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In Memoriam – August 2021

September 2nd, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Reaper is back in his ghastly groove, wreaking carnage of a like not seen for many months. He claimed the most likable Rolling Stone — which may not exactly be the toughest contest in the world, but Charlie Watts seems to have been a decent man. The Reaper also took one of the great harmony singers, the last of Bill Haley’s Comets, and the drummer on hits such as Dolly Parton’s Jolene and Dobie Gray’s Drift Away. There are so many write-ups — and I had to restrain myself from not adding more — I suggest you read the lot in the included illustrated PDF.

The Stones Drummer
Practically everything that needs to be said about Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, a jazz drummer in a rock band, has been said — importantly the story about how he responded to Mick Jagger’s reference to him as “my drummer” with a punch in Mick’s face and the response: “You’re my singer!” But I’d like to yield the floor to music journalist and Stones fan Neil Kulkarni, who on Facebook issued this spontaneous and unedited tribute Watts’ often underrated drumming:

“It’s that those beats he made, Satisfaction, Get Off My Cloud, the stealth and menace of Play With Fire, the lunatic clatter and thump of 19th Nervous Breakdown and Mother Baby, We Love You, Jumping Jack Flash, Stray Cat Blues, Jigsaw Puzzle […] He would never admit it, but [he was] such an important teacher-by-proxy to so many musicians in so many different genres. His solidity, steadiness is gonna be mentioned a lot, but don’t forget his rippling rolls on Moonlight Mile, all the moves he makes on something like Monkey Man or Knocking, and how convincing he makes every little shift. Funky, experimental, always giving the songs life. Unique grooves that could only come from him…”

The Everly Brother
As it was with the Louvin Brothers — the country-gospel siblings who set a template for the fraternal harmonies which the Everly Brothers would take to the top of the charts — Phil and Don Everly often didn’t get on with one another. Like Ira and Charlie Louvin, Phil and Don had different temperaments and even worldviews, yin and yang. Their fights were legendary; and after Phil’s death in 2014, Don explained that now he felt free to endorse a Democrat candidate for the presidency, something he felt he couldn’t do while his brother was alive.

Don and Phil brought the tradition of country/country-gospel harmonising 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 Everly Brothers reside in the pantheon of rock & roll but they always returned to their country roots, even at the height of their success, with the 1958 LP Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Ten years later, they released the intriguing Roots album, a country record that in places incorporated contemporary pop sounds. The featured track, T For Texas, is a bit of a mess, but hear how Don and Phil start it off as a country sing and end up sounding like The Monkees.

In 1962, Don joined up with songwriter Carole King and budding musician Glen Campbell to form The Keestone Family Singers. I’m including a song from that collaboration, but I do so not as an acknowledgment of the musical merits which the collaboration might promise.

The Reggae Pioneer
In reggae, Lee “Scratch” Perry stands as a giant; as a founder of the Upsetter Records label and his band The Upsetters, as a songwriter, and as a producer, especially of Bob Markey & The Wailers on their way to superstardom. He also worked outside his genre to record acts like the Beastie Boys and the Clash. In the 1970s, he helped pioneer dub music, through remixes of existing songs, which has influenced other genres, from rock to hip hop.  In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Perry at #100 on its list of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.

The Americana Pioneer
When I shall review the music deaths of 2021, I’ll probably find that the passing of Nanci Griffith will be among those that hurt the most. In the 1980s, Griffith helped pioneer the resurgence of woman folk-rock-country singer-songwriters. By fusing various genres, Griffith was also among those who gave rise to the so-called Americana scene.

Griffith commanded much love and respect from those who knew her music, but she never became a household name. Others had hits with the songs she first recorded and/or wrote: Bette Midler with her horribly cheesy version of From A Distance (which Griffith didn’t write but first recorded; her original featured on The Originals 1990s-2000s); Kathy Mattea with Love At The Five And Dime. In 1994 she received the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms, which featured her version of John Prine’s gorgeous Speed Of The Sound Of Loneliness (it featured on the John Prine Songbook mix)

The Rock & Roll Sax Legend
With the death at 87 of Joey Ambrose, the classic lineup of Bill Haley’s Comets has now passed. Ambrose played the tenor sax on great hits like Rock Around the Clock and Shake, Rattle and Roll. But in 1955 Ambrose left Haley with drummer Dick Richards (died 2019) and Marshall Lytle (died 2013) over a salary dispute to form the less successful Jodimars. After two minor hits, the group folded in 1958. After that, Ambrose worked for 27 years at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas before teaming up with his former Comets in 1987, with whom he’d perform for the next two decades.

The Country Wit
Country music has a history of superbly witty lyrics, and Tom T. Hall was one of the drivers of the humour train, most famously with his composition Harper Valley PTA, a huge hit for Donna Fargo (but it’s not her version that features here, nor the original by Jeannie C. Riley, which was included on The Originals – Country Edition). But Hall could also write poignant songs of heartbreak, and the occasional reactionary anthem (such as his risible Hello Vietnam). He was known as The Storyteller, and he indeed was that, in the best traditions of his genre.

The Poco Guitarist
After Jim Messina left Poco, guitarist and singer Paul Cotton came in, and made his mark with his guitar work, vocals and compositions, which included classics like Heart Of The Night, Barbados, Indian Summer, Ride The Country, and Bad Weather. He stayed with the band until 2020, with a four-year hiatus between 1987-91. Cotton released five solo albums. His fellow Poco frontman and solo collaborator Rusty Young died in April.

The Producing Engineer
On the very day that producer/engineer Allan Blazek died, I had listened to the 1973 album Freewheelin’ by The Fabulous Rhinestones, which he engineered. As a sound engineer, Allan Blazek was responsible for getting the balance of the duelling guitar solos in Hotel California right. By then, Blazek knew the Eagles well enough, having already mixed much of their 1974 On The Border album. He went on to engineer many of the bands big hits (usually together with his frequent collaborator, producer Bill Szymczyk): Lyin’ Eyes, Take It To The Limit, One Of These Nights, Life In The Fast Lane, New Kid In Town, etc. Later he produced several Glenn Frey records, including Smuggler’s Blues.

Among other acts he produced were Elvin Bishop (including Fooled Around And Fell In Love), REO Speedwagon, Mickey Thomas, The Outlaws, and the J. Geils Band. Blazek engineered those acts as well as the likes of the The Dillaeds, Rick Derringer, Edgar Winter Group, Dan Fogelberg, Wishbone Ash, Karla Bonoff, The Who, and Melissa Etheridge.

The Sidemen
Two sidemen in multiracial English 1980s groups died at 62 on successive days. One was UB40’s saxophonist Brian Travers, the following day it was Simply Red keyboardist Fritz McIntyre.

In UB40, Brian Travers sounded the opening clarion call in Food For Thought, which was the band’s first hit in 1980, alongside King on the nominal A-side. Travers remained with UB40 (or faction thereof) even after the hits dried up. As a redhead, Travers stood out in the group.

Fritz McIntyre backed a redhead. His keyboards kicked off Simply Red’s first hit, Money’s Too Tight To Mention, and the first track of their debut LP, Come To My Aid (which he co-wrote). His keyboards were a key ingredient in the Simply Red arrangements. He remained with Simply Red until 1995, along the way taking shared vocals with Mick Hucknall on Wonderland from 1991’s Stars album. After leaving Simply Red, McIntyre released a solo album and then emigrated to North America to do Christian contemporary music.

The Gadda-Da-Vida Drummer
It’s one of the great drum solos in classic rock: Ron Bushy’s stickwork six minutes into Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, less musclebound fireworks than controlled aggression in a tribal rhythm. Bushy was the one constant in the changing Iron Butterfly line-ups. Of the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida line-up, only one member survives, organist and lead vocalist Doug Ingle.

The Session Drummer
One of the tracks featured in memoriam of Nanci Griffith also showcased a session drummer who died in August. Kenny Malone, who played drums and percussions for Griffith in the 1980s, including the featured track from 1986. He also drummed on most of John Prine’s Sweet Revenge album (and other tracks throughout Prine’s career), as well as for acts like — and this is an abbreviated list — Dolly Parton (including on Jolene), Dobie Gray (including in Drift Away), Johnny Cash, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Billy Jo Shaver, Donna Fargo, Tony Joe White, Moe Bandy, Tompall Glazer, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Crystal Gayle, Charley Pride, Dr. Hook, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Paycheck, Reba McIntyre, Kenny Rogers, B.J. Thomas, Mac Davis, Bobby Bare, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, J. J. Cale, Townes Van Zandt, Kathy Mattea, Garth Brooks, Guy Clark, Alison Krauss, Steve Earle, Willie Nelon, Allison Moorer, and many others.

The Queen
The first of the Mahotella Queens has gone with the death at 76 of Nobesuthu Mbadu, who has joined growling frontman Mahlatini Nkabinde among the ancestors. The South African mbaqanga group Mahlatini and The Mahotella Queens became international stars after touring with Paul Simon on his “Graceland” tour and appearing at Wembley at the concert for Nelson Mandela in 1988. The following year, they worked with with Art Of Noise on the sublime hit Yebo! (which means simply “Yes”).

By then they were household names in South Africa. The Mahotella Queens first hit their stride in the 1960s, but in 1971 the original trio, including Mbadu, left the band. Twelve years later, the three reunited and begun to have the string of hits that would bring them to international attention. After Mahlathini’s death in 1999, the Mahotella Queens continued to perform and record; their last album, a gospel set, came out in 2007.

The Hit Writer
When Irish-born singer Clodagh Rogers represented the United Kingdom at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971, she received death threats from those charmers in the IRA. That bizarre turn of events was the last thing on the mind of the song’s co-writer Les Vandyke, the hit-maker who has died at 90. Vandyke scored two UK #1 hits for Adam Faith (What Do You Want? and Poor Me in 1959 and 1960), and seven more Top 10 hits. He also topped the charts with Eden Kane’s 1962 hit Well I Ask You.

Altogether, he wrote 16 Top 10 hits. Not all of them were credited to Vandyke: often he used the names John Worsley or John Worth. The former was actually the name he received from is Greek-born father, who in 1929 came to London and changed his name to assimilate more speedily.

The Big Exec
Music execs don’t usually feature in the In Memoriam series, but former CBS bigwig Walter Yetnikoff merits a mention. For one thing, as president of CBS Records International from 1971 to 1975 and then president of CBS Records from 1975 to 1990, he helped guide the careers of some of my favourite acts like, including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Earth, Wind & Fire.

But more than that, he seemed a decent sort. When Billy Joel had no control over his own compositions, Yetnikoff bought them and gave them to Joel as a birthday gift. And when MTV refused to play Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, the exec called the nascent video channel out for its racism, and threatened to pull all CBS records from MTV’s playlist. MTV relented, and Billie Jean — and the Thriller album — became a phenomenon, in large part owing to the video. At the 1984 Grammy Awards, Jackson called Yetnikoff up to the stage to receive plaudits. Others might remember Yetnikoff with less warmth — after all, he was a hard-ass music industry executive.

The Organ Man
The death of keyboardist and singer Mike Finnigan brings to three the number of people who have died in August and featured on the soundtrack of Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Finnigan played on Graham Nash’s Love Is The Reason, Allan Blazek co-produced the Ravyns’ Raised On The Radio, and Poco’s Paul Cotton is on the group’s contribution I’ll Leave It Up To You.

In his time, Finnigan worked extensively with Crosby, Stills & Nash, as a band and the trio’s solo efforts, as well as with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Big Brother And The Holding Co, Joe Cocker, Etta James, Dave Mason, Dan Fogelberg, Maria Muldaur,  Ringo Starr, Leonard Cohen, Tower of Power, Eric Burdon, Canned Heat, Rod Stewart, Eddie Money, Tracy Chapman, Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal, among others.

The Soccer Star
One entry I include by exercising my prerogative of authorship of the In Memoriam series: German footballer Gerd Müller was the greatest goalscorer of the last 80 years, perhaps ever. And he gets an entry here on strength of a single he released in 1969, a cash-in on his popularity titled “Dann macht es bum” (which means “Then it goes bang”). It’s a terrible oompah-music record, and Gerd’s singing suggested that he was much better off sticking to his day job of scoring an impossible tally of goals. But it made him a recording artist, so he features here.

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.

 

Paul Cotton, 78, guitarist and singer of Poco, on Aug. 1
Poco – Ride The Country (1972, also as writer)
Poco – Indian Summer (1977, also as writer)
Poco – Heart Of The Night (1978, also as writer)

Allan Blazek, 71, producer, mixer and audio engineer, on Aug. 3
The Fabulous Rhinestones – Go With Change (1973, as engineer)
Eagles – Ol’ 55 (1974, as producer)
Ravyns – Raised On The Radio (1982, as producer and engineer)

Kelli Hand, 56, house musician and DJ, on Aug. 3

Jo Jo Bennett, 81, singer and percussionist of Canadian reggae band Sattalites, on Aug. 3
Sattalites – Too Late To Turn Back Now (1989)

Paul Johnson, 50, DJ and producer, on Aug. 4
Paul Johnson – Get Get Down (1999)

Razzy Bailey, 82, country musician, on Aug. 4
Razzy Bailey – She Left Love All Over Me (1981)

Anders Pettersson, 69, Swedish dansband musician, on Aug. 4

Les Vandyke, 90, English songwriter, on Aug. 6
Eden Kane – Well I Ask You (1961, as writer)
Clodagh Rodgers – Jack In The Box (1971, as co-writer)
Jimmy Helms – Gonna Make You An Offer You Can’t Refuse (1973, as producer & writer)

Gary Lee Yoder, 75, psychedelic rock musician, on Aug. 7

Dennis Thomas, 70, saxophonist of Kool & the Gang, on Aug. 7
Kool & the Gang – Hollywood Swingin’ (1969)
Kool & The Gang – Too Hot (1979)
Kool & The Gang – Bad Woman (1984)

Walter Yetnikoff, 87, CBS executive, on Aug. 8

Chucky Thompson, 53, hip hop & R&B producer, on Aug. 9
Raheem DeVaughn – Woman (2008, as producer)

Killer Kau, 23, South African rapper and producer, car crash on Aug. 9

Joey Ambrose, 87, saxophonist with Bill Haley & His Comets, on Aug. 10
Bill Haley & The Comets – Shake Rattle And Roll (1954)
Bill Haley & The Comets – Rudy’s Rock (1956)
The Jodimars – Dance The Bop (1956)

Roy Gaines, 83, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Aug. 11
Big Mama Thornton – You Don’t Move Me No More (1950s)
Roy Gaines & The Crusaders – A Hell Of A Night (1981, also as writer)

Mike Finnigan, 76, keyboardist and vocalist,, on Aug. 11
Jimi Hendrix Experience – Still Raining, Still Dreaming (1968, on organ)
Mike Finnigan – Misery Loves Company (1976)
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Southern Cross (1982, on keyboards and backing vocals)

Caroline Peyton, 69, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 11
Caroline Peyton – Call Of The Wild (1977)

Ronnell Bright, 91, jazz pianist, on Aug. 12
Ronnell Bright – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (1958)

Pil Trafa, 62, singer of Argentine punk band Los Violadores, on Aug. 13

Nanci Griffith, 68, folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Aug. 13
Nanci Griffith – Love At The Five And Dime (1986)
Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra – These Days In An Open Book (1999)
Nanci Griffith – Brave Companion Of The Road (2006)
Nanci Griffith – Just Another Morning Here (2012)

Louie Knuxx, 42, New Zealand hip hop musician, on Aug. 13

Baba Zumbi, 49, rapper, producer, founder of hip hop project Zion I, on Aug. 13
Zion I – Bird’s Eye View (2005)

Jerry Fujio, 81, Japanese singer and actor, on Aug. 14

Charli Britton, 68, Welsh drummer, on Aug. 14

Gerd Müller, 75, German football legend, on Aug. 15
Gerd Müller – Dann macht es bum (1969)

Gary ‘Chicken’ Hirsh, 81, drummer of Country Joe and the Fish, on Aug. 17
Country Joe and The Fish – Superbird (1967)

Tom T. Hall, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Aug. 20
Tom T. Hall – I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew (1967)
Clarence Carter – Harper Valley PTA (1969, as writer)
Tom T. Hall – I Love (1973)
Tom T. Hall – May The Force Be With You Always (1977)

Larry Harlow, 82, salsa musician and composer, on Aug. 20
Larry Harlow – No Hay Amigo (1974)

Ian Carey, 45, house DJ, on Aug. 20
The Ian Carey Project – Get Shaky (2008)

Peter Ind, 93, British jazz double bassist and producer, on Aug. 20
Peter Ind – Blues At The Den (1958)

Don Everly, 84, half of The Everly Brothers and songwriter, on Aug. 21
The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown (1961)
The Keestone Family Singers – Melodrama (1962, as member)
The Everly Brothers – T For Texas (1968)
Emmylou Harris & Don Everly – Everytime You Leave (1979)

Bill Emerson, 83, bluegrass banjo player, on Aug. 21
Emerson & Waldron – Who Will Sing For Me (1979)

Bob Fish, 72, falsetto singer with English rock & roll revival band Darts, on Aug. 22
Darts – Let’s Hang On (1980, on lead vocals)

Eric Wagner, 62, singer of doom metal band Trouble, on Aug. 22

Brian Travers, 62, saxophonist of UB40, on Aug. 22
UB40 – Food For Thought (1980)
UB40 – Tyler (live) (1983)

Olli Wisdom, 63, trance musician, ex-singer of UK goth band Specimen, on Aug. 23
Specimen – Beauty Of Poison (1983)

Powell St. John, 80, singer-songwriter, on Aug. 22
Big Brother & The Holding Company – Bye, Bye Baby (1970)

Sheila Bromberg, 92, orchestral harpist, announced Aug. 23
The Beatles – She’s Leaving Home (1967, on harp)

Fritz McIntyre, 62, keyboardist of Simply Red, on Aug. 24
Simply Red – Come To My Aid (1985, also as co-writer)
Simply Red – Wonderland (1990, also on co-vocals)

Patrick Verbeke, 72, French blues musician, on Aug. 24

Charlie Watts, 80, drummer of The Rolling Stones, on Aug. 24
The Rolling Stones – 19th Nervous Breakdown (1966)
Marianne Faithfull – Something Better (1969, on drums)
The Rolling Stones – Beast Of Burden (1978)
Charlie Watts Quintet – Practising, Practising, Just Great (1991)

Radek Pobořil, 75, member of Czech folk-rock band Čechomor, on Aug. 24

Dave Harper, drummer with English indie band Frankie & The Heartstrings, on Aug. 25
Frankie & The Heartstrings – Hunger (2011)

Mario Gareña, 88, Colombian cumbia singer and composer, on Aug. 25
Mario Gareña – Raza (1978)

George Horn, mastering engineer, producer, announced on Aug. 26
Paul Simon – Mother And Child Reunion (1971, as mastering engineer)

Kenny Malone, 83, country/folk/blues session drummer, on Aug. 26
John Prine – Mexican Home (1973, on drums)
Townes Van Zandt – Snowin’ On Raton (1987, on drums)
Alison Krauss – It’s Goodbye And So Long To You (2017, on drums)

Marcus Birks, 40, ex-singer with English vocal group Cappella, on Aug. 27

Sam Salter, 46, soul singer, on Aug. 27
Sam Salter – It’s On Tonight (1997)

Francesc Burrull, 86, Spanish jazz musician and composer, on Aug. 28

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, 85, Jamaican reggae musician, songwriter, producer, on Aug. 29
Lee ‘King’ Perry – People Funny Boy (1968)
Bob Marley & The Wailers – Soul Rebel (1970, as producer)
Junior Murvin – Police And Thieves (1976, as producer and co-writer)
Lee Scratch Perry – Perry’s Ballad (2006)

Ron Bushy, 79, drummer of Iron Butterfly, on Aug. 29
Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (1968, full album version)
Juicy Groove – Concert Fever (1974) (1978, on drums)

John Drake, 74, singer of garage rock band The Amboy Dukes, on Aug. 29
The Amboy Dukes – Journey To The Center Of The Mind (1968)

Lee Williams, 75, gospel singer, on Aug. 30
Lee Williams & The Spiritual QC’s – Come See About Me (2007)

Tommy Truesdale, 83, Scottish musician and radio presenter, on Aug. 31

Nobesuthu Mbadu, 76, singer with South African mbaqanga group Mahotella Queens, on Aug. 31
Mahotella Queens – Baphinde Joe (1970)
Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens – Thokozile (1987)
Art of Noise feat. Mahlathini and The Mahotella Queens – Yebo! (1989)

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  1. amdwhah
    September 2nd, 2021 at 09:46 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Rhodb
    September 4th, 2021 at 23:30 | #2

    another fine job , these prompt me to seek out the artists I am not familiar with and hear some more of their work

    Regards

  3. Hugh Candyside
    September 8th, 2021 at 19:41 | #3

    Tough month. I can’t tell you how much Charlie’s passing has affected me.
    Thanks for the good work you do.

  4. LeeDailey
    September 9th, 2021 at 14:11 | #4

    howdy y’all,

    when i use the posted pwd … i get a “wrong error” msg back. is “amdwah” the correct pwd?

    take care,
    lee

  5. amdwhah
    September 9th, 2021 at 18:12 | #5

    Oh man, there was a typo. Thanks for pointing it out. The PW is: amdwhah

    It stands for Any Major Dude With Half A Heart.

  6. LeeDailey
    September 10th, 2021 at 15:58 | #6

    @amdwhah
    thanks … wheeee! [*grin*]

  7. Dave Heasman
    September 11th, 2021 at 01:53 | #7

    Keestone Family Singers actually included Phil, not Don.

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