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In Memoriam – April 2021

May 4th, 2021 5 comments

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bosse Skoglund, 85, Swedish drummer, on April 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – March 2021

April 6th, 2021 8 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – February 2021

March 4th, 2021 5 comments

The Reaper continued his furious ways for the first half of the month, culminating in 16 deaths in four days, between February 16-19. After that, things eased up a little. And while I was preparing the February round-up, news came of the death of Bunny Wailer, who’ll feature next month.

The Supreme
In 1959, Detroit teenager Betty McGlown was roped in by her boyfriend Paul Williams to form a singing group. Betty recruited the talented local teenager Florence Ballard, who then recruited her friend Mary Wilson, and Mary in turn recruited a girl from her school called Diane. Finally Betty herself joined, but soon left again. The new group was called The Primettes, to support a boy band who called themselves The Primes, with guitarist Marvin Tarplin backing the girls.

You know how the story ends: The Primes became The Temptations, the group Betty, Florence and Mary founded became The Supremes, and Diane became Diana. Soon enough, Florence and Mary were reduced to be Diana’s backing singers, even though there are those who credit them with being as good, or even better, singers than Diana (but not as good interpreters of lyrics). Still, the trio had success like no girl group had ever had.

Eventually Florence would be thrown out of the band, and Diana would make a diva-like exit, but Wilson stuck it out with new line-ups, even enjoying a few hits without Diana (despite Motown’s less-than-enthusiastic promotion), until the group split in 1977. Wilson was a constant throughout the life of The Supremes. In 1979 she released a solo album, which was not bad and certainly showed that Mary really could sing. Motown didn’t promote it, and dropped Wilson while she was recording a follow-up.

Wilson worked in the theatre in the 1980s, and published her bestselling memoirs in 1986 in which she refers to Ross only as “Diane”, and generally took a dimmer view of her old friend than she would in later years. Wilson, who suffered personal tragedy in 1994 when her 14-year-old son died in a car accident, recorded intermittently, with her final outing in 2015. In 2019 she featured on the Dancing With the Stars TV show. She still planned for future when she suddenly died at 76.

The Fusion Pioneer
Without Chick Corea, who knows how jazz might have developed, especially in its fusion forms? Corea had a guiding hand in Miles Davis’ pioneering work in jazz-rock fusion. In his own work, he was always seeking, experimenting and breaking ground. Corea could be free-jazzing as well as producing works of exquisite melodic beauty, and even creating modern classical music.

Born Armando Corea, the son of a jazz musician was already in his early 20s played with pioneers such as Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, Cal Tjader, Blue Mitchell, Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, and Stan Getz. Corea won 23 Grammys and was nominated for 60, which is impressive, even if one regards those awards dimly.

The Knight Writer
Even if you don’t know the name of Jim Weatherly, the country singer-songwriter (and one-time all-star quarterback) who has died at 77, you’ll probably know his most famous three songs. All three were big hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips, who recorded a dozen of Weatherly compositions. There’s the gorgeous Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, the heartbreaking Neither One Of Us, and the most famous one of them: Midnight Train To Georgia. That song wasn’t called that when Weatherly first wrote and recorded it. Then it was Midnight Plane To Houston (that was changed when, ironically enough, Cissy Houston covered it). The story and Weatherley’s original version, as well as the original of Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me by Steve Lawrence, is in The Originals – Soul Vol. 1. Neither One Of Us features on The Originals – Soul Vol. 2, which was in the works when Weatherly died.

The Salsa Pioneer
In the world of Latin music, Johnny Pacheco was a pivotal figure. Born in the Dominican Republic, Pacheco helped develop the salsa scene, fusing it with other Latin rhythms, especially Cuban styles. He even lent part of his name to a dancestyle and subgenre in the late 1950s, the Pachenga, which became hugely popular in the United States in the early 1960s.

Pacheco, a percussionist who came to the US at 11, co-founded a record label, Fania, in 1964. It became the premium producer of salsa records, while Pachega led its house band in jam sessions (descargas) with sine of the greatest names in Latin jazz, under the Fania All-Stars banner (among those playing on the featured track are Mongo Santamaria, Jan Hammer, Manu Dibango, Bobby Valentin and guitarist Jorge Santana). Pachega, who was also a prolific songwriter, was awarded the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and the Dominican Republic’s Presidential Medal of Honour.The Electric Light Conductor
Do you remember the Hooked On Classics series in the 1980s? Sort of based on the Stars on 45 model, it was created and produced by English arranger and conductor Louis Clark. If that doesn’t impress you (and it’s OK if it doesn’t), his marvellous work with the Electric Light Orchestra should. All those wonderful string arrangements on ELO songs were co-created by Clark. Later, in 1983, he played keyboards for ELO on tour. After ELO and the Royal Philharmonic hooking us on the classics, Clark arranged for the likes of Ozzy Osborne, Roy Orbison, Asia, Kiki Dee, and others.

The Producer
If you own a Neil Young record made between 1971 and 1992, chances are that producer and engineer Elliot Mazer had a hand in it. Before he hooked up with Young, he had worked with acts as diverse as Chubby Checker, Janis Joplin and Gordon Lightfoot. For Joplin he produced tracks like Try (Just A Little Bit Harder); for Lightfoot he produced If I Could. He produced and engineered Linda Ronstadt’s debut Silk Purse, and then set to work assembling the Stray Gators, the backing band for Neil Young with which they’d record the Harvest album (with the classics Heart Of Gold and The Needle And The Damage Done). He later produced acts such as Barclay James Harvest, Frankie Miller, Juice Newton, David Soul, and the Dead Kennedys.

The Silence Of Music
By cruel coincidence, The Sound of Music’s original London stage Maria, Jean Bayless, and the film’s Captain von Trapp died on the same day. Spookily, on that very day I learnt that Edelweiss was the last song Oscar Hammerstein ever wrote. In the film, it’s not Christopher Plummer who sings that song; it was dubbed. Plummer hated The Sound of Music with a special passion anyway. So the song included here as the tribute to him is from the stage musical Cyrano. Whereas Bayless gets the title song of the musical she helped inaugurate.

The Emcee
You’ll have watched, and probably admired, Danny Ray if you have ever watched James Brown’s theatrics during his performances of Please Please Please. Brown is led off in a state of emotional exhaustion, and Ray dotingly drapes a vape over his boss’ shoulders, whereupon Brown explodes with a burst of energy to restate his plea to the object of his affection to please not go. The scene repeats itself to comic effect.

Ray was the show’s emcee, so the introductions and outros (and occasional interjections) during Brown’s shows from the 1960s till the singer’s death in 2006 was his work. At Brown’s funeral, Ray draped a gold cape over the coffin of his boss, who had finally departed the stage.

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

Danny Ray, 85, James Brown’s emcee, on Feb. 2
Danny Ray – Introduction Of The J.B.s (1972)

Aaron Wegelin, ex-drummer of indie band Elf Power, on Feb. 2
Elf Power – Jane (1999)

Jim Weatherly, 77, country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
Cissy Houston – Midnight Train To Georgia (1972, as writer)
Jim Weatherly – Where Peaceful Waters Flow (1973, also as writer)
Gladys Knight & The Pips – Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (1973, as writer)

Jim Weatherly – All That Keeps Me Going (1977, also as writer)

Anne Feeney, 69, folk singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
Anne Feeney – Have You Been To Jail for Justice? (1969)

Kris De Bruyne, 70, Belgian singer, on Feb. 3

Nolan Porter, 71, soul singer-songwriter, on Feb. 3
N.F. Porter – Keep On Keeping On (1971)

Gil Saunders, soul singer with Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, on Feb 3
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes – Today’s Your Lucky Day (1984, on lead vocals)

Jaime Murrell, 71, Panamanian Christian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 4

Matt Harris, bassist of rock band The Posies, on Feb. 4
The Posies – Second Time Around (2005)

Stefan Cush, 60, singer with UK folk-punk group The Men They Couldn’t Hang, on Feb. 4
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – Ironmaster (1975)
The Men They Couldn’t Hang – The Colours (1988)

Örs Siklósi, 29, singer of Hungarian metal band AWS, on Feb. 5

Christopher Plummer, 91, Canadian actor and stage singer, on Feb. 5
Christopher Plummer – Roxana (1973, from the musical Cyrano)

Jean Bayless, 88, British actress and original Sound of Music Maria, on Feb. 5
Jean Bayless – The Sound Of Music (1961)

Douglas Miller, 71, gospel singer, on Jan. 5

Elliot Mazer, 79, producer and engineer, on Feb. 7
Linda Ronstadt – Long Long Time (1970, as producer)
Neil Young – Old Man (1972, as co-producer)
Frankie Miller – A Fool In Love (1976, as producer)

Corrado Francia, 73, Italian singer, on Feb. 8

Mary Wilson, 76, soul singer with The Supremes, on Feb. 8
The Supremes – Our Day Will Come (1965, on lead vocals)
The Supremes – Floy Joy (1971, on lead vocals)
Mary Wilson – Pick Up The Pieces (1979)
Mary Wilson – Time To Move On (2015)

Servando Cano Rodríguez, 78, Mexican singer-songwriter and producer, on Feb. 8

Cedrick Cotton, 46, singer with R&B band Ideal, fatally stabbed on Feb. 9
Ideal – Get Gone (1999)

Chick Corea, 79, jazz keyboardist and songwriter, on Feb. 9
Hubert Laws – All Soul (1964, on piano as Armando Corea)
Chick Corea – Spain (1972, also as composer)
Chick Corea – The One Step (1978, also as composer)

Richie Albright, 81, drummer of Waylon Jennings’ group Waymore’s Outlaws, on Feb. 9
Jessi Colter – For The First Time (1975, on drums)
Waylon & Willie – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1978, on drums)

Lee Sexton, 92, banjo player, on Feb. 10

Jon Mark (Burchell), 77, English folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Feb. 10
Jon Mark – Paris Bells (1965)

Antonis Kalogiannis, 80, Greek singer, on Feb. 11

Milford Graves, 79, pioneering free jazz drummer, on Feb. 12

Louis Clark, 73, English arranger, conductor and keyboardist, on Feb. 13
Electric Light Orchestra – Mr. Blue Sky (1977, orchestral arranger)
Asia – Rock And Roll Dream (1985, as orchestral conductor)

Sydney Devine, 81, Scottish singer, on Feb. 13

Ari Gold, 47, American singer-songwriter, on Feb. 14
Ari Gold – Love Wasn’t Built In A Day (2007)

Erriquez, 60, singer, guitarist with Italian folk band Bandabardò, on Feb. 14

Raymond Lévesque, 92, Canadian singer-songwriter, actor, on Feb. 15
Raymond Lévesque – Quand les hommes vivront d’amour (1956, also as writer)

Johnny Pacheco, 85, Dominican salsa musician and label executive, on Feb. 15
Pacheco Y Su Charanga – La Malanga (1961)
Johnny Pacheco with Pete Rodriguez – Alto Songo (1971)
Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco – Toro Mata (1974)
Fania All Stars – El Raton (1974)

Soul Jah Love, 31, Zimbabwean reggae singer, on Feb. 16

Tonton David, 53, French reggae singer, on Feb. 16
Tonton David – Pretoria (1991)

Erik Swanson, 57, Western swing musician, on Feb. 16

U-Roy, 78, Jamaican reggae singer, on Feb. 17
Hugh Roy & John Holt – Wear You To The Ball (1970)

Omar Moreno Palacios, 82, Argentine folk singer-songwriter, guitarist, on Feb. 17

Andrea Lo Vecchio, 78, Italian singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 17
Andrea Lo Vecchio – Dorme la città (1964)

Marc Ellington, 75, Scottish folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Feb. 17
Marc Ellington – Oh No, It Can’t Be So (1971)

Françoise Cactus, 56, French musician with Berlin duo Stereo Total, on Feb. 17
Stereo Total – L’amour à trois (2001)

Gaston Georis, 79, keyboardist of surf rock band The Sandals, on Feb. 17
The Sandals – Theme from Endless Summer (1964, also as co-writer)

Prince Markie Dee, 52, rapper with The Fat Boys, on Feb. 18
Fat Boys – Can You Feel It (1984)
Prince Markie Dee -Typical Reasons (Swing My Way) (1992)

Miles Seaton, 41, member of folk-rock group Akron/Family, announced Feb. 18
Akron/Family – Until The Morning (2013, on vocals)

Mark Ellen, drummer of Vanity Fare (1972-2015), on Feb. 18

James Burke, 70, singer with soul band Five Stairsteps, on Feb. 19
The Five Stairsteps – Don’t Waste Your Time (1966)
The Five Stairsteps – We Must Be in Love (1969)

Đorđe Balašević, 67, Serbian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 19

Philippe Chatel, 72, French singer-songwriter, on Feb. 19
Philippe Chatel – Ma lycéenne (1979)

Luigi Albertelli, 86, Italian songwriter, on Feb. 19
Bobby Solo – Zingara (1969, as co-writer)

Gene Taylor, 68, rock and blues keyboardist and guitarist, on Feb. 20
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Roll Of The Dice (1995, on piano)

Chris Ajilo, 91, Nigerian highlife musician, on Feb. 20
Chris Ajilo & His Cubanos – Afro Mood (early 1960s)

Hélène Martin, 92, French singer and songwriter, on Feb. 21
Hélène Martin – Le condamné à mort (1968)

Sean Kennedy, 35, Australian metal bassist, suicide on Feb. 23

Peter Ostroushko, 67, folk-violinist and mandolinist, on Feb. 24
Bob Dylan – If You See Her, Say Hello (1975, on mandolin)
Peter Ostroushko – Heart Of The Heartland (1995)

Bob James, 68, singer-songwriter with rock band Montrose, on Feb. 26
Montrose – Let’s Go (1976, on lead vocals and as co-writer)

Danilo Rustici, 72, guitarist of Italian prog-rock band Osanna, on Feb. 27
Osanna – L’uomo (1971)

Ian North, 68, founder of power pop band Milk ‘N’ Cookies, on Feb. 28
Milk ‘N’ Cookies – The Last Letter (1975)

Anna Kast, 39, singer with Russian rave band Little Big, on Feb. 28

Jorge Oñate, 71, Colombian folk singer, on Feb. 28
Jorge Oñate & Nicolas ‘Colacho’ Mendoza – Ausencia (1977)

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In Memoriam – January 2021

February 2nd, 2021 5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Camarillo, 52, drummer, on Jan. 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – December 2020

January 4th, 2021 8 comments

It was a pretty bad month for bass players, electric or standing. One of the bass thumpers we lost was the last survivor of the Dave Brubeck Quartet that recorded Take Five. Also gone is the last of the McGuire sisters, the one with the most colourful life of the trio.

For a couple of months I stopped marking deaths as being related to Covid-19 but given the second waves in many parts of the world, and the incomprehensibly casual behaviour of some people, some governments and some defeated presidents, noting them might help highlight the need to just be responsible until this pandemic is over.

The Barrier-Breaker
Though I am not a particular fan of his music, I had huge admiration for Charley Pride as a barrier-breaker (even if his career hasn’t produced an excess of black country performers). Apart from a bit of dabbling in gospel, Pride was uncompromisingly country. In that way he reclaimed a little of the black influence on that genre, which in the early days was significant (see my free eBook A Brief History of Country Music). Arguably Pride was not, as the obituaries claimed, country’s first black superstar — that probably was DeFord Bailey, who was a founding member of the Opry until he was abruptly dismissed in 1941. Pride, however, was certainly the biggest black star in country, and he transcended race — without being obsequious, selling out or denying the evil of systemic racism or its effects — as was evidenced when he was named Entertainer of the Year at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.

And like some other country singers, Pride had a colourful background story. Born into a poor sharecropper family in Sledge, Mississippi, Pride became a professional baseball player. Injuries prevented a sparkling career, but at his last station as a semi-pro (while working for a lead smelter, shovelling coal into the furnace), the team manager recognised Pride’s singing talent and paid him to sing for 15 minutes at games. This led Pride to revive his old dream of recording music — he tried his luck at Sun Records in the 1950s. Local gigs led him to RCA and what turned out to be a fruitful career in music.

The Zorro Rapper
In the rise of hip hop, Whodini played a pioneering role, as we were reminded of by the death at only 56 of co-vocalist John Fletcher, or Ecstasy. In 1982, Whodini became the first rap act to have a proper music video produced to promote a single, their debut Magic’s Wand (whose bassist and co-writer Matthew Seligmann died in April). Whodini were innovators in drawing from influences beyond hip hop and dance music. They were early adopters of R&B and electronic pop. New wave type Thomas Dolby produced that debut single, and Krautrock giant Conny Plank produced Whodini’s eponymous debut album — not in rap capital New York but a bucolic suburb of ancient Cologne. With that sound, Whodini were among the first hip hop acts to cross over to mainstream black radio. While co-vocalist Jalil Hutchins was the main writer, Fletcher was the focal point, with his Zorro hat.

The British Invader
In the vanguard of the British invasion were a softly-singing duo with the well-mannered names of Chad and Jeremy, the first half of which, Chad Stuart (born David Stuart Chadwick) has died. They first hit on both sides of the Atlantic with Yesterday’s Gone, followed by songs such as A Summer Song, Willow Weep for Me, and Before And After. But by 1966 the hits dried up when Jeremy Clyde went on a year’s break to appear in a stage play in London. Chad meanwhile tried to keep the buzz going in the US with his wife Jill, but with no great success.

Back in the UK, Chad and Jeremy collaborated whenever the latter had the time. They also made friends with a young folk singer from the US who had just split from his own duo partner after their debut album flopped. Paul Simon gave Chad & Jeremy a song titled Homeward Bound to record. A few weeks later, Simon & Garfunkel reunited, following the surprise success of a remixed version of their Sound of Silence. Chad & Jeremy had considered Homeward Bound for a single release, but having got wind of Simon & Garfunkel considering the song as a follow-up to their first hit, the British duo opted for a song titled Teenage Failure. It turned out to be just that, a failure, teenage or not. Chad & Jeremy in the end released Homeward Bound in August 1966 on their Distant Shores album. Simon & Garfunkel had a #5 hit with it earlier that year.

Chad & Jeremy recorded another couple of albums and a movie soundtrack, which were critically praised but commercially unsuccessful. They split in 1968, having sporadic reunions thereafter.

The Five Bassist
The last surviving member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet which recorded the timeless Take Five has departed. Bass player Eugene Wright died at the age of 97. The Chicago-born musician made his recording debut in 1947 as a member of Leo Parker’s All Stars, where he played alongside future jazz great Gene Ammons, whom he later backed. Wright went on to play with acts like Count Basie, Oscar Peterson, Cal Tjader, Buddy de Franco, Kenny Drew, and Sonny Stitt. But Wright’s big break came with the Dave Bubeck Quartet, which he belonged to throughout its glory years from the late 1950s to late-1960s. He also backed by the quartet’s saxophonist Paul Desmond, who wrote Take Five, on his solo records.

In between he released one solo record, The Wright Groove in 1962. Unusually, he recorded it in New Zealand, with a trio of local jazz musicians. After Brubeck, Wright joined the Monty Alexander Trio. Wright rarely ventured outside jazz; one occasion when he did so was to play the double-bass on Simon & Garfunkel’s 59th Street Bridge Song.

The Songwriter
On Christmas Eve I stood in my kitchen preparing seasonal deserts and crooning along to Dana’s It’s Going To Be A Cold, Cold Christmas; it was the day the song’s co-writer died, at the age of 86. Geoff Stephens had his first taste of success as the founder of The New Vaudeville Band, who had a worldwide hit with the Grammy-winning Winchester Cathedral, a Stephens composition, in 1967. Stephens also wrote There’s A Kind Of Hush for his band, though it would be a hit for Herman’s Hermits and in the 1960s for the Carpenters. By then he had already written or co-written hits for Dave Berry (The Crying Game, later a hit for Boy George) and The Applejacks (Tell Me When), and co-produced Donovan’s breakout hits Catch The Wind and Universal Soldier.

Stephens’ list of subsequent hits, most of them co-written with Les Reed, is impressive, regardless of what one might think of their uneven quality. His biggest hit was David Soul’s 1977 Silver Lady. Others included You Won’t Find Another Fool Like Me (The New Seekers), Semi-Detached Suburban Mr. James (Manfred Mann), Lights of Cincinnati (Scott Walker), Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast (Wayne Newton), Sorry Suzanne (The Hollies), Daughter of Darkness (Tom Jones), Like Sister And Brother (The Drifters), Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha (Cliff Richard), Knock, Knock Who’s There (Mary Hopkin), It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye (Crystal Gayle), and I’ll Put You Together Again (Hot Chocolate).

The Hard Rocker
With the passing of Leslie West, we have lost another musician who took to the stage at Woodstock in 1969 (see mixes here). As guitarist and singer of hard-rock band Mountain, West played a pivotal part in the development of heavy metal, with songs like the cowbell-anthem Mississippi Queen. After Mountain split in 1972, West and Mountain drummer Corky Laing teamed up with Cream’s Jack Bruce and Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears to record two studio albums, as well as a live set. Soon the band broke up.

Mountain appeared in 2009 at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert. After they played their set, Leslie West married his fiancée Jenni Maurer on stage under a canopy of guitars. Two years later, he lost a leg due to diabetes, but West kept performing. He released his final album, Soundcheck, in 2015.

The Last Sister
With the death of Phyllis McGuire at 89, the last McGuire Sister has left the stage, with Dottie dying in 2012 and oldest sister Ruby two years and a day before Phyllis. The trio started performing in 1935, when Phyllis was just four years old, launching a 33-year-long career that included two US #1s, Sincerely and Sugartime. The end came in 1968, with a performance on the Ed Sullivan Show, due to Phyllis’ relationship with mafia boss Sam Giancana, which had seen the sisters widely blacklisted. Phyllis had already released a number of solo singles by then, on the Reprise label founded by, of course, Frank Sinatra.

Phyllis certainly picked up architectural taste from her lovers’ milieu. Her Las Vegas mansion included a swan moat and a replica of the Eiffel Tower which protruded through the structure’s roof. She denied that Giancana had bought her that mansion and claimed that she had invested in oil to produce the wealth which she could flaunt in such absurd ways. The sisters reunited in 1986 and performed on and off for the next two decades. The McGuire Sisters featured a few times here: on Any Major ABC of the 1950s; Any Major Jones Vol. 2; and Any Major 1950s Christmas.

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

Dan Morrison, drummer of Australian ska punk band Area-7, on Dec. 1

Ron Mathewson, 76, Scottish jazz double bassist and bass guitarist, of Covid-19 on Dec. 2
Joan Armatrading – Cool Blue Stole My Heart (1975, on double-bass)

Kenny Jeremiah, 77, lead singer of soul group Soul Survivors, of Covid-19 on Dec. 4
Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)

Franco Bolignari, 91, Italian jazz singer, on Dec. 4
Franco Bolignari – Crudelia De Mon (1961)

Sara Carreira, 21, French-Portuguese singer, traffic collision on Dec. 5

Eric Pacheco, 53, bass guitarist with hard rock band Babylon A.D., on Dec. 6

Howard Wales, 77, keyboardist, on Dec. 7
Grateful Dead – Candyman (1970, on keyboards)
Howard Wales – Rendezvous (Part I) (1976)

Dawn Lindberg, 75, South African folk-singer, of Covid-19 on Dec. 7
Des & Dawn Lindberg – The Seagull’s Name Was Nelson (1971)

LD Beghtol, 55, musician and writer, on Dec. 7
The Magnetic Fields – All My Little Words (1999, vocals)

Harold Budd, 84, avant-garde composer and poet, of Covid-19 on Dec. 8
Harold Budd & Brian Eno – The Silver Ball (1984)

Jason Slater, 49, rock bassist (Third Eye Blind), producer, mixer, on Dec. 9
Snake River Conspiracy – You And Your Friend (2000, as member)
Queensrÿche – All The Promises (2008, as producer, bassist, second drummer)

Sean Malone, 50, bassist with metal bands Cynic, Gordian Knot, Aghora, on Dec. 9

Joseph ‘Mojo’ Morganfield, 56, blues singer (son of Muddy Waters), on Dec. 10
Mojo Morganfield – Who’s Gonna Be Your Sweet Man When I’m Gone (2018)

Barbara Windsor, 83, English actress and singer, on Dec. 10
Barbara Windsor – When I Was A Child (1970)

Ubirany, 80, singer with Brazilian samba band Fundo de Quintal, of Covid-19 on Dec. 11
Fundo de Quintal – Saber Viver (1983)

Dariusz Malinowski, 55, bassist with Polish punk band Siekiera, on Dec. 12

Charley Pride, 86, country legend, of Covid-19 on Dec. 13
Charley Pride – She’s Still Got A Hold On You (1969)
Charley Pride – Kiss An Angel Good Morning (1971)
Charley Pride – Let Me Live (1971)
Charley Pride – Shouldn’t It Be Easier Than This? (1987)

Andrey Sapunov, 64, singer-bassist of Russian rock band Voskreseniye, on Dec. 13

Paulinho dos Santos, 68, singer of Brazilian rock band Roupa Nova, of Covid 19 on Dec. 14
Roupa Nova – Volta pra mim (1987)

Pauline Anna Strom, 74. electronic composer, on Dec. 14

Albert Griffiths, 74, guitarist-singer of Jamaican reggae band The Gladiators, on Dec. 15
The Gladiators – Music Makers From Jamaica (1978)

Sam Jayne, 46, singer of hardcore band Lync, indie band Love as Laughter, found on Dec. 15
Love as Laughter – Don’t Worry (2008)

Carl Mann, 78, rockabilly singer, on Dec. 16
Carl Mann – Mona Lisa (1958)

Emil Cadkin, 100, TV and film composer, on Dec. 16

Stanley Cowell, 79, jazz pianist, co-founder of Strata-East Records, on Dec. 17
Stanley Cowell – Blues For The Viet Cong (1969)
Stanley Cowell – Trying To Find A Way (1975)

Jeff Clayton, 66, jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 17
Patrice Rushen – Wishful Thinking (1978, on oboe)
The Clayton Brothers – Saturday Night Special (1997, on alto sax)

Vinicio Franco, 87, Dominican merengue singer-songwriter, of Covid-19, on Dec. 19

Pepe Salvaderi, guitarist-singer with Italian pop band Dik Dik, on Dec. 19
I Dik Dik – Il Primo Giorno Di Primavera (1969)

Per Alsing, 60, drummer of Roxette, on Dec. 19
Roxette – Sleeping In My Car (1994)

Clay Anthony, 61, bassist of rock band Junkyard (1987-91), traffic accident on Dec. 19
Junkyard – Simple Man (1989)

Chad Stuart, 79, half of English duo Chad & Jeremy, on Dec. 20
Chad & Jeremy – A Summer Song (1964)
Chad & Jeremy – Teenage Failure (1966)
Chad & Jeremy – Homeward Bound (1966)
Chad & Jeremy – Painted Dayglow Smile (1967)

Art DeIrorio, Cajun/country fiddler, on Dec. 20
Link Davis – Have You Heard The News (1948, on fiddle)

K.T. Oslin, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 21
K.T. Oslin – 80’s Ladies (1987)

Rebecca Luker, 59, musical actress and singer, on Dec. 23
Rebecca Luker – Remember (2009)

Rika Zaraï, 82, Israeli singer and writer, on Dec. 23

Leslie West, 75, singer-guitarist of rock band Mountain, on Dec. 23
The Vagrants – I Can’t Make A Friend (1966)
Mountain – Long Red (Live at Woodstock) (1969)
Mountain – Mississippi Queen (1970)
West, Bruce & Laing – Backfire (1972)

John ‘Ecstasy’ Fletcher, 56, rapper with hip-hop pioneers Whodini, on Dec. 23
Whodini – Friends (1984)
Whodini – Last Night (I Had A Long Talk With Myself) (1986)
Whodini feat. Millie Jackson – Be Yourself (1987)

Geoff Stephens, 86, English songwriter, producer and musician, on Dec. 24
Scott Walker – Lights Of Cincinnati (1969)
Mary Hopkin – Knock Knock Who’s There (1970, as co- writer)
Hot Chocolate – I’ll Put You Together Again (1978)
Boy George – The Crying Game (1992)

Tony Rice, 69, bluegrass musician, on Dec. 25
Tony Rice – Banks Of The Ohio (1977)

Amadeu Casas, 66, Spanish guitarist and blues singer, on Dec. 26

Tito Rojas, 65, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Dec. 26
Tito Rojas – Siempre Sere (1990)

Víctor Cuica, 71, Venezuelan jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 26
Víctor Cuica  – El Ratón (1993)

Jeff Jacks, singer of rock band The Termites, reported on Dec. 27

Armando Manzanero, 85, Mexican singer-songwriter, Covid-19 on Dec. 28
Armando Manzanero – Somos novios (1968)
Armando Manzanero & Lisset – Nada Personal (1996)

Claude Bolling, 90, French jazz pianist and composer, on Dec. 29
Claude Bolling – Baroque And Blue (1975)

Rudy Salas, 71, member of Latin R&B groups El Chicano, Tierra, on Dec. 29
El Chicano – One More Night (1975)
Tierra – Together (1980)

Gösta Linderholm, 79, Swedish singer and composer, on Dec. 29

Alto Reed, 72, saxophonist in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band, on Dec. 30
Bob Seger – Turn The Page (Live) (1976, on saxophone)
Bob Seger – The Horizontal Bop (1980, on saxophone)

Phyllis McGuire, 89, third of The McGuire Sisters, on Dec. 30
McGuire Sisters – Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight (1954)
McGuire Sisters – Sugartime (1957)
Phyllis McGuire – That’s Life (1966)

‘Senator’ Eugene Wright, 97, bassist with the Dave Brubeck Quartet, on Dec. 30
Leo Parker’s All Stars – El Sino (1947, on double bass)
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Blue Rondo a La Turk (1959, on double bass)
Eugene Wright – The Wright Groove (1962)
Simon & Garfunkel – 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy) (1969, on double bass)

Frank Kimbrough, 64, jazz pianist, on Dec. 30
Frank Kimbrough Trio – Hymn (2012)

Seaman Dan, 91, Australian musician, on Dec. 30

Mick Bolton, 72, British keyboardist, reported on Dec. 31
Mott The Hoople – Sweet Angeline (Live) (1974, on keyboards)

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In Memoriam – November 2020

December 3rd, 2020 4 comments

By the nasty standards of this awful year, November was a fairly mild month. Perhaps the Grim Reaper was tied up in recounts, lawsuits about counts trying to make him count votes for some victims but not others, and fictionally dead people claiming to be alive and real dead people not conceding, death certificates notwithstanding. With all that in mind, here’s the final count. In the post-truth world, you are free to deny that any of these people are indeed dead.

 

The Heepster
In September we lost Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake; in November long-time keyboardist Ken Hensley followed him. Hensley was part of the classic Heep line-up, serving the band as keyboardist, guitarist, songwriter and occasionally lead singer. After the departure of lead singer David Byron, Hensley took on the leadership of the group, but departed himself in 1980 when he felt Uriah Heep were taking the wrong musical direction. In 1983/84 he was member of Southern rock band Blackfoot, but in 1985 went into semi-retirement. Hensley is regarded by many as a pivotal figure in the development of keyboard-playing in heavy metal.

The Blue-Eyes Soul Man
Blue-eyed soul singer Len Barry might be best remembered for his 1960s classic 1-2-3, which had a bit of a Motown feel. Barry, who cut his hit-making teeth with doo wop band The Dovells and before that with The Bisstones, toured in Britain with the Motown Revue, supported Sam Cooke on tour, and played in black venues such as the Apollo and other legendary black venues. Later he co-wrote the hits Zoom for Fat Larry’s Band and Love Town for Booker Newberry III.

The Great Engineer
Recording engineers don’t always get the credit they deserve, but they are the ones who make the sound come together, and who’ll get the door to creak on Thriller. The latter effect was among the bag of tricks of Bruce Swedien, the multi-Grammy winner who did a lot of work with Quincy Jones, including all Quincy’s albums from The Dude to Q’s Jook Joint, and many of those he produced, such as George Benson’s Give Me The Night, The Bothers Johnson’s Blam and Light Up The Night (with Stomp), and Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, Thriller and Bad (Swedien engineered all MJ albums from Thriller to 1996’s HIStory).

Swedien’s career started in 1956, with an album for the Bo Davies Quartet. Subsequent clients included Ramsey Lewis, Count Basie (including his LP of Beatles covers), Art Blakey and Buddy Miles. In the 1970s he engineered his first pop hit, Tyrone Davis’ soul classic Turn Back The Hands Of Time. Other soul acts, such as The Chi-Lites (basically all the big hits), Eddie Harris, and Jackie Wilson followed. He also mixed for acts like Rufus & Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, Herb Alpert, René & Angela, Donna Summer, Sergio Mendes, and Michael McDonald (on Sweet Freedom).

 

Saving Private Radford
English folk-singer Jim Radford was best-known for his song On The Shores Of Normandy, a lament for the fallen soldiers in the D-Day invasion on 6 June 1944. Radford was well-placed to write such a song: he was part of that invasion, as the youngest-known combatant. He went on to become a peace activist, singing the cautionary verse: “As the years pass by, I can still recall the men I saw that day, who died upon that blood-soaked sand where now sweet children play. And those of you who were unborn, who’ve lived in liberty, remember those who made it so on the shores of Normandy.” The Wehrmacht’s bullets didn’t get him; in the end it was Covid-19 that did.

The Iron Curtain Rock Legends
Two members of the classic line-up of Hungarian prog-rock band Omega, pioneers of Eastern European rock, died within just three days of one another: keyboardist László Benkő at 77 on November 19, and then bassist Tamás Mihály at 73.  The former had been an ever-present member from 1962-2017, the former joined in 1967 and stayed the course.

Omega was the first Eastern European rock band to break through internationally, recording at home, in East-Berlin and in London in Hungarian, German and English, and enjoying an international hit with The Girl With Pearls in Her Hair. The communist regime intermittently banned Omega as culturally subversive; strangely the much more hardline East German regime allowed the band to tour there and even record in German. In 1987 the band stopped, but regrouped following the collapse of Soviet communism. Omega are still recording and touring, with three members of the classic line-up forming the core.

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

 

Gerry Hayes, 86, German jazz multi-instrumentalist, on Nov. 1
Gerry Hayes – Soulgirl (Philly Dog) (1967)

Ronnie Peel, 74, Australian guitarist and singer, on Nov. 1
Rockwell T. James – Roxanne (1977, as Rockwell T. James)

Phil K, 51, DJ with Australian production project Lostep, on Nov. 1

Esteban Santos, 69, singer with Spanish pop group Bravo, on Nov. 1
Bravo – Lady, Lady (1984)

Nikki McKibbin, 42, singer-songwriter, on Nov. 1

Ken Hensley, 75, English singer-songwriter with Uriah Heep, on Nov. 4
Uriah Heep – Lady In Black (1971, as writer on lead vocals)
Uriah Heep – Look At Yourself (1973, as writer on lead vocals)
Ken Hensley – Who Will Sing for You (1975)
Blackfoot – Summer Days (1984, as member on keyboards)

Reynaert, 65, Belgian singer, on Nov. 5

Len Barry, 78, American singer, on Nov. 5
The Bosstones – Mope-Itty Mope (1959, on lead vocals)
The Dovells – Bristol Stomp (1961, on lead vocals)
Len Barry – 1-2-3 (1965)
Booker Newberry III – Love Town (1983, as co-writer)

Stefano D’Orazio, 72, percussionist of Italian rock band Pooh, on Nov. 6
Pooh – Pensiero (1973)

King Von, 26, rapper, shot on Nov. 6

Jim Radford, 92, English folk singer-songwriter, on Nov. 6
Jim Radford – On The Shores Of Normandy

Brian Coll, 79, Irish country singer, on Nov. 7

Cándido Camero, 99, Cuban jazz percussionist, on Nov. 7
Candido Camero feat. Al Cohn – Poinciana (1956)
Candido – Candi’s Funk (1980)

Bones Hillman, 62, bassist of Australian rock band Midnight Oil, on Nov. 7
Midnight Oil – Blue Sky Mine (1990)

Vanusa, 73, Brazilian singer, on Nov. 8

Oscar Benton, 71, Dutch vocalist, on Nov. 8
Oscar Benton – Bensonhurst Blues (1982)

Fred Ape, 67, member of German alternative folk-rock trio ABB, on Nov. 9
Ape, Beck & Brinkmann – Regenbogenland (1982)

Michael Bundesen, 71, singer of Danish pop band Shu-bi-dua, on Nov. 9
Shu-bi-dua – Stærk Tobak (1973)

Dave Zoller, 79, jazz pianist, composer and arranger, on Nov. 9
Dave Zoller Jazz Sextet – A Sketch Of Fred Crane (1995)

Alec Baillie, bassist of punk bands Choking Victim, Leftöver Crack, on Nov. 10

DJ Spinbad, 46, DJ, mixer and producer, on Nov. 10

Andrew White, 78, jazz/R&B saxophonist and bassist, on Nov. 11
The 5th Dimension – Together Let’s Find Love (1971, on bass)
Andrew White – Who Got De Funk (1973)

Mo3, 28, American rapper, shot dead on Nov. 11

Adrian Cionco, 48, bassist of Argentine rock-fusion band La Mosca, on Nov. 11

Jim Tucker, 74, guitarist of The Turtles, on Nov. 12
The Turtles – It Ain’t Me Babe (1965)
The Turtles – So Happy Together (1966)

Lynn Kellogg, 77, singer-actress (original Sheila in Hair), on Nov. 12
Lynn Kellogg – Easy To Be Hard (1968)

Doug Supernaw, 60, country singer, on Nov. 13
Doug Supernaw – Reno (1993, also as co-writer)

Bob Van Staeyen, 84, member of Belgian folk group De Strangers, on Nov. 14

Des O’Connor, 88, English singer and entertainer, on Nov. 14
Des O’Connor – I Pretend (1968)

Eric Hall, 73, Iconic English music agent, on Nov. 16

Bruce Swedien, 86, recording engineer and producer, on Nov. 16
Ramsey Lewis Trio – Wade In The Water (1966, as engineer)
The Chi-Lites – Have You Seen Her (1972, as engineer)
James Ingram & Michael McDonald – Yah Mo Be There (1983, as engineer)
Quincy Jones – The Secret Garden (1989, as engineer)

László Benkő, 77, keyboardist of Hungarian rock band Omega, on Nov. 18
Omega – Nem tilthatom meg (1968)
Omega – Pearls In Her Hair (1969)

Tony Hooper, 77, guitarist of English folk-rock band Strawbs (1968-72), on Nov. 18
Strawbs – Forever (1970, also as co-writer)

Dominic Grant, 71, British pop singer, on Nov. 18
Guys ‘n’ Dolls – There’s A Whole Lot Of Loving (1975, as member)

Mshoza, 37, South African kwaito singer, on Nov. 19

John ‘Molly’ Baron, 68, member of South African soul-pop band The Rockets, on Nov. 19
The Rockets feat. Ronnie Joyce – Situations (1984)

Michael Brooks, 85, jazz producer and historian, on Nov. 20

Corrie van Gorp, 78, Dutch singer and actress, on Nov. 20

Tamás Mihály, 73, bassist/cellist of Hungarian rock band Omega, on Nov. 21
Omega – Live As Long As (1974)
Omega – Break The Chain (1996)

Rufus Rehu, 81, member of New Zealand band Quincy Conserve, on Nov. 21

‘Detroit’ Gary Wiggins, 68, jazz and blues saxophonist, on Nov. 22
Detroit Gary Wiggins – That’s All (2008)

i_o, 30, techno DJ, on Nov. 23

Hal Ketchum, 67, country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 23
Hal Ketchum – I Know Where Love Lives (1991)

James Goode, 76, member of garage rock band The Excels, on Nov. 23
The Excels – Let’s Dance (1965)

Flor Silvestre, 90, Mexican singer and actress, on Nov. 25
Flor Silvestre – Cielo Rojo (1961)

Allan Botschinsky, 80, Danish jazz trumpeter, on Nov. 26

Jamir Garcia, 42, singer of Filipino metal band Slapshock, of suicide on Nov. 26

Herman Green, 90, jazz and blues saxophonist, on Nov. 26
B.B. King – I Stay In The Mood (1966, on saxophone)

Piotr Strojnowski, 62, guitarist of Polish reggae band Daab, on Nov. 28

Miša Aleksić, 67, bassist of Serbian/Yugoslavian rock band Riblja Čorba, on Nov. 29

Othella Dallas, 95, jazz singer and dancer, announced on Nov. 29

Jerry Demara, 45, Mexican banda singer-songwriter, on Nov. 30
Jerry Demara – Déjalo (2020) [BUY]

Anne Sylvestre, 86, French singer-songwriter, on Nov. 30
Anne Sylvestre – Le Pêcheur de Perles (1967)

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In Memoriam – October 2020

November 5th, 2020 6 comments

 

Do you hear the people sing? The remarkable man who wrote those words for the musical Les Misérables died in October, as did two triple-named country outlaw legends, two reggae pioneers, and three men who gave their names to eminent bands. Fans of The Originals will enjoy hearing the first recordings of hits for Waylon Jennings (I’m A Ramblin’ Man), Willie Nelson (Whiskey River) and the classic Mr Bojangles.

The Professor
In his young days, Spencer Davis almost casually came into contact with future music legends, a status he himself attained before he was 30. One of his early bands included future Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman (then still William Perks). Then he got a girlfriend called Christine Perfect, who as Christine McVie became a creative force in Fleetwood Mac. And in 1963, Davis discovered 15-year-old Stevie Winwood and roped him and Stevie’s brother Muff into the band that would became the Spencer Davis Group. The band would rack up for UK Top 10 hits and two consecutive UK #1s, all with Stevie on vocals, all ’60s classics, especially Keep On Running and Gimme Some Lovin’.

The band stopped running in 1969, after Stevie had decamped to form Traffic two years earlier. Davis, known by many as “Professor” due to his university education — he had studied German, a language in which the band recorded a couple of novelty records — went to the US and recorded a couple of success-evading albums, reformed an iteration of the Spencer Davis Group to little interest. By the mid-1970s he was working as an executive for Island Records.

The Axeman
Confession time: much as I admire the technical skills and acknowledge the influence of the guitar soloing of Eddie Van Halen, they never were my cup of vodka & coke. Of course they were quite breathtaking in their technique, as is the expertise in synchronised swimming. But that should not detract from how they, and Eddie’s band, practically set the 1980s “hair rock” craze in motion. Eddie was one of the pivotal figures in rock history, and also in pop: his guitar solo on Michael Jackson’s Beat It, which at the time sounded super-hard, helped metal cross over into pop.

The Soul-Reggae Pioneer
Soul singer Johnny Nash was one of the pioneers of reggae in the UK especially. A superb soul singer, Nash recorded since he was 18 in 1958, but the decisive event was when he moved to Jamaica in the 1965. There he was influenced by the rising rocksteady scene, and recorded in that genre himself. That fusion of what would become known as reggae and US soul brought Nash three Top 10 hits in the UK in 1968/69. Three years later he had a #13 hit with a version of Stir It Up, the song by Bob Marley, who still had to break internationally. But soon came Nash’s own anthem: the much-covered I Can See Clearly Now. Another three years later, he topped the UK charts with the lilting reggae-soul number Tears On My Pillow. But that style wasn’t his only trick: Nash also released some very good soul albums, until he semi-retired from the music business in 1980.

The Drumming Centenarian
We have featured several centenarians over the years, but was any as old as 107? That is the age jazz drummer Viola Smith reached before she died five weeks short of her 108th. Her career went back to the 1920s when her concert hall-owner father set up his eight daughters in an all-girl band which he called the Schmitz Sisters Family Orchestra (later Smith Sisters Orchestra). As her five elder sisters chose all the instruments Viola wanted to play, she settled for drums. The band broke out in the early 1930s, but by 1938 Viola and sister Mildred formed their own all-female swing band, The Coquettes, which lasted till Mildred got married in 1942. Viola then joined the Hour of Charm Orchestra, also all-female, in which she earned the reputation of being “the female Gene Krupa”. All these bands, and some that followed, were stage acts who didn’t put their music to record.

Not surprisingly, starting in the early ‘40s, Viola advocated for equality between men and women in music. In an interview on her 107th birthday last year, Smith said she still drummed on stage occasionally.

The Gospel-Soul Man
In the 1970s, few gospel groups crossed over as well as The Rance Allen Group, a band of three brothers led by, you guessed it, Rance Allen. The lyrics might have been about the Christian faith, though even then many could be taken as inspirational, but the music was soul; channeling Chi-Lites or Sly Stone rather than Andrae Crouch. Indeed, in their performance at the legendary Wattstax festival, Rance and brothers referenced Dance To The Music after delivering a shredding guitar solo. In that way, the group paved the way for acts like Kirk Franklin and The Winans.

Rance himself was a powerful singer with a great range; he could sing ballads and also hit the high notes like the funkiest soul screamer. Later was made a bishop in his church.

The Mr Bojangles Writer
Outlaw country singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker will always be remembered for writing the great Mr Bojangles, a song about a street performer whom he met in a holding cell in 1965. The story of that featured in The Originals: The Classics. Walker never reached the heights of fellow Outlaw singers, like Willie Nelson or Waylon Jennings, but he was influential enough to receive a namecheck in Jennings’ Luckenbach, Texas (“Between Hank Williams’ pain songs and Jerry Jeff’s train songs…”).

The Other Outlaw
It was a bad month indeed for outlaw country musicians with three names: shortly after Walker, Billy Joe Shaver died (David Allen Coe and Michael Martin Murphey must be getting nervous now). Like Walker, Shaver was a collaborator with Waylon Jennings. And where Jennings was namechecked by Jennings, Shaver was mentioned in song by Bob Dylan (on 2009’s I Feel a Change Comin’ On). Shaver recorded 17 studio albums in his time, but he was especially prolific as a songwriter whose compositions were recorded by other big names in country.  As it happens, Jerry Jeff Walker was among them, featuring here with one of Shaver’s finest songs.

Shaver certainly was a character: In 2007, he shot a fellow named Billy Bryant Coker in the face with a handgun. Luckily, Coker’s injuries weren’t life-threatening. Shaver said he had acted in self-defence after Coker threatened him with a knife. According to witnesses, Shaver had asked Coker before shooting: “Where do you want it?” Having shot the guy, he demanded: “Tell me you are sorry. Nobody tells me to shut up.” Some years later Shaver told NPR that Coker indeed said “I’m sorry” after being shot. The singer said that Coker had been a bully and “I hit him right between a mother and a fucker.” A court acquitted Shaver.

The Writer
Here’s a thought: the same guy who wrote the lyrics for the silly novelty records by Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren in the early 1960s (including the vaguely racist Goodness Gracious Me) later wrote the profound and moving lyrics for the musical Les Misérables. South African-born English writer Herbert Kretzmer (whose brother went on to become mayor of Johannesburg) also wrote the English lyrics for the Charles Aznavour hit She, the Streisand favourite When You Gotta Go, the much-covered Yesterday When I Was Young, and — within hours of John F Kennedy’s assassination — the tribute song In The Summer Of His Years.

Kretzmer was also an award-winning journalist in Britain, as a long-running TV critic and as an interviewer of the likes of John Steinbeck, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Sugar Ray Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Henry Miller, Cary Grant and Duke Ellington.

As before, this post is included in PDF format in the package.

Lisa Schouw, South African-born singer of Australian band Girl Overboard, on Oct. 2
Girl Overboard – Wrap Your Arms Around Me (1989, also as co-writer)

Cookie Monsta, 31, British dubstep producer, on Oct. 2

Anthony Galindo, 41, Venezuelan singer, suicide on Oct. 3

Béatrice Arnac, 89, French singer, composer and actress, on Oct. 5
Béatrice Arnac – Athée ou à Té (1973)

Eddie Van Halen, 65, Dutch-born guitarist, composer, co-founder of Van Halen, on Oct. 6
Van Halen – Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love (1978)
Nicolette Larson – Can’t Get Away From You (1979, on guitar)
Michael Jackson – Beat It (1982, on guitar)
Van Halen – Hot For Teacher (1984)

Johnny Nash, 80, singer-songwriter, on Oct. 6
Johnny Nash – Love Ain’t Nothin’ (1964)
Johnny Nash – You Got Soul (1968)
Johnny Nash – Say It Ain’t True (1975)
Ray Charles – I Can See Clearly Now (1978, as writer)

Bunny Lee, 79, Jamaican reggae producer, on Oct. 6
Delroy Wilson – Better Must Come (1971, as writer and producer)
Eric Donaldson – Cherry Oh Baby (1971, as producer)

Reverend John Wilkins, 76, blues musician, on Oct. 6
Reverend John Wilkins – Trouble (2020) ORDER

Ray Pennington, 86, country singer-songwriter, in a fire on Oct. 7
Ray Pennington – Ramblin’ Man (1967, also as writer)

Brian Locking, 81, bassist with British guitar band The Shadows (1962-63), on Oct. 8
The Shadows – Dance On (1963)
Donovan – Catch The Wind (1965, on bass)

Pierre Kezdy, 58, punk bass player, on Oct. 9

David Refael ben Ami, 70, Israeli singer, COVID-19 on Oct. 9

Harold Betters, 92, jazz trombonist, on Oct. 11
Harold Betters – Do Anything You Wanna (1969)

Kim Massie, 63, blues singer, on Oct. 12

Saint Dog, 44, rapper with Kottonmouth Kings, on Oct. 13
Kottonmouth Kings – Life Ain’t What It Seems (1998)

Paul Matters, bassist of AC/DC (1975), on Oct. 14

Herbert Kretzmer, 95, South African-born lyricist, on Oct. 14
Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Bangers & Mash (1961, as lyricist)
Dusty Springfield – Yesterday When I Was Young (1972, as lyricst)
Charles Aznavour – She (1974, as lyricist)
Les Misérables Cast (London) – One Day More (1985, as lyricist)

Dave Munden, 76, English drummer and singer with The Tremeloes, on Oct. 15
The Tremeloes – Even The Bad Times Are Good (1967)
The Tremeloes – Me And My Life

Johnny Bush, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 16
Johnny Bush – Whiskey River (1972, also as co-writer)

Toshinori Kondo, 71, Japanese avant garde jazz trumpeter, on Oct. 17

Gordon Haskell, 74, English singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 17
King Crimson – Lady Of The Dancing Water (1970l, as member on bass)
Gordon Haskell – How Wonderful You Are (2001)

José Padilla, 64, Spanish DJ, producer of Café del Mar CDs, on Oct. 18
José Padilla feat. Angela John – Who Do You Love (1998)

Chet ‘JR’ White, 40, bassist with Indie band Girls, producer, on Oct. 18
Girls – Lust For Life (2009, also as producer)

Alfredo Cerruti, 78, Italian producer, singer, author, on Oct. 18

Tony Lewis, 62, bassist, songwriter with English band The Outfield, on Oct. 19
The Outfield – Your Love (1985)

Overton Berry, 84, jazz pianist, on Oct. 19

Spencer Davis, 81, Welsh musician, on Oct. 19
Spencer Davis Group – Keep On Running (1965)
Spencer Davis Group – Det war in Schöneberg (1966)
Spencer Davis Group – Mr Second Class (1969)

Viola Smith, 107, American drummer, on Oct. 21
The Coquettes – The Snake Charmer (1939)

Margie Bowes, 79, country singer, on Oct. 22
Margie Bowes – Poor Old Heartsick Me (1959)

Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 23
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Stoney (1970)
Jerry Jeff Walker – L.A. Freeway (1972)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Pissin’ In The Wind (1975)

Cal Vin, 35, Zimbabwean singer and rapper, in a hit-and-run on Oct. 24

Stan Kesler, 92, songwriter, musician and producer, on Oct. 26
Elvis Presley with Scotty & Bill – I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone (1955, as writer)
Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – Wooly Bully (1965, as producer)

Dolores Abril, 86, Spanish folkloric singer, on Oct. 26

Cano Estremera, 62, Puerto Rican salsa singer, on Oct. 27

Billy Joe Shaver, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Billy Joe Shaver – Black Rose (1973)
The Allman Brothers Band – Sweet Mama (1975, as writer)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Old Five And Dimers Like Me (1976, as writer)
Billy Joe Shaver with Kris Kristofferson – No Earthly Good (2007)

Lou Pallo, 86, guitarist with Les Paul and His Trio, on Oct. 27

James Broad, singer, guitarist, songwriter with UK indie band Silver Sun, on Oct. 30
Silver Sun – Golden Skin (1997)

Rance Allen, 71, gospel singer and bandleader, on Oct. 31
The Rance Allen Group – There’s Gonna Be A Showdown (1972)
The Rance Allen Group – Up Above My Head (1972, live at Wattstax)
The Rance Allen Group – Harlem Heaven (1975)
The Rance Allen Group – Some People (1980)

Marc Fosset, 71, French jazz guitarist, on Oct. 31

Sean Connery, 90, Scottish actor, on Oct. 31
Janet Munro & Sean Connery – Pretty Irish Girl (1959)

MF Doom, 49, British-American rapper, on Oct. 31 (announced in December)

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In Memoriam – September 2020

October 1st, 2020 6 comments

This was a relentlessly nasty month, as the number of 12 write-ups shows — in a month when I really didn’t have much time for that! It was particularly bad for soul singers and bassists. Still listing deaths from Covid-19, because as the orange commander of the Proud Stormtroopers said: “It is what it is.”

The Reggae Legend
To reggae fans, the question of Maytals or Wailers is akin to pop fans arguing about Beatles or Stones. Certainly, the Maytals’ leader Toots Hibbert, who has died at 71, was the one to give the genre its name with his 1968 song Do The Reggay. A gifted multi-instrumentalist — it is said he could play every instrument on his records — Hibbert was also a superb vocalist. Had he been born in the US, he might have been a soul singer. Having grown up in a Christian family before turning to Rastafarianism, he had a background in gospel music, which also found expression in some of his lyrics.

The Inspiration for Michelle
The incredible 93-years-long life of French chanteuse and actress Juliette Gréco has come to an end. As a teenager in occupied France during World War II, Juliette was involved in the Resistance, with her mother and sister. All three were arrested. Juliette was tortured by the Gestapo, but evaded internment in a concentration camp, unlike the other two. Instead, the 16-year-old was kept in jail for several month.

After the war, Gréco became part of the bohemian scene is Paris’ St Germain district (now more famous, alas, as the oligarch propaganda plaything football club owned by the state of Qatar), where she joined up with people like Sartre, Camus and Cocteau (who gave Gréco her first film role). In the 1960s, she was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s song Michelle.

Gréco had a string of high-profile affairs (with, among others, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Sacha Distel, and Albert Camus), was married three times, and received the highest honours France bestows on civilians.

The Brother of Kool
Ronald Bell co-founded the legendary Kool & The Gang with his brother Robert, whose nickname gave the band its name. And while “Kool” gave his name to the band, Ronald was a musical force behind it, as a saxophonist, as a songwriter and as a producer. He wrote such classics as Jungle Boogie, Open Sesame, Ladies’ Night, Get Down On It, Big Fun, Hi-De-Hi Hi-De-Ho, In The Heart, Cherish, and Celebration. The latter was the song Bell regarded as his favourite, having been inspired to write it after picking up a bible in a hotel room. And that is interesting since Bell was a convert to Islam who took the name Khalis Bayyan.

The Honey Cone
On September 10 I posted the ABC of Soul Music mix, on which the letter H was represented by The Honey Cone. Two days later the lead singer of the featured track, Want Ads, died. Edna Wright, the younger sister of Darlene Love, started out as a backing singer for the likes of The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Rivers, and Ray Charles.

She released one unsuccessful single under the name Sandy Wynns, but her break came when Holland-Dozier-Holland, fresh from leaving Motown, discovered Wright as she filled in for her sister on the Andy Williams Show in 1969. Wright declined a solo deal but took the lead in The Honey Cone. Two years later the group had two mega hits with Want Ads and Stick-Up. After the Honey Cone, she resumed her career as backing singer, but did release one solo LP in 1977, the title track of which features here.

She Was Woman
With her hit I Am Woman, Australian-born singer Helen Reddy carved her name into the pantheon of female singers who articulated the demand for the emancipation of women. It was all the more powerful a statement in a time of rising feminism that Reddy didn’t look like the caricature of bra-burning activists that scared the supposedly silent majority; she actually looked like one of them — as did many other feminists. For a generation of women, I Am Woman (written by a man) became a statement of self-assertion.

The Australian-born singer had her first hit in 1970 with her second single, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was actually the b-side of a track called I Believe In Music, written by Mac Davis, who died on the same day as Reddy. Many more hits followed, especially Delta Dawn, over the next decade. Reddy retired from the music business in 2002, returned to Australia, and became a hypnotherapist there.

The Humble Singer
Before he made it as a country singer, Mac Davis was Read more…

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In Memoriam – August 2020

September 3rd, 2020 7 comments

This month we lost one of my favourite contemporary singers, and one of the last survivor of the 1921 Tulsa pogrom. The latter died at 100 on August 18, when this list records seven music deaths in one day.

There’s a lot great music to discover this month; I am surprised that the drum break that opens Steve Grossman’s Zulu Stomp has not been widely sampled. As in the last few months, I’ve created playlists in order of the listings below, and a playlist I have made for myself. This month’s is particularly good.

The Saint Of Lost Causes
The law of averages dictate that most of our favourites musicians tend to die when they are past their prime. It’s very rare that I’m looking forward to the next album of a newly-departed performer, even in the case of somebody like Prince. But in August I was devastated by the sudden death of Justin Towne Earle, one of the few contemporary singers I’d call myself a fan of, more so even than I am of his father, Steve Earle.

He never made a bad album I heard, and his Harlem River Blues album is a contender for my favourite of the 2010s, and Track 2 from it, One More Night in Brooklyn, one of my favourites of the decade. Last year’s The Saint Of Lost Causes was solid with some fine moments. It has his typical warmth and tinge of sadness, and is an agreeable companion. Justin Townes Earle’s music is generally classified as “Americana”, and Earle did justice to the concept: he drew his influences from almost every musical genre of the USA.

Earle was just 38, younger even than the fine musician he was named after, Townes van Zandt. Police say it might have been a drug overdose that claimed Earle, and reportedly he had been on-and-off drugs since he was 12.

The Texan Mexican
Strange paths crossed with Trini Lopez, the son of Mexican person growing up in Texas. In the mid-1950s, Lopez and is band played in the Dallas nightclub owned by Jack Ruby, who’d later murder Harvey Oswald. Then it was Buddy Holly’s father at whose advice Lopez and his band, The Big Beats, were recorded by Buddy’s producer Norman Petty in 1957. They released one instrumental single, and Trini tried his hand at a solo career as a singer. A long string of singles went nowhere, and an idea for Trini to succeed Buddy Holly as the singer of The Crickets fell through. So he returned to club singing — where he was discovered in 1962 by Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra signed Lopez to his Reprise label, and Lopez rewarded Sinatra with a hit, a live recording of If I Had A Hammer. He continued to have a run of hit singles through the 1960s. In between that he designed two guitars for Gibson, both models now much sought-after by collectors, and appeared in a handful of movies, including The Dirty Dozen.

The Rock Opera Writer
We can thank Mark Wirtz and his collaborator Keith West for the concept of the rock opera, one which they pioneered in 1967 with their unfinished A Teenage Opera, from which West released the track often called Grocer Jack, which became a #2 hit in 1967. Wirtz — who was born in in the French city of Strasbourg, grew up in Cologne and moved to England in 1962 — also wrote and recorded the infectious A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass in 1966 under the moniker Mood Mosaic (with vocals by The Ladybirds). It later served as the theme of the legendary German music TV show Musikladen.

In 1970 he moved to the US, where he arranged for a number of big-name acts, but left the business in the late 1970s. He tried his hands at various careers: working a telemarketer, maître d’, blood-stock agent, interpreter, voice-over artist, undercover agent, seminar leader and sales manager. He then moved into comedy, with success, and also became an award-winning newspaper columnist and writer.

The Pogrom Survivor
As a toddler, Hal “Cornbread” Singer survived the Tulsa race massacre, when whites razed a whole thriving district in the black suburb of Greenwood in a pogrom against African Americans. When he died at 100 on August 18, he was one of the last survivors of that act of genocide.

Singer grew up in Greenwood before he became a jazz musician, especially as a tenor saxophonist. He played with acts like Oran “Hot Lips” Page, Roy Eldridge, Marion Abernathy, Coleman Hawkins and Wynonie Harris and recorded under his own name, scoring a 1948 hit with the instrumental Corn Bread, which gave him his nickname.

The Hard Rock Producer
Martin Birch, who has died at 71, was a Read more…

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In Memoriam – July 2020

August 4th, 2020 5 comments

The month started off quite brutally, with July 6 being particularly harsh. Things eased as the month neared its end. I’m still noting where people died of complications from Covid-19, since there are still idiots who think that protecting others from catching this virus is unimportant or incompatible with their screwed ideologies. Not masking up kills people. Be decent. Wear those masks.

The Maestro
You know a musician’s lifework is universally beloved when it is hailed by music fans of every genre, a top football club and the Vatican. The AS Roma football team got it right when it wore on its sleeves the legend “Grazie, Maestro” below the outline of the face of film composer Ennio Morricone by way of tribute. Readers of this blog needn’t be instructed about the genius of Morricone, nor be subjected to a tortured list of my favourite pieces of Morricone compositions — such a list would never end. But should there be anybody left who is uncertain what the Morricone fuss is all about, let me refer them to the exquisite soundtrack of Once Upon A Time In America, a masterpiece which guides you through an emotional journey (one of the featured tacks is from that soundtrack).

The Big Mac
Readers of this corner of the Internet also needn’t be reminded that before Fleetwood Mac were coked-up million-sellers in sunny California, they were a blues-rock band in grimy England (possibly experimenting with a variety of drugs, but more of that in a bit). The first incarnation had at its centre guitarist and songwriter Peter Green, whose blues guitar chops moved BB King to issue highest praise. For Fleetwood Mac, Green wrote Black Magic Woman (later a hit for another gifted guitarist, featured on Any Major Originals – The Classics), the instrumental mega-hit Albatross, Oh Well, The Green Manalishi, and others.

Green wasn’t into the stardom or the money that came with it. His experimentations with LSD also had an effect on his mental state. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1971. He continued to record here and there, but faded into obscurity (though his 1979 album In The Skies was very good). In 1979 his old pals from Fleetwood Mac included Green, uncredited, on the song Brown Eyes from Tusk.

The Devil’s Competitor
Will there be a rematch for a fiddle after the death of Charlie Daniels? The country-rocker became a sorry example of the hateful culture-warrior that brought the world the Disaster Express that is Donald Trump. But in his younger day, Daniels was a member of the counterculture and a supporter of Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign. Let us remember that Charlie Daniels objected to the KKK’s use of his poorly-titled Southern Rock anthem The South’s Gonna Do It Again.

Before he broke through as a headliner, Daniels was a session musician, playing for the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Al Kooper, Flatts & Scruggs, Ringo Starr and, especially, the Marshall Tucker Band.

The Jazz Singer
With the death of Annie Ross, all three of the pioneering jazz vocalese trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross are gone, with Dave Lambert having died already in 1966, and Jon Hendricks in 2017. Ross left the trio in 1962, succeeded by Yolande Bavan, the sole survivor of either line-up. Born in London as Annabelle Short, Ross came to the US as a child. In 1943 she played Judy Garland’s sister in Presenting Lily Mars. A year later she won a songwriting contest, with Johnny Mercer recording her song, Let’s Fly. She joined Lambert and Hendricks in 1957, having earlier worked alongside Lambert. Initially they wanted to record with different female singers, but Ross so impressed them that she was invited to join the group.

While with the trio, she also recorded solo albums, and in 1962 left the group. She went on to found a high-class jazz club in London, and had a good career as a film actress.

The Synth Pioneer
Remember that strange keyboard solo on Del Shannon’s Runaway (a song with so many delightful touches)? That was played on a musitron by its inventor, Max Crook. The musitron was an early type of monophonic synthethiser which, according to Wikipedia, was “a clavioline heavily enhanced with additional resistors, television tubes, and parts from household appliances, old amplifiers, and reel-to-reel tape machines”. It influenced the likes of Berry Gordy, Joe Meek, Ennio Morricone, John Barry and Roy Wood.

Crook was operating his invention on stage as a member of Del Shannon’s backing group when he played a chord-change from A-minor to G. The singer and the keyboardist used that as the basis for Runaway, which turned out to be a million-seller.

The Toto Father
I imagine growing up in the Porcaro household must have been a blast, at least from a music point of view. Joe Porcaro, who has died at 90, was a session drummer and percussionist in the Wrecking Crew, and all three of his sons — Jeff, Steve and Mike (two of whom Joe outlived) — became sought-after session musicians themselves, and founders of the group Toto. Porcaro Sr did Read more…

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