Home > In Memoriam > In Memoriam – February 2018

In Memoriam – February 2018

After last month’s mayhem, the Reaper took it a little easier in February — but still managed to rob us of a few legends. Oddly enough, two profiled deaths had a connection to songs featuring the words Rolling Stone.

Son of a Rollin’ Stone

With the death Dennis Edwards, all the leads on Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone are now dead. Only bass Otis Williams is still alive, but all he did on the song was do the “And Mama” bits. Indeed, of all eight members of the two legendary Temptations line-ups — 1960s and early-to mid-’70s— only Otis Williams is now still alive. Dennis Edwards was a more than able replacement for the great David Ruffin; his gruffer voice lent itself especially to the funkier and more psychedelic-flavoured songs, such as Cloud Nine. He did less crooning than Ruffin, with others taking the lead on songs like Just My Imagination. On Papa Was A Rolling Stone, producer Norman Whitfield played mind games with Edwards to coax out of him the right delivery for the opening, “it was the third of September…’cause that was the day my Daddy died.” The irony was that Edwards father had in fact died on a September 3, a coincidence which nevertheless left the singer with some explaining to do to Mother Edwards. (Also see the Papa Was A Rolling Stone song swarm).

Pioneer of hip hop

The etymology of the term “hip hop” has two versions; one has it that Lovebug Starski invented the term in the 1970s, when he was a DJ in the legendary Disco Fever club in New York and the genre was still known as Disco Rap. According to Grandmaster Flash, who in the 1970s was already a legendary DJ at Disco Fever, Starski was the first to both DJ and rap at the same time; a skill that would become standard. It is said that Sylvia Robinson, the singer who founded the Sugar Hill label, got the idea to release rap records when she heard Starski perform at a party. Starski was one of the early pioneers of rap, though internationally his big hit came later, with something of a novelty number, Amityville (House On The Hill), in 1986. It was his recording swansong. A year later, the British house act M/A/R/R/S sampled his 1980 track Positive Life to have a UK #1 with Pump Up The Volume. Starski, whose real name was Kevin Smith, died of a heart attack at 57.

The girl band star

When The Crystals recorded their first hit, There’s No Other (Like My Baby), three of the girls were still wearing their prom dresses, having come straight from the school’s dance to the studio. One of them was that night’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, who has died at 76. Alston also took lead on The Crystals’ big breakthrough hit, Uptown. She sang lead with great concern on the controversial and widely disowned He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss). Because of her shyness, she later ceded the frontwoman duties to La La Brooks (and, at one point, all the Crystals had to make way for The Blossoms, with Darlene Love, when Phil Spector released He’s A Rebel under the Crystals moniker). On the mega hits And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron, Alston was on backing vocals. By 1968, it was all over for The Crystals.

Crooning with the mob

One fine day, crooner Vic Damone (born Vito Rocco Farinola) found himself hanging upside down a window, held up only by the hands of a mafioso. Apparently Damone had been engaged to the gangster’s daughter but dumped her after she was rude to his mother. The spurned father-in-law relented and Damone went on to live to the ripe age of 89. A singer blessed with an extraordinary voice, he had a fan in Frank Sinatra, who’d be available for assistance when Damone had mob problems. Out of respect to Sinatra, Damone turned down the role of Johnny Fontane in The Godfather.

The funky drummer

The series on session musicians has featured some great drummers — including Hal Blaine, Steve Gadd, Bernie Purdie, and Bobby KeysLeon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler wouldn’t be out of place in that company. It’s especially with the late Ricky Lawson, a fellow drummer, that his paths frequently crossed. Chancler’s most famous performance is on Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean; he also played on Baby Be Mine, PYT (Pretty Young Thing) and I Just Can’t Stop Loving You. His resumé also included songs like Joe Cocker’s Up Where We Belong, Donna Summer’s State Of Independence, Bloodstone’s Go On And Cry, Lionel Richie’s My Love and The Dazz Band’s Let It Whip (which he also co-wrote). Chancler made his drumming debut on record at the age of 16 with the Harold Johnson Sextet.; he was still a teenager when he drummed on stage with Miles Davis. He later drummed for Santana, Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Frank Sinatra and Kenny Rogers, and for some of the biggest names in soul and jazz, including George Duke, Stanley Clarke, The Crusaders, Weather Report, Jean-Luc Ponty, Patti LaBelle, The O’Jays, Patrice Rushen, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Minnie Riperton, Syreeta, George Benson, DeBarge, Letta Mbulu, Herbie Hancock, Maynard Ferguson, James Ingram, Phyllis Hyman, The Whispers, Erykah Badu and others.

Soul for Lennon

In British soul music, The Real Thing were among the pioneers even before they had breakthrough hits with You To Me Are Everything and Can’t By Without You in 1976. The core of the group were the three vocalists, the brothers Chris and Eddy Amoo and Dave Smith, and they were still touring when Eddy Amoo suddenly died in Australia. Before they were The Real Thing, they were a rock & roll band called The Champs of whom fellow Liverpudlian John Lennon was a fan. The Real Thing built a reputation without having much commercial success in the early ‘70s. When Eddy joined the band, the hits started coming, including the disco classic Can You Feel The Force, which featured on Any Major Disco Vol. 4.

Drum it fucking loud

Drummer Mickey Jones was witness to one of rock music’s most famous moments. In 1966 the former drummer for Johnny Rivers and Trini Lopez was invited to replace Levon Helms on the drums in Bob Dylan’s backing band on a tour of Europe. Which means he was on stage when that audience member in Manchester, England, shouted “Judas” at Dylan. Jones doubtless took Dylan’s instruction seriously to play the next song, Like A Rolling Stone, “fucking loud” (see the Like A Rolling Stone songswarm). Jones later joined Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, retiring from music in 1976 to concentrate on acting, which led to a bit-part on the ‘90s sitcom Home Improvements. More lately he had a recurrent role as doper-dealer Rodney “Hot Rod” Dunham in the superb series Justified.

Fallen through the cracks

One death that passed me by completely in January was that of fusion guitarist Wilbert Longmire. He seems to have fallen through the cracks: despite releasing six albums between 1969 and 1980 and meriting a “Best Of…” in 1981 (on Bob James’ Tappan Zee label), he has no Wikipedia entry, and biographies on him are scarce on the ground. Early in his career he backed Jean-Luc Ponty on a couple of albums, but his career was stalling. His friendship with fellow guitarist George Benson brought him to James’ attention in the mid-’70s, and things started to take off. Produced by James, he created a jazz-funk classic in 1978’s Black Is The Color (featuring an impressive line-up of Eric Gale, David Sanborn, Harvey Mason and Richard Tee), which prefigured acid jazz. His 1979 track Dianne’s Dilemma (with Idris Muhammad on drums, Michael Brecker on sax, Richard Tee on piano, Hugh McCracken on harmonica, and James on keyboard) is perhaps the best Bob James track which the composer never recorded himself. After Tappan Zee stopped recording other artists than Bob James, there were no more LPs for Longmire though he remained a fixture on Cincinnati’s music circuit.

And, yes, Shocking Blue’s 1969 track Love Buzz, included here, is the original of the Nirvana debut single.


Wilbert Thomas Longmire, 77, jazz-fusion guitarist, on Jan. 3
Wilbert Longmire – Black Is The Color (1978)
Wilbert Longmire – Dianne’s Dilemma (1979)

Dennis Edwards, 74, soul singer (The Temptations), on Feb. 1
The Temptations – War (1970)
The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone (live, 1973)
Dennis Edwards feat. Siedah Garrett – Don’t Look Any Further (1984)
The Temptations – I Wonder Who She’s Seeing Now (1987)

Leon ‘Ndugu’ Chancler, 65, session drummer, on Feb. 3
Harold Johnson Sextet – We’re A Winner (1968, on drums)
Santana – Europa (1976, on drums)
Ramsey Lewis – Whisper Zone (1980, on drums)
Michael Jackson – Baby Be Mine (1982, on drums)

Zeno Roth, 61, German guitarist and songwriter, on Feb. 5
Zeno Roth – Hard Beat (2005)

Michael White, 58, author and musician, on Feb. 6
Colour Me Pop – The Girl Who Shares My Shirts (1983)

Rick Depofi, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and producer, on Feb. 6
The Wreckers – Way Back Home (2006, as co-producer, and on keyboards, percussions)

John Perry Barlow, 70, lyricist for the Grateful Dead and rights activist, on Feb. 6
Bob Weir – Black-Throated Wind (1972, as co-writer)
The Grateful Dead – The Music Never Stopped (1975, as co-writer)

Pat Torpey, 64, drummer of rock band Mr. Big, on Feb. 7
Mr. Big – Take Cover (1996)

Mickey Jones, 76, drummer and actor, on Feb. 7
Johnny Rivers – Secret Agent Man (1966)
Bob Dylan – Like A Rolling Stone (Judas version, 1966)
The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (1968)

Algia Mae Hinton, 88, blues singer and guitarist, on Feb. 8
Algia Mae Hinton – Going Down This Road (1996, also as writer)

Lovebug Starski, 57, rapper and DJ, on Feb. 8
Little Starsky – Gangster Rock (1979)
Lovebug Starski & The Harlem World Crew – Positive Life (1980)
Lovebug Starski – Amityville (House On The Hill) (1986)

Ebony Reigns, 20, Ghanaian Afrobeat singer, in traffic accident on Feb. 8
Ebony Reigns – Kupe (2016)

Jóhann Jóhannsson, 48, Icelandic film composer, on Feb. 9
Jóhann Jóhannsson – The Sun’s Gone Dim And The Sky’s Turned Black (2006)

Craig MacGregor, 68, bassist of rock band Foghat, on Feb. 9
Foghat – Third Time Lucky (First Time I Was A Fool) (1979)

Tom Rapp, 70, singer-songwriter with folk-rock band Pearls Before Swine, on Feb. 11
Pearls Before Swine – Rocket Man (1970)
Tom Rapp – Fourth Day Of July (1972)

Vic Damone, 89, crooner, on Feb. 11
Vic Damone – You’re Breaking My Heart (1949)
Vic Damone – On The Street Where You Live (1956)
Vic Damone – The Glory Of Love (1968)

Daryle Singletary, 46, country singer, on Feb. 12
Daryle Singletary – Amen Kind Of Love (1996)

Scott Boyer, 70, songwriter and musician, on Feb. 13
Gregg Allman – All My Friends (1973, as writer & on guitars)

Klaasje van der Wal, 69, bassist of Dutch band Shocking Blue, on Feb. 13
Shocking Blue – Love Buzz (1969)
Shocking Blue – Venus (1969)

Al Garner, 88, British jazz musician, on Feb. 14

Barbara Alston, 74, singer with The Crystals, on Feb. 16
The Crystals – There’s No Other Like My Baby (1961, on lead vocals)
The Crystals – Uptown (1962, on lead vocals)

Little Sammy Davis, 89, blues singer-songwriter, on Feb. 16

Boyd Jarvis, 59, hip hop, house, R&B remixer, producer, musician, songwriter, on Feb. 16
Boyd Jarvis – In The Jungle (1991)

Heiner Stadler, 75, German-born jazz musician, composer, producer, on Feb. 18

Didier Lockwood, 62, French jazz violinist with prog/fusion band Magma, on Feb. 18
Magma – Lïhns (1975)

Stormin MC, 34, English grime musician, on Feb. 19

Norm Rogers, 61, drummer of alt.country band The Jayhawks (1984-88), on Feb. 19
The Jayhawks – I’m Not In Prison (1986)

Nanette Fabray, 97, musical actress and singer, on Feb. 22
Jack Buchanan, Fred Astaire, Nanette Fabray & Oscar Levant – That’s Entertainment (1953)

Eddie Amoo, 74, singer and guitarist with English soul group The Real Thing, on Feb. 23
The Chants – I Don’t Care (1963, as member and writer)
The Real Thing – Lovin’ You Is Like A Dream (1977)
The Real Thing – You To Me Are Everything (Decade Mix) (1986)

Wim Claes, 56, Belgian composer, songwriter and producer, on Feb. 24

James ‘Nick’ Nixon, 76, blues and gospel singer, on Feb. 28

Harvey Schmidt, 88, stage musicals writer and producer, on Feb. 28
Bobby Darin – Try To Remember (1966, as co-writer)

(PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Be Sociable, Share!
Categories: In Memoriam Tags:
  1. halfhearteddude
    March 6th, 2018 at 06:57 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Rhodb
    March 9th, 2018 at 22:00 | #2

    Thanks Amd

    Another well put together share. Always appreciate your efforts



  3. J. Loslo
    March 13th, 2018 at 18:54 | #3

    The In Memoriam posts are always educational. Thanks for doing them.

  4. dogbreath
    March 15th, 2018 at 00:17 | #4

    Your monthly round-up rarely fails to stir the memory cells. Vic Damone was a family favourite;
    girlfriends loved the Temptations; I was into Shocking Blue and Foghat. Nice job as always putting it all together for us. Cheers!

  1. No trackbacks yet.