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In Memoriam – August 2023

August 29th, 2023 9 comments

August’s In Memoriam actually drops in August, due to commitments that prevent me from posting this month’s instalment at the usual time. September’s In Memoriam will, obviously, include all the music deaths that are still coming or are yet to be reported.

This month we lost people who were subjects to three fine documentaries: Robbie Robertson (as a member of The Band) in The Last Waltz, Sixto Rodriguez in Searching For Sugar Man, and Clarence Avant in The Black Godfather (the latter two also crossed paths at one point).

Oh, and Tom Jones died.

The Band Man
I would argue that The Band were among the most influential musical groups of their time, but I wager that only their fans and deep-cut rock fans would be able to list all their members. In fact, I reckon that most people would know only Robbie Robertson, and maybe Levon Helms. With Robertson’s death, only Garth Hudson is still with us. And at the intervals at which we are losing Band members, Hudson might remain so for another dozen years: Richard Manuel died in 1986, Rick Danko in 1999, Levon Helm in 2012, and now Robbie Robertson in 2023.

All of them brought something special to The Band but guitarist Robertson was its primary songwriter, contributing classics like The Weight, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, The Shape I’m In, Up On Cripple Creek, and (my favourite Band track) It Makes No Difference. Though, it must be noted, Helm and Danko strongly disputed Robertson’s claims to sole authorship. Later reunions excluded Robertson…

After The Band’s initial split, Robertson produced albums for acts like Neil Diamond and Eric Clapton. And Robertson wrote film scores for films directed by Martin Scorsese, who had also directed the docu for The Band’s break-up concert, The Last Waltz. These films include Raging Bull, The King Of Comedy, The Color of Money, Casino, The Wolf Of Wall Street, The Irishman, and the recently released Killers Of The Flower Moon.

Robertson released his eponymous debut solo album only in 1987. It was a critical and commercial success, even if I didn’t like it too much — there is a reason why Robertson very rarely took lead vocals in The Band.

The Sugar Man
Having released a single (as Rod Riguez, the label’s bright idea) and done session work on Motown, Sixto Rodriguez had reason to hope that his superb 1970 debut album Cold Facts would become a hit. But the socio-political folk-funk flopped in the US, as did the 1971 follow-up Coming From Reality, both released on Clarence Avant’s Sussex label. But somehow his two records became cult-items in South Africa, especially in student circles spanning several generations.

The records were also heard in Australia and New Zealand, where Rodriguez toured in 1979 and 1981, but it was in South Africa that the Detroit-born singer was a cult figure, no doubt fed by the mystique surrounding him, with the prevailing rumour declaring Rodriguez dead by suicide.

The quest by a South African fan in the 1990s to locate Rodriguez and get him to tour the country would be told in the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary Searching For Sugar Man. Incredibly, Rodriguez had no ideas that he was popular in South Africa; her found out when his daughter spotted a website dedicated to him. His first concert in Johannesburg in 1998 was an area affair, broadcast on TV. Imagine, one moment you live in your derelict Detroit home, assuming your art has been forgotten; next moment you play an arena in Africa where everybody knows the words to the songs you wrote almost three decades earlier, including people who weren’t even born when you recorded them.

Searching For Sugar Man gave Rodriguez as second shot at a career in the last decade of his 81-year-long life.

The Philly Soulman
As lead guitarist of the session band MFSB, Bobby Eli played on most of the great Philadelphia soul classics. Apart from Philly acts, over the years he also backed the likes of David Bowie, Hall & Oates, Wilson Pickett, Grady Tate, Elton John, George Clinton, Curtis Mayfield, Grace Jones, Jay-Z, and Shaggy.

But apart from backing artists —and having a global hit as a member of MFSB with TSOP, which for a while was also the Soul Train theme — the man born as Eli Tatarsky was also a songwriter of several hits and producer of stars.

Among the Philly soul hits he co-wrote are Love Won’t Let Me Wait for Major Harris, Blue Magic’s Sideshow and Three Ring Circus, and Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely by the Main Ingredient (originally written for Ronnie Dyson). He later also co-wrote the 1982 hit Zoom for Fat Larry’s Band and Love Town for Booker Newberry III.

He produced the Major Harris and Blue Magic hits, and others for those acts, as well as Jackie Moore (including her disco classic This Time Baby), Sister Sledge, Brenda & The Tabulations, Engelbert Humperdinck (in his porn-actor moustache phase), early Atlantic Starr, Rose Royce, Booker Newberry III, Deniece Williams and others.

The Axeman
Perhaps best-known for his work in Whitesnake, guitarist Bernie Marsden was admired for his ability to blend melodic solos, drawn from his love of blues, with powerful rhythm playing. Marsden co-founded Whitesnake in 1978 — when he might have joined Paul McCartney’s Wings instead — and also co-wrote many of their hits, including Here I Go Again (he played on the 1982 version, but not on the 1987 hit re-recording) and Fool For Your Loving.

Before he joined Whitesnake, Marsden played with UFO, Cozy Powell’s Hammer, and Wild Turkey, and co-founded the Deep Purple spin-off band Paice Ashton Lord with Deep Purple members Ian Paice and Jon Lord. Marsden also released many solo albums.

Gibson Guitars made a limited edition number of Marsden’s 1959 Les Paul guitar, known as “The Beast”.

The Black Godfather
His nickname “Black Godfather” might suggest some kind of nefarious character, but Clarence Avant, the music executive who has died at 92, received that moniker for presiding over an incredible network of contacts in the fields of entertainment, business and politics which enabled him to strike an abundant number of deals.

He started off by managing acts like Little Willie John, Sarah Vaughan, Kim Weston, Freddie Hubbard and others. In 1969 he founded the Sussex label, on which he mentored especially Bill Withers to stardom. Another Sussex artist was Sixto Rodriguez, whose two albums were release on the label. The documentary Searching for Sugar Man strongly that Rodriguez had been cheated out of the royalties due to him. Sussex folded in 1975.

Avant went on to co-found Tabu Records in 1975, which really took off in the 1980s when Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis produced acts like The S.O.S. Band, Alexander O’Neal, and Cherrelle. Tabu became part of the Sony empire in 1989, and in 1991 became a subsidiary of A&M Records (more on whom in a moment). When Avant was appointed to run Motown, Tabu was incorporated under that label (complicated stuff: both A&M and Motown were owned by PolyGram by that time).

In 1973, Avant was the executive producer of Save the Children, the film of the Operation PUSH concert in Chicago, which included the greatest line-up of black performers ever assembled.

Avant advocated for diversity and equal representation in the entertainment industry, and used his influence to help create opportunities for African American artists and professionals. He was the subject of the 2019 Netflix documentary The Black Godfather, produced by his daughter.

Avant died 20 months after his wife of 54 years, Jacqueline, was shot dead by an intruder in their Beverly Hills home on December 1, 2021.

The M in A&M
Three days after Avant, the M in A&M Records died. Jerry Moss founded the label in 1962 with Herb Alpert (the A in the name), having previously gone by the name of Carnival Records. A&M first built its fortunes on the records of Herb Alpert and Sergio Mendes, but soon included in its roster best-sellers like Burt Bacharach, The Sandpipers, Carpenters, Captain and Tennille, Flying Burrito Brothers, Quincy Jones, Rita Coolidge, Gino Vannelli, Joan Baez, Peter Frampton, Styx, Supertramp, Chuck Mangione, Billy Preston, Brothers Johnson, The Police, Sting, OMD, Nazareth, Joan Armatrading, Janet Jackson, Atlantic Starr, The Go-Go’s Bryan Adams, Suzanne Vega, The Human League, Joe Jackson, and loads others.

In 1989 Alpert and Moss sold A&M to PolyGram for $500 million, but continued to manage the label until 1993, when they quit due to interference from the parent company. In 1998, the two sued PolyGram, settling for another $200 million payment. Moss and Alpert were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 in the non-performer category.

Less than two weeks after Moss, one of A&M’s pivotal execs, promotions man Harold Childs, died at 80.

The Hit Writer
When the British invasion hit in the 1960s, New Yorker Rob Feldman and some of his young songwriting and producing colleagues sought to cash in on it, and founded The Strangeloves — initially pretending to be Australian, because their British accents weren’t very good. The studio band released a few hit records, particularly I Want Candy (later a UK hit for Bow Wow Wow), Cara-Lin, and Night Time.

With his partners Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, Feldman also produced the McCoys’ Hang On Sloopy, and wrote for them the song Sorrow, a b-side that later became a hit for David Bowie. Before that, they had written and produced My Boyfriend’s Back for The Angels. With Goldstein, Feldman later recorded as Rome & Paris.

Feldman went to school with Neil Sedaka, and was a member of the All-City Choir with Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand. He was the father of actor Corey Feldman.

The Jazz Diva
It is a huge shame that South African jazz singer Sylvia Mdunyelwa, only ever released two albums, one of them a live set. The Cape Town singer started her music career in the 1970s, performing with a variety of local jazz acts.

The diminutive singer with a big voice was versatile: she also acted on South African television, had a weekly jazz show on a popular Cape Town radio station, owned a TV- and film-production company, and set up a jazz school up in the township where she was born, serving the community there in various forms of activism.

The Italian
One of Italy’s most popular pop stars, rough-voiced Toto Cutugno was a regular at the country’s popular Sanremo Music Festival, which he won in 1980 with “Solo noi”. In 1990 won the Eurovison Song Contest with “Insieme: 1992”, a song that celebrated the European Union.

Seven years earlier, Cutugno had a big international hit with “L’Italiano”, which basically listed things that define Italianess (eating pasta al dente, that sort of thing). Expats apparently loved it. Earlier yet, Cutugno had some success as singer and songwriter of the band Albatros, which he had co-founded. They had two hits in the mid-1970s with Africa and Volo AZ 504.

He also wrote prolifically for others, including the huge French disco hit “Monday Tuesday… Laissez moi danser” for Dalida and “Soli” for Adriano Celentano, as well as songs for Joe Dassin, Johnny Hallyday, Mireille Mathieu, Domenico Modugno, Claude François, Gigliola Cinquetti, Hervé Vilard, and others.

The Pistols’ Artist
If you have ever beheld any Sex Pistols record, you will have seen the art of Jamie Reid, 76, the British visual artist who designed the covers of the Never Mind The Bollocks LP and of singles like God Save The Queen and, in comic book style, Holiday In The Sun.  The magenta-on-yellow ransom-letter style Sex Pistols logo was also his work.

In 2011, Q magazine named the cover of God Save The Queen the greatest singles cover of all time. The original design was shocking, with Cecil Beaton’s portrait of Queen Elizabeth II adorned with a safety pin through her nose and swastikas in her eye. In the end, the single release featured the queen with a banner displaying the song’s title covering her eyes, a banner with the band’s name over her lips, and HRH’s schnozzle unmolested by fastening devices.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.

Dom Minasi, 80, jazz guitarist, composer and producer, on Aug. 1
Dom Minasi – I’ll Only Miss Her (When I Think Of Her) (1974)

Wendell B, 65, R&B singer, on Aug. 3
Wendell B. – When It Don’t Make Sense (2012)

Carl Davis, 86, US-British classical and film composer, conductor, on Aug. 3
Carl Davis – Theme of The French Lieutenant’s Woman (2009, as composer and conductor)

Tom Pintens, 48, Belgian indie singer and musician, on Aug. 4

John Gosling, 75, keyboardist of The Kinks (1970-78), on Aug. 4
The Kinks – You Don’t Know My Name (1971)

Slim Lehart, 88, American country singer, on Aug. 5

David LaFlamme, 82, singer and violinist of psych-rock band It’s A Beautiful Day, on Aug. 6
It’s A Beautiful Day – White Bird (1969, on vocals and as co-writer and producer)

Louis Tillett, 64, Australian rock singer and musician, on Aug. 6
Louis Tillett & Charlie Owen – Midnight Rain (1995)

Toussaint McCall, 89, soul singer, on Aug. 7
Toussaint McCall – Nothing Takes The Place Of You (1967)

Erkin Koray, 82, Turkish singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Aug. 7

DJ Casper, 58, DJ and songwriter, on Aug. 7
DJ Casper – Cha Cha Slide (2000)

Jamie Reid, 76, British visual artist, designer of Sex Pistols covers, on Aug. 8
The Sex Pistols – Holiday In The Sun (1977, as cover designer)

Sixto Rodriguez, 81, folk-rock singer-songwriter, on Aug. 8
Rod Riguez – I’ll Slip Away (1967)
Rodriguez – I Wonder (1970)
Rodriguez – I Think Of You (1971)
Rodriguez – Sugar Man (Live) (2009)

Robbie Robertson, 80, Canadian songwriter, musician (The Band), film composer, on Aug. 9
Bob Dylan & The Band – Nothing Was Delivered (rec. 1967)
The Band – It Makes No Difference (1975, also as writer)
The Band – Up On Cripple Creek (Live) (1978, also as writer)
Robbie Robertson – Broken Arrow (1987, also as writer)

Peppino Gagliardi, 83, Italian singer, on Aug. 9
Peppino Gagliardi – Che vuole questa musica stasera (1967)

Brad Thomson, grindcore guitarist, announced Aug. 10

Carlos Camacho, 73, singer with Puerto Rican vocal band Los Hispanos, on Aug. 11
Los Hispanos Quartet – Pena (1967)

Tom Jones, 95, musical lyricist, on Aug. 11
New World – Try To Remember (1968, as lyricist)

Ron Peno, 68, singer-songwriter with Australian rock band Died Pretty, on Aug. 11
Died Pretty – Everybody Moves (1989)

Clarence Avant, 92, music executive and label founder, on Aug. 13
Willie Bobo & The Bo-Gents – Do What You Want To Do (1971, as co-producer, label owner)
Cherelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love (1985, as label owner)

Patricia Bredin, 88, English actress and singer, on Aug. 13

Magoo, 50, rapper and songwriter, announced Aug. 13
Timbaland & Magoo feat Missy Eliott & Aaliyah – Up Jumps Da Boogie (1997)

Jerry Moss, 88, co-founder of A&M Records, producer, on Aug. 14
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – Whipped Cream (1965, as co-producer)
Waylon Jernnings – The Real House Of The Rising Sun (1965, as producer)
Michelle Phillips – No Love Today (1976, as producer)

Bobby Eli, 77, Philly soul guitarist, songwriter, and producer, on Aug. 16
MFSB – TSOP (1974, as member on lead guitar)
Blue Magic – Sideshow (1974, as writer and producer)
Fat Larry’s Band – Zoom (19832, as co-writer)
Luther Vandross – Love Won’t Let Me Wait (1988, as writer)

Walter Aipolani, 68, Hawaiian music singer, songwriter and guitarist, on Aug. 16

Gary Young, 70, drummer of indie band Pavement (1989-93), on Aug. 16
Pavement – Summer Babe (1991)

Chico Novarro, 88, Argentine singer-songwriter, on Aug. 17

Ray Hildebrand, 82, half of duo Paul & Paula, songwriter, on Aug. 17
Paul & Paula – Hey, Paula (1962, also as writer)

Václav Patejdl, 68, member of Czechoslovakian rock band Elán, on Aug. 19

Luc Smets, 76, singer, songwriter and musician with Belgian pop band The Pebbles, on Aug. 20
The Pebbles – Seven Horses In The Sky (1969, as lead singer and co-writer)

Denis LePage, 74, half of Canadian disco duo Lime, songwriter, on Aug. 21
Lime – Your Love (1981, also as co-writer)

Toto Cutugno, 80, Italian singer-songwriter, Eurovision winner (1990), on Aug. 22
Albatros – Volo AZ 504 (1976, as member, vocalist and co-writer)
Toto Cutugno – Solo noi (1980)
Toto Cutugno – L’italiano (1983, also as co-writer)

Bob Feldman, 83, songwriter and producer, on Aug. 23
The Angels – My Boyfriend’s Back (1963, as co-writer and co-producer)
The Strangeloves – I Want Candy (1965, as member and co-writer)
The McCoys – Sorrow (1965, as co-writer and co-producer)
Dusty Drake – And Then (2002, as co-writer)

Bernie Marsden, 72, English rock guitarist and songwriter, on Aug. 24
Cozy Powell’s Hammer – Na Na Na (1974, on guitar)
Bernie Marsden – Still The Same (1979, also as writer)
Whitesnake – Here I Go Again (1987, as member and co-writer)

Sylvia Mdunyelwa, South African jazz singer, on Aug. 25
Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa – That’s All (1998)
Sylvia Ncediwe Mdunyelwa – Abazali (1998)

Carlos Gonzaga, 99, Brazilian singer, on Aug. 25
Carlos Gonzaga – Diana (1958)

MC Marcinho, 45, Brazilian funk singer, on Aug. 26

John Kezdy, 64, singer of punk band The Effigies, traffic accident on Aug. 26
The Effigies – Something That… (1984)

Bosse Broberg, 85, Swedish jazz trumpeter and composer, on Aug. 26

Harold Childs, 80, music executive (A&M, PolyGram), on Aug. 27

Brian McBride, 53, ambient musician, announced Aug. 27
Stars of the Lid – Dungtitled (In A Major) (2007, as member)
Bell Gardens – Through The Rain (2010, as member)

Eddie Skoller, 79, Danish singer and actor, on Aug. 27

Denyse Plummer, 69, Trinidadian calypso and gospel singer, on Aug. 27
Denyse Plummer – Woman Is Boss (1988)

James Casey, 40, saxophonist with rock group Trey Anastasio Band, on Aug. 28

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Any Major Soul 1983

August 17th, 2023 2 comments

 

Nobody vaguely sane has ever claimed that 1983 represents a pinnacle in soul music. Still, there was enough good stuff around to produce a fine mix — one on which synth stabs and lazily programmed drum machines, which blighted so much soul in the ’80s, are in short supply. So the music on this mix is relatively timeless, rather than being a time capsule.

If Patti LaBelle’s Love, Need And Want You sounds vaguely familiar, then it is because it was prominently sampled by Nelly for his 2002 hit with Kelly Rowland, the superb Dilemma. In the video, LaBelle appeared as Kelly’s mother, which was a great touch.

The Mary Jane Girls’ All Night Long has also been liberally sampled, most famously by LL Cool J on his 1991 hit Around The Way Girl, and a few years later by Mary J Blige on Mary Jane (All Night Long), which was more tribute than sample. But in recording the Mary Jane Girls song, Rick James did a bit of copying themselves: the bassline borrows from Keni Burke’s song Risin’ To The Top from a year earlier.

Perhaps the most sampled song on this mix is Between The Sheets by the Isley Brothers. Wikipedia counts 50 samples, including on Da Brat’s Funkified, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Big Poppa, Doja Cat’s Like That, Gwen Stefani’s Luxurious, and Pretty Ricky’s On The Hotline.

One place you probably would not begin a search for soul music is Sweden. And yet, our Scandinavian friends are represented here in the form of the band Shine. The band’s creative main man was the Ghanaian/Dutch jazz funk musician Kofi Bentsi-Enchill, who also takes lead vocals on So Into You, along with Swedish-French jazz singer Babette Kontomanou. Shine released one album, and then faded away. Babette went on to have a good solo career.

Joyce Lawson has three albums to her credit. Her eponymous 1983 debut was followed by an album in 1987, and a third set 14 years after that. Her career took off after winning the US talent programme The Gong Show. I have found no further biographical info on Lawson, except that she appears to be no longer with us.

I think I ought to issue an earworm warning in regard to Baby I’m Scared Of You by Womack & Womack. That line, “Houdini, was great magician, he could crack a lock [dut dut] from any position”, has kept me awake as it refused to leave my ear. And once I succeeded to dispel it, there was Cecil Womack sitting in my ear: “Oh, like Rudolph Valentino, I can fall down on my knees…” You’ve been warned!

The great cover version of Superstar by Luther Vandross was one of the first tracks on my shortlist, but at nine minutes it’s rather too long to be included on a CD-R length mix. It’s included as a bonus track. Superstar is the redeeming feature of the album it closes, Busy Body, which I regard as Luther Vandross’ weakest effort.

By the way, all Any Major Soul mixes from 1964 onwards are up again.

As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, and includes home-houdinied covers. PW in comments.

1. Rufus & Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
2. Lionel Richie – Love Will Find A Way
3. Isley Brothers – Between The Sheets
4. The Manhattans – Forever By Your Side
5. Womack & Womack – Baby I’m Scared Of You Baby
6. Patti LaBelle – Love, Need And Want You
7. Al Jarreau – I Will Be Here For You (Nitakungodea Milele)
8. Randy Crawford – Why?
9. Roberta Flack & Peabo Bryson – Maybe
10. Enchantment – Don’t Fight The Feeling
11. Gwen Guthrie – Oh What A Life
12. Shine – So Into You
13. Joyce Lawson – Try Me Tonight
14. Sister Sledge – Gotta Get Back To Love
15. Atlantic Starr – Touch A Four Leaf Clover
16. Mtume – Juicy Fruit
17. Mary Jane Girls – All Night Long
Bonus Track:
Luther Vandross – Superstar

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Any Major Telephone Vol. 4

August 10th, 2023 8 comments

 

Sometimes the lack of feedback can kill off a series of mixes. So it was with the Any Major Telephone series which I started in April 2013 with Volume 1. Any Major Telephone Vol. 2 dropped a few months later, and Vol. 3 in March 2014. The first two mixes got a lot of comments; the third only four (which in those days was rather little. Nowadays it would be a pleasing reaction). I thought the thing had run its course.

I had cause to revisit the Any Major Telephones when reader Jungle Jim (possibly not his real name) asked me to re-up Vol. 1 in the series, which he had somehow lost. I was happy to oblige — as I always am, provided I still have the requested mixes. Jim still had the other two volumes, but I have re-upped them as well. I reckon Vol. 2 is the best of the three.

And as I looked up the folder with Vol. 1, I noticed that I still had a long shortlist of telephone-related songs. So, after nine years, here’s Volume 4!

On the first two mixes, I used only songs that featured actual phone calls, direct or implied. Vol. 3 featured mostly tracks nominated by readers. This mix, like Vol. 3, places no restrictions on the nature of telephone-related subject matter, so there are a lot of ruminations about the potential of phone calls, usually involving a theme around the invitation or hope to receive a call.

The present mix closes with a French cover of Andy Williams’ Music To Watch ls Go By. Since our French singer from 1967 is a girl, who doubtless had her share of unnerving men watching her go by, she changes the subject to telephone games. Both song’s lyrics would have little application in the 2020s, when neither telephones and advocacy of sexist attitudes are appropriate subject matters in pop music.

Conversely, the song by the Drive-By Truckers, from almost 20 years ago, has a great message for our current age. When you drive, leave that cellphone alone! Or you might end up like country star George Jones, who in 1999 crashed into a bridge and was lucky to survive for another 14 years. He blamed talking on his cellphone while driving, though he later admitted to also having been under the influence of alcohol. The experience drove the hard drinker to sobriety. So, obviously, don’t drink (or smoke weed) and drive — and, please, don’t text and drive!As ever, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and include home-payphoned covers. PW in comments.

1. Curiosity Killed The Cat – Name And Number (1989)
2. Blondie – Call Me (1980)
3. City Boy – 5.7.0.5. (1977)
4. Foreigner – Love On The Telephone (1979)
5. RAH Band – Clouds Across The Moon (1985)
6. Deacon Blue – When Will You Make My Telephone Ring (1988)
7. Prince – How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore (1982)
8. Chaka Khan – Telephone (1992)
9. Corinne Bailey Rae – Call Me When You Get This (2006)
10. Mayer Hawthorne – You Called Me (2011)
11. The Sylvers – Hot Line (1976)
12. Aaron Neville – Wrong Number (I’m Sorry, Goodbye) (1962)
13. Billy Fury – Phone Call (1960)
14. Hawkshaw Hawkins – Lonesome 7-7203 (1963)
15. Mel Tillis – Coca Cola Cowboy (1979)
16. Drive-By Truckers – George Jones Talkin’ Cell Phone Blues (2009)
17. Shelby Lynne – Telephone (2003)
18. Sheryl Crow – Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely (2013)
19. Wings – Call Me Back Again (1973)
20. 10cc – Donna (1972)
21. ABBA – Ring Ring (1973)
22. Natacha Snitkine – Le Jeu du telephone (1967)

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In Memoriam – July 2023

August 2nd, 2023 5 comments

The word “iconic” is overused and abused, deployed and misapplied to the point that it has lost any meaning by content creators who meander through the landscape of wordsmithery without the solid foundation of having been trained in writing. It is a term used and enjoyed with extreme caution. But it seems proper to describe three of our deaths this month by the term “iconic”, in as far as they were figureheads or trailblazers (another cliché?) who by their persona or work had some quality of the unique and even irreplaceable.

 

The Legend
You would have expected the obits to be kind to Tony Bennett, one of the last survivors of the great crooning generation of the 1950s. Well, they were indeed glowing accounts of the man in ways that suggest that Bennett really was a quality man. Of course, we knew of his decency, and his political engagement for civil rights when that kind of thing could cost you (as it had cost Sinatra in the late 1940s). But it seems everybody who ever met him had only kind things to say about Bennett — as they did in his lifetime.

Bennett deserved the adulation he received when he made his big comeback in the 1990s, after more than two decades in the wilderness. He was a survivor. And he showed his vigour even when Alzheimer’s had taken residence in him, still recording and, remarkably, still performing live. Tony Bennett, we salute you!

The Protest Singer
A lot more has been written about Sinead O’Connor than I might have anticipated, had I ever contemplated her death at the young age of 56. The Irish singer left a cultural imprint out of proportion with the successes of her career. That scarcity of commercial success was self-inflicted, by choice and by circumstance, for Sinead was above all a protest singer, not a commercial proposition. And a protest singer, to be true to the definition, doesn’t seek success, doesn’t compromise.

It is somehow appropriate that Sinead once had a protective wing cast over her by Kris Kristofferson (see him tell the story and Sinead and KK sing a duet). Kristofferson once sang: “And you still can hear me singing to the people who don’t listen to the things that I am saying; praying someone’s gonna hear. And I guess I’ll die explaining how the things that they complain about are things they could be changing; hoping someone’s gonna care.”

I hope Sinead O’Connor, a troubled woman of aggressive courage and mild temperament, and of (unconventional) religious faith, indeed beat the devil.
La fille de Chelsea
My mother had the single of Je t’aime…Moi non plus, the groan-and-moan-fest by Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, with Birkin staring in all her beauty from the cover. When I was five, I loved it and played the single ad nauseam on my little suitcase record player, to the point that much later in life, I found myself a vinyl rip MP3 to experience the proper sound of childhood nostalgia. The crackling belonged to the song as much as Birkin’s moans. Obviously I had no interest in what the nice lady was singing or groaning, less even why she seemed to be in pain. I just loved that groove.

Contrary to the popular narrative, Jane and Serge did not have sex while recording Je t’aime…, but were in separate booths, unlike the version Gainsbourg had done earlier with Brigitte Bardot. Apparently the recording of the Bardot version involved some personal contact — reportedly in the form of heavy petting.

Bardot begged Gainsbourg that her version not be released because her husband objected to it. Given that Günter Sachs’ approach to marital fidelity was not widely known to be uncompromisingly observant, I suppose his objection centred mainly on BB’s orgasmic noises going public, not the idea that said (putative) orgasm was caused by another man.

As for Birkin, she would appear on one of the great albums of the 1970s, Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, briefly on vocals and prominently on the cover, on which she holds her toy tiger to cover up her breasts (not that Birkin was particularly shy about public nudity). Her musical career in general was not an extraordinarily fertile ground for the classics of French pop music, but even when the music was mediocre and her voice thin, it was carried by Birkin’s enigmatic personality.

The Eagle
By all accounts, bassist Randy Meisner was a very nice guy, so it seems harsh that his bandmates in Poco and the Eagles treated him so poorly. As a founder member of Poco, he recorded the group’s debut album, but quit the band when he was excluded from participating the final mix, by order of guitarist Richie Furay. Meisner’s bass and backing vocals were retained, but on the cover drawing, his likeness was replaced by that of a dog. In Poco he was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit.

Meisner went on to co-found the Eagles, where he wrote and sang lead on a few songs, including the wonderful Take It To The Limit. He recorded six albums with the Eagles, leaving after 1976’s Hotel California. Again, he was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit.

When the Eagles reformed for the Hell Freezes Over tour, Meisner was deliberately and explicitly excluded. He was hurt by it, but said he felt no grudge towards Frey and Henley. Likewise, he later performed with Furay, who had treated Meisner so poorly in Poco.

After his time with the Eagles, Meisner recorded a few decent but commercially indifferent albums, and ran a few projects with other musicians.

The Trailblazer
As the new millennium kicked off, one of my big jams was Coco Lee’s Do You Want My Love, an infectious dance number that always put me in a good mood. So I was all the more saddened to learn that Hong Kong-born Lee’s life ended with suicide.

In 2001, Lee became the first Chinese-American singer to perform at the Oscars, with A Love Before Time from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lee recorded both in English and Mandarin, and seemed to be well-connected: her 2011 wedding in Hong Kong included performances by Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys and Ne-Yo. She died at 48, three days after attempting suicide on July 2.

The Hornblower
Count Basie rated trumpeter Oscar Brashear so highly, he showcased him in his concerts in the 1960s, as he did in this clip from 1968. Brashear was best-known as a trumpeter, but played any horn instrument. Apart from contributing to jazz acts, that versatility ensured him a place in many horn sections that appeared on countless soul and pop records. He played on virtually all Earth, Wind & Fire album, and on tracks like The Crusaders’ Street Life or Webster Lewis’ glorious Give Me Some Emotion.

Brashear backed acts like Donny Hathaway, John Lee Hooker, Solomon Burke, Zulema, Bonnie Raitt, Marvin Gaye, Patrice Rushen, The Blackbyrds, Randy Newman, Etta James, Esther Philips, Carole King (including the wonderful Sweet Season), Neil Diamond, James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Michael Franks, Ry Cooder, BB King, Deniece Williams, Maria Muldaur, Patti Labelle, Letta Mbulu, Tavares, The Sylvers, Teena Marie, Rick James, The Whispers, Was (Not Was), Frank Sinatra (on the Duets album), Thomas Dolby, Kenny Rogers, Dr John, Quincy Jones, Babyface, Lionel Richie, Tamia (on You Put A Move On My Heart), and many more…

Aside from Basie, he recorded with jazz acts such as Dizzy Gillespie, Nat Adderley, Miles Davis, McCoy Tyner, Blue Mitchell, Sonny Rollins, Milt Jackson, Sergio Mendes, Henry Mancini, Alice Coltrane, Earl Klugh, Stanley Turrentine, Gabor Szabo, Jon Lucien, Ramsey Lewis, Norman Connors, Hubert Laws, Sadao Watanabe, Rodney Franklin, Pharoah Sanders, Hubert Laws, Lalo Schifrin, Freddie Hubbard, Nelson Riddle, Toots Thielemans, Horace Silver, Herb Alpert, David Axelrod, Diane Schuur, Joe Sample, George Duke, Herbie Hancock and others.

The Bassist
Although he released a number of solo records and was part of the jazz-fusion trio RMS, English multi-instrumentalist Mo Foster was best known as a backing musician for acts like Jeff Beck, Phil Collins, Gil Evans, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Joan Armatrading, Gerry Rafferty, Meat Loaf, Cher, Scott Walker, Cliff Richard, George Martin, Judie Tzuke, Olivia Newton-John, Dr John, Stephen Bishop, Elkie Brooks, Michael Schenker, Heaven 17 and many others. He primarily played the bass guitarist, especially on Jeff Beck records.

He also played on soundtracks for many TV shows (including the distinctive bass on the theme of Minder), musicals (including Evita) and for films such as For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, Revenge of the Pink Panther, and Clockwise.

Foster was also a songwriter and producer, and wrote a humorous history of the British rock guitar, with a foreword by Hank Marvin.

The TV Composer
If you have watched any episode of the UK crime show Midsomer Murders (or “Tories Killing Tories”, as I call it), you will have heard the compositions of Jim Parker, who has died at 88. He scored the internationally popular show, and wrote its theme, with the ghostly theremin. Parker also wrote the theme and score for 1990s superb House of Cards series (and its sequels, which deteriorated in quality. The first season, however, still towers over the US copy with Verbal). Parker also wrote for Foyles’ War and Victoria Woods’ TV programmes, and the scores of several films.

Once he made it into the UK charts, having set a poem called Captain Beaky by Jeremy Lloyd to music, with Keith Mitchell reciting. Recorded in 1977 — as part of a project that also included recitals by Peter Sellers, Twiggy and Harry Secombe — it reached #5 in 1980. Parker also set poems by John Betjeman to music, with the poet laureate reciting his own words.

The Brazilian Legends
Tony Bennett once described jazz singer Leny Andrade, who died at 80 only three days after him, as “Brazil’s Ella Fitzgerald”. Like Fitzgerald, Andrade recorded with some of the biggest names in her field, including João Donato, whom we also lost this month.

On the same day Andrade died, her longtime friend and fellow legendary singer Dóris Monteiro passed away, at the age of 88. A joint wake was held at the venerable Theatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro.

Monteiro’s recording career went back as far as 1951, with some film appearances following. By 1956 she was so big a star that she got her own TV show. She recorded regularly into the 1990s, and toured into her 70s.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.

Jerry Masters, 83, sound engineer, bassist and songwriter, on June 30
Clarence Carter – Patches (1969, on bass)
Tony Joe White – I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby (1972, as engineer and on backing vocals)

Vicki Anderson, 83, soul singer (James Brown Revue), on July 3
Vicky Anderson – The Message From The Soul Sisters (1970)

Mo Foster, 78, English multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, on July 3
Affinity – I Am And So Are You (1970, as member)
Phil Collins – It Don’t Matter To Me (1982, on bass)
Meat Loaf – Piece Of The Action (1984, on bass)
Mo Foster – The Light In Your Eyes (1988)

Lincoln Mayorga, 86, pianist and arranger, on July 3
The Four Preps – Big Man (1958, on piano)

Canelita Medina, 84, Venezuelan salsa singer, on July 4
Canelita Medina – Canto a la Guaira (1981)

Martin Stevens, 69, Canadian pop singer, on July 5
Martin Stevens – Midnight Music (1979)

Ralph Lundsten, 86, Swedish electronic music composer, on July 5

George Tickner, 76, rock guitarist, founding member of Journey, announced July 5
Journey – Of A Lifetime (1975, as member and co-writer)

Marcello Colasurdo, 68, Italian singer-songwriter and actor, on July 5

Coco Lee, 48, Hong Kong-American dance singer-songwriter, suicide on July 5
Coco Lee – Do You Want My Love (1999, also as producer)
Coco Lee – I Just Wanna Marry U (2013, also as writer)

Rob Agerbeek, 85, Dutch jazz pianist, on July 5

Caleb Southern, 53, pop-rock musician, producer and computer scientist, on July 6
Ben Folds Five – Magic (1999, as producer)

Peter Nero, 89, pianist and conductor with the Philly Pops, on July 6

Oscar Brashear, 78, jazz trumpeter, on July 7
Count Basie – Switch In Time (1968, on trumpet)
Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone (1979, on trumpet)
Crusaders feat Randy Crawford – Street Life (1979, full version, on trumpet)
Double Scale feat. Oscar Brashear – Smooth (1999)

Özkan Uğur, 69, member of Turkish pop band MFÖ, on July 8

Greg Cook, 72, singer with soul band The Unifics, on July 8
The Unifics – The Beginning Of My End (1968)

Bob Segarini, 77, US-Canadian pop musician and radio presenter, on July 10
Segarini – When the Lights Are Out (1978)

Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, 89, German free jazz musician, on July 10

Toni Carbone, 62, bassist of Italian new wave band Denovo, on July 11
Denovo – Persuasione (1987)

Anthony Meo, drummer of hardcore band Biohazard, announced July 14

Dano LeBlanc, 55, Canadian musician and cartoonist, on July 15

Jane Birkin, 76, English-French singer and actress, on July 16
Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg – Je t’aime moi non plus (1969)
Jane Birkin – Lolita Go Home (1975)
Jane Birkin – Norma Jean Baker (1983)

Marc Herrand, 98, singer with French vocal group Les Compagnons de la Chanson, on July 17
Les Compagnons de la Chanson – Le marchand de Bonheur (1960)

João Donato, 88, Brazilian jazz and bossa nova pianist, on July 17
Donato e Seu Trio – Só Danço Samba (1965)
João Donato – E Menina (1975)

DJ Deeon, 56, house music DJ and producer, on July 17
DJ Deeon – Freak Like Me (1996)

Mark Thomas, 67, British film composer, on July 19
Mark Thomas – Opening Titles of ‘Shadows In The Sun’ (2006, as composer, conductor)

Tony Bennett, 96, jazz vocalist, on July 21
Tony Bennett – Rags To Riches (1953)
Tony Bennett with the Count Basie Orchestra – I Guess I’ll Have To Change My Plans (1959)
Tony Bennett – I Left My Heart In San Francisco (live) (1994)
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – Anything Goes (2014)

Neal Langford, 50, bassist of The Shins (2000-2003), on July 21
The Shins – Caring Is Creepy (2001)

Knut Riisnæs, 77, Norwegian jazz musician, on July 22

Arthur Rubin, 97, stage-singer and actor, on July 22

Vince Hill, 89, English singer and songwriter, on July 22
Vince Hill – Merci Cherie (1966)

Peter Austin, 78, singer with Jamaican ska band The Clarendonians, on July 22
The Clarendonians – Rudie Bam Bam (1966)

Raymond Froggatt, 81, English songwriter, on July 23
Raymond Froggatt – Callow La Vita (1968)

Cecilia Pantoja, 79, Chilean singer-songwriter, on July 24
Cecilia – Te Perdí (1965)

Dóris Monteiro, 88, Brazilian singer and actress, on July 24
Dóris Monteiro – Se Você se Importasse (1951)
Dóris Monteiro – Mocinho Bonito (1957)
Dóris Monteiro – Coqueiro Verde (1970)

Leny Andrade, 80, Brazilian singer and musician, on July 24
Leny Andrade – O Amor e a Rosa (1961)
Leny Andrade – Flor de Liz (live) (1984)
Leny Andrade – Rio (1991)

Brad Houser, 62, musician and co-founder of the New Bohemians, on July 24
Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – Nothing (1988, on bass and as co-writer)

Paul ‘Biff’ Rose, 85, comedian and singer-songwriter, on July 25
Biff Rose – Fill Your Heart (1968; original of the Bowie song)

Andreas Tsoukalas, 60, Greek pop singer, on July 25

Sinéad O’Connor, 56, Irish singer and songwriter, announced on July 26
Sinead O’Connor – Mandinka (1987)
Sinead O’Connor – Black Boys On Mopeds (1990)
Terry Hall  & Sinead O’Connor – All Kinds Of Everything (1998)
Sinead O’Connor – How About I Be Me (2014)

Roseline Damian, 39, Kenyan gospel singer, on July 26

Randy Meisner, 77, musician, singer, songwriter with the Eagles, on July 26
Poco – Calico Lady (1969, on bass and backing vocals)
Eagles – Take It To The Limit (1975, on lead vocals, bass and as writer)
Eagles – Try And Love Again (1976, on lead vocals, bass and as writer)
Randy Meisner – Gotta Get Away (1980)

Bea Van der Maat, 62, Belgian singer, TV presenter and actress, on July 27

Jim Parker, 88, British TV music composer, on July 28
Sir John Betjeman – Slough (1981, as composer and producer)
Jim Parker – Francis Urquhart’s March (Theme of ‘House of Cards’) (1990, as composer)
Jim Parker – Theme of ‘Midsomer Murders’ (1997, as composer)

Tommi Stumpff, 65, German electro-punk musician, on July 28
Tommi Stumpff – Alarm (1982)

Edgar Pozzer, 84, Brazilian singer, on July 29

Manolo Miralles, 71, musician and singer with Spanish folk band Al Tall, on July 29
Al Tall – Cant de la Muixeranga (2009)

Paul ‘Peewee Herman’ Reubens, 70, American actor, on July 30
Peewee Herman – Surfin’ Bird (1987)

Alice Stuart, 81, blues and folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on July 31
Alice Stuart – Woman Blue (1964)

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