Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – March 2015

In Memoriam – March 2015

The mind that co-wrote one of the great rock classics is no more: Andy Fraser, bass player of Free, has died at 62. He was a founding member of Free at 15, having had a previous (!) stint with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers. He was not yet 18 when he wrote All Right Now, with the help of Paul Rodgers (himself barely 20 years old). His career after Free couldn”t reach the heights of his time with Free.

Something similar can be said of Michael Brown of the Left Banke, who co-wrote the classic Walk Renee and follow-up hit Pretty Ballerina at the age of 16 and 17. By 18 he left the group and never really had notable success again. It is said that Brown wrote the lyrics of both songs about Renée Fladen, the platinum blonde girlfriend of The Left Banke”s guitarist Tom Finn, on whom he had a crush. Tony Sansone, who co-wrote the lyrics for Walk Away Renée, claimed that the titular name was just a random riff on French names in the aftermath of the Beatles” Michelle, which had come out a year before Renee was released in 1966.

gallery1It was no shock to learn of the death at 59 of Mike Porcaro, the bassist in the Porcaro family dynasty that also included brothers Steve on keyboards, the late drummer Jeff, and percussionist/drummer father Joe. Mike had been ill with Lou Gehrig”s disease for many years. He began his career as a young session bassist for acts like Seals & Croft, Lee Ritenour, Christopher Cross, Donna Summer and Michael McDonald (including on That”s Why, which I nearly featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 4, posted three days before Porcaro”s death). He also played on the Grease soundtrack. In 1982 he finally appeared with Jeff, Steve and Joe on a Toto album “” on one track, playing the cello. But after that hit album, Toto IV, came out, bassist David Hungate left the group, and Mike finally joined his brothers” band. He stayed with Toto until illness forced his retirement in 2007, while still continuing his session work.

British singer and songwriter Jackie Trent was a fine interpreter of songs by the likes of Jimmy Webb and Burt Bacharach, but she also co-wrote with Tony Hatch a string of hit songs, much in the vein of Burt and Webb, for herself and others. These include her UK #1 hit Where Are You Now (My Love) and the masterpiece that is Scott Walker”s Joanna. Trent and Hatch wrote prolifically for Petula Clark “” including Don”t Sleep in the Subway and I Couldn”t Live Without Your Love (about Hatch and Trent”s affair before they got married in 1966)”” as well as for the likes of including Frank Sinatra, Jack Jones, Nancy Wilson, Shirley Bassey and Dean Martin. In the 1970s Trent and Hatch turned to writing musicals, as well as Stoke City”s run-out song We”ll Be With You. Having emigrated to Australia in 1980, they composed the theme for the soap opera Neighbours.

The trouble with trumpeters is that they rarely work alone, and therefore don”t get much attention as soloists, the way a saxophone player might. One way of determining how good they are is by looking at their catalogue: who worked with them, and on what. By that standard, Lew Soloff must rank among the greats. He was a member of Blood, Sweat & Tears” great brass section in the group”s heyday. As a session man he played on hits such as Chaka Khan”s What Cha” Gonna Do For Me, Paul Simon”s You Can Call Me Al and Bonnie Tyler”s Holding Out For A Hero. He backed artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Boz Scaggs, George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Art Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, The Four Tops, Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Eric Clapton, Herbie Mann, Mongo Santamaria, Bob James, Stanley Clarke, Chuck Mangione, Spyro Gyra, Roy Ayers, O”Donnel Levy, Frankie Valli, Odyssey, Ian Hunter, John Mayall, Angela Bofill, Marlena Shaw, Peter Tosh, Marianne Faithfull, Michael Franks and especially Gil Evans, with whom he released a number of albums.

The list of Jewish soul singers is fairly short, more so those who recorded at Stax with Booker T & The MG”s and Isaac Hayed backing them. But so it was with Sharon Tandy, who was born in Johannesburg as Sharon Finkelstein. She had early success in South Africa, including an appearance in the country”s first beat movie , Africa Shakes. In 1964 she moved to England, where she released several singles, none of which charted. In 1966 she became the first white singer and first non-American to record for Stax, a gig arranged by her connected manager and husband, Frank Fenter. Only one song from that session was ever released. In 1967 she opened for the 1967 Stax/Volt Tour of Europe. Fenter then hooked her up with another one his acts, the British psychedelic rock outfit The Fleur de Lys. In 1970, frustrated by lack of a commercial breakthrough and having split with Fenter, Tandy returned to South Africa, where she had sporadic hits in the 1970s. In the 1990s her work was rediscovered in Britain, and Tandy was delighted to be performing again.

For a rock musician, checking out while touring might be second best only to checking out while playing. So it was with AJ Pero, drummer of Twisted Sister in their heyday, who was touring with his latest band, Adrenaline Mob, when his bandmates couldn”t wake him. While driving, he had died in his sleep, at only 55.

gallery2Country musician Billy Block, who has died of skin cancer at 59, might not have hit the big times as a recording artist, but as a mentor and patron to many musicians, he helped form the alt.country scene that is often referred to as Americana. His long-running live radio show was alt.country”s equivalent to the Grand Ole Opry. Artists such as Buddy Miller, Lucinda Williams, Elizabeth Cook were showcased by Block who also helped mainstream stars such as Miranda Lambert and Kacey Musgraves on their road to success.

Don Robertson, who has died at 92, will best remembered for the impossibly catchy The Happy Whistler, a big hit on both sides of the Atlantic. His greater contribution was his songwriting, which included Hummingbird (Les Paul & Mary Ford, Frankie Laine), Help Me I”m Falling (Hank Locklin), Ringo (Lorne Greene), and several songs Elvis recorded, including I Really Don”t Want to Know, Anything That”s Part Of You, No More and There”s Always Me.

In Britain, the great guitar instrumental Apache belongs to its original interpreters, The Shadows. In North America, however, it was a big hit in the version by Danish guitar virtuoso Jørgen Ingmann, who has died at 89. Ingmann was quite a star in Europe as well, especially in Germany, where he had a string of hits. In 1963 he won the Eurovision Song Contest for Denmark with his then-wife Grethe.


Brian Carman, 69, guitarist of surf rock band The Chantays, on March 1
The Chantays – Pipeline (1963)

Orrin Keepnews, 91, jazz producer and writer, co-founder of Riverside Records, on March 1
Bill Evans Trio – My Man’s Gone Now (1961, as producer)

Ryan Stanek, 42, drummer of death-metal band Broken Hope (1988-97), on March 1

Ted Reinhardt, 62, jazz and prog-rock drummer, in a plane crash on March 4
Spyro Gyra – Morning Dance (1979)

Jim McCann, 70, Irish folk musician (The Dubliners 1974-79), on March 5
Jim McCann – Clare To Here (1979)

Jimmy Sacca, 85, member of vocal group The Hilltoppers, on March 7
The Hilltoppers – Trying (1952)

Lew Soloff, 71, jazz trumpeter (Blood, Sweat & Tears 1968-73), on March 8
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Spinning Wheel (1969)
Bataan – Laughing And Crying (1975)
Chaka Khan – What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me (1981)

Wayne Kemp, 73, country singer and songwriter, on March 9
Johnny Cash – One Piece At A Time (1976, as writer)

Jerry Brightman, 61, pedal steel guitarist (Buck Owens), on March 9
Arlo Guthrie – This Troubled Mind Of Mine (1973, on pedal steel guitar)

Flabba, 38, South African rapper, stabbed to death by his lover on March 9

Jimmy Greenspoon, 67, keyboardist with Three Dog Night, on March 11
Three Dog Night ““ Shambala (1973)

Billy Block, 59, alt.country musician, showcase host and mentor, on March 11

Daevid Allen, 77, Australian guitarist and singer (Soft Machine, 1966-67), on March 13
The Soft Machine ““ Hope For Happiness (1968)

Mike Porcaro, 59, session bassist, member of Toto, on March 15
Seals & Crofts – Castles In The Sand (1975, on bass)
Toto – Good For You (1982, on cello)
Natalie Cole – Starting Over Again (1989, on bass)

Don Robertson, 92, country performer and songwriter, on March 16
Don Robertson – The Happy Whistler (1956)
Lorne Greene ““ Ringo (1964, as co-writer)

Andy Fraser, 62, bassist of Free and songwriter, on March 16
Free – All Right Now (1970, also as co-writer)
Robert Palmer – Every Kinda People (1977, as writer)
Andy Fraser – Obama (Yes We Can) (2008, vocals and as writer)

Bruce Crump, 57, drummer of rock band Molly Hatchet, on March 16
Molly Hatchet – Flirting’ With Disaster (1980)

Michael Brown, 65, keyboardist of The Left Banke and songwriter, on March 19
Left Banke – Walk Away Renee (1966, also as songwriter)

A. J. Pero, 55, drummer of Twisted Sister, on March 20
Twisted Sister – I Wanna Rock (1984)

Paul Jeffrey, 81, jazz saxophonist, on March 20

Sharon Tandy, 71, South African-born soul singer, on March 21
Sharon Tandy – You’ve Gotta Believe It (1968)

Jackie Trent, 74, English singer-songwriter and actress, on March 21
Jackie Trent – Where Are You Now (My Love) (1965)
Scott Walker ““ Joanna (1968, as co-writer)

Jørgen Ingmann, 89, Danish guitarist, on March 21
Jørgen Ingmann and His Guitar – Echo Boogie (1961)

Lil” Chris, 24, British singer-songwriter, TV personality and actor, on March 23

Gabriela Maumus, 28, bassist of Argentine rock band Asalto Al Parque Zoológico, in Germanwings crash on March 24
Asalto al Parque Zoologico ““ Sonnen (2014)

Scott Clendenin, 47, bassist with death metal bands Death and Control Denied, on March 24

John Renbourn, 70, guitarist of British folk-jazz band Pentangle, on March 26
Bert Jansch & John Renbourn – East Wind (1966)

B.J. Crosby, 63, singer, stage and TV actress, on March 27
B.J. Crosby – Hound Dog (1995)

Josie Jones, 57, English singer (The Mighty Wah!), announced March 28
Big Hard Excellent Fish – Imperfect List (1990)

Preston Ritter, 65, drummer, on March 30
The Electric Prunes – I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (1966)


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  1. halfhearteddude
    April 2nd, 2015 at 09:40 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. dogbreath
    April 2nd, 2015 at 17:48 | #2

    Although I seem to hear about the headline deaths each month, the passing of Jackie Trent somehow missed me so your fine efforts are a timely reminder. Many thanks as always for the compilation.

  3. Rhod
    April 2nd, 2015 at 22:08 | #3

    Thanks again for the tremendous work in getting the In memoriam series together, as highlighted by Dogbreath sometimes these things slip by us.



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