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In Memoriam – August 2016

September 6th, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

IM-1608aIt was a bad month for jazz musicians. The biggest victim of the Reaper was the Belgian-born harmonica genius Toots Thielemans, whose harmonica riff on the Sesame Street theme in the programmes opening scenes provided the soundtrack for generations of people, at least in the US.

A multi-talented man — Jean Thielemans was also a guitarist and whistler, as well as a composer — he entered the big times while playing with Benny Goodman in the late 1940s and George Shearing in the ‘50s. He recorded many albums, including a number of soundtrack albums, and appeared on a good number of pop records by others. Quincy Jones was a huge fan, and kept using Thieleman’s talents liberally. Other non-jazz acts who featured Thielemans included Billy Joel, Brothers Johnson, John Denver, Paul Simon, Ralph McDonald, Melanie, Julian Lennon (on his hit Too Late For Goodbyes), James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Khadja Nin and so many others. Thielemans also featured on the two Song Swarms In posted in the weeks before his death, for The Girl From Ipanema and By The Time I Get To Phoenix.

At the height of his career with the folk trio The Limeliters — a vocal folk group in the harmonising vein of The Kingston Trio — tenor Glenn Yarbrough decided to leave the music thing behind to become a sailor. That was the end for The Limeliters, though the recording label, CBS, prevailed upon Glen to defer his salty adventures at sea in favour of recording folk records which would become influential in the genre. In the late ’60s Yarbrough decided to sell luxury home, cars and a banana plantation to set up a school for impoverished African-American children. The school went defunct in the early ’70s. It was then that he, his wife and baby-daughter went sailing on a boat he helped build — for half a decade. A free spirit, Yarbrough has died at the age of 86.

Now as the US public is confronted with the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the election campaigns of George Herbert Walker Bush 26 years ago seems genteel by comparison, even if we acknowledge Lee Atwater’s bilious lies, the involvement of the vomituous sex pest Roger Ayles, and the blatant racism of the Willie Horton saga .  One of George Bush Sr’s campaign songs was the Moe Bandy song Americana, which was co-written by Richard Fagan, who has died at 69. Fagan had a number of country hits under his belt, as well as a minor 1980 chart hit for Neil Diamond. He had a colourful personal life. In 2008 he was involved in a physical fight with his mentor, Tom Oteri, whom Fagan wounded with a knife. After being ejected from Oteri’s house, Fagan was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Released from his cell the next morning, he learnt that his friend had died of a heart attack following their altercartion. Remarkable, the Oteri family stood by the distraught Fagan who then proceeded to clean himself up.

I’ve always thought that the vibraphone is an underrated instrument. With the death of Bobby Hutcherson we have lost a leading exponent of vibes-playing (once voted the world’s best, ahead of the great Vince Montana). Turning professional while still a teenager in the late 1950s, Hutcherson released a long string of jazz albums himself — many on Blue Note, the label on which he was the second longest-running acts — but also played with some of the great names in jazz of his generation, including John Coltrane, Blue Mitchell, Dexter Gordon, Joe Sample (who wrote the featured track), Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock, appearing with the latter on the Round Midnight soundtrack.IM-1608bAnother part-time Blue Note alumni departed inform of the influential recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder. He is widely considered a pioneer in his field; his innovations helped create the sound of American jazz in the 1950s and early ‘60s. His services were used by the likes of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. He engineered such groundbreaking albums as John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme , Sonny Rollins’ Saxophone Colossus, A Night At The Village Vanguard and Horace Silver’s Songs For My Father.  Even at 91, he kept working to his last days. Fittingly, his end came while he was at his studio.

When a musician dies after having reached the age of 100, he ought to receive a special mention. So it is with the easy listening pianist and composer Irving Fields, who was something of the fixture in the US in the 1950s. Before that he had written a couple of hits, including Managua, Nicaragua (a hit for Guy Lombardo, Freddie Martin and Kay Kyser and their respective orchestras in 1946/47), Chantez Chantez, a 1957 hit for Dinah Shore, and Miami Beach Rhumba for himself. In 2008, as a nonagenarian, he wrote a theme song for YouTube, titled YouTube Dot Com Theme Song.

It’s hard to say whether the rise in the late 1990s of boy bands like the Backstreet Boys and ‘NSYNC was a good thing, but if anybody thinks their creator should have been jailed for crimes against music, then such people got their wish, of sorts. Lou Pearlman, who has died at 62, was actually jailed for defrauding people in a Ponzi scheme — and never saw freedom again. He was also sued by almost every act he represented. Allegations of molestation of minors were never brought to court; Pearlman denied them. And while the boy bands contributed little to music, they nevertheless gave us Justin Timberlake, a true star of genuine talent.

Among the more unlikely category of people who might enjoy significant chart success are politicians, even less so when they are the foreign minister and future president of a significant country. Don’t fear, Hilary Clinton never recorded a bootie-shakin’ disco hit in 1978, nor is she dead. The politician in question was Walter Scheel, West-Germany’s foreign minister and vice-chancellor from 1969-74 and the president till 1979 who has died at the age of 97. In 1973 Scheel hooked up with the Düsseldorf Men’s Choir to record the German traditional song Hoch auf den gelben Wagen (“Up on the yellow coach”), a song about postal delivery in the pre-automobile age which became a big hit in West Germany. I’ll include it here, for the moments when your particular jam is to groove along to the vocal stylings of a politician (it is quite a contrast to the track which precedes Scheel’s). Take comfort in knowing that Scheel was that rare thing: a decent man in politics.

Ricci Martin, 62, singer, son of Dean Martin, on Aug. 3
Ricci Martin – Stop Look Around (1977)

Snaffu Rigor, 69, Filipino singer and songwriter, on Aug. 4

Richard Fagan, 69, country songwriter, on Aug. 5
Neil Diamond – The Good Lord Loves You (1979)

Vander Lee, 50, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Aug. 5
Vander Lee – Meu Jardim (2005)

Freddy Sunder, 85, Belgian jazz guitarist and singer, on Aug. 5
Freddy Sunder – Biep! Biep! (1958)

Pete Fountain, 86, jazz clarinetist, on Aug. 6
Al Hirt & Pete Fountain – Blue And Broken Hearted (1957)

E. Taylor, 65, rock musician, on Aug. 7
B.E. Taylor Group – Vitamin L (1984)

Padraig Duggan, 67, Irish folk musician with Clannad, The Duggans, on Aug. 9
Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game (1982)

Glenn Yarbrough, 86, folk singer, on Aug. 11
The Limeliters – Take My True Love By The Hand (1960)
Glenn Yarbrough – Baby, The Rain Must Fall (1965)

Barbara Gibb, 95, mother of Barry, Robin, Maurice and Andy, on Aug. 12

Ruby Wilson, 68, R&B and gospel singer, on Aug. 12
Ruby Wilson – I’m Coming Home (1999)

Connie Crothers, 75, jazz pianist, on Aug. 13

Gary Watson, 22, singer of Scottish band the Lapelles, drowned on Aug. 13

James Woolley, 49, rock keyboardist (Nine Inch Nails, 1991-94), on Aug. 14
Nine Inch Nails – Wish (1993, on keyboards)

Lorenzo Piani, 60, Italian singer and songwriter, on Aug. 14

DJ Official, 39, Christian hip hop musician, on Aug. 14

Bobby Hutcherson, 75, jazz vibraphone and marimba player, on Aug. 15
Ella Fitzgerald – Things Ain’t What They Used To Be (1970, on vibraphone)
Bobby Hutcherson featuring Harold Land – Goin’ Down South (1971)

Bob Kindred, 76, jazz saxophonist, on Aug. 15

Billy Mitchell, 70, folk-rock singer, on Aug. 16

Preston Hubbard, 63, bass player with the Fabulous Thunderbirds (1985-93), on Aug. 17
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Powerful Stuff (1988)

Lou Pearlman, 62, producer and impresario (Backstreet Boys, ’NSYNC), on Aug. 19

Matt Roberts, 38, guitarist with alt.rock band 3 Doors Down, on Aug. 20
3 Doors Down – Kryptonite (2000)

Tom Searle, 28, guitarist with British metalcore band Architects, on Aug. 20

Louis Smith, 85, jazz trumpeter, on Aug. 20
Louis Smith – Star Dust (1958)

Louis Stewart, 72, Irish jazz guitarist, on Aug. 20

Irving Fields, 101, pianist and composer, on Aug. 20
Irving Fields Trio – Cha Cha No. 29 (1959)

Derek Smith, 85, British pianist and keyboardist, on Aug. 21
Linda Lewis -This Time I’ll Be Sweeter (1975)

Headley Bennett, 85, Jamaican saxophonist, on Aug. 21
Gregory Isaacs – Poor Natty (1980)

Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz harmonica player and guitarist, on Aug. 22
Toots Thielemans – Bluesette (1961)
Quincy Jones – Velas (1980)
Billy Joel – Leave A Tender Moment Alone (1983)

Gilli Smyth, 83, singer with psychedelic rock band Gong, on Aug. 22
Gong – I Am Your Fantasy (1971)

Walter Scheel, 97, German politician and chart-topper, on Aug. 24
Walter Scheel – Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen (1973)

Rudy Van Gelder, 91, pioneering recording engineer, on Aug. 25
Horace Silver – Song For My Father (1964, as sound engineer)

Norman Killeen, 38, drummer  of Canadian heavy metal band Threat Signal, on Aug. 25

Ab Tamboer, 65, member of Dutch pop group Earth and Fire, on Aug. 26

Juan Gabriel, 66, Mexican singer and songwriter, on Aug. 28
Juan Gabriel – Querida (1984)

Hoot Hester, 65, bluegrass and country fiddle player, on Aug. 30
Ricky Van Shelton – Life Turned Her That Way (1987, on fiddle)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    September 6th, 2016 at 11:40 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. JohnnyDiego
    September 6th, 2016 at 13:36 | #2

    I know it’s macabre but since the death of Juan Gabreil last week I have been anticipating this edition of In Memorium, anxious to see what you would write concerning his career. Gabreil wasn’t well known outside his base of support, Mexico, Southern California, and the Southwestern U.S., but his fans were huge in number and vociferous in their adoration him.
    In a culture that is known for its machismo Juan Gabfeil was anything but, but the number and loyalty of his female fans were legion.
    Thank you, Dude, for this retrospective each month. I especially appreciate the synopopsis you write about our departed heroes each month as well.

  3. halfhearteddude
    September 6th, 2016 at 14:36 | #3

    I was thinking of writing something on him, but didn’t get around to it. I knew that he was huge in Mexico though.

  4. RhodB
    September 9th, 2016 at 23:57 | #4

    Thanks once again for the In memoriam series. It sounds ghoulish but I look forward to this each month to hear what I have been missing out on as a large number of the artists I have never heard

    regards

    Rhod

  5. Carlos
    September 10th, 2016 at 18:17 | #5

    Hi Dude!
    Your site is still great. I guess you are the only one in USA who knows who Walter Scheel was… As for Rudy van Gelder, I would have expected you to make a Collection…
    Best regards & Thanks – Carlos

  6. Days of Broken Arrows
    September 13th, 2016 at 01:50 | #6

    Toots was fantastic.

    I never cared for the harmonica because, like many, my introduction to it was the sloppy playing of Bob Dylan. No thanks. And then I came across the first Laura Nyro LP. I found the harmonica playing on that album so incredible I set about learning how to play like that.

    Many years later, when the Nyro bio came out, I found out it was Toots who played those parts. In the intervening years, I’d become a fan of his through my ex-wife whose dad had his albums, but I hadn’t known it was him on the first Laura Nyro album. I ended up a pretty good harmonica player and was amused to learn I’d unwittingly based my entire style on Toots.

  7. halfhearteddude
    September 15th, 2016 at 07:28 | #7

    Fantastic. My introduction to Toots was through a Belgian friend, suitably enough.

  8. dogbreath
    October 3rd, 2016 at 21:34 | #8

    Back from holidays & catching up with posts. My only connection to this month’s departed artists is that I listened to some NIN while sunning myself. Thanks for the details & the download. Cheers!

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