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In Memoriam – February 2019

In February The Reaper spared us superstar deaths, though the deaths of a Monkee and the incredible André Previn are notweworthy, as is that of the man who produced Roy Orbison and Kris Kristofferson in their early prime. What this list lacks in famous names it make up with some fascinating background stories.

The Musician Monkee

With the death of Peter Tork, there are now only two Monkees. In the TV series, Tork (who got the gig on recommendation of Stephen Stills, who had unsuccessfully auditioned for the role), played the simple-minded one, quite in contrast to his real personality which valued intellectual pursuit. It is often said that the four Monkees were inferior musicians, which is why the Wecking Crew played on their early records. But Tork was the one member who did play on those recordings. A guitarist, bassist and keyboardist, he was a serious musician with a Greenwich Village folk background. The instantly recognisable keyboard bars that kick off I’m A Believer are Tork’s work. Strangely, for a serious musician, his post-Monkees career was patchy, in terms of output and in success.

 

Producer to Dolly, Kris and Roy

As a young man in the mid-1950s, Fred Foster worked for Mercury Records, being a nuisance to the suits with his promotion of that newfangled rockabilly music. So when he recommended that Mercury sign this young singer Elvis Presley from Sun Records, Mercury made a half-assed bid. When RCA bid more, Mercury (like Atlantic) dropped out of the bidding. Foster proceeded to found Monument Records, for which he produced that great string of Roy Orbison hits such as Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, In Dreams, Crying and so on. He signed the young Dolly Parton to Monument and helped her to fame, and he produced country greats such as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones; Ray Stevens, Larry Gatlin; Larry Jon Wilson, Kris Kristofferson (that incredible string of records from 1970-72, and the duet albums with Rita Coolidge); swamp rock acts like the recently late Tony Joe White; novelty acts (sort of, for he was deadly serious) like Robert Mitchum; instrumental acts like Boots Randolph; and soul acts like Joe Simon and Arthur Alexander. Kris Kristofferson gave Foster a co-writing credit for Me and Bobby McGee for suggesting the title.

 

The All-round Genius

Born into a Jewish family in Germany, André Previn’s family was lucky to get out in 1938. Having emigrated to the US, André was a precocious talent, already composing and conducting scores for MGM at the age of 18 — by which time he had already released a bunch of jazz records. He was not yet 30 when he had won successive Oscars for his scores of the musicals Gigi and Porgy & Bess in 1959 and 1960, repeating the feat in 1964-65 with his scores for Irma la Douce and My Fair Lady. He left MGM in the mid-1960s and became an acclaimed classical composer and conductor, also continuing his career in jazz as a performer and sideman, in which he also earned much acclaim, and continuing to write film scores.

 

No More Talk Talk

In the 1980s, Talk Talk were seen as the more sophisticated alternative to Duran Duran. Their sound rather fitted in alongside other synthy new wave bands like Tears for Fears or Blancmange. With Mark Hollis, who has died at 64, as the frontman, Talk Talk had minor but influential hits with tracks like the eponymous Talk Talk (which had its greatest success in South Africa, where it hit #1. Hollis had already recorded it as a punk version in 1977 with his previous group, The Reaction), It’s My Life, Today, and Such A Shame. Progressively Talk Talk became more experimental, scoring one more UK Top 40 hit in 1986 with Life’s What You Make It (and two more with re-issues of It’s My Life and the 1986 hit). Then Talk Talk fell silent. Hollis released a solo album in 1998, which was initially intended to be a Talk Talk reunion, and then retired from recording in 1998.

The Anti-apartheid Singer

One of brightest stars on South Africa’s vibrant jazz scene of the 1950s, Dorothy Masuka gave up commercial success for making political statements. First she released an anti-apartheid record titled “Dr Malan”, named after the first apartheid-era prime minister. Unsurprisingly, the record was banned in South Africa. She then played at the inauguration of Congolese president Patrice Lumbumba, who was later assassinated by the CIA. That forced her into exile to Zambia (where her father was from), working as a flight attendant, before returning to the country of her birth, Zimbabwe, upon its independence in 1980. She later returned to South Africa, where she had grown up from the age of 12. One of her final public performances was last April at the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

 

Mind The Gap Band

In terms of producing classics, the track record of Lonnie Simmons isn’t massive, but when he hit, he really hit big. He is associated mainly with discovering the Gap Band, whom he signed to his Total Experience Records label. He produced, co-wrote and released their series of stone-cold classics such as Oops Upside Your Head, You Dropped A Bomb On Me, Early In The Morning, Burn Rubber On Me, and the copiously-sampled Outstanding — and he produced another timeless dance track in Yarbrough & Peoples’ Don’t Stop The Music.

 

The Transgender Pioneer

Soul singer Jackie Shane pioneered transgender issues 50 years before it became a big issue. Born in Nashville, Shane’s main area of success was in Canada, scoring a hit there in 1962 with Any Other Way. She realised that she identified as a woman when she was 13, in 1953. Remarkably, she said just recently that she never had any problems on account of being transgendered. Just a few weeks ago, Shane was nominated for a Grammy for a box set of her music.

 

From Doo Wop to Schlager

Singer Gus Backus was barely 20 when he joined the pioneering multi-racial doo wop group The Del-Vikings. But at the same time he was an airman in the US Army, and when he was transferred to Germany, Backus’ doo wop career came to an end. In West Germany he found a new life as a successful Schlager singer. For a time between 1960 and the mid-’60s, Backus was one of the country’s biggest stars, trading on his heavy accent — the Germans of the time loved foreign accents. He scored big hits with songs about Native Americans, and appeared in schlager movies. By 1967 his shtick was dated and the hits stopped coming. In the 1970s he gave up on music and went to work on oil fields in Texas. But Germany never really forgets its Schlager stars, and on returning to the country he made a career of singing in concert, popping up on TV and making personal appearances.

The Mover and Shaker

In his long songwriting career, Artie Wayne contributed mostly album fillers and b-sides, though these were recorded by big names, from Aretha Franklin to The Guess Who to Dean Martin. His best-known songs might be Michael Jackson’s The Little Christmas Tree, Joey Powers’ Midnight Mary, Joe Dassin’s Excuse Me Lady, and Helen Shapiro’s Queen For Tonight. But his stellar contribution to music was his discovery of Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, whom he tried to sign while working for Scepter Records. When that was blocked, he introduced the future songwriting giants to Motown. Wayne later was a music journalist, director of creative services of Warner Bros., and generally a bit of a mover and shaker. He was among the trio of men who built up buzz for Jesus Christ Superstar when nobody wanted to know about it. Later he co-ran a songwriting course named after himself whose alumni include Diane Warren.

 

Strange Timing

Sometimes The Reaper has strange timing. On the very day blues-rock outfit The Tedeschi Trucks Band released its latest album, Signs, its keyboardist and flautist Kofi Burbridge died of a heart attack at the age of 57. A classically-trained multi-instrumentalist, Burbridge was a member of the Derek Trucks Band, led by the great slide guitarist. When Trucks married blues-rock singer Susan Tedeschi, his and her group amalgamated, with Burbridge becoming part of the merger.

 

The Covers Photographer

In his time, photographer Guy Webster committed many celebrities to film, but his lasting legacy resides in those photos that were used on the cover of LPs. And Webster created some iconic mages, perhaps most famously the one used on the cover of The Mamas & The Papas’ If You Can Believe… LP, which featured, to the horror of 1960s society, a toilet! I wrote a few years ago about the story behind the cover and some of the LP’s songs. Other great Webster covers include The Doors’ debut album, Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds Of Silence, other Mamas & Papas releases, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, Tim Buckley’s Goodbye And Hello, and many more (see below. A large version of the collage is included in the DL package).

 

 

Ayub Ogada, 63, Kenyan singer and musician, on Feb. 1
Ayub Ogada – Chiro (1993)

Bill Sims, 69, blues singer and guitarist, on Feb. 2
Bill Sims – Time Out (1999)

Tim Landers, 28, guitarist and singer with rick band Transit, on Feb. 2
Transit – Nothing Lasts Forever (2013)

Detsl, 35, Russian rapper, on Feb. 3

Giampiero Artegiani, 63, Italian singer-songwriter, on Feb. 4
Giampiero Artegiani – Acqua alta in Piazza San Marco (1984)

Lonnie Simmons, record producer, label founder on Feb. 6
The Gap Band – Oops Upside Your Head (1979, as co-writer and producer)
Yarbrough & Peoples – Don’t Stop The Music (1981, as producer)
Kenny Thomas – Outstanding (1990, as co-writer)

Cadet, 28, English rapper, in car crash on the way to a gig on Feb. 9

Guy Webster, 79, LP covers photographer (see below), on Feb. 9

Harvey Scales, 76, soul singer and songwriter, on Feb. 11
Johnnie Taylor – Disco Lady (1976, as writer)

Olli Lindholm, 54, singer and guitarist with Finnish rock band Yö, on Feb. 12

Joe Hardy, 66, producer and engineer, on Feb. 12
Steve Earle – The Other Kind (1990, as producer)

Deise Cipriano, 39, singer with Brazilian band Fat Family, on Feb. 12

Willy ‘Willy’ Lambregt, 59, Belgian rock musician, co-founder of Vaya Con Dios, on Feb. 13
Vaya Con Dios – Just A Friend Of Mine (1987)

Connie Jones, 84, jazz trumpeter, on Feb. 13

Marisa Solinas, 79, Italian singer and actress, on Feb. 13
Marisa Solinas – Vai Suora Vai (1981)

Kofi Burbridge, 57, rock flautist and keyboardist, on Feb. 15
Tedeschi Trucks Band – They Don’t Shine (2019, as member)

Ken Nordine, 98, voice-over and recording artist, on Feb. 16
Billy Vaughn with Ken Nordine – The Shifting Whispering Sands (1955, spoken voice)

Ethel Ennis, 86, jazz singer, on Feb. 17
Ethel Ennis – My Foolish Heart (1957)

Skip Groff, 70, producer and DJ, on Feb. 18

Artie Wayne, 77, singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 19
Artie Wayne – Where Does A Rock & Roll Singer Go? (1963)
Joe Dassin – Excuse Me Lady (1966, as co-writer)
The Guess Who – Use Your Imagination (1972, as co-writer)

Fred Foster, 87, producer and label founder, on Feb. 20
Roy Orbison – Only The Lonely (1961, as producer)
Dolly Parton – Dumb Blonde (1967, as producer)
Robert Mitchum – Ballad Of Thunder Road (1967, as producer)
Kris Kristofferson – Just The Other Side Of Nowhere (1970, as producer)

Gerard Koerts, 71, member of Dutch pop band Earth and Fire, on Feb. 20
Earth & Fire – Weekend (1979)

Peter Tork, 77, musician and actor with The Monkees, on Feb. 21
The Monkees – For Pete’s Sake (1967, as co-writer)
The Monkees – Goin’ Down (1967, as co-writer)
Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork – I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone (live, 1987)

Gus Backus, 81, member of doo-wop group Del Vikings, schlager singer, on Feb. 21
Del Vikings – Cool Shake (1957)
Gus Backus – Bohnen in die Ohren (1966)

Jackie Shane, 78, transgender R&B singer, found on Feb. 21
Jackie Shane – Any Other Way (1962)

Dorothy Masuka, 83, Zimbabwean-South African jazz singer, on Feb. 23
Dorothy Masuka – Khauleza (1959)
Dorothy Masuka – Pata Pata (1991)

Marcos Antonio Urbay, 90, Cuban musician, on Feb. 24

Mac Wiseman, 93, bluegrass guitarist and bass player, on Feb. 24
Mac Wiseman – Tis Sweet To Be Remembered (1951)

Mark Hollis, 64, singer-songwriter of Talk Talk, on Feb. 25
The Reaction – Talk Talk Talk Talk (1977)
Talk Talk – Such A Shame (1984)
Mark Hollis – Watershed (1998)

Magnus Lindberg, 66, Swedish musician and songwriter, on Feb. 26

Andy Anderson, 68, English drummer, on Feb. 26
The Cure – The Love Cats (1983)

Doug Sandom, 89, first drummer of The Who, on Feb. 27

Ed Bickert, 86, Canadian jazz guitarist, on Feb. 28

André Previn, 89, German-born composer, on Feb. 28
André Previn – What Is This Thing Called Love? (1946)
Sammy Davis Jr. – There’s A Boat That’s Leavin’ Soon For New York (1959, as conductor)
Andre Previn and his Trio- Almost Like Being In Love (1960)
Doris Day & André Previn – Give Me Time (1962)

GET IT: https://rapidgator.net/file/0b077153fffa85a452b0e2d7bc4733d3/IM_1902.rar.html
(PW in comments)

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  1. halfhearteddude
    March 5th, 2019 at 07:18 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

  2. Rhodb
    March 9th, 2019 at 00:52 | #2

    Thanks Amd

    All ways look forward to the In memoriam series, appreciate the work that goes into it. Peter Tork will be missed I enjoyed his blues albums

    Regards

  3. dogbreath
    March 10th, 2019 at 02:15 | #3

    Andre Previn leaves a classic classical canon of work – plus he was lucky enough to have been married to Anne-Sophie Mutter! Ironically only recently got into Talk Talk thanks to a friend’s good taste & then learnt of Mark Hollis’s death. Many thanks for the list & for nudging me in directions I wouldn’t normally meander down Cheers!

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