak’s music was closer to his background than California punk: born in the backseat of a Greyhound bus, he grew up in Kentucky.

The Tsunami victims

It is often said that the best death for a musician is when it happens whole on stage performing. This probably cannot be said for Herman Sikumbang, Muhammad ‘Bani⒝ Awal Purbani and Windu Andi Darmawan, guitarist, bassist and drummer respectively of Indonesian pop band Seventeen, who fell victim to the Sunda Strait tsunami on December 22. The band was playing a private concert in a tent at Tanjung Lesung resort when the giant wave hit them from behind. Only lead singer Riefian ‘Ifan’ Fajarsyah survived being swept out to sea by holding on to a floating box. The tsunami also killed 29 audience members, the band’s crew manager and the singer’s wife, actress Dylan Sahara. Bassist Bani is survived by his three-year-old daughter and pregnant wife. The band was formed in 1999 when all the members were 17; hence their name. They released six albums.

Indonesian band Seventeen, which lost three of its four members in a tsunami while playing live on stage.

 

Roger V. Burton, 90, jazz musician and actor, on Nov. 30

Jody Williams, 83, blues guitarist, on Dec .1
Bo Diddley – Who Do You Love (1956, on guitar)
Billy Stewart feat. Jody Williams – Billy’s Blues (Part. 1) (1956, on guitar)
Jody Williams – Lucky Lou (1957)

Calvin Newborn, 85, jazz and blues guitarist, on Dec. 1
B.B.King – When Your Baby Packs Up And Goes (1949)
Bonnie & Ike Turner – Lookin’ For My Baby (1952)
Hank Crawford & Calvin Newborn – Frame For The Blue (1980)

Perry Robinson, 80, jazz clarinetist and composer, on Dec. 2

Carl Janelli, 91, jazz saxophonist and clarinetist, on Dec. 3

Ramsay Mackay, 73, bassist and songwriter of South African band Freedom’s Children, on Dec. 4
Freedom’s Children – Kafkasque (1969)

Pete Shelley, 63, singer, guitarist and songwriter with UK punk band Buzzcocks, on Dec. 6
Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) (1978)
Buzzcocks – Everybody’s Happy Nowadays (1979)
Pete Shelley – Blue Eyes (1986)

John ‘Ace’ Cannon, 84, soul saxophonist, on Dec. 6
Ace Cannon – Tuff (1962)
Ace Cannon – By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1968)

Floyd Parton, 61, country songwriter, on Dec. 6
Dolly Parton & Ricky Van Shelton – Rockin’ Years (1991, as writer)

Lucas Starr, 34, bassist of metalcore bands Oh, Sleeper, Terminal, on Dec. 7

The Mascara Snake, 70, artist and musician (Captain Beefheart), in car crash on Dec. 7
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Pena (1969, spoken voice)

Fred Wieland, 75, guitarist of Australian bands Strangers, Mixtures, announced on Dec. 10
The Strangers – Fever (1966)

Angelo Conti, 62, singer of Italian ska-punk band Banda Bassotti, on Dec. 11
Banda Bassotti – El Quinto Regimiento (2003)

Nancy Wilson, 81, jazz and soul singer, on Dec. 13
Nancy Wilson – The Best Is Yet To Come (1964)
Nancy Wilson – The Greatest Performance Of My Life (1973, live)
Nancy Wilson – This Time Last Summer (1975)
Nancy Wilson – Take Love Easy (2006)

Emmit Powell, 84, gospel singer and disc jockey, on Dec. 14
The Emmit Powell Gospel Elites – If You Can Make It (1983)

Joe Osborn, 81, session bass guitarist of The Wrecking Crew, on Dec. 14
Brenda Lee – Here Comes That Feeling (1962, as co-writer)
Johnny Rivers – You Dig (1966, on bass)
Glen Campbell – Gentle On My Mind (1967, on bass)
Mama Cass Elliot – Make Your Own Kind Of Music (1969, on bass)
Olivia Newton-John – Sam (1977, on bass)

Jerry Chesnut, 87, country songwriter, on Dec. 15
Jerry Chesnut – Small Enough To Crawl (1969)
Faron Young – It’s Four In The Morning (1972, as writer)
Johnny Cash – Oney (1973, as writer)
Elvis Presley – T-R-O-U-B-L-E (1975, as writer)

Arthur Maia, 56, Brazilian bassist and composer, on Dec. 15
Arthur Maia – Luanda Funk (1990)

Anca Pop, 34, Romanian-Canadian singer-songwriter, in car crash on Dec. 17

Galt MacDermot, 89, Canadian pianist and composer (Hair), on Dec. 17
Galt MacDermot – Hair (1968)
The 5th Dimension – Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In (1969, as co-writer)

Norman Gimbel, 91, songwriter & halfhearted pal, on Dec. 19
Rosemary Clooney/Perez Prado – Sway (1960, as lyricist)
Getz/Gilberto – Girl From Ipanema (1963, as lyricist)
Pratt & McClain – Happy Days (1976, as lyricist)
Jennifer Warnes – It Goes Like It Goes (1979, as lyricist)
Luther Vandross – Killing Me Softly (1994, as lyricist)

Herman Sikumbang, 36, guitarist of Indonesian pop band Seventeen, on Dec. 22
Muhammad ‘Baniâ’ Awal Purbani, bassist of Indonesian pop band Seventeen, on Dec. 22
Windu Andi Darmawan, drummer of Indonesian pop band Seventeen, on Dec. 22

Jimmy Work, 94, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 22
Kitty Wells – Making Believe (1955, as writer)
Jimmy Work – Tennessee Border (1959)

Honey Lantree, 75, drummer of English pop group The Honeycombs, on Dec. 23
The Honeycombs – Have I The Right (1964)

James Calvin Wilsey, 61, guitarist and bassist, on Dec. 24
Avengers – We Are The One (1977, on bass)
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game (1991, on guitar)
James Wilsey – Untamed

Jerry Riopelle, 77, American musician, on Dec. 24
The Parade – Sunshine Girl (1967, as member and co-writer)
Jerry Riopelle – Walkin’ On Water (1975)

Guto Barros, 61, guitarist and songwriter of Brazilian rock band Blitz, on Dec. 25

Miúcha, 81, Brazilian bossa nova singer and composer, on Dec. 27
Miúcha & Tom Jobim – Tiro Cruzado (1977)

June Whitfield, 93, English actress and occasional recording artist, on Dec. 28
Frankie Howerd & June Whitfield – Up Je Taime (1971)

Mike Taylor, member of Canadian covers band Walk off the Earth, on Dec. 29

Dean Ford, 72, songwriter and singer of Scottish pop band Marmalade, on Dec. 31
(News reached me too late to include a tribute. Coming next month)

Ray Sawyer, 81, singer with Dr Hook & the Medicine Show, on Dec. 31
Dr Hook & the Medicine Show – Cover Of The Rolling Stone (1972)
Ray Sawyer – Maybe I Could Use That In A Song

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