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In Memoriam – September 2020

October 1st, 2020 Leave a comment Go to comments

This was a relentlessly nasty month, as the number of 12 write-ups shows — in a month when I really didn’t have much time for that! It was particularly bad for soul singers and bassists. Still listing deaths from Covid-19, because as the orange commander of the Proud Stormtroopers said: “It is what it is.”

The Reggae Legend
To reggae fans, the question of Maytals or Wailers is akin to pop fans arguing about Beatles or Stones. Certainly, the Maytals’ leader Toots Hibbert, who has died at 71, was the one to give the genre its name with his 1968 song Do The Reggay. A gifted multi-instrumentalist — it is said he could play every instrument on his records — Hibbert was also a superb vocalist. Had he been born in the US, he might have been a soul singer. Having grown up in a Christian family before turning to Rastafarianism, he had a background in gospel music, which also found expression in some of his lyrics.

The Inspiration for Michelle
The incredible 93-years-long life of French chanteuse and actress Juliette Gréco has come to an end. As a teenager in occupied France during World War II, Juliette was involved in the Resistance, with her mother and sister. All three were arrested. Juliette was tortured by the Gestapo, but evaded internment in a concentration camp, unlike the other two. Instead, the 16-year-old was kept in jail for several month.

After the war, Gréco became part of the bohemian scene is Paris’ St Germain district (now more famous, alas, as the oligarch propaganda plaything football club owned by the state of Qatar), where she joined up with people like Sartre, Camus and Cocteau (who gave Gréco her first film role). In the 1960s, she was the inspiration for Paul McCartney’s song Michelle.

Gréco had a string of high-profile affairs (with, among others, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Sacha Distel, and Albert Camus), was married three times, and received the highest honours France bestows on civilians.

The Brother of Kool
Ronald Bell co-founded the legendary Kool & The Gang with his brother Robert, whose nickname gave the band its name. And while “Kool” gave his name to the band, Ronald was a musical force behind it, as a saxophonist, as a songwriter and as a producer. He wrote such classics as Jungle Boogie, Open Sesame, Ladies’ Night, Get Down On It, Big Fun, Hi-De-Hi Hi-De-Ho, In The Heart, Cherish, and Celebration. The latter was the song Bell regarded as his favourite, having been inspired to write it after picking up a bible in a hotel room. And that is interesting since Bell was a convert to Islam who took the name Khalis Bayyan.

The Honey Cone
On September 10 I posted the ABC of Soul Music mix, on which the letter H was represented by The Honey Cone. Two days later the lead singer of the featured track, Want Ads, died. Edna Wright, the younger sister of Darlene Love, started out as a backing singer for the likes of The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Rivers, and Ray Charles.

She released one unsuccessful single under the name Sandy Wynns, but her break came when Holland-Dozier-Holland, fresh from leaving Motown, discovered Wright as she filled in for her sister on the Andy Williams Show in 1969. Wright declined a solo deal but took the lead in The Honey Cone. Two years later the group had two mega hits with Want Ads and Stick-Up. After the Honey Cone, she resumed her career as backing singer, but did release one solo LP in 1977, the title track of which features here.

She Was Woman
With her hit I Am Woman, Australian-born singer Helen Reddy carved her name into the pantheon of female singers who articulated the demand for the emancipation of women. It was all the more powerful a statement in a time of rising feminism that Reddy didn’t look like the caricature of bra-burning activists that scared the supposedly silent majority; she actually looked like one of them — as did many other feminists. For a generation of women, I Am Woman (written by a man) became a statement of self-assertion.

The Australian-born singer had her first hit in 1970 with her second single, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, from Jesus Christ Superstar. It was actually the b-side of a track called I Believe In Music, written by Mac Davis, who died on the same day as Reddy. Many more hits followed, especially Delta Dawn, over the next decade. Reddy retired from the music business in 2002, returned to Australia, and became a hypnotherapist there.

The Humble Singer
Before he made it as a country singer, Mac Davis was a songwriter — and he started with quite a splash. For Elvis he wrote several tracks, including In the Ghetto (originally offered to Sammy Davis Jr, who’d record it a year later), Don’t Cry Daddy, and A Little Less Conversation. He also wrote the above-mentioned I Believe In Music, which eventually became a hit for Gallery.

In the mid-1970s he became a singing star, with hits like Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me, One Hell Of A Woman, Stop And Smell The Roses, and Rock ‘n’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life). But perhaps his most famous song is a novelty sing-along number, It’s Hard To Be Humble.

The Cash Drummer
As Johnny Cash’s long-time drummer, W.S. ‘Fluke’ Holland can be heard on most of the great man’s classic recordings, starting in 1960, when Holland joined Cash’s Tennessee Three. Holland was the last survivor of the original trio, with guitarist Luther Perkins having died in 1968, and bassist Marshall Grant in 2011 (Perkins’ successors, Carl Perkins and Bob Wootton are also dead).

Before joining Cash, Holland was drumming at Sun Records for Carl Perkins on such classics as Blue Suede Shoes, Honey Don’t, and Matchbox, and he was the drummer on duty when the Million Dollar Quartet — Perkins, Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis (Cash only came in to say hello) — recorded their famous session.

The Jersey Boy
As a founder member of what would become The 4 Seasons, Tommy DeVito was one of the two older guys in the group, along with Nick Massi (Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio were more than ten years younger). The baritone vocalist and lead guitarist was there when his group took in the teenage Valli, and he was still there when other members were replaced by Gaudio and Massi. And DiVito was there throughout the big times of The 4 Seasons until 1970, when he sold his rights to the band’s name to Gaudio and Valli.

The Emotion
Three days before the 21st day of September, Pamela Hutchinson of The Emotions died at 61. The surprising thing is just how young she was in the soul band’s heyday, when they were produced by Maurice and Stephen Stepney of Earth, Wind & Fire. Her sisters and fellow Emotions Wanda and Sheila were 5-7 years older than her, and Pamela joined in 1977 only when older sister Jeanette left the trio to have a child.

The timing was good for Pamela: The Emotions, who had already made a mark by appearing in the 1973 Wattstax concert, were getting ready to make some soul classics, especially the impossibly joyous Best Of My Love and Boogie Wonderland with EWF. For The Emotions, that was the zenith. After 1978’s Sunbeam album, Jeanette returned to the group, and Pamela carried on as a backing singer for other acts.

The Marvel
Georgia Dobbins career stopped before it could even begin — and yet she left an indelible mark on music history. In the early 1960s, Dobbins was the lead singer of the girl-group that would find fame as The Marvelettes. And with her high school friends in what was still The Marvels, Dobbins auditioned at the still young Motown label. Berry Gordy was interested but sent the group away with the advice to write their own songs.

Dobbins took that advice. She asked her friend William Garrett for an unfinished song he had written, and with his permission reworked it to create Please Mr Postman. But before Dobbins could record it with the newly-renamed Marvellettes (and Marvin Gaye on the drums), she bowed to her father’s wishes and left the music industry before she could even enter it. But her song became a mega-hit in 1961 for her old friends, and Motown first chart-topper. It was later covered by The Beatles and the Carpenters. It was also recycled for a song titled, presumably by Dan Quayle, Mashed Potatoe Time, for which Dobbins got a writing credit.

For many years, Dobbins kept her contribution to music history quiet. In fact, she felt that she had let her old friends down by leaving the group…

The Impeacher
Soul singer Roy C Hammond had a long career in soul music without ever quite reaching legendary status. His 1965 song Shotgun Wedding was a Top 10 hit in the UK, and it has been covered by the likes of Rod Stewart. In 1973 he wrote a song about Richard Nixon titled, reasonably enough, Impeach The President, which he recorded with a group of kids called The Honey Drippers. It became one of the most sampled records, including on Janet Jackson’s mega hit That’s The Way Love Goes and Mary J Blige’s Real Love (for which he even got a co-writing credit).

In his later years, Roy C pretty much stuck to themes of sex and infidelity, with all the amorous joys and suffering that involves (let’s say that Roy C was not a militant feminist), with the occasional shot of social commentary.

The Roller
His contribution to rock & roll was negligible, but for two years Ian Mitchell lived what looked like a dream but probably was more of a nightmare. Mitchell was only 17 when he became the bassist of the Bay City Rollers in 1976, just at the end of Rollermania. He replaced co-founder Alan Longmuir, who left the band after being burnt out. Longmuir, who died at 70 in 2018, was a decade older and thus much more mature than the Mitchell, and he couldn’t handle the pressure, so the teenager didn’t really stand a chance. Within less than a year, Mitchell quit the Bay City Rollers in what was an acrimonious split. Mitchell then rejoined his old band from Northern Ireland, Rosetta Stone, who were also managed by the Rollers’ sex-pest manager Tam Paton. Touted as the next big teen band sensation, Rosetta Stone had a couple of minor hits in Europe before Mitchell jumped ship in 1979, and soon after rejoined the now over-the-hill Rollers. He would release a few records intermittently — the last a Christmas album in 2001 — but to no great attention.


Erick Morillo, 49, house DJ, producer and label owner, on Sept. 1
Reel 2 Real feat. The Mad Stuntman – I Like To Move It (1993, as Reel 2 Real)

Ian Mitchell, 62, Irish bassist, on Sept. 1
Bay City Rollers – Yesterday’s Hero (1976, as member)
Rosetta Stone – (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice (1977, as member)

Alexander Priko, 46, singer, keyboardist with Soviet dance group Laskovyi Mai, on Sept. 2

Bill Pursell, 94, composer and pianist, of Covid-19 on Sept. 3
Bill Pursell – Our Winter Love (1963)

Lucille Starr, 82, Canadian country singer, on Sept. 4
Lucille Starr – Cajun Love (1968)

Gary Peacock, 85, jazz double-bassist, on Sept. 4
Robert Kaddouch/Gary Peacock – Gary’s Line (2016)

Sterling “Mr Satan” Magee, 84, soul and blues singer, Covid-19 on Sept. 6
Sterling Magee – Keep On (1965)

Bruce Williamson, 49, singer with The Temptations (2006-15), Covid-19 on Sept. 6

Simeon Coxe, 82, synth-player of electro-rock band Silver Apples, on Sept. 8
Silver Apples – You And I (1968)

Sid McCray, singer of reggae-punk band Bad Brains, on Sept. 9
Bad Brains – Stay Close To Me (1980)

Ronald Bell, 68, saxophonist of Kool & the Gang, songwriter, producer, on Sept. 9
Kool & the Gang – Chocolate Buttermilk (1970)
Kool & The Gang – Jungle Boogie (1973, also as writer)
Kool & The Gang – Get Down On It (1979, also as writer)
Kool & the Gang – Big Fun (1982, also as writer)

Roberto Franco, 75, Argentine singer-songwriter and guitarist, Covid-19 on Sept. 10

Diana Rigg, 82, English actress and sometime singer, on Sept. 10
Diana Rigg – Forget Yesterday (1972)

Toots Hibbert, 77, Jamaican reggae pioneer singer and songwriter, on Sept. 11
The Maytals – Do The Reggay (1968)
Toots & The Maytals – Louie Louie (1972)
Toots & The Maytals – Pressure Drop (live) (1980)
Toots & The Maytals with Willie Nelson – Still Is Still Moving To Me (2004)

Reggie Johnson, 79, jazz double-bassist, on Sept. 11
Art Blakey & The New Jazz Messengers – Buttercorn Lady (1966, on double-bass)

Edna Wright, 76, singer with soul band Honey Cone, on Sept. 12
Sandy Wynns – The Touch Of Venus (1964, pseudonym)
Honey Cone – While You’re Out Looking For Sugar (1969)
Honey Cone – Blessed Be Our Love (1971)
Edna Wright – Oops! Here I Go Again (1977)

Joaquín Carbonell, 73, Spanish singer-songwriter and poet, Covid-19 on Sept. 12

Peter Starkie, 72, Australian rock guitarist, on Sept. 14

Al Kasha, 83, Oscar-winning songwriter, on Sept. 14
Aretha Franklin – Operation Heartbreak (1961, as co-writer)
Maureen McGovern – The Morning After (1972, as co-writer)

Alicia Maguiña, 81, Peruvian singer and composer, on Sept. 14

Doak Snead, 70, country singer-songwriter, on Sept. 16
Doak Snead – Come & Get Your Rock (2018)

Roy C Hammond, 81, soul singer-songwriter, on Sept. 16
Roy C – Shotgun Wedding (1965, also as writer)
The Honey Drippers – Impeach The President (1973, as writer and producer)
Roy C – Great, Great Grandson Of A Slave (1977)
Roy ‘C’ – I’m Not Going To Eat A Thing (1987)

Pamela Hutchinson, 61, singer with soul band The Emotions, on Sept. 18
The Emotions – Best Of My Love (1977)
The Emotions – My Everything (1978, also as co-writer)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Touch (1983, on backing vocals)

Georgia Dobbins, 78, early singer with The Marvelettes, songwriter, on Sept. 18
The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman (1961, as co-writer)
Johnny Halliday – Mashed Potatoe Time (1963, as co-writer)

Terry Clemson, lead guitarist of English blues-rock band Downliners Sect, on Set. 19
Downliners Sect – Don’t Lie To Me (1966)

Lee Kerslake, 73, English drummer of Uriah Heep, on Sept. 19
Uriah Heep – The Wizard (1972)
Uriah Heep – Free Me (1977)

Dave Kusworth, 60, member of English indie group Jacobites, on Sept. 19
Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth, The Jacobites – Shame For The Angels (1985)

Tommy DeVito, 92, founder member of The Four Seasons, Covid-19 on Sept. 21
The Four Lovers – You’re The Apple Of My Eye (1956)
The 4 Seasons – Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye) (1964)
The 4 Seasons – Girl Come Running (1965)
Frankie Valli & The 4 Seasons – Any Day Now/Oh Happy Day (1970, on guitar solo)

Roy Head, 79, blue-eyed soul singer, on Sept. 21
Roy Head – Treat Her Right (1965)

Ira Sullivan, 89, jazz trumpeter, on Sept. 21
Ira Sullivan Quintet – When Sunny Gets Blue (1958; released 1970)

Ramona Galarza, 80, Argentine folk singer and actress, on Sept. 22

Gerson King Combo, 76, Brazilian funk singer, on Sept. 22
Gerson King Combo – Mandamentos Black (1977)

Juliette Gréco, 93, French singer and actress, on Sept. 23
Juliette Gréco – Sous Le Ciel de Paris (1951)
Juliette Gréco – Jolie Môme (Live at Olympia, 1966)
Juliette Gréco – Ta jalousie (1974)

S. Holland, 85, drummer with Johnny Cash’s Tennessee Three, on Sept. 23
Carl Perkins – Matchbox (1957, on drums)
Johnny Cash – Ring Of Fire (1963)
Johnny Cash – Big River (1968, live at St Quentin, on drums)

Guitar Crusher, 89, blues singer and guitarist, on Sept. 23
Guitar Crusher – Why Oh Why (1963)

Max Merritt, 79, New Zealand musician, on Sept. 24

Brent Young, founding bassist of metal band Trivium, on Sept. 25

Eddy Pumer, 72, guitarist of UK psychedelia band Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour, on Sept. 25
Kaleidoscope – Flight From Ashiya (1967, also as co-writer)

Masayoshi Kabe, 70, Japanese bassist and guitarist, on Sept. 26

Jimmy Winston, 75, first keyboardist of the Small Faces and actor, on Sept. 26
Small Faces – What’Cha Gonna Do About It (1965)

Mark Stone, founding bassist of Van Halen, on Sept. 26

Jackie Dennis, 77, Scottish teenage pop singer, on Sept. 28
Jackie Dennis – La Dee Dah  (1958)

Geoff Swettenham, 72, drummer of Beatles protégés Grapefruit, on Sept. 28
Grapefruit – Dear Delilah (1968)

Mac Davis, 78, country singer-songwriter, on Sept. 29
Sammy Davis Jr – In The Ghetto (1970, as writer)
Mac Davies – Rock ‘N Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (1975)
Mac Davis – It’s Hard To Be Humble (1980)

Helen Reddy, 78, Australian-born singer, on Sept. 29
Helen Reddy – I Believe In Music (1970, written by Mac Davis)
Helen Reddy – Delta Dawn (1973)
Helen Reddy – Ain’t No Way To Treat A Lady (1975)

Rocco Prestia, 69, pioneering bassist with funk band Tower of Power, on Sept. 29
Tower Of Power – What Is Hip (1973)
Tower Of Power – You Ought To Be Having Fun (1976)


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  1. halfhearteddude
    October 2nd, 2020 at 10:25 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Rhodb
    October 3rd, 2020 at 22:56 | #2

    Good story on Ian Mitchell

    Usual great work


    October 9th, 2020 at 00:04 | #3

    I apologize for not commenting sooner, because I have been enjoying your posts for quite a while. Thank you so much for all you do! I hope you are still having fun with it, I know I am! Plus you have been on a roll lately….

  4. dogbreath
    November 8th, 2020 at 11:26 | #4

    Comprehensive and informative as always. Three of my younger year’s favourite women gone in the month: Juliet Greco, Helen Reddy and the superlative Diana Rigg. Thanks again for putting in the effort.

  5. Paul
    November 30th, 2020 at 23:27 | #5

    Bands like Rosetta Stone, Dead End Kids, Buster etc simply got steamrolled out of the way by punk’s first wave.

  6. amdwhah
    December 1st, 2020 at 22:57 | #6

    OMG, Buster… I saw them support Slade in 1977! I have no memory of whether they were any good. Rosetta Stone were not much cop, though. And the Dead End Kids looked a year out of date when they came out in 1977.

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