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In Memoriam – April 2018

The soul writer

A close collaborator with the legendary Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting and production team, at Motown and on their Invictus label, Ron Dunbar counted among his writing credits some of the greatest soul classics of the early 1970s: Clarence Carter’s hit Patches, Freda Payne’s Band Of Gold (which happened to play at a restaurant where I lunched the day after his death), the Chairmen of the Board’s Give Me Just A Little More Time… The sorry twist is that Lamont Dozier later claimed that it was Brian Holland who write the latter two tracks, but Dunbar was credited because Holland couldn’t be, for legal reasons. Also a prolific producer and A&R man, Dunbar attributed his songwriting success — much of it with the Chairmen’s General Johnson — to the great mentorship of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Even if Dozier was talking the truth, Dunbar’s co-writing credits include some other stone-cold classics, including the Flaming Embers’ Westbound #9, and Pay To The Piper and Dangling On A String for the Chairmen of the Board (who also recorded the original of Patches, and whose co-founder Danny Woods died in January). He later collaborated also with George Clinton and his P-Funk collective. In the 1990s he returned to work with the Holland company.

The jazz pioneer

Just weeks after his one-time collaborator and bassist Buell Neidlinger died, jazz pioneer and classically-trained pianist Cecil Taylor passed away at 89. In the 1950s they were at the vanguard of introducing a new sound in improvisational jazz, an avant-garde a form which would become known as free jazz. It’s fair to say that Taylor’s music, certainly after the 1950s, was not aimed at a mainstream, but it had great appeal for the few who dig the atonal extemporisations of free jazz, and of immense interest to musicologists.

Big in Sweden

By all accounts, Lill-Babs (born Barbro Margareta Svensson, her moniker is equivalent to Little Barbie) was one of Sweden’s biggest stats, and someone who helped define that country’s pop culture in the 1960s. At 23 she represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest with April April, coming 14th out of 16 contestants, but by then she was already a star, having shot to prominence in 1958 with the song Är du kär i mej ännu Klas-Göran?, which sounds like something I might say at the end of a drunk night out. But her Eurovision appearance helped her launch a career in the much bigger market of West-Germany, where she also acted in some films. In 1963, she was the star turn on a Swedish TV show at which the not yet well-known English beat combo The Beatles appeared. Apparently they asked Lill-Babs for her autograph. The singer remained in the limelight especially on Swedish TV, for most of the rest of her life. When she died, Swedish TV stations changed their programming to pay tribute to Lill-Babs.

The country scion

He was the son of a country great, the bluegrass pioneer Earl Scruggs, but Randy Scruggs made his mark on the genre himself, as a songwriter, producer and guitarist, picking up four Grammys along the way, and receiving the CMA Musician of the Year award three times (1999, 2003, 2006). He wrote several country hits, including three of Earl Thomas Conley’s four consecutive chart toppers in the 1983. He produced acts like Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm and Alison Krauss. And as a guitarist he backed acts such as Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, George Strait, Randy Travis, Jones, Ricky Skaggs, Townes van Zandt, Lisa Loeb, Miranda Lambert, Dixie Chicks and Wilco.

Original Fantine

Before Les Misérables was a phenomenal musical, it was a French concept album based on Victor Hugo’s book. One of the many showstoppers in the musical is Fantine’s I Dreamed A Dream (which won Anne Hathaway an Oscar). On the original album the song was titled J’Avais Rêvé d’une Autre Vie and was sung by Rose Laurens, who has died at 65. Laurens gained fame throughout Europe for her 1982 hit Africa. A singer-songwriter, she continued to record regularly until 2015.

Almost a Beatle

An old pal of The Beatles in their Hamburg days, singer and keyboardist Roy Young took part in their very first recording, the album they made with Tony Sheridan, including the single My Bonnie, which brought the John, Paul, George and Pete to Brian Epstein’s attention. It is even said that Epstein invited Young to join The Beatles, but the singer had a gig at the Star Club which he didn’t want to put at risk by joining the yet-to-be signed band (and thereby he avoided the experience of being rejected by Decca). Young, who had recorded already in 1959, later joined an Epstein-managed band, Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers (for whom McCartney did production work, including on the Beatles cover featured here), and later backed David Bowie on Sound And Vision and Low, as well as putting out a few records himself.

 

Audrey Morris, 89, jazz singer and pianist, on April 1

Ron Dunbar, 77, soul songwriter, on April 3
Chairmen Of The Board – (You’ve Got Me) Dangling On A String (1970, as co-writer)
Honey Cone – Sunday Morning People (1971, as co-writer, executive producer)
Dusty Springfield – Crumbs Off The Table (1972, as co-writer)
Parliament – Agony Of De Feet (1980, as co-writer)

Lill-Babs, 80, Swedish singer and actress, on April 3
Lill-Babs – April, april (1961)

Cecil Taylor, 89, pioneering free jazz pianist and poet, on April 5
Cecil Taylor – African Violets (1959)

Ali Zainab Nielsen, 29, Nigerian singer, suspected homicide on April 5

Jacques Higelin, 77, French pop singer, on April 6
Jacques Higelin – Je suis mort qui, qui dit mieux (1971)

Laura Lee Perkins, 78, rockabilly singer, on April 6
Laura Lee Perkins – Don’t Wait Up (1958)

Nathan Davis, 81, jazz saxophonist, on April 8
Nathan Davis – The Flute In The Blues (1965)

Liam Devally, 85, Irish singer and TV presenter, on April 9

Yvonne Staples, 80, baritone singer with The Staple Singers, on April 10
The Staple Singers – Going Away (1959)
The Staple Singers – I’ll Take You There (1972)

Timmy Matley, 36, lead singer of Irish vocal group The Overtones, on April 11
The Overtones – Gambling Man (2010)

David Mullaney, 86, member of ‘70s electronic group Hot Butter, on April 12
Hot Butter – Popcorn (1972)

Deborah Coleman, 61, blues musician, on April 12
Deborah Coleman – I’m A Woman (2000)

Stan Reynolds, 92, British jazz musician, on April 14
The Beatles – Martha My Dear (1968, trumpet solo)

Jim Caine, 91, British jazz pianist, radio presenter, on April 16

Dona Ivone Lara, 97, Brazilian samba singer and composer, on April 16

Randy Scruggs, 64, country guitarist, producer, songwriter, on April 17
Earl Thomas Conley – Angel In Disguise (1983, as writer)
Alison Krauss – When You Say Nothing At All (1995, as producer)
Randy Scruggs with John Prine – City Of New Orleans (1998)
Johnny Cash – The Man Comes Around (2002, on guitar)

Big Tom (McBride), 81, Irish country singer, on April 17
Big Tom And The Mainliners – Life To Go (1973)

Peter Guidi, 68, Italian jazz saxophonist and flutist, on April 17

Stuart Colman, 73, English producer, musician and broadcaster, on April 19
Flying Machine – Smile A Little Smile For Me (1966, as member on bass)
Shakin’ Stevens – This Ole House (1980, as producer and on bass)

Mr. Yosie Locote, 42, Mexican rapper, shot dead on April 19

Avicii, 28, Swedish house musician, producer and DJ, on April 20
Avicil – Wake Me Up (2013)

Robbee Mariano, 47, bassist of German pop-band Söhne Mannheims, on April 20

Brian Henry Hooper, 55, bassist of Australian alt.rock band Beasts of Bourbon, on April 20
Beasts Of Bourbon – Chase The Dragon (1991)

Bob Dorough, 94, jazz musician,  writer of US edu-series Schoolhouse Rock, on April 23
Bob Dorough – Three Is A Magic Number (1973)

Alain Milhaud, 87, Swiss producer and manager, on April 24
Los Bravos – Black Is Black (1966, as producer)
Pop-Tops – Mamy Blue (1971, as producer)

Paul Gray, 54, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on April 24
Wa Wa Nee – Stimulation (1985, on vocals and keyboards)

Charles Neville, 79, saxophonist of The Neville Brothers, on April 26
The Neville Brothers – In The Still Of The Night (1990)

Roy Young, 81, British rock & roll singer and pianist, on April 27
Roy Young – Hey Little Girl (1959)
Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers – Got To Get You Into My Life (1966, as member)
David Bowie – Be My Wife (1977, on piano)

Roberto Angleró, 88, Puerto Rican composer and singer, on April 28

Rose Laurens, 65, French singer and songwriter, on April 30
Rose Laurens – J’Avais Rêvé d’une Autre Vie (1980)
Rose Laurens – Africa (1982)

Tim Calvert, 52, guitarist of metal bands Nevermore, Forbidden, on April 30

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(PW in comments)

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  1. Stinky
    May 3rd, 2018 at 17:57 | #1

    Many thanks! – Stinky

  2. Philippe from France
    May 3rd, 2018 at 21:33 | #2

    In France TV stations changed their programs for the death of Jacques Higelin (who I must say was a kind of legend since the sixties), but nobody mentioned Rose Laurens’s death, I wouldn’t have known without you ; so thanks

  3. halfhearteddude
    May 4th, 2018 at 15:43 | #3

    I was going to write about Higelin, whose music (in as far as I know much of it) I like, and whose politics seemed to have been good. But, well, I didn’t…

  4. Rhodb
    May 5th, 2018 at 00:41 | #4

    Thanks Amd

    Great work once again. I do not know a vast majority of these artists but your post makes me investigate a little deeper

    Regards
    Rhodb

  5. Anders Franzén
    May 5th, 2018 at 14:55 | #5

    Lill-Babs tune translates to “Are You Still In Love With Me, Klas-Göran?” Lill-Babs adopts the role of a girl with a funny accent, who has been utterly fooled by romance scammer Klas-Göran (Claus George), who took all her money and moved to the US.
    The song was written by Stikkan Andersson, best known as the manager of ABBA.

    The death of Avicii was almost even bigger news, than Lill-Babs, here in Sweden. I like Hey Brother, call it a “guilty pleasure” if you like.

  6. J. Loslo
    May 6th, 2018 at 22:27 | #6

    Thanks for these. That Pop-Tops number is… strangely compelling.

  7. halfhearteddude
    May 8th, 2018 at 15:34 | #7

    For the kind of music he made, I quite liked Avicii.

  8. Hugh Candyside
    May 8th, 2018 at 21:32 | #8

    Thanks again, Dude. I appreciate your fine work here.
    I’d like to expand on Bob Dorough. The Schoolhouse Rock stuff always leads in the American obits, and I’m sure it provided him a nice income in his recent years, but he was quite influential back in the 1950s and 60s as a hipster vocalist, sort of a be-boppier Mose Allison, and he provided occasional vocal support to Miles Davis, who never really performed with a vocalist.
    Also Alain Milhaud was the original manager Los Bravos and produced their early stuff in Spain, I believe, but Black Is Black was produced by Ivor Raymonde after they went to England, seeking an English language hit. Great hearing it again, though.
    Keep up the good work.

  9. halfhearteddude
    May 10th, 2018 at 14:43 | #9

    Milhaud is credited as “Associate Producer” on the album. Raymonde is indeed the producer proper.

    Thanks for the info Bob Dorough… and your encouragement.

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