Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – March 2020

In Memoriam – March 2020

March, a massacre-month, saw several music victims of Covid-19, with an Argentine jazz musician based in Spain being the first casualty, and many others coming after him. Think of them when assholes demand that vulnerable people die to keep the economy going.

The Gambler
We may hope that Kenny Rogers followed the advice of the lyrics of his 1980 hit The Gambler and folded ‘em in his sleep, having previously checked in to see what condition his condition was in. Rogers, who died peacefully at home at the age of 81, has become a byword of commercial country music, with hits such as Lucille, The Gambler, rape-revenge song Coward Of The County, the Lionel Richie-written Lady, the Bob Seger-penned duet with Sheena Easton We’ve Got Tonight, the Dolly Parton duet Islands In The Stream (which the Bee Gees had initially written with Marvin Gaye in mind), and so on.

Rogers started out in 1958 as a fresh-voiced country recording artist, as Kenneth Rogers, before joining a jazz trio. This then led to his membership of the folk outfit New Christy Minstrel Singers, whose members broke away with Kenny to form The First Edition. That group straddled rock and country, having hits with rock numbers and with country covers, such as Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town.

Rogers left The First Edition in 1976 to reboot his career as a country crooner, complete with dad beard and dad glasses, imparting wisdoms about the nature of humankind, and gurning cheerfully in the We Are The World video (he gets to sing the last line of the first verse, “the greatest gift at all”, with Paul Simon, before he briefly takes centrestage with the next line, “We can’t go on pretending day by day”). And Rogers became a flogger of fried chicken, being immortalised in an episode of Seinfeld.

The Jazz Legend
Jazz pianist McCoy Tyner made his name with John Coltrane, on classics such as My Favorite Things and A Love Supreme. While still with Coltrane, Tyner released his own albums, playing more accessible music than that created by the innovator Coltrane. An innovator himself, Tyner continued to release solo albums for many years after parting with Coltrane in late 1965, after five years of close collaboration. His studio final album was released in 2008. He also worked as a sideman with acts like George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, Wayne Shorter.

The Mokassa Man
Perhaps the most prominent victim of the coronavirus this month was Cameroonian saxophone legend Manu Dibango, who passed away at 86. Dibango’s big hit was Soul Mokassa, an early 1970s track that has been widely sampled. Michael Jackson copied the rhythmic vocals of “ma-ma-se, ma-ma-sa, ma-ma-ko-sa” for Wanna Be Startin’ Something, and Rihanna for 2007’s Don’t Stop The Music. But Jackson had used it without Dibango’s permission, and when Rihanna received permission to use the sample from the Jackson song, Dibango sued both. Jackson admitted his plagiarism and settled out of court. Rihanna’s gang got out of paying Dibango due to a legal quirk.

Other elements of Soul Mokassa have been sampled liberally. These include Will Smith’s Getting Jiggy With It, Jay-Z’s Face-Off, Kanye West’s Lost In The World, Mama Say by The Bloodhound Gang, Rhythm (Devoted To The Art Of Moving Butts) by A Tribe Called Quest, and many others.

The First Lady Of Folk
Known as Britain’s “First Lady of Folk” Julie Felix was born in the US and came to the UK in 1964, waving mid-Atlantic at the British invasion going the other way. Felix did little to trouble the charts — she had a #19 and a #22 hit in 1970 — and still she was the first folk singer to sell out the Royal Albert Hall. In 1966 she was the resident singer on David Frosts’ TV programme, The Frost Report, and between 1967 and 1970 hosted her own TV show. Felix kept recording until 2018, when she was 79.

The German-US Friend
The staid German music scene was revolutionised in the early 1980s by the emergence of the iconoclastic Neue Deutsche Welle — German new wave — which, at least initially, brought experimental sounds and forthright and often witty lyrics about social issues and sex into the mainstream. Some were more commercial than others, but few were as influential as Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, more commonly known as DAF, who were also influential in the growth of techno. Personally, I was put off by their flirtations with fascist imagery, which gave rise to suspicions that they were Nazi sympathisers (they were not). Half of DAF died on March with Spanish-born member Gabi Delgado-López.

The Teen Pop Writer
Songwriter Bill Martin may not be remembered as a contributor to the highest points of British pop culture with the songs he co-wrote with Phil Coulter, but for a people of a couple of generations in the UK an Europe, he helped write the soundtrack of their youth. And for the US, well, one of his songs inspired the Ramones to come up with the “Hey Ho, Let’s Go” chant.

In the 1960s, Martin and Coulter wrote Eurovision classics Puppet On A String for Sandie Shaw and Cliff Richard’s Congratulation, both #1 hits. In 1970 they had a third chart-topper with the England World Cup song Back Home (which the team was after the quarter-final, possibly to the satisfaction of the Scotsman Martin and the Irishman Coulter). A fourth #1 came in 1976, with Slik’s Forever And Ever. They also had big hits with Kenny: The Bump, Fancy Pants and Julie Ann.

In the early 1970s, they took the Bay City Rollers under their wings, and wrote a string of hits for them, including Summerlove Sensation, All Of Me Loves All Of You, and Saturday Night (which featured in The Originals: 1970s). It became a hit in the US, and its spelling chant inspired the Ramones to invent their own.

The Reggae Legend
With the death at 75 of Bob Andy (born Keith Anderson), reggae has lost one of its most influential songwriters and singers. A co-founder of The Paragons (whose The Tide Is High was, however, written by member John Holt), Andy hit #5 in the UK charts in 1970 duetting with Marcia Griffiths, as Bob & Marcia, with their version of Nina Simone’s Young Gifted And Black. In 1978 he left the music industry, having been ripped off one time to many, and became a dance sand actor. Andy returned to music in the 1990s.

The Rock Producer
Sometimes one thing leads to another. In the early 1970s, producer and engineer Keith Olsen, former member of 1960s garage rock band The Music Machine, discovered a couple of musicians named Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. He got them a record deal, produced and engineered their album, even employed Stevie as his housekeeper, and introduced them to Mick Fleetwood. From that meeting, Fleetwood Mac took the turn towards superstardom. Olsen also produced and engineered the band’s eponymous 1975 album (including the gorgeous Landslide).

He also produced acts like the Grateful Dead, Foreigner (including Hot Blooded), Santana, Pat Benatar (including Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Fire And Ice and Treat Me Right), The Babys, Sammy Hagar, Rick Springfield (including Jessie’s Girl), Heart, Kim Carnes, Joe Walsh, Madonna, Saga, Starship, REO Speedwagon, Ozzy Osborne, Whitesnake (including 1987’s Here I Go Again and Is This Love), Scorpions (including Wind Of Change), Eddie Money and many more.

The Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Lover
Brooklyn-born Alan Merrill, another Covid-19 victim (this one in the US), had his greatest successes in Japan and the UK. In Japan in the 1960s, he was a member of The Lead, the first Western act to have a hit in Japanese. He continued to be a solo star in Japan until, tired of being a teen star, he moved to Britain in the early ‘70s where he founded Arrows. With that band, he had a breakout hit with Touch Too Much in 1974. After that, diminishing returns set in, even after DJs flipped their 1975 single Broken Down Heart to give some airplay to a Merrill-written track called I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (it would later, of course, become a mega-hit for Joan Jett). Still, Arrows got a TV show, succeeding the Bay City Rollers, which proved very popular — but due to a management dispute, face-spiting label RAK refused to release any Arrows records. Merrill subsequently recorded solo and backing acts like Meat Loaf, dabbled in the Japanese market, and presented a TV show.

The Duelling Banjo Man
Eric Weissberg was a popular session man who could play various instruments when he scored a surprise hit in 1972 with Dueling Banjos from the film Deliverance (the other banjo duelist, Steve Mandell, was not credited. He died two years ago, on March 14, 2018). The problem was: Dueling Banjos ripped off Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith’s 1954 instrumental Feudin’ Banjos (featured last week on the country edition of The Originals) to such an extent that Smith sued and won, getting his due share from the royalties of a track that spent four weeks at #2 in 1973 (stymied by Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song; another cover).

As a sideman, Weissberg played for acts such as Judy Collins, Pete Seeger, The Clancy Brothers, Anita Carter, Doc Watson, Ian & Sylvia, Tim Rose, Herbie Mann, Esther Philips, Barbra Streisand, Melanie, Billy Joel, Frankie Valli, Bob Dylan, Loudon Wainwright III, John Denver (including Rocky Mountain High), Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, Blood Sweat & Tears, Elkie Brooks (on Pearl’s A Singer), Chaka Khan, Talking Heads, Art Garfunkel, Prefab Sprout, and others.


Peter Wieland, 89, (East-)German singer and actor, on March 1

Jan Vyčítal, 77, Czech country singer-songwriter, on March 1

Susan Weinert, 54, German jazz-fusion guitarist, on March 2
Susan Weinert Band – He Knows (1994)

Alf Cranner, 83, Norwegian folk singer, on March 3

Barbara Martin, 76, original singer with The Supremes (1960-62), on March 4
The Supremes – (He’s) Seventeen (1962, on shared lead with Diana Ross)

Steve Weber, 76, folk guitarist (Holy Modal Rounders, The Fugs), on February 7 (announced March 4)

McCoy Tyner, 81, jazz pianist, on March 6
John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman – My One And Only Love (1963, on piano)
McCoy Tyner – Autumn Leaves (1964)
McCoy Tyner – Beyond The Sun (1976)
McCoy Tyner feat. Phyllis Hyman – Love Surrounds Us Everywhere (1982)

Charlie Baty, 66, blues guitarist, on March 6
Little Charlie and The Nightcats – The Booty Song (1988)

Laura Smith, 67, Canadian folk singer-songwriter, on March 7
Laura Smith – Shade Of Your Love (1994)

Jim Owen, 78, country singer-songwriter, on March 7
Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn – Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man (1973, as co-writer)

Biff Adam, 83, drummer of Merle Haggard’s Strangers, on March 7
The Strangers – Biff Bam Boom (1970)
Merle Haggard – Pretty When It’s New (2010, on drums)

Eric Taylor, 70, folk singer-songwriter, on March 8
Eric Taylor – The Great Divide (2005)

Keith Olsen, 74, producer, sound engineer and musician, on March 9
The Music Machine – Talk Talk (1966, as member)
Buckingham Nicks – Crying In The Night (1973, as producer & engineer)
Pat Benatar – Hit Me With Your Best Shot (1980)

Marcelo Peralta, 59, Spain-based Argentine multi-instrumentalist, of Covid-19 on March 10

Danny Ray Thompson, 73, jazz saxophonist (Sun Ra), on March 12
Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra – Day By Day (1960s, released 1970)

Don Burrows, 91, Australian jazz musician, on March 12

Richenel, 62, Dutch disco singer, on March 13
Richenel – Dance Around The World (1986)

Genesis P-Orridge, 70, English musician (Throbbing Gristle) and artist, on March 14
Throbbing Gristle – United (1978)

John Philip Baptiste, 94, singer and songwriter, on his birthday on March 14
Phil Phillips with The Twilights – Sea Of Love (1959, also as writer)

Sergio Bassi, 69, Italian folk singer-songwriter, of Covid-19 on March 16

Jason Rainey, 53, guitarist of trash metal band Sacred Reich, on March 16

John Stannard, singer-guitarist of English folk group Tudor Lodge, March 18
Tudor Lodge – Help Me Find Myself (1971)

Wray Downes, 89, Canadian jazz pianist, on March 18

Aurlus Mabélé, 66, Congolese soukous singer and composer, of Covid-19 on March 19
Aurlus Mabélé – Malade de Toi (1989)

Black N Mild, 44, hip-hop deejay, COVID-19 on March 19

Kenny Rogers, 81, country and songwriter, on March 20
Kenneth Rogers – That Crazy Feeling (1958)
The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (1968)
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler (1980)
Kenny Rogers & Sheena Easton – We’ve Got Tonight (1982)

Gino Volpe, 77, Italian singer-songwriter, on March 20

Jerry Slick, 80, drummer of rock band The Great Society, on March 20
Great Society – Someone To Love (1965)

Ray Mantilla, 85, jazz percussionist, on March 21
Ray Mantilla – Comin’ Home Baby (1984, also played on Herbie Mann’s version)

Mike Longo, 83, jazz pianist and composer, of Covid-19 on March 22
Mike Longo – Night Rider (1972)

Eric Weissberg, 80, banjo, bass and guitar player, on March 22
John Denver – Rocky Mountain High (1972, on steel guitar)
Eric Weissberg – Dueling Banjos (1972, on banjo)
Billy Joel – Travelin’ Prayer (1973, on banjo)
Talking Heads – Totally Nude (1988, on pedal steel guitar)

Julie Felix, 81, US-born British folk singer, on March 22
Julie Felix – Dirty Old Town (1968)
Julie Felix – Windy Morning (1970)

Peter Stapleton, 65, drummer of New Zealand rock band The Terminals, on March 22

Gabi Delgado-López, 61, singer of Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft, on March 22
DAF – Der Mussolini (1981)

Tres Warren, 41, singer-guitarist of psych-rock duo Psychic Ills, on March 23
Psychic Ills feat. Hope Sandoval – I Don’t Mind (2016)

Nashom Wooden, 50, DJ, singer, drag performer and actor, on March 23
The Ones – Flawless (2001)

Apple Gabriel, 67, member of Jamaican reggae trio Israel Vibration, on March 23
Israel Vibration – The Same Song (1978)

Manu Dibango, 86, Cameroonian saxophonist, of Covid-19 on March 24
Manu Dibango – Soul Makossa (1972)
Manu Dibango – African Battle (1973)
Manu Dibango – Big Blow (1976)

Joe Amoruso, 60, Italian pianist and keyboardist, on March 24
Andrea Bocelli – E Chiove (1996, on keyboard)

Bill Rieflin, 59, rock drummer (REM, King Crimson), on March 24
Revolting Cocks – Big Sexy Land (1986, on drums)
Nine Inch Nails – Le Mer (1999)

Detto Mariano, 82, Italian musician and composer, of Covid-19 on March 25

Liesbeth List, 78, Dutch singer and actress, on March 25
Liesbeth List & Charles Aznavour – Don’t Say A Word (1976)

Bill Martin, 81, Scottish songwriter, on March 26
Sandie Shaw – Puppet On A String (1967)
Elvis Presley – My Boy (1974)
Bay City Rollers – Saturday Night (1974)
Kenny – The Bump (1974)

Danny Mihm, founding drummer of the Flamin’ Groovies, on March 26
Flamin’ Groovies – Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu (1969)

Olle Holmquist, 83, Swedish trombonist, of Covid-19 on March 26

Bob Andy, 75, Jamaican reggae singer, songwriter, co-founder of The Paragons, on March 27
The Paragons – Wear You To The Ball (1967)
Bob & Marcia – Young, Gifted & Black (1970)
Bob Andy – Fire Burning (1974)

Delroy Washington, 67, Jamaican-born reggae singer, on March 27
Delroy Washington Band – Magic (1980)

Mirna Doris, 79, Italian singer, on March 27

Jan Howard, 91, country singer and songwriter, ex-wife of Harlan, on March 28
Jan Howard – The One You Slip Around With (1959)

Lou L.A. Kouvaris, 66, guitarist with rock group Riot (1975-78), of Covid-19 on March 28
Riot – Rock City (1977)

Alan Merrill, 69, singer of Arrows, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, of Covid-19 on March 29
Alan Merrill – Namida (1969)
Arrows – Touch Too Much (1974)
Arrows – I Love Rock ‘n Roll (1975)
Alan Merrill – Hard Hearted Woman (1985)

Joe Diffie, 61, country singer-songwriter, on March 29
Joe Diffie – If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets) (1991)

Riachão, 98, Brazilian samba composer and singer, on March 30

Louise Ebrel, 87, French folk-singer, on March 30

Wallace Roney, 59, jazz trumpeter, of Covid-19 on March 31
Wallace Roney – Alone Together (1999)


Categories: In Memoriam Tags:
  1. halfhearteddude
    April 2nd, 2020 at 09:30 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Hugh Candyside
    April 2nd, 2020 at 15:25 | #2

    Thanks, as always. I need to add Steve Weber, outsider folk guitarist and writer, half of the Holy Modal Rounders and a founding member of the Fugs, who passed away on February 7th but announced on March 4th. He was 76.

  3. halfhearteddude
    April 2nd, 2020 at 21:43 | #3

    Thanks. I’ve added him.

  4. Rhodb
    April 4th, 2020 at 23:05 | #4

    Thanks for the In Memoriam

    You do such a great job of this series



  5. Jungle Jim
    April 18th, 2020 at 22:03 | #5

    First, let me thank you (again!) for all the great tunes you share, the John Prine Tribute is
    exquisite and well deserved.
    One minor edit: Kenny Rogers was in The First Edition, not to be confused
    with The New Edition. As far as I know there are no musical collaborations between
    Kenny and Bobby Brown….
    Stay well!

  6. halfhearteddude
    April 18th, 2020 at 22:28 | #6

    Ooops. You’re the first to notice ;)

  7. Jungle Jim
    April 19th, 2020 at 00:04 | #7

    I have been taking some time during the global hiatus to catch up on
    some old TV shows, so they were fresh in my mind.
    Here is Kenny & Co. in a “video” that appeared on an edition of Rowan & Martin’s
    Laugh-In, in the world’s weirdest museum.

    (Wolfgang even shows up at 2:40)


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