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In Memoriam – March 2017

The headline death of the month was, obviously, that of Chuck Berry, who died at the age of 90 years. I’ve had my say on his musical legacy in the Any Major Chuck Berry Covers post. I could write about how Berry’s character was on the side of those you’d be best advised to avoid. One could have long discussion about the point at which one ceases to separate a man’s dark personality from his musical genius — is Chuck Berry a better man than, say, Gary Glitter? But let’s leave all that with just one observation: To celebrate an artist’s music and its impact must not mean that we lionise a deeply flawed man.

I felt one other death this month more than that of Berry’s. If I was to reduce the production style of Tommy LiPuma to one word, it would be “warmth”. Or, as in the title of an Al Jarreau album he produced, “glow”. There is such enormous intimacy in the recordings LiPuma produced for acts like George Benson, Michael Franks, Randy Crawford and Jarreau. It found perfect expression in that spectacular a-side of the 1982 Casino Lights album, of Jarreau and Crawford singing four cover songs live at the Montreaux festival. I post songs from it at every opportunity, as I did last month to mark Jarreau’s death (in fact, the first three of the songs posted in tribute to the singer were LiPuma productions). Before all that, in the 1960s, LiPuma produced on A&M records, including The Sandpipers’ megahit Guantanamera and records for the likes of Claudine Longet and Chris Montez. In 1968 he founded a record company, Blue Thump, which would have on its roster such acts as Hugh Masekela, Ike & Tina Turner, The Crusaders, The Pointer Sisters, Phil Upchurch, Gerry Rafferty, Dave Mason and Gabor Szabo.

As a freelancer he produced the soundtrack for Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were, including the title song, and soon after signed on as staff producer for Warner Bros. He won his first Grammy for George Benson’s version of This Masquerade, from the Breezin’ album, the title track of which he had first produced with Gabor Szabo and Bobby Womack. In 1977 he became Warner’s vice-president for jazz and progressive music. He produced almost everything by Benson (other than the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me The Night), most of Randy Crawford’s and Al Jarreau’s output. Others he produced in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s included Michael Franks, Brenda Russell, Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, Bob James, Miles Davis, Earl Klugh, Yellowjackets, Deodato, Larsen-Feiten Band (including Who’ll Be The Fool Tonight), Randy Newman, Rubén Blades, Stephen Bishop, and Dr. John, as well as tracks for British bands Aztec Camera and Everything But The Girl. Later, working for GPR/Verve, he nurtured the career of Diane Krall while also producing for Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney, Gladys Knight and, again, Streisand.

Of the four Sledge sisters, youngest Kathy stood out as the most charismatic, and Debbie as the most distinctive-looking. Joni Sledge, the first of the four to pass away, turned out to be the creative one: she earned a Grammy nomination for her production of the band’s 1997 album African Eyes. With Kathy leaving in 1989 and Kim, an ordained minister, dropping in and out, Joni and Debbie were the only constant members of Sister Sledge, who started their career in 1971. They first earned international notice in the mid-1970s, and exploded huge in the disco era with Nile Rodgers-produced hits like We Are Family, The Greatest Dancer and, best of them, Thinking Of You.

You may have heard the voice of Valerie Carter, who has died at 64, backing up acts like James Taylor, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Christopher Cross, Little Feat, Nicolette Larsson, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Aaron Neville, Outlaws, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Lyle Lovett or Shawn Colvin. You might have heard her compositions for Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Brothers Johnson or Earth, Wind & Fire. Or you might have heard songs from her albums with Howdy Moon or her three solo studio and one live albums. A couple of times she also featured in the Not Feeling Guilty series.

Few songs give me as much joy to croon along to as The Foundations’ Baby Now That I’ve Found You, the vocalist of which, Clem Curtis, has died. Born in Trinidad, Curtis came to London and followed an usual career path: from interior designer to boxer to singer in a mixed-race soul group. He sang on one of the band’s two big hit; by the time The Foundations had a hit with Build Me Up Buttercup, Curtis had left the band because of frustration with what he saw as lax commitment by his bandmates. He went to the US to play on the club circuit, and with the Righteous Brothers in Vegas. Despite good reviews the move didn’t work out and he returned to Britain to relaunch The Foundations.

Last month we lost the jazz musician and producer David Axelrod; this month we lost the trumpeter on many of the records made and produced by Axelrod, Tony Terran. But Terran’s career preceded those collaborations. Just 20 years old, he joined Desi Arnaz’s band in 1946, and was the last surviving member of the incarnation that featured on the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Later Terran was sought after as a session man on many jazz and big band records, and was also a member of the Wrecking Crew, the informal band of LA session musicians that played on countless pop classics in the 1960s and ‘70s. He backed he likes of Sam Cooke, Elvis (on Fun In Acapulco), Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, The Monkees, Bob Dylan (on Self-Portrait), Neil Diamond (on Jonathan Livingston Seagull), Bonnie Raitt, Maxine Weldon, The Sandpipers, PJ Proby, Four Tops, Fifth Dimension, Randy Newman, Tina Turner, Nilsson, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, Madonna and many others. He was also present on many TV and film scores and themes including, on TV, The Brady Bunch, I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, Happy Days, The Carol Burnett Show, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Cheers, L.A. Law, The Simpsons, and on film the first three Rocky The Karate Kid movies, Dirty Harry, All the President’s Men, Saturday Night Fever, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Grease, The Right Stuff, An Officer and a Gentleman, Ghostbusters and Field of Dreams.

One moment you’re the bass player on some of pop’s greatest hits; the next you change track to be a ukelele player with special emphasis on Hawaiian music. That’s how it went with Lyle Ritz. Another Wrecking Crew alumni, like Tony Terran he played on many of the hits produced by Phil Spector, for the Beach Boys (including most of Pet Sounds), Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, Ray Charles, Herb Alpert, Randy Newman (who worked with at least three of this month’s dead), Linda Ronstadt, Nilsson, Warren Zevon, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and others. He also played bass on the theme tunes for Kojak, The Rockford Files and Name That Tune. Then he chucked all that in to return to his first love: the ukulele. Before becoming a legendary bass player, he had recorded some ukulele jazz albums on Verve. And the ukulele Steve Martin plays in 1979’s The Jerk? That was Ritz. But he went full-ukelele jacket in 1984. In 2007 he was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has lost his quasi-father-in-law with the death of ex-Boston drummer Sib Hashian, who died at 67 while performing on a cruise ship (Johnson’s partner is Sib’s daughter, the musician Lauren Hashian). Sib played on the first two Boston albums, having replaced Jim Masdea, for whom he had to clear his stool in 1986 during the recording of Third Stage. Apparently Epic Records had forced Masdea’s departure after he had played on the demos for the first album, on which Hashian played the arrangement of the man he had replaced, including that of More Than A Feeling. I’ve been unable to confirm whether it was Hashian or Masdea playing on 1986’s Amanda, which was first laid down in 1980.Currently running on TV is a pretty decent drama series on the early days of Sun Records. Alas it makes no reference to blues singer and harmonica player James Cotton, who as a teenager cut a couple of records with Sam Philips’ label (I think it’s the great blues guitarist Pat Hare playing the solo on the featured song). Before that he had been backing Howlin’ Wolf on harmonica; later he did the same for other blues legends such as Muddy Waters (including his legendary 1977 album Hard Again), Little Walter, Otis Spann, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor (let’s not mention his bills-paying gig with Steven Seagal). He also recorded for rock acts such as the Steve Miller Band and Johnny Winters, and toured with Janis Joplin. And all the while he kept releasing his own records, solo or as part of the James Cotton Blues Band. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.

Japanese musicians who enjoy international success tend to come from the world of jazz, but briefly in the 1960s, beat group The Spiders gained enough attention to merit tours of Europe and the USA. In Japan they were massive, having a string of hit singles in the 1960s and early ‘70s, and following in the footsteps of The Beatles by appearing in films. Founder, singer and guitarist Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu died on the first day of the month at 78 from pancreatic cancer.

As John Lennon’s childhood friend and bandmate in The Quarrymen, Pete Shotton remained on The Beatles scene, occasionally adding moments that have become part of pop history. One might wonder whether the other Quarrymen — Lennon’s group which McCartney would join — ever thought about what might have been had Lennon stuck with them to form The Beatles. Not Shotton, the washboard player who had his instrument smashed over his head by Lennon when he announced that he didn’t want to play music anymore. As part of the broader Beatles encourage, Shotton ended up working for Apple but left when Yoko arrived on the scene. He went on to become a successful businessman, starting the Fatty Arbuckle’s chain of restaurants in Britain.

It’s not normal to feature photographers in this music In Memoriam, but Don Hunstein merits an exception, alone for his photographs of Bob Dylan with his then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo that became immortal on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Hunstein had joined Columbia Records as in-house photographer in 1955 and stayed with the label until 1986, which have him access to many jazz, rock and soul legends, for cover shoots and candid shots of greats such as Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis (including the cover of his Nefertiti album), Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Theolonius Monk, Tony Bennett, Glenn Gould, Aretha Franklin, Simon & Garfunkel, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, Billy Joel and Stevie Ray Vaughan working on their craft. He became so friendly with his subjects that some invited him to spend time with them privately. One of them was Dylan: the photos of Bob and Suze were more spontaneous observations rather than carefully planned staged shoots. See some of Hunstein’s photos at www.donhunstein.com

Ric Marlow, 91, songwriter and actor, on Feb. 28
Billy Dee Williams – A Taste Of Honey (1960, as co-writer)
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – A Taste Of Honey (1965, as co-writer)

Leone di Lernia, 78, Italian singer, composer and radio personality, on Feb. 28

Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu, 78, singer-guitarist for Japanese rock band The Spiders, on March 1
The Spiders – Kaze Ga Naiteriru (1967)

Wally Pikal, 90, one-man vaudeville musician, on March 1

Lyle Ritz, 87, bassist and ukulelist, on March 3
Beach Boys – Caroline No (1966, on ukulele)
Harry Nilsson – Without Her (1967, on bass)
Lyle Ritz – I’m Old Fashioned (2006)

Misha Mengelberg, 81, Dutch jazz pianist, composer, on March 3

Tommy Page, 46, singer-songwriter, record label executive, on March 3
Tommy Page – I’ll Be Your Everything (1990)

Valerie Carter, 64, singer-songwriter, on March 4
Little Feat – Long Distance Love (1975, on backing vocals)
Valerie Carter – Ooh Child (1977)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Turn It Into Something Good (1980, as writer)

Edi Fitzroy, 62, Jamaican reggae singer, on March 4
Edi Fitzroy – Princess Black (1982)

Lars Diedricson, 55, Swedish singer-songwriter, on March 6
Take Me To Your Heaven – Charlotte Nilsson (1999, as co-writer; winner of Eurovision 1999)

Robbie Hoddinott, 62, guitarist of country-rock band Kingfish, on March 6
Kingfish – Feels So Good (1978)

Dave Valentin, 64, Puerto Rican jazz flautist, on March 8
Lee Ritenour – Etude (1978, on flute with Ray Beckenstein & Eddie Daniels)
Dave Valentin – I Want To Be Where You Are (1978)

Tony Lorenzo, 30, guitarist with death metal band Sons of Azrael, on March 9

Joni Sledge, 60, singer with Sister Sledge, on March 10
Sister Sledge – Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me (1974)
Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You (1979)
Sister Sledge – Walking In The Light (1997, also as producer)

Don Warden, 87, country steel guitarist, manager of Dolly Parton, on March 11
Moe Bandy – Here I Am, I’m Drunk Again (1976, as co-writer)

Evan Johns, 60, singer-guitarist of H-Bombs, LeRoi Brothers, on March 11
LeRoi Brothers – Ballad Of LeRoi Brothers (1986)

Robert ‘P-Nut’ Johnson, 70, singer with Paliament-Funkadelic, on March 12
Bootsy’s Rubber Band – The Pinocchio Theory (1977, on tenor/falsetto vocals)

Joey Alves, 63, lead guitarist of hard rock band Y&T, on March 12
Y&T – Lipstick And Leather (1984)

John Lever, 55, drummer of British rock band The Chameleons, on March 13
The Chameleons – Singing Rule Britannia (While The Walls Close In) (1985)

Maxx Kidd, 75, pioneering go-go singer and producer, on March 13

Tommy LiPuma, 80, legendary record producer, on March 13
Claudine Longet – Walk In The Park (1968; as producer and as “Harold”)
George Benson – This Masquerade (1976, as producer)
Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong (1982, as producer)
Bob James & David Sanborn – Maputo (1986, as producer)
Aztec Camera – How Men Are (1988)

Phil Garland, 75, New Zealand folk musician, on March 14

James Cotton, 81, blues singer, harmonica player, on March 15
James Cotton – My Baby (1954)
Muddy Waters – The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll (1977, on harp)
James Cotton feat. Ruthie Foster – Wrapped Around My Heart (2013)

Chuck Berry, 90, rock ‘n’ roll legend, on March 18
Chuck Berry – Maybellene (1955)
Chuck Berry – Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1956)
Chuck Berry – Come On (1963)
Chuck Berry – Night Beat (1965)

Don Hunstein, 88, photographer, on March 18

Tony Terran, 90, trumpeter and session musician, on March 20
Sam Cooke – Shake (1965)
Tony Terran – Over The Rainbow (1968)
Tony Terran – Theme of ‘The Magician’ (1973, on piccolo trumpet)

Roy Fisher, 86, English poet and jazz pianist, on March 21

Chuck Barris, 87, TV personality and songwriter, on March 21
Freddy Cannon – Palisades Park (1962, as writer)

Sib Hashian, 67, drummer of rock band Boston, on March 22
Boston – More Than A Feeling (1976)
Boston – Feelin’ Satisfied (1978)

Sven-Erik Magnusson, 74, singer of Swedish danc e band Sven-Ingvars, on March 22

Peter Shotton, 75, washboardist with The Quarrymen, on March 22
The Quarrymen – That’ll Be The Day (1958)

Vincent Falcone, 79, pianist, conductor (also for Frank Sinatra), on March 24

Avo Uvezian, 91, Lebanese-born jazz pianist, on March 24
Avo Uvezian – Armenia (2004)

Jimmy Dotson, 82, blues musician, on March 26

Alessandro Alessandroni, 92, Italian composer, conductor and guitarist, on March 26
Ennio Morricone – For A Few Dollars More (1965, on guitar, whistling, conductor of chorus)

Clem Curtis, 76, Trinidadian-born singer of British soul group The Foundations, on March 27
The Foundations – Baby, Now That I’ve Found You (1967, on lead vocals)
Clem Curtis – Point Of No Return (1972)

Edward Grimes, 43, drummer of rock groups Rachel’s, Shipping News, on March 27

Arthur Blythe, 76, jazz saxophonist and composer, on March 27
Arthur Blythe – Caravan (1978)

Aldo Guibovich, 64, singer with Peruvian Latin pop band Los Pasteles Verdes, on March 28
Los Pasteles Verdes – Fumando Espero (1973)

Terry Fischer Siegel , 70, pop and jazz singer, on March 28
The Murmaids – Popsicles And Icicle (1963)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    April 4th, 2017 at 07:18 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. manel c.
    April 4th, 2017 at 15:35 | #2

    “Casino Lights”!! One of my favorite jazz – fusion albums, with the gem “E-Minor Song” by ex – Soul Survivor’s Neil Larsen! Tommy Lipuma was omnipresent in the credits of so many great black music. Also, my favorite tracks by The O’Jays on Liberty Records (“Lipstick Traces”, “You’re The One”) were produced by him as the 2 x album “Livin’ Inside Your Love” by George Benson with these mellow and classical strings. R.I.P. Tommy Lipuma.

  3. dogbreath
    April 5th, 2017 at 11:37 | #3

    Thank goodness for Chuck Berry – what a great legacy. Many thanks for March’s roll call of the dearly departed. Cheers!

  4. RhodB
    April 7th, 2017 at 22:18 | #4

    Thanks for the In memoriam for March. I was unaware that James Cotton had passed on a great harp player will be missed.

    Regards

  5. jb
    October 1st, 2017 at 09:30 | #5

    “Just a stone’s throw away” is one of the finest songs I know….

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