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In Memoriam – January 2018

February 1st, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

The year started with the Grim Reaper reaping rampantly through the world of music. So much for my plans to cut down on the work this series creates for me…

African liberation hero

In African music, few names were bigger than that of Hugh Masekela, the South African jazz trumpeter and singer whose career spanned six decades. Masekela was one of the first African musicians to make a big impact in the US, particularly when his song Grazing In The Grass became a huge hit in 1968. Along with his fellow exile from apartheid and one-time wife, Miriam Makeba, Masekela not only helped pave the way for other African artists. They were also political activists against the racist regime that forced their exile. They worked for the cultural boycott of South Africa from within the industry, and succeeded. Back home, “Bra Hugh” was a legend not only for his music but also for his social leadership. His early mentor, the Rev Trevor Huddlestone, would have been proud. The priest, himself an anti-apartheid legend, gave Masekela his first trumpet — which he had received from Louis Armstrong!

The last of classic Motörhead

In the space of just over two years, all three members of the classic Motörhead line-up — the Ace of Spades era — have died. Drummer Phil Taylor went in November 2015, Lemmy a month later. And now guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke has been killed by death. Before joining Motörhead in 1976, Clarke had been a member of several bands, and put out a record in 1974 as a member of blues/prog rock band Curtis Knight Zeus. Clarke left Motörhead in 1982 — he blamed Taylor for having him forced out — at the height of the band’s success. The band had success after Fast Eddie left, but never as much as with him. Clarke went on to co-found heavy metal band Fastway.

France’s France for Luxembourg

There is something quite charming about some Eurovision Song Contest winners of the 1960s, and the 1965 Luxembourg winner by the appropriately-named French singer France Gall, Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (penned by Serge Gainsbourg, inspired by Beethoven), was one such song. Gall’s performance that night was off-key, causing her lover at the time, singer Claude Francois, to scream at her in a, let’s say, discouraging manner. The charm of the catchy song with its clever lyrics, and of France Gall herself evidently won over the juries. As the 1960s progressed, Gall evolved from pop puppet to psychedelic chanteuse, recording also some success on the German market.

The great soul producer

The producer Rick Hall’s FAME Studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, not only created a sound of his own but also helped build careers of such legends as Otis Redding, Clarence Carter, Wilson Picket, Candi Station, Duane Allman, Mac Davis and Leon Russell — and, above all, Aretha Franklin whom Hall turned from being a jazz crooner into a great soul legend when Atlantic began sending their artists to Muscle Shoals. Like his colleagues at Stax in Memphis, Hall employed musicians and produced with no regard for race. In the 1970s he still produced soul greats, but also the likes of Donny Osmond (and later Marie), Tom Jones, Wayne Newton and Paul Anka. Hall produced Clarence Carter’s Patches, which was originally recorded by the Chairmen of the Board, whose member Danny Woods also died this month.

The Pope’s alt.rock pal

Irish singer Dolores O’Riordan, frontwoman of The Cranberries, had many detractors who didn’t like her music, her yodelling, her often abrasive demeanour. But she also had big fans, many of whom say that her songs accompanied them in dark times. Last year O’Riordan revealed that she had been diagnosed as bipolar depressive, which might explain some of her excessive behaviour and also her unforthcoming nature in interviews. As a Catholic, she played for Pope Francis in 2013, met Pope John Paul II, and had a fan in Princess Diana. After her death at 46, in a hotel while she was in London to record, the Irish prime minister paid tribute to the singer who retained her Limerick accent while singing, even when she became an international star with The Cranberries.

Sex advice from a soul legend

It’s rather a shame that many people will remember Denise LaSalle for her 1985 novelty hit My Toot Toot, an inferior cover of Rockin’ Sydney’s hit. LaSalle was a great soul singer, as her Willie Mitchell-produced hit Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1971) showed, and a highly rated blues singer. She also had a wicked sense of humour: her 2000 song Lick It (Before You Stick It) is an instruction manual dedicated “to all the men out there that don’t seem to know how to keep their woman happy”.

Musician first, Holocaust survivor second

German jazz legend Coco Schumann discovered his love for music, especially swing, in Berlin in 1936. That was not good in 1930s Germany: not only did the Nazis not approve of jazz, but Schumann was Jewish, through his mother (his Christian father was a convert to Judaism). In 1943 Schumann was transported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, which the Nazis styled to the outside world as a ghetto were Jews were living in some comfort and exercising their culture. As such Schumann and fellow members of the Ghetto Swingers (!) were filmed playing swing for a propaganda film. Soon after that the musicians, including Schumann, were transported to Auschwitz where all but three were murdered. Schumann, who was forced to play music on Auschwitz’s death ramp, just about survived the Holocaust, unlike most of his family members. His parents survived: the father hid his wife, having declared her dead in a fire.  After the war, Schumann became the first German musician to play an electric guitar. Throughout his career, he insisted: “I’m a musician who was in a concentration camp; not a concentration camp survivor who plays music.” In 2012 his autobiography was turned into a stage musical.

The end of the Smith. Ah.

The problem with doing these write-ups — I was going to cut back on them; the Reaper had other ideas! — manifested itself with the death of Mark E. Smith, the head of The Fall. Smith was significant, influential and fascinating… and somebody about whose craft I’ve always been indifferent. I have to say something and I have nothing much to say about the music. Except that I found his tendency to end every line with an “ah” very irritating. Smith famously was a difficult kind of guy. But since his death, stories of his kindness have emerged. And Smith was a keen sender of Christmas cards, even posting them to his favourite football magazine, the independent When Saturday Comes. Plus he really hated the bigot and all-round disappointment Stephen Morrissey, formerly of (ironically) The Smiths, which is very much a good thing. On the other hand, he was not above assaulting women, which is very much a bad thing.

Oh unhappy day

With his song Oh Happy Day, Edwin Hawkins changed gospel music and the way gospel was perceived by followers of popular music. Hawkins was a pioneer in developing what is now called “contemporary gospel”, and Oh Happy Day — which was an old hymn given a new arrangement — made it fashionable to incorporate gospel sounds in pop. George Harrison said that he was inspired in writing My Sweet Lord not be He’s So Fine but by Oh Happy Day. And when one hears Billy Preston’s original recording of My Sweet Lord, Harrison’s claim sounds true.

You know the flute

Ray Thomas played what may be a contender for the most famous flute solo in rock, on The Moody Blues’ Nights In White Satin. The flute of Thomas, who co-founded the band, would become a common feature of many Moody Blues songs, a large number of which were written or co-written by him. Thomas was a multi-instrumentalist; he also played saxophone, percussions, keyboards and even the oboe, and reportedly composed songs on the glockenspiel.

Austin Powers’ spoken record

British actor Peter Wyngarde, apparently the template for Austin Powers, was not famous for his exploits in the arena of popular music. But he did release one album on RCA, on which Wyngarde’s spoken word recordings were set to music arrangements. It is said that RCA produced the 1970 LP as a tax write-off, imagining that nobody would buy it. But the album sold very quickly, become a cult item (it’s also quite good, certainly when compared to William Shatner’s similar record). RCA refused to press more copies, to Wyngarde’s understandable anger, and did not honour the three-record deal they had signed with the actor. Perhaps song titles like “Peter Wyngarde Commits Rape” diminished RCA’s enthusiasm.

The man who put Mel Brooks to music

Fans of Mel Brooks movies will note with sadness the passing of his favoured film score composer, John Morris, who arranged and conducted the soundtrack of Springtime For Hitler, wrote or co-wrote the music for Blazing Saddles — including the Oscar-nominated title track — and arranged and/or wrote the music for films like Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, To Be Or Not To Be and others. He also wrote the score for The Elephant Man, and wrote and/or arranged for other films such as Dirty Dancing and The Woman In Red. He also wrote the theme song for the TV series Coach.

A tragic story to start the year

The year began with an utterly depressing story. 1960s soul singer Betty Willis, now 76, had fallen on hard times. Being homeless, she was sleeping outdoors when a homeless man sexually attacked her. Willis screamed, whereupon the rapist beat and choked her. By the time people could pull him off Willis, she was dead. Willis began her singing career with a forgotten duet with a guy called Ray, but her debut solo single, the doo-wop style number Someday You’ll Need My Love, earned her some attention. In 1962 she took the lead vocals of the Brian Wilson-produced Rachel & The Revolvers. By the mid-60s she had reinvented herself as a deep soul singer, at one point being something of a protégé of Leon Russell. Apparently her younger sister was Carolyn Willis of The Honey Cone.

The Butter Queen

Occasionally this series may include record label owners or LP cover designers, but it might stretch things a little to include groupies. But if the Rolling Stones mentioned her name in song, and Led Zeppelin dedicated Dazed And Confused to her on several bootleg concerts, then it seems right to mark the death of Barbara Cope, a.k.a. The Butter Queen (because she always carried butter with her as a lubricant). She featured prominently in the documentary on Joe Cocker’s 1970 tour, and is namechecked on the Stones’ Gimme Shelter film (and, in part, inspired the film Almost Famous). David Cassidy recalled in his autobiography that his band and crew “just gasped when they heard that Barbara the Butter Queen was actually coming to do them all”.  The alumna of a school named Bryan Adams High (!) claimed to have slept with 2,000 musicians until her retirement from groupie life in 1972 when she was 21 or 22 (you do the math). Cope died at 67 in a house fire.

One of music’s January dead is not being included; how do you list a convicted child porn fiends who were better known as actors? I’m not sure what I will do when Gary Glitter dies…

Betty Willis, 76, soul singer, murdered on Jan. 1
Betty Willis – Someday You’ll Need My Love (1960)
Rachel & The Revolvers – The Revo-Lution (1962, on lead vocals)
Betty Willis – Ain’t Gonna Do You No Good (1968)

Rick Hall, 85, producer, songwriter, owner of FAME Studios, on Jan. 2
Arthur Alexander – You Better Move On (1961, as producer)
Clarence Carter – Slip Away (1968, as producer)
Laura Lee – Another Man’s Woman (1972, as producer & arranger)
Mac Davis – Rock n’ Roll (I Gave You The Best Years Of My Life) (174, as producer)

Ray Thomas, 76, songwriter, co-founder of The Moody Blues, on Jan. 4
The Moody Blues – Something You’ve Got (1965)
The Moody Blues – For My Lady (1972, also as songwriter)
Ray Thomas – Keep On Searching (1976)

Jerry Van Dyke, 86, comedian and Dick’s brother, occasional singer, on Jan. 5
Jerry Van Dyke – I Wanna Say Hello (1964)

Chris Tsangarides, 61, British producer, on Jan. 6
Gary Moore – Parisienne Walkways (1978, as co-producer, engineer)

France Gall, 70, French singer, on Jan. 7
France Gall – Poupée De Cire Poupée De Son (1965)
France Gall – Der Computer Nr. 3 (1968)
France Gall – La déclaration d’amour (1974)

Buster Stiggs, 63, drummer of New Zealand bands Suburban Reptiles, The Swingers, on Jan. 7

Denise LaSalle, 78, soul and blues singer, on Jan. 8
Denise LaSalle – Trapped By A Thing Called Love (1972)
Denise LaSalle – Under The Influence (1978)
Denise LaSalle – Lick It (Before You Stick It) (2000)

Moriss Taylor, 93, country singer and TV personality, on Jan. 8

‘Fast’ Eddie Clarke, 67, British heavy metal guitarist, on Jan. 10
Curtis Knight Zeus – The Confession (1974, also as co-writer)
Motörhead – Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers (1980, also as co-lead singer)
Motörhead – Ace Of Spades (live) (1981)
Fastway – Say What You Will (1983)

Alfred Morris III, 60, guitarist of heavy metal band Iron Man, on Jan. 10

Françoise Dorin, 89, French songwriter and actress, on Jan. 12
Charles Aznavour – Que c’est triste Venise (1964, as co-writer)

Danny Woods, 73, co-founder of soul group Chairmen of the Board, on January 13
Danny Woods – 90 Days In The County Jail (1967)
Chairmen Of The Board – Pay To The Piper (1970)

Barbara Cope, 67, Rock groupie, on Jan. 14
Rolling Stones – Rip This Joint (1972, “…’Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen”)

Marlene VerPlanck, 84, jazz singer, on Jan. 14
Marlene VerPlanck – If I Love Again (1955)

Peter Wyngarde, 90, British actor and recording artist, on Jan. 15
Peter Wyngarde – Neville Thumbcatch (1968)

Edwin Hawkins, 74, American gospel musician, on Jan. 15
The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Oh Happy Day (1967)
Melanie with The Edwin Hawkins Singers – Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) (1970)

Dolores O’Riordan, 46, singer of Irish band The Cranberries, on Jan. 15
The Cranberries – Linger (1992)
The Cranberries – Zombie (Unplugged) (1996)

Micki Varro, 75, actress and jazz singer, on Jan. 16

Dave Holland, 69, English heavy metal drummer (Judas Priest, Trapeze) on Jan. 16
Judas Priest – Breaking The Law (1980)

Nathan Jatcko, 31, keyboardist of rock band Pavlov’s Dog (2015-18), on Jan. 17

Christian Burchard, 71, co-founder of Krautrock collective Embryo, on Jan. 17
Embryo – Tausendfüßler (1971, on drums, piano and leslie)

Javiera Muñoz, 40, Swedish singer, on Jan. 18

Steve Nisbett, 69, drummer of British reggae band Steel Pulse, on Jan. 18
Steel Pulse – Can’t Stand It (1989)

Fredo Santana, 27, rapper, on Jan. 19

Jim Rodford, 76, English bassist (Argent, The Kinks), on Jan. 20
Argent – God Gave Rock And Roll To You (1973)
The Kinks – Come Dancin’ (1982)

Mario Guccio, 64, singer of Belgian prog-rock band Machiavel, on Jan. 20
Machiavel – Fly (1980)

Terry Evans, 80, R&B and blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Jan. 20
Terry Evans & Group – Just ‘Cause (1963)
Pops Staples – Love Is A Precious Things (1992, as writer)

Robert Arthur, 89, composer and conductor (Ed Sullivan Show), on Jan. 21

Preston Shannon, 70, blues singer, guitarist and songwriter, on Jan. 22
Preston Shannon – Midnight In Memphis (1996)

Billy Hancock, 71, Rockabilly singer, songwriter and musician, on Jan. 22
Billy Hancock – All The Cats Join In (1985)

Hugh Masekela, 78, South African jazz trumpeter, on Jan. 23
The Jazz Epistles – Carols Drive (1960)
Hugh Masekela – Grazing In The Grass (1868)
Hugh Masekela – The Boy’s Doin’ It (1975)
Hugh Masekela – Bring Him Back Home (1987, live)

John Morris, 91, film composer, on Jan. 24
The Producers – Springtime for Hitler (1968, as arranger & conductor)
Frankie Laine – Blazing Saddles (1974, as co-writer)

Lari White, 52, country singer, on Jan. 23
Lari White – Now I Know (1994)

Mark E. Smith, 60, English songwriter, singer and leader of The Fall, on Jan. 24
The Fall – Fantastic Life (1981)
The Fall – Immortality (1992)
The Fall – Ride Away (2005)

Fred Bridges, 79, soul musician and producer, announced Jan. 25
The Brothers Of Soul – Dream (1971)

Tommy Banks, 81, Canadian jazz pianist, composer and politician, on Jan. 25

Buzz Clifford, 76, American singer and songwriter, on Jan. 26
Buzz Clifford – Baby Sittin’ Boogie (1961)

Floyd Miles, 74, blues musician and singer, on Jan. 26
Floyd Miles feat. Gregg Allman – Spending Christmas With The Blues (1996)

Grant Fell, 56, bassist of New Zealand band Headless Chickens, on Jan. 27

Neil Harris, 63, guitarist of English punk band Sham 69 (1975-77), on Jan. 28

Coco Schumann, 93, German jazz musician, on Jan. 28
Amiga Star Band – Honeysuckle Rose (1948, on electric guitar)
Helmut Zacharias – Deep Purple (1976, on guitar)

Eddie Shaw, 80, blues saxophonist, arranger and bandleader, on Jan. 29
Eddie Shaw – Blues Dues (1982)

Del Delker, 93, gospel singer, on Jan. 31

Leah LaBelle, 31, Canadian-born pop singer, in car crash on Jan. 31

GET IT!
(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    February 1st, 2018 at 21:00 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Col
    February 1st, 2018 at 22:21 | #2

    Amd – I, for one, would hate to see you give up this segment. I like to keep track of the artists who have left this world and your site is my main site for doing just that. I enjoy your writeups and I’m always surprised by a number of your entries. On that note – I can’t believe that Lari White died! I hadn’t heard anything about her illness. Mate – keep u[p the good work – always much appreciated.

  3. halfhearteddude
    February 1st, 2018 at 23:04 | #3

    Thanks for the kind words, Col. The In Memoriams are labour-intensive, but I feel compelled to do them…

  4. dogbreath
    February 2nd, 2018 at 18:54 | #4

    Another month, another crop of musicians gone. I mourned the passing of the rock guys, Clarke, Thomas, O’Riordan, Holland & Rodford but I missed hearing about the death of Neil Harris; I used to jump around a lot to Sham 69 stuff! Grateful thanks as always for compiling the monthly list to keep us up to date with who isn’t anymore, anymore. Cheers!

  5. Rhodb
    February 2nd, 2018 at 22:15 | #5

    Thanks Amd
    I feel the same as Col

    Great work each month to keep us informed.

    Regards

    Rhodb

  6. JensM
    February 6th, 2018 at 12:09 | #6

    I concur. Great write up, amd.

    Sad, but necessary to hear/read the individual stories behind the faces.

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