In Memoriam – May 2014
Drummer Bobby Gregg, who has died at 78, played on such classics as Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rollin’ Stone” — the famous snare drum shot that opens the song is his timeless contribution to rock music lore — and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound Of Silence”. Briefly a member of The Hawks, who would become The Band, he was also a producer.
Jazz trumpeter Joe Wilder, dead at 92, boasted an impressive resumé, having played with the likes of Count Basie, Jimmy Lunceford, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans, Benny Goodman, Shirley Scott and Houston Person, and backing such vocalists as Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Dinah Washington, Johnny Mathis, Etta Jones, Harry Belafonte, Chris Connor and Tony Bennett. Many times he was Quincy Jones’ go-to man, and in 1986 he played in the Malcolm X Orchestra for the Spike Lee film on the slain activist. And he was among the first thousand African-Americans to serve in the US marines in World War 2.
Jessica Cleaves was an early member of Earth, Wind & Fire, but departed before the Chicago group hit the big time. Before that she was the female lead of the Friends of Distinction, and later performed with Parliament/Funkadelic. Blessed with a gorgeous, rich voice, not dissimilar to later stars such as Cheryl Lynn and Anita Baker, Cleaves never had a solo career, which is a pity.
He was one of the most popular crooners in the 1950s and ’60s, but I suspect most people would recognise Jerry Vale from countless mafia movies in which he appeared in singing roles, including GoodFellas, Casino and Donnie Brasco, and apparently in several episodes of The Sopranos (though I don’t remember that at all).
French composer, arranger and screenwriter André Popp wrote several entries for the Eurovision Song Contest, long before the advent of bearded ladies or even glittery platform boots. Among these compositions was “L’amour Est Bleu”, performed by Greek singer Vicky Leandros in 1967 for Luxembourg. Vicky and the song finished fourth — France’s entry won — but the song became a massive hit in Paul Mauriat’s instrumental version which we know as “Love Is Blue”. A Popp composition was also famous in the Soviet Union, where an instrumental version of his “Manchester et Liverpool”, written for Marie Laforêt, was used as the theme tune for the nightly weather forecast.
I normally don’t include producers of music videos, but there must be an exception for Tessa Watts, who was responsible for many iconic 1980s videos, including that for Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” and the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”. Before populating the MTV playlist, Watts was a press officer with the fledgling Virgin record label — the story goes that the idea for the name of what would become Richard Branson’s behemoth was hers (Branson was thinking of going for the unsexy Slipped Disc). In that position she was responsible for the media the Sex Pistols received after signing for the label, having been dismissed by EMI.
Juan Formell, 71, bassist and leader of Cuban band Los Van Van, on May 1
Jessica Cleaves, 65, singer with soul band The Friends of Distinction, on May 2
The Friends Of Distinction – I Really Hope You Do (1969)
Earth Wind & Fire – I’d Rather Have You (1972)
Lester Armistead, 71, bluegrass musician, on May 2
Chino Montero, 52, Hawaiian singer and guitarist, on May 2
Bobby Gregg, 78, session drummer and producer, on May 3
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965)
Jair Rodrigues, 75, Brazilian musician and singer, on May 8
Joe Wilder, 92, jazz trumpeter, on May 9
Lionel Hampton and his Orchestra – Don’t Let The Landlord Gyp You (1946)
Dinah Washington – You Let My Love Get Cold (1956)
André Popp, 90, French keyboardist, arranger and composer, on May 10
Marie Laforêt – Manchester et Liverpool (1966, as composer)
Vicky Leandros – L’amour est bleu (1967, as composer)
Marlow Tackett, 69, country singer, on May 10
Ed Gagliardi, 62, bass guitarist with Foreigner, on May 11
Foreigner – Hot Blooded (1978)
Alan Wills, 52, ex-drummer of English band Shack, founder of Deltasonic label, on May 11
Ernie Chataway, 62, guitarist of first incarnation of Judas Priest, on May 12
Nash the Slash, 66, masked musician with Canadian prog-rock band FM, on May 12
Tessa Watts, 68, British music video producer, on May 13
Human League – Don’t You Want Me (1981, as video producer)
Akihiro Yokoyama, 49, bassist of Japanese metal band United, on May 13
Bongani Masuku, 50, South African singer with Johnny Clegg, shot dead on May 17
Jerry Vale, 83, crooner, on May 18
Jerry Vale – You Don’t Know Me (1956)
Randy Coven, 54, bassist for Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, on May 20
Martin Lister, 51, keyboardist of German pop band Alphaville (1995-2014), on May 21
Herb Jeffries, 100, jazz/pop singer and actor, on May 25
Herb Jeffries – When I Write My Song (1947)
Tommy Blom, 67, member of influential Swedish rock band The Tages, on May 25
The Tages – I Read You Like An Open Book (1968)
DJ Father Shaheed, 45, DJ and rapper with Poor Righteous Teachers, on May 26
Poor Righteous Teachers – Rock Dis Funky Joint (1990)
Janice Scroggins, 58, jazz pianist, on May 27
Ruth Flowers, 74, septuagenarian British house DJ, on May 27
Gustavo Lezcano, 59, member of Miami Sound Machine, on May 28
Miami Sound Machine – Dr Beat (1984, on harmonica)
Christine Charbonneau, 70, Canadian singer and songwriter, on May 30
(PW in comments)
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