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The Originals – Soul Vol. 2

February 25th, 2021 6 comments

 

 

In part 2 of the lesser-known originals of soul classics, we look at the sources of two of Roberta Flack’s most famous songs, a few more originals of Gladys Knight hits, how the Pointer Sisters got to cover a Springsteen song he never recorded, the first version of ‘60s classic Tell Him, and much more… And when you hear the Kim Weston song, listen to the background vocals: they are by the trio known at Motown as The No-Hit Supremes. If you don’t feel like reading all this now, the package includes an illustrated PDF booklet with all the text below.

 

Tell Him
A few months before The Exciters had their 1963 hit with Tell Him, a singer named Gil Hamilton, one-time touring member of The Drifters, tried his luck with the first recording of what is now a quintessential girl-band song. Gil Hamilton had no hit with the Bert Berns-written track. Nor did he have any luck with his other two singles. Then he changed his name Johnny Thunder, made himself nine years younger, and had a 1963 hit with the novelty R&B number Loop de Loop (itself a cover), backed by The Bobettes, who featured on the ABC of the 1950s mix. It was his only hit of significance.

The Exciters had their hit in early 1963, with the production by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, recorded in October 1962, five months after Hamilton did. It would be their only Top 10, but apparently their version inspired Dusty Springfield to try her hand at a solo career.

 

Killing Me Softly With His Song
There are two stories describing the genesis of Killing Me Softly With His Song. The more widely-spread story has folk-singer Lori Lieberman so moved by Don McLean’s live performance of the song Empty Chairs that she wrote a poem about it, with the title Killing Me Softly With His Blues. The composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel, who were taking time out from their impressive TV theme production line (such as Happy Days) to write songs for Lieberman’s self-titled debut album, used her poem as the basis for the song which she would be the first to record in 1971, releasing it the following year.

That is the version of Lieberman. Gimbel’s recollection is very different. In an e-mail to this blog some years ago, he explained how it was an unnamed book he was referred to years earlier by composer Lalo Shifre that featured the line “Killing Me Softly With His Blues” (the title of the poem Lieberman says she wrote). He liked the idea and stored it away for a few years until he needed lyrics for the Lieberman album, changing the word “blues” to “song”. Gimbel died in December 2018.

Which of these two versions is the correct one? Who can say? Lieberman didn’t score a big hit with the song, but Roberta Flack stumbled upon it in 1972 while reading about Lieberman in the TWA airline magazine. Her interest piqued by the title of the song, she tuned into it on the in-flight radio, and decided to record it herself. Over a period of three months, Flack experimented with and rearranged the song, changing the chord structure, adding the soaring ad libs and ending the song on a major chord where Lieberman did it with a minor. Her remake made an immediate impression, topping the US charts for four weeks and reaching #6 in Britain. Her version won Grammys for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance.

Almost a quarter of a century later, in 1996, Killing Me Softly – its full title by now routinely and redundantly castrated – made a return to the album charts in the form of the Fugees’ cover (it wasn’t released as a single so as to boost album sales). Lauryn Hill’s vocals are fine, though the hip hop arrangement negates the confessional intimacy of Flack’s, or indeed Lieberman’s, version. And that would be adequate; the mood of a lyric often is disengaged from a song’s sound to little detriment (think of all the great upbeat numbers with morose lyrics). Besides, the Fugees had conceived of the song as an anti-drug anthem with the revised title Killing Him Softly, a plan that was abandoned when they were denied permission for such modification.

The whole exercise becomes something of a prank, however, thanks to Wyclef Jean’s repeated intonation of “one time” and “two time”, as though he was auditioning for the role of parody DJ on Sesame Street. No matter how affecting Hill’s vocals, Wycount von Count’s antics render the Fugees’ version one of the most deplorable covers in pop.

 

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
The first time ever we heard this song probably was in the version by Roberta Flack, whose performance on her 1969 debut album was barely noticed until it was included in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film Play Misty For Me. Those who dig deeper will know that it was written in the 1950s by British folk legend Ewan MacColl, for Peggy Seeger (Pete’s half-sister) with whom he was having an affair and who would become his third wife. She sang it on the song’s first recording, released in 1962.

For MacColl, the political troubadour, the song is a radical departure, supporting the notion that he didn’t just write it for inclusion in Peggy’s repertoire but as the intimate declaration of love it is. Followers of the 1960s folk scene might have known the song before they heard the Flack version; it was a staple of the genre. The Kingston Trio even cleaned up the lyrics, changing the line “The first time ever I lay with you…” to the more prissy “…ever I held you near”. After the success of Flack’s intense, tender, sensual, touching and definitive version — which captures the experience of being with somebody you love better than most other songs — there was an explosion of covers, with Elvis Presley’s bombastic version especially infuriating MacColl, who compared it to Romeo singing up at Juliet on the Post Office tower.

It does seem that he did not take kindly to the intimacy of his song being spread widely and, indeed, corrupted. And Peggy Seeger never sang the song again after Ewan’s death in 1989.

 

Neither One Of Us
In February this year we lost Jim Weatherley, who wrote Neither One Of Us, as well as Midnight Train To Georgia (featured on The Originals Soul Edition Vol. 1) and Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, all hits for Gladys Knight & The Pips — who recorded a total of 12 Weatherley songs. Neither One Of Us was the first of them, giving Knight and Pips their biggest hit to date — with their final record on Motown before their fertile move to Buddah.

Neither One Of Us was first recorded by Weatherley, an ex-football player turned country singer-songwriter, and appeared on his eponymous debut album in 1972, which also featured the song then still known Midnight Plane To Houston, before its mode of transport and destination were changed.

 

I’ve Got To Use My Imagination
The move to Buddha was good for Gladys Knight & The Pips. Treated like unwanted stepchildren on Motown, they now enjoyed a string of hits. One of these was I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, which was written by Gerry Goffin (Carole King’s ex-partner) with blues musician Barry Goldberg, who released the song a month before it appeared on Knight’s Imagination album in November 1973. The single was the follow-up to the chart-topper Midnight Train To Georgia, and reached #4 in the US. Their next single was Weatherley’s Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me (the original version, by Steve Lawrence featured on the Soul Originals Vol. 1).

Goldberg’s version is very different from Gladys’ smooth interpretation. His blues background is very much evident. A decade earlier, Goldberg had played with Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, and Howlin’ Wolf. He then played keyboards with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, in which capacity he was part of the backing band as Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. In 1967 he founded The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield, and then formed a band with Steve Miller.

 

Fire
We don’t really regard Bruce Springsteen as the writer of classic soul songs, and he wasn’t best pleased when The Pointer Sisters had a 1979 hit with the song that had failed to make the cut for his Darkness On The Edge Of Town album. While Springsteen was still searching for his first big hit, a year earlier Patti Smith scored a global smash with his Because The Night (another Darkness reject), and before that Manfred Mann’s Earthband had a hit with his Blinded By The Light. Now even a group of soul sisters had a hit with one of his songs. Springsteen would finally have a hit with Hungry Heart in 1980 — a song he had written with the Ramones in mind.

Springsteen didn’t record Fire, though it was part of his live setlist in the late 1970s. Instead he gave the song to a friend of E Street Band bassist Garry Talent, a rockabilly singer named Robert Gordon. Springsteen had seen Gordon on stage with guitarist Link Wray, and evidently thought that this singer would give the song the appropriate treatment. Gordon and Wray recorded it in December 1977.

The Pointer Sisters came to Fire through their producer, Richard Perry, who had a cassette bootleg of Springsteen singing it in concert. He thought it would make a great song for Anita Pointer — and the song’s success proved him right. Fire was released in October 1978 as the lead single for the Sisters’ Energy album. Springsteen finally had a hit with Fire in 1987, with a live recording from December 1978…

 

I’m In Love
Here’s one song that ties in three legends of soul: Bobby Womack, who wrote I’m In Love during his enforced social and professional exile for marrying Sam Cooke’s widow, as a declaration of the authenticity of his love for the erstwhile Mrs Cooke. But Womack gave the song to Wilson Pickett who recorded it in 1967. Just after Pickett’s version was released, Womack also recorded his version. Pickett’s version did fairly good business, reaching #4 on the R&B charts, and #45 on the Billboard Hot 100.

In 1974 Aretha Franklin released her marvellous version and had greater success with it, topping the R&B charts and reaching #19 on the Hit 100.

 

It Hurts So Good
Written by soul singer-songwriter and producer Philip Mitchell, It Hurts So Good was one of the signature songs for Millie Jackson and a 1975 hit for Susan Cadogan & The Diamonds. But first it was recorded in 1971 by Katie Love and The Four Shades of Black, for whom it was the only record. Katie Love would release one more single in 1973, and that was it for her recording career.

In Millie Jackson’s version, It Hurts So Good reached #3 the R&B charts and #24 on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart (it also featured in the blaxploitation film Cleopatra Jones). It was the first time Jackson’s appeared in her real voice — on her debut album, the producers sped up her deep voice to make it sound higher. So on the follow-up, Jackson was a co-producer, preventing any meddling with her natural voice.…

Due to Jackson’s raunchy image, people with impure minds have suggested that the song was about the joys of the kind of intercourse that could get you arrested in many states. It’s not, but if it was, I hope Millie’s partner did not “bounce me like a rubber ball”.

 

Love On A Two-Way Street
The song which The Moments recorded in 1968 and had a hit with two years later has been given second and third lives, first by the 1981 hit version by Stacy Lattislaw and later by way of the instantly recognisable sample on the Alicia Keys & Jay-Z hit Empire State of Mind. But before The Moments got around to it, a singer named Lezli Valentine recorded Love On A Two-Way Street (with the sample Jay-Z would lift from The Moments’ version). It was one of just three records she released, all on the All Platinum label, owned by future sex-song siren and hip-hop impresario Sylvia Robinson.

Robinson shares the writing credit with Bert Keyes, who had co-written Nat King Cole’s 1958 hit Angel Smile. But Valentine insisted that she should have received a writing credit, too, for contributing a significant chunk of the lyrics. Legal steps she took apparently amounted to nothing.

 

Show And Tell
It’s quite a coincidence that on the album on which Johnny Mathis gives us an original, he also covered two songs featured here: Neither One Of Us and Killing Me Softly With Her Song, the title track of his 1972 LP. Written by Jerry Fuller (whose biggest songwriting hit was Gary Puckett & Union Gap’s Young Girl), Show And Tell gave Mathis a minor Easy Listening hit.

In 1973, the song was covered by soul singer Al Wilson, who topped the US charts with in January 1974. It later was also a R&B hit for Peabo Bryson.

 

Ai No Corrida
It’s a far way from England’s gritty post-punk scene to the shiny LA studios governed by Quincy Jones, but so it was with Ai No Corrida. The song was first recorded by Chaz Jankel, erstwhile member of Ian Dury’s Blockheads, who co-wrote it with US songwriter Kenny Young, who sadly featured in the In Memoriam – April 2020 post.

Ai No Corrida was inspired by the Japanese 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses, originally titled Ai no Korīda (“Bullfight of Love”), a film that was precluded from general release due to scenes of unsimulated sex.

Somehow Jankel’s version came to the attention of Quincy Jones, who polished it up, handed the lead vocals to a singer going by the name of Dune (with Patti Austin assisting), and put it on his The Duke album, whence it became a global hit.

As always, CD-R length, home-basslined covers, all the above text in an illustrated PDF booklet, PW in comments. PLUS: three surprise bonus tracks of originals of future hits by Aretha Franklin!

1. Chaz Jankel – Ai No Corrida (1980)
The Usurper: Quincy Jones (1981)

2. Average White Band – What Cha’ Gonna Do For Me (1980)
The Usurper: Chaka Khan (1981)

3. Turley Richards – You Might Need Somebody (1979)
The Usurpers: Randy Crawford (1981), Shola Ama (1997)

4. Jim Weatherly – Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Good-bye) (1972)
The Usurpers: Gladys Knight & The Pips (1972), Bob Luman (1973)

5. Lori Lieberman – Killing Me Softly With His Song (1972)
The Usurpers: Roberta Flack (1968), The Fugees (1996)

6. Eddy Arnold – You Don’t Know Me (1956)
The Usurpers: Ray Charles (1962), Mickey Gilley (1981)

7. Sonny Thompson with Lula Reed – I’ll Drown In My Tears (1952)
The Usurpers: Ray Charles (1956), Aretha Franklin (1967), Simply Red (1986)

8. Al Braggs – Cigarettes And Coffee (1962)
The Usurper: Otis Redding (1966)

9. Arthur Prysock – My Special Prayer (1964)
The Usurper: Percy Sledge (1969)

10. Dan Penn – I’m Your Puppet (1965)
The Usurper: James & Bobby Purify (1966)

11. Jerry Butler – I Stand Accused (1964)
The Usurper: Isaac Hayes (1970)

12. Dyke & the Blazers – Funky Broadway (Part 1) (1966)
The Usurper: Wilson Pickett (1967)

13. Wilson Pickett – I’m In Love (1967)
The Usurper: Aretha Franklin (1974)

14. Katie Love and the Four Shades – It Hurts So Good (1971)
The Usurpers: Millie Jackson (1973), Susan Cadogan (1974), Jimmy Somerville (1995)

15. Lezli Valentine – Love On A Two Way Street (1968)
The Usurper: The Moments (1970), Stacy Lattisaw (1981)

16. Johnny Mathis – Show And Tell (1972)
The Usurper: Al Wilson (1973), Peabo Bryson (1989)

17. David Oliver – Love TKO (1980)
The Usurper: Teddy Pendergrass (1980)

18. Ruby and the Romantics – Hey There Lonely Boy (1963)
The Usurpers: Eddie Holman (as Hey There Lonely Girl, 1970)

19. Gil Hamilton – Tell Her (1962)
The Usurpers: The Exciters (as Tell Him, 1962), Billie Davis (as Tell Him, 1962)
Claude François (as Dis-lui, 1963), Hello (1974)

20. Kim Weston – It Should Have Been Me (1963)
The Usurper: Gladys Knight & the Pips (1967), Yvonne Fair (1975), Adeva (1991)

21. Barry Goldberg – I’ve Got To Use My Imagination (1973)
The Usurper: Gladys Knight & The Pips (1974)

22. Robert Gordon with Link Wray – Fire (1978)
The Usurper: The Pointer Sisters (1978)

23. Cheryl Ladd – I Know I’ll Never Love This Way Again (1978)
The Usurper: Dionne Warwick (1979)

24. Ewan MacColl & Peggy Seeger – The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face (1962)
The Usurper: Roberta Flack (1968)

GET IT! or HERE!

More Originals:
The Originals: The Classics
The Originals: Soul
The Originals: Motown
The Originals: Country
The Originals: The Rock & Roll Years
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1960s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1970s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 1
The Originals: 1980s Vol. 2
The Originals: 1990s & 2000s
The Originals: Beatles edition
The Originals: Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 1
The Originals:  Elvis Presley Edition Vol. 2
The Originals: Carpenters Edition
The Originals: Burt Bacharach Edition
The Originals: Rat Pack Edition
The Originals: Schlager Edition
The Originals: Christmas Edition

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Any Major Top 75 Acts (35-56)

February 18th, 2021 1 comment

 

Here’s the second instalment of our countdown of pop’s Top 75 acts. The first lot brought us down to #57; here we tumble up the charts to #35.

I described the method of rankings in the first part. To jog your memory, it’s a combination of Rolling Stone magazine’s Top 100, my own Top 75, plus bonus points for the level of influence an act has had on pop history or their genre, and more bonus points for how many albums of each at I own (because the list should skew in some way to my taste).

Each act on the list is represented by my nominal favourite song of their output. Choosing songs is sometimes very easy, and other times a question of changing and substituting original choices. So there is no question that of all the Al Green songs, I love none as much as the obvious one: Let’s Stay Together. Other acts I agonised over: for Warren Zevon, John Prine and Bill Withers I must have selected and then replaced about five songs each. It reveals the futile nature of the concept of a “favourite song”, even as my Al Green example confirms the possibility of having absolute favourites.

By an act of serendipity, Muddy Waters and Led Zeppelin ended up in the same group. It so happens that the Muddy Waters track I like best is the one which Led Zep plagiarised for A Whole Lotta Love.As I made the home-hyped cover, I noticed that I had previously written about the artwork of a number of albums featured on this mix: Carole King’s Tapestry, the Clash’s London Calling, the Mama’s and The Papa’s bathroom extravaganza. The first of these I reposted last week.

The mix, timed to fit on a standard CD-R, runs in a more logical sequence than the rankings below. So, let’s count down from #56 to #35. Figures in brackets indicate the particular act’s standing in the Rolling Stone’s Top 100.

56 (28) The Clash (London Calling)
55 (25) Fats Domino (I’m Walking)
54 (24) Jerry Lee Lewis (Geat Balls Of Fire)
53 (—) Warren Zevon (Lawyers, Guns And Money)
52 (—) Bill Withers (Grandma’s Hands)
51 (20) Bo Diddley (Who Do You Love?)
50 (19) Velvet Underground (Sunday Morning)
49 (17) Muddy Waters (You Need Love)
48 (14) Led Zeppelin (Immigrant Song)
47 (26) Ramones (Rockaway Beach)
46 (—) The Mama’s and The Papa’s (Monday, Monday)
45 (84) James Taylor (Sweet Baby James)
44 (66) Al Green (Let’s Stay Together)
43 (—) Luther Vandross (A House Is Not A Home)
42 (51) Pink Floyd (Wish You Were Here)
41 (32) Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (Ooo Baby Baby)
40 (—) Crowded House (When You Come)
39 (—) Carole King (So Far Away)
38 (—) John Prine (All The Best)
37 (—) Carpenters (Goodbye To Love)
36 (75) Eagles (Take It Easy)
35 (68) The Temptations (I Wish It Would Rain)

GET IT! or HERE!

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More Any Major Top 75

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Tapestry Recovered

February 9th, 2021 11 comments

February 10 marks the 50th anniversary of the great Tapestry album by Carole King, prompting the repost of this piece from 2012. It is one of the defining LPs of the early 1970s, and for me one of the go-to albums, perhaps the go-to album, if I do not know what else to play.

By the time Carole King released Tapestry she already was a veteran in the music business, having been a teenage songwriter for Aldon Music at 1650 Broadway (and the subject of Neil Sedaka’s hit Oh Carol; she responded with an answer record titled Oh Neil). She was 18 when she had her first #1 as a songwriter, with The Shirelles’ version of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow in 1961. In the ten years between that and the release of Tapestry she had a prolific songwriting career, but as a recording artist she had only a minor hit with It Might As Well Rain Till September. Her uneven 1970 debut album, Writer, was a commercial disappointment; it has many bright spots, but cannot nearly compare with the sublime perfection of Tapestry.

So when Tapestry became a critical triumph and a mammoth hit after its release in February 1971, topping the US album charts for 15 weeks, it was something of a surprise.

 

Jim McCrary in 1978

The cover photo was taken by Jim McCrary (who died in 2012) in the living room of her house at 8815 Appian Way in Laurel Canyon (McCrary’s website says it was at Wonderland Avenue; he also took the photo of the cover for Music, the location of which he identified as being on Appian Way). At first sight it is an unremarkable shot. A woman in her late 20s sits on a windowsill. The photo is in soft focus. And yet, the image is compelling. Viewing it feels like an intrusion into an intimate moment, a woman feeling at peace in her domain. Her bare feet suggest that we are not really invited into this domestic scene; if we came knocking at her door, she might put on footwear and her serene body language might change. And the cat would scram and hide.

The feline, who went by the name of Telemachus, was not there by accident, as it would appear. It may spoil the enjoyment of the cover a little to know that the tabby was a spontaneously employed prop. McCrary later recalled seeing Telemachus sleeping on his pillow across the room. Recalling a Kodak survey which revealed that after children, cats were the most popular photo subject, he asked King whether he could use the cat in a photo. “I saw a cat, and I wanted to get something good,” he remembered. Having ascertained that the cat was tame, he carried Telemachus on his pillow to the window ledge. He managed to take three photos before the cat, no doubt annoyed at having been awoken, had enough and made tracks. But McCrary had the perfect shot: the barefoot Carole with sunlight filtering upon her, holding a tapestry that she was busy creating, and her cat sitting in front of her, as if guarding the singer.

A remastered version of Tapestry was re-released in 2008 with a bonus CD featuring all but one of the tracks of the album in live versions, recorded between 1973 and 1976. It is highly recommended. The back-cover of it (pictured above) features another photo from the McCrary session.Here’s a mix of cover versions of the songs of Tapestry, with an appearance by Carole King from that bonus CD, in their original tracklisting order. Given my bias for soul covers, many of them are of that genre. Most were recorded soon after the release of Tapestry. One of the exceptions is the cover of Way Over Yonder by David Roe, a New Orleans street musician. Fans of The Originals will be interested in Kate Taylor’s version of Home Again, which was released shortly before Tapestry came out. Finally, the vocals on the Quincy Jones version of Smackwater Jack are by, unusually, Quincy himself.

TRACKLISTING
1. Carole King – I Feel The Earth Move (live) (1973)
2. Marlena Shaw – So Far Away (1972)
3. Mike James Kirkland – It’s Too Late (1972)
4. Kate Taylor – Home Again (1971)
5. Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971)
6. David Roe – Way Over Yonder (2004)
7. Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – You’ve Got A Friend (1972)
8. Faith Hill – Where You Lead (1995)
9. Zulema – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (1972)
10. Quincy Jones – Smackwater Jack (1971)
11. Jackie & Roy – Tapestry (1972)
12. Laura Nyro & Labelle – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman (Live) (1971)
BONUS: The Isley Brothers – It’s Too Late (1972)

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In Memoriam – January 2021

February 2nd, 2021 5 comments

The Reaper continues to wreak his relentless havoc in music. This month’s list is long!

The Guitar Animal
The guitar arpeggio intro of The Animal’s House Of The Rising Sun is one of rock music’s most iconic moments. Its creator, Hilton Valentine, has now died at 77, only the second of the five original Animals to go, after bassist Chas Chandler, who died in 1996. Valentine had been the missing piece in the puzzle for the Alan Price Combo that already included Chandler, Price and singer Eric Burdon. When shortly after drummer John Steel joined, the band renamed itself The Animals (Steel would trademark the name, leading the various later incarnations to adapt the name, such as Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Animals And Friends, New Animals, and Animals II).

Valentine stuck it out with The Animals until the split in 1966. An unsuccessful solo album in 1969 followed, and the guitarist joined up with his old chums when The Animals reunited (as The Original Animals) in 1975. Over the next eight years they produced two albums, neither of them hits. But the group, in various formations and under different monikers kept performing, with Valentine a regular feature (including a stint as leader of Valentine’s Animals) until 2001.

The NY Doll
With the death of rhythm guitarist Sylvain Sylvain, only one of the classic line-up of the New York Dolls — the 1973-75 iteration — is still alive, singer David Johansen. Co-founded by Sylvain, the New York Dolls were a shock to the American system, with their make-up, spandex, platforms and crazy hair. Their music was a mélange of garage rock, hard rock, glam rock, art rock and a healthy dose of rock & roll. They were not punk as we know it, but they set the scene for those who’d come in their slipstream. By the time the Ramones and punk arrived, the New York Dolls were already done. Then Mötley Crüe revived their image for a mainstream rock audience.

After the Dolls split, Sylvain, the son of Jewish immigrants from Egypt, went on to record a number of solo albums. When the New York Dolls reformed in 2004, he and Johansen were the two members from the heyday line-up.

The Exile
If you’re a Southern African jazz legend, you want to be particularly wary of the 23rd of January. In 2018, the great Hugh Masekela died on that date; in 2019 it was the Zimbabwean Oliver Mtukudzi; this year the Reaper went to South Africa to take the great trombonist Jonas Gwangwa — just 17 days after the death of his wife, Violet.

One of the giants on South Africa’s vibrant and exciting jazz scene, Gwangwa was one of the many great talents to go into exile because of apartheid, alongside the likes of Masekela, Miriam Makeba, Letta Mbulu, Caiphus Semenya, Abdullah Ibrahim and so on. In the 1980s, Gwangwa headed the ANC’s cultural ensemble, Amandla. In 1987 Gwangwa co-wrote the Oscar-nominated score for the film Cry Freedom, a film about the relationship between the journalist Donald Woods and black consciousness leader Steven Biko. Gwangwa was so big in South Africa that on his death, even the country’s president, Cryril Ramaphosa, paid tribute: “The trombone that boomed with boldness and bravery, and equally warmed our hearts with mellow melody, has lost its life force.”

The Pacemaker
As The Beatles were recording their first single, producer George Martin presented his charges with a song which would be their debut single, a track called How Do You Do It. The Beatles reluctantly recorded it, but were relieved when Martin decided to release their own composition, Love Me Do, instead. Instead he gave the song to another client from Liverpool, Gerry & the Pacemakers — who promptly had a #1 hit with their debut. After three weeks, the Pacemakers, led by the late Gerry Marsden, were knocked off the top of the charts by The Beatles’ first #1 (with their third single, From Me To You). And in turn, Gerry’s lot knocked The Beatles off their perch with follow-up I Like It, and completed their hat-trick of chart-toppers with the old showtune You’ll Never Walk Alone (knocked off the top by… She Loves You).

Gerry and the Pacemakers went on to have three more UK Top 10 hits, but that would be that for the band. The Beatles went on to have a few hits, but the Pacemakers’ record of three #1s with the first three singles wasn’t equaled until 21 years later, by fellow Liverpudlians Frankie Goes To Hollywood. Marsden returned to the charts only in the 1980s with a couple of Band Aid-style charity singles, You’ll Never Walk Alone for the victims of the Bradford Stadium fire in 1985, and Ferry Cross The Mersey for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1988.The Moral Conundrum
Fans of the art of people like R Kelly, Gary Glitter, Bill Cosby or Roman Polanski will know the moral challenge of separating the art from the person who created it. Phil Spector is the ultimate in that challenge. Here was a thoroughly fucked-up guy (rather more so than just “flawed”, as the BBC suggested in its obituary headline). He was a violent misogynist long before he became a murderer. It’s difficult to sing his praises without forgetting what a monstrous man he was. Perhaps it is easier to separate Spector from his art because his art is conveyed to us through the voices of others: Darlene and Ronnie, Bill and Bobby, Lennon and Harrison, or Joey Ramone.

Say a prayer/expend a thought/send energy, if you like, for Spector. But if you do so, do not forget the name of the woman he murdered on February 3, 2002: Lana Clarkson, a 40-year-old actress and model.

The Arranging Songwriter
A few weeks after Spector, the arranger he used on records such as River Deep, Mountain High, Black Pearl, and Ebb Tide died. By the time he worked with Spector, Perry Botkin Jr had already established a track record as arranger or producer for acts such as Sammy Davis Jr, Bobby Darin, The Lettermen, Connie Stevens, Rod McKuen, Ed Ames, Vic Damone and Glenn Yarborough. His co-writing and production credits also included Jimmy Cross’ bizarre I Want My Baby Back (see Any Major Halloween Vol. 3). Other clients included Harry Nilsson, The Sandpipers, Harpers Bizarre, The Electric Prunes, Bobbie Gentry, The Everly Brothers, Hoyt Axton, José Feliciano, Barbra Streisand, Melanie, Johnny Mathis, Carly Simon, Maureen McGovern, Peggy Lee, Jennifer Warnes, and many others.

His biggest success was his co-written, co-produced Nadia’s Theme, the theme for the soap The Young & The Restless, which in 1976 also served to score the perfect Olympic exploits of gymnast Nadia Comăneci. Decades later Maryy J Blige sample Nadia’s Theme on her hit No More Drama, earning Botkin a writing credit on the R&B diva’s iconic hit. In 1971, Botkin and his regular collaborator Barry DeVorzon received an Oscar nomination for the much-covered Bless the Beasts and Children.

The Manic Wham! Cult
Few producers can claim to have helped acts like Wham! and the Manic Street Preachers to stardom, but so it was with Steve Brown, who has died at 62. After producing the Boomtown Rats’ 1977 debut, Brown was behind the glass for ABC’s debut single, Tears Are Not Enough, and Wham!’s outstanding breakout hits Young Guns (Go For It) and Club Tropicana. In 1985 he produced The Cult’s hit She Sells Sanctuary, and in 1991 the Manic Street Preachers’ debut album Generation Terrorist. He also produced US singer-songwriter Randy Edelman, Freddie Mercury, Then Jericho, Runrig, Alison Moyet, The Pogues, The Alarm and others.

Before he was a producer, he was a recording engineer for acts like Roy Wood, Thin Lizzy, Kraftwerk, The Boomtown Rats, Joan Armatrading, Oingo Boingo and many of the acts whom he produced.The Blower
As a backing man in jazz bands, multi-instrumentalist Howard Johnson had a great track record, playing his saxophone or tuba with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Carles Mingus, Hank Crawford, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Charlie Haden, Gil Evans, Bill Evans, George Benson, Jaco Pistorius, Buddy Rich, David Sanborn, Bob James, Ralph McDonald, Bob Moses and more.

But he also had a line in backing blues like BB King, Paul Butterfield, Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Etta James and John Mayall, soul acts like Angela Bofill, Candi Staton, Ashford & Simpson, Chaka Khan, Linda Clifford, Lou Rawls, and rock acts like The Band (on Rock Of Ages and The Last Waltz), Carly Simon, Maria Muldaur, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Robert Wyatt, and John Lennon (on Walls And Bridges and Double Fantasy) and Yoko Ono. And when James Taylor sang Jelly Man Kelly on Sesame Street, he played the flute. In the 1970s Johnson was the live band conductor of the Saturday Night Live Band, also playing the sax on the famous King Tut sketch.

Bono’s Inspiration
U2 singer Bono claimed that it was seeing Middle of the Road singing Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep on TV that convinced him that anyone could become a pop star (though his band never made a pop record as good as that). But it was local Dublin soft-rock band Bagatelle which young Hewson and pal Larry Mullen Jr looked up to as models for rock success. Now the band’s singer, who saw no cause to adopt a stupid nickname but stuck by his thoroughly Irish name Liam Reilly, has died at 65.

Bagatelle were strictly local heroes, but Reilly got himself a bit of international attention when he came second in the Eurovision Song Contest of 1990 with his travelogue of clichés Somewhere In Europe, a song that should have become a huge country music hit. The jury liked it, and Reilly came joint-second, behind Italy’s Toto Cutugno.

The Other Jimmie Rodgers
As a singer Jimmie Rodgers made his name — which he shared with the country legend who died in 1933, four months before his own birth — by shifting millions of records in the US and UK in the 1950s with songs like Honeycomb, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, Oh-Oh, I’m Falling in Love Again, Secretly, and (in 1962) English Country Garden, most on Roulette records.

But the more remarkable story is the mystery of what happened on December 1, 1967 on the San Diego Freeway in Los Angeles. What we know is that Rodgers was stopped by an off-duty cop, that at some spot he sustained a serious head injury, that the cops left the unconscious Rodgers in his car and left the scene, and that the singer had no memory of what had happened to him. The last thing he remembered was a bright light in his rear-view mirror. Police say Rodgers got hurt when he fell; the singer believed he had been assaulted. After much legal wrangling, the LAPD paid Rodgers $200,000 to make things go away.

In 2010, singer Tommy James offered a new and plausible theory. According to James, the attack was organised by the mafia-connected owner of Roulette Records, Morris Levy (on whom The Soprano’s Hesh is partly based), after Rodgers had repeatedly demanded to be paid royalties owed to him by the label.

As always, this post is reproduced in PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Liam Reilly, 65, singer, songwriter with Irish rock band Bagatelle, on Jan. 1
Bagatelle – Summer In Dublin (1980)
Liam Reilly – Somewhere In Europe (1990)

George Gerdes, 72, singer-songwriter and actor, on Jan. 1
George Gerdes – Lap Of Luxury (1971)

Jan Vering, 66, German gospel singer and playwright, on Jan. 1

Misty Morgan, 75, half of country duo Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, on Jan. 1
Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan – Because We Love (1975)

Carlos do Carmo, 81, Portuguese fado singer, on Jan. 1
Carlos do Carmo – Lisboa menina e moça (1976)

Peter Thorp, 76, guitarist of British pop band The Roulettes, on Jan. 2
The Roulettes – Soon You’ll Be Leaving Me (1964)

Steve Brown, 62, British producer, on Jan. 2
Randy Edelman – Pretty Girls (1982, as producer)
Wham! – Young Guns (Go For It!) (1982, as producer)
The Cult – She Sells Sanctuary (1985, as producer, engineer)
Manic Street Preachers – Motorcycle Emptiness (1992, as producer, engineer)

Warren McLean, Australian rock drummer, on Jan. 3
Divinyls – Hey Little Boy (1988, on drums)

Gerry Marsden, 78, English musician, on Jan. 3
Gerry and The Pacemakers – How Do You Do It? (1963)
Gerry and The Pacemakers – Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying (1964)

Paul Travis, 73, English singer-guitarist, announced Jan. 4
Liar – Set The World On Fire (1978, as member)

Duris Maxwell, 74, Canadian drummer, on Jan. 4
Heart – How Deep It Goes (1975)

Elias Rahbani, 82, Lebanese composer, arranger, conductor, on Jan. 4
The News – From The Moon (1969, as member and writer)
Elias Rahbani – Love Theme From ‘Habibati’ (1973, also as composer)

Alexi Laiho, 41, singer-guitarist of Finnish death metal Children of Bodom, reported Jan. 5

Bobby Few, 85, jazz pianist, on Jan. 6
Bobby Few – Everybody Has The Right To Be Free (1983)

Yamandú Palacios, 80, Uruguayan singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 6

Deezer D, 55, rapper and actor (E.R.), on Jan. 7
Deezer D – Ya’ll In The House (2002)

Jamie O’Hara, 70, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 7
The O’Kanes- Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You (1987, as member and co-writer)

Ed Bruce, 81, country singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8
Tanya Tucker – The Man That Turned My Mama On (1974, as writer)
Ed Bruce – Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys (1976, also as co-writer)

Gaynor Bunning, 78, Australian pop singer, on Jan. 8
Gaynor Bunning – Unlock Those Chains (1961)

Michael Fonfara, 74, Canadian keyboardist, on Jan. 8
Lou Reed – Ennui (1974, on mellotron)
Foreigner – Urgent (1981, on keyboards)

Thorleif Torstensson, 71, singer of Swedish danceband Thorleifs, on Jan. 10

Mark Keds, 50, singer of English pop-punk band Senseless Things, on Jan. 11
Senseless Things – Too Much Kissing (1989)

Don Miller, 80, baritone of vocal band The Vogues, on Jan. 11
The Vogues – Turn Around, Look At Me (1968)

Howard Johnson, 79, jazz musician, on Jan. 11
Hank Crawford – Bluff City Blues (1965, on baritone saxophone)
Melvin Van Peebles – Come On Feet Do Your Thing (1971, on saxophone)
The Band – It Makes No Difference (1978, on sax, horns arrangement)
Chaka Khan – Move Me No Mountain (1980, on tuba)

Celia Humphries, singer of British folk-rock band Trees, on Jan. 11
Trees – Geordie (1971)

Shingoose, 74, Canadian folk musician, on Jan. 12
Shingoose – Silver River (1975)

Duke Bootee, 69, rapper, producer and songwriter, on Jan. 13
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message (1982, as co-performer, co-writer)

Sylvain Sylvain, 69, rhythm guitarist of punk pioneers New York Dolls, on Jan. 13
New York Dolls – Jet Boy (1973)
New York Dolls – Stranded In The Jungle (1974)

Tim Bogert, 76, rock bassist, on Jan. 13
Vanilla Fudge – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (1967, as member on bass)
Beck, Bogert & Appice – Superstition (1973, on bass and lead vocals)

Larry Willoughby, 73, country singer-songwriter and music executive, on Jan. 14
Larry Willoughby – Building Bridges (1983, also as co-writer)

Duranice Pace, 62, singer with gospel group The Anointed Pace Sisters, on Jan. 14

Rapper One, 41, Peruvian rapper, on Jan. 15

Phil Spector, 81, producer, songwriter, musician and convicted murderer, on Jan. 15
The Crystals – Then He Kissed Me (1963, as producer and co-writer)
Sonny Charles and The Checkmates – Black Pearl (1969, as producer and co-writer)
John Lennon – Love (1970, on piano & as co-producer)
Ramones – Baby, I Love You (1980, as producer)

Pave Maijanen, 70, producer, musician with Finnish rock bands Hurriganes, Dingo, on Jan. 16
Hurriganes – Bourbon Street (1980, as member and producer)

Jason Cope, 43, co-founder and guitarist of rock band Steel Woods, on Jan. 16
The Steel Woods – Let The Rain Come Down (2017)

Sammy Nestico, 96, jazz trombonist, composer and arranger, on Jan. 17
Count Basie – Hay Burner (1968, as composer and composer)
Sammy Nestico – Night Flight (1985, also as composer, arranger & producer)

Junior Mance, 92, jazz pianist, on Jan. 17
Dinah Washington – Sometimes I’m Happy (1956, on piano)
Junior Mance Trio – Oo-Bla-Dee (1960)

Ebe Gilkes, 90, Guyanese jazz pianist, on Jan. 17

Perry Botkin Jr., 87, composer, arranger, producer and musician, on Jan. 18
Ike & Tina Turner –  A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knockin’ Every Day) (1966, as arranger)
Sonny Charles and The Checkmates – Black Pearl (1969, as arranger; see Spector entry)
Carpenters – Bless The Beasts And Children (1972, as co-writer)
Harry Nilsson – Down By The Sea (1975, as arranger)
Barry DeVorzon & Perry Botkin Jr. – Nadia’s Theme (1976, as co-writer, co-producer)

Jimmie Rodgers, 87, American pop singer, on Jan. 18
Jimmie Rodgers – Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (1957)
Jimmie Rodgers – It’s Over (1966)

Yvonne Sterling, 65, Jamaican reggae singer, on Jan. 18
Yvonne Sterling – Oh Jah (1978)

Maria Koterbska, 96, Polish singer, on Jan. 18

Tommy Brannick, 79, pop drummer, on Jan. 19
The Swampseeds – Can I Carry Your Balloon (1968)

Peter Wynne, English crooner, on Jan. 19
Peter Wynne – Ask Anyone In Love (1960)

Malcolm Griffiths, 79, English jazz musician, on Jan. 19

Ronnie Nasralla, 90, Jamaican producer, on Jan. 20
The Maytals – My New Name (1965, as producer)

John Russell, 66, English jazz guitarist, on Jan. 20

Randy Parton, 67, country singer-songwriter, Dolly’s brother, on Jan. 21
Randy Parton – Hold Me Like You Never Had Me (1981)

Keith Nichols, 75, English jazz musician and arranger, on Jan. 21

James Purify, 76, soul singer, on Jan. 22
James & Bobby Purify – I’m Your Puppet (1966)
James & Bobby Purify – Morning Glory (1976)

Gabriel Ruiz Díaz, 45, bassist of Argentine rock band Catupecu Machu, on Jan. 23

Jonas Gwangwa, 83, South African jazz trombonist, composer and producer, on Jan. 23
Jonas Gwangwa – Yebo (1978)
George Fenton & Jonas Gwangwa – The Funeral (Nkosi Sikeleli’ iAfrika) (1987)
Jonas Gwangwa – Theme of ‘Generations’ (1993)
Jonas Gwangwa – Morwa (2001)

Joe Camarillo, 52, drummer, on Jan. 24

Tom Stevens, 64, bassist of alt.country band The Long Ryders, on Jan. 24
The Long Ryders – A Stitch In Time (1987, also as writer)
Tom Stevens – Flying Out Of London In The Rain (2007)

6 Dogs, 21, rapper, suicide on Jan. 26

César Isella, 82, Argentine folk singer-songwriter, on Jan. 28
César Isella – Canción de lejos (1973)

Singing Sandra, 64, Trinidadian calypso singer, on Jan. 28

Sibongile Khumalo, 63, South African jazz, opera and classical singer, on Jan. 28
Sibongile Khumalo – Thula Mama (1996)

Hilton Valentine, 77, guitarist of The Animals, on Jan. 29
The Animals – Bury My Body (1964)
The Animals – I’m Going To Change The World (1965)
Hilton Valentine – Sitting In The Sun (1969)
The Original Animals – Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt) (1977)

Grady Gaines, 86, blues saxophonist, on Jan. 29
Little Richard – She’s Got It (1957, on tenor sax)
Grady Gaines & The Texas Upsetters – Looking For One Real Good Friend (1988)

Sophie, 34, Scottish singer-songwriter and producer, on Jan. 30
Sophie – It’s Okay To Cry (2017)

Double K, 43, half of hip hop duo People Under the Stairs, on Jan. 30
People Under The Stairs – We’ll Be There (2000)

Wambali Mkandawire, Malawian jazz musician, on Jan. 31
Friends First – Thula Sizwe/I Shall Be Released (1988, as member)
Mte Wambali Mkandawire – Calabrash Breath (2015)

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