Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – June 2015

In Memoriam – June 2015

15061 galleryThe issue of bounty hunters in the US has come under scrutiny lately. One June 8, John Oliver exposed the problems with bounty hunting on his Last Week Tonight show. The following evening, country singer Randy Howard was shot dead by a bounty bunter in his own home in Tennessee. Howard, who was one of the vanguard of the Outlaw country music movement, had failed to appear in court to answer charges on standard country music trespasses such as possession of drug paraphernalia and handling a gun while being drunk. Upon a bounty hunter bursting into his house, he apparently fired shots; these were returned. The bounty hunter was injured; Howard was dead. I am no expert on law enforcement issues in the US, but surely one needs no bounty hunter to track down a man to his home?

Harold Battiste, who has died at 81, was a true Renaissance Man in music. He was an arranger, producer, composer, keyboard player, saxophonist and record company founder. The latter was particularly significant: in 1961, he set up the first African-American musician-owned record label, All For One, or AFO Records, which soon scored a massive hit with Barbara George’s I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More). He arranged and/or produced for acts like Sam Cooke (including You Send Me), Sonny & Cher (I Got You, Babe; The Beat Goes On ; Bang Bang), Lee Dorsey (Ya Ya), Dr John (Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya; Iko Iko) and others. He played keyboards on many of the Phil Spector-produced hits for The Ronettes, The Crystals and so on, as well as on The Righteous Brothers You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. On many of these he played alongside the Wrecking Crew collective. He also played sax on a track on The Jim Keltner Collection Vol. 1, Claudia Lennear’ Goin’ Down. On top of all that, he was a lecturer in music at several colleges, including in the Jazz Studies faculty of the University of New Orleans.

And then there was only one. In January we lost Popsy Dixon of the trio The Holmes Brothers; in June Wendell Holmes left us, leaving only his brother Sherman alive. Wendell died from complications caused by pulmonary hypertension, not of the cancer which he beat to record the 2010 album Feed My Soul. He said his favourite song was We Meet, We Part, We Remember — so I’ll feature it here.

The female voice of folk pioneers The Weavers is now silent. Ronnie Gilbert passed away at the age of 88, wrapping a quite extraordinary life. The daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, she grew up in New York, but it was in Washington during World War 2 that she hooked up with the giants of folk, Alan Lomax and Woody Guthrie. From there she met Pete Seeger with whom she co-founded The Weavers, which had to break up in 1953 after being blacklisted during the purge of the left in the world’s self-proclaimed bastion of freedom. Gilbert continued her activism, visiting Cuba after the revolution and taking part in the Paris protests of 1968.

In the 1970s she obtained an MA in psychology, but continued with her music, mentoring and influencing many folkies and singer-songwriters along the way. Late in life she still played at folk and Jewish music festivals, and remained politically active, especially in opposing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. In 2004 she married her partner of 20 years, Donna Korones. She missed the Supreme Court decision to legalise same-sex marriage in the US by three weeks.

15062 galleryThe rich life of Ornette Coleman was celebrated with a three-hour funeral which, reports say, was marked with music and lightness of mood. This seems fitting for a man who in his 85 years was one of the most influential musicians in jazz. Yoko Ono, who had been friends with Coleman for 50 years, spoke at the funeral. Several pieces of music were performed, including one featuring Ravi Coltrane, son of John, at whose father’s funeral Coleman played in 1967. And Coleman’s son was part of an ensemble that played the track featured here, Lonely Woman.

His face is an emblem of my childhood. In 1970s Germany, James Last was ubiquitous. And I couldn’t stand his easy listening fare, his side-parted long hair and goatee. To me, he represented music for people who hate music. He was the extent of cool the squares would allow. In time I grew up and acknowledged his accomplishments as one of Europe’s fine bandleaders. I’d never own a James Last record, but I came to like the old chap. A Strange thing: his real name was Hans Last. Before he became James (and why not John, the English version of Hans?), his surname would likely have been pronounced to rhyme with the English word “lust”. But when he took his Anglo moniker, the surname was pronounced in the English way, even by the Germans.

His was a name I knew better than his work, even though I was familiar with his music. To me, James Horner was a perennial Oscar nominee who won for his score of the 1997 movie Titanic and the entirely regrettable theme song, My Heart Will Go On. Unless one is an aficionado of the genre, we don’t expend much energy thinking about who wrote the music for a film score, even if we admire it. But anybody who has watched American movies over the past three decades will have heard Horner’s music, in films such as Alien, Field of Dreams, Braveheart, Glory, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind (the subject of which, John Nash, died on May 23), 48 Hrs., Cocoon, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Legends of the Fall, House of Cards, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Avatar, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Willow, An American Tail and its sequel, and more. Apparently director Don Bluth was not happy with Horner’s score for An American Tail — in the end, it turned out to be some of Horner’s best work. The song Never Say Never, which Horner wrote with Cynthia Weill and Barry Mann, ought to be a musical standard.

Scottish-born Australian hard rock singer Allan Fryer, who has died at 60 of cancer, made a name for himself as frontman of the band Heaven. It might have been bigger than that: following the death of fellow Caledaussie (is that a word?) Bon Scott, he auditioned to replace him as singer of AC/DC. Apparently AC/DC producers George Young and Harry Vanda were all ready to appoint Fryer, even outing his voice to established AC/DC tracks. But the other Caledaussies, Malcolm and Angus Young, were in London and auditioned the Geordie Brian Johnson, who got the gig instead. Instead Fryer joined Heaven, with whom he had local hits and toured with acts like touring with Dio, Kiss, Motley Crue and Judas Priest — and which, at one point, included former AC/DC bassist Mark Evans.

 

Jean Ritchie, 92, folk singer, songwriter and dulcimer player, on June 1
Jean Ritchie – A Pretty Fair Miss (1954)

Anthony Riley, 28, competitor on US version of The Voice, suicide on June 2

Allan Fryer, 60, Scottish-born singer of Australian hard rock band Heaven, on June 4
Heaven – Nothing To Lose (1982)

Albert West, 65, singer of Dutch band The Shuffles, on June 4

Nick Marsh, 53, singer of British rock band Flesh for Lulu, on June 5
Flesh For Lulu – I Go Crazy (1987)

Ronnie Gilbert, 88, singer-songwriter with The Weavers and actress, on June 6
The Weavers – Goodnight Irene

Christopher Lee, 93, British actor, voice artist and singer, on June 7
Rhapsody feat. Christopher Lee – The Magic Of The Wizard’s Dream (2005)

Archie Alleyne, 82, Canadian jazz drummer, on June 8

James Last, 86, German big band leader, on April 9
James Last – Hot Love (1974)
James Last – Don’t Stop Until You Get Enough (1979)

Pumpkinhead, 39, rapper, on June 9

Randy Howard, 65, country singer, shot dead on June 9
Randy Howard – Suddenly Single (1983)

Jim Ed Brown, 81, country singer (The Browns), on June 11
Jim Ed Brown – Pop A Top (1967)

Ornette Coleman, 85, free jazz saxophonist, on June 11
Ornette Coleman – Lonely Woman (1959)

Ron Moody, 91, British musical actor (Oliver!), on June 11
Ron Moody – You’ve Got To Pick-A-Pocket Or Two (1960, as Fagin)

Monica Lewis, 93, jazz singer and actress, on June 12
Monica Lewis – Rough Ridin’ (1957)

Buddy Boudreaux, 97, jazz saxophonist and band leader, on June 13

Big Time Sarah, 62, blues singer, on June 13
Big Time Sarah – Fever (live, 1982)

MC Supreme, 47, rapper, in traffic accident on June 13

Hugo Blanco, 74, Venezuelan musician and composer, on June 14
Hugo Blanco – Moliendo Café (1961)

Mighty Sam McClain, 72, soul and blues singer, on June 15
Mighty Sam McClain – Open Up Heaven’s Door (2003)

Wendell Holmes, 71, member of The Holmes Brothers, on June 19
The Holmes Brothers – None But The Righteous (1990)
The Holmes Brothers – We Meet, We Part, We Remember (2004)

Harold Battiste, 83, jazz and R&B composer, arranger and musician, on June 19
Sam Cooke – Falling In Love (1964, as composer and on piano)
Cher – Bang Bang (1966, as arranger)
Gram Parsons – Cry One More Time (1973, on baritone saxophone)

Gunther Schuller, 89, composer, conductor, jazz musician, on June 21

James Horner, 61, movie composer, in a plane crash on June 22
Christopher Plummer & Phillip Glasser – Never Say Never (1986, as co-writer)
James Horner – End Credits of ‘Field Of Dreams’ (1989)

Magali Noël, 83, French actress and singer, on June 23
Magali Noël – Fais-Moi Mal Johnny! (1956)

Young Ready, 31, rapper and owner of Bow Entertainment label, shot dead on June 23

Thé Lau, 62, Dutch singer and guitarist, on June 23

Cristiano Araújo, 29, Brazilian singer and songwriter, in a traffic accident on June 24
Cristiano Araújo – Mente pra Mim (2011)

Terry ‘Thunder’ Hughley, 61, drummer and singer, on June 26

Joe Bennett, 75, leader of The Sparkletones, on June 27
Joe Bennett & The Sparkletones – Boys Do Cry (1959)

Chris Squire, 67, bass guitarist of Yes, on June 28
Yes – Roundabout (1971)
Yes – Owner Of A Lonely Heart (1983)

Eddy Louiss, 74, French jazz organist, on June 30

Larry Johnson, singer with soul band The Artistics, in June
The Artistics – I’m Gonna Miss You (1966)

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(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    July 2nd, 2015 at 07:55 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Mike
    July 2nd, 2015 at 09:41 | #2

    I can’t believe that this is the first that I hear about the passing for Harold Batiste. Thank you for sharing.

  3. GarthJeff
    July 2nd, 2015 at 14:34 | #3

    Nice one AMD! My memories are stuck with James Last. As a kid in the late 60’s and 70’s I heard my parents playing his LP’s at their house parties. (I don’t think they could afford the originals.) So, James Last music has burned memories of fun, dancing and laughter into my subconscious.

    Here are two ‘Greats’….together:-

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg_Cz8AdMaI

  4. dogbreath
    July 3rd, 2015 at 13:14 | #4

    Many thanks for another fine compilation job. Other than Chris Squire, whose superb bass playing in Yes I am well familiar with, it’s the demise of the two actors Christopher Lee and Ron Moody that means most to me – both fine actors & now remembered here for heavy metal and Lionel Bart. Excellent!

  5. Rhod
    July 3rd, 2015 at 22:41 | #5

    Thanks Amd

    Another great effort.

    Regards

    Rhod

  6. Jim
    July 3rd, 2015 at 23:42 | #6

    You always do a good job summarizing the lives of those who have passed from the music business, but this month’s column was particularly interesting and well-written.

    Jim

  7. dogbreath
    November 30th, 2015 at 22:09 | #7

    Finally got round to listening to some of the songs included here. It’s a bit academic now, I suppose, but I don’t think that’s Ron Moody you’ve got singing “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two”. It sounds much more like that fine actor Jonathan Pryce who has also done a turn on the stage as Fagin. Anyhow, just wanted to mention it. Cheers!

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