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In Memoriam – December 2011

January 5th, 2012 14 comments

December”s headline death probably is that of the great Cesária Évora, who emerged from the tiny West African island of Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony.

But as a soul fan, percussion maestro Ralph MacDonald is my headline departure of the month. He wrote some stone-cold classics and appeared on an impressive catalogue of soul and fusion albums, including those released in their heyday by Bill Withers, George Benson, Donny Hathaway, Ashford & Simpson, Brothers Johnson, Margie Joseph, Patti Austin, Grover Washington, Maynard Ferguson, The Crusaders, Michael Franks,  Eric Gale, Bob James,  Herbie Mann, Earl Klugh, and Sadao Watanabe, as well as on pop albums by the likes of Billy Joel (The Stranger, 52nd Street, Innocent Man) and Paul Simon (Still Crazy”¦, One Trick Pony, Graceland).

The Ragovoy curse struck again. First the great songwriter died in July; then his occasional collaborator Jimmy Norman, with whom he wrote Time Is On My Side, died in November; in December singer Howard Tate, for whom Ragovoy wrote and produced several songs (including Get It While You Can, which Janis Joplin later covered, and 8 Days On The Road) passed away at 72.

Three of the world”s longest-performing artists died in December: Myra Taylor first took to the stage as a 14-year-old in 1931; she made her final performance in a career spanning 70 years on 24 July this year. Fans of The Originals will appreciate the first recording of the great Ink Spots hit I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire, which featured Myra Taylor on vocals (originals fans will also enjoy Ruby and the Romantics” Our Day Will Come, covered by Amy Winehouse on her new posthumous album) .

Johannes Heesters, who died at 108, had been a huge star in Nazi Germany and counted Nazi leaders among his friends ““ a stigma that followed him to his death. Hated in his native Holland, he was still hugely popular in West Germany.  He still toured as a centenarian, and performed to the age of 105.

Bill Tapia, dead at 103, was a ukulele maestro. Check out his version of Stars and Stripes Forever, from just two years ago, which he introduces as having played during World War I ““ the audience laughs, but the guy isn”t joking. He has been performing since 1918.

Among the more bizarre deaths is that of Willie Nelson”s drummer Dan Spears, who fell outside his house and, unable to move, froze to death.

Sadly, this will be the final monthly In Memoriam. Compiling each instalment simply takes up much more time than I can afford to spend, so this is a decision I had to make ““ with much regret, because I don”t think anyone is doing it quite this way on the Internet.

 Michal “˜Michal the Girl” Friedman, singer, from complication during the birth of twins on November 25
ATB ““ The Autumn Leaves (2004)

Howard Tate, 72, soul singer, on December 2
Howard Tate – 8 Days On The Road (1971)

Bill Tapia, 103, legendary ukulele player, on December 2
Bill Tapia – Stars And Stripes

Ronald Mosley, 72, baritone and guitarist with Ruby & the Romantics, on December 3
Ruby and the Romantics – Our Day Will Come (1963)

Hubert Sumlin, 80, legendary blues guitarist (with Howlin” Wolf), on December 4
Howlin’ Wolf – The Red Rooster (1962, as guitarist)
Hubert Sumlin – Down In The Bottom (1987)
R.J. Rosales, 37, Filipino-born Australian singer and actor, on December 4

Violetta Villas, 73, Belgian-born Polish diva, on December 5
Violetta Villas – Przyjdzie Na To Czas (1964)

Dobie Gray, 71, soul singer (Drift Away, The In-Crowd), on December 6
Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973)

Bob Burnett, 71, member of “60s folk group The Highwaymen, on December 7
The Highwaymen – Universal Soldier (1964)

Dan “˜Bee” Spears, 62, long-time bassist for Willie Nelson, on December 8
Willie Nelson – Remember Me (1975, as bassist)
Dick Sims, 60, keyboard player for Eric Clapton, Bob Seger a.o., on December 8
Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (1977, as keyboardist)

Alan Styles, Pink Floyd roadie and subject of Alan”s Psychedelic Breakfast, on December 8
Pink Floyd – Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (1970)

Myra Taylor, 94, jazz singer and actress, on December 9
Harlan Leonard and his Rockets – I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire (1940, as vocalist)

Dustin Hengst, drummer of pop-punk band Damone, on December 9

Karryl “˜Special One” Smith, member of hip hop duo The Conscious Daughters, on December 10
The Conscious Daughters – Somthin’ To Ride To (Fonky Expidition) (1993)
Billie Jo Spears, 74, country singer, on December 14
Billie Jo Spears – Blanket On The Ground (1975)

Bob Brookmeyer, 81, jazz trombonist, on December 16
Lalo Schifrin & Bob Brookmeyer – Samba Para Dos (1963)

Slim Dunkin, 24, rapper with 1017 Brick Squad, shot dead on December 16

Cesária Évora, 70, Cape Verdean singer, on December 17
Cesária Évora – Nho Antone Escade (1999)
Cesária Évora – Cabo Verde Terra Estimada (1988)

Sean Bonniwell, 71, American guitarist and singer of “60s rock band Music Machine, on December 17
Ralph MacDonald, 67, percussionist, songwriter and producer, on December 18
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway ““ Where Is The Love (1972, as songwriter)
Grover Washington Jr with Bill Withers ““ Just The Two Of Us (1980, as songwriter)
Billy Joel ““ Rosalinda”s Eyes (1978, as percussionist)

Johnny Silvo, 75, folk singer and children”s TV presenter, on December 18

Clem DeRosa, 86, jazz drummer, arranger, bandleader and music educator, on December 20

David Gold, 31, singer and guitarist of Canadian death-metal band Woods of Ypres, on December 22
Johannes Heesters, 108, Dutch-born actor and singer, on December 24
Johannes Heesters – Ich werde jede Nacht von Ihnen träumen (1937)

Jody Rainwater, 92, bluegrass musician (with the Foggy Mountain Boys) and radio DJ, on December 24

Jim “˜Motorhead” Sherwood, 69, saxophone player for Frank Zappa”s Mothers of Invention, on December 25
Frank Zappa ““ Conehead

Sam Rivers, 88, jazz musician and composer, on December 26
Sam Rivers – Verve (1980)

Barbara Lea, 82, jazz singer and actress, on December 26
Betty McQuade, 70, Australian singer, on December 26
Betty McQuade – Blue Train

Dan Terry, 87, American jazz trumpeter and big band leader, on December 27

Kaye Stevens, 79, singer and actress (frequent guest of the Rat Pack), on December 28

Christine Rosholt, 46, jazz singer, on December 28

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American Road Trip Vol. 8

June 15th, 2009 4 comments

On the last leg of our American Road Trip, we had entered Ohio by way of Cincinnati. We have one more destinations in that state before we turn east, but we shall return to the northern parts of Ohio when we go west.

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Columbus, Ohio

champion ave

And here is where I take up Dane”s invitation for a cup of coffee (and while she is in the kitchen brewing it, I quickly borrow from her the song that will feature here). Dane is the exquisitely talented photographer whose blog All Eyes And Ears has inspired me to become ever more aware of the beauty in mundane things. Dane”s photos are all taken in Ohio, not a place you”d most immediately associate with photogenic qualities (see the great photo above, taken in Columbus). But Dane”s work persuasively argues that a rusty letterbox or disused signage can be as captivating as a Hawaiian sunset.

Anyway, Columbus. It”s Ohio”s biggest city and the state”s capital, with a population of 770,000. It is also smack-bang in the middle of the USA; according to Wikipedia, half of all US residents live within 550 miles (890 km) of Columbus. So why isn”t Columbus more famous than Cincinnati or any number of smaller US cities (such as, say, San Francisco)? Well, frankly, its history is a bit ordinary, and the city”s contribution to modern culture”¦well, there is Dane”s blog! OK, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk was born in Columbus, Dwight Yoakam grew up there, Rascal Flatts were founded there, and the sitcom Family Ties was set there. On the downside, Prescott Bush ““ the patriarch of the evil clan that gave us the two Georges ““ was also born in Columbus. Dane, the coffee was excellent, but we must be on our way”¦Goodbye Columbus, it”s a lucky day for walkin” a new road.
The Association – Goodbye Columbus.mp3

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Wheeling, West Virginia

Wheeling is on the Ohio river in Ohio County. So it makes perfect sense that this city of 31,000 should be in West Virginia. And Wheeling doesn”t just happen to be in West Virginia; it virtually founded the state. It was in Wheeling that those Virginians who did not want to secede with the slave-owning states from the Union instead seceded from Virginia. The good people of Wheeling were a bit upset with The West Wing a few years ago when the would-be assassins of President Bartlett (well, of Charlie and Zoey) were identified as having bought their weapons in Wheeling. Well, they had to buy them from somewhere.

songs_in_the_atticIn his song Billy The Kid (the version featured here is the excellent live recording from Songs In The Attic), Billy Joel has the eponymous character born in Wheeling, West Virginia. You don”t want Billy Joel teach your children history, because Henry McCarty (or William Bonney, if you must) was born in New York City, and was shot dead by the horrible Pat Garrett, not hanged and buried on a hill that bears his name. Still, cracking song.
Billy Joel – Billy The Kid (live).mp3

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Here”s why I love US geography: Wheeling, West Virginia is in Ohio County (and, if Family Ties is to be believed, kids from Columbus take trips there because of a lower legal drinking age), and is considered part of the Pittsburgh Tri-State region, which seems to be headquartered in the Pennsylvanian city. Pittsburgh has become almost synonymous with industrial decay, especially its steelworks. Yet, Bruce Springsteen managed to write only one song about the city. Apparently, the city has been able to revive itself since the dark days of the 1970s, and offers all kinds white collar services now. And it has been ranked the United States” tenth cleanest city, so screw you, steel.. There”ll be some fun to be had when the G20 summit is held there in September.

lemonheadsApart from the occasional shout-out in lists of US cities, Pittsburgh has inspired little by way of songwriting (certainly as far as my collection goes) ““ so little that a few years ago a radio station invited local musicians to submit their songs about the city. In the spirit of that dearth, I offer a 2006 song by the Lemonheads (whose newly released album of covers is said to be less than fantastic) which bears the title of the city and proceeds to make no mention of it. And a song from 1970s folk singer Sammy Walker”s Misfit Scarecrow album from last year.
The Lemonheads ““ Pittsburgh.mp3
Sammy Walker – A Cold Pittsburgh Morning.mp3

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Previously on American Road Trip

He's leaving home

December 11th, 2008 3 comments

And here I am migrating from post deleting, DMCA cock sucking Blogger to WordPress, who I hope have more respect than Google’s child.

Curtis Mayfield – Move On Up (long version, 1971)
Shalamar – Make That Move (1980)
Tim Buckley – Move With Me (1972)
The Kinks – I Gotta Move (1964)
Billy Joel – Anthony’s Song (Movin’ Out) (1977)
Robin Gibb – Gone, Gone Gone (1970)
Tania Maria – Come With Me (1972)