In Memoriam – June 2019

July 4th, 2019 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hella Sketchy, 18, rapper, on June 28

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

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

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The Originals – Soul Vol. 1

June 27th, 2019 2 comments

The theme of this month’s instalment of The Originals is soul classics. The alert reader will notice, with possible alarm, that none of the tracks featured were Motown hits. But that reveals that I’m planning to do a special of lesser-known originals of Motown hits at some point.

 

 

Sweet Soul Music (Yeah Man)
Before Arthur Conley wrote Sweet Soul Music, his tribute to the living soul legends, he just wanted to cover Sam Cooke’s posthumously released Yeah Man. Otis Redding rewrote the lyrics, and got himself a namecheck — but excluded the man who was being plagiarised. It was a strange omission, since Sam Cooke influenced pretty much every soul singer of the 1960s, including and especially Otis Redding.

Try A Little Tenderness
Indeed, it was Cooke’s interpretation of the old standard Try A Little Tenderness which inspired Otis Redding’s reworking of the song. Once Otis was through with the song, with the help of Booker T & the MGs and a production team that included Isaac Hayes, it bore only the vaguest semblance to the smooth and safe standard it once was. Redding in fact didn’t even want to record it, ostensibly because he did not want to compete with his hero Cooke’s brief interpretation of the song on the Live At The Copa set. His now iconic delivery was actually intended to screw the song up so much that it could not be released.

It isn’t quite clear who recorded the original version: the versions by the New Mayfair Dance Orchestra and the Ray Noble Orchestra are both cited as having been recorded on December 8, 1932.

At Last
When Beyoncé Knowles was invited to sing At Last — Barack and Michelle’s special song — at Obama’s inauguration events in January 2009, Etta James was not best pleased. The veteran soul singer stated her dislike for the younger singer, who had portrayed Etta in the film about the Chess label, Cadillac Records. “That woman; singing my song, she gonna get her ass whupped,” James declared (she later relegated her outburst to the status of a “joke”).

It is her song, of course, certainly in the form covered so competently by Beyoncé. But many people recorded it before her, and it was a hit at least twice. The first incarnation came in the 1941 movie Orchestra Wives, in which it was performed by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, who also recorded the first version to be released on record on 20 May 1942. It was a #9 hit for Miller. At Last became a hit again ten years later, for Ray Anthony with Tom Mercer on vocals. This version is typical 1950s easy listening fare, done much better in 1957 by Nat ‘King’ Cole (who tended to do music much better than most people).

In 1960 Etta James recorded the song, with Phil and Leonard Chess producing with a view to accomplishing crossover success. Her version, released Read more…

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Any Major Dogs

June 20th, 2019 22 comments

While this site is moving servers, with all the problems this creates, here’s a selection for the dog lovers first posted six years ago: 26 songs about canines — and one by dogs. Excluding some of the obvious choices, they range from the happy to the spooky to the amusing to the sad. I’ve tried to keep the sad ones to a minimum; as any dog or cat owner will know, the time when a pet has to be put down is nearly as traumatic as losing a family member.

Ken-L Ration Commercial – My Dog’s Better Than Your Dog (1960s)
Kids usually brag about whose Dad is the strongest; in this TV commercial, the kids don’t argue: the kids with the Ken-L Ration eating dog win by dietary default. The jingle was based on a song by the great singer-songwriter Tom Paxton.

The Beatles – Martha My Dear (1968)
Martha was Paul’s dog that roamed his overgrown garden in St John’s Wood, London. Paul never wrote as lovingly about Jane Asher…

Harry Nilsson – The Puppy Song (1969)
Lonely Harry wishes for a puppy with whom to “share a cup of tea” and escape from alienating society.

Cat Stevens – I Love My Dog (1967)
Yup, Cat loves his dog.

Johnny Cash – Dirty Old Egg Suckin’ Dog (1969)
Call the pet protection agency! Cash might like his dog, but if he messes with the chicken again, he will visit violence upon the hound. And this is a light-hearted song…

Dolly Parton – Me And Little Andy (1977)
Dark spooky stuff about a death-bound visitor and her dog. One for opening those tear-ducts.

Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians – Ghost Of A Dog (1990)
Some years ago Edie put her dog to sleep – and now he is nocturnally spooking the yard. Cold shivers!

Nellie McKay – The Dog Song (2004)
Adopted dog turns around singer’s pitiful life by being tail-wagging and cute.

Bobby Bare Jr – Your Adorable Beast (2004)
Country giant’s son sings a love song to his dog. All dog owners think about playing it for their pooch.

Bright Eyes – Stray Dog Freedom (2006)
Oberst digs the freedom of the stray dog. Or he means himself. Does anyone ever really know with that guy?

Klaatu – All Good Things (1980)
The band that wasn’t The Beatles after all sing about losing their best friend: “I never had a closer friend than you, but all good things must end.” Start up those tear-ducts again.

Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968)
The original version. Bojangles is sobering up in jail and tells his fellow inmates about his hoofing life on the road, and about his beloved dog. *** SPOILER ALERT *** The dog died.

Anonymous – Your Dog Loves My Dog (1960s)
From an album of recordings from the civil rights movement, the song tells the story of two dogs, one owned by a black person and the other by a white man, who are great friends. The metaphor is patently obvious, but some people still do not get it.

Tom T. Hall – Old Dogs, Children And Watermelon Wine (1972)
An old guy tells Tom about the three things “that’s worth a solitary dime”. Superannuated canines rank among these.

Jean Shepard & Ray Pillow – I’ll Take The Dog (1966)
Jean and Ray are getting divorced and amicably settle on who gets what, until it comes to the custody of the pooch, at which point they turn into Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney – a Pillow fight, so to speak (oh come on, everybody loves a putrid pun!). Watch out for the surprise ending.

Webb Pierce – I’m Walking The Dog (1953)
In questions of romance, Webb values his freedom, preferring to walk his dog. Unless the song’s title serves as a euphemism.

Elvis Presley – Old Shep (1956)
An old country lament for a dog that gone died. Originally recorded by Red Foley, Old Shep was the favourite song of the young boy Elvis down Tupelo way – so much did young Elvis love the song that he sang it at his first ever public performance, as a ten-year-old at a talent show at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show. Elvis didn’t win (and the winner either never had to buy a drink again, or felt like a total fraud when Elvis became famous), but he recorded Old Shep on his debut album.

Three Keys – That Doggone Dog Of Mine (1933)
The Three Keys’ mutt cannot do much but it cost only 15 cents, in 1933 money. And what follows is a lovingly compiled doggy CV.

Dolly Dawn and her Dawn Patrol – Where Has My Little Dog Gone (1939)
The nursery rhyme rendered in big band style. It’s quite brilliant.

Hank Williams – Move It On Over (1947)
Hank is in the dog house, now the big, mad dawg is moving in, so scratch it on over, small dog.

Rufus Thomas – Stop Kickin’ My Dog Around (1964)
Rufus, whose moniker is a popular canine name, had a string of songs about man’s best friend: Walk The Dog, The Dog, Somebody Stole My Dog , Can Your Monkey Do The Dog and this song counselling somebody to mind their bad temper.

Nancy Sinatra – Leave My Dog Alone (1966)
People, leave the dog alone. And her cat. And Nancy.

Pet Shop Boys – Suburbia (The Full Horror Mix) (1986)
Because I Want A Dog is much too obvious.

Ferlinghetti & Dorough – Dog (1958)
An existential poem about dogs set to jazz (“Congressman Doyle is just another fire hydrant to him.”). Snoopy would dig it.

The Monkees – Gonna Buy Me A Dog (1966)
The Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart song about getting a pet to recover from a break-up was intended to be performed straight, and The Monkees recorded it thus on a version that went unreleased for the next three decades. On this take, released in 1966, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones certainly don’t play the song straight, instead lacing it with some really bad jokes.

Homer & Jethro – That Hound Dog In The Window (1953)
Yes, we’re well into the novelty section of dog songs now. Comedy duo Homer & Jethro corrupt that nice Patti Page hit about the price for the pooch in the store window. It probably was quite hilarious in 1953.

Don Charles and the Singing Dogs – Oh! Susanna (1955)
Doggies bark a song. There is a reason this song comes at the end of this collection…

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R. Home-bred covers are included. I borrowed the graphic for the front cover from papillonpalsrescue.com, an adoption agency for dogs. If you are in the market for a canine, please consider adopting a dog.

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Any Major Beach Vol. 3

June 12th, 2019 2 comments

For most of you, summer is on the way. Spare a thought for us in the southern hemisphere for whom winter is about to break. See poor me shiver to near-death when the daytime-high temperature hits 13°C (that’s 56° in Fahrenheit). The brrrrutality of it!

That is when my thoughts turn to warm days at the beach. And that is what the third mix of songs on the beach is for: to prepare the northern hemisphere folks for summer, and for us in the southern half of the earth to remind us that summer is just half a year away.

Of course, there are two previous beach mixes and five summer compilations to fall back on. All links should be working.

As ever, CD-R length, home-tanned covers, PW in comments.

1. Larry & The Loafers – Let’s Go To The Beach (1966)
2. Frankie Avalon – Beach Party (1964)
3. Skeeter Davis – Under The Boardwalk (1966)
4. Tony Orlando & Dawn – Summer Sand (1971)
5. Chairmen Of The Board – Down At The Beach Club (1983)
6. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Pleasure Beach (1978)
7. Van Halen – Cabo Wabo (1988)
8. Weezer – Surf Wax America (1994)
9. Ramones – Rockaway Beach (Live) (1979)
10. Jim Steinman – Surf’s Up (1981)
11. Men At Work – Down By The Sea (1981)
12. Chris Rea – On The Beach (Live) (1988)
13. Dierks Bentley – Somewhere On A Beach (2016)
14. Richard Ashcroft – On A Beach (2000)
15. The Cure – A Strange Day (1982)
16. Bob Dylan – Sara (1976)
17. Vanity Fare – I Live For The Sun (1968)
18. The Beach Boys – Surfer Girl (1963)
19. Jan & Dean – Ride The Wild Surf (1964)
20. Stevie Wonder – The Party At The Beach House (1964)
21. Frank & The Top Ten – Beach Bunny (c.1975)

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Previously in Any Major Summer
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In Memoriam – May 2019

June 4th, 2019 3 comments

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

Not brought up that way

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

The Mod Squadder

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

The bass singer

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

The Ageless Singer

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

Look at him!

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

The Mad Lad

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

Tony Soprano Drive-time

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

Summer Hit Tragedy

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

From Punk to Bench

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

President of Ska

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Originals: 1990s & 2000s

May 30th, 2019 5 comments

 

 

The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that The Originals are running monthly now. This month we cover the 1990s and 2000s. My stash of lesser-known originals from that era is limited; so much so that I’m adding a few bonus tracks to exhaust those decades.

 

It’s Oh So Quiet
Bjork showed just how madcap crazy she is on the big band pastiche It’s Oh So Quiet. But the song was actually a cover of actress Betty Hutton‘s 1951 English version of the song, titled Blow A Fuse. It is no less maniacal than Bjork’s 1995 cover, right down to the frantic screams.

It’s fair to say that back in the day Hutton was a bit of a cook in her own right; her goofy performance in the musical Annie Get Your Gun (with which you apparently can’t get a man) testifies to a certain lack of restraint which is very much on exhibition on Bjork’cover.

Blow A Fuse itself was a cover of a 1948 German number by Austrian jazz musician Horst Winter, who knew it as Und jetzt ist es still (And now it’s quiet). It is included here as a bonus track.

Torn
When Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn had its long run in the upper reaches of the British and US charts in 1997, word was that the song was a cover of the Norwegian hit by Trine Rein. The truth is that it wasn’t even the first cover, or even the first Scandinavian version.

The song’s journey to hit-dom is a little complicated. The song was written by Ednaswap members Anne Preven and Scott Cutler in 1993. The same year it was recorded in Danish by Lis Sørensen as Brændt (“Burnt’) but by Ednaswap only in 1995. Still, those who overplayed the Norwegian angle aren’t entire wrong though: Imbruglia’s cover is a straight copy of Rein’s version, right down to the guitar solo.

Ednaswap were a not very successful ’90s grunge band, who came by their name when singer Anne Preven had a nightmare about fronting a group by that name being booed off the stage. Well, with a name like that… Preven has become a songwriter, receiving an Oscar nomination for co-writing the song Listen from  Dreamgirls.

 

I Swear & I Can Love You Like That
Before it was a worldwide mega-hit for soul crooners All-4-One, I Swear was a country song. In late 1993, singer John Michael Montgomery issued I Swear as a single. It did very well in the country charts and won the 1995 Grammy for Best Country Song, but reached only Read more…

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Any Major Soul 1979

May 23rd, 2019 2 comments

 

 

The great soul tracks on this mix are 40 years old – which means that no autotune is in sight. It was a time when disco was at its height, but I suppose when I put this playlist together I was in no disco mood. Indeed, a few tracks are old school soul, especially Shirley Brown‘s After A Night Like This. A couple of tracks later, 1960s star O.C. Smith makes an appearance here with a track that sounds at once old-fashioned and very much of its time.

I realise that I’ve fostered one track already on the faithful reader, though that was six years ago. The closing track here by David Ruffin appeared on the Any Major Morning Vol. 1 mix (one Is still play regularly, as I do Any Major Morning Vol. 2).

There are a few acts whom we have not met yet in this long series (Any Major Soul 1960-63 was posted in 2012, and there was a series of Any Major Soul mixes, covering two years each, before that).

Lowrell is one of them. Born Lowrell Simon, he was a member of a couple of groups – The Vondells and The Lost Generation – before acting mostly as a songwriter and producer. Among the songs he co-wrote was How Can You Say Goodbye by Sydney Joe Qualls, which featured on Any Major Soul 1974-75. In 1979 he released his one solo LP on a label owned by, of all people, Liberace. Lowrell died in June 2018.

Featuring here with Heaven Must Have Made You, recorded the same year by Tower Of Power, is jazz-funk/soul outfit Pieces, which later that year became jazz-funk/soul outfit L.A.X. And that’s probably as interesting as it gets, perhaps other than to note that all four members had surnames starting with L.

Also from a jazz-funk background was spelling-bee nemeses Niteflyte, who released two albums. The band worked with high-calibre singers such as Phyllis Hyman and Jean Carn, and musicians such as David Sanborn, Michael & Randy Brecker and drummer Stephen Ferrone. With the present track Nyteflite even broke the Billboard Top 40.

Two acts here did not live to see the end of 1979. Minnie Riperton, whose album Minnie was released two months before her death, died of breast cancer on July 12 that year. She was only 31.

Donny Hathaway didn’t even see the release of the song here, a duet with Roberta Flack. He died on January 9 from an apparent suicide. The Stevie Wonder co-written You Are My Heaven was released on single in November 1979. The album that featured the two duets he recorded shortly before his death with Flack, which also included the hit Back Together Again, would be released only in 1980.

So, now we have covered the 1960s and the 1970s. Should I enter the 1980s, or has this thing run its course? You tell me.

As always, CD-R length, home-souled covers, PW in comments.

1. Candi Staton – Ain’t Got Nowhere To Go
2. Kool & the Gang – Too Hot
3. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You Are My Heaven
4. Brenda Russell – So Good, So Right
5. Shirley Brown – After A Night Like This
6. Commodores – Sail On
7. O.C. Smith – Love To Burn
8. Minnie Riperton – Lover And Friend
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – Wait
10. Ronnie Dyson – Long Distance Lover
11. Patrice Rushen – Giving It Up Is Giving Up
12. High Inergy – Will We Ever Love Again
13. Pieces – Heaven Must Have Made You
14. Lowrell – You’re Playing Dirty
15. Ray, Goodman & Brown – Special Lady
16. Niteflyte – If You Want It
17. Leon Ware – What’s Your Name
18. Deniece Williams – Turn Around
19. Terry Callier – Pyramids Of Love
20. David Ruffin – Morning Sun Looks Blue

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Recovered

May 16th, 2019 12 comments

As I have already done with albums by Bruce Springsteen, Carole King, David Bowie and many Beatles albums, here’s another track-by-track covers mix. Except there are some songs on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road for which no covers seem to exist, so I have filled gaps with three live performances by Elton John himself, from his Hammersmith Odeon concert on 22 December 1973. One song had to be omitted altogether, for lack of any alternative versions.

In 1973 there was no indication that one day Elton John would become one of the leading Friends of Dorothy, but he unintentionally hinted at the yet-to-be-invented codeword with the metaphors in the title and on the cover of his double album.

The album’s title, also the name of the lead single, seems to be at odds the artwork on the cover. Both, song and cover, take their imagery from The Wizard Of Oz, in which the yellow brick road played as much a central role as any thoroughfare ever did in the movies. Where the song tells of disillusion at the end of that bright road, the cover promises the beginning of an escape from reality as Elton– spangly mauve platforms instead of ruby slippers – steps into a poster and on to a yellow brick road.

The poster is on a tatty wall, covering a previous poster (the font of which suggests that it might have advertised a music hall), with chimneys in the background telling of a drab existence, quite at odds with Elton’s flamboyant get-up.

The cover was drawn by the illustrator Ian Beck, who was 26 at the time. Beck has since illustrated magazines, greeting cards, packaging and a few children’s books. He has also written a few novels.

Beck came to LP cover design through John Kosh, whose credits included the Abbey Road cover. They shared a studio at 6 Garrick Street in London’s Covent Garden when Kosh arranged for Beck to do illustrations for an LP cover he was designing for Irish folk singer Jonathan Kelly, Wait Till They Change The Backdrop.

Elton John bought that album on strength of the cover, and wanted the same graphic for his new album. Beck told him that this was not possible but offered to create new artwork for the cover.

He was given tapes of the songs (which included future classics like Benny And The Jets, Saturday Night Is Alright For Fighting, Candle In The Wind and the title track), and typed lyrics sheets, and began working on a concept. His friend, fashion illustrator Leslie McKinley Howell, stood in as a model for Elton John in polaroids which Beck took (hence the long legs) in preparation for his watercolour, pastel, and coloured crayon pencils artwork. The piano on the front cover and the teddy bear at the back were placed there at the request of Elsie, as Beck only later realised Elton was known to his staff.

It was the last LP cover Ian Beck designed, though this had nothing to do with his experience of creating the iconic sleeve for one of the great double albums in a decade of many double albums.

The album is regarded by many as Elton John’s finest work. It is indeed filled with many great songs, too many to be released on single, and too many to find inclusion on retrospectives. Songs like Sweet Painted Lady (a song Paul McCartney might have written), I’ve Seen That Movie Too, This Song Has No Title, Roy Rogers and Harmony could have been hits (and Harmony was intended to be the album’s fourth single release); now they are remembered only by fans of the album.

1. Dream Theater – Funeral For A Friend/Love Lies Bleeding (1995)
2. Sandy Denny – Candle In The Wind (1977)
3. Paul Young – Bennie And The Jets (2006)
4. Sara Bareilles – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (2013)
5. Elton John – This Song Has No Title (Live) (1973)
6. The Band Perry – Grey Seal (2014)
7. Judge Dread – Jamaica Jerk-off (1977)
8. Elton John – I’ve Seen That Movie Too (Live) (1973)
9. Bridget St. John – Sweet Painted Lady (1974)
10. Elton John – The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934) (Live) (1973)
11. Emeli Sand̩ РAll The Girls Love Alice (2014)
12. Imelda May – Your Sister Can’t Twist (But She Can Rock ‘n’ Roll) (2014)
13. The Who – Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting) (1991)
14. Kacey Musgraves – Roy Rogers (2018)
15. Jesse Malin – Harmony (2008)
Bonus: Diana Ross – Harmony (1976)
Hickoids – Bennie & The Jets (2011)

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Life In Vinyl 1986 Vol. 1

May 9th, 2019 3 comments

 

 

After a long time, we return to the Life In Vinyl series, with the year 1986. Why the long delay of almost two years? Well, I had written what I thought was a great piece on my relationship with music in 1986 – and lost it in a hard-drive crash. The lost essay was so good, I was put off by the thought of trying to replicate it. I have now come to terms that I won’t.

You can blame the revival of this series to my recent viewing of the film Pretty In Pink, which virtually defines 1986, and certainly the first half of that year, which is the range of this collection.

In 1986 I was turning 20 and living in London. That year I was a pop-crazed youngster caught up in chart music. The UK charts were like a sport. As it was in 1985, I’d still be an early adopter, finding records to champion, and see them climb the charts (or, sometimes, fail to do so). It seems I was particularly good at spotting hits that would get stuck just outside the Top 10. So, fittingly, the average chart position of the 17 tracks here is #18 (the spot at which the It’s Immaterial track here peaked). The whole exercise had as much to do with love for music as it had with the charts as a sport.

It meant that I bought some records which I would not buy today. I shall not inflict some of them on you, stuff like Hollywood Beyond’s What’s The Colour Of Money. But some of these hits are also coloured by nostalgia for that first half of 1986, when I was young and clever enough to get into the fancy Stringellows club in London’s West End. Supposedly it was a hang-out for popular stars, though the only one I recognised there on my two visits was singer Belouis Some, who hardly was a star. I do have photos of our small group shooting the breeze with two prostitutes who might have been men. Let it be recorded that Stringellows was not my scene.

Anyhow, among those nostalgia-tinged tracks is Calling All The Heroes by It Bites. That summer hit was discussed last year on Chart Music, the superb podcast which clinically dissects episodes of Top Of The Pops. The experts were emphatically dismissive of the artistic merits of It Bites. I revisited the song to mop up the blood. I don’t think it’s as awful as the Chart Music pundits say; it’s an innocuous and fairly catchy slice of pop. But I also think that I enjoy it only through the haze of nostalgia of that glorious summer of ’86.

And so back to Pretty In Pink. Did anybody in American high schools really dress like James Spader, the slightly less evil version of Donald Trump?

As always, CD-R length, home-legwarmed covers. PW as usual.

1. Full Force – Alice, I Want You Just For Me
2. Fine Young Cannibals – Suspicious Minds
3. The Damned – Eloise
4. P.I.L. – Rise
5. Hipsway – The Honeythief
6. Blow Monkeys – Diggin’ Your Scene
7. David Bowie – Absolute Beginners
8. George Michael – A Different Corner
9. Big Audio Dynamite – E=Mc2
10. New Order – Shell Shock
11. Big Country – Look Away
12. It’s Immaterial – Driving Away Form Home
13. OMD – If You Leave
14. The Bangles – If She Knew What She Wants
15. Stan Ridgway – Camouflage
16. Freddie McGregor – Push Comes To Shove
17. It Bites – Calling All the Heroes

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In Memoriam – April 2019

May 2nd, 2019 4 comments

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Severs, 70, Belgian singer, on April 9

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

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

Dina, 62, Portuguese singer, on April 12

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

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

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

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

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

MC Sapão, 40, Brazilian singer, on April 19

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

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

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

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

Reijo Taipale, 79, Finnish singer, on April 26

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

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

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

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

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

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