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In Memoriam – December 2021

January 4th, 2022 5 comments

The Reaper was busy in December, in music as well as in other fields (Desmond Tutu! Betty White!). One singer on this list featured on two mixes here in the last few months. Canadian singer Renée Martel, who has died at 74, appeared on The Beatles in French Vol. 1 (with her take on The Night Before) and Vol. 2 (with Good Day Sunshine). The Humblebums, whose lead guitarist Tam Harvey has died, were completed by Gerry Rafferty, soon to become big with Stealers Wheel and later his mega-hit Baker Street, and Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Another track here set a world record: hip hop outfit UTFO, whose Kangol Kid has died at 55, had a hit with Roxanne Roxanne which provoked a record 25 answer records, in what has become known as “The Roxanne Wars”.

Revisit the In Memoriam series to review who left us in the past year.

The Reluctant Monkee
With the death at 78 of Michael Nesmith, there’s only one Monkee left, Micky Dolenz. Davy Jones departed in 2012, Peter Tork in 2019. Of the four, Nesmith always looked like the one who least gave a shit about The Monkees, which probably had as much to do with his frustration at being denied musical input as it did with his natural nonchalance. Half the time, he looked like he had no idea what on earth he was doing there. And yet, once in a while, his talent for improvisation would be allowed to shine through.

Behind the scenes, he wasn’t quite so nonchalant when it came to the broken promises about his musical input. Dolenz recalled that Nesmith’s exasperation once found expression in a hole, punched into a wall. Nesmith was a fine songwriter; his Different Drums even featured in a Monkees episode, albeit in a comedic manner (he slaughters it on stage). Shortly after, it became a hit for Linda Ronstadt’s Stone Poneys.

Nesmith went on to influence the country-rock scene (some obits exaggerated when they claimed he virtually invented it) with his Second National Band. Perhaps his best work was his 1972 acoustic album And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, on which he finally recorded his own version of Different Drum (the featured track, with Red Rhodes on pedal steel, is from that set). It’s well worth seeking out. As is its critically panned and commercially rejected album Tantamount To Treason, which proves that critics can be fools.

The Bass Producer
With drummer Sly Dunbbar, bass player Robbie Shakespeare formed the rhythm section of the pivotal reggae band Black Uhuru during its glory days from 1979 to 1987. They also recorded together as Sly & Robbie. But Shakespeare and Dunbar made their greatest impact as producers of acts like Grace Jones (including Pull Up to the Bumper), Gwen Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Ian Dury, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Yoko Ono, Serge Gainsbourg, No Doubt, Simply Red and more. Obviously they also produced a who-is-who of reggae, such as Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Sugar Minott, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Ini Kamoze, Yellowman, The Mighty Diamonds, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, and more.

A few days after Shakespeare, Black Uhuru co-founder Garth Dennis passed away; none of his terms in the band coincided with Shakespeare’s. But as 2021 was fading out, guitarist Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung, who played on many Shakespeare productions (including the Grace Jones, Peter Tosh and Gwen Guthrie ones), died at the age of 71.

The Voice
For a long time in the 1960s and ’70s, soul singer Joe Simon was a frequent visitor to the US charts, with his distinctive low tenor voice (which might take some getting used to). He started out as a gospel singer before becoming a secular southern soul singer in the 1960s. Like colleagues such as Brook Benton, Simon would occasionally drift into the world of country music — almost naturally, since he was based in Nashville. One of his biggest hits was 1969’s The Chokin’ Kind, written by country songwriter Harlan Howard. Another example is the featured version of Simon’s cover of  Eddy Arnold’s country classic Misty Blue.

In the 1970s, Simon had the good fortune of becoming an early client of the great Gamble & Huff production team, which updated his sound to great effect (check out his I Found My Fad on the Any Major Fathers Vol. 2 mix). As the 1970s turned into the ‘80s, Simon returned to his gospel roots and became a singing evangelical preacher.

The Marvelette
With the death of Wanda Young, both lead singers of Motown pioneers The Marvelettes are gone. Gladys Horton, who took the lead on the group’s early hits, died in 2011. It was Horton who got her friend Young to join her band, called The Marvels, just as Motown was signing them. At first Horton took the lead vocals (such as on Please Mr Postman or Beechwood 4-5789), then she shared lead with Young on songs like Locking Up My Heart and Too Many Fish In The Sea. From 1965, Young (by now going by her married name Rogers) became the principal singer, taking the lead on hits like I’ll Keep Holding On, Don’t Mess With Bill, The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game, When You’re Young And In Love and My Baby Must Be A Magician.

The JB Drummer
Before James Brown had the mighty drummers Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks, he had the mighty Melvin Parker, brother of Maceo. And JB reckoned that Melvin was the best drummer he’d had. Up against Stubblefield and Jabo, that’s a huge compliment.

You can hear Parker on tracks like I Feel Good, Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, and Out Of Sight. Then Parker was drafted into the army and left the J.B.s. He returned briefly in 1969/70, but soon left and joined his brother in Maceo & All the King’s Men. In 1976 he briefly returned one more time to Brown, playing on his hit Get Up Offa That Thing.

The Smokie
English pop band Smokie produced some real stinkers in their time, but some of those Chinnichap RAK songs deserve rehabilitation. Living Next Door To Alice has been sent up repeatedly (especially with the 1995 “Who the fuck is Alice?” remix), but is a catchy number. And tracks like Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone, I’ll Meet You At Midnight, If You Think You Know How To Love Me, and Don’t Play Your Rock ‘N Roll To Me are well-crafted pop music, wordy titles notwithstanding. And their harmonies were pretty good. The four members also seemed like perfectly nice guys who always had time for their fans.

Bassist Terry Uttley, who has died at 70, with his white-man afro seemed the most affable of the lot. After his wife Shirley became ill with cancer, he became a fundraiser for cancer charities. Exactly a month after her death on November 17, Terry Uttley died.

The Backing Singer-Songwriter
Even if you don’t know the name David Lasley, who has died at 74, you’ll probably have heard his high tenor voice on the backing vocals of various hits by Chic (such as Dance Dance Dance and Everybody Dance), Odyssey (such as Native New Yorker) or Sister Sledge (We Are Family, Lost In Music, He’d The Greatest Dancer, Thinking About You). He also backed acts like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Garland Jeffreys, Boz Scaggs, Cher, Tim Curry, Valerie Carter, Aretha Franklin, Randy Crawford, Teddy Pendergrass, Culture Club, Whitney Houston, Rita Coolidge, and especially his close friend Luther Vandross.

Lasley and Vandross did a lot of the back-up singing together, especially on the Chic collective’s songs. Luther did backing vocals on Lasley’s 1982 solo album. Among the songs on that set was the Lasley composition You Bring Me Joy, later covered by Anita Baker. Other songs Lasley wrote or co-wrote include Boz Scaggs’ JoJo, Randy Crawford’s Nightline, Chaka Khan’s Roll Me Through The Rushes, Maxine Nightingale’s Lead Me On, and more.

The Manager
Music managers don’t usually get included in this series, but I’ll make an exception for Ken Kragen, who has died at 85. A bit of an all-rounder — he was also an author and TV producer (such as for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour), among other things — Kragen managed various acts, especially from the country scene. In 1985, his charges included Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie when he was approached by Harry Belafonte to put together a charity concert to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine, following the efforts by Band Aid in the UK. Kragen didn’t think a concert would work — turns out, he was wrong — but suggested an all-star charity record in the style of Band Aid.

He got Quincy Jones to produce the record, and Kragen’s client Lionel Richie and Belafonte’s mate Michael Jackson wrote We Are The World. In the end, Kragen had to turn away stars who wanted to appear on the single, which was recorded on January 21, 1985, and released on March 7. It became the fastest-selling record in US history, despite being rather rubbish. A year later, Kragen organised the Hands Across America campaign to raise funds for hunger relief.

The Chant Guy
Especially if you follow football (or soccer), you’ll know the crowd’s chant of “olé, olé, olé”. Grand Jojo, the Belgian singer and songwriter who co-wrote and first recorded it, has died at 85. The chant first made its appearance on a 1985 record in honour of Brussel-based team RSC Anderlecht, titled Anderlecht Champions (Allez, Allez, Allez). Grand Jojo, whose Flemish records appeared under the moniker Lange Jojo, was best-known for drinking-type songs.

The Bradman Principle
It’s cruel when a beloved cultural icon dies less than three weeks short of their 100th birthday. So it was with TV actress Betty White. Long before she was famous for her roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, White hosted her own TV variety show in the 1950s on which she would sing popular songs. In fact, she was right there in the embryonic days of TV, in 1939. With her death, a bigger chunk of entertainment history than we might have thought has departed.

And the heading to this entry? Cricket fans will know. The greatest-ever batsman was an Australian player named Don Bradman (1908-2001). In his last-ever innings, he needed to score more than one run to finish off with the landmark test average of 100 (the greatest-ever players before and after after him had averages in the 60s or 50s). In his last innings, Bradman was bowled for 1 run, meaning he ended his career with the impressive yet agonising average of 99.94. It is a bit like Betty White bowing out less than three weeks before her centenary.

As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Grand Jojo, 85, Belgian singer and songwriter, on Dec. 1
Grand Jojo – Anderlecht Champions (Allez, Allez, Allez) (1985)

Alvin Lucier, 90, experimental composer, on Dec. 1

Melvin Parker, 77, drummer for James Brown, on Dec. 2
James Brown – Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag
Maceo & All The King’s Men – I Want To Sing (1972, on drums)
James Brown – Get Up Offa That Thing (1976, on drums)

Stonewall Jackson, 89, country singer, on Dec. 4
Stonewall Jackson – Don’t Be Angry (1964)

Toni Santagata, 85, Italian folk singer, on Dec. 5

Bill Staines, 74, folk singer-songwriter, on Dec. 5
Bill Staines – Crossing The Water (1993)

Buddy Merrill, 85, easy listening steel guitarist, on Dec. 5

Enzo Restuccia, 80, Italian drummer, on Dec. 5

John Miles, 72, British singer-songwriter, on Dec. 5
John Miles – Music (1976)
John Miles – No Hard Feelings (1978)

Oleg Emirov, 51, Russian rock composer and keyboardist, on Dec. 5

János Kóbor, 78, lead singer of Hungarian prog-rock band Omega, on Dec. 6
Omega – Stormy Fire (1974)

Margaret Everly, 102, singer and mother of the Everly Brothers, on Dec. 6

Greg Tate, 64, founder & guitarist of jazz-rock collective Burnt Sugar, music critic, on Dec. 7
Burnt Sugar feat Julie Brown & Micah Gaugh – Throw Some Light (2017)

DJ Scholar, former MC of British grime outfit Ruff Sqwad, on Dec. 7

Robbie Shakespeare, 68, Jamaican bassist with Sly & Robbie, Black Uhuru, producer, on Dec. 8
Black Uhuru – Push Push (1980, as member on bass and co-producer)
Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981, on bass)
Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You (1982, on bass and as co-producer)
Sly & Robbie – Boops (1987)

Ralph Tavares, 79, singer with soul band Tavares, on Dec. 8
Tavares – It Only Takes A Minute (1975)
Tavares – Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel (1976)

Gil Bridges, 80, wind musician and vocalist with soul band Rare Earth, on Dec. 8
Rare Earth – Born To Wander (1970, on flute and backing vocals)
Rare Earth – I Just Want To Celebrate (1971)

Barry Harris, 91, jazz pianist, composer, arranger, on Dec. 8
Barry Harris Trio – Ladybird (1975)

Slim 400, 33, rapper, shot dead on Dec. 9

David Lasley, 74, singer, songwriter, backing singer, on Dec. 9
Chaka Khan – Roll Me Through The Rushes (1978, as writer and on backing vocals)
Boz Scaggs – JoJo (1980, as co-writer and on backing vocals)
David Lasley – You Bring Me Joy (1981, also as writer)

Steve Bronski, 61, Scottish keyboardist of Bronski Beat, announced on Dec. 9
Bronski Beat – Why? (1984, also as co-writer)

Garth Dennis, 72, Jamaican reggae musician with Black Uhuru, Wailing Souls, on Dec. 9
Garth Dennis – Slow Coach  (1974)
Wailing Soul – Soul & Power (1982, as member)

Michael Nesmith, 78, Monkees guitarist, singer-songwriter, on Dec. 10
The Monkees – The Girl I Knew Somewhere (1967, also as co-writer)
The Stone Poneys – Different Drum (1968, as writer)
Michael Nesmith & The First National Band – Joanne (1970)
Michael Nesmith – Two Different Roads (1972)

Les Emmerson, 77, singer of Canadian pop group Five Man Electrical Band, on Dec. 10
Five Man Electrical Band – I’m A Stranger Here (1972)

Thomas ‘Mensi’ Mensforth, singer of English punk band Angelic Upstarts, on Dec. 10
Angelic Upstarts – I’m An Upstart (1979)
Angelic Upstarts – Lust For Glory (1982)

Vicente Fernández, 81, Mexican singer and actor, on Dec. 12
Vicente Fernandez – Volver, Volver (1972)

Toby Slater, 42, singer-songwriter of Britpop band Catch, on Dec. 13
Catch – Dive In (1997)

Blackberri, 76, singer-songwriter, on Dec. 13

Joe Simon, 85, soul singer, on Dec.13
Joe Simon – Misty Blue (1969)
Joe Simon – Drowning In The Sea Of Love (1973)
Joe Simon – It’s Crying Time In Memphis (1975)

John Nolan, 55, guitarist of Australian punk rock band Bored!, Powder Monkeys, on Dec. 13

Phil Chen, 75, Jamaican bassist, on Dec. 14
Rod Stewart – I Was Only Joking (1977, on bass)

Ken Kragen, 85, music manager, on Dec. 14
USA For Africa – We Are The World (1985, as initiator)

Ian Worang, 47, guitarist and singer of Canadian alt.rock band Uncut, on Dec. 15
Uncut – Taken In Sleep (2004)

Leonard ‘Hub’ Hubbard, 62, bassist of The Roots (1992-2007), on Dec. 15
The Roots – What They Do (1996)

Flow La Movie, 38, Puerto Rican producer, in a plane crash on Dec. 15

Wanda Young, 78, lead singer of The Marvelettes, announced on Dec. 16
The Marvelettes – Don’t Mess With Bill (1965)
The Marvelettes – Destination Anywhere (1968)

Robie Porter, 80, Australian producer, singer and lap steel guitarist, on Dec. 16
Robie Porter – Here In My Arms (1966)
Air Supply – Lost In Love (1980, as co-producer)

Terry Uttley, 70, bass guitarist of English pop band Smokie, on Dec. 16
Smokie – Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n Roll To Me (1975)
Smokie – If You Think You Know How To Love Me (1976)

Meg Brazill, 69, bassist and singer of new wave trio Los Microwaves, on Dec. 16
Los Microwaves – T.V. In My Eye (1981)

John Morgan, 80, drummer of English novelty band The Wurzels, on Dec. 17

Vicente Feliú, 74, Cuban folk singer, on Dec. 17
Vicente Feliú – No sé quedarme (1985)

Lindsay Tebbutt, drummer of Australian rock band The Choirboys, on Dec. 17
Choirboys – Run To Paradise (1987)

Enzo Gusman, 74, Maltese singer, on Dec. 18

Tam Harvey, guitarist Scottish folk-rock band The Humblebums, on Dec. 18
The Humblebums – Shoeshine Boy (1969)

Renée Martel, 74, Canadian pop and country singer, on Dec. 18
Renée Martel – Liverpool (1969)

Kangol Kid, 55, rapper with hip hop outfit UTFO, on Dec. 18
U.T.F.O.  – Roxanne, Roxanne (1984)

Drakeo the Ruler, 28, rapper, stabbed to death on Dec. 19

Billy Conway, 65, drummer of Indie rock band Morphine, on Dec. 19
Morphine – Honey White (1995)

Carlos Marín, 53, German-born Spanish baritone with Il Divo, on Dec.19
Il Divo – Wicked Game (Melanconia) (2011)

Elio Roca, 78, Argentine singer and actor, on Dec. 19

Emil Ramsauer, 103, double bassist with Swiss Eurovision band Takasa, on Dec. 20

Paul Mitchell, singer with soul band The Floaters (“Leo, and my name is Paul”), on Dec. 20
The Floaters – I Am So Glad I Took My Time (1977)

Luboš Andršt, 73, Czech rock guitarist, on Dec. 20

Anthony Williams, 90, Trinidadian steelpan musician, on Dec. 21

Nkodo Sitony, 62, Cameroonian bikutsi singer, on Dec. 21

Robin Le Mesurier, 68, British session guitarist, on Dec. 22
Rod Stewart – Every Beat Of My Heart (1986, on guitar)

Marco Mathieu, 57, bassist of Italian punk band Negazione, on Dec. 24

J.D. Crowe, 84, bluegrass banjo player and band leader of New South, on Dec. 24
J.D. Crowe & The New South – Old Home Place (1975)

Oscar López Ruiz, 83, Argentine composer, producer and guitarist, on Dec. 24

Harvey Evans, 80, musicals actor (West Side Story, Mary Poppins), on Dec. 24
Harvey Evans & Joel Grey – All Our Friends (1968)

Janice Long, 66, English disc jockey, on Dec. 25

Guenshi Ever, Beninese singer, on Dec. 25

 ‘Le Général’ Defao, 62, Congolese rhumba singer-songwriter, on Dec. 27
Defao – Amour scolaire (1992)

Raymond Fau, 85, French singer-songwriter, on Dec. 27

Pavel Chrastina, 81, bassist, singer, songwriter with Czech rock group Olympic, on Dec. 28

Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung, 71, Jamaican guitarist and arranger, on Dec. 28
Mike Chung & The Now Generation – Breezing (1972)
Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981, on guitar; see Robbie Shakespeare)
Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You (1982, on guitar; see Robbie Shakespeare)

Rosa Lee Brooks, soul singer, on December 28

Paolo Giordano, 59, Italian guitarist, on Dec. 29

Betty White, 99, actress, comedian, occasional singer, on Dec. 31
Betty White – Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You) (1954)
Luciana feat. Betty White – I’m Still Hot (2011)

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In Memoriam – November 2021

December 2nd, 2021 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – October 2021

November 2nd, 2021 2 comments

It was a strange month: The Reaper claimed nobody madly famous, but many of those who left us in October were of great interest, as the 12 write-ups testify. Sometimes I wonder what it’s like going through life knowing that you’ve played on, say, The Beatles’ Yesterday, but if you mention it in the pub, the barflies might call you a bullshitter (though I’m sure that this was no situation in which the admirable Kenneth Essex ever found himself in). I find that this is one of the satisfactions in doing this monthly series: to highlight not only the works of the well-known but also the contributions of the people whose names few who listen to the music take note of.

The Main Jay
The second, and longer-serving, Jay of The Americans has died. The first lead singer of Jay & The Americans was Jay Traynor, who died in 2014. When Traynor left in 1962, having enjoyed one Top 10 hit with the band, David Black of one-record doo wop act The Empires replaced him. Black (born David Blatt) changed his name to Jay Black, to keep the band’s name intact, seeing as it was given to them by the legendary Leiber and Stoller. With Black on lead vocals, the band recorded a string of hits in the 1960s, with Come A Little Bit Closer, Cara Mia, and This Magic Moment hitting the US Top 10 between 1964 and 1968.

Check out the featured song, Got Hung Up Along The Way, and tell me if it doesn’t sound like a Style Council song, some 16 years before Weller and Talbot recorded Café Bleu.

The Elvis Drummer
Drummer Ron Tutt left us on October 16 with an impressive curriculum vitae. On stage, the Dallas-born musician was on the drums behind Elvis Presley for nearly a decade, as a member of the TCB (Taking Care Of Business) Band, often getting a drum-solo slot at concerts. Of course, he was the drummer on the famous “Alloha From Hawaii” broadcast of an Elvis concert. He was also Neil Diamond’s chosen drummer, on tour and in the studio, and the same for Jerry Garcia after the TCB Band split after Elvis’ death.

He recorded with Billy Joel, Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Rivers, Chi Coltrane, B.J. Thomas, Kenny Rogers, Gram Parsons, José Feliciano, Emmylou Harris, Carpenters, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Nicks and Michael McDonald, and many others. Often he’d also provide backing vocals.

Big hits he played on include Presley’s Burning Love; Diamond’s Cracklin’ Rosie, Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline, I Am…I Said; and Billy Joel’s Piano Man.

The Wham! Bassist
A sought-after bassist who was taught by Motown legend James Jamerson, Deon Estus made his most significant contribution as the bass player on that spectacular run of great Wham! Between 19823 and 1986, and after that on George Michael’s first two solo albums. Born in Detroit, Estus had some success in the soul/disco band Brainstorm in the late 1970s, before going on tour with Marvin Gaye in the early 1980s. After that tour, he remained in London and soon joined up with unknowns George Michael and Andrew Ridgley. As a member of Wham!, he toured in China in 1985.

That year he also released his first solo record, a duet with Amii Stewart. In between session work, Estus released a few more solo records in the late 1980s, scoring a couple of hits, most notably Heaven Help Me in 1989, with George Michael on backing vocals.

The Irishman
With his group The Chieftains, which he co-founded in 1963 and led for almost six decades, Paddy Moloney helped bring Irish folk music to an international audience. It helped that the group played with many international artists, sometimes guesting and on one album a galaxy of stars guesting. Among these collaborations was a superb album credited to them with Van Morrison.

Moloney played the uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes), the accordion, the tin or penny whistle, and the bodhrán, a flat Irish drum. He did session work for the likes of Peter Gabriel, Sting, Art Garfunkel, Paul McCartney, Mike Oldfield, Roger Waters, Gary Moore, Midge Ure, Herbie Hancock, Ry Cooder, and the recently late Nanci Griffith, among others. He also composed for films such as Braveheart, Gangs of New York, and Barry Lyndon.

Moloney’s death was a big deal in Ireland. Irish President Michael D. Higgins paid tribute: “Paddy, with his extraordinary skills as an instrumentalist, notably the uilleann pipes and bodhrán, was at the forefront of the renaissance of interest in Irish music, bringing a greater appreciation of Irish music and culture internationally.”

The Candy Man
British composer and lyricist Leslie Bricusse had a hand in writing many classic songs from film and musical, many with Anthony Newley: The Candy Man from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory; What Kind of Fool Am I? from Stop the World – I Want to Get Off; Le Jazz Hot from Victor/Victoria; If I Ruled The World from Pickwick;  Talk To The Animals from Doctor Dolittle; and the Bond film theme songs Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, hits for Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra respectively. Younger (and some older) people might recognise his composition Christmas At Hogwarts from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

But not everybody was impressed with the songs of the multiple Oscar-nominee (and twice winner): In 1986, Bricusse was a nominee, with Henry Mancini, for the Raspberry Award for Worst Song. The offending number was Life In A Looking Glass, sung by Tony Bennett in the comedy That’s Life. It lost out to Prince (for Love Or Money). But the song was also Oscar-nominated — it lost to Berlin’s Take My Breath Away from Top Gun.

The Soul-Funk Man
One day in October I was planning the annual disco mix for late December. The next day, the Reaper claimed the co-writer of a few songs I’d be playing that evening. William Shelby, who died at 65, was the keyboardist and singer with the soul bands Dynasty and Lakeside, and he played on several albums by The Whispers, Shalamar, S.O.S. Band, Carrie Lucas, The Sylvers, Klymaxx, Atlantic Starr, and others.

As co-writer, Shelby co-write and played on hits such as The Whispers’ And The Beat Goes On and It’s A Love Thing, and Shalamar’s Make That Move, I Can Make You Feel Good, The Second Time Around and Friends.

The Beatles Violist
Unless you are the buffest of classical music buffs, the name of violist Kenneth Essex might mean little to you. But I can guarantee that you’ve heard him play. In June 1965, the English viola player, along with two violinists and a cellist, was called to the EMI studios at Abbey Road in London to play on a recording. It was so quick, the string quartet received only half-session pay. The song he played on was Yesterday. According to some obits, he also played on Hello Goodbye (violinist Sydney Sax from the Yesterday sessions also played on various Beatles songs). You might also have heard Essex play on the theme of the UK sitcom Fawlty Towers.

Though a classical musician, Essex also played on records by Cleo Laine, Harry Nilsson, Grace Slick, Freddie Cole, Everything But The Girl, Eartha Kitt, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and — bringing things a full circle — Paul McCartney on the Pipes Of Peace and Tug Of War albums (The Chieftains’ Paddy Moloney, who died a day later, also played in the sessions for the latter album). Essex also played on the original soundtrack of The Phantom Of The Opera.

Earlier this year, before his 100th birthday, the World War II veteran raised funds by doing a series of walks. In 2019, just before his 100th, he raised 16,000 pounds by doing a 10km walk.

The Beatles Singer
The story is the stuff of Beatles legend: The band was recording the Lennon song Across The Universe on February 4, 1968, when it was decided that the track needed high-pitched female backing vocals. So Paul went outside the Abbey Road studio building to ask whether anyone in the group of fans camped outside, the so-called Beatles Scruffs, had suitable voices. Two of them volunteered and were invited to join the recordings: Lizzie Bravo and Gayleen Pease. Their vocals featured on the original charity version of Across The Universe, but the teenagers’ voices were excised from the remixed Let It Be version.

Lizzie, a Brazilian au pair working in London in 1968, died of heart disease-related causes on October 4. Gayleen also died this year, on June 24.

The Glitterman
For many, it’s impossible to enjoy the music of convicted sex-offender Gary Glitter, much as it is difficult to hear the music of, say, R. Kelly without that bit of bile sitting in the throat. Alas, as the perp’s music is understandably cancelled, so is the work others created in support of his music. So it is, at least nominally, with his backing band, The Glitter Band, whose founder and trombonist/saxophonist Joe Rossall has died at 75. I say “nominally” because on the records, the only members who actually played were Rossall and Harvey Ellison, who died in 2017. The rest of the band backed Gary Glitter only on tour.

In 1974 The Glitter Band started releasing records of their own, also produced by Glitter’s svengali, Mike Leander. Between 1974-76 they enjoyed six UK Top 10 hits. Most of them didn’t involve Rossall, who had assembled the group to back Glitter but left the group on the last day of 1974. He launched a solo career with yielded a number of non-charting singles between 1975 and 1981.

By all accounts, Rossall had no time for Gary Glitter, certainly not after his former boss’ conviction.

The All-Rounder Composer
People living in the UK will have heard the compositions of Alan Hawkshaw, whose works include the themes of quiz show Countdown, school-soap Grange Hill (via his 1974 song Chicken Man), and the Channel 4 News. Before all that, Hawkshaw already had enjoyed a productive career. He was a member of early 1960s British R&B group Emile Ford and the Checkmates; backed a young David Bowie at the BBC sessions; played with The Shadows; arranged for Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard, Jane Birkin, and Serge Gainsbourg; played keyboards for Donna Summer; composed a song for Hank Marvin that was later sampled by Jay-Z (see the featured tune); and released a 1979 disco album under the moniker Bizarre, having also arranged the disco hit Here Comes That Sound Again for Love De-Luxe.

The Murdered Rapper
The execution-style murder of 19-year-old Swedish rapper Einár, son of a well-known actress, attracted so much publicity that even the prime minister commented. At the 2020 Grammis awards — Sweden’s version of the Grammys — Einár won the “Newcomer of the Year” and “Hiphop of the Year” awards. Shortly after that, he was kidnapped by rival rapper Yasin and his criminal gang. Yasin and another rapper were jailed in July for the crime. Einár received death threats and was using a protected identity. He was scheduled to testify in another trial at the end of the month. It didn’t come to this: on October 21 he was found dead, shot execution style.

The Cover Boy
On October 7, the Dexys Midnight Runners announced on their Facebook page that the lad on the cover of their 1980 debut LP Searching For The Young Soul Rebels, Anthony O’Shaughnessy, had died. Normally I’d not include people on record covers in the In Memoriams, but Anthony commented a few times on this blog 12 years ago, when I wrote about that album cover. Read the story of the cover and Anthony’s comments.

Finally, something for the Spooky Corner: an R&B singer going by the name of Emani 22 died in an accident on October 14… at the age of 22! Nominative determinism at its most lethal.As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Robin Morton, 81, Irish folk musician, producer, label owner, broadcaster, on Oct. 1
The Boys of the Lough – Farewell To Whisky (1973)

Ewert Ljusberg, 76, Swedish musician and activist, on Oct. 1

Sebastião Tapajós, 78, Brazilian guitarist and composer, on Oct. 2
Sebastião Tapajos & Pedro dos Santos – Ganga (1972)

John Rossall, 75, trombonist/saxophonist of The Glitter Band, on Oct. 2
The Glitter Band – Goodbye My Love (1974)
John Rossall – Beautiful Monday Morning (1981)

Anoman Brouh Felix, 86, Ivorian guitarist, bassist, percussionist, on Oct. 3
Anoman Brouh Félix – Chinché (1977)

Lizzie Bravo, 70, Brazilian backing singer on Across The Universe, on Oct. 4
The Beatles – Across The Universe (1968)

Hobo Jim, 68, American folk singer-songwriter, on Oct. 4
Alaska’s Hobo Jim – The Beauty Of You (1984)

Pat Fish, 64, leader of UK Indie band The Jazz Butcher, on Oct. 4
The Jazz Butcher – The Human Jungle (1985)

Anthony O’Shaughnessy, LP cover star, announced on Oct. 7
Dexys Midnight Runners – There There My Dear (1980, as cover star)

Everett Morton, 71, drummer & percussionist of UK ska band The Beast, on Oct. 8
The Beat – Hands Off-She’s Mine (1980)

Petru Guelfucci, 66, French-Corsican singer, on Oct. 8

Jem Targal, 74, bassist, singer and songwriter with psych-rock band Third Power, on Oct. 8
3rd Power – We, You, I (1968, also as co-writer)

Jim Pembroke, 75, English-born singer of Finnish rock group Wigwam, on Oct. 9
Wigwam – Wishful Thinker (1970, also as writer)

Dee Pop, 65, drummer of new wave band Bush Tetras, on Oct. 9
Bush Tetras – Too Many Creeps (1980)

Shawn McLemore, 54, gospel singer, on Oct. 9

Deon Estus, 65, bassist (Wham!) and singer, on Oct. 11
Brainstorm – Lovin’ Is Really My Game (1977, as member)
Wham! – Everything She Wants (1984, on bass)
Amii Stewart & Deon Estus – My Guy, My Girl (1985)
Deon Estus – Heaven Help Me (1989)

Kenneth Essex, 101, British violist, on Oct. 11
The Beatles – Yesterday (1965, on viola)
Dennis Wilson – Fawlty Towers Theme (1975, on viola)
Everything But The Girl – Come On Home (1986, on viola)

Paddy Moloney, 83, co-founder of Irish folk group The Chieftains, on Oct. 12
The Chieftains – Away We Go Again (1977)
Paul McCartney – Rainclouds (1982, on pipes)
Nanci Griffith – On Grafton Street (1994, on tin whistle)
The Chieftains feat. Mick Jagger – The Long Black Veil (1995)

Andrea Haugen, 52, German singer of UK metal band Cradle of Filth (1993-94), on Oct. 13

Emani 22, 22, R&B singer, on Oct. 14
Emani 22 – Better Days (2019)

Tom Morey, 86, drummer & ukulele player; surfing engineer, on Oct. 14

Regi Hargis, 70, bassist and guitarist with jazz-funk band Brick, on Oct. 15
Brick – Dazz (1976)

Willie Garnett, 85, British jazz and rock saxophonist, on Oct. 15
The Charlie Watts Orchestra – Stomping At The Savoy (1986, on alto sax)

Ron Tutt, 83, session drummer, on Oct. 16
Neil Diamond – Holly Holy (1969, on drums)
Elvis Presley – Burning Love (1972, on drums)
Billy Joel – Piano Man (1973, on drums)
Emmylou Harris – Boulder To Birmingham (1975, on drums)

Tom Gray, 70, blues-rock slide guitarist, singer, songwriter, on Oct. 16
Delta Moon – Money Changes Everything (1978, as member and songwriter)

Alan Hawkshaw, 84, keyboardist, guitarist, arranger, TV composer, on Oct. 16
Alan Hawkshaw – Chicken Man (1974, also as writer)
Olivia Newton-John – I Honestly Love You (1974, as arranger and co-producer)
The Hank Marvin Guitar Syndicate – New Earth Part 1&2 (1977, as composer)
Love De-Luxe – Here Comes That Sound Again (1979, as writer, producer, arranger, keyboardist)

Franco Cerri, 95, Italian jazz guitarist, on Oct. 18

Lloyd ‘Gitsy’ Willis, 73, Jamaican reggae guitarist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 18
Chaka Demus & Pliers – Tease Me (1993, on guitar)

Ralph Carmichael, 94, pop and gospel composer and arranger, on Oct. 18
Nat ‘King’ Cole – L.O.V.E (1965, as arranger)

Leslie Bricusse, 90, British film and musical composer, on Oct. 19
Shirley Bassey – Goldfinger (1964, as co-writer)
Sammy Davis Jr – The Candy Man (1972, as co-writer)
Julie Andrews – Le Jazz Hot (1982, as co-writer)

Antonio Coggio, 82, Italian composer, arranger and producer, on Oct. 19
Claudio Baglioni – Questo piccolo grande amore (1972, as co-writer and producer)

Allan Wilmot, 96, Jamaican-born singer with The Southlanders, announced Oct. 21
The Southlanders – The Mole In A Hole (1958, as member and bass singer)

Robin McNamara, 74, singer-songwriter and musician, announced Oct. 21
Robin McNamara – Lay A Little Lovin’ On Me (1970, also as co-writer)

Sergei Krinitsin, 65, drummer of pioneering Russian rock band Autograph, on Oct. 21

Tommy DeBarge, 64, bassist and singer with soul-funk band Switch, on Oct. 21
Switch – I Call Your Name (1979)

Einár, 19, Swedish rapper, in witness-execution on Oct. 21

Jay Black, 82, singer of Jay and the Americans, on Oct. 22
The Empires – Time And A Place (1962, on lead vocals and co-writer)
Jay & the Americans – Come A Little Bit Closer (1964)
Jay & The Americans – Got Hung Up Along The Way (1967)

Sonny Osborne, 83, bluegrass banjo player with the Osborne Brothers, on Oct. 24
The Osborne Brothers – Rocky Top (1967)

Ginny Mancini, 97, jazz singer, widow of Henry Mancini, on Oct. 25

Willie Cobbs, 89, blues singer, songwriter and harmonica player, on Oct. 25
Willie Cobbs – You Don’t Love Me (1960)

Walter Herbert/Sy Klopps, 73, singer, guitarist, manager (Santana, Journey, Roxette), on Oct. 26
Sy Klopps Blues Band – Pretty Women (1995)

Rose Lee Maphis, 98, country singer, on Oct. 26
Joe and Rose Lee Maphis – Remember (I’m Just As Close As The Phone) (1964)

Gay McIntyre, 88, Irish jazz musician, on Oct. 26

Russell Hardy, 80, pianist and songwriter, announced on Oct. 27
Ian Dury & The Blockheads – There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards (1979, as co-writer)

Benjamin Vallé, 47, ex-guitarist of Swedish indie-rock band Viagra Boys, on Oct. 27

William Shelby, 65, soul-funk keyboardist, singer, songwriter, on Oct. 27
Dynasty – I’ve Just Begun To Love You (1980, as member, co-lead singer, keyboards, co-writer)
The Whispers – And The Beat Goes On (1980, as co-writer and on keyboards)
Shalamar – The Second Time Around (1980, as co-writer and on keyboards)

Jorge Cumbo, 78, Argentine quena (Andean flute) player, on Oct. 28
Jorge Cumbo – Entre la Tierra y el Cielo (1977)

Raymond Guy LeBlanc, 76, Canadian musician and poet, on Oct. 29

Fan Tsai, 26, drummer of Taiwanese indie band No Party for Cao Dong, on Oct. 30
No Party For Cao Dong – Simon Says (2016)

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In Memoriam – September 2021

October 5th, 2021 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – August 2021

September 2nd, 2021 7 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – July 2021

August 3rd, 2021 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t the first time Chuck E. got cited in song. Waits namechecks him in the song Jitterbug Boy, on 1976’s Small Change album. By then Weiss had played with a number of blues greats, but he didn’t release his own album until 1981, and then none until 1996. He released six albums altogether, the last in 2018.As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sound Sultan, 44, Nigerian rapper, on July 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – June 2021

July 6th, 2021 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mamady Keïta, 70, Guinean drummer, on June 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – May 2021

June 3rd, 2021 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zion Aquino, 42, Filipino singer, on May 20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – April 2021

May 4th, 2021 6 comments

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bosse Skoglund, 85, Swedish drummer, on April 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – March 2021

April 6th, 2021 8 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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