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In Memoriam – January 2014

February 6th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

In Memoriam - January 2014Two giants of music, men who demonstrably influenced pop music, died in January.

Phil Everly and his brother Don did not invent the harmonising that was their trademark “” they simply followed in the well-trodden path of other duos, many of them also fraternal, in the world of country and country-gospel (most famously the Louvin Brothers). But the Everlys brought this tradition into the mainstream of pop music, whence it inspired acts like The Byrds, The Hollies, The Beatles, Crosby Stills & Nash and, above all, Simon & Garfunkel.

The remarkably long career of Pete Seeger began when the Spanish Civil War was raging and ended as the US government fought their battles by remote-controlled rocket bombs. Much has been written about Seeger”s musical legacy, and about his politics, which I broadly endorse but which at one point crossed into the terrain of the risible with his apologetics for Stalin (he later disowned them). But, all that aside, what impressed in particular was that he remained married to the same woman for 70 years, a marriage that ended with Toshi Seeger”s death at 91 last July. They had met in 1939, and she has been credited with being the force behind Pete”s great career.

For all her accomplishments, music history might remember Anna Gordy best for being something of a novelty: the ex-wife whose divorce settlement required Marvin Gaye to write his bitter and quite brilliant Here, My Dear, royalties of which went to her. Before their divorce, Anna and Marvin wrote several songs together, including “God Is Love” and “Flyin’ High (In the Friendly Sky)” on What”s Going On, and The Originals” great hit “Baby I”m For Real”.

In 1958 Gordy founded Anna Records, a year before brother Berry set up Tamla, the precursor to Motown. Anna Records distributed Barrett Strong”s “Money” under licence from Tamla. Berry absorbed Anna Records in 1961, whereupon Anna became president of Motown”s Artist Development, the label”s famous grooming academy. She persuaded Berry to let session drummer and songwriter Marvin Gaye  record as a singer, and their romance inspired Marvin to write songs such as “Pride And Joy”. Their marriage was turbulent and collapsed in 1973. They reconciled, as friends, a couple of years before Marvin”s death in 1984.

For fans of acid jazz in the early 1990s, English guitarist Ronny Jordan, who has died at the young age of 51, was an instant legend, at least to those jazz fans who were not inclined to jerk their elitist knees at well-produced stuff. I spent a lot of time with his 1992 album The Antidote. But to many people Jordan”s work might be best known for a classic bit of lip synching. His 1993 song “the Jackal”, with very sexy vocals by the poet-singer Dana Bryant, was used for a scene in The West Wing in which CJ Cregg, played by Allison Janney, gets the men of the White House hot under their collective collars by mouthing the vocals and pouting through “The Jackal” (see the video. The original video is worth checking out too, in HQ)

When a jazz musician dies at 95, he might have a wealth of stories from another era to tell. So it must have been with saxophonist Joe Evans, who died in January 17 (he did write his autobiography, so he had stories). Evans was active in jazz from 1939 till his retirement from performing in 1965. He played alongside the young Charlie Parker in Jay McShann”s orchestra, led his own band which also included singer Etta Jones and pianist Duke Jordan, later was part of bands led by Mary Lou Williams and Andy Kirk, and also played with the likes of Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Ma Rainey, Al Hibbler, Billie Holiday, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Lionel Hampton and Ivory Joe Hunter, and later backed R&B singers like Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson as a member of the Apollo Theatre house band. In the early 1960s he launched the New York-based Carnival Records label, which discovered future soul legends The Manhattans.

Another jazz saxophonist who died in January had his name imortalised in the title of a Sonic Youth song, “Kim Gordon and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream”, which appeared on the 2004 Sonic Nurse album. Apparently Doyle also backed Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Johnny Allen might not be a name you know, as is the lot of most arrangers, but he died at 96 having left behind an impressive body of work. Most notable of these is the “Theme from Shaft”, for which he shared a Grammy for best arrangement with Isaac Hayes. He arranged much of the Shaft soundtrack, and also on Ike albums such as Hot Buttered Soul, Black Moses and Joy. Before that, he arranged at Motown, having been there right at the beginning. The horn section in Stevie Wonder”s “Uptight” was his work. He also arranged for acts like The Staple Singers (including “I”ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself”), The Dramatics, The Persuaders, William Bell, Carla Thomas, Detroit Emeralds, Luther Ingram, The Dells, The Four Tops, Spanky Wilson, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., Albert King, The Emotions and more recently Ghostface Killah and R Kelly.

Spookily, on the day Allen died, I played The Dramatics” “Hot Pants In The Summertime” (which will feature on the follow-up to Any Major Summer Vol. 1)

As far as music career paths go, that of German singer and actor Fred Bertelmann, who has died at 88, took an unusual turn. During World War 2 Bertelmann, who had been studying classical music, fought in the Wehrmacht and was taken POW by the US army. Quite unusually the US army sent their prisoner to Alabama. There the young Fred was introduced to swing and country music. Returning to Germany he founded a band that played for GIs and also toured Sweden, but he got his big break in 1957 with a spirited German cover of Jim Lowes” country song “Gambler”s Guitar”, styling it “Der lachende Vagabund” (The laughing vagabond). It”s very annoying, so I”ll rather include Fred”s interpretation of “Strangers In The Night”, of which obviously there had to be a German version.

Dennis “˜Fergie” Frederiksen left us with the distinction of having had appeared as a singer, lead or backing, on three successive hit singles in as many years by three different bands: Survivor (“Eye Of The Tiger”, 1982), Le Roux (“Carrie”s Gone”, 1983, on lead vocals) and Toto (“Stranger In Town”, 1984, on the video of which he played a murder victim to Brad Dourif”s killer). He also belonged to Kiss protégés Angel, who had the honour of being mocked by Frank Zappa, at a time when the overrated icon also mocked Chic.


Houston Wells, 75, English country singer, on December 28
Houston Wells & The Marksmen – Only The Heartaches (1963)

Ibrahima Sylla, 57, Ivorian world music producer, on December 30
Ismaël Lô ““ Diawar (1989, as producer)

Al Porcino, 88, big band trumpeter, on December 31
Charlie Parker – Autumn In New York (1952, on trumpet)
Ella Fitzgerald – Knock Me A Kiss (1958)

Rockin” Tabby Thomas, 84, swamp blues musician, on January 1

Jay Traynor, 70, singer with Jay and the Americans, The Mystics, on January 2
Jay and the Americans – She Cried (1962)
Jay Traynor – Up And Over (1966)

Sam Ulano, 93, jazz drummer and teacher, on January 2

Thomas Kurzhals, 60, member of East German rock groups Stern-Combo Meißen, Karat, on January 2
Stern-Combo Meißen – Der Motor (1979)

Phil Everly, 74, half of the Everly Brothers, on January 3
The Everly Brothers – Down In The Willow Garden (1958)
The Everly Brothers – Cathy”s Clown (1961)
The Everly Brothers – Illinois (1968)
Phil Everly – When I’m Dead And Gone (1983)

Nelson Ned, 66, Brazilian singer, on January 5

Luc Romann, 76, French singer-songwriter, on January 6

Reather Dixon , 69, member of The Bobbettes, on January 7
The Bobettes – Mr. Lee (1957)

Maureen Gray, 65, soul singer and former child star, on January 7
Maureen Gray – Dancing The Strand  (1962)

Roy Campbell Jr, 61, free jazz trumpeter, on January 9

Ronny Jordan, 51, English acid jazz guitarist, on January 13
Ronny Jordan – So What (1992)
Ronny Jordan & Dana Bryant – The Jackal (1993)

Freddie Fingers Lee, 76, British rock & roll musician, on January 13
Freddie Fingers Lee – One Eyed Boogie Man (1979)

Beloyd Taylor, 61, soul singer, guitarist and songwriter with S.O.U.L., on January 13
S.O.U.L. – Express Yourself (1971, on guitar)
Earth, Wind & Fire ““ Getaway (1976, as writer)

Dianne Christian, 70, doo wop singer, on January 14
The Chic-Lets – I Want You To Be My Boyfriend (1964)

Jeff Strahan, 53, blues-rock singer, guitarist and pianist with the Jeff Strahan Band, on January 15

Bud Spangler, 75, jazz drummer and broadcaster, on January 16

Joe Evans, 97, jazz alto saxophonist and record label owner, on January 17
Andy Kirk and his Orchestra – Doggin’ Man Blues (1946, on alto sax)
The Manhattans – I Wanna Be (Your Everything) (1965, as label owner)

Dennis “˜Fergie” Frederiksen, 62, singer with Le Roux, Toto, on January 18
Le Roux – Carrie’s Gone (1983)

Steven Fromholz, 68, folk singer and songwriter, poet, in a hunting accident on January 19
Steven Fromholz – Last Livin’ Outlaw
Willie Nelson – I’d Have To Be Crazy (1976, as songwriter)

Fred Bertelmann, 88, German Schlager singer, on January 22
Fred Bertelmann – Fremde in der Nacht (1966)

François Deguelt, 81, French singer, on January 22

Riz Ortolani, 87, Italian film composer, on January 23
Riz Ortolani – Ti Guardero & Nel Cuore (Maine Theme of Mondo Cane) (1962)
Riz Ortolani – Days Of Anger (from Django Unchained) (2011)

Arthur Doyle, 69, jazz saxophonist, on January 25
Sonic Youth – Kim Gordon And The Arthur Doyle Hand Cream (2004)

Pete Seeger, 94, folk singer and songwriter, on January 27
The Almanac Singers – Round And Round Hitler”s Grave (1941)
The Weavers ““ Wimoweh (1952)
Pete Seeger – God Bless The Grass (1962)
Pete Seeger ““ Forever Young (2012)

John Cacavas, 83, TV score composer (Kojak), on January 28

Johnny Allen, 96, arranger (Shaft soundtrack), on January 29
Isaac Hayes ““ Soulsville (1971, as arranger)
The Dramatics – Watcha See Is Watcha Get (1972, as arranger)

The Mighty Hannibal, 74, soul singer, songwriter and record producer, on January 30
The Mighty Hannibal – Get In The Groove (1968)

Anna Gordy Gaye, 92, Motown songwriter and founder of Anna Records, on January 31
The Originals – Baby, I’m For Real (1969)

Jeff Leonard, 69, bass singer of doo wop band Little Joey and the Flips, on January 31
Little Joey and the Flips – Bongo Stomp (1962)

(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    February 6th, 2014 at 07:10 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. lugworm
    February 6th, 2014 at 10:28 | #2

    Very informative post with good representative music. Very enjoyable. Thank you.

  3. dogbreath
    February 7th, 2014 at 11:10 | #3

    Being given a stack of LPs and 45s by the son of the family next door when I wasn’t even a teenager got me started on my musical tastes and collector’s hobby. Those black vinyl discs included a fair few Everly Brothers singles and long players amongst those by Elvis, Fats Domino and the like, so I bow my head in remembrance of the late great Phil Everly and the others who passed away last month. Thanks for another worthy compiling job.

  4. Rhod
    February 7th, 2014 at 22:36 | #4

    Great effort in compiling these each month. A testament to the vast talent that we have available to listen to.



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