The round-up of September’s dead and their music comes prematurely this month because owing to travel commitments I shall be unable to complete the post in time for first Thursday of the next month. Of course next month’s In Memoriam will include the remainder of September’s musical deaths.
Just as there is an increased interest again in the Four Seasons, due to the release of the The Jersey Boys film, their long-time songwriter and producer Bob Crewe has died. Crew co-wrote classics, as lyricist, such as Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man, Sherry, Rag Doll, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Let’s Hang On, My Eyes Adored You and Bye, Bye, Baby for the Four Seasons/Frankie Valli, for whom he also wrote songs that became big hits for others, Silence Is Golden (for The Tremeloes) and The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore (Walker Brothers).
Crewe’s first hit record was Silhouettes, recorded in 1957 by both The Rays and then The Diamonds, but a bigger hit later for Herman’s Hermits. The Rays’ b-side was Daddy Cool, a 1977 hit for Darts, also co-written by Crewe. Later he wrote the lyrics to such hits as Music to Watch Girls By (which he originally recorded as The Bob Crewe Generation) and Lady Marmalade.
On the same day as Crewe died, we lost another musician featured (briefly) in The Jersey Boys was composer, arranger and musician Johnny Rotella. Like the next artist, he did session work for Steely Dan (on My Old School). Better yet, the multi-talented musician — he played the saxophone, flute, piccolo — played for Frank Zappa and wrote for Frank Sinatra. Early in his career he played with the big bands led by Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Billy Vaughn. He played on the scores for both Godfather films in the 1970s as well as The Wiz. He was a band regular on the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and played on many other television shows, including those hosted by Andy Williams and Sinatra.
In April we lost original Jazz Crusaders trombonist Wayne Henderson; in September the band’s great keyboardist Joe Sample left us. He stayed with The Crusaders until their end, in 1987. He wrote or co-wrote many of their great songs, including the two classics featuring Randy Crawford, Streetlife and One Day I’ll Fly Away. In between he released a few acclaimed solo albums. He also did a lot of session work, much of it on songs heard in the Covered With Soul and Any Major Soul series (Merry Clayton, Maxine Weldon, Marvin Gaye, Minnie Riperton),for jazz giants (Gene Ammon, Quincy Jones) and legends of rock and folk (Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Steely Dan, Tina Turner, for whom he produced her slowed-down version of The Beatles’ Help). Conscious of his mortality, in 2011 Sample put the band together again, with Henderson, saxophonist Wilton Felder and flautist Hubert Laws, but without drummer Stix Hooper, who declined taking part.
Depending on your age, Polly Bergen may not be remembered so much as a singer — despite releasing 11 albums, singing on her 1960s TV show and appearing in Broadway musicals — but as an actress. As a fan of the TV series The Sopranos I feel duty-bound, however, to give her a special mention: in the show she played the former mistress of Tony’s father (the one who also had an affair with JFK). She also had a memorable turn as Lynette Scavo’s mother in Desperate Housewives, before the series became entirely unwatchable.
For some people, the studio in which a song was recorded is as important as the musicians who played on it or the producer who put it together. Such people will be saddened to learn of the death at 82 of Tom Skeeter, co-owner of Sound City Studios. Some stone cold classics came from the LA studio, among them Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush, Elton John’s Caribou, the self-titled albums by Buckingham Nicks and Fleetwood Mac, Dr. John’s Gumbo, War’s Why Can’t We Be Friends?, Foreigner’s Double Vision and later Nirvana’s Nevermind, The Black Crowes’ Amorica, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ One Hot Minute, Weezer’s Pinkerton as well as Rage Against the Machine’s and Blind Melon’s self-titled albums.
You might not know the name David Anderle, and nor did I until after his death at 77 on September 1. Anderle certainly had a hand in creating some great music. He persuaded Verve to sign Frank Zappa, managed Van Dyke Parks and helped the Beach Boys set up their own record label. He worked variously as A&R man or producer for acts such as The Doors, Judy Collins, Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, Delaney and Bonnie, Amy Grant, Chris de Burgh and more. And he also supervised the music on movies such as Good Morning Vietnam, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Scrooged.
Any unnatural death is a tragedy, worse when the person is young. Three singers in their 20s died of unnatural causes in September. Two were members of the South Korean pop band Ladies’ Code. They lost their lives in a car accident when a van carrying the group crashed in wet conditions on September 3. Go Eun-bi, 21, died instantly; Kwon Ri-se, 23, died from her injuries on September 7.
And in between those dates, former The X-Factor contestant Simone Battle, 25, died of suicide. She had the dubious benefit of being coached by the deplorable Simon Cowell. She didn’t win the thing, but became a member of G.R.L., touted as a continuation of the Pussycat Dolls, who had an international hit this year with “Ugly Heart”, and backed Pitbull on “Wild Wild Love”.
Just after that, jazz man Gerald Wilson died at very old age of 96. Note the featured tracks: one from 1941, the other from 2011. In a career spanning more than seven decades, Wilson accumulated a prodigious catalogue, and also played with some of the greatest in jazz, people like Jimmy Linceford, Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie. His bands have included future greats such as Bud Shank, Roy Ayers, Joe Pass and Mel Lewis. He wrote arrangements for artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson. And funk friends will be interested to know that he was Shuggie Otis’ father-in-law.
David Anderle, 77, record executive and producer, on Sept. 1
Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge – Lover Please (1978)
Ralf Bendix, 90, German singer and producer, on Sept. 1
Ralf Bendix – Hotel zur Einsamkeit (1956, German cover of Heartbreak Hotel)
Go Eun-bi, 21, singer with Korean pop band Ladies’ Code, on Sept. 3
Gustavo Cerati, 55, singer of Argentinian rock band Soda Stereo, on September 4
Soda Stereo – Cuando pase el temblor (1985)
Hopeton Lewis, 66, Jamaican rocksteady singer, on Sept. 4
Hopeton Lewis – Take It Easy (1966)
Mizchif, 38, Zimbabwean-born, South Africa-based rapper, on Sept. 4
Kerrie Biddell, 67, Australian jazz and session singer, on Sept. 5
Daly-Wilson Big Band feat Kerrie Biddell – In Necessity (1975)
Simone Battle, 25, American singer of pop group G.R.L., suicide on Sept. 5
Kwon Ri-se, 23, singer with Korean pop band Ladies’ Code, on Sept. 7
Gerald Wilson, 96, jazz trumpeter, bandleader and composer, on Sept. 8
Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra – Life Is Fine (1941, on trumpet)
Gerald Wilson – September Sky (2011)
Robert ‘Throb’ Young, 49, guitarist of Scottish alternative rock group Primal Scream, body found Sept. 9
Primal Scream – Rocks (1992)
Bob Crewe, 82, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 11
The Rays – Silhouettes (1957, as co-writer)
Four Seasons – Silence Is Golden (1964, as co-writer)
Bob Crewe Generation – Menage A Trois (1977)
Johnny Rotella, 93, composer, arranger and musician, on Sept. 11
Frank Sinatra – Nothing But The Best (1962, as co-writer)
Harry Nilsson – Down By The Sea (1975, on baritone sax)
Cosimo Matassa, 88, recording engineer and studio owner, announced on Sept. 11
Little Richard – Tutti Frutti (1957, as engineer)
Joe Sample, 75, jazz-fusion pianist with The Crusaders and songwriter, on Sept. 12
Crusaders – Keep That Same Old Feeling (1976)
Steely Dan – Black Cow (1977)
Crusaders with Randy Crawford – One Day I’ll Fly Away (1980)
Joe Sample – Seven Years Of Good Luck (1989)
John Gustafson, 72, English singer and bassist (Merseybeats, Ian Gillan Band, Roxy Music), on Sept. 12
The Merseybeats – Wishin’ And Hopin’ (1964)
Roxy Music – Street Life (1973)
Tom Skeeter, 82, co-owner of Sound City Studios, on Sept. 12
War – Why Can’t We Be Friends (1975, as recording studio owner)
Andrea Marongiu, drummer of British dance band Crystal Fighters, on Sept. 12
Peter Gutteridge, 53, New Zealand singer and guitarist, announced in Sept. 14
Jackie Cain, 86, half of jazz vocalist duo Jackie & Roy, on Sept. 15
Jackie & Roy – Day By Day (1972)
George Hamilton IV, 77, country singer, on Sept. 15
George Hamilton IV – A Rose And A Baby Ruth (1956)
George Hamilton IV – Abilene (1963)
Kenny Wheeler, 84, Canadian jazz trumpeter, on Sept. 18
Milton Cardona, 69, Puerto Rican jazz musician, on Sept. 19
Milton Cardona – Yemaya (1986)
Polly Bergen, 84, singer and actress, on Sept. 20
Polly Bergen – I Want To Be Happy (1959)
Pete Shutler, 68, member of British folk group The Yetties, on Sept. 21
(PW in comments)
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