Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn… Big Bank Hank has died (say what?). The first member of the Sugarhill Gang, whose Rapper’s Delight was the first ever rap hit, to go. Big Bank Hank, or Henry Lee Jackson, had studied oceanography and sought a career in that field. When that didn’t pan out, he became a bouncer, a pizzeria manager and a rap act manager. It was in the latter function that he was discovered by singer and producer Sylvia Robinson (of Pillow Talk fame), who was trying to get a hip hop thing going. Not being an MC himself, Hank got some rhymes from his friend and client Grandmaster Caz, who said he received neither credit nor royalties, and not even a thank you for his troubles. So it was really Caz (as in CASA-NOVA) who “got more clothes than Muhammad Ali” and dressed “so viciously”.
This Christmas you may well hear the classic 1973 hit “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” by Roy Woods’ Wizzard. When you do, remember the saxophonist on the song, Mike Burney, who has died at 70. Burney was not only a member of Wizzard but also a session musician, playing on stage or in the studio for the likes of Chaka Khan, The Beach Boys, Sammy Davis Jr., Petula Clark, Steve Winwood, Cliff Richard, Dionne Warwick and Matt Monro.
Jimmy Ruffin’s mercurial younger brother David might have had grabbed all the headlines, but Jimmy was a great soul singer in his own right. His great hit, What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted, is a highlight among all those outstanding songs produced by Motown in 1966, in no small measure due to Ruffin’s vocals. Jimmy almost joined The Temptations before they hit the big time, but when Motown’s bosses heard the younger brother, David got the gig instead. It must have been vexing when Jimmy’s Beauty Is Only Skin Deep was covered by The Temptations, who had a hit with it. In the 1970s Jimmy decamped to Britain where he collaborated with Heaven 17 and Paul Weller, and also hosted a radio show.
Flamenco musicians don’t really get much attention outside their genre. Manitas de Plata, who was born in 1921 as Ricardo Baliardo to what was then called a gipsy community, was different. And so it should be when your champions included Picasso, Dali and Jean Cocteau. The great photographer Lucien Clergue brought him to the attention of US audiences. Three of his sons and a bunch of nephews are members of the Gipsy Kings.
Same day Gary Lane, the bass player of 1960s rock band The Standells, died. He was the band’s second member in a year to pass away; last December drummer and vocalist Dick Dodd went. The Standells were not a big name; they had a US #11 hit with Dirty Water (featured HERE), and three more Top 100 hits in 1966/67, including the song featured here, Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White. More interesting is that two of their members went on to greater things: drummer Gary Leeds left to become Gary Walker in the Walker Brothers, and in 1968 — by then Lane and Dodds had left the band — future Little Feat frontman Lowell George joined the band.
Dave Appell, who has died at 92, started his career as a musician and arranger in the 1940s with jazz greats like Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter and Earl ‘Fatha’ Hines. In the 1950s he was a figure on the rock & roll scene, appearing in the 1956 Alan Freed film Don’t Knock the Rock and scoring a few hits as Dave Appell and the Applejacks. In the early 1960s he was the house band leader at Cameo-Parkway records, where he had played on hit records in the ’50s. As bandleader he arranged records for Chubby Checker (for whom he co-wrote Let’s Twist Again), The Dovells (he co-wrote their hit Bristol Stomp) and Bobby Rydell. And in the early 1970s he produced Tony Orlando’s megaghits Knock Three Times and Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree.
The next In Memoriam will run very late because I’ll be travelling until mid-January. PW in comments (feel free to leave a comment while you are there).
Wayne Static, 48, singer of metal band Static-X, on Nov. 1
Acker Bilk, 85, British jazz clarinetist, on Nov. 2
Mr. Acker Bilk – Stranger On The Shore (1961)
Michael Coleman, 58, blues guitarist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 2
Augusto Martelli, 74, Italian composer, conductor and arranger, on Nov. 3
Augusto Martelli – Djamballà (1971)
Manitas de Plata, 93, French flamenco guitarist, on Nov. 5
Manitas de Plata – Larmes Gitanes (1976)
Gary Lane, 76, bass player of garage rock band The Standells, on Nov. 5
The Standells – Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White (1966)
Big Paybacc, 38, rapper, shot dead on Nov. 6
Rick Rosas, 65, session bass player (Neil Young, Joe Walsh), on Nov. 6
Neil Young – Don’t Cry (1989, on bass)
Maggie Boyle, 57, English folk singer and musician, on Nov. 6
Maggie Boyle – Lady Margaret (1998)
Hugo Duarte, 59, folk and country singer and guitarist, on Nov. 7
Jonathan Athon, 32, bassist of metal band Black Tusk, after motorbike accident on Nov. 9
Carlos Emilio Morales, 75, Cuban jazz guitarist, on Nov. 11
Grupo Irakere – Taka-Taka-Ta (1974)
Big Bank Hank, 58, rapper with The Sugarhill Gang, on Nov. 11
The Sugarhill Gang – Apache (Jump On It) (1981)
Buddy Catlett, 81, jazz multi-instrumentalist, on Nov. 12
Ella Fitzgerald with the Count Basie Orchestra – Shiny Stockings (1966, on bass)
Mike Burney, 70, saxophonist for English glam group Wizzard, on Nov. 12
Wizzard – Rob Roy’s Nightmare (A Bit More H.A.) (1973, also as writer)
Johnny Toobad (Johnny Elichaoff), 55, drummer, producer and manager, on Nov. 13
The League Of Gentlemen – Heptaparaparshinokh (1981, on drums)
Little Joe Washington, 75, blues singer, on Nov. 13
Little Joe Washington – The Ghetto (2004)
Jimmy Ruffin, 78, soul singer, on Nov. 17
Jimmy Ruffin – Se Decidi Cosi (What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted) (1966)
Jimmy Ruffin – It’s Wonderful (To Be Loved By You) (1970)
Jimmy Ruffin – Hold On (To My Love) (1980)
Dave Appell, 92, musician, arranger and record producer, on Nov. 18
Dave Appell and the Applejacks – Ooh, Baby, Ooh (1956)
The Dovells – Bristol Stomp (1961, as co-writer)
Claire Barry, 94, half of jazz and klezmer duo The Barry Sisters, on Nov. 22
The Barry Sisters – Bay mir bistu sheyn (1960s)
Clive Palmer, 71, banjo player with British psychedelic folk group Incredible String Band, on Nov. 23
The Incredible String Band – Empty Pocket Blues (1966, also as writer)
Agustín Briolini, 22, Argentinian rock singer, by electrocution on Nov. 23
Sabah, 87, Lebanese singer and actress; Diva of Arab Music, on Nov. 24
Frances Nero, 71, soul and jazz singer, on Nov. 28
Frances Nero – Keep On Lovin’ Me (1966)
Frances Nero – Footsteps Following Me (1991)
Luc De Vos, 52, singer and guitarist of Belgian rock group Gorki, on Nov. 29
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