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In Memoriam – August 2018

September 4th, 2018 Leave a comment Go to comments

This was one of those months: two or three obviously notable deaths, and a bunch of others that deserve our attention — including one that was made public only after five months! Spare a thought for the antipodean alt-rock band Beasts of Bourbon, who lost their second member this year.

The soul legend

By now nothing more needs to be said about Aretha Franklin. Other than to note that her screen husband in The Blues Brothers, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, died just two months before Aretha. Think about that! This corner of the Internets marked her death with a mix of cover versions recorded by Aretha. And, to give you your money’s worth, and because I’m a man who makes lists for fun, I’ll undertake the impossible task of compiling a Top 5 of Aretha Franklin songs: 1. I Say A Little Prayer   2. Rock Steady    3.  Baby, I Love You   4. Something He Can Feel   5. Daydreaming. What’s your Top 5?

 

The Funky Brother

We had to cut by one the list of the few surviving Funk Brothers, the legendary collective of session musicians on all those great Motown classics, with the death of guitarist EddieChank” Willis. It’s not always easy knowing exactly on which Funk Brother played on which record, but we know that Willis played on tracks like You Keep Me Hanging On, Where Did Our Love Go, You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me, I Second That Emotion, My Guy, Please Mr. Postman, Shotgun, Roadrunner, and many hits by Marvin Gaye (from Can I Get A Witness to I Heard It Through The Grapevine and Let’s Get It On) and The Temptations. For all he did to build up Motown, he said the label didn’t take care of him and his colleagues when they encountered poverty. Benefit concerts in 2015 helped Willis out when he lost his home and guitars.

 

Freebird!

Had Ronnie van Zant not annoyed him, Ed King might have been in the plane crash that killed his successor as guitarist in Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1977. Instead, King had left the group in 1975. As the only non-Southerner in the band, the Californian always felt like an outsider; ironically, he co-wrote their Southern anthem Sweet Home Alabama (with the Floridans van Zant and Gary Rossington). It’s King who counts in the song, and gives the “woo” after the first chorus — apart from playing that great lead guitar. King rejoined Skynyrd in 1987, leaving in 1996 due to health problems.

 

Singer behind a curtain

Almost unnoticed, the singer Jeanie Greene left us. You’ll have heard her singing backing vocals on several Elvis records, most notably In The Ghetto. Before that, as a teenager, she recorded on Elvis’ old label, Sun Records, under her birth name, Mary Johnson. She released a couple of singles and an album under her assumed name, and did backing vocals on many Muscle Shoals recordings by the likes of Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, Cher, Albert King, ZZ Hill, Southern Comfort, Boz Scaggs and Willie Nelson. Greene was also a songwriter for King and Sledge. Backing Percy Sledge on his tour of South Africa in 1970, where he played to segregated audiences, she had to sing behind a curtain at black venues, so that the patrons would not see a white woman being in the service of a black man.

The punk pioneer

Before Debbie Harry was the frontwoman of Blondie and Chris Stein her partner in crime, they cut their punkish teeth in Elda and The Stillettoes. The band’s founder and leader, Elda Stiletto, has died at 68. The band made some waves in New York’s club scene but broke up on the cusp of success, splitting in 1974 when only the female members were offered a recording contract. The group reformed in 1976, obviously without Harry and Stein, but soon split again.

 

A brave woman

I may have no interest in the music of occult trash metal band Huntress, but I salute the late lead singer Jill Janus for her engagement on issues of mental health, speaking openly about her own struggles with bipolar depression, schizophrenia and other diseases which claimed her in the end. It is by destigmatising mental health that those who suffer from it are encouraged to seek the necessary help. And if that help does not work, and a person dies from their disease by the route of suicide, then that too must be destigmatised. Jill Janus was immensely brave to speak about her mental health struggles, and did those who share her struggles a huge service.

 

The football jinx

In the Eurovision Song Contest, English songwriter/producer Tony Hiller was winner, having conjured Brotherhood of Man’s Save Your Kisses For Me, and their other two #1s, Angelo and the deplorable Figaro. But you really didn’t want him to write the FA Cup final records for your team. He contributed to that particular genre in the service of Manchester United (1976), FC Everton (1985), Liverpool (1986), Crystal Palace (1990) and Chelsea (1994). Other than Liverpool, all of them lost – ironically all against the first team Hiller jinxed.

 

Mrs The Godfather

How, in this day and age, does the death of a singer and actress who has played in Oscar-winning movies, go unnoticed for nearly five months? Yet so it was with Morgana King, whose death at 87 in March became public only in mid-August. Blessed with a four-octave contralto, Morgana was a respected jazz singer who recorded many albums, even into the 1990s. But her greater claim to fame was as an occasional actress. She appeared in five films; two of them stone-cold classics: The Godfather and The Godfather II, in which she played Vito Corleone’s wife Carmela — and got to sing a song in the wedding scene.

 

Aretha Franklin performing Rock Steady on Soul Train. From my series of stills from Soul Train.

 

Morgana King, 87, jazz singer and actress, on March 22
Morgana King – If You Could See Me Now (1956)
Morgana King – A Song For You (1973)

Celeste Rodrigues, 95, Portuguese fado singer, on Aug. 1
Celeste Rodrigues – Palavras de Toda a Gente (1974)

Jan Kirsznik, 84, saxophonist of Polish rock group Rhythm and Blues, on Aug. 1

Neil Argo, 71, film and TV composer, on Aug. 2

Bradley Daymond, 48, member of Canadian house group Love Inc. and producer, on Aug. 3
Love Inc. – Broken Bones (1998)

Tommy Peoples, 70, fiddler with Irish folk group The Bothy Band, on Aug. 3

Lorrie Collins, 76, half of teenage rockabilly duo The Collins Kids, on Aug. 4
The Collins Kids – Hop, Skip And Jump (1957)

Navid Izadi, 32, DJ and hip hop artist, plane crash on Aug. 5

Elda Stiletto (Gentile), 68, founder of proto-punk band The Stilettoes, on Aug. 6
The Stilettos – Anti-Disco (ca 1976)

Guilherme Lamounier, 67, Brazilian singer-songwriter and actor, on Aug. 7

Carlos Almenar Otero, 92, Venezuelan singer and songwriter, on Aug. 7
Carlos Almenar Otero – Teresa (1976)

Linda ‘Prokid’ Mkhize, 37, South African rapper and DJ, on Aug. 8

Scepaz, 30, Australian hip-hop artist, killed on Aug. 10

Alberto Tosca, 63, Cuban singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Aug. 14
Alberto Tosca y su Conj. – Sembrando Para Ti (1987)

Jill Janus, 42, singer of heavy metal band Huntress, suicide, suicide on Aug. 14

Randy Rampage, 58, ex-singer of Canadian hardcore band Annihilator, on Aug. 14

Queeneth Ndaba, 82, South African jazz singer and manager, on Aug. 15

Aretha Franklin, 76, soul and gospel singer, songwriter, pianist, on Aug.. 16
Aretha Franklin – Never Grow Old (1956)
Aretha Franklin – What A Diff’rence A Day Made (1964)
Aretha Franklin – Rock Steady (1972)
George Michael & Aretha Franklin – I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (1987)

Count Prince Miller, 83, Jamaican-born singer and actor, on Aug. 16
Count Prince Miller – Mule Train (1971)

Claudio Lolli, 68, Italian singer-songwriter, on Aug. 17

Danny Pearson, 65, soul singer, on Aug.17
Danny Pearson – What’s Your Sign Girl? (1978)

Jack Costanzo, 98, American percussionist, on Aug. 18
Nat King Cole – Yes Sir, That’s My Baby (1949, on congas)
Jack Constanzo and his Afro Cuban Band – Coco May May (1955)

Jeanie Greene (a.k.a. Mary Johnson), 75, soul and backing singer, on Aug. 19
Jeanie Greene – Sure As Sin (1968)
Elvis Presley – In The Ghetto (1969, as backing singer)

Eddie Willis, 82, guitarist with The Funk Brothers, on Aug. 20
The Temptations – The Way You Do The Things You Do (1964)
Jr. Walker & The All Stars – Ain’t That The Truth (1965, also as co-writer)
Stevie Wonder – I Was Made To Love Her (1967)
Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On (1973)

Spencer P. Jones, 61, New Zealand singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Aug. 21
Beasts Of Bourbon – Let’s Get Funky (1990)

Lazy Lester, 85, blues musician, on Aug. 22
Lazy Lester – Lester’s Stomp (1956)
Lazy Lester – Sugar Coated Love (1966)

Ed King, 68, guitarist of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Strawberry Alarm Clock, on Aug. 22
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967)
Lynyrd Skynyrd – Sweet Home Alabama (1974, also as co-writer)

Dieter ‘Thomas’ Heck, 80, legendary German music TV host, on Aug. 23
James Last – ZDF Hitparade theme (1969)

DJ Ready Red, 53, hip hop DH and producer (Geto Boys), on Aug. 24

Carlos Denogean, drummer of metal band Weedeater, on Aug. 24

Kyle Pavone, 28, singer of metal band We Came as Romans, on Aug. 25

Tony Hiller, 91, British songwriter and producer, on Aug. 26
Lulu – He Don’t Want Your Love Anymore (1965, as co-writer)
Brotherhood of Man – Angelo (1976, as writer and producer)

Luke Liang, 28, member of Australian rock band Papa vs Pretty, on Aug. 27

Ellie Mannette, 90, Trinidadian steelpan pioneer, on Aug. 29

Mike Kennedy, 59, country drummer with George Strait, on Aug. 30
George Strait – Living And Living Well (2001, on drums)

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  1. September 4th, 2018 at 17:49 | #1

    Top five Aretha tracks:

    “The Weight”
    “Day Dreaming”
    “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)”
    “Since You’ve Been Gone”
    “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”

  2. J. Loslo
    September 6th, 2018 at 16:40 | #2

    Thanks for these.

    For some reason, I thought Lazy Lester had died years ago. Then, just today, I found that he appeared in a recent Geico commercial that I’ve seen several times.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNFbmyKqLfI

  3. Rhodb
    September 7th, 2018 at 22:51 | #3

    Thanks another great effort. So many sensational artists are falling

    Regards

    Rhodb

  4. dogbreath
    September 12th, 2018 at 20:56 | #4

    There’ll never be another Aretha, that’s for sure, but what a fantastic canon of works she leaves behind for us to enjoy. And RIP Ed King too, a mainstay of my favourite period of Skynyrd. Thanks as usual for putting it all together. Cheers!

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