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In Memoriam – November 2017

December 4th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

November was a brutal month. Women of a certain age will have mourned David Cassidy, whose image adorned many a teen girl’s bedroom wall in the early 1970s (Like Tiger Beat in the US, Germany’s Bravo magazine had loads of them). An exceptionally handsome young man with talent, a great voice and good manners, he was the full package. In The Partridge Family TV series, he and step-mom Shirley Jones were allowed to make music, alongside members of the Wrecking Crew. The quality of the pop music from that show has outlived the natural resistance to it: there are some great pop songs from that show (which was, it must be said, a pretty good sitcom. Of course, some of the songs were also awful). As a one-time teen idol it was tough for Cassidy to forge a career as a serious singer, sporadic hits like 1985’s The Last Kiss notwithstanding. In the 1980s he re-invented himself as a stage musical star. I saw him in a not very good show called Time in London. In the end he suffered from dementia.

On the day Cassidy died, we also saw the death of Wayne Cochran, another artist who had success with a song called Last Kiss. Cochran’s composition became a hit for J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and later for Pearl Jam. Cochran was famous for being a white soul singer, and even more so for his white pompadour, which looked like a spoof Newt Gingrich haircut long before that horrid asshole arrived. He was friends with Otis Redding, for whom he played bass guitar on a couple of tracks. More importantly, he was friends with Elvis, who styled his jumpsuit Vegas costumes on Cochran, and included the blues classic C.C. Rider in his set as a tribute to Cochran’s erstwhile backing band. Cochran retired from music in the 1970s to become an evangelical minister.

Just a month after the death of his older brother George, AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young died at 64. He had been suffering from dementia, like David Cassidy, so death was probably a sweet release. As a rhythm guitarist, Young is regarded as one of the greats in rock. That was rather overshadowed by younger brother Angus’ antics and lead guitar (Angus said his brother was actually the better lead guitarist), but Malcolm was said to be the driving force behind AC/DC.

In The Miracles, Warren ‘Pete’ Moore was the bass to the high tenor of Smokey Robinson. Lesser known is his contribution as uncredited arranger of many of those great Miracles hits. And rather overlooked is his co-writing role with Smokey and Marv Tarplin of such great Motown hits as The Tracks of My Tears, Going To A Go-Go, Ooo Baby Baby, Ain’t That Peculiar, I’ll Be Doggone and Since I Lost My Baby, and later the huge Miracles hit Love Machine, co-written with Bully Griffin.

When Mel Tillis wrote about “that crazy Asian war” in 1967’s Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town, he supposedly meant the Korean war — but it was released at the height of the Vietnam War (see the story of that song in The Originals Vol. 24). First released by Johnny Darrell in 1967, it was a hit for Kenny Rogers & The First Edition in 1969. Tillis recorded it himself in 1969, on the Life Turned Her That Way LP (with that great title song). Tillis revisited Ruby in 1976 to even better effect, with a blistering banjo solo. His singing success was preceded by a long songwriting career. He scored his first songwriting hit in 1957 with Webb Pierce’s I’m Tired (which Tillis later had a hit with himself), and later a big one with Bobby Bare’s Detroit City (a.k.a. I Wanna Go Home). Tillis also appeared in movies, including the Cannonball Run movies and Smokey And The Bandit II. And if musicians were patron saints, Tillis might be the one for people with speech defects: he was a stutterer.

Arriving at the pearly gates with Moore and Tillis on November 19 was the singer and actress Della Reese — after her role in TV’s Touched By An Angel, it was perhaps a homecoming. And it’s as the managing angel Tess that Reese is perhaps remembered by most, but before that she was a mighty jazz singer. She was discovered by Mahalia Jackson and was equally comfortable in gospel (she formed her own group in that genre) and jazz. By force of talent and personality she was an African-American icon (though she was also half Cherokee) by the early 1960s. The second part of Martha Reeves’ band’s name, The Vandellas, is a tribute to Reese. In the late 1960s she also began acting and that would become her major gig as time went on.

Some people are central in changing music but do so quietly. Producer and record executive George Avakian, who has died at 98, was one such pioneer. In the 1940s CBS appointed the young Armenian-born jazz producer to head up its reactivated Columbia imprint as a jazz label, especially with a view to re-issuing a back catalogue of jazz records. Avakian did so, releasing them with thoughtful linernotes. In between he also produced several acts, including Frank Sinatra (he later produced acts such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Odetta, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, John Cage and many others). The 33 13rpm long-playing album was developed by Columbia under Avakian’s watch. As a producer he pioneered live recordings for LPs, and was among the first producers to use modern multitrack recordings. In 1958 he left Columbia to start up a new record label for Warner Brothers, hitherto just a film production company. After that he became an A&R manager at RCA. Among the acts he managed and produced there was jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, whose Jon Hendricks died on the same day as Avakian.

Jon Hendricks was instrumental (as it were) in popularising a the jazz singing style known as vocalese, whereby the singer adds lyrics to a jazz improvisation and sings them note-for-original-note. The most famous example of it might be the track that inspired Hendricks, King Pleasure’s 1951 hit Moody’s Mood For Love, which was based on a sax solo by James Moody. By the late 1950s, Hendricks was part of the interracial jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (later, in Avakian’s time with them, Yolande Bavan had replaced Annie Ross, who is now the last survivor of the trio in either iteration) which performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, taking Basie tunes and setting them to lyrics. In the 1960s the trio was popular — they very much inspired The Manhattan Transfer, with whom Hendricks later recorded — though also resented by the serious jazzheads for their playful lyrics.

English arranger/conductor Paul Buckmaster’s career ranged from scoring early hits by the likes of David Bowie (Space Oddity) and Elton John (Your Song) to Taylor Swift (2010’s Back To December) and Idina Menzel’s album last year. In between, his arrangement clients included The Rolling Stones (on Sticky Fingers), Shawn Phillips, Leonard Cohen, Nilsson (on Without You), Blood, Sweat & Tears  (on No Sweat), Carly Simon (on You’re So Vain), Miles Davis (on several 1970s albums), B.J. Thomas, Leo Sayer, Grateful Dead (on Terrapin Station), Nick Heyward, Stevie Nicks, Rodney Franklin, Meat Loaf (on Modern Day), Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul, Lionel Richie, Lloyd Cole, Kenny Loggins, 10,000 Maniacs, Dwight Yoakam, Celine Dion, Counting Crows, Collective Soul, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, No Doubt, Tears For Fears, The Darkness, Ben Folds, Michael Bublé, Mika, Guns N’ Roses (on Chinese Democracy), Brandi Carlile and many more. He also played cello on some recordings, including Bowie’s Space Oddity. In 2002 he won a Grammy for his arrangement of the Train hit Drops Of Jupiter.

Just as I was preparing a mix of tracks on which guitarist Larry Carlton played, I learnt of the death of Carlton’s frequent sidekick on bass, Robert “Pops” Popwell. For a while he was practically a member of the Crusaders (as was Carlton). Popwell played for acts like The Young Rascals, Aretha Franklin, Irma Thomas, Dyane Allman, Randy Crawford, Eddie Money, Allen Toussaint, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Deodato, Ron Wood, Smokey Robinson, Letta Mbulu, Brenda Russell, Olivia Newton-John, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Bette Midler, Dr John and others. Powell also produced and arranged occasionally.

Soul singer Robert Knight had a minor US hit in 1968 with his song Everlasting Love, but when it was released in Britain it quickly caught on. The story goes that the English group Love Affair — or rather, singer Steve Ellis and a bunch of session musicians — rush-recorded and released the song before the original could chart with it. They had a #1 hit; Knight’s original, which entered the UK charts two weeks after the cover, stalled at #40. Then it went quiet around Knight until in late 1973 Britain’s Northern Soul scene — which grooved to obscure soul tracks — discovered Knight’s 1968 song Love On A Mountaintop. That joyful song, which had done very little business in the US, became a big UK hit, peaking at #10. And that was it for Knight’s chart career. By 1976 he released his last single. He later worked as a lab technician and chemistry teacher, still performing on stage occasionally.

Bonnie Flower might have been a star. She and her sister Wendy, who were the dreamy folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, had musician parents, and jazz percussionist Cal Tjader was their godfather. With Gabor Szabo and producer Gary McFarland, Tjader owned a record label, Skye, for which the teenage Flower sisters recorded an album of self-composed tracks, titled Genesis. McFarland arranged it, and session musicians included a young Larry Carlton on guitar, drummer Jim Keltner and keyboardist Mike Melvoin. It’s a very good album, but shortly after its release Skye went bankrupt. Two years later McFarland was about to record the sisters again, but was murdered. The sisters never recorded together again.

I can’t say they ever were my jam, but one has to acknowledge the influence the US post-punk band Faith No More, whose former frontman Chuck Mosley has died, has had on bands that went on to influence others. These include acts like Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, System Of A Down, The Deftones, and, er, Slipknot and Korn.

Actor Jim Nabors made a name for himself in music as the singing mechanic Gomer Pyle in first the Andy Griffith Show and then his own spin-off series. Though he didn’t bother the US charts — his musical stylings are, let’s say, rather an acquired taste —he scored a Top 20 hit in Australia, of all places, with his version of The Impossible Dream. For more than 40 years he regularly sang the opening tune for the Indianapolis 500 season. For a seasonal reference I might mention that Nabors featured on Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 1, which is a good time to mention that I’ll be having two new Christmas mixes in the coming weeks.

 

Katie Lee, 98, folk singer, on Nov. 1
Katie Lee – Gunslinger (1957)

Billy Mize, 88, country, singer, steel guitarist and broadcaster, on Nov. 1
Billy Mize – Who Will Buy The Wine (1956)

Jack Conrad, 69, bass guitarist, on Nov. 3
The Doors – In The Eye Of The Sun (1972, on bass guitar)
Gram Parsons – She (1973, on bass guitar)

Hank Hunter, 88, pop songwriter, on Nov. 4
Steve Lawrence – Footsteps (1960)

Robert Knight, 72, soul singer, on Nov. 5
Robert Knight – Everlasting Love (1967)
Robert Knight – Love On A Mountain Top (1968)
Robert Knight – Better Get Ready For Love (1974)

Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on Nov. 7
Bee Gees – Odessa (City On The Black Sea) (1969, on cello)
Elton John – Tiny Dancer (1971, as arranger)
Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind (1983, as arranger)
Ben Folds – Landed (Strings Version) (2005, as arranger)

Robert De Cormier, 95, folk music arranger and conductor, on Nov. 7
Harry Belafonte – Here Rattler Hear (1960, as arranger)

Pentti Glan, 71, Finnish-Canadian drummer, on Nov. 7
Lou Reed – Lady Day (1974)
Bette Midler – When A Man Loves A Woman (1979)

Chuck Mosley, 57, singer with post-punk band Faith No More (1984-88), on Nov. 9
Faith No More – We Care A Lot (1985)

Fred Cole, 69, rock singer and guitarist, on Nov. 9
The Lollipop Shoppe – You Must Be A Witch (1968, on lead vocals)
Dead Moon – Sabotage (2002, on lead vocals)

Hans Vermeulen, 70, singer with Dutch band Sandy Coast, and on Stars on 45, on Nov. 9
Sandy Coast – I See Your Face Again (1968)

Chad Hanks, 46, bassist of nu-metal band American Head Charge, on Nov. 12

Luis Bacalov, 84, Argentine-born Italian composer, on Nov. 15
Roberto Fia – Django (1968, as composer and conductor)
Itzhak Perlman & John Williams – Il Postino Theme (1996, as composer)

Bonnie Flower, 63, member of folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, on Nov. 15
Wendy & Bonnie – The Paisley Window Pane (1969)

Lil Peep, 21, hip hop artist, on Nov. 15

Michael ‘Dik Mik’ Davies, c.73, keyboardist with English hard rock group Hawkwind, on Nov. 16
Hawkwind – Hurry On Sundown (1970)

Al Neil, 93, Canadian jazz musician, on Nov. 16

Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on Nov. 18
AC/DC – Riff Raff (1978)
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) (1981)
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep (1991, live)

Ben Riley, 84, jazz drummer, on Nov. 18
Thelonious Monk – Straight No Chaser (1964, on drums)

Warren ‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer, songwriter with The Miracles, producer, arranger, on Nov. 19
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tracks Of My Tears (1965, also as co-writer)
The Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965, as co-writer)
Otis Redding – It’s Growing (1966, as co-writer)

Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Della Reese – Don’t You Know? (1959)
Della Reese – After Loving You (1965)
Della Reese – Compared To What (1970)

Mel Tillis, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 19
Webb Pierce – I’m Tired (1957, as writer)
Mel Tillis – Life Turned Her That Way (1969)
Mel Tillis – Coca Cola Cowboy (1979)

Ronnie Butler, 80, Bahamian calypso singer, on Nov. 19
Ronnie Butler – Married Man (2010)

David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on Nov. 21
The Partridge Family – Echo Valley 2-6809 (1971, as lead singer)
David Cassidy – I Am A Clown (1972)
David Cassidy – The Last Kiss (1985, featuring George Michael on backing vocals)

Wayne Cochran, 78, soul singer, songwriter, on Nov. 21
Wayne Cochran – Last Kiss (1961)
Wayne Cochran – Up In My Mind (1967)

George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on Nov. 22
Louis Armstrong & His All Stars – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1955, as producer)
Johnny Mathis – Street Of Dreams (1956)

Jon Hendricks, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on Nov. 22
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – Moanin’ (1959, also as writer)
Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan – Shiny Stockings (1963, produced by George Avakian)

John Coates Jr., 79, jazz pianist, on Nov. 22

Tommy Keene, 59, pop singer and songwriter, on Nov. 22
Tommy Keene – Back To Zero Now (1982)

Shawn Jones, 32, gospel singer, on Nov. 22

Mitch Margo, 70, singer with pop band The Tokens and producer, on Nov. 24
The Tokens – I Hear Trumpets Blow (1966, also as writer)

Patrick Bourgeois, 54, singer of Canadian rock band Les B.B., on Nov. 26

Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on Nov. 27
Doris Duke – Ghost Of Myself (1969)
George Benson – Love Ballad (1979)
The Crusaders with Randy Crawford – Street Life (1981)

Magín Díaz, 94, Colombian folk singer and songwriter, on Nov. 28

Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker, 80, blues musician, on Nov. 29
Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker – Everything Gonna Be Alright (1997)

Zé Pedro, 61, Portuguese guitarist, on Nov. 30

Jim Nabors, 87, actor and singer, on Nov. 30
Jim Nabors – Both Sides Now (1973)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    December 4th, 2017 at 18:58 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. dogbreath
    December 6th, 2017 at 17:33 | #2

    I endured many a replay of David Cassidy’s sugar-coated pop hits way back when as my then girlfriend had a big crush on the guy. I, on the other hand, was busy headbanging along to AC/DC. The two acts essentially disparate & seismically separated, yet both fondly remembered by me now all these years later. Thanks as always for compiling the In Memoriam list. Cheers!

  3. RhodB
    December 8th, 2017 at 21:45 | #3

    Great work as usual

    Is it the end of ACDC ?

    Regards

    RhodB

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