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In Memoriam – July 2011

August 3rd, 2011 5 comments

The month was overshadowed by the death of Amy Winehouse. But the Grim Reaper took some people on whom greater attention would not have been wasted. For example, Chic’s keyboard man Raymond Jones died at the age of 53 of pneumonia; the same illness that took fellow Chic member Bernie Edwards 15 years ago. Also departing on the soul train this month was Fonce Mizell, who with his brother Larry produced acts such as L.T.D., Taste of Honey, The Blackbyrds, Brenda Lee Eager and The Rance Allen Group, and on his own produced that golden run of Jackson 5 singles from 1969-71.

The 1960s rock band The Grass Roots lost its second member this year: after Rick Coonce’s death in February, lead singer Rob Grill passed away. I was also saddened to learn of the death of America’s Dan Peek, whose compositions Lonely People and Don’t Cross The River formed part of the soundtrack of my youth.

The most bizarre death this month is that of Facundo Cabral’s. The 74-year-old Argentinian singer-songwriter was shot dead in Guatemala on July 9, apparently in an assassination attempt on a concert promoter. He had a tough life: at the age of 9 he supported his mother and sibling after the father walked out; in 1978 his wife and infant daughter died in a plane crash; he was a cancer survivor and almost blind. Sample Cabral line: “Every morning is good news, every child that is born is good news, every just man is good news, every singer is good news, because every singer is one less soldier.”

I was also sad to learn of the death, after a fall, of German Schlager singer Bernd Clüver, who was a cut above the usual gang of bowtied squares in the genre, and who in 1976 virtually sabotaged his career when he wrote a song about homophobia, which was banned on West German radio.

Finally, Alex Steinweiss died. We all have plenty of his invention: the album cover. In 1939 he pitched the idea of illustrated record sleeves to his superiors at Columbia Records. They accepted his proposal, and record sales shot up immediately. Steinweiss mostly designed artwork for classical records. Read more at www.soundfountain.org.

Oh, and if you play the saxophone, congratulations on not dying in July.

Christy Essien-Igbokwe, 52, Nigerian singer, on June 30
Christy Essien-Igbokwe – Seun Rere (1981)

Raymond Jones, 52, keyboardist with Chic, on July 1
Chic – My Feet Keep Dancing (1979)

Bébé Manga, 60, Cameroonian singer, on July 1
B̩b̩ Manga РAmi O (1982)

Ruth Roberts, 84, songwriter (Meet The Mets, It”s a Beautiful Day For A Ballgame), on July 1
Meet The Mets (original version, 1962)

Jane Scott, 92, legendary rock critic, on July 3
The Jam – The Modern World (1977)
Manuel Galbán, 80, Cuban guitarist (Las Zafiros, Buena Vista Social Club), on July 7
Ry Cooder & Manuel Galbán – Patricia (2003)

Billy Blanco, 87, Brazilian bossa nova pioneer, on July 8
Billy Blanco – O tempo e a hora (1974)

Kenny Baker, 85, bluegrass fiddler (Bill Monroe, Don Gibson), on July 8
Bill Monroe – Walk Softly On This Heart Of Mine (1970)

Würzel (Michael Burston), 61, Motörhead gutarist (also of Fairport Convention, Splodgenessabounds), on July 9
Moțrhead РOverkill (1979)

Facundo Cabral, 74, Argentine singer-songwriter, shot dead on July 9
Facundo Cabral – No Soy De Aquí, Ni Soy De Allá (1970)
Rob Grill, 67, singer of ’60s rock band The Grass Roots, on July 11
The Grass Roots – Midnight Confession (1968)

Fonce Mizell, 68, record producer (a half of Mizell Brothers), death announced on July 11
Blackbyrds – Do It, Fluid (1975)
L.T.D. – Love Ballad (1976)

Jerry Ragovoy, 80, producer and hit songwriter (Piece Of My Heart, Time Is On My Side), on July 13
Garnett Mimms & the Enchanters – Cry Baby (1963, as songwriter)

Adam Chisvo, 47, Zimbabwean jazz musician, on July 13

Antonio Prieto, 85, Chilean singer and actor, on July 14
Antonio Prieto – La novia (1961)
Eric Delaney, 87, British percussionist and swing band leader, on July 15
Eric Delaney Band – Sweet Georgia Brown

Gil Bernal, 80, saxophonist with Lionel Hampton, Ray Charles, The Coasters, Quincy Jones, on July 17
Duane Eddy – Rebel-Rouser (1959, as saxophonist)

Taiji, 45, member of Japanese heavy metal band X Japan, of suicide on July 17
X Japan – Endless Rain (1989)

Joe Lee Wilson, 75, jazz singer, on July 17
Joe Lee Wilson – It’s You Or No One (1974)

Sid Cooper, 94, woodwind musician and arranger for big bands (Tommy Dorsey),  TV (Johnny Carson Show) and film (several Woody Allen movies), on July 18
Chris Connor – Chiquita From Chi-wah-wah (1954, on alto sax)
Alex Steinweiss, 94, graphic designer and inventor of album covers (in 1940), on July 18

Lil Greenwood, 86, jazz singer (Duke Ellington Orchestra), on July 19

Milly Del Rubio, 89, singer with The Del Rubio Triplets, on July 21
Del Rubio Triplets – Whip It (1994)

Amy Winehouse, 27, English singer-singwriter, on July 23
Amy Winehouse – Me And Mr Jones (2006)

Bill Morrissey, 59, singer-songwriter, on July 23
Bill Morrissey – Last Day Of The Last Furlough (1989)
Dan Peek, 60, member and songwriter of folk-rock group America, on July 24
America – Don’t Cross The River (1972)

Mike Reaves, 52, guitarist of alt.metal band Full Devil Jacket, on July 25

Frank Foster, 82, jazz saxophonist (Count Basie), composer and arranger, on July 26
Count Basie Orchestra feat. Tony Bennett – Jeepers Creepers (1959, on tenor sax)

Tim Smooth, 39, New Orleans rapper, on July 26
Joe Arroyo, 55, Colombian singer, on July 26
Joe Arroyo-Echao pa’lante (1988)

Bernd Clüver, 63, German Schlager singer, on July 28
Bernd Clüver – Der Junge mit der Mundharmonika (1973)

Jack Barlow, 87, country singer, on July 29

Gene McDaniels, 76, soul singer and songwriter, on July 29
Gene McDaniels – Tower Of Strength (1961)
Roberta Flack – Compared To What (1969, as songwriter)
Marlena Shaw – Feel Like Making Love (1975, as songwriter)

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In Memoriam – May 2011

June 6th, 2011 4 comments

This series has noted a couple of hundred musicians’ deaths. Not many have caused me so much sadness as that of Gil Scott-Heron. Never mind that the man was a drug addict, and that he once wrote a homophobic song. He was a poet, and he set his poetry to glorious music. He was the Bob Dylan of the ghetto. I hope that with his dying breath, Scott-Heron appreciated the fact that astronauts were just then making a final journey and the US president has introcuded health care reform he was demanding in Whitey On The Moon).

As a soul fan, I noted with particular sadness the passing of jazz-funk guitarist Cornell Dupree, who played that opening riff of Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect, and also backed favourite acts like Bill Withers and Marlena Shaw.

We tend to mourn deaths by suicide, though that of Gramy-winning songwriter, screenplsy writer and director Joseph Brooks, who wrote the much-loathed You Light Up My Life, leaves us at best with mixed feelings: he killed himself while under indictment for a series of “casting couch” rapes (the details of which are nauseating). Not a very nice guy at all, it seems.


David Mason, 85, English trumpeter who played the piccolo solo on The Beatles’ Penny Lane, on April 29
The Beatles – Penny Lane (1967)

Hume Patton, 65, guitarist of Scottish psychedelic rock group The Poets, on April 30

Ernest ‘Shololo’ Mothle, 69, South African jazz bassist and percussionist, and session musician for Robert Hyatt, Hugh Masekela, Mike Oldfield, Jonas Gwangwa a.o., on May 2
Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo (1975) (as percussionist)

Odell Brown, 70, jazz/soul organist, arranger and songwriter, on May 3
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (1982) (as co-writer)

Nigel Pickering, 81, rhythm guitarist and vocalist of Spanky and the Gang, on May 5
Spanky and Our Gang – Like To Get To Know You (1968)
John Walker, 67, founder of The Walker Brothers, on May 7
The Walker Brothers – Just For A Thrill (1966)

Big George Webley, 53, British composer and arranger of TV themes, including The Office (UK), and radio broadcaster, on May 7
Big George Webley (feat Fin) – Handbags and Gladrags (2001)

Johnny Albino, 93, Puerto Rican bolero singer, on May 7
Johnny Albino – 7 Notas de Amor

Cornell Dupree, 68, soul and jazz-funk guitarist, on May 8
Cornell Dupree – Teasin’ (1974)
Marlena Shaw – Time For Me To Go (1973) (as guitarist)

Dolores Fuller, 88, actress and songwriter for Elvis Presley a.o. (also cult director Ed Woods’ girlfriend, as portrayed in the movie), on May 9
Elvis Presley – Rock-A-Hula Baby (1961) (as composer)
John Carter, 65, producer, songwriter and A&R man, on May 10
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967) (as writer)

Norma Zimmer, 87, “Champagne Lady” on The Lawrence Welk Show, backing singer for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como a.o., on May 10

Zim Ngqawana, 51, South African jazz saxophonist, on May 10

Snooky Young, 92, jazz trumpeter with Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton a.o. and with The Band, on May 11
Count Basie Orchestra feat. Tony Bennett – Life Is A Song (1959)
The Band – Rag Mama Tag (1972)

Lloyd Knibb, 80, drummer of Jamaican ska band The Skatalites, on May 12
The Skatalites – Fidel Castro (1964)
Jack Richardson, 81, producer of Guess Who, Bob Seger, Rage Against The Machine a.o., on May 13
Bob Seger – Night Moves (1977) (as producer)

Bob Flanigan, 84, singer of The Four Freshmen, on May 15
The Four Freshmen – It’s A Blue World (1952)

M-Bone, 22, American rapper with Cali Swag District, killed in drive-by shooting on May 15
Cali Swag District – Where You Are (2010)

James ‘Curley’ Cook, 66, blues guitarist and founder member of Steve Miller Band, on May 16

Sean Dunphy, 73, Irish singer (the first to record in Nashville), on May 17
Kathy Kirby, 72, English ’60s pop singer, on May 19
Kathy Kirby – Dance On (1963)

Joseph Brooks, 73, songwriter (You Light Up My Life), suicide on May 22

Jeff Conaway, 60, actor (Kenickie in the movie Grease) and singer of 1960s ban The 3 1/2, on May 27

Gil Scott-Heron, 62, musician and poet, on May 27
Gil Scott-Heron – I Think I’ll Call It Morning (1971)
Gil Scott-Heron – Whitey On The Moon (1974)

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