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In Memoriam – October 2023

October 30th, 2023 2 comments

Due to certain commitments, I’m posting the October In Memoriam before the month is out. Those passings that haven’t made it this month will be listed in the November instalment.

Among the notable deaths outside music was that of the world’s oldest dog. Bobi, a Portuguese Rafeiro do Alentejo dog, reached the biblical old age of 31 and thus had the longest canine life on record. His secret to long life was a cigar with a glass of port a day, and daily sex. The world’s oldest dog is now Spike, a 24-year-old chihuahua from Ohio, who is a celibate tee-total non-smoker.

Actually, Bobi’s owners say that their dog’s longevity was due to a “calm, peaceful environment” and consumption of fresh food rather than conventional dog food. He wasn’t neutered, so the daily sex part might be true…

The Isley Brother
In the Isley Brothers, Ronald usually took the lead, but sometimes Rudy Isley got his turn, as he did on the 1979 hit It’s A Disco Night. Rudy’s backing vocals and harmonies were essential to the Isley sound, as were his songwriting contributions to hits like Shout, It’s Your Thing, That Lady, Harvest For The World, and Fight The Power (on which he shared the lead with Ronald and O’Kelly).

Rudy released only one single outside the Isley Brothers, I’ve Got To Get Myself Together, a duet with backing singer Judy White. It was issued in 1970 and credited to Rudy & Judy.

Rudy, who in the 1970s was easily recognisable by sporting a pimp look, left the music industry in 1989 to become a Christian minister. He married Elaine Jasper (sister of later Isleys member Chris Jasper) in 1958; they remained together till Rudy’s death on October 11.

The Composer
In jazz circles, Carla Bley commanded great respect as an innivative composer, pianist, organist, and bandleader. In 1957, at the age of 21, she married jazz pianist Paul Bley — they met when she was working as a cigarette girl at the famous Birdland jazz club. He encouraged her to pursue a career in jazz. She kept his name even after they divorced in 1967.

Carla saw herself foremost as a composer, and also wrote for others (including then-husband Paul). Above that, she also worked behind the scenes to organise the Jazz Composers Guild. Her most significant work was the triple-LP jazz opera Escalator Over The Hill, released in 1971. She recorded until 2020.

Shaft!
Actor Richard Roundtree was known as the übercool sleuth Shaft in the blaxploitation movies (the Any Major Blaxploitation collection is up again, by the way). While Roundtree has secured his place in movie history, his forays into the world of crooning is mostly forgotten.

Roundtree had a quite good voice with which he seemed to aim for the adult-oriented soul scene occupied by the likes of Grady Tate. Inevitably, there was a Blaxploitation funk track called The Man From Shaft, which isn’t bad. The 1972 album of the same title, Roundtree’s only LP, was produced by Eugene McDaniels, with backing singers including Les McCann, Barbara Massey, Jean DuShon and Debra Laws (whose brother Hubert chips in with flute work).

After that, Roundtree released two more singles, and that was it with the recording career.

The Beatmaster
The 7” single has run out for The 45 King, the beatmaster and hip hop producer known to his mom as Mark James. Born in the Bronx in 1961, The 45 King made his name in the 1980s with his tracks of beats sampled from mainly obscure 45 records.

The most famous of these is The 900 Number from 1987, which looped a piece of saxophone solo from Marva Whitney’s 1968 track Unwind Yourself. The English DJ Chad Jackson sampled The 900 Number on his 1990 UK #3 hit Hear The Drummer (Get Wicked).

The 45 King also produced many hip hop artists, including Rakim, MC Lyte, Gang Starr, Apache, Lakim Shabazz, and King Sun. His biggest hits in that field were Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life and Eminem’s Stan. He also produced acts like Queen Latifah, including her debut album All Hail The Queen. Jay-Z has called The 45 King one of the most important hip hop producers.

The Keyboardist
Session musician Paul Harris, who has died at 79, has appeared on several songs on Any Major Mixes, such as on Rusty Wier’s Texas Morning on Any Major Morning Vol. 1, Richie Havens’ Morning Morning on Any Major Morning Vol. 2, and Bob Seger’s Against The Wind, on which he plays the piano to such defining effect.

A one-time member of Stephen Stills & Manassas, The Souther-Hillman-Furay Band and King Harvest, the multi-instrumentalist was best-known for his prolific session work. These included the piano on ABBA’s Voulez-Vous (which the band recorded in Miami),B.B. King’s definitive version of The Thrill Is Gone, and Mama Cass’ Dream A Little Dream, .

Other acts he backed were The Doors, Nick Drake, B.B. King, Judy Collins, Al Kooper, John Sebastian, Joe Walsh, Seals & Crofts, Poco, Maria Muldaur, Dan Fogelberg, John Cougar (Mellencamp), Andy Gibb, and Aerosmith, among many others. He was also an arranger (notably on Tim Hardin’s Simple Song Of Freedom), and producer.

The Reggae Founder
Keyboardist Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper had the distinction of having been a founder member of two legendary reggae groups, Inner Circle and Third World. He left the former in 1973 to co-found Third World. With that group, he created a string of classics, such as 1865 (96 Degrees In The Shade), Now That We Found Love (a cover of the O’Jays song), Cool Meditation, Talk To Me, Dancin’ On The Floor, and Try Jah Love.

Cooper also played with acts like Burning Spear, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Barrington Levy and Lenny Kravitz. Cooper also headed the department of Caribbean, Latin American and Jazz in the Popular Music Studies faculty at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica.

The Real Voice
Around 1970, there were several studio band projects run by British producers Roger Cook and Rob Greenway. One of them was Edison Lighthouse, another White Plains. The latter had a hit in 1970 with the catchy My Baby Loves Lovin’.

The question who sang the lead on that hit was long unresolved. For a long time, the popular narrative claimed it was session singer Tony Burrows, who also did lead vocals on Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) and other Cook/Greenway hits. Now it is widely acknowledged, and confirmed by Greenway, that the lead singer was the South African Ricky Wolff, who has died at 78, with Burrows doubling him on the chorus.

Wolff left White Plains in 1971 and went on to have a successful career as a musician in South African bands, especially soft rock band City Limits, and as a producer. In the latter capacity, he produced a local pop classic in Marcalex’s 1989 hit Quick Quick.

The Centenarian
Country singer Mervin Shiner did not have a glittering career; his two biggest hits — Peter Cottontail and Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me — were 73 years ago. But it is worth noting when a life of over a hundred years ends. Shiner racked up 102 rotations around the sun. In his young days, the Bethlehem Pennsylvania-born singer had some local success as a radio performer, appearing with his mother as a country and gospel duo.

Shiner, a honky-tonk singer and guitarist, started his recording career in 1949, and by 1955 his first (and quite prolific) run of singles, many of them novelty songs for kids, ended. Shiner, who also was a songwriter, returned to release three albums in 1969 and 1970, one of them a children’s Christmas album, the others including covers of songs like In The Ghetto and Teach Your Children, among the more conventional country fare.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.

Ricky Wolff, 78, South African singer of White Plains and producer, on Oct. 1
White Plains – My Baby Loves Lovin’ (1970, on lead or co-lead)
City Limits – Shouldn’t Fall In Love (1980, as member)
Marcalex – Quick Quick (1988, as producer)

Ron Haffkine, 84, producer (all Dr Hook hits), songwriter and manager, on Oct. 1
Cherry People – And Suddenly (1968, as producer)
Dr Hook & The Medicine Show – When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman (1979, as producer)

Lutz Wollersen, 68, singer of German band Rudolf Rock & The Schockers, on Oct. 1
Lutz Wollersen – Wenn Engel Trauer tragen (1984)

Julian Bahula, 85, South African drummer, singer, composer, on Oct. 1
Jabula – Jabula Happiness (1975, as writer, bandleader and on drums)

Joy Webb, 91, singer of British Salvation Army pop group Joystrings, on Oct. 1

Dominique ‘Terracota’ Perrier, c.72, French electronic musician and composer, on Oct. 4
Space Art – Speedway (1977, as member and co-writer)

Bruno Filippini, 78, Italian singer, on Oct. 5
Bruno Filippini – L’amore ha i tuoi occhi (1965)

Ritchie Routledge, 73, singer and guitarist of UK pop group Cryin’ Shames, on Oct. 8
The Cryin’ Shames – Please Stay (1966)

Shinji Tanimura, 74, Japanese singer-songwriter, on Oct. 8

Buck Trent, 85, country musician and TV personality (Hee Haw), on Oct. 9
Dolly Parton & Porter Wagoner – The Last Thing On My Mind (1967, on banjo)
Buck Trent – Buck’s Hee Haw Talkin’ Blues (1976)

Kevin Parrott, member of English duo Brian & Michael, songwriter, on Oct. 9
Brian & Michael – Matchstalk Men And Matchstalk Cats And Dogs (1977, as producer)

Hugh Friel, 71, drummer of Irish new wave group The Atrix, on Oct. 9
The Atrix – Procession (1981)

Jeff L’Heureux, 63, heavy metal musician, motorbike accident on Oct. 10

Rudolph Isley, 84, singer with The Isley Brothers and songwriter, on Oct. 11
The Isley Brothers – Shout (1959, also as co-writer)
Rudy & Judy – I’ve Got to Get Myself Together (1970, also as co-writer)
The Isley Brothers – You Still Feel The Need (1976, on lead vocals and as co-writer)

Michael ‘Ibo’ Cooper, 71, keyboardist of Third World, on Oct. 12
Third World – Talk To Me (1979)
Third World – Try Jah Love (1982)
Lenny Kravitz – Eleutheria (1993, on organ)

Aérea Negrot, 43, Venezuelan, Germany-based singer and electronic musician, on Oct. 12
Aérea Negrot – It’s Lover, Love (2011)

Frank Hocker, 66, German rock guitarist and singer, on Oct. 12

Ali Claudi, 80, German jazz, blues and Krautrock musician, on Oct. 12
Ali Claudi & Friends – Time (1975, also as writer)

Garry Mapanzure, 25, Zimbabwean singer, in car crash on Oct. 13

Gary Nuñez, 71, member of Puerto Rican bomba group Plena Libre, on Oct. 14
Plena Libre – Que Bonita Bandera (2012)

Jimmy LaRocca, 83, jazz trumpeter and composer, on Oct. 15

Carla Bley, 87, jazz composer and musician, on Oct. 17
Carla Bley & Paul Haines – Escalator Over The Hill (1971)
Carla Bley & Charlie Haden – The Ballad Of The Fallen
Carla Bley – Lawns (1987)

Dwight Twilley, 72, power-pop singer-songwriter, on Oct. 18
Dwight Twilley Band – I’m On Fire (1975)

Atsushi Sakurai, 57, singer of Japanese rock band Buck-Tick, on Oct. 19
Buck-Tick – Aku no Hana (1990)

Lasse Berghagen, 78, Swedish singer and songwriter, on Oct. 19

The 45 King, 62, hip hop DJ, producer and remixer, on Oct. 19
The 45 King – The King is Here! (1987)
Queen Latifah feat. Monie Love – Ladies First (1988, as producer)
Jay-Z – Hard Knock Life (1998, as producer)

Oscar Valdés, 85, Cuban singer and percussionist, on Oct.19
Irakere – Bacalao Con Pan (1974, as member and singer)

Arni Cheatham, 79, jazz saxophonist and flautist, educator, on Oct. 22

Gregg Sutton, 74, musician and songwriter, on Oct. 22
Sam Brown – Stop (1988, as co-writer)
Maria McKee – Breathe (1990, as co-writer)

Mervin Shiner, 102, country singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Oct. 23
Mervin Shiner – Why Don’t You Haul Off And Love Me (1949)
Mervin Shiner – Peter Cottontail (1950)
Merv Shiner – California Girl And The Tennessee Square (1969)

Angelo Bruschini, 62, English guitarist, on October 23
The Blue Aeroplanes – Angel Words (1991, as member)
Massive Attack – A Prayer For England (2003, as member)

Ricardo Iorio, 61, Argentinian metal singer and bassist, on Oct. 24

Richard Roundtree, 81, actor and soul singer, on Oct. 24
Richard Roundtree – Peace In The Morning (1972)
Richard Roundtree – Goodnight My Love (1973)

Steve Riley, 67, ex-drummer of W.A.S.P. and L.A. Guns, on Oct. 24
L.A. Guns – Ballad Of Jayne (1989, as member)

Paul Harris, 79, rock keyboardist, on Oct. 24
Stephen Stills & Manassas – So Many Times (1973, as member)
ABBA – Voulez-Vous (1979, on piano)
Bob Seger – Against The Wind (1980, on piano)

Goa Gil, 72, electronic musician, DJ, and remixer, on Oct. 26

Rigo Star, 68, Congolese soukous guitarist and composer, on Oct. 26
Rigo Star – Rosalina (1985)

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Any Major Murder Songs Vol. 4

October 24th, 2023 3 comments

 

After sitting out the annual murder songs mix for Halloween last year, here’s Volume 4. That’s now 86 songs about murders, with more still in line… All previous Murder Song links are working again, by the way, as are all Halloween links.

At this point I ought to issue a caveat: despite whatever flippancy might accompany this post, I’m not playing the subject of murder for easy laughs. I can’t, having lost a niece to her knife-wielding husband. The guy was mentally ill, so there’s that. But also, he refused to get help, so fuck that guy. He killed himself after stabbing my niece.

This year domestic abusers get their just deserts. The Dixie Chicks kill Earl — of course, it’s an Earl — who killed his wife, their friend. They make Earl disappear, so no body, no crime. That theme is recycled 20 years later by Taylor Swift in her excellent douchebag-killing song.

It’s all a lot Fried Green Tomatoes, the 1991 film in which a domestic abuser is disappeared. I am not advocating vigilante justice, and these songs should give us greater reason for thought than cheer. But at the same time, if the killers of men who abused women get away with it, I won’t cry about the injustice of it all.

It seems that Mr. Lee, a teacher, might have it coming from Harlem girl-group The Bobettes. In 1957, they were still singing adoringly about Mr. Lee (based on a real teacher, whom they had sought to diss in song, until Atlantic Records insisted on him being their crush. It featured on Any Major ABC of the 1950s). By 1959, they did a sequel, in which the hated Mr. Lee had to be shot.

Atlantic refused to release the track — which, as the first song, was written by the five Bobettes. So the group re-recorded it for Triple-X Record, and were having a minor hit with it. Then Atlantic sued for copyright infringement — of as song written by the Bobettes! — and had all stock of the record destroyed, releasing the version instead. Tragically, in 1980, a stranger stabbed Bobette Jannie Pought to death. She was 34.

Of course we also have the usual crimes of passion, though Norah Jones takes it to spooky limits with her song. Of these tracks, I think soul singer Bobby Marchan’s cover of Big Jay McNeely’s There Is Something on Your Mind is the best. His vocals are superb, especially the spoken bit.

One track here is not necessarily a murder song. It depends on your position on capital punishment. My inclusion of the Bee Gees song tips you off about where I stand on the subject. Taking a defenceless life is murder, and more so if the execution is a miscarriage of justice, as it is in Vicki Lawrence’s  The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia. At least the killing in Marty Robbins’ Big Iron is a fair fight. Happily the bad guy, with the 20 notches on his gun, loses.

As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-death-wished covers, and the text above and tracklisting below in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Frank Sinatra – Bad, Bad Leroy Brown (1974)
The Vic: Leroy, looking like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone
2. Bobby Darin – Moritat (Mack The Knife) (live, 1971)
The Vic: Louie Miller. He disappeared, babe
3. The Bobbettes – I Shot Mr. Lee (1960)
The Vic: Mr Lee, a good-looking sex-pest teacher
4. Bobby Marchan – There Is Something On Your Mind (1964)
The Vic: His girl and her lover, at least theoretically
5. Bee Gees – I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You (1968)
The Vic: A message-sending killer, on the electric chair
6. Vicky Lawrence – The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia (1973)
The Vic: Andy Warlord, a cheating sister-in-law, and an innocent man hung
7. Carole King – Smackwater Jack (live, 1973 or 1976)
The Vic: Smackwater Jack, after he killed the congregation
8. Martina McBride – Independence Day (1993)
The Vic: An abusive father and husband, in a fire
9. Dixie Chicks – Goodbye Earl (2000)
The Vic: Wife-killer Earl. His body disappeared…
10. Taylor Swift feat. HAIM – No Body, No Crime (2020)
The Vic: A generation later, another wife-killer disappears
11. Norah Jones – Miriam (2012)
The Vic: Miriam, getting it from the wife of her lover
12. Jenny Lewis – Jack Killed Mom (2008)
The Vic: Jack’s abusive mom
13. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – We Came Along This Road (2000)
The Vic: Another cheating wife and her lover
14. Nirvana – Where Did You Sleep Last Night (live, 1994)
The Vic: A cuckolded husband, beheaded in the woods
15. John & Audrey Wiggins – Memory Making Nights (1994)
The Vic: Ginger, before she could leave town
16. Waylon Jennings – Cedartown, Georgia (1971)
The Vic: His cheating wife, in Room 23
17. Paul Siebel – Louise (1970)
The Vic: Louise, a sex worker
18. Johnny Cash – Cocaine Blues (1969)
The Vic: Another unfaithful wife, after he took a shot of cocaine
19. Johnny Horton – When It’s Springtime In Alaska (It’s Forty Below) (1958)
The Vic: The singer, done for by Big Ed
20. Marty Robbins – Big Iron (1960)
The Vic: Murderous outlaw Texas Red, in a High Noon duel
21. Georgie Fame – The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde (1967)
The Vic: One brave man, and then Bonnie and Clyde

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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1973

October 12th, 2023 2 comments

Following from the mixes paying tribute to my favourite albums of 1971 (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and 1972 — and 1982 — I continue the series of 50th anniversaries of great LPs.

In 1973 I was not yet an LP buyer, much as I’d love to claim that I bought Can’s Future Days at the age of seven. But I have caught up with that year.

My Top 20 of 1973 (or Top 25, if we include the five bonus tracks) includes a number of acts at the beginning of their success: Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut album, and also Hall & Oates, Linda Lewis, Billy Joel and Buckingham Nicks (who, of course, would become mega stars as members of Fleetwood Mac). Bruce Springsteen hit the road running with two albums (and then didn’t release another one for two years). John Prine issued his excellent sophomore album, though it was not as well received as his stunning debut two years earlier.

One can’t say that by 1973 Earth, Wind & Fire were obscure, but they were beginning to really break through with their two albums in 1973: Open Your Eyes and Head To The Sky. In keeping with my rule of only one album per artist per year, I picked the former for my Top 20.

Choosing between two albums can be tough. In the case of the recently late Linda Lewis, I really couldn’t decide between Lark and Fathoms Deep. Both are gorgeous albums, and one can do worse than to listen to them consecutively, as if they were a double LP. Gladys Knight & The Pips also released two album 1973. Both were in contention for my Top 20; if you merge the best tracks of these albums into one album, and you’d have an absolute soul classic. The same goes for the two Al Green albums of the year, and to some extent also the two Springsteen sets.

There are many other good albums that didn’t make the Top 25, but merit mention, by acts like Bobby Womack, The O’Jays, Ringo Starr, David Bowie, Freda Payne, The Temptations, and Claudia Lennear. 1973 was a golden year for soul music, clearly.

Aside from my indifference to Aladdin Sane, the obvious omission here is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. I must confess that I have never owned that album. Call me a Wish You Were Here man.

The best album cover of the Top 20 is that of Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. I have told the story of that cover, and also Recovered that double LP-set (meaning, each song consecutively in cover versions).

As I did for 1972 and 1982, I let the collection kick off with a track from my album of the year, which in 1973 is Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions. Or I might choose as my Album of the Year the Save The Children live set, which features the cream of the era’s black acts. But, you know, I don’t allow compilations…

So, what are your albums of 1973?As always, the mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R, includes home-larked covers and the above text in an illustrated PDF. PW in comments.

1. Stevie Wonder – Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing (Innervision)
2. The Isley Brothers – If You Were There (3 + 3)
3. The Spinners – Ghetto Child (Spinners)
4. Daryl Hall & John Oates – Las Vegas Turnaround (Abandoned Luncheonette)
5. Linda Lewis – Reach For The Truth (Lark)
6. Judee Sill – Soldier Of The Heart (Heart Food)
7. John Prine – Sweet Revenge (Sweet Revenge)
8. Gram Parsons – Streets Of Baltimore (GP)
9. Lynyrd Skynyrd – Tuesday’s Gone (pronounced ‘leh-’nérd ‘skin-’nérd)
10. Little Feat – On Your Way Down (Dixie Chicken)
11. Steely Dan – King Of The World (Countdown To Ecstasy)
12. The Fabulous Rhinestones – Freewheelin’ (Freewheelin’)
13. Buckingham Nicks – Crying In The Night (Buckingham Nicks)
14. Earth, Wind & Fire – Devotion (Open Your Eyes)
15. Donny Hathaway – Love, Love, Love (Extension Of A Man)
16. Billy Joel – If I Only Had The Words (To Tell You) (Piano Man)
17. Paul McCartney & Wings – Bluebird (Band On The Run)
18. Elton John – Harmony (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)
19. Al Green – Stand Up (Call Me)
20. Marvin Gaye – Keep Gettin’ It On (Let’s Get It On)
Bonus Tracks
21. Sly & The Family Stone – Babies Making Babies (Fresh)
22. Roberta Flack – No Tears (In The End) (Killing Me Softly)
23. Isaac Hayes – Light My Fire (Live At The Sahara Tahoe)
24. Bruce Springsteen – Growin’ Up (Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.)
25. Albert Hammond – Everything I Want To Do (The Free Electric Band)

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In Memoriam – September 2023

October 3rd, 2023 6 comments

A pretty heavy month. As promised in the last instalment, this present In Memoriam completes the list for August. The most appropriate song here may be Canadian singer-songwriter Richard Laviolette’s Funeral Song. In 2010 he anticipated: “When I choose to die…” Thirteen years later he exited by assisted suicide, having suffered from Huntington’s disease.

The Parrothead-in-Chief
Some US acts just don’t travel well. One such singer is Jimmy Buffett, who was absolutely huge and indeed a cult figure in the States but not widely known outside North America. He was known mostly as a good-time music merchant — his signature song Margaritaville defined that image — but he was a very competent folk and country musician and songwriter.

His fans were dedicated, to the extent that they had a collective name: Parrotheads. A smart businessman, Buffet was said to be the world’s richest musician. His image — the Hawaii-shirted, cocktail-swilling good-time boy on a Florida yacht — gave me an impression that Buffett probably was a Republican. Not so. He was a politically engaged Democrat, and changed the lyrics to his songs to state his opposition to people like Donald Trump, at the risk of alienating conservative Parrotheads. He also was involved in a lot of disaster relief efforts.

The Dream Weaver
Another active Democrat departed the day after Buffet in Gary Wright, for whom death must have come as a release from dementia. A co-founder of Spooky Tooth, Wright had hits with the band and then on his own, especially 1976’s double whammy of Dream Weaver and Love Is Alive, both US #2 hits.

Wright also played on hits of others. He did keyboard duty on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album, Ringo Starr’s Back Off Boogaloo and It Don’t Come Easy, and on Nilsson’s mega-hit Without You.

The Marvelette
With the death of Katherine Anderson, the line-up of The Marvelettes that did songs like Don’t Mess With BiIl, Too Many Fish In The Sea, Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead, and I’ll Keep Holding On, are all gone now. Only one of the classic line-up of The Marvelettes up to 1963 is still alive (that’s the Please Mr Postman, Playboy, Beechwood 4-5789 era)​. Sole survivor Juanita Cowart left the group in 1963, but is still with us today.

Anderson, who never was the regular lead singer, stayed with the group until 1969. Georgeanna Gordon died in 1980, Gladys Horton in 2011, founding member Georgia Dobbins (1960-61) in 2020, and Wanda Young in 2021.

The Whistler
For some reason, I have never had much interest in the music of Roger Whittaker, who has died at 87. Maybe it’s because his folk music was so lacking in edge, or perhaps because he was so popular with the adult audiences of Germany, where he was a superstar. He had an affable charm which I (unfairly) interpreted as ingratiating, at a time when I was in rebellion against the “Spiessertum” (the square society) of Germany. Maybe I just didn’t like his maths-teacher goatee. Later, I boycotted the guy on principle, for his touring South Africa during the anti-apartheid cultural boycott.

Whittaker’s death made me revisit his legacy. He had some fine songs, but I was not wrong in finding them lacking in edge. How much better they might have been… Whittaker also recorded the original version of the Bette Midler hit Wind Beneath My Wings.

Whitakker was rightly renowned for his extraordinary whistling, which sounded more like an expertly-played flute than the aggressively out-of-tune efforts you and I might attempt as we do the washing up.

It appears that Roger was a likable sort of chap. He suffered tragedy in 1989 when his father was murdered and his mother tortured for eight hours during a house robbery in Kenya, where Roger was born. He spoke about it with pain but also with a refusal to hate, which under the circumstances testifies to a good sense of decency.

The Protest Singer
A frequent collaborator with Pete Seeger, folk singer Len Chandler may be best known for writing the ditty Beans In My Ears, a 1964 hit for The Serendipity Singers — which got banned by many radio stations as a health hazard, in case idiots or children were moved by the song to actually put beans in their ears. But most of his stuff was better than that.

The classically trained oboist left Ohio in 1957 for New York, and ended up being a fixture on the Greenwich Village folk scene. Chandler released two albums in the 1960s, but neither was a hit.

Chandler was politically active, first in the civil right movement and later in Jane Fonda’s anti-war F.T.A. tour. He also wrote for the Black Panther Party. At the March on Washington in 1963, Chandler was invited by Martin Luther King Jr to sing the traditional song Keep Your Eyes On The Prize. His backing singers that day included Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. King would also use Chandler’s Keep On Keepin’ On after making speeches.

In 1971, Chandler moved to Los Angeles where he co-founded the Los Angeles Songwriters Showcase, which gave initial exposure to people like Stephen Bishop, Stevie Nicks and Karla Bonoff.

The Associate
As co-founder, co-lead singer and songwriter with The Association, Terry Kirkman had a series of US Top 10 hits between 1966 and 1968: Cherish, Never My Love, Windy, Along Comes Mary, and Everything That Touches You. The first and last in that list were written by Kirkman. He took lead or co-lead vocals on those songs as well as on Never My Love.

Before The Association, Kirkman played with a pre-Mothers Frank Zappa, and the precursor band of The Association, called Inner Tube which at one point included fellow masters of harmonising David Crosby and Cass Elliott. The Association — who, like The Mamas & The Papas and, initially, The Byrds, were backed by musicians of The Wrecking Crew — played at Monterey in 1967. The group was nominated for six Grammys, but won none.

Kirkman left The Association in 1972, rejoined later, but mostly left music to become an addiction counsellor.

The TV Star
He was best known as the Russian secret agent Illya Kuryakin in the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E, or maybe as medical examiner Dr Mallard in the series NCIS, but Scottish actor David McCallum was also an accomplished musician. He grew up in a family of musical professionals — his father was the leader of the London Philharmonic Orchestra — and himself received classical musical training.

McCallum recorded four albums, produced by jazz innovator David Axelrod, who also wrote some of the material, as did the actor himself. These tracks include McCallum’s best-known one, The Edge, which Dr Dre sampled for The Next Episode. McCallum played various instruments, especially the oboe, and conducted. One thing he didn’t do was to sing; where his vocals were required, he spoke. He later also contributed to various spoken-word albums.

On one occasion, McCallum did sing, and did so well. In an episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., he played guitar and sang his own composition, titled Trouble, with Nancy Sinatra. See it here.

The Bass Man
The reputation of upright-bass player Richard Davis resides mostly in his contribution to jazz, but he has also been hailed for his appearances on rock albums.

In rock music, his greatest contribution was as bassist and de facto bandleader in the recording of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Noted critic Greil Marcus wrote it was “the greatest bass ever heard on a rock album”. He also backed acts like Laura Nyro, Buffalo Springfield, The Rascals, Spanky & Our Gang, Astrud Gilberto, Melanie, Donny Hathaway, Marlena Shaw, Zulema, Garland Jeffreys, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Bonnie Raitt, Melissa Manchester, Janis Ian, Carly Simon, Loudon Wainwright III, Phoebe Snow, Blondie, and others.

In jazz, he played with the likes of Sarah Vaughan, Don Shirley, Roland Kirk, Elvin Jones, Gil Evans, Eric Dolphy, Carmen McRae, Hubert Laws, Maynard Ferguson, Cal Tjader, Chet Baker, Milt Jackson, Earl Hines, Shirley Scott, Jimmy McGriff, Wes Montgomery, Gabor Szabo, Oscar Peterson, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Mann, Joe Zawinul, Dizzy Gillespie, Frank Sinatra, George Benson, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Walter Wanderley, Freddie Hubbard, Quincy Jones, Louis Armstrong, Dexter Gordon, Duke Ellington, Willie Bobo, Joe Henderson, Milt Jackson, Grover Washington Jr, Roy Ayers, Sonny Stitt, Ahmad Jamal, Stan Getz, Don Sebesky, Charles Mingus, Sun Ra, Gil Evans, and others.

The Pianist
Jazz piano man Frank Owens was on his way to a playing a gig when he was involved in a traffic accident which ended his 90-year-long life. He released only two albums, one of them jazz interpretations of the Oliver! soundtrack, but he backed some big names in music, most notably Bob Dylan on tracks such as Like A Rolling Stone, Mr Tambourine Man, Maggie’s Farm, It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), It’s All Over Now (Baby Blue), Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues, Highway 61 Revisited, and others.

Other acts he backed include Louis Armstrong, Sonny Stitt, Johnny Mathis, Astrud Gilberto, John Denver, B.B. King, Lena Horne, Ruth Brown, Marlena Shaw, Melba Moore, Dusty Springfield, Shirley Bassey, Frankie Valli, Ashford & Simpson, Johnny Nash, Connie Francis, Irene Cara, Freda Payne, Joe Bataan, Petula Clark, and many others.

He also served as David Letterman’s first bandleader.

The Real Plastic
One of my favourite songs as I turned 12 years old was Plastic Bertrand’s Ça Plane Pour Moi, a power pop song dressed up as French punk (it was intended as a parody of punk). I liked it so much, I bought the LP. The album was rubbish (though the gatefold cover was cool), but that didn’t diminish my love for the hit song. What eventually stained my happy memories was learning that Plastic Bertrand was not the vocalist. The real singer was the song’s Belgian writer and producer, Lou Deprijck, who has died at 77.

Before he Milli Vanilli-ed punk, Deprijk was part of the disco-pop trio Two Man Sound, who had hits with Charlie Brown and Disco Samba. Later he discovered and produced French-Belgian singer Viktor Lazlo, best-known for her 1987 hit Breathless.

Deprijk is the fourth bestselling Belgian ever — after Salvatore Adamo (who tops the list by a mile), Frédéric François, and Jacques Brel — with 20 million records sold, including the Plastic Bertrand LP I foolishly bought in 1978.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.

August 08, 31, R&B singer and songwriter, on Aug. 28
August 08 – Bruises (2023)

Len Chandler, 88, folk musician, on Aug. 28
The Freedom Voices with Len Chandler – Which Side Are You On (1965)
Len Chandler – Keep On Keepin’ On (1966)
Len Chandler – I Couldn’t Keep From Carin’ After All (1967)

Peter King, 84, Nigerian alto saxophonist and bandleader, on Aug. 29
Peter King – Ajo (1976)
Peter King – Sincerely (1977)

Jack Sonni, 68, guitarist with Dire Straits (1984-86), on Aug. 30
Dire Straits – The Man’s Too Strong (1985, as member on guitar synthesizer)

Curtis Fowlkes, 73, jazz trombonist and singer, on Aug. 31
The Jazz Passengers – Easy To Love (1990, as member, on vocals and trombone)

Robert Becerra, 64, guitarist of punk band Stains, on Sept. 1

Jimmy Buffett, 76, singer-songwriter, on Sept. 1
Jimmy Buffett – Come Monday (1973)
Jimmy Buffett – Margaritaville (1977)
Jimmy Buffett – If The Phone Doesn’t Ring, It’s Me (1985)

Lefty SM, 31, Mexican rapper, shot on Sept. 2

Simon Pearson, 54, British indie drummer, on Sept. 3
Goya Dress – Glorious (1996, as member)

José Sébéloué, 74, singer, musician with French band La Compagnie Créole, on Sept. 3

Gary Wright, 80, singer-songwriter and musician, on Sept. 4
Spooky Tooth – Sunshine Help Me (1968, as member)
George Harrison – Isn’t It A Pity (1971, on keyboards)
Gary Wright – Dream Weaver (1975)

Tail Dragger Jones, 82, blues singer, on Sept. 4

Steve Harwell, 56, singer of rock band Smash Mouth, on Sept. 4
Smash Mouth – All Star (1999)

Teté Caturla, 85, singer with Cuban group Cuarteto d’Aida, on Sept. 4
Cuarteto d’Aida – Mulata (1992)

Joe Fagin, 83, English pop singer, on Sept. 5
Joe Fagin – Breakin’ Away (1983)

Lee Halliday, 95, rock & roll singer and producer, on Sept. 5

Bruce Guthro, 62, Canadian-born lead singer of celtic-rock band Runrig, on Sept. 5
Bruce Guthro – Walk This Road (1997, also as writer)
Runrig – Loch Lomond (live) (2007)

Richard Laviolette, 41, Canadian singer-songwriter, on Sept. 5
Richard Laviolette and The Oil Spills – Funeral Song (2010)

Tom Davies, 48, British-born bassist of rock band Nebula, on Sept. 5
Nebula – The Dagger (2009, also as co-writer)

Richard Davis, 93, jazz bassist, on Sept 6
Sarah Vaughan – The Midnight Sun Will Never Set (1959, on bass)
Van Morrison – Cypress Avenue (1968, on bass)
Jimmy McGriff – Groove Grease (1971, on bass)
Richard Davis – Warm Canto (1980)

Spencer Mbadu, 68, South African jazz bassist, on Sept. 6
Abdullah Ibrahim – Dindela (1991, on bass)

Larry Chance, 82, lead singer of doo-wop group The Earls, on Sept. 6
The Earls – Remember Then (1962)

Charles Gayle, 84, free jazz saxophonist and pianist, on Sept. 7

María Jiménez, 73, Spanish singer, on Sept. 7
María Jiménez – Vámonos (1976)

Mylon LeFevre, 78, Christian rock singer and singwriuter, on Sept. 8
Mylon LeFevre – The Warrior (1985, also as co-writer)

Charlie Robison, 59, country singer-songwriter, on Sept. 10
Charlie Robison – Photograph (2014)

Matthew Stewart, 41, trumpeter of ska band Streetlight Manifesto, on Sept. 10

Brendan Croker, 70, guitarist with English country-rock band Notting Hillbillies, on Sept. 10
The Notting Hillbillies – Your Own Sweet Way (1990)

Benito Castro, 77, Mexican musician, comedian and actor, on Sept. 11

MohBad, 27, Nigerian rapper and singer, on Sept. 12

Roger Whittaker, 87, British singer-songwriter, on Sept. 13
Roger Whittaker – Durham Town (The Leaving) (1969)
Roger Whittaker – The Last Farewell (1971)
Roger Whittaker – Wind Beneath My Wings (1982)

Fred Lewis, 72, percussionist with funk band Lakeside, on Sept. 14
Lakeside – Fantastic Voyage (1980)

Robert Tree Cody, 72, Native American musician, on Sept. 14

Paul Woseen, 56, bassist of Australian rock band Screaming Jets, on Set. 15
The Screaming Jets – Shivers (1992)

Franco Migliacci, 92, Italian lyricist, on Sept. 15
Domenico Modugno – Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare) (1958, as lyricist)

Prudence McIntyre, 78, half of singing duo Patience and Prudence, on Sept. 15
Patience and Prudence – Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now (1956)

Frank Owens, 90, jazz pianist, on Sept. 15
Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone (1965, on tack piano)
Frank Owens – As Long As He Needs Me (1969)
John Denver – Take Me Home, Country Roads (1971, on piano)

John Marshall, 82, English jazz rock drummer, on Sept. 16
Soft Machine – Lotus Groves (1981, as member)

Irish Grinstead, 43, singer with R&B trio 702, on Sept. 16
702 – Get It Together (1996)

Artie Cabral, 82, jazz drummer, on Sept. 17

Aníbal de Peña, 90, Dominican singer, pianist and composer, on Sept. 17
Anibal de Peña – Me voy (1967)

Wolfgang Engstfeld, 72, German jazz musician, on Sept. 17

Lou Deprijck, 77, Belgian singer-songwriter, musician, producer, on Sept. 19
Two Man Sound – Charlie Brown (1975, as member)
Two Man Band – Disco Samba (1977, as member
Plastic Bertrand – Ça Plane Pour Moi (1978, as real singer, writer and producer)
Viktor Lazlo – Breathless (1987, as producer)

Kent Stax, drummer of punk band Scream, on Sept. 20

Norberto Machline, 80, Argentinian jazz pianist and vibraphonist, n Sept. 20

Katherine Anderson, 79, singer with The Marvelettes, on Sept. 20
The Marvelettes – Strange I Know (1962)
The Marvelettes – Too Many Fish In The Sea (1964)
The Marvelettes – When You’re Young And In Love (1968)

Olga Chorens, 99, Cuban singer and actress, on Sept. 22

Mike Henderson, 70, country singer-songwriter and musician, on Sept. 22
Mike Henderson – Prisoner’s Tears (1994)

Peter Horton, 82, Austrian singer, guitarist and composer, on Sept. 22
Peter Horton – Am Morgen, als die Vögel nicht mehr sangen (1975)

Dieter Schneider, 86, (East-)German lyricist, on Sept. 22

Alison Bentley, 65, English jazz singer, on Sept. 22
Alison Bentley – Morning Sun (2002)

Terry Kirkman, 83, singer and songwriter with The Association, on Sept. 23
The Association – Never My Love (1967, on co-lead vocals)
The Association – Everything That Touches You (1968, as writer and lead vocals)
The Association – Six Man Band (19879, as writer and on lead vocals)

Nashawn Breedlove, 46, rapper and actor (8 Mile), on Sept. 24

Barry Olivier, 87, guitar teacher, creator of the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, on Sept. 24

David McCallum, 90, Scottish actor, musician, composer and conductor, on Sept. 26
David McCallum – Communication (1966)
David McCallum – The Edge (1967)

Ernesto ‘Teto’ Ocampo, 54, Colombian guitarist and producer, on Sept. 27

Dom Famularo, 70, jazz drummer and teacher, on Sept. 28

Stephen Ackles, 57, Norwegian rock & roll singer, songwriter and pianist, on Sept. 28

Ron Howden, 78, drummer of English prog-rock band Nektar, on Sept. 29
Nektar – Do You Believe In Magic? (1973, also as co-writer)

Jon Fausty, 74, Latin music recording engineer and producer, on Sept. 29
Celia Cruz & Johnny Pacheco – Toro Mata (1974, as recording engineer)

Tirso Duarte, 45, Cuban musician, on Sept. 29
Tirso Duarte – Eso Que Me Pides (2004)

Russell Batiste Jr., 57, funk and jazz drummer, on Sept. 30
Vida Blue – Real Underground Soul Sound (2019, as member and writer)

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