I fear this blog is becoming a death trap: Of the songs featured on the first two Life in Vinyl compilations, covering the years 1977 and 1978, three musicians died in October. First there was Lynsey de Paul (Rock Bottom, 1977), then Tim Hauser of The Manhattan Transfer (Chanson d’Amour, 1977), and a few days later Raphael Ravenscroft, the man who played that great saxophone on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street.
Raphael Ravenscroft was not only a session sax man who tried his hand, unsuccessfully, as a solo recording artist, but also wrote books on saxophione technique. Other than on Baker Street and other Rafferty tracks, you might have heart him on Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut and Roger Waters’ The Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking, or Marvin Gaye’s Heavy Love Affair.
Among the great 1960s rock trios, two stood out: Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And while the members of the latter was all dead by 2008 (the only big rock act I can think of whose members are now all dead), Cream lost its first member in October: bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce (his were the vocals on hits like Sunshine Of Your Love, Crossroads, I Feel Free etc). I think it’s fair to say that Bruce pioneered the electric bass as a central element in rock.
Before Cream, Bruce had played with Ginger Baker in the Graham Bond Organisation (apparently they hated each other) and with Eric Clapton in John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, with whom he later joined a trio named Powerhouse, featuring Steve Winwood. In between he played on UK #1 hits such as Manfred Mann’s Pretty Flamingo and The Scaffold’s Lily the Pink. After Cream he recorded solo and played with artists such as Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gary Moore and others.
Reggae legend John Holt led the way in what was to be called lovers rock, with his reggae ballads which often drew from the word of pop and soul. He had hits with songs such as Help Me Make It Through The Night, Just The Way You Are and Touch Me In The Morning — but he also wrote a pop classic with The Tide Is High, which he first recorded with his band The Paragons in 1967 and became a global hit for Blondie in 1980.
For those who complain about the artificiality in pop today, the answer is Alvin Stardust, who had success under two made-up personae, none of his own making. Born Bernard Jewry in London in 1942, he was a roadie for The Fentones in the early 1960s. Its leader was Shane Fenton, whose real name was Johnny Theakston. Just aged 17, Johnny died just before The Fentones made their breakthrough. Bernard stepped in as Shane Fenton, keeping the stage name at the request of Mrs Theakston. Shane Fenton & the Fentones had a handful of UK hits and then disbanded. Bernard was at loose ends for the next decade.
In the early 1970s, Pete Shelley, co-founder of Magnet Records, was performing under the moniker Alvin Stardust. But when he recorded a Spirit In The Sky rip-off titled My Coo Ca Choo, it unexpectedly entered the charts. Unwilling to become Alvin Stardust himself, he knew he had to find somebody else to take that role. Step forward Bernard Jewry/Shane Fenton II. With his slightly creepy rock & roller in glam clothes image, he went on to have a string of hits.
There is always something especially tragic about a musician dying while working. So it was with the keyboardist Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens, who died at 38 of a heart attack in his hotel room in Puebla, Mexico, while touring with Jack White. The night before he had played in Mexico City. Owens had previously worked with indie acts like The Mars Volta and toured or recorded with TV On The Radio, Shuggie Otis, Blowfly, Barrington Levy, Mastodon and others. He also recorded with Free Moral Agents, a fusion group he founded.
If you’re American, you’ve probably heard English conductor Ian Fraser’s work somewhere along the way. If not, you’ll still know his composition: David Bowie’s Peace On Earth counter-melody to Bing Crosby’s Little Drummer Boy, from the 1977 Bing Crosby TV special, which Fraser conducted. In his career he received eleven Emmy Awards out of 32 total nominations, the first 25 of which were in consecutive years. He was the most-honored musician in television history, getting awards for things like the 1993 Presidential Inaugural Gala, Julie Andrews TV specials and the Christmas in Washington shows which he conducted for many years. Much of his work was on stage, arranging the scores of musicals such as Stop the World – I Want to Get Off and Victor/Victoria. He also arranged movie scores, including Scrooge with Albert Finney.
George Roberts, 86, jazz trombonist, on Sept. 28
Harry James and his Orchestra – Autumn Serenade (1945)
Ella Fitzgerald – All Of You (1956)
Lynsey de Paul, 64, English singer and songwriter, on Oct. 1
Lynsey de Paul – Sugar Me (1972)
Rob Skipper, 28, member of British indie band The Holloways, announced on Oct. 2
The Holloways – Sinners ’n’ Winners (2009)
The Spaceape (Stephen Gordon), 44, British dubstep MC and vocalist, on Oct. 2
Paul Revere, 76, American musician, on Oct.4
Paul Revere and The Raiders – Louie, Louie (1964)
Paul Revere and The Raiders – Song Seller (1973)
Leonard Delaney, 71, drummer with The Tornadoes, on Oct. 5
The Tornadoes – Bustin’ Surfboards (1962)
Andrew Kerr, 80, co-founder of the Glastonbury Festival, on Oct. 6
Lou Whitney, 72, rock musician, producer and studio owner, on Oct. 7
Jonathan Richman – Since She Started To Ride (1990, as producer)
Lincoln ‘Style’ Scott, 58, Jamaican reggae drummer, apparently murdered on Oct. 9
Gregory Isaacs – Permanent Lover (1981, on drums)
Olav Dale, 55, Norwegian composer and jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 10
Brian Lemon, 77, British jazz pianist and arranger, on Oct. 11
Brian Lemon – Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You (1995)
Geoff Nugent, 71, rhythm guitarist of beat group The Undertakers, on Oct. 12
The Undertakers – Just A Little Bit (1964)
Mark Bell, 43, member of British electronic music group LFO, producer (Bjork), on Oct. 13
LFO – We Are Back (1991)
Isaiah ‘Ikey’ Owens, 38, keyboardist (Jack White), on Oct. 14
The Mars Volta – The Widow (2005, on keyboard)
Free Moral Agents – Six Degrees (2007)
Tim Hauser, 72, member of Manhattan Transfer, on Oct. 16
The Manhattan Transfer – Birdland (1979)
Clive Jones, 65, saxophonist-flautist of British rock band Black Widow, on Oct. 16
Paul Craft, 76, musician and songwriter, on Oct. 18
Don Everly – Brother Jukebox (1977, as writer)
Mick Burt, drummer for English duo Chas & Dave, on Oct. 18
Raphael Ravenscroft, 60, British saxophonist and author, on Oct. 19
Gerry Rafferty – Baker Street (1978, on saxophone)
John Holt, 67, singer of Jamaican reggae band The Paragons and songwriter, on Oct. 19
The Paragons – The Tide Is High (1967, also as writer)
John Holt – Stick By Me (1971)
Ronny Spears, outlaw-country singer, on Oct. 20
Tyson Stevens, 29, singer of rock band Scary Kids Scaring Kids, on Oct. 21
Marcia Strassman, 66, singer and actress (Welcome Back, Kotter), on Oct. 23
Marcia Strassman – Out Of The Picture (1967)
Alvin Stardust, 72, English singer, on Oct. 23
Shane Fenton & The Fentones – I’m A Moody Guy (1961)
Alvin Stardust – My Coo Ca Choo (1973)
Alvin Stardust – I Feel Like Buddy Holly (1984)
Jack Bruce, 71, Scottish-born bassist and singer of Cream, on Oct. 25
Cream – I Feel Free (1966)
Jack Bruce Band – Lost Inside A Song (1977)
Shin Hae-chul, 46, singer with South Korean pop group N.EX.T, on Oct. 27
Renato Sellani, 88, Italian jazz pianist and composer, on Oct. 30
Ian Fraser, 81, English composer and conductor, on Oct. 30
Bing Crosby & David Bowie – Little Drummer Boy-Peace On Earth (1977, as co-writer)
(PW in comments)
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