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In Memoriam – December 2021

January 4th, 2022 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Reaper was busy in December, in music as well as in other fields (Desmond Tutu! Betty White!). One singer on this list featured on two mixes here in the last few months. Canadian singer Renée Martel, who has died at 74, appeared on The Beatles in French Vol. 1 (with her take on The Night Before) and Vol. 2 (with Good Day Sunshine). The Humblebums, whose lead guitarist Tam Harvey has died, were completed by Gerry Rafferty, soon to become big with Stealers Wheel and later his mega-hit Baker Street, and Scottish comedian Billy Connolly. Another track here set a world record: hip hop outfit UTFO, whose Kangol Kid has died at 55, had a hit with Roxanne Roxanne which provoked a record 25 answer records, in what has become known as “The Roxanne Wars”.

Revisit the In Memoriam series to review who left us in the past year.

The Reluctant Monkee
With the death at 78 of Michael Nesmith, there’s only one Monkee left, Micky Dolenz. Davy Jones departed in 2012, Peter Tork in 2019. Of the four, Nesmith always looked like the one who least gave a shit about The Monkees, which probably had as much to do with his frustration at being denied musical input as it did with his natural nonchalance. Half the time, he looked like he had no idea what on earth he was doing there. And yet, once in a while, his talent for improvisation would be allowed to shine through.

Behind the scenes, he wasn’t quite so nonchalant when it came to the broken promises about his musical input. Dolenz recalled that Nesmith’s exasperation once found expression in a hole, punched into a wall. Nesmith was a fine songwriter; his Different Drums even featured in a Monkees episode, albeit in a comedic manner (he slaughters it on stage). Shortly after, it became a hit for Linda Ronstadt’s Stone Poneys.

Nesmith went on to influence the country-rock scene (some obits exaggerated when they claimed he virtually invented it) with his Second National Band. Perhaps his best work was his 1972 acoustic album And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’, on which he finally recorded his own version of Different Drum (the featured track, with Red Rhodes on pedal steel, is from that set). It’s well worth seeking out. As is its critically panned and commercially rejected album Tantamount To Treason, which proves that critics can be fools.

The Bass Producer
With drummer Sly Dunbbar, bass player Robbie Shakespeare formed the rhythm section of the pivotal reggae band Black Uhuru during its glory days from 1979 to 1987. They also recorded together as Sly & Robbie. But Shakespeare and Dunbar made their greatest impact as producers of acts like Grace Jones (including Pull Up to the Bumper), Gwen Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Ian Dury, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Yoko Ono, Serge Gainsbourg, No Doubt, Simply Red and more. Obviously they also produced a who-is-who of reggae, such as Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaacs, Bunny Wailer, Sugar Minott, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, Ini Kamoze, Yellowman, The Mighty Diamonds, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Shabba Ranks, Beenie Man, and more.

A few days after Shakespeare, Black Uhuru co-founder Garth Dennis passed away; none of his terms in the band coincided with Shakespeare’s. But as 2021 was fading out, guitarist Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung, who played on many Shakespeare productions (including the Grace Jones, Peter Tosh and Gwen Guthrie ones), died at the age of 71.

The Voice
For a long time in the 1960s and ’70s, soul singer Joe Simon was a frequent visitor to the US charts, with his distinctive low tenor voice (which might take some getting used to). He started out as a gospel singer before becoming a secular southern soul singer in the 1960s. Like colleagues such as Brook Benton, Simon would occasionally drift into the world of country music — almost naturally, since he was based in Nashville. One of his biggest hits was 1969’s The Chokin’ Kind, written by country songwriter Harlan Howard. Another example is the featured version of Simon’s cover of  Eddy Arnold’s country classic Misty Blue.

In the 1970s, Simon had the good fortune of becoming an early client of the great Gamble & Huff production team, which updated his sound to great effect (check out his I Found My Fad on the Any Major Fathers Vol. 2 mix). As the 1970s turned into the ‘80s, Simon returned to his gospel roots and became a singing evangelical preacher.

The Marvelette
With the death of Wanda Young, both lead singers of Motown pioneers The Marvelettes are gone. Gladys Horton, who took the lead on the group’s early hits, died in 2011. It was Horton who got her friend Young to join her band, called The Marvels, just as Motown was signing them. At first Horton took the lead vocals (such as on Please Mr Postman or Beechwood 4-5789), then she shared lead with Young on songs like Locking Up My Heart and Too Many Fish In The Sea. From 1965, Young (by now going by her married name Rogers) became the principal singer, taking the lead on hits like I’ll Keep Holding On, Don’t Mess With Bill, The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game, When You’re Young And In Love and My Baby Must Be A Magician.

The JB Drummer
Before James Brown had the mighty drummers Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks, he had the mighty Melvin Parker, brother of Maceo. And JB reckoned that Melvin was the best drummer he’d had. Up against Stubblefield and Jabo, that’s a huge compliment.

You can hear Parker on tracks like I Feel Good, Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, and Out Of Sight. Then Parker was drafted into the army and left the J.B.s. He returned briefly in 1969/70, but soon left and joined his brother in Maceo & All the King’s Men. In 1976 he briefly returned one more time to Brown, playing on his hit Get Up Offa That Thing.

The Smokie
English pop band Smokie produced some real stinkers in their time, but some of those Chinnichap RAK songs deserve rehabilitation. Living Next Door To Alice has been sent up repeatedly (especially with the 1995 “Who the fuck is Alice?” remix), but is a catchy number. And tracks like Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone, I’ll Meet You At Midnight, If You Think You Know How To Love Me, and Don’t Play Your Rock ‘N Roll To Me are well-crafted pop music, wordy titles notwithstanding. And their harmonies were pretty good. The four members also seemed like perfectly nice guys who always had time for their fans.

Bassist Terry Uttley, who has died at 70, with his white-man afro seemed the most affable of the lot. After his wife Shirley became ill with cancer, he became a fundraiser for cancer charities. Exactly a month after her death on November 17, Terry Uttley died.

The Backing Singer-Songwriter
Even if you don’t know the name David Lasley, who has died at 74, you’ll probably have heard his high tenor voice on the backing vocals of various hits by Chic (such as Dance Dance Dance and Everybody Dance), Odyssey (such as Native New Yorker) or Sister Sledge (We Are Family, Lost In Music, He’d The Greatest Dancer, Thinking About You). He also backed acts like James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, Garland Jeffreys, Boz Scaggs, Cher, Tim Curry, Valerie Carter, Aretha Franklin, Randy Crawford, Teddy Pendergrass, Culture Club, Whitney Houston, Rita Coolidge, and especially his close friend Luther Vandross.

Lasley and Vandross did a lot of the back-up singing together, especially on the Chic collective’s songs. Luther did backing vocals on Lasley’s 1982 solo album. Among the songs on that set was the Lasley composition You Bring Me Joy, later covered by Anita Baker. Other songs Lasley wrote or co-wrote include Boz Scaggs’ JoJo, Randy Crawford’s Nightline, Chaka Khan’s Roll Me Through The Rushes, Maxine Nightingale’s Lead Me On, and more.

The Manager
Music managers don’t usually get included in this series, but I’ll make an exception for Ken Kragen, who has died at 85. A bit of an all-rounder — he was also an author and TV producer (such as for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour), among other things — Kragen managed various acts, especially from the country scene. In 1985, his charges included Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie when he was approached by Harry Belafonte to put together a charity concert to raise funds for the Ethiopian famine, following the efforts by Band Aid in the UK. Kragen didn’t think a concert would work — turns out, he was wrong — but suggested an all-star charity record in the style of Band Aid.

He got Quincy Jones to produce the record, and Kragen’s client Lionel Richie and Belafonte’s mate Michael Jackson wrote We Are The World. In the end, Kragen had to turn away stars who wanted to appear on the single, which was recorded on January 21, 1985, and released on March 7. It became the fastest-selling record in US history, despite being rather rubbish. A year later, Kragen organised the Hands Across America campaign to raise funds for hunger relief.

The Chant Guy
Especially if you follow football (or soccer), you’ll know the crowd’s chant of “olé, olé, olé”. Grand Jojo, the Belgian singer and songwriter who co-wrote and first recorded it, has died at 85. The chant first made its appearance on a 1985 record in honour of Brussel-based team RSC Anderlecht, titled Anderlecht Champions (Allez, Allez, Allez). Grand Jojo, whose Flemish records appeared under the moniker Lange Jojo, was best-known for drinking-type songs.

The Bradman Principle
It’s cruel when a beloved cultural icon dies less than three weeks short of their 100th birthday. So it was with TV actress Betty White. Long before she was famous for her roles in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, White hosted her own TV variety show in the 1950s on which she would sing popular songs. In fact, she was right there in the embryonic days of TV, in 1939. With her death, a bigger chunk of entertainment history than we might have thought has departed.

And the heading to this entry? Cricket fans will know. The greatest-ever batsman was an Australian player named Don Bradman (1908-2001). In his last-ever innings, he needed to score more than one run to finish off with the landmark test average of 100 (the greatest-ever players before and after after him had averages in the 60s or 50s). In his last innings, Bradman was bowled for 1 run, meaning he ended his career with the impressive yet agonising average of 99.94. It is a bit like Betty White bowing out less than three weeks before her centenary.

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

Grand Jojo, 85, Belgian singer and songwriter, on Dec. 1
Grand Jojo – Anderlecht Champions (Allez, Allez, Allez) (1985)

Alvin Lucier, 90, experimental composer, on Dec. 1

Melvin Parker, 77, drummer for James Brown, on Dec. 2
James Brown – Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag
Maceo & All The King’s Men – I Want To Sing (1972, on drums)
James Brown – Get Up Offa That Thing (1976, on drums)

Stonewall Jackson, 89, country singer, on Dec. 4
Stonewall Jackson – Don’t Be Angry (1964)

Toni Santagata, 85, Italian folk singer, on Dec. 5

Bill Staines, 74, folk singer-songwriter, on Dec. 5
Bill Staines – Crossing The Water (1993)

Buddy Merrill, 85, easy listening steel guitarist, on Dec. 5

Enzo Restuccia, 80, Italian drummer, on Dec. 5

John Miles, 72, British singer-songwriter, on Dec. 5
John Miles – Music (1976)
John Miles – No Hard Feelings (1978)

Oleg Emirov, 51, Russian rock composer and keyboardist, on Dec. 5

János Kóbor, 78, lead singer of Hungarian prog-rock band Omega, on Dec. 6
Omega – Stormy Fire (1974)

Margaret Everly, 102, singer and mother of the Everly Brothers, on Dec. 6

Greg Tate, 64, founder & guitarist of jazz-rock collective Burnt Sugar, music critic, on Dec. 7
Burnt Sugar feat Julie Brown & Micah Gaugh – Throw Some Light (2017)

DJ Scholar, former MC of British grime outfit Ruff Sqwad, on Dec. 7

Robbie Shakespeare, 68, Jamaican bassist with Sly & Robbie, Black Uhuru, producer, on Dec. 8
Black Uhuru – Push Push (1980, as member on bass and co-producer)
Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981, on bass)
Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You (1982, on bass and as co-producer)
Sly & Robbie – Boops (1987)

Ralph Tavares, 79, singer with soul band Tavares, on Dec. 8
Tavares – It Only Takes A Minute (1975)
Tavares – Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel (1976)

Gil Bridges, 80, wind musician and vocalist with soul band Rare Earth, on Dec. 8
Rare Earth – Born To Wander (1970, on flute and backing vocals)
Rare Earth – I Just Want To Celebrate (1971)

Barry Harris, 91, jazz pianist, composer, arranger, on Dec. 8
Barry Harris Trio – Ladybird (1975)

Slim 400, 33, rapper, shot dead on Dec. 9

David Lasley, 74, singer, songwriter, backing singer, on Dec. 9
Chaka Khan – Roll Me Through The Rushes (1978, as writer and on backing vocals)
Boz Scaggs – JoJo (1980, as co-writer and on backing vocals)
David Lasley – You Bring Me Joy (1981, also as writer)

Steve Bronski, 61, Scottish keyboardist of Bronski Beat, announced on Dec. 9
Bronski Beat – Why? (1984, also as co-writer)

Garth Dennis, 72, Jamaican reggae musician with Black Uhuru, Wailing Souls, on Dec. 9
Garth Dennis – Slow Coach  (1974)
Wailing Soul – Soul & Power (1982, as member)

Michael Nesmith, 78, Monkees guitarist, singer-songwriter, on Dec. 10
The Monkees – The Girl I Knew Somewhere (1967, also as co-writer)
The Stone Poneys – Different Drum (1968, as writer)
Michael Nesmith & The First National Band – Joanne (1970)
Michael Nesmith – Two Different Roads (1972)

Les Emmerson, 77, singer of Canadian pop group Five Man Electrical Band, on Dec. 10
Five Man Electrical Band – I’m A Stranger Here (1972)

Thomas ‘Mensi’ Mensforth, singer of English punk band Angelic Upstarts, on Dec. 10
Angelic Upstarts – I’m An Upstart (1979)
Angelic Upstarts – Lust For Glory (1982)

Vicente Fernández, 81, Mexican singer and actor, on Dec. 12
Vicente Fernandez – Volver, Volver (1972)

Toby Slater, 42, singer-songwriter of Britpop band Catch, on Dec. 13
Catch – Dive In (1997)

Blackberri, 76, singer-songwriter, on Dec. 13

Joe Simon, 85, soul singer, on Dec.13
Joe Simon – Misty Blue (1969)
Joe Simon – Drowning In The Sea Of Love (1973)
Joe Simon – It’s Crying Time In Memphis (1975)

John Nolan, 55, guitarist of Australian punk rock band Bored!, Powder Monkeys, on Dec. 13

Phil Chen, 75, Jamaican bassist, on Dec. 14
Rod Stewart – I Was Only Joking (1977, on bass)

Ken Kragen, 85, music manager, on Dec. 14
USA For Africa – We Are The World (1985, as initiator)

Ian Worang, 47, guitarist and singer of Canadian alt.rock band Uncut, on Dec. 15
Uncut – Taken In Sleep (2004)

Leonard ‘Hub’ Hubbard, 62, bassist of The Roots (1992-2007), on Dec. 15
The Roots – What They Do (1996)

Flow La Movie, 38, Puerto Rican producer, in a plane crash on Dec. 15

Wanda Young, 78, lead singer of The Marvelettes, announced on Dec. 16
The Marvelettes – Don’t Mess With Bill (1965)
The Marvelettes – Destination Anywhere (1968)

Robie Porter, 80, Australian producer, singer and lap steel guitarist, on Dec. 16
Robie Porter – Here In My Arms (1966)
Air Supply – Lost In Love (1980, as co-producer)

Terry Uttley, 70, bass guitarist of English pop band Smokie, on Dec. 16
Smokie – Don’t Play Your Rock ‘n Roll To Me (1975)
Smokie – If You Think You Know How To Love Me (1976)

Meg Brazill, 69, bassist and singer of new wave trio Los Microwaves, on Dec. 16
Los Microwaves – T.V. In My Eye (1981)

John Morgan, 80, drummer of English novelty band The Wurzels, on Dec. 17

Vicente Feliú, 74, Cuban folk singer, on Dec. 17
Vicente Feliú – No sé quedarme (1985)

Lindsay Tebbutt, drummer of Australian rock band The Choirboys, on Dec. 17
Choirboys – Run To Paradise (1987)

Enzo Gusman, 74, Maltese singer, on Dec. 18

Tam Harvey, guitarist Scottish folk-rock band The Humblebums, on Dec. 18
The Humblebums – Shoeshine Boy (1969)

Renée Martel, 74, Canadian pop and country singer, on Dec. 18
Renée Martel – Liverpool (1969)

Kangol Kid, 55, rapper with hip hop outfit UTFO, on Dec. 18
U.T.F.O.  – Roxanne, Roxanne (1984)

Drakeo the Ruler, 28, rapper, stabbed to death on Dec. 19

Billy Conway, 65, drummer of Indie rock band Morphine, on Dec. 19
Morphine – Honey White (1995)

Carlos Marín, 53, German-born Spanish baritone with Il Divo, on Dec.19
Il Divo – Wicked Game (Melanconia) (2011)

Elio Roca, 78, Argentine singer and actor, on Dec. 19

Emil Ramsauer, 103, double bassist with Swiss Eurovision band Takasa, on Dec. 20

Paul Mitchell, singer with soul band The Floaters (“Leo, and my name is Paul”), on Dec. 20
The Floaters – I Am So Glad I Took My Time (1977)

Luboš Andršt, 73, Czech rock guitarist, on Dec. 20

Anthony Williams, 90, Trinidadian steelpan musician, on Dec. 21

Nkodo Sitony, 62, Cameroonian bikutsi singer, on Dec. 21

Robin Le Mesurier, 68, British session guitarist, on Dec. 22
Rod Stewart – Every Beat Of My Heart (1986, on guitar)

Marco Mathieu, 57, bassist of Italian punk band Negazione, on Dec. 24

J.D. Crowe, 84, bluegrass banjo player and band leader of New South, on Dec. 24
J.D. Crowe & The New South – Old Home Place (1975)

Oscar López Ruiz, 83, Argentine composer, producer and guitarist, on Dec. 24

Harvey Evans, 80, musicals actor (West Side Story, Mary Poppins), on Dec. 24
Harvey Evans & Joel Grey – All Our Friends (1968)

Janice Long, 66, English disc jockey, on Dec. 25

Guenshi Ever, Beninese singer, on Dec. 25

 ‘Le Général’ Defao, 62, Congolese rhumba singer-songwriter, on Dec. 27
Defao – Amour scolaire (1992)

Raymond Fau, 85, French singer-songwriter, on Dec. 27

Pavel Chrastina, 81, bassist, singer, songwriter with Czech rock group Olympic, on Dec. 28

Mikey ‘Mao’ Chung, 71, Jamaican guitarist and arranger, on Dec. 28
Mike Chung & The Now Generation – Breezing (1972)
Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before (Libertango) (1981, on guitar; see Robbie Shakespeare)
Gwen Guthrie – It Should Have Been You (1982, on guitar; see Robbie Shakespeare)

Rosa Lee Brooks, soul singer, on December 28

Paolo Giordano, 59, Italian guitarist, on Dec. 29

Betty White, 99, actress, comedian, occasional singer, on Dec. 31
Betty White – Nevertheless (I’m In Love With You) (1954)
Luciana feat. Betty White – I’m Still Hot (2011)

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  1. amdwhah
    January 4th, 2022 at 10:13 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. January 4th, 2022 at 21:02 | #2

    In case you are wondering if anyone reads this fabulous monthly post, be assured that many people do, and its work you do that is greatly appreciated. I even promote it on Twitter when you post it every month.

    Thank You.

  3. arthdog
    January 7th, 2022 at 15:44 | #3

    Thanks for putting this all together for us. I always dig back into the collection to play a track or two of those artists who have passed on if they played even the smallest part in my life. Cheers for the music and memories.

  4. Freddie Jaye
    January 7th, 2022 at 19:23 | #4

    Interesting fact about Betty White: one of her earliest (if not very first) TV experiences was co-hosting “Hollywood on Television,” an unscripted program that aired completely live, six days a week, for five-and-a-half hours each day, for about four years.

    The rest of her career must have felt like a walk in the park!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_on_Television

  5. Rhodb
    January 7th, 2022 at 22:14 | #5

    Well done another wonderful and complete share

    Regards

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