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In Memoriam – December 2017

January 4th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

The last two Decembers delivers a kick in the balls just before the year ends. Last Christmas it was the death of George Michael; in 2015 it was Lemmy and Natalie Cole (ringing in that annus horribilis 2016). This year we were spared such shenanigans by the Grim Reaper.

I can’t say that I have ever been a keen fan of Johnny Hallyday, the French icon who has died at 74. But you can’t argue with a career that spanned 60 years, much of it at the top, selling more than 110 million records worldwide. Born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, he borrowed his stage name from a cousin’s husband who performed in the US as Lee Halliday. Lee was a mentor to the youngster and gave him the name Johnny. And with that name the erstwhile Jean-Philippe Smet became France’s first rock & roll star as the 1960s began. Although he appeared on US TV and worked with many British artists, Hallyday was not very well-known in Anglophone countries, though he was a superstar in much of Europe.

Keely Smith was sort of the straight-woman to her first husband, Louis Prima, though she was very funny in her deadpan way. Smith, who was of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, was a useful vocalist as well, though she certainly benefitted from working with some of the greatest arrangers, particularly Nelson Riddle. In the 1960s she updated her sound, in the Petula Clark vein, and recorded the first version of the Bacharach/David classic One Less Bell To Answer (which featured on Bacharach: The Originals). As the 1960s ended her career petered out. She made a brief comeback in 1985, but a string of critically acclaimed albums in the 2000s returned her to success, including a Grammy nomination.

Actress Rose Marie (Mazzetta), who has died at 94, is best known in the US as the proto feminist scriptwriter Sally Rogers on The Dick van Dyke Show, and as a long-standing contestant on Hollywood Squares. She also had regular roles in shows such as S.W.A.T. and Murphy Brown. But she was a big star long before all that. As a five-year-old she began a recording career that made her one of the many child stars of the 1930s. She appeared in movies and had nationwide hits with songs such as 1932’s Say That You Were Teasing Me. As a young adult she became a nightclub and lounge singer, especially at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, which was owned by Bugsy Siegel. The mafia forthwith controlled her singing career. Late in life Rose Marie was active in conscientising about sexual harassment; the #metoo campaign will have pleased her.

For many British TV fans of a certain age, the death of Keith Chegwin marked the passing of a national institution. Most famous for hosting children’s TV programmes such as Cheggers Plays Pop and Swap Shop in the 1970s and 80s, Chegwin remained a fixture on the telly, not least through his appearance on the while range of reality TV shows that feature celebrities. But before he became a TV legend, “Cheggers” tried his hand at becoming a pop star…unsuccessfully. None of the five singles he released between 1973 and 1981 charted. He did hit the charts in 1981 as part of novelty celeb trio Brown Sauce, alongside fellow TV presenters Maggie Philbin and the unspeakably awful and thoroughly objectionable Noel Edmonds. It reached #15.

If you watched TV in the 1970s, chances are that you’ve heard the compositions of Mundell Lowe, who has died at the age of 95. A very successful jazz guitarist, Lowe wrote scores for TV shows like Hawaii Five-O, Wild Wild West and Starsky & Hutch, as well as for some movies. As a solo artist or bandleader he released albums from 1951 till 2015, though he worked as a session guitarist from 1947 onwards. His session work was prolific especially in the 1950s and ‘60s, playing for the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Herbie Mann, Charlie Parker, Shirley Scott, Quincy Jones, Chris Connor, Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney, Harry Belafonte, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Edye Gormé, LaVern Baker and so on.

We owe one of the great Western themes, that of the 1868 film Hang ‘em High, to Dominic Frontiere, who has died at 86. Frontiere, who as a jazz accordionist released a number of records, also wrote the themes of early TV classics like The Flying Nun, The Outer Limits and The Rat Patrol. Later the protegé of film composing legend Alfred Newman wrote scores for TV shows like Vega$ and The Invaders, and for films like The Stuntman in the 1980s and The Color of Night in the ‘90s. He also arranged for acts such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Dan Fogelberg, Nils Lofgren, Chicago and The Tubes. Frontiere also wrote the song Hang Ten High, recorded by The Smithereens, whose singer Pat DiNizio died nine days before Frontiere. Less salubriously, Frontiere served a few months of a one-year sentence in the ‘80s for tax fraud and ticket scalping.

The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio, who has died at 62, was absolutely loyal to his music, even when things were not going great. Before the US power pop band found success in the 1980s, he and his bandmates persevered through many years of rejection. When their star waned in the ‘90s, they still carried on, taking day jobs if necessary. The Smithereens last performed in December, just before DiNizio suffered a series of bad falls, and were planning to record a new album.

In the USA, rich reality TV stars become the president; in Haiti a folk singer-songwriter who lived in exile and narrowly avoided murder by a military junta became mayor of his country’s capital. Manno Charlemagne, who sang his political songs in French and Creole, went into exile under the murderous Duvalier tryrannies, and returned to exile frequently throughout his life. After Baby Doc’s fall in 1986 he returned to Haiti and supported the priest Bertrand Aristide, who was elected president in 1990. The good times didn’t last; a year later the murderer Raoul Cédras deposed Aristide, with the help of the US, and Charlemagne was among those immediately brutalised and detained by the junta. With Aristide’s return in 1995, Charlemagne served a four-year term as mayor of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. It turned out that he was not as good as a politician as he was as the conscience of the nation which held corrupt politicians to account.

 

Mundell Lowe, 95, jazz guitarist and composer, on Dec. 2
Rosemary Clooney & Marlene Dietrich – Too Old To Cut The Mustard (1951, on guitar)
Mundell Lowe – Memories Of You (1956)
Peggy Lee – Lean On Me (1969, as co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (live) (1977, on guitar)

Norihiko Hashida, 72, Japanese folk singer-songwriter, on Dec. 2

Johnny Hallyday, 74, French rock singer and actor, on Dec. 6
Johnny Hallyday – T’aimer follement (1960)
Johnny Hallyday – Requiem pour un fou (1976)

Sir Christus, 39, guitarist of Finnish rock band Negative, on Dec. 7

Vincent Nguini, 65, Cameroonian guitarist, on Dec. 8
Paul Simon – Further To Fly (1990, on guitar and bass)

Sunny Murray, 81, free jazz drummer, on Dec. 8

Leon Rhodes, 85, country guitarist (Ernest Tubb), on Dec. 9
Waylon Jennings – I’m A Ramblin’ Man (1974, on bass guitar)

Lando Fiorini, 79, Italian actor and singer, on Dec. 9

Manno Charlemagne, 69, Haitian singer-songwriter, activist, on Dec. 10
Manno Charlemagne – Le Mal du Pays (1994)

Keith Chegwin, 60, English TV presenter, actor and singer, on Dec. 11
Keith Chegwin – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1977)

Pat DiNizio, 62, singer of power pop The Smithereens, on Dec. 12
The Smithereens – Blood And Roses (1986)
The Smithereens – Groovy Tuesday (1986)

Warrel Dane, 56, singer with metal bands Sanctuary, Nevermore, on Dec. 13
Nevermore – She Comes In Colors (2010)

Willie Pickens, 86, jazz pianist and educator, on Dec. 13

Dave Christenson, 54, singer of pop duo Stabilizers, on Dec. 15
Stabilizers – One Simple Thing (1986)

John Critchinson, 82, English jazz pianist, on Dec. 15

Keely Smith, 89, jazz singer, on Dec. 16
Louis Prima & Keely Smith – Basta (1958)
Keely Smith – All The Way (1958)
Keely Smith – Open Your Heart (1966)
Keely Smith – Cherokee (2002)

Ralph Carney, 61, saxophonist, composer, member of prog-rock band Tin Huey, on Dec. 16
Tom Waits – Come Up To The House (1999, on saxophone)
St. Vincent – Digital Witness (2015, on horns)

Z’EV, 66, industrial pop percussionist and poet, on Dec. 16

Richard Dobson, 75, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 16
Richard Dobson – Baby Ride Easy (1977)

Michael Prophet, 60, Jamaican reggae singer, on Dec. 16
Michael Prophet – You Are A No Good (1980)

Randy Hongo, 70, Hawaiian Christian singer, on Dec. 16

Kevin Mahogany, 59, jazz singer, on Dec. 17
Kevin Mahogany – Since I Fell For You (1993)

Larry Harris, 70, co-founder of Casablanca Records, on Dec. 18

Jim Forrester, 43, bassist of rock band Sixty Watt Shaman, murdered on Dec. 18
Sixty Watt Shaman – Southern Gentleman (1999)

Kim Jong-hyun, 27, singer with South Korean boy band Shinee, on Dec. 18

Leo ‘Bud’ Welch, 85, blues and gospel musician, on Dec. 19
Leo Bud Welch – Goin’ Down Slow (2014)

Roswell Rudd, 82, free jazz trombonist, on Dec. 21

Dominic Frontiere, 86, film & TV composer, arranger and jazz accordionist, on Dec. 21
Dominic Frontiere – Theme from Hang ‘em High (1968)
Chicago – Baby What A Big Surprise (1977, as co-arranger)
Dusty Springfield – Bits and Pieces (1980, as producer and co-writer)

Halvard Kausland, 72, Norwegian jazz guitarist, on Dec. 21
Helle Brunvoll & Halvard Kausland – Be Cool (2009)

Pam the Funkstress, 51, hip hop DJ, on Dec. 22
The Coup – Not Yet Free (1993, on turntables)

Jim Burns, 65, co-creator of MTV Unplugged, in car crash on Dec. 23

Robbie Malinga, 47, South African musician and producer, on Dec. 25
Robbie Malinga – Sondela (2016)

Curly Seckler, 98, bluegrass musician (Foggy Mountain Boys 1949-62), on Dec. 27
Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs – Foggy Mountain Breakdown (1949, on mandolin)

Rose Marie, 94, actress and singer, on Dec. 28
Rose Marie – Say That You Were Teasing Me (1932)

Melton Mustafa, 70, jazz musician, on Dec. 28
Diane Schuur & The Count Basie Orchestra – Travelin’ Blues (1987, on trumpet)

Hanery Amman, 65, co-founder of Swiss dialect rock band Rumpelstilz, on Dec. 30

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(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    January 4th, 2018 at 07:19 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. January 4th, 2018 at 19:12 | #2

    The Smithereens’ 11 remains one of my all-time favorite records. Pat will be missed.

  3. Rhodb
    January 5th, 2018 at 21:48 | #3

    Thanks Amd

    Another great share and hard work

    Regards

    RhodB

  4. Andy
    January 6th, 2018 at 00:22 | #4

    You’ve taught me a new word – conscientising. I’ve never heard it used in the USA.

    I am to blame for Mundell Lowe’s death. I had never heard of him until last month when I was putting together a compilation of Ben Webster songs. They collaborated on at least one album, “Mundell Lowe Septet featuring Ben Webster” 1958. The appearance of his name caused me to on an internet search, and it was that small amount of attention that alerted the grim reaper to his task.

    I was aware of Rose Marie’s appearances on the Dick Van Dyke show and that she had been a child star, but I don’t recall seeing a picture of her from back when. She looks like a girl that appeared in the Hal Roach “Our Gang / Little Rascals” film shorts but Wikipedia makes no mention of it so I’m probably wrong.

  5. halfhearteddude
    January 6th, 2018 at 11:30 | #5

    I’ll have to conscientise the world to your murderous way, Andy! Though that often happens to me: I play a song by somebody; next time I know they’ve died. Keely Smith was this month’s victim.

  6. JohnnyDiego
    January 23rd, 2018 at 18:29 | #6

    Thank you for including so many Keely Smith songs. As a kid Keely was one of my favorites, seeing her as often as I did on television with her husband Luis Prima. As I grew older I began to love her accent (she was born in Virginia, for what that’s worth) and her never denied hint of Cherokee ancestry.
    As for Zippyshare, I too lost many uploads a few months back. I asked Zippy and they said something about someone and some entity that I can no longer remember. It seemed they were trying to legitimize something that I thought was just some troll asshole messing with everyone’s shares. It seemed only current links were deleted, not ones still active but published months or years earlier. Since then everything has gone smoothly. Everything, that is, except uploading which fails several times before finally being successful.

  7. JohnnyDiego
    January 23rd, 2018 at 18:48 | #7

    @Peter
    I like to call The Smithereens the greatest band ever to come out of New Jersey, purposely avoiding you know who.

  8. halfhearteddude
    January 23rd, 2018 at 23:16 | #8

    Oh man, that uploading on Zippy is a burden…

  9. halfhearteddude
    January 23rd, 2018 at 23:16 | #9

    Bon Jovi?

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