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In Memoriam – May 2018

May 29th, 2018 6 comments

This month May’s dead and their music come to you before the month is out, due to travelling schedules. It has been another fairly easy-going month. In 2016 the never-ending streak of superstar deaths culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Maybe the unusually quiet year 2018 is preparing the way for the monster’s political demise. What’s that phrase he used to chant about Hilary Clinton?

The funky drummer

May started on a shitty note as James Brown drummer John Jabo Starks died at 79, just over a year after his fellow J.B.’s drummer Clyde Stubblefield passed on. Starks and Stubblefield are likely the most-sampled drummers. Apart from laying down the funky beats for Brown, Starks also drummed for blues legends like Bobby “Blue” Bland and B.B. King.

The inventor’s Satisfaction

Often great innovations have their roots in misadventure. So it as with Glenn Snoddy’s greatest legacy: the invention of the fuzz guitar pedal which came to define the Nashville Sound and found its most famous expression in the intro riff of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction. Snoddy was engineering Marty Robbins’ 1960 song Don’t Worry when he noticed a distortion in Grady Martin’s guitar (coming at 1:24). He found that the transformer in the amplifier had blown up. But the effect was great and so it was retained on record. It proved so popular that Snoddy set about inventing a device which could easily create that sound. Snoddy also engineered some classic country tracks, including Hank Williams’ Your Cheating Heart and Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire. In 1967 he set up his own studio, Woodlands, were classics like the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down To Georgia, The Oak Ridge Boys’ Elvira and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s album Will The Circle Be Unbroken was recorded. Oh, and he was the one who hired Kris Kristofferson as the janitor atColumbia, which would lead to great things.

Triple-force

Reggie Lucas made his mark in three fields of record-making: he was a fine guitarist who served a sideman to Miles Davis and others in the 1970s; he was a producer for Madonna (on her debut album), Randy Crawford, The O’Jays, The Spinners, Stephanie Mills, Lou Rawls, Phyllis Hyman and others; and he was a songwriter of classic soul tracks like Mills’ Never Knew Like This Before, Hyman’s You Know How To Love Me, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway’s Back Together Again and The Closer I Get To You, as well as Madonna’s Borderline. For a brief time, he was a member of the soul-funk trio Sunfire.

The last dance

One of the most delightfully dark songs of the 1960s must be Esther & Abi Ofarim’s One More Dance, wherein two lovers regard the illness and eventual death of the woman’s rich husband with undisguised glee. I hope that when he died at 80, Abi Ofarim had nobody observing his demise with such relish. He and Esther divorced in 1970, after scoring hits such as Cinderella Rockefella and the Bee Gees-written Morning Of My Life. He kept recording and arranging, and also acted as a manager. In recent years he founded a project for impoverished seniors in Munich.

The Schlager paradox

A better example of German Schlager was provided by singer Jürgen Marcus, who has passed away at 69. Marcus is a good summary of Schlager music: like so much in the genre, his music was banal and yet often inventive, catchy yet embarrassing; his image was square and ingratiatingly conventional, yet he was secretly gay (of a conservative sort; he later come out, but opposed gay marriage because of his Catholic beliefs). He was the son-in-law every mom wanted for their daughter, and not a few moms wanted for themselves. His songs sometimes abruptly changed genre in mid-track: listen to Ein Festival der Liebe: it’s standard Schlager fare, including oompah intro, until  the bridge slows things down and morphs into a samba-influenced chant-along interlude interrupts proceedings, and then resumes to the clap-along gumph the Germans are so fond of.

The Williams brother

With his brothers, including the younger and more eventually more famous Andy, Dick Williams began performing on radio as a pre-teen in 1938 as The Williams Brothers. It was the start of a long career during which they appeared in four movies, backed Bing Crosby, and formed a popular nightclub act with the singer and actress Kay Thompson. While Andy Williams became one of the most popular entertainers of his time, Dick joined Dick James’ band as a singer.

 

John ‘Jabo’ Starks, 79, drummer with James Brown’s J.B.s, on May 1
Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland – Turn On Your Love Light (1961, on drums)
The J.B.’s – Pass The Peas (1972, on drums, also as co-writer)
James Brown – Super Bad (1970, on drums)
James Brown – The Payback (1973, on drums, also as writer)

Stu Boy King, 64, drummer with proto-punk band The Dictators (1974-75), on May 1
The Dictators – The Next Big Thing (1975)

Takayuki Inoue, 77, lead guitarist of Japanese rock band The Spiders, on May 2
The Spiders – Hey Boy (1966)

Tony Cucchiara, 80, Italian singer and songwriter, on May 2
Tony Cucchiara – Gioia mia (1965)

Tony Kinman, 62, (cow)punk singer and bassist, on May 3
The Dils – I Hate The Rich (1977)
Rank And File – Rank And File (1984)

Abi Ofarim, 80, Israeli musician, on May 4
Esther & Abi Ofarim – Morning Of My Life (1967)
Esther & Abi Ofarim – Cinderella Rockafella (1968)
Abi Ofarim & Tom Winter – Slow Motion Man (1973)

Steve Coy, 56, member of English pop band Dead or Alive, on May 4
Dead Or Alive – In Too Deep (1985)

Dick Williams, 91, singer with vocal group The Williams Brothers, on May 5
Bing Crosby – Swinging On A Star (1944, on co-vocals)
Harry James and his Orchestra – Mona Lisa (1950, on lead vocals)

Maurane, 57, Belgian singer and actress, on May 7

Gayle Shepherd, 81, member of vocal group Shepherd Sisters, on May 7
The Shepherd Sisters – Alone (Why Must I Be Alone) (1957)

Big T, 52, American rapper, on May 7

Carl Perkins, 59, member of New Zealand reggae band House of Shem, on May 9

Sammy Allred, 84, country entertainer, on May 9
The Geezinslaw Brothers – Change Of Wife (1967)

Ben Graves, 46, drummer of heavy metal band Murderdolls, on May 9

Scott Hutchison, 36, Scottish singer, songwriter and guitarist, suicide on May 10
Frightened Rabbit – Living In Colour (2010)

Glenn Branca, 69, avant-garde composer and guitarist, on May 23

Hideki Saijo, 63, Japanese pop singer, on May 16
Saijo Hideki – Young Man (1979)

Jack Reilly, 86, jazz pianist and academic, on May 18

Philip ‘Nchipi’ Tabane, 84, South African jazz singer and musician, on May 18
Philip Tabane – Ba Nyaka Ke Wele (1969)

Reggie Lucas, 65, producer, guitarist and songwriter, May 19
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – The Closer I Get To You (1978, as co-writer)
Mtume – So You Wanna Be A Star (1980, as producer & guitarist)
Sunfire – Young, Free And Single (1982, as member, producer, guitarist)
Randy Crawford – Almaz (1986, as producer)

Glenn Snoddy, 96, engineer and inventor of the fuzz guitar pedal, on May 19
Hank Williams – Your Cheatin’ Heart (1952, as engineer)
Marty Robbins – Don’t Worry (1960, as engineer)
Billy Joe Royal – Hush (1967, as producer)

Phil Emmanuel, 65, Australian guitarist, on May 24
Phil & Tommy Emmanuel – The Shaker (1994)

Roger Clark, 67, Muscle Shoals drummer, on May 24
Narvel Felts – Reconsider Me (1975, on drums)
Bill Brandon – No Danger Of Heartbreak Ahead (1977, on drums)

Andy MacQueen, bassist of Australian pop-punk band Exploding White Mice, on May 27
Exploding White Mice – Always Ends The Same (1994)

Stewart Lupton, 43, singer of indie group Jonathan Fire*Eater, on May 28
Jonathan Fire*Eater – Station Coffee (1997)

Josh Martin, guitarist of grindcore band Anal Cunt, in an escalator accident on May 28

Jürgen Marcus, 69, German Schlager singer, on May 29
Jürgen Marcus – Eine neue Liebe ist wie ein neues Leben (1972)
Jürgen Markus – Ein Festival der Liebe (1973)

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In Memoriam – April 2018

May 3rd, 2018 9 comments

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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In Memoriam – March 2018

April 5th, 2018 3 comments

So far, 2018 has been fairly gentle on us, as if to make up for the massacres of the past two years. March saw no superstar deaths, but especially the world of hip hop suffered losses — including one of the least likely collaborator the genre has seen yet.

The Guitar Pioneer

The sound of The Ventures is the sound of instrumental surf rock, and the guitar of Nokie Edwards gave it its character. Edwards, who had previously backed country legend Buck Owens, stayed with The Ventures until 1968, and rejoined the band periodically thereafter. Many guitar greats credit The Ventures, especially the classic Walk Don’t Run (first a hit in 1960 and again, in a new recording, 1964), with influencing them. The Ventures did a lot of guitar covers of hits; they appear in the Song Swarm series remarkably often (Blue Moon, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Sunny, These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer).

Classic in his room

Not many people can claim that a classic album was recorded in their living room, but so it was with Matt Dike, who hosted The Beastie Boys as they recorded almost all of their Paul Boutique album in his apartment. As a member of The Dust Brothers, Dike received a production credit for the album. By then Dike was the co-owner of Delicious Vinyl which released such hip hop classics as Young MC’s Bust A Move and Tone Loc’s Wild Thing and Funky Cold Medina (all of which he co-wrote and co-produced). He was also a prolific remixer.

‘Hello, how’s the flow’

In a few weeks I’ll be posting a mix of good Eurovision Song Contest numbers. Lys Assia’s Das Alte Karussell, the inaugural winner from 1956), will not be among them. Assia, who had been recording prolifically since 1942, followed her triumph with a string of hits in West Germany, but her love clearly was Eurovision. She also competed in 1957 and ’58, and tried to make a comeback more than half a century later. In 2012 she failed in the national contest to qualify as Switzerland’s entry for Eurovision. She tried again a year later, at the age of 88, with a song titled All In Your Head, featuring the hip-hop band New Jack (“Hello, how’s the flow”, Assia inquires). Outrageously, she failed again to qualify. First the Nazi gold, then that. Shame on you, Switzerland!

Guardian of a heritage

Palestinian singer Rim Banna, who has died of breast cancer, devoted herself to preserving Palestinian folk and children’s songs as well as poetry that were on the verge of being lost, putting a modern, Western pop-influenced spin on those melodies. Banna, an Arab Israeli citizen, was also a political activist, supporting the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza. In 2003 she gained popularity in Europe as a result of her duets with Norwegian singer Kari Bremnes, and participation in an anti-war album directed at the warmonger George W Bush, titled Lullabies from The Axis Of Evil, which also featured female singers from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya and Cuba.

Cellist to the stars

Jazz cellist and double-bassist Buell Neidlinger was once regarded as a child prodigy. As an adult he was a prolific collaborator with jazz musicians but rarely the headliner. He also picked up session credits for acts like Lionel Richie (including on Wandering Stranger, alongside Ndugu Chancler, who died last month), Neil Diamond, Earth Wind & Fire, Nina Simone, Yvonne Elliman, The Miracles, Kenny Rogers, Leo Kottke, Diane Schuur, Ry Cooder, Mike Bloomfield, Duane Eddy, Van Dyke Parks, Elvis Costello, Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Bob Seger, Pops Staples, Frank Sinatra (on Duets) and many others. Apparently he also played on the Eagles’ Hotel California and on Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart In San Francisco sessions.

The phrase-coiner

Even casual listeners to country will have heard the term Outlaw Country, to describe a sub-genre dominated by artists like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. The term was coined by Hazel Smith, who was chiefly a country music journalists and publicist. Smith also wrote a number of songs, including several for Dr Hook. They’ve been recorded by acts as diverse as Tammy Wynette and Nana Mouskouri.

The cover designer

Album cover designer and photographer Gary Burden is considered a pioneer of conceptual cover art in rock music. His clientele initially comprised the Laurel Canyon types around Cass Elliott and David Crosby. Among the iconic covers he designed were The Mamas and The Papas’The Papas & The Mamas, Crosby, Stills & Nash’s eponymous debut and (with Young) Déjà Vu (and virtually all of their covers), Neil Young’s After The Goldrush (and many of his covers thereafter), Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Albert Hammond’s It Never Rains In Southern California, Jackson Browne’s self-titled album and The Pretender, the Eagles’eponymous debut and Desperado, On The Border, One Of These Nights… In the 2000s he designed album covers for the likes of Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket and Devendra Banhart. His last published cover design for an album of new recordings was Conor Oberst’s Salutations in March last year (bottom right on the collage below).

 

Bill Burkette, 75, lead singer with pop band The Vogues, on March 1
The Vogues – It’s Getting Better (1968)

Bender, 37, Canadian rapper, on March 1

Van McLain, 62, lead singer and guitarist with rock band Shooting Star, on March 2
Shooting Star – Touch Me Tonight (1989)

Ronnie Prophet, 80, Canadian country singer, on March 2

Brandon Jenkins, 48, country/Red Dirt singer-songwriter, on March 2
Brandon Jenkins – Saturday Night (2006)

Joseph Israel, 40, US reggae musician, on March 2

Patrick Doyle, 32, drummer of Scottish indie band Veronica Falls, on March 3
Veronica Falls – Found Love In A Graveyard (2010)

Ulla Norden, 77, German Schlager singer and radio presenter, on March 5

Jeff St John, 71, Australian pop singer, on March 5
Jeff St. John – Teach Me How To Fly (1970)

Donna Butterworth, 62, child actress and singer, on March 6

Jerzy Milian, 82, Polish jazz vibraphonist, on March 7

Gary Burden, 84, album cover designer, on March 9
David Crosby – Music Is Love (1971, as “performer”; cover designer)

Maggie Stedder, 81, English backing singer, on March 9
Dusty Springfield – Bring Him Back (1967)

Ken Dodd, 90, comedian and singer, on March 11
Ken Dodd – Tears (1965)

Nokie Edwards, 82, lead guitarist with The Ventures, on March 12
The Ventures – Walk Don’t Run (1960)
The Ventures – Ghost Riders In The Sky (1961)

Craig Mack, 47, rapper, on March 12
Craig Mack – Flava In Ya Ear (1994)

Matt Dike, 55, hip hop producer, writer, mixer, label executive, on March 13
Tone-Loc – Funky Cold Medina (1989, as co-writer, co-producer)
The Beastie Boys – Shake Your Rump (1989, as co-producer)
Richard Cheese – Bust A Move (2006, as co-writer)

Charlie Quintana, 56, drummer of Latino punk band The Plugz, on March 13
The Plugz – Satisfied Die (1979)

Olly Wilson, 80, jazz musician and composer, on March 13

Claudia Fontaine, 57, singer with English soul trio Afrodiziak, on March 13
Jam – Beat Surrender (1982, as backing singer)
Special A.K.A. – Free Nelson Mandela (1984, as backing singer)

Jimmy Wisner, 86, pianist, arranger, songwriter, and producer, on March 13
Kokomo – Asia Minor (1961, Kokomo was his pseudonym)
The Searchers – Don’t Throw Your Love Away (1964, as writer)

Allah Real, 62, soul singer, on March 14
RZA – Grits (2003, on lead vocals)

Steve Mandell, bluegrass guitarist, on March 14
Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell – Dueling Banjos (1972)

Enrico Ciacci, 75, Italian guitarist and bandleader, on March 14

Laurence Cleary, 60, guitarist of Irish new wave band The Blades, on March 16
The Blades – Hot For You (1980)

Hazel Smith, 83, country songwriter, journalist and publicist, on March 16
Dr. Hook – Making Love And Music (1976, as writer)

Buell Neidlinger, 82, jazz and session cellist and bassist, on March 16
Pops Staples – Down In Mississippi (1992, on bass)
Buell Neidlinger – The Gig (1995)

Thom Moore, 74, folk-rock singer and songwriter, on March 17
Mary Black – Carolína Rua (The Crooked Road) (1988, as writer)

Killjoy, 48, singer of death metal band Necrophagia, on March 18

Peter Cowling, 72, British blues-rock bassist, on March 20
Pat Travers – Stop And Smile (1976, on bass)

Paul Cram, 65, Canadian jazz musician, on March 20

Shawn Elliott, singer of hardcore rock band Capitalist Casualties, on March 22

CK Mann, 82, Ghanaian singer, on March 22

Kooster McAllister, 67, live engineer, co-owner of Record Plant mobile studio, on March 23
Bruce Springsteen – I’m On Fire (live) (1985, as engineer)

Rim Banna, 51, Palestinian singer, composer and activist, on March 24
Rim Banna – Supply Me With An Excess Of Love (2013)

Lys Assia, 94, Swiss singer, inaugural Eurovision Song Contest winner, on March 24
Lys Assia – Das Alte Karussell (1956)
Lys Assia feat. New Jack – All In Your Head (2012)

Mike Harrison, 72, singer of British rock group Spooky Tooth, on March 25
Spooky Tooth – That Was Only Yesterday (1969)

Seo Min-woo, 33, singer with South Korean boy band 100%, on March 25

Jerry Williams, 75, Swedish pop singer, on March 25
Jerry Williams – Keep On (1969)

Cameron Paul, pioneer remixer, on March 26
Salt-N-Pepa – Push It (Mixx-it Remix) (1986, as remixer)

Kenny O’Dell, 73, country singer-songwriter, on March 27
Charlie Rich – Behind Closed Doors (1973, as writer)
The Judds – Mama He’s Crazy (1984, as writer)

Caleb Scofield, 38, bassist and singer of metal band Cave In, in car crash on March 28

Alias, 41, rapper, producer and record label founder, on March 30
Alias – Final Act (2002)

Frode Viken, 63, guitarist and songwriter of Norwegian pop band D.D.E., on March 31

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In Memoriam – February 2018

March 6th, 2018 4 comments

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)

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In Memoriam – January 2018

February 1st, 2018 6 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

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In Memoriam – December 2017

January 4th, 2018 9 comments

The last two Decembers delivers a kick in the balls just before the year ends. Last Christmas it was the death of George Michael; in 2015 it was Lemmy and Natalie Cole (ringing in that annus horribilis 2016). This year we were spared such shenanigans by the Grim Reaper.

I can’t say that I have ever been a keen fan of Johnny Hallyday, the French icon who has died at 74. But you can’t argue with a career that spanned 60 years, much of it at the top, selling more than 110 million records worldwide. Born Jean-Philippe Léo Smet, he borrowed his stage name from a cousin’s husband who performed in the US as Lee Halliday. Lee was a mentor to the youngster and gave him the name Johnny. And with that name the erstwhile Jean-Philippe Smet became France’s first rock & roll star as the 1960s began. Although he appeared on US TV and worked with many British artists, Hallyday was not very well-known in Anglophone countries, though he was a superstar in much of Europe.

Keely Smith was sort of the straight-woman to her first husband, Louis Prima, though she was very funny in her deadpan way. Smith, who was of Irish and Cherokee ancestry, was a useful vocalist as well, though she certainly benefitted from working with some of the greatest arrangers, particularly Nelson Riddle. In the 1960s she updated her sound, in the Petula Clark vein, and recorded the first version of the Bacharach/David classic One Less Bell To Answer (which featured on Bacharach: The Originals). As the 1960s ended her career petered out. She made a brief comeback in 1985, but a string of critically acclaimed albums in the 2000s returned her to success, including a Grammy nomination.

Actress Rose Marie (Mazzetta), who has died at 94, is best known in the US as the proto feminist scriptwriter Sally Rogers on The Dick van Dyke Show, and as a long-standing contestant on Hollywood Squares. She also had regular roles in shows such as S.W.A.T. and Murphy Brown. But she was a big star long before all that. As a five-year-old she began a recording career that made her one of the many child stars of the 1930s. She appeared in movies and had nationwide hits with songs such as 1932’s Say That You Were Teasing Me. As a young adult she became a nightclub and lounge singer, especially at The Flamingo in Las Vegas, which was owned by Bugsy Siegel. The mafia forthwith controlled her singing career. Late in life Rose Marie was active in conscientising about sexual harassment; the #metoo campaign will have pleased her.

For many British TV fans of a certain age, the death of Keith Chegwin marked the passing of a national institution. Most famous for hosting children’s TV programmes such as Cheggers Plays Pop and Swap Shop in the 1970s and 80s, Chegwin remained a fixture on the telly, not least through his appearance on the while range of reality TV shows that feature celebrities. But before he became a TV legend, “Cheggers” tried his hand at becoming a pop star…unsuccessfully. None of the five singles he released between 1973 and 1981 charted. He did hit the charts in 1981 as part of novelty celeb trio Brown Sauce, alongside fellow TV presenters Maggie Philbin and the unspeakably awful and thoroughly objectionable Noel Edmonds. It reached #15.

If you watched TV in the 1970s, chances are that you’ve heard the compositions of Mundell Lowe, who has died at the age of 95. A very successful jazz guitarist, Lowe wrote scores for TV shows like Hawaii Five-O, Wild Wild West and Starsky & Hutch, as well as for some movies. As a solo artist or bandleader he released albums from 1951 till 2015, though he worked as a session guitarist from 1947 onwards. His session work was prolific especially in the 1950s and ‘60s, playing for the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman, Herbie Mann, Charlie Parker, Shirley Scott, Quincy Jones, Chris Connor, Tony Bennett, Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney, Harry Belafonte, Carmen McRae, Sarah Vaughan, Edye Gormé, LaVern Baker and so on.

We owe one of the great Western themes, that of the 1868 film Hang ‘em High, to Dominic Frontiere, who has died at 86. Frontiere, who as a jazz accordionist released a number of records, also wrote the themes of early TV classics like The Flying Nun, The Outer Limits and The Rat Patrol. Later the protegé of film composing legend Alfred Newman wrote scores for TV shows like Vega$ and The Invaders, and for films like The Stuntman in the 1980s and The Color of Night in the ‘90s. He also arranged for acts such as Gladys Knight & The Pips, Dan Fogelberg, Nils Lofgren, Chicago and The Tubes. Frontiere also wrote the song Hang Ten High, recorded by The Smithereens, whose singer Pat DiNizio died nine days before Frontiere. Less salubriously, Frontiere served a few months of a one-year sentence in the ‘80s for tax fraud and ticket scalping.

The Smithereens’ Pat DiNizio, who has died at 62, was absolutely loyal to his music, even when things were not going great. Before the US power pop band found success in the 1980s, he and his bandmates persevered through many years of rejection. When their star waned in the ‘90s, they still carried on, taking day jobs if necessary. The Smithereens last performed in December, just before DiNizio suffered a series of bad falls, and were planning to record a new album.

In the USA, rich reality TV stars become the president; in Haiti a folk singer-songwriter who lived in exile and narrowly avoided murder by a military junta became mayor of his country’s capital. Manno Charlemagne, who sang his political songs in French and Creole, went into exile under the murderous Duvalier tryrannies, and returned to exile frequently throughout his life. After Baby Doc’s fall in 1986 he returned to Haiti and supported the priest Bertrand Aristide, who was elected president in 1990. The good times didn’t last; a year later the murderer Raoul Cédras deposed Aristide, with the help of the US, and Charlemagne was among those immediately brutalised and detained by the junta. With Aristide’s return in 1995, Charlemagne served a four-year term as mayor of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. It turned out that he was not as good as a politician as he was as the conscience of the nation which held corrupt politicians to account.

 

Mundell Lowe, 95, jazz guitarist and composer, on Dec. 2
Rosemary Clooney & Marlene Dietrich – Too Old To Cut The Mustard (1951, on guitar)
Mundell Lowe – Memories Of You (1956)
Peggy Lee – Lean On Me (1969, as co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (live) (1977, on guitar)

Norihiko Hashida, 72, Japanese folk singer-songwriter, on Dec. 2

Johnny Hallyday, 74, French rock singer and actor, on Dec. 6
Johnny Hallyday – T’aimer follement (1960)
Johnny Hallyday – Requiem pour un fou (1976)

Sir Christus, 39, guitarist of Finnish rock band Negative, on Dec. 7

Vincent Nguini, 65, Cameroonian guitarist, on Dec. 8
Paul Simon – Further To Fly (1990, on guitar and bass)

Sunny Murray, 81, free jazz drummer, on Dec. 8

Leon Rhodes, 85, country guitarist (Ernest Tubb), on Dec. 9
Waylon Jennings – I’m A Ramblin’ Man (1974, on bass guitar)

Lando Fiorini, 79, Italian actor and singer, on Dec. 9

Manno Charlemagne, 69, Haitian singer-songwriter, activist, on Dec. 10
Manno Charlemagne – Le Mal du Pays (1994)

Keith Chegwin, 60, English TV presenter, actor and singer, on Dec. 11
Keith Chegwin – I’ll Never Fall in Love Again (1977)

Pat DiNizio, 62, singer of power pop The Smithereens, on Dec. 12
The Smithereens – Blood And Roses (1986)
The Smithereens – Groovy Tuesday (1986)

Warrel Dane, 56, singer with metal bands Sanctuary, Nevermore, on Dec. 13
Nevermore – She Comes In Colors (2010)

Willie Pickens, 86, jazz pianist and educator, on Dec. 13

Dave Christenson, 54, singer of pop duo Stabilizers, on Dec. 15
Stabilizers – One Simple Thing (1986)

John Critchinson, 82, English jazz pianist, on Dec. 15

Keely Smith, 89, jazz singer, on Dec. 16
Louis Prima & Keely Smith – Basta (1958)
Keely Smith – All The Way (1958)
Keely Smith – Open Your Heart (1966)
Keely Smith – Cherokee (2002)

Ralph Carney, 61, saxophonist, composer, member of prog-rock band Tin Huey, on Dec. 16
Tom Waits – Come Up To The House (1999, on saxophone)
St. Vincent – Digital Witness (2015, on horns)

Z’EV, 66, industrial pop percussionist and poet, on Dec. 16

Richard Dobson, 75, country singer-songwriter, on Dec. 16
Richard Dobson – Baby Ride Easy (1977)

Michael Prophet, 60, Jamaican reggae singer, on Dec. 16
Michael Prophet – You Are A No Good (1980)

Randy Hongo, 70, Hawaiian Christian singer, on Dec. 16

Kevin Mahogany, 59, jazz singer, on Dec. 17
Kevin Mahogany – Since I Fell For You (1993)

Larry Harris, 70, co-founder of Casablanca Records, on Dec. 18

Jim Forrester, 43, bassist of rock band Sixty Watt Shaman, murdered on Dec. 18
Sixty Watt Shaman – Southern Gentleman (1999)

Kim Jong-hyun, 27, singer with South Korean boy band Shinee, on Dec. 18

Leo ‘Bud’ Welch, 85, blues and gospel musician, on Dec. 19
Leo Bud Welch – Goin’ Down Slow (2014)

Roswell Rudd, 82, free jazz trombonist, on Dec. 21

Dominic Frontiere, 86, film & TV composer, arranger and jazz accordionist, on Dec. 21
Dominic Frontiere – Theme from Hang ‘em High (1968)
Chicago – Baby What A Big Surprise (1977, as co-arranger)
Dusty Springfield – Bits and Pieces (1980, as producer and co-writer)

Halvard Kausland, 72, Norwegian jazz guitarist, on Dec. 21
Helle Brunvoll & Halvard Kausland – Be Cool (2009)

Pam the Funkstress, 51, hip hop DJ, on Dec. 22
The Coup – Not Yet Free (1993, on turntables)

Jim Burns, 65, co-creator of MTV Unplugged, in car crash on Dec. 23

Robbie Malinga, 47, South African musician and producer, on Dec. 25
Robbie Malinga – Sondela (2016)

Curly Seckler, 98, bluegrass musician (Foggy Mountain Boys 1949-62), on Dec. 27
Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs – Foggy Mountain Breakdown (1949, on mandolin)

Rose Marie, 94, actress and singer, on Dec. 28
Rose Marie – Say That You Were Teasing Me (1932)

Melton Mustafa, 70, jazz musician, on Dec. 28
Diane Schuur & The Count Basie Orchestra – Travelin’ Blues (1987, on trumpet)

Hanery Amman, 65, co-founder of Swiss dialect rock band Rumpelstilz, on Dec. 30

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All The People Who’ve Died 2017

December 14th, 2017 10 comments

The past year has been, thankfully, much gentler than the cursed 2016 was. Still, we lost some big names such as Chuck Berry, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, Glen Campbell, Al Jarreau, Tom Petty, Fats Domino, Gregg Allman, David Cassidy, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, funk legend Junie Morrison, Don Williams, Chris Cornell, Cuba Gooding Sr, etc.

Two deaths prompted me to post a special mix in tribute: a mix of covers of Chuck Berry songs and with the death of Walter Becker a mix of covers of Steely Dan songs. I was playing with the idea of doing a mix of tracks produced by Tommy LiPuma, but time restraints prevented me from doing so.

The most significant deaths of 2017 (up to November 30) by my estimation are listed below; if there’s a name you’re missing it most likely featured in the monthly In Memoriam round-ups (so, yeah, not really “All The People Who’ve Died” here; the title borrows from this great tack by the Jim Carroll Band).

Two people whom I failed to give their dues in their respective months were Keith Wilder, lead singer of Heatwave, and soul singer Charles Bradley.

Keith Wilder died on October 29; I learnt of his death just as I was about to post the In Memoriam for that month; time prevented me from including a tribute. He deserved one. The US-born singer of the UK funk & soul band Heatwave died just over a year after his fellow bandmember Rod Temperton. Wilder was a superb singer, his gritty voice complementing the smoother tones of his co-lead singer and brother Johnny Wilder (who died in 2006).

Charles Bradley was not a name I was familiar with in September, when he died at the age of 68. Within a couple of weeks I was a keen admirer of his music after hearing a couple of his songs on the TV mini-series Big Little Lies. It turns out, Bradley’s songs, all recorded within the past 15 years, featured in many other shows, including Ray Donovan, Suits, Goliath, The Vampire Diaries and Black-ish.

The monthly In Memoriam round-ups are, I think, the most comprehensive on the Internet, and I don’t want to discontinue the feature. But I might scale back on the music and the potted obituaries since there seems to be not much of an audience for it; the feedback and page hits don’t justify the work that goes into them.

Somebody who did often comment on posts, via Facebook (become friends with me and be notified of new posts) and with wit and enthusiasm, was Michael Cheyne in England. I was sad to learn of his death earlier this month.

On that note, here is a mix of music, by way of tribute, of some of the big musicians who have died in 2016. As with last year’s compilation, I’ll limit myself to solo artists and people who were members of a featured band – so no songwriters, producers or session musicians feature, even if the body of their contributions was weighty.

 

POP/ROCK
Chuck Berry, 90, rock ‘n’ roll legend, on March 18
Fats Domino, 89, legendary R&B singer-songwriter, on October 24
Walter Becker
, 67, Steely Dan legend, producer, on September 3
Tom Petty
, 66, rock musician, on October 2
David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on November 21
Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on November 18
Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Holger Czukay, 79, German rock musician, member of Can, on September 5
Jaki Liebezeit, 78, drummer of German rock band Can, on January 22
Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18

Pete Overend Watts, 69, English bassist of Mott the Hoople, on January 22
Chester Bennington, 41, singer of Linkin Park, suicide on July 20
Grant Hart, 56, drummer with Hüsker Dü, singer, songwriter, on September 14
J. Geils, 71, guitarist of The J. Geils Band, on April 11
Peter Sarstedt, 75, English singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8

 

SOUL/FUNK/HIP HOP
Al Jarreau, 76, jazz and soul singer, on February 12
Cuba Gooding Sr, 72, lead singer of The Main Ingredient, on April 20
Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, 62, musician with Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic, on January 21
Joni Sledge, 60, singer with Sister Sledge, on March 10
Keith Wilder, 65, US-born singer of UK funk group Heatwave, on October 29

Leon Ware, 77, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on February 23
Bunny Sigler, 76, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on October 6
‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer and songwriter with The Miracles, producer, on November 19
Brenda Jones, 62, singer with soul trio The Jones Girls, on April 3
Prodigy, 42, rapper with hip hop duo Mobb Deep, on June 20

 

COUNTRY
Glen Campbell, 81, country legend, on August 8
Mel Tillis
, 85, country singer-songwriter, on November 19
Don Williams, 78, country singer and songwriter, on September 8
Bob Wootton, 75, country guitarist for Johnny Cash, on April 9
Norro Wilson, 79, country singer-songwriter, on June 7

 

JAZZ/BLUES
Buddy Greco
, 90, jazz singer and pianist, on January 10
Jon Hendricks
, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on November 22
Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Grady Tate, 85, jazz drummer and soul singer, on October 8
James Cotton, 81, blues singer, harmonica player, on March 15

 

SESSION PLAYERS
Clyde Stubblefield, 73, drummer with James Brown, on February 18
Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell
, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on November 27
Bruce Langhorne, 78, folk guitarist and film score composer, on April 14
Laudir de Oliveira, 77, Brazilian percussionist with Chicago, on September 17
Butch Trucks, 69, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, of suicide on January 24

 

PRODUCERSTommy LiPuma, 80, legendary record producer, on March 13
Buddy Bregman, 86, producer, arranger and composer, on Jan. 8
David Axelrod, 83, Jazz and R&B arranger, composer and producer, on February. 5
Bill Price, 72, sound engineer and producer, on Dec. 22 (announced in January)
George Young, 70, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on October 22

 

MOVERS & SHAKERS
George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on November 22
Jerry Ross, 84, producer, songwriter, label owner on October 4
Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on November 7
David Kapralik, 91, producer and label executive, on July 12
Pierre Henry, 89, French composer and electronic music pioneer, on July 5

The All The People Who Died 2017 mix
1. Fats Domino – I’m Walking (1959)
2. Chuck Berry – School Day (Ring! Ring! Goes The Bell) (1957)
3. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Ooo Baby Baby (1964)
4. Buddy Greco – Teach Me Tonight (1962)
5. Al Jarreau – We’re In This Love Together (live) (1985)
6. Heatwave – Always And Forever (1977)
7. The Main Ingredient – Work To Do (1973)
8. Della Reese – Games People Play (1969)
9. AC/DC – Ride On (1976)
10. Mott The Hoople – Roll Away The Stone (1973)
11. Steely Dan – Black Cow (1977)
12. Tom Petty – It’ll All Work Out (1987)
13. The Allman Brothers Band – Old Before My Time (2003)
14. Glen Campbell – Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) (2008)
15. Don Williams – Listen To The Radio (1982)
16. Mel Tillis – Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town (1976)
17. Johnny Cash – Wanted Man (live, 1969)
18. Grady Tate – Suicide Is Painless (1974)
19. David Cassidy – Daydreamer (1973)
20. Bunny Sigler – Things Are Gonna Get Better (1975)
21. Sister Sledge – Easier To Love (1979)
Bonus Track: Can – Bring Me Coffee Or Tea (1971)

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In Memoriam – November 2017

December 4th, 2017 3 comments

November was a brutal month. Women of a certain age will have mourned David Cassidy, whose image adorned many a teen girl’s bedroom wall in the early 1970s (Like Tiger Beat in the US, Germany’s Bravo magazine had loads of them). An exceptionally handsome young man with talent, a great voice and good manners, he was the full package. In The Partridge Family TV series, he and step-mom Shirley Jones were allowed to make music, alongside members of the Wrecking Crew. The quality of the pop music from that show has outlived the natural resistance to it: there are some great pop songs from that show (which was, it must be said, a pretty good sitcom. Of course, some of the songs were also awful). As a one-time teen idol it was tough for Cassidy to forge a career as a serious singer, sporadic hits like 1985’s The Last Kiss notwithstanding. In the 1980s he re-invented himself as a stage musical star. I saw him in a not very good show called Time in London. In the end he suffered from dementia.

On the day Cassidy died, we also saw the death of Wayne Cochran, another artist who had success with a song called Last Kiss. Cochran’s composition became a hit for J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers and later for Pearl Jam. Cochran was famous for being a white soul singer, and even more so for his white pompadour, which looked like a spoof Newt Gingrich haircut long before that horrid asshole arrived. He was friends with Otis Redding, for whom he played bass guitar on a couple of tracks. More importantly, he was friends with Elvis, who styled his jumpsuit Vegas costumes on Cochran, and included the blues classic C.C. Rider in his set as a tribute to Cochran’s erstwhile backing band. Cochran retired from music in the 1970s to become an evangelical minister.

Just a month after the death of his older brother George, AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young died at 64. He had been suffering from dementia, like David Cassidy, so death was probably a sweet release. As a rhythm guitarist, Young is regarded as one of the greats in rock. That was rather overshadowed by younger brother Angus’ antics and lead guitar (Angus said his brother was actually the better lead guitarist), but Malcolm was said to be the driving force behind AC/DC.

In The Miracles, Warren ‘Pete’ Moore was the bass to the high tenor of Smokey Robinson. Lesser known is his contribution as uncredited arranger of many of those great Miracles hits. And rather overlooked is his co-writing role with Smokey and Marv Tarplin of such great Motown hits as The Tracks of My Tears, Going To A Go-Go, Ooo Baby Baby, Ain’t That Peculiar, I’ll Be Doggone and Since I Lost My Baby, and later the huge Miracles hit Love Machine, co-written with Bully Griffin.

When Mel Tillis wrote about “that crazy Asian war” in 1967’s Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town, he supposedly meant the Korean war — but it was released at the height of the Vietnam War (see the story of that song in The Originals Vol. 24). First released by Johnny Darrell in 1967, it was a hit for Kenny Rogers & The First Edition in 1969. Tillis recorded it himself in 1969, on the Life Turned Her That Way LP (with that great title song). Tillis revisited Ruby in 1976 to even better effect, with a blistering banjo solo. His singing success was preceded by a long songwriting career. He scored his first songwriting hit in 1957 with Webb Pierce’s I’m Tired (which Tillis later had a hit with himself), and later a big one with Bobby Bare’s Detroit City (a.k.a. I Wanna Go Home). Tillis also appeared in movies, including the Cannonball Run movies and Smokey And The Bandit II. And if musicians were patron saints, Tillis might be the one for people with speech defects: he was a stutterer.

Arriving at the pearly gates with Moore and Tillis on November 19 was the singer and actress Della Reese — after her role in TV’s Touched By An Angel, it was perhaps a homecoming. And it’s as the managing angel Tess that Reese is perhaps remembered by most, but before that she was a mighty jazz singer. She was discovered by Mahalia Jackson and was equally comfortable in gospel (she formed her own group in that genre) and jazz. By force of talent and personality she was an African-American icon (though she was also half Cherokee) by the early 1960s. The second part of Martha Reeves’ band’s name, The Vandellas, is a tribute to Reese. In the late 1960s she also began acting and that would become her major gig as time went on.

Some people are central in changing music but do so quietly. Producer and record executive George Avakian, who has died at 98, was one such pioneer. In the 1940s CBS appointed the young Armenian-born jazz producer to head up its reactivated Columbia imprint as a jazz label, especially with a view to re-issuing a back catalogue of jazz records. Avakian did so, releasing them with thoughtful linernotes. In between he also produced several acts, including Frank Sinatra (he later produced acts such as Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Odetta, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, John Cage and many others). The 33 13rpm long-playing album was developed by Columbia under Avakian’s watch. As a producer he pioneered live recordings for LPs, and was among the first producers to use modern multitrack recordings. In 1958 he left Columbia to start up a new record label for Warner Brothers, hitherto just a film production company. After that he became an A&R manager at RCA. Among the acts he managed and produced there was jazz trio Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan, whose Jon Hendricks died on the same day as Avakian.

Jon Hendricks was instrumental (as it were) in popularising a the jazz singing style known as vocalese, whereby the singer adds lyrics to a jazz improvisation and sings them note-for-original-note. The most famous example of it might be the track that inspired Hendricks, King Pleasure’s 1951 hit Moody’s Mood For Love, which was based on a sax solo by James Moody. By the late 1950s, Hendricks was part of the interracial jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross (later, in Avakian’s time with them, Yolande Bavan had replaced Annie Ross, who is now the last survivor of the trio in either iteration) which performed with the Count Basie Orchestra, taking Basie tunes and setting them to lyrics. In the 1960s the trio was popular — they very much inspired The Manhattan Transfer, with whom Hendricks later recorded — though also resented by the serious jazzheads for their playful lyrics.

English arranger/conductor Paul Buckmaster’s career ranged from scoring early hits by the likes of David Bowie (Space Oddity) and Elton John (Your Song) to Taylor Swift (2010’s Back To December) and Idina Menzel’s album last year. In between, his arrangement clients included The Rolling Stones (on Sticky Fingers), Shawn Phillips, Leonard Cohen, Nilsson (on Without You), Blood, Sweat & Tears  (on No Sweat), Carly Simon (on You’re So Vain), Miles Davis (on several 1970s albums), B.J. Thomas, Leo Sayer, Grateful Dead (on Terrapin Station), Nick Heyward, Stevie Nicks, Rodney Franklin, Meat Loaf (on Modern Day), Debbie Gibson, Paula Abdul, Lionel Richie, Lloyd Cole, Kenny Loggins, 10,000 Maniacs, Dwight Yoakam, Celine Dion, Counting Crows, Collective Soul, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, No Doubt, Tears For Fears, The Darkness, Ben Folds, Michael Bublé, Mika, Guns N’ Roses (on Chinese Democracy), Brandi Carlile and many more. He also played cello on some recordings, including Bowie’s Space Oddity. In 2002 he won a Grammy for his arrangement of the Train hit Drops Of Jupiter.

Just as I was preparing a mix of tracks on which guitarist Larry Carlton played, I learnt of the death of Carlton’s frequent sidekick on bass, Robert “Pops” Popwell. For a while he was practically a member of the Crusaders (as was Carlton). Popwell played for acts like The Young Rascals, Aretha Franklin, Irma Thomas, Dyane Allman, Randy Crawford, Eddie Money, Allen Toussaint, Hubert Laws, George Benson, Deodato, Ron Wood, Smokey Robinson, Letta Mbulu, Brenda Russell, Olivia Newton-John, Bill Withers, B.B. King, Bette Midler, Dr John and others. Powell also produced and arranged occasionally.

Soul singer Robert Knight had a minor US hit in 1968 with his song Everlasting Love, but when it was released in Britain it quickly caught on. The story goes that the English group Love Affair — or rather, singer Steve Ellis and a bunch of session musicians — rush-recorded and released the song before the original could chart with it. They had a #1 hit; Knight’s original, which entered the UK charts two weeks after the cover, stalled at #40. Then it went quiet around Knight until in late 1973 Britain’s Northern Soul scene — which grooved to obscure soul tracks — discovered Knight’s 1968 song Love On A Mountaintop. That joyful song, which had done very little business in the US, became a big UK hit, peaking at #10. And that was it for Knight’s chart career. By 1976 he released his last single. He later worked as a lab technician and chemistry teacher, still performing on stage occasionally.

Bonnie Flower might have been a star. She and her sister Wendy, who were the dreamy folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, had musician parents, and jazz percussionist Cal Tjader was their godfather. With Gabor Szabo and producer Gary McFarland, Tjader owned a record label, Skye, for which the teenage Flower sisters recorded an album of self-composed tracks, titled Genesis. McFarland arranged it, and session musicians included a young Larry Carlton on guitar, drummer Jim Keltner and keyboardist Mike Melvoin. It’s a very good album, but shortly after its release Skye went bankrupt. Two years later McFarland was about to record the sisters again, but was murdered. The sisters never recorded together again.

I can’t say they ever were my jam, but one has to acknowledge the influence the US post-punk band Faith No More, whose former frontman Chuck Mosley has died, has had on bands that went on to influence others. These include acts like Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses, System Of A Down, The Deftones, and, er, Slipknot and Korn.

Actor Jim Nabors made a name for himself in music as the singing mechanic Gomer Pyle in first the Andy Griffith Show and then his own spin-off series. Though he didn’t bother the US charts — his musical stylings are, let’s say, rather an acquired taste —he scored a Top 20 hit in Australia, of all places, with his version of The Impossible Dream. For more than 40 years he regularly sang the opening tune for the Indianapolis 500 season. For a seasonal reference I might mention that Nabors featured on Any Major Christmas in Black & White Vol. 1, which is a good time to mention that I’ll be having two new Christmas mixes in the coming weeks.

 

Katie Lee, 98, folk singer, on Nov. 1
Katie Lee – Gunslinger (1957)

Billy Mize, 88, country, singer, steel guitarist and broadcaster, on Nov. 1
Billy Mize – Who Will Buy The Wine (1956)

Jack Conrad, 69, bass guitarist, on Nov. 3
The Doors – In The Eye Of The Sun (1972, on bass guitar)
Gram Parsons – She (1973, on bass guitar)

Hank Hunter, 88, pop songwriter, on Nov. 4
Steve Lawrence – Footsteps (1960)

Robert Knight, 72, soul singer, on Nov. 5
Robert Knight – Everlasting Love (1967)
Robert Knight – Love On A Mountain Top (1968)
Robert Knight – Better Get Ready For Love (1974)

Paul Buckmaster, 71, English arranger, conductor and composer, on Nov. 7
Bee Gees – Odessa (City On The Black Sea) (1969, on cello)
Elton John – Tiny Dancer (1971, as arranger)
Nick Heyward – Whistle Down The Wind (1983, as arranger)
Ben Folds – Landed (Strings Version) (2005, as arranger)

Robert De Cormier, 95, folk music arranger and conductor, on Nov. 7
Harry Belafonte – Here Rattler Hear (1960, as arranger)

Pentti Glan, 71, Finnish-Canadian drummer, on Nov. 7
Lou Reed – Lady Day (1974)
Bette Midler – When A Man Loves A Woman (1979)

Chuck Mosley, 57, singer with post-punk band Faith No More (1984-88), on Nov. 9
Faith No More – We Care A Lot (1985)

Fred Cole, 69, rock singer and guitarist, on Nov. 9
The Lollipop Shoppe – You Must Be A Witch (1968, on lead vocals)
Dead Moon – Sabotage (2002, on lead vocals)

Hans Vermeulen, 70, singer with Dutch band Sandy Coast, and on Stars on 45, on Nov. 9
Sandy Coast – I See Your Face Again (1968)

Chad Hanks, 46, bassist of nu-metal band American Head Charge, on Nov. 12

Luis Bacalov, 84, Argentine-born Italian composer, on Nov. 15
Roberto Fia – Django (1968, as composer and conductor)
Itzhak Perlman & John Williams – Il Postino Theme (1996, as composer)

Bonnie Flower, 63, member of folk-rock duo Wendy & Bonnie, on Nov. 15
Wendy & Bonnie – The Paisley Window Pane (1969)

Lil Peep, 21, hip hop artist, on Nov. 15

Michael ‘Dik Mik’ Davies, c.73, keyboardist with English hard rock group Hawkwind, on Nov. 16
Hawkwind – Hurry On Sundown (1970)

Al Neil, 93, Canadian jazz musician, on Nov. 16

Malcolm Young, 64, rhythm guitarist and songwriter of AC/DC, on Nov. 18
AC/DC – Riff Raff (1978)
AC/DC – For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) (1981)
AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheep (1991, live)

Ben Riley, 84, jazz drummer, on Nov. 18
Thelonious Monk – Straight No Chaser (1964, on drums)

Warren ‘Pete’ Moore, 78, singer, songwriter with The Miracles, producer, arranger, on Nov. 19
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – The Tracks Of My Tears (1965, also as co-writer)
The Temptations – Since I Lost My Baby (1965, as co-writer)
Otis Redding – It’s Growing (1966, as co-writer)

Della Reese, 86, jazz and gospel singer and actress, on November 19
Della Reese – Don’t You Know? (1959)
Della Reese – After Loving You (1965)
Della Reese – Compared To What (1970)

Mel Tillis, 85, country singer-songwriter, on Nov. 19
Webb Pierce – I’m Tired (1957, as writer)
Mel Tillis – Life Turned Her That Way (1969)
Mel Tillis – Coca Cola Cowboy (1979)

Ronnie Butler, 80, Bahamian calypso singer, on Nov. 19
Ronnie Butler – Married Man (2010)

David Cassidy, 67, pop singer and actor, on Nov. 21
The Partridge Family – Echo Valley 2-6809 (1971, as lead singer)
David Cassidy – I Am A Clown (1972)
David Cassidy – The Last Kiss (1985, featuring George Michael on backing vocals)

Wayne Cochran, 78, soul singer, songwriter, on Nov. 21
Wayne Cochran – Last Kiss (1961)
Wayne Cochran – Up In My Mind (1967)

George Avakian, 98, producer and label executive, on Nov. 22
Louis Armstrong & His All Stars – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1955, as producer)
Johnny Mathis – Street Of Dreams (1956)

Jon Hendricks, 96, singer- songwriter with jazz group Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, on Nov. 22
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross – Moanin’ (1959, also as writer)
Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan – Shiny Stockings (1963, produced by George Avakian)

John Coates Jr., 79, jazz pianist, on Nov. 22

Tommy Keene, 59, pop singer and songwriter, on Nov. 22
Tommy Keene – Back To Zero Now (1982)

Shawn Jones, 32, gospel singer, on Nov. 22

Mitch Margo, 70, singer with pop band The Tokens and producer, on Nov. 24
The Tokens – I Hear Trumpets Blow (1966, also as writer)

Patrick Bourgeois, 54, singer of Canadian rock band Les B.B., on Nov. 26

Robert ‘Pops’ Popwell, 70, jazz-funk bass guitarist, on Nov. 27
Doris Duke – Ghost Of Myself (1969)
George Benson – Love Ballad (1979)
The Crusaders with Randy Crawford – Street Life (1981)

Magín Díaz, 94, Colombian folk singer and songwriter, on Nov. 28

Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker, 80, blues musician, on Nov. 29
Robert ‘Bilbo’ Walker – Everything Gonna Be Alright (1997)

Zé Pedro, 61, Portuguese guitarist, on Nov. 30

Jim Nabors, 87, actor and singer, on Nov. 30
Jim Nabors – Both Sides Now (1973)

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In Memoriam – October 2017

November 2nd, 2017 6 comments

Regular readers may know about my side project Bravo Posters wherein I run daily posters or cover pages of Germany’s Bravo magazine from the era up to the mid-1980s . On October 22 the featured item was the cover of Bravo of 20 October 1977, with a run-down of that edition’s stories in headline style. One of these was ‘John Paul Young: the singer from whom the Bay City Rollers “stole” a hit.’ That hit was “Yesterday’s Hero”, which was co-written by George Young. Who died the very same day Bravo Posters ran that frontpage.

George Young, the older brother of AC/DC’s Angus and Malcolm and no relation to the singer who gave two popes his name, was a prolific writer and producer, usually in partnership with Harry Vanda. On Australia’s music scene he was a giant. He and Vanda produced AC/DC’s early albums, and wrote John Paul Young’s breakthrough hits Standing In The Rain and Love Is In The Air (and, of course, Yesterday’s Hero, “stolen” by the Bay City Rollers). In the 1980s they wrote another international hit with Flash In The Pan’s Waiting For A Train. But Young and Vanda’s greatest legacy is one of the finest 1960s pop songs featuring minor keys. As members of The Easybeats, they wrote and played on Friday On My Mind.

With Fats Domino we have lost one of the nice guys on rock ‘n’ roll — a family man whose worst vice was a bit of gambling, a guy who never trash-talked his colleagues and was generous with his genius. Although his star faded somewhat in the 1960s, his legacy as a rock & roll pioneer was already secure, much as he insisted that he was a R&B musician. Domino influenced those who would become influential themselves. John Lennon named Domino’s Ain’t That A Shame as the first song he could ever play in full. Later The Beatles wrote Lady Madonna as a Domino tribute; Fats then covered it, bringing together a circle of genius. And Fats Domino (whose surname actually was Domino; he received his nickname after Fats Waller) might be the only #1 musician who inspired the stagename of another #1 musician: Chubby Checker.

I fear I shocked some of my US friends when I confessed to not knowing very much about the music of Tom Petty. He was one of those curious cases of musicians who are huge in the US but also-rans in the rest of the world. In the UK, Petty had one Top 30 entry — I Won’t Back Down reached #28 in 1989. In most of the world he was probably more famous as Muddy/Charlie T. Wilbury.  I became aware of Petty in 1977 when I saw him on a poster in Bravo magazine. I liked his face but didn’t know his music. In fact, I didn’t hear his voice, at least knowingly, until some time in the 1980s. And, I must confess, I never became a great fan, though I did like quite a few of his songs.

One of my favourite baritone voices has gone silent with the death of soul singer Grady Tate. Alas, he never became a huge star, despite a couple of very good albums and a clutch of great singles, plus those magnificently seductive vocals on Grover Washington Jr’s superb Be Mine (Tonight). Tate had greater recognition as a jazz drummer for the likes of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Lalo Schifrin, Stan Getz, Herbie Mann, Gabor Szabo, Hubert Laws, Roy Ayers, Jimmy McGriff, Freddie Hubbard, Houston Person, Lionel Hampton, George Shearing, Dizzy Gillespie, Bobby Hackett and Mary Lou Williams. He also backed vocalists such as Louis Armstrong (on What A Wonderful World), Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway, Marlena Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Paul Simon, Bette Midler, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Carly Simon, Phoebe Snow, Lou Rawls, Peggy Lee and Kate & Anna McGarrigle.  He drummed for six years in the houseband of Johnny Carson’s Tonight show, and he hit the skins at Simon & Garfunkel’s famous Concert in Central Park.Sometimes research for this series can be very frustrating. In some obituaries for Dixie Hummingbirds guitarist Howard Carroll, who has died at 92, he is referred to as an original member of the band — which was formed in 1928, when he was three, an age still too young even as founder James B. Davis was only 12. Carroll seems to have joined the gospel group only in 1952. He stayed with it for the rest of his life, and was the longest-serving active member at the time of his death.

Producer Jerry Ross, who has died at 84, was the first man to give the young Kenny Gamble — the future Philly soul kingpin — his break. Together they wrote I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, which was first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick, then by Madeline Bell before it became a huge hit for Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptation. Ross was also a successful producer — among the biggest hits he produced were Bobby Hebb’s Sunny; Jay And The Techniques’ Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie; and Shocking Blue’s Venus — as well as a record label founder and A&R man.

And talking of Philly soul, a man who was in the thick of that story has passed on. Bunny Sigler made a mark as a singer. He recorded a few records for Cameo-Parkway in the ’60s before joining his friend Leon Huff at Philadelphia International Records as a songwriter (for acts such as The O’Jays) and producer for the likes of The Whispers, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, Lou Rawls, Jimmy Ruffin, Archie Bell & The Drells, The O’Jays, Loleatta Holloway, Patti LaBelle, Stephanie Mills and Curtis Mayfield. One of the biggest hits he produced was Instant Funk’s I Got My Mind Made Up, which featured in the In Memoriam – April 2017. He also had a few hits in his own right.It’s not a good year for people associated with the P-Funk collective; every few months somebody from Parliament/Funkadelic dies. This month it was backing singer Debbie Wright, who was giving her voice to the P-Funk from 1975 onwards. In between, he was one of the P-Funk all-female off-shoot Parlet, but left the trio after one album. In January the Reaper took Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, in February it was Leon Ware who wrote songs for Parliament, in March singer Robert ‘P-Nut’ Johnson, in April drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, who once toured with Funkadelic.

With the death of Skip Haynes, all three members of early ’70s rock trio Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah are now dead. Keyboardist John Jeremiah died in 2011, drummer John Aliotta in 2015. And now guitarist Haynes. The band’s biggest hit was Lake Shore Drive, which was about a Chicago highway. This being 1971, it was widely assumed that there was a hidden meaning in the song communicated through the initials of the song’s title — which, to be fair, the trio also enunciate in the lyrics and included in the title in parentheses.

For Canadian rock fans of a certain age, The Tragically Hip are a very important band. I hadn’t heard of them until mid-2016 when I read about the brain cancer of lead singer Gord Downie, who has now died of his illness. After Downie’s death, even Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued an emotional tribute. There is a reason I hadn’t heard of the band, nor, I suspect, most of those who are reading this. Unlike virtually every Canadian act that breaks big, The Hip, as their fans call them, never moved to the US. The rest of the world barely registers that Neil Young or Joni Mitchell or Bryan Adams or Justin Bieber are Canadians; in the general consciousness they become Americanised. The Tragically Hip, however, remained proudly Canadian, earning them cult status in their country.

Nick Newall, 77, saxophonist, flautist, keyboardist, on Oct. 1
Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band – Florence Of Arabia (1966, as member)
John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – Looking Back (1969, on tenor saxophone)

Kenny Beard, country songwriter and producer, on Oct. 1
Trace Adkins – The Rest Of Mine (1997, as writer)

Tom Petty, 66, rock musician, on Oct. 2
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers – Listen To Her Heart (1978)
Stevie Nicks with Tom Petty – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around (1982, as vocalist, producer, writer)
The Traveling Wilburys – Last Night (1988, co-lead vocals)
Tom Petty – Free Fallin (1989)

Skip Haynes, 71, guitarist and songwriter, on Oct. 2
Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah – Lake Shore Drive (1973)

Jerry Ross, 84, producer, songwriter, label owner on Oct. 4
The Sapphires – Who Do You Love (1964, as writer)
Bobby Hebb – Sunny (1966, as producer)
Supremes & Temptations – I’m Gonna Make You Love Me (1968, as co-writer)
Jay & The Techniques – Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie (1968, as producer)

Alvin DeGuzman, guitarist of hardcore band The Icarus Line, on Oct. 5

Bunny Sigler, 76, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 6
Bunny Sigler – Let The Good Times Roll (1968)
The O’Jays – Sunshine (1973, as writer and producer)
Bunny Sigler – That’s How Long I’ll Be Loving You (1976)
Bunny Sigler – Let Me Party With You (Party, Party, Party) (1978)

Lou Gare, 78, English free jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 6

Jimmy Beaumont, 76, lead singer of doo wop group The Skyliners, on Oct. 7
The Skyliners – Since I Don’t Have You (1959)
Jimmy Beaumont – Tell Me (1965)

Grady Tate, 85, jazz drummer and singer, on Oct. 8
Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World (1968, on drums)
Grady Tate – All Around The World (1968)
Grady Tate – Sack Full Of Dreams (1974)
Grover Washington Jr. – Be Mine (Tonight) (1981, on lead vocals)

Andy McGhee, 89, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 12

Iain Shedden, 60, Scottish drummer (The Saints) and journalist, on Oct. 16
The Saints – Music Goes Round My Head (1988)

Gord Downie, 53, bassist of Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, on Oct. 17
The Tragically Hip – Blow At High Dough (1989)
The Tragically Hip – In View (2005)

Debbie Wright, 67, singer with Parliament/Funkadelic and Parlet, on Oct. 17
George Clinton & Parliament – Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker) (1975)
Parlet – Cookie Jar (1978)

Howard Carroll, 92, guitarist of The Dixie Hummingbirds, on Oct. 17
The Dixie Hummingbirds – The Final Edition (1959)
The Dixie Hummingbirds – Loves Me Like A Rock (1973)

Phil Miller, 68, English rock/jazz guitarist, on Oct. 18

Eamonn Campbell, 70, guitarist and singer with Irish folk-group The Dubliners, on Oct. 18
The Dubliners & The Pogues – The Irish Rover (1987)

Boris Lindqvist, 76, Swedish rock & roll pioneer, announced Oct. 19

Martin Eric Ain, 50, bassist of Swiss heavy metal band Celtic Frost, on Oct. 21

George Young, 70, Australian musician, songwriter and producer, on Oct. 22
The Easybeats – Good Times (1968, as co-writers and members)
John Paul Young – Yesterday’s Hero (1976, as co-writer & co-producer)
AC/DC – Whole Lotta Rosie (1977, as co-producer)
Flash and the Pan – Waiting For A Train (1983, as co-writer & co-producer)

Scott ‘Daisy Berkowitz’ Putesky, 49, co-founder, guitarist of Marilyn Manson (1989-96), announced Oct. 22
Marilyn Manson – Lunchbox (1994)

Al Hurricane, 81, singer and songwriter, on Oct. 22

Larry Ray, 63, guitarist of power-pop band Outrageous Cherry, on Oct. 24
Outrageous Cherry – Stay Right Here For A Little While (2002)

Fats Domino, 89, legendary R&B singer-songwriter, on Oct. 24
Fats Domino – The Fat Man (1949)
Fats Domino – Ain’t That A Shame (1955)
Fats Domino – I’m Walking To New Orleans (1960)
Fats Domino – Lady Madonna (1968)

Robert Guillaume, 89, actor and occasional singer, on Oct. 24
Bob ‘Benson’ Guillaume – The Streets Are Filled With Dancing (1978)

Juliette, 91, Canadian jazz singer and TV presenter, on Oct. 26

Shea Norman, 45, gospel singer, on Oct. 26

Dick Noel, 90, crooner and advertising jingles singer, on Oct. 27
Ray Anthony and his Orchestra – Count Every Star (1950, on vocals)

Mike Hudson, 61, singer and guitarist of US punk band The Pagans, on Oct. 27
The Pagans – Dead End America (1979)

Keith Wilder, 65, US-born singer of UK funk group Heatwave, on Oct. 29
Heatwave – Always And Forever (1977)
Heatwave – Turn Around (1980)

Daniel Viglietti, 78, Uruguayan folk singer-songwriter and political activist, on Oct. 30

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In Memoriam – September 2017

October 5th, 2017 2 comments

The death of Walter Becker was marked here before even the August instalment of In Memoriam was posted, by way of a tribute in the form of covers of Steely Dan tracks. In the linernotes I emphasised Becker’s pivotal role in Steely Dan as the main arranger of those intricate and innovative songs, titled Any Major Steely Dan Covers. Of course, he also co-wrote those songs and played bass and (from Pretzel Logic onwards) guitar. All that came to an end in 1980 when Becker went into semi-retirement after a series of personal problems, including drug-use. He became an avocado farmer, but through the 1980s he also produced albums by the likes of Michael Franks, Rickie Lee Jones and Fra Lippo Lippi, as well as English new wave band China Crisis, who even listed him as a member on their excellent Flaunt The Imperfection album. He reunited with Donald Fagen in the early 1990s. Becker produced Fagen’s 1993 album Kamakiriad; Fagen co-produced Becker’s solo debut album the following year. They also started touring again as Steely Dan, and in 2000 and 2003 released two further well-received albums.

A few days after Becker, another influential man of many talents went: German musician Holger Czukay. As a young man, Czukay’s interest was in avant-garde music and he studied under the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen from 1963-66. A year after finishing those studies, Czukay heard The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus, inspiring him to connect his interest in experimental music with rock. In 1968 he co-founded Can (whose drummer, Jaki Liebezeit died in January), staying with the band until 1977. Can was among the “Krautrock” improv bands that influenced the likes of David Bowie and Talking Heads as well as acts like Joy Division/New Order, The Fall, Talk Talk, Public Image Ltd, Primal Scream, Jesus & Mary Chain and, for their sins, Radiohead. After leaving Can, Czukay released some funky records but also produced a string of albums that were not, safe to say, aimed at the commercial market. He developed something he called “radio painting”, whereby he’d splice together pieces of recordings from shortwave radio — an early form of sampling. Other efforts, especially in collaborations, were more accessible. Check out the lovely obit by Jono Podmore, a collaborator with Czukay and Liebezeit.

This monthly series, by its nature, is not an occasion for joyful celebration, even as we do celebrate the lives of musicians who brought much joy. Still, there are few other vocations were the conversation segues from Holger Czukay to Don Williams. I must confess that for many years I had an aversion to Don Williams. It had nothing to do with his music or personality, and everything to do with German highway rest-stops where cassette tapes of his 20 golden best of greatest hits would be displayed alongside the tapes of 20 golden best of greatest hits by stetson-wearers with and without moustaches, and the obligatory easy listening merchants of Roger Whitaker’s stripe. The selection clearly was aimed at truck drivers, not hip people like myself. Well, over time I found out that the smooth tones of Don Williams make for warm, effortless listens. And that he recorded the original for Eric Clapton’s Tulsa Time. And I’ve come to know many very cool truck drivers who are just as likely to listen to Czukay as they might to Gibson.

In the world of reggae, all-round musician Earl “Wire” Lindo was a big name, thanks to his work, especially on the keyboard, with Bob Marley & The Wailers (of whom he was a member, with a hiatus from 1974-79), Burning Spear, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Peter Tosh, Marcia Griffith, Gregory Isaac, Rita Marley, Black Uhuru, Dillinger, The Heptones, Melody Makers and many others. Occasionally he’d branch out, playing with acts like Taj Mahal, Garland Jeffreys (who, in any case, drew heavily from reggae) and, er, John Denver and Kenny Chesney. Until recently he was still touring with The Wailers Band. He died suddenly in London at 64.

Brazilian percussionist Laudir de Oliveira was a member of Chicago from the mid-1970s till 1982, when he was told to move out in favour of Bill Champlin in the band’s bid to become more commercial. But even before and while he was with Chicago, he played on several notable records as a session percussionist. That’s how he became a member of Chicago in the first place, having played on three albums before being invited to join the band. He first made a mark with his great conga playing on Joe Cocker’s Feelin’ All Right. Among others he played with are The Jacksons (on Blame It On The Boogie), Kenny Loggins, Gilberto Gil, Earl Klugh, Sergio Mendes, Chick Corea, Herb Alpert, Paul Anka, Milton Nascimento, Leon Ware, and Jennifer Warnes

German Schlager singers don’t have a reputation of being great exponents of soul music. But one who could make such claim was Joy Fleming, who has died at 72. Born with the very un-soul name Erna Raad, Fleming was most famous for her foray into the Eurovision Song Contest. Her 1975 entry features here: unaccountably, she finished 17th out of 19 entries, in the year that Teach-In’s Ding-A-Long won. Fleming was a fine soul, disco and blues performer with a big voice to match her big personality, and a fine interpreter of hits, also recording in English.

The actor Harry Dean Stanton enjoyed cult status in his field; lesser known are his occasional forays into the world of music. Periodically he toured, performing what one might call alt.country music, and recorded a few records. The first track featured here, from 1993, is a cover of a soul song by William Bell; the other is the excellent b-side.

The life of Rick Stevens illustrates how it is easy to fall from the, well, tower of power of celebrity once the fame goes. As the lead singer of 1970s soul-funk band Tower of Power, Stevens enjoyed some success for a time, especially with the hit You’re Still A Young Man, but prodigious use of drug led to his departure from the Tower. A few years later, in 1976, he killed three men in a drug-deal gone-south. He was sentenced to be executed, but soon after that California declared the death penalty unconstitutional, and Stevens’ sentence was converted to life imprisonment. He was paroled in 2012. Having mended his ways in jail, Stevens took to performing in prisons to spread the message to inmates that it is possible to turn one’s life around. So his life is not only a cautionary tale, but also a story of redemption.

 

Mick Softley, 77, British folk singer-songwriter, on Sept 1
Mick Softley – Time Machine (1970)

Hedley Jones, 99, Jamaican musician, audio engineer and inventor, on Sept 1

Walter Becker, 67, Steely Dan legend, producer, on Sept 3
Steely Dan – Only A Fool Would Say That (1972)
China Crisis – You Did Cut Me (1985, as producer/band member, on synth, percussion)
Walter Becker – Junkie Girl (1994)
Steely Dan – Slang Of Ages (2003, also on lead vocals)

Dave Hlubek, 66, guitarist of rock group Molly Hatchet, film score composer, on Sept 3
Molly Hatchet – Fall Of The Peacemakers (1983, also as writer)

Earl ‘Wire’ Lindo, 64, Jamaican reggae musician, on Sept 4
Bob Marley and The Wailers – Get Up, Stand Up (1973, as member)
Peter Tosh – Apartheid (1977, on keyboards)

Holger Czukay, 79, German rock musician, member of Can, on Sept 5
Can – She Brings The Rain (1970)
Holger Czukay – Cool In The Pool (1979)
Holger Czukay / Jah Wobble / The Edge – Snake Charmer (1984)

Leo Cuypers, 69, Dutch jazz pianist and composer, on Sept 5

Rick Stevens, 77, lead singer of soul-funk band Tower of Power, on Sept 5
Tower Of Power – The Skunk, The Goose, And The Fly (1971)
Tower Of Power – You’re Still A Young Man (1972)

John Jack, English jazz producer and promoter, on Sept 7

Don Williams, 78, country singer and songwriter, on Sept. 8
Poco Seco Singers – Take My Hand For A While (1969, as lead singer)
Don Williams – Tulsa Time (1978)
Don Williams  – That’s The Thing About Love (1984)

Josh Schwartz, 45, singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Sept 8

Troy Gentry, 50, country singer, in a helicopter crash on Sept 8
Montgomery Gentry – You Do Your Thing (2004)

Michael Friedman, 41, musical composer and lyricist, on Sept 9
James Barry & Benjamin Steinfeld – Rock Star (2010, from Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson)

Virgil Howe, 41, British musician, remixer, on Sept 10
Virgil Howe – Someday (2009)

Jessi Zazu, 28, lead singer of country-rock band Those Darlins, on Sept 12
Those Darlins – Wild One (2009)

Riem de Wolff, 74, singer of Dutch-Indonesian band The Blue Diamonds, on Sept 12

Grant Hart, 56, drummer with Hüsker Dü, singer, songwriter, on Sept 14
Hüsker Dü – Turn On The News (1984, also as writer)
Hüsker Dü – She’s A Woman (And Now He Is A Man) (1989, as writer and on lead vocals)
Grant Hart – Is The Sky the Limit (2013)

Lil Ameer, 14, Nigerian hip-hop artist, traffic accident on Sept 14

Harry Dean Stanton, 91, actor and occasional singer, on Sept 15
Harry Dean Stanton – You Don’t Miss Your Water (1993)
Harry Dean Stanton – Across The Borderline (1993)

Laudir de Oliveira, 77, Brazilian percussionist with Chicago, on Sept 17
Joe Cocker – Feelin’ Alright (1969, on congas)
Chicago – Feelin’ Stronger Everyday (1975)
The Jacksons – Blame It On The Boogie (1978, on percussions)

Mark Selby, 56, blues-rock musician, on Sept 18
Mark Selby – I Will Not Go Quietly (2013)

Bill Hatton, 76, bassist of English pop group The Fourmost, on Sept 19
The Fourmost – Hello Little Girl (1963, written by Lennon/McCartney)

Johnny Sandlin, 72, producer and engineer, on Sept. 19
Allman Brothers Band – Jessica (1973, as producer)

Cees Bergman, 65, singer of Dutch glam-rock band Catapult, on Sept. 21
Catapult – Let Your Hair Hang Down (1974)

Johnny Burke, 77, Canadian country singer, on Sept 21

Guy Villari, 75, singer with doo wop band The Regents, on Sept 21
The Regents – Barbara Ann (1961, original version)

Eric Eycke, lead singer of metal band Corrosion of Conformity (1983-84), on Sept 22

Ammon Tharp, 75, lead singer and drummer of Bill Deal and the Rhondels, on Sept 22
Bill Deal and the Rhondels – What Kind Of Fool Do You Think I Am (1969)

Mike Carr, 79, English jazz keyboard player, on Sept 22
Donovan – Wear Your Love Like Heaven (1967, on vibraphone)

Harold Pendleton, 93, founder of London’s Marquee Club, on Sept 22
The Who – My Generation (1967, live at the Marquee Club)

Charles Bradley, 68, soul singer, on Sept 23
Charles Bradley and The Bullets – This Love Ain’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us (2005)

Gérard Palaprat, 67, French singer-songwriter, on Sept 25

Joy Fleming, 72, German singer, on Sept 27
Joy Fleming – Bridge Of Love (1975)
Joy Fleming – Are You Ready For Love (1978)

CeDell Davis, 90, blues musician, on Sept 27
CeDell Davis – She’s Got The Devil In Her (1993)

Tom Paley, 89, folk musician, on Sept 30
The New Lost City Ramblers – Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down (1958, as member)

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