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In Memoriam – November 2018

December 3rd, 2018 3 comments

For a change, this month’s In Memoriam comes to you on a Monday. On Thursday the first of this year’s two Christmas mixes will run, and in between the annual round-up of the year’s most significant music deaths. And, as always, the year will end with a disco mix for your New Year’s Eve celebrations (at a party or to boogie down in the kitchen as you prep your TV snacks). Here, then, are November’s dead and their music.

To American country fans, and general TV viewers, Roy Clark was a household name as the presenter, alongside Buck Owens, of the long-running variety show Hee Haw. A recording artist in his own right, Clark welcomed many country artists to “Kornfield Kounty”. Elvis was a fan and wanted to appear on the show, but was afraid that Colonel Parker would nix the idea. Although Hee Haw was popular in urban centres, in 1971 TV execs tried to be hip to the youth and cancelled a bunch of shows aimed at rural and older demographics. These included Hee Haw and The Lawrence Welk Show, as well as series such as The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres). Welk and Hee Haw continued with much success in syndication, but Clark made his displeasure known by recording a novelty song titled The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka.

The French composer Francis Lai wrote a huge number of film scores, and in that pursuit he came up with two tunes which wormed themselves into every ear of their generation: the love theme of Love Story, which became a hit for Andy Williams as Where Do I Begin, and before that theme of A Man And A Woman, which you’ll know even if you can’t place the title. Lai also wrote many songs for the likes of Edith Piaf, Yves Montand or Mireille Mathieu.

Another track that might feature in the Originals series is Jamaican rocksteady band The Melodians’ The Rivers Of Babylon, which became a huge hit in the 1978 cover by Boney M. Of course, for reggae fans it is hardly a lesser-known original: in The Melodians’ hands, it was an anthem for the Rastafari movement when it came out in 1970. Its use on the soundtrack of the 1972 film The Harder They Come helped introduce reggae to a broader audience. Even before that, they were one of the pioneering bands to make the transition from ska to rocksteady. With the death of Trevor McNaughton at 77, all three original members of the band are now dead. As the last survivor, McNaughton released an album with a new version of The Melodians only last year.

Just a day after his original version on the Barry Manilow hit Mandy appeared on the 1970s Originals mix, Scott English died at 81. In the 1960s he had co-written the American Breed hit Bend Me, Shape Me, The Animals’ Help Me Girl and the Jeff Beck hit Hi Ho Silver Lining, which he also produced (and which is still going to feature in the Originals series). The man with the most self-contradictory of names also produced Thin Lizzy’s eponymous 1971 debut album.

As an orchestra should, the Electric Light Orchestra featured strings. And most prominent among those was the cello, played from 1973 to 1978 by Hugh McDowell. The classically trained cellist — an alumnus of the Yehudi Menuhin School who made his professional debut at the age of 11 — also was a dab hand at the new-fangled Moog synth, which he played with Roy Wood’s Wizzard. Later he got into computer programming, writing several music-related programmes.

You might not guess it, but later 1990s pop/hip-hop outfit LFO, best known perhaps for their 1999 hits Summer Girls and Girl On TV sold more than 4 million CDs worldwide. Hearing these songs again now evokes another age, which is a strange sensation for somebody like me who is still coming to terms that were living in the 21st century. This came to mind with the death of 41 of LFO singer Devin Lima. Born Harold Lima, he had been as hardware store worker when the Lyte Funkie Ones roped him in to be their new singer — and Lima promptly renamed them LFO. After LFO split in 2002 (they reformed a couple of times later), Lima had a solo project and formed a few bands, but nothing replicated LFO’s brief but of great success. Lima as diagnosed with stage four cancer last year. On 21 November he lost that fight.

Vinny Mazetta, 83, saxophone player, on Oct. 14
The Five Satins – In The Still Of The Night (1956, on saxophone)

Ray Owen, member of British blues rock band Juicy Lucy, on Oct. 31
Juicy Lucy – Who Do You Love? (1969)

Monique Wakelin, keyboardist of Australian rock band iNsuRge, announced Oct. 31
iNsuRge – I Hate Stupid People (1998)

Dave Rowland, 74, lead singer of country trio Dave & Sugar, on Nov. 1
Dave & Sugar – I’m Knee Deep In Loving You (1977)

Tom Diaz, 32, Indie singer and musician, on Nov. 1

Roy Hargrove, 49, jazz trumpeter, on Nov. 2
Roy Hargrove Quintet – Once Forgotten (1994)
John Mayer – Waiting On The World To Change (2006, on horns)

Josh Fauver, 38, bassist of indie band Deerhunter, on Nov. 2

Glenn Schwartz, 78, rock guitarist, on Nov. 2
Pacific Gas And Electric – Bluesbuster (1969)

Maria Guinot, 73, Portuguese singer, on Nov. 3

Tama Renata, ex-member New Zealand reggae band Herbs, on Nov. 4
Herbs – Till We Kissed (1993)

Roman Grinev, 41, Russian jazz-fusion bassist, on Nov. 4

Hugh McDowell, 65, English cellist with ELO, Wizzard, on Nov. 6
Wizzard – Bend Over Beethoven (1973, on Moog, also as writer)
ELO – Evil Woman (1975)

Francis Lai, 86, French film score composer, on Nov. 7
Edith Piaf – Musique A Tout Va (1962, as co-writer)
Francis Lai – Theme From ‘A Man And A Woman’ (1967, also as composer)
Andy Williams – Where Do I Begin (Love Story) (1970, as composer)

Wolfgang Schlüter, 85, German jazz vibraphonist and percussionist, on Nov. 12

Lucho Gatica, 90, Chilean bolero singer and actor, on Nov. 13

Brian Rusike, 62, songwriter and keyboardist with Zimbabwean band Pied Piper, on Nov. 13
Pied Pipers – Lets Work Together (And Build Zimbabwe) (1980)

Sonny Knowles, 86, Irish showband singer, on Nov. 15

Roy Clark, 85, country singer and presenter of TV show Hee Haw, on Nov. 15
Roy Clark – The Tip Of My Fingers (1962)
Roy Clark – The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka (1972)
Roy Clark – Tennessee Saturday Night (1982)

Ivan Smirnov, 63, Russian folk/fusion guitarist, on Nov. 15

Scott English, 81, songwriter and producer, on Nov. 16
Scott English – High On A Hill (1964)
Eric Burdon & The Animals – Help Me Girl (1966, as co-writer)
Scott English – Something’s Missin’ In My Life (1974)

Al James, 72, bass guitarist of British pop band Showaddywaddy, on Nov. 16
Showaddywaddy – Hey Rock n Roll (1974)

Thierry Lalo, 55, French jazz musician, composer and arranger, on Nov. 16

Alec Finn, 74, bouzouki player of Irish folk band De Dannan, on Nov. 16
De Dannan – Coleraine Jig (1981)

Norris Weir, 72, singer of rocksteady band The Jamaicans and gospel singer, on Nov. 16
The Jamaicans – Ba Ba Boom (1967, also as co-writer)

Cyril Pahinui, 68, Hawaiian guitarist and singer, on Nov. 17

Jens Büchner, 49, German pop singer, on Nov. 17

Eddie Reeves, 79, songwriter and record label executive, on Nov. 18
Sonny & Cher – All I Ever Need Is You (1971, as co-writer)

Bill Caddick, 74, English folk singer and guitarist, member of Home Service, on Nov. 19
Bill Caddick – Superman (1986)

Chris Burroughs, 60, singer-songwriter, on Nov. 19

Trevor McNaughton, 77, singer with Jamaican reggae band The Melodians, on Nov. 20
The Melodians – Lay It On (1966)
The Melodians – Rivers Of Babylon (1970)

Eddie C. Campbell, 79, blues musician, on Nov. 20
Eddie C. Campbell – All Nite (1968)

Roy Bailey, 83, English folk singer, on Nov. 20
Roy Bailey – What You Do With What You’ve Got (1992)

Devin Lima, 41, singer of pop band LFO, on Nov. 21
LFO – Summer Girls (1999)

Mike Zero, 47, German punk musician, on Nov. 26

Skip Van Winkle, 74, musician and singer of Teegarden & Van Winkle, on Nov. 27
Teegarden & Van Winkle – God, Love And Rock & Roll (1970)

Johnny Maddox, 91, ragtime pianist and historian, on Nov. 27
Johnny Maddox and The Rhythmasters – Eight Beat Boogie (1953)

Roger Neumann, 77, jazz saxophonist and arranger, on Nov. 28

Gary Haisman, 60, English singer and rapper, on Nov. 28
D. Mob feat. Gary Haisman – We Call It Acieed (1988)

Erik Lindmark, 46, singer-guitarist of death metal band Deeds of Flesh, on Nov. 29

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In Memoriam – October 2018

November 1st, 2018 7 comments

Last month’s In Memoriam included Charles Aznavour, who died in October, and this month’s round-up includes a singing actor who died in September. Confused? Read on.

The Studio Wizard

The Beatles benefitted richly from the genius of producer George Martin, but the man who put many of the studio tricks and effects in action was the wizard engineer Geoff Emerick, the sound engineer on several the Fab Four’s albums: Revolver (his first job as chief engineer was top work on Tomorrow Never Knows), Sgt Pepper’s and Abbey Road. As an assistant engineer, he was there right at the start, in the session that produced Love Me Do, and later during the recordings of songs like She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand. Emerick’s 2006 memoir Here, There and Everywhere provides a great insight into the production of that later trilogy of albums that saw The Beatles at their peak of creativity. He later engineered for Paul McCartney, on albums like Band On The Run, London Town, Tug Of War and Pipes Of Peace, as well as on several of the great America hits such as Lonely People, Sister Golden Hair, Tin Man and Daisy Jane. He also produced the original version of Without You by Badfinger, and worked as producer and/or engineer on records by the likes of The Zombies, Peter & Gordon, Climax Blues Band, Gino Vanelli, Robin Trower, Supertramp, Cheap Trick, Art Garfunkel, Elvis Costello, Ultravox, Nick Heyward, Big Country, Split Enz, Echo & The Bunnymen and Johnny Cash.

The Swamp Rocker

The title track of Willie Nelson’s 2017 album God’s Problem Child features Leon Russell, Tony Joe White and Jamey Johnson (the latter two wrote it as well). Of Nelson’s three collaborators, only Jamey Johnson is still alive. Tony Joe White, who has died at 75, is best-known for his composition of the Brook Benton hit Rainy Night In Georgia and the Elvis hit Polk Salad Annie. The latter title sounds a bit like a novelty number rather than the sweaty blues-rock workout (Polk Salad is, in fact, a rural vegetable stew. It sounds like a particularly strange dance). Elvis loved covering White’s songs; he also did a version of the wonderful I’ve Got A Thing About You Baby and 1973’s For Ol’ Times Sake. Dusty Springfield also covered his Willie & Laura Mae Jones. Later he wrote Steamy Windows for Tina Turner. Over almost 50 years, he regularly released new albums in swamp-rock genre that was also home to Leon Russell. His last album, Bad Mouthin’, came out on September 28.

The Mighty Wah

To his mom, he was known as Melvin Ragin, but to the world he was Wah Wah Watson, the man who plays that dirty funky guitar which converses with Dennis Edwards in the opening verse of The Temptations’ Papa Was A Rolling Stone. Or as the man who uses the pedal that gave him his nickname to seductive effect in that opening line of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On. Or that funky groove on Rose Royce’s Car Wash… Wah Wah Watson/Melvin Ragin (the credits used both names interchangeably) played many times with Quincy Jones, also on Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album. Apart from the Motown roster of the 1970s, he played on hits like Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis’ You Don’t Have To Be A Star, and Peaches & Herb’s Reunited. He can be heard on records by the likes of Blondie, Billy Preston, Etta James, Boz Scaggs, The Main Ingredient, Barry White, John Lee Hooker, Bill Withers, Pointer Sisters, The Whispers, Webster Lewis, Dizzy Gillespie, Albert King, Lenny Williams, Patrice Rushen, George Duke, Beach Boys,  Herbie Hancock, Bobby Womack,  Lisa Stansfield, Paula Abdul, Tony! Toni! Toné!, George Benson, Patti LaBelle, Vanessa Williams, El DeBarge, Chaka Khan, Jonathan Butler, Brian McKnight and many others…

The Sergeant

He slipped through the cracks last month, but I dare not leave out Al Matthews, lest he come back to shout at me. Movie fans will know Matthews as the cigar-chewing Sgt. Apone in Aliens, but some pop fans might remember him also as the singer of the 1975 UK Top 20 hit Fool. It was one of several singles he released, but the only to chart. He made an appearance with a rap on the hip hop mix of Linda Lewis’ 1984 dance hit Style/Class. In 1978, he was the first black disc jockey to join the BBC’s Radio 1. Thereafter, the Vietnam veteran began his acting career.

The Skiing Rapper

Dying for you art can come in different ways; for Canadian rapper Jon James it came in a daring video shoot. The artist, who as Jon McMurray had been a professional freestyle-skier before he turned to hip hop following a career-ending injury, was on the wing of an airborne Cessna, to be filmed while rapping. But his movement on the wing caused the pilot to lose control, throwing Jon off before he could activate his parachute. The plane landed safely, but for Jon there was no hope.

The 90-Year Career

Three years ago, at the age of 104, Elder Roma Wilson was still preaching and playing the harmonica, having become an ordained minister in a Pentecostal church in 1929. He died this month at 107. Wilson’s primary gig was to preach, with the musicianship a tool in that pursuit. Still, in 1995, when he was his 80s, he recorded an album; his only one in a career spanning nearly 90 years.

 

Al Matthews, 75, actor, singer and radio DJ, on Sept. 22
Al Matthews – Fool (1975)
Linda Lewis feat. Al Matthews – Class/Style (I’ve Got It) (Hip-Hop Mix) (1984, as rapper)

Charles Aznavour, 94, French singer and actor, on Oct. 1
Charles Aznavour – La Bohême (1965)

Jerry González, 69, bandleader and trumpeter, on Oct. 1
Jerry González & The Fort Apache Band – Earthdance (1991)

Stelvio Cipriani, 81, Italian film composer, on Oct. 1

Geoff Emerick, 72, English recording engineer, on Oct. 2
The Beatles – Tomorrow Never Knows (1966, as sound engineer)
America – Lonely People (1974, as sound engineer)
Nick Heyward – Blue Hat For A Blue Day (1983, as co-producer)
Elvis Costello And The Attractions – All This Useless Beauty (1996, as co-producer)

John Von Ohlen, 77, drummer of jazz group Blue Wisp Big Band, on Oct. 3

Hamiet Bluiett, 78, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 4

Pete Philpot, 49, drummer of Australian metal band Manticore, on Oct. 4

Bernadette Carroll, 74, pop singer, on Oct. 5
Bernadette Carroll – Party Girl (1964)

Ed Kenney, 85, singer and actor, on Oct. 5
Ed Kenney – Like A God (1958)

Montserrat Caballé, 85, Spanish opera singer, on Oct. 6
Freddie Mercury & Montserrat Caballe – Barcelona (1987)

John Wicks, 65, singer of British power pop band The Records, on Oct. 7
The Records – Teenarama (1979)

Tim Chandler, 58, bassist with rock band Daniel Amos, on Oct. 8
Daniel Amos – Who’s Who Here? (2001)

Kenny ‘Waste’ Ahrens, singer with hardcore punk band Urban Waste, on Oct. 9

Gilbert ‘Toker’ Izquierdo, rapper with hip-hop group Brownside, on Oct. 10
Brownside – Rest In Peace (1999)

Theresa Hightower, 64, jazz singer, on Oct. 10

Duncan Johnson, 80, British DJ, on Oct. 11
Duncan Johnson – The Big Architect In The Sky (1968)

Carol Hall, 82, composer and lyricist, on Oct. 11
Carol Hall – Let Me Be Lucky This Time (1971)

Ghinwa, 30, Egyptian singer and actress, in car crash on Oct. 12

Andy Goessling, multi-instrumentalist with Americana band Railroad Earth, on Oct. 12
Railroad Earth – Take A Bow (2014)

Chuck Wilson, 70, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 17

Oli Herbert, 44, guitarist of metal band All That Remains, on Oct. 17
All That Remains – The Thunder Rolls (2017)

Jon ‘Jon James’ McMurray, 34, Canadian rapper, on Oct. 20

Mighty Shadow, 77, Trinidadian calypso musician, on Oct. 23

Tony Joe White, 75, American singer-songwriter, on Oct. 24
Tony Joe White – Polk Salad Annie (1968)
Tony Joe White – Rainy Night In Georgia (1969)
Tony Joe White – On The Return To Muscle Shoals (1993)
Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child (2017, on guitar & co-writer)

Melvin ‘Wah Wah Watson’ Ragin, 67, session guitarist, on Oct. 24
The Temptations – Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone (1973, on guitar)
Michael Jackson – Get On The Floor (1979, on guitar)
Blondie – Live It Up (1980, on guitar)
El DeBarge – Heart, Mind & Soul (1994, on guitar)

Hip Hop Pantsula, 38, South African rapper, suicide on Oct. 24

Sonny Fortune, 79, American jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 25
Sonny Fortune – Afortunado (1979)

Elder Roma Wilson, 107, gospel singer and harmonica player, on Oct. 25
Elder Roma Wilson – Gonna Wait Till A Change Come (1995)

Baba Oje, 87, member of hip hop group Arrested Development, on Oct. 26
Arrested Development – Tennessee (1992)

Todd Youth, 47, metal guitarist with Murphy’s Law, Danzig a.o., on Oct. 27
Glen Campbell – These Days (2008, on guitar)

Ingo Insterburg, 84, German comedian-musician, on Oct. 27

Freddie Hart, 91, country musician and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Freddie Hart – Easy Loving (1970)

Fred Hess, 74, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 27

Jimmy Farrar, 67, singer with Molly Hatchet, Gator Country, on Oct. 29
Molly Hatchet – Dead And Gone (1981, also as co-writer)

Young Greatness, 34, rapper, shot on Oct. 29
Young Greatness – Moolah (2015)

Rico J. Puno, 65, Filipino pop singer, on Oct. 30

Beverly McClellan, 49, singer and finalist in The Voice (2011), on Oct. 30

Hardy Fox, 73, co-founder and composer with avant-garde collective The Residents, on Oct. 30
The Residents – Bach Is Dead (1978)

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In Memoriam – September 2018

October 4th, 2018 5 comments

 

I’m not a friend of big-name deaths at the beginning of the month, before I can even post the previous month’s music deads and their songs. The death of Charles Aznavour at 94 on October 1 creates a dilemma: do I wait until the next In Memoriam — which will come out more than four weeks after he died — or do I include him in September’s lot? In this instance, I’ve opted for the latter.

It’s quite a thought that when Charles Aznavour had a hit in 1974 with She, he was already 50. The man born to Armenian partents in Paris as Shahnour Vaghinag Aznavourian had enjoyed a long career before that already. He was a child-actor at nine, and performed in Parisian clubs by the mid-1940s. The break came in 1946 when he was discovered by Edith Piaf. His career would last for another 72 years, with his last concert having been on September 18 in Osaka, Japan, as part of a world tour. In September 28 he still appeared on French TV.

Jefferson Airplane’s primary founder and one of its three lead singers Marty Balin has departed; now it’s only Grace Slick left. It was Balin who got knocked unconscious by the Hell’s Angels on stage at the notorious Altamont concert in December 1969. Less than a year later, his friend Janis Joplin died. Spooked by that, in April 1971 the relatively clean-living Balin exited Jefferson Airplane. He joined the Airplane off-shoot Jefferson Starship in 1975, singing lead on several of their hits, but jumped ship again in 1978, shortly after Slick had left the band. He went on to have a few Top 10 hits as a solo artist in the 1980s.

With the death of bassist Max Bennett, we have lost another member of the Wrecking Crew, the informal collective of session players who played on so many records made in LA in the 1960s and ‘70s. Bennett was particularly prolific on records by The Monkees and the Partridge Family, and later by Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, but at around the same time as he was plucking strings for TV pop groups, he was also part of Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats project (despite not really liking or understanding avant garde music). Before being a pop sideman, Bennett was a jazz sideman. After returning from fighting in the Korean War, he backed acts like Stan Kenton, Mel Tormé, Peggy Lee, Nelson Riddle and Ella Fitzgerald. He also released as series of jazz LPs under his own name in the 1950s. In the 1970s Bennett returned to jazz, but now in the form of fusion, as a member of the L.A. Express alongside Tom Scott, Larry Carlton, John Guerin and Joe Sample.

He was obviously famous for his movies and his moustache, and perhaps also for posing nude in Playgirl, but less well-known is Burt Reynold’s brief career as a singer. In 1973 he released an album of country music titled Ask Me What I Am (well, not much of a singer, to be honest). 1980 saw the release of a follow-up single, Let’s Do Something Cheap And Superficial, which was aptly titled since it came from the sequel to Smokey And The Bandit.

Chas Hodges was best known as half of the London duo Chas & Dave, who enjoyed their biggest success with novelty knees-up folk-rock type numbers. But he was also a serious musician, starting his career as a session bassist for Joe Meek. In the early 1970s Hodges was a member of Heads Hands & Feet, alongside guitarist Albert Lee. In the ‘70s he also did session work on guitar, often with Dave Peacock, the Dave in what would become Chas & Dave. Hodges and Peacock created the riff in Labi Siffre’s I Got The…, which Eminem later sampled for My Name Is. Then they became the “Rockney” pub favourites and Tottenham Hotspur cheerleaders (so condolences to my friend Jeremy Simmonds, author of The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars and a Spurs fan, are in order).

With the death of Donald McGuire, all four members of the 1950s vocal group The Hilltoppers are now gone. The group, initially a trio from Kentucky, has been largely forgotten, but in the 1950s they scored as few huge US hits, including the million-seller PS I Love You. Another claim to fame is that from their ranks emerged the future bandleader Billy Vaughn.

Not really a music death, and yet very much so: Peggy Sue Perron of the Buddy Holly song has died at 78. Originally Holly was going name the song Cindy Lou, after his niece. But drummer Jerry Allison petitioned his friend to change the name in order to impress his girl, Peggy Sue, who had just broken up with him. It worked: Jerry and Peggy Sue went on to get married in 1958 (just before his death, Holly wrote and denied a song called Peggy Sue Got Married, which was released posthumously). They divorced, and Peggy Sue moved to California, got married again, and had kids.

 

Tony Camillo, producer and arranger, on Aug. 29
Gladys Knight & the Pips – Midnight Train To Georgia (1973, as producer)

Randy Weston, 92, jazz pianist and composer, on Sept. 1
Randy Weston Trio – Zulu (1955)

Conway Savage, 58, Australian keyboardist, on Sept. 2
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Willow Garden (1996, on vocals and keyboard)

Rene Garcia, 66, guitarist of Filipino pop band Hotdog, on Sept. 2

Katyna Ranieri, 93, Italian singer and actress, on Sept. 3
Katyna Ranieri – Oh My Love (1971)

Elisa Serna, 75, Spanish protest singer-songwriter, on Sept. 4

Don Gardner, 87, soul singer, on Sept. 4
Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford – I Need Your Loving (1962)

Richard Bateman, 50, bass player of thrash metal band Nasty Savage, on Sept. 5

Burt Reynolds, 82, actor and occasional singer, on Sept. 6
Burt Reynolds – I Like Having You Around (1973)
Burt Reynolds – Let’s Do Something Cheap And Superficial (1980)

Wilson Moreira, 81, Brazilian samba singer and songwriter, on Sept. 6

Donald McGuire, 86, singer with vocal group The Hilltoppers, on Sept. 7
The Hilltoppers – Trying (1952)
The Hilltoppers – The Joker (1957)

Mac Miller, 26, rapper and producer, on Sept. 7

Mr. Catra, 49, Brazilian funk singer, on Sept. 9
Mr. Catra – Vacilão (2015)

Johnny Strike, 70, guitarist and singer of US punk band Crime, on Sept. 10
Crime – Murder By Guitar (1977)

Erich Kleinschuster, 88, Austrian trombonist and bandleader, on Sept. 12

Rachid Taha, 59, Algerian singer of French band Carte de Séjour, on Sept. 12
Carte de Séjour – Douce France (1987)

Marin Mazzie, 57, musical actress and singer, on Sept. 13

Max Bennett, 90, Wrecking Crew and jazz bassist, on Sept. 14
Max Bennett – Max Is The Factor (1957)
The Monkees – Porpoise Song (1968)
Tom Scott & The L.A. Express – Sneakin’ In The Back (1974)
Joni Mitchell – The Hissing Of Summer Lawns (1975, on bass)

Anneke Grönloh, 76, Dutch singer, on Sept. 14
Anneke Grönloh – Brandend Zand (1962)

Maartin Allcock, 61, English multi-instrumentalist and producer, on Sept. 16
Fairport Convention – Meet On The Ledge (1987, as member on lead guitar)

Big Jay McNeely, 91, R&B saxophonist, on Sept. 16
Big Jay McNeely – There Is Something On Your Mind (1957)

Wesley Tinglin, 75, singer with Jamaican reggae group The Viceroys, on Sept. 18
The Viceroys – Slogan On The Wall (1977)

Felton Pruett, 89, country slide guitarist, on Sept 19

Joseph Hookim, 76, Jamaican reggae/ska producer, on Sept. 20
The Mighty Diamonds – Right Time (1976, as producer & co-writer)

Chas Hodges, 74, half of English duo Chas & Dave, on Sept. 22
Heads Hands & Feet – Song For Suzie (1971, as member)
Labi Siffre – I Got The… (1975, on guitar)
Chas & Dave – Ain’t No Pleasing You (1982)

Dale Barclay, 32, singer of Scottish rock band Amazing Snakeheads, on Sept. 25

Marty Balin, 76, co-lead singer of Jefferson Airplane/Starship, on Sept. 27
Jefferson Airplane – Comin’ Back To Me (1967, also as writer)
Jefferson Starship – Miracles (1975, also as writer)
Marty Balin – Hearts (1981)

Sam Spoons, drummer of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, on Sept. 27
The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – Alley Oop (1966)

Michael Weiley, 58, guitarist of Australian rock band Spy vs Spy, on Sept. 29
V. Spy v. Spy – Don’t Tear It Down (1986)

Otis Rush, 84, blues guitarist and singer, on Sept. 29
Otis Rush – I Can´t Quit You Baby (1956)

James ‘Big Jim’ Wright, 52, R&B musician and producer, on Sept. 29
Janet Jackson – I Get Lonely (1997, as arranger and co-writer)
Mary J. Blige – No More Drama (2001, on organ & backing vocals)

Kim Larsen, 72, singer and guitarist of Danish rock band Gasolin’, on Sept. 30
Gasolin’ – Holy Jean (1973)

Angela Maria, 89, Brazilian singer and actress, on Sept. 30
Ângela Maria – Sempre Tu (1955)

Charles Aznavour, 94, French-Armenian singer, on Oct. 1
Charles Aznavour – Sur ma vie (1955)
Charles Aznavour – Les Enfants De La Guerre (1966)
Charles Aznavour – She (1974)

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In Memoriam – August 2018

September 4th, 2018 7 comments

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

The soul legend

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

 

The Funky Brother

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

 

Freebird!

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

 

Singer behind a curtain

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

The punk pioneer

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

 

A brave woman

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

 

The football jinx

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

 

Mrs The Godfather

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Memoriam – July 2018

August 2nd, 2018 5 comments

Another easy-going month, for which we ought to be grateful. Still, we lost the man for whom a huge record label was founded, the original Good Morning Vietnam DJ, a one-time teen dream, the composer of classic TV themes, and several others whose work brought people joy.

The unlikely teen dream

Bay City Rollers co-founder and bassist Alan Longmuir always seemed like the most unlikely of teen idols. Already in the second half of his 20s when Rollermania hit, he looked rather like Woody’s uncle than bandmate. So when he left the band in 1976, he was replaced by baby-faced Ian Mitchell, who in turn was replaced by seven-years-old Pat McGlynn. After an unsuccessful stab at a solo career (the featured track explains the lack of success; it’s the bad flip side of a shocking A-side), Alan returned when the teenyboppers had outgrown BCR, but by then the band was superannuated. In interviews, Alan always seemed a nice, down-to-earth guy. When the music thing didn’t work for him anymore, he ran a hotel. When that ruined his health, he retrained to become a building inspector.

The singing actor

Tab Hunter’s claim to fame obviously was his acting career — with Natalie Wood he was the last actor to be signed to an exclusive contract with Warner Brothers. But he also had a brief but successful recording career. In 1957, he topped the US charts for six straight weeks with Young Love on Dot Records. A follow-up reached #11, at which point Jack Warner invoked the exclusivity contract and founded the Warner Bros record label as a vehicle for Tab Hunter records. Well, it was one of the reasons; Hunter’s singing success was the impetus to put into action a business decision made earlier. But by then his crooning career was fizzling out. Whereas for a while, Warner Bros. Records became a rock music behemoth.

The TV composer

If you’ve seen TV shows like Columbo, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Streets of San Francisco or Lou Grant (the themes of the latter two he wrote) you’ve probably heard the compositions of multiple Grammy-winner Patrick Williams in their scores. Williams, who also write a highly rated jazz-symphony titled An American Concerto, was also a sought-after arranger. Frank Sinatra requested his services for the two Duets albums. Before that Williams arranged such classics as Dusty Springfield’s The Look Of Love, Dionne Warwick’s Theme from Valley Of The Dolls, and Barbra Streisand’s Evergreen, and orchestrated classic albums like Billy Joel’s The Stranger.

The all-rounder

How much did Richard Swift, who has died at 41, still have to offer? The man was an all-rounder: singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, engineer, producer, studio owner (National Freedom in Oregon), went on tour with acts like Wilco (whom he supported on the Sky Blue Sky tour), The Shins and The Black Keys. He produced acts like The Shins, Guster, Laetitia Sadier and Damian Jurado. And also he made short films.

The soundman

You will have heard Jim Malloy’s work at some point. He was the engineer on hits like Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther Theme, Jim Reeves’ Distant Drums, Mel Tillis’ Life Made Her That Way, Bobby Bare’s The Streets Of Baltimore, Elvis’ How Great Thou Art gospel LP, and albums by acts like Timi Yuro, Al Hirt, Duane Eddy, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Mahalia Jackson, Porter Wagoner, Skeeter Davis, Charley Pride, Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton and many others. He produced Sammi Smith’s Grammy-winning version of Help Me Make It Through The Night, various albums by the likes of Townes van Zandt, Ray Stevens, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Eddy Arnold and O.B. McClinton.

The other Robin Williams

Good Night Vietnam! The subject of the 1988 Robin Williams movie Good Morning Vietnam, Adrian Cronauer, has died at 79. By his own admission, Cronauer was nothing like how Williams portrayed him in the film. He did not consider himself particularly controversial. Even as he did introduce new musical material to the US Army playlists, his aim wasn’t to be subversive. And he certainly made up no improvisations about gay hairdesssers. In fact, Cronauer was a conservative life-long Republican who helped Bod Dole lose the presidential election of 1996, and George W Bush win it in 2004.

 

François Corbier, 73, French songwriter and TV presenter, on July 1

Alan Longmuir, 70, founder of the Bay City Rollers, on July 2
Bay City Rollers – Saturday Night (1973, original version)
Bay City Rollers – Summerlove Sensation (1974)
Alan Longmuir – I’ve Got Songs (1977)

Bill Watrous, 79, jazz trombonist, on July 2
Bill Watrous – No More Blues (1986)

Henry Butler, 68, jazz pianist, on July 2

Richard Swift, 41, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, engineer, on July 3
Richard Swift – Kisses For The Misses (2007)
The Shins – So Now What (2017, on synth and as producer)

Carmen Campagne, 58, Canadian singer, on July 4

Jim Malloy, 87, recording engineer, on July 5
Henry Mancini – The Pink Panther Theme (1963, as engineer)
Lee Hazlewood – Trouble Is A Lonesome Town (1963, as co-writer, engineer)
Townes Van Zandt – I’ll Be Here In The Morning (1969, as producer)

François Budet, 78, French singer-songwriter and poet, on July 5

Vince Martin, 81, folk singer, on July 6
Vince Martin and The Tarriers – Cindy, Oh Cindy (1956)

Bret Hoffmann, 51, singer of death metal band Malevolent Creation, on July 7

Garry Lowe, 65, Jamaican bassist of Canadian reggae/rock/blues band Big Sugar, on July 7
Big Sugar – Diggin A Hole (1996)

Tab Hunter, 86, actor and singer, on July 8
Tab Hunter – Young Love (1957)

Stefan Demert, 78, Swedish singer-songwriter, on July 9

Greg Bonham, 71, Australian singer, on July 10

Ponty Bone, 78, accordionist, on July 13
Ponty Bone – Clifton’s Boogie (2002)

Theryl ‘House Man’ DeClouet, 66, singer of jazz-funk singer band Galactic, on July 15
Galactic – Something’s Wrong With This Picture (1996)

Adrian Cronauer, 79, radio disc jockey, on July 18

Patrick Williams, 79, film/TV and jazz composer, arranger and conductor, on July 25
Dionne Warwick – Valley Of The Dolls (1967, as arranger)
Pat Williams Orchestra – The Streets Of San Francisco (1975, as composer & co-producer)
Frank Sinatra with Natalie Cole – They Can’t Take That Away From Me (1993)
Paul Anka – Jump (2005, as conductor)

Ben Sharpa, 41, South African hip hop artist, on July 26

Mark Shelton, 60, founder and singer-guitarist of heavy metal Manilla Road, on July 26
Manilla Road – The Riddle Master (1983)

Olga Jackowska, 67, singer of Polish rock band Maanam, on July 28

Oliver Dragojević, 70, Croatian singer, on July 29

Sam Mehran, 31, member of UK dance-punk band band Test Icicles, announced July 29
Test Icicles – Your Biggest Mistake (2005)

Irvin Jarrett, 69, percussionist of reggae band Third World, on July 31
Third World – 1865 (96 Degrees In The Shade) (1977)
Third World – Now That We’ve Found Love (1978)

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In Memoriam – June 2018

July 3rd, 2018 2 comments

The man behind Elvis

Did rock & roll drumming take off with Elvis Presley’s drummer D. J. Fontana? No doubt, his stickwork on hits like Hound Dog — which must have sounded like punk to 1950s ears — helped create a template for the future. During a Louisiana Hayride tour in 1955 he joined a drummer-less group called the Blue Moon Boys — guitarist Scotty Moore, bassist Bill Black and rhythm guitarist and singer Elvis Presley. He’d remain with Elvis for the next 15 years, playing on most of his hits and backing him on the 1968 comeback TV special. He was the last surviving of the four.

End of a 79-year career

In 1939, at the age of nine, Clarence Fountain was one of the founding members of the gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama. He remained with the group, even during a ten-year-long attempt to make it as a solo artist, until 2007 when he retired from performing; but even then continued to record with them. In the process he and his bandmates, almost all of them actually blind, became legends in the genre of gospel. Their first recording was 1948’s I Can See Everybody’s Mother But Mine. As soul music pushed gospel to the margins, the band was tempted to go secular but refused. Fountain said they were contented with what they had and remained committed to singing for the Lord. They steadily released gospel albums, but were “rediscovered” in the 1990s, winning a number of Grammys, leading to profitable collaborations with secular acts. Their version of Tom Wait’s Down In The Hole served as the theme for The Wire for a season. Fountain is survived by fellow founding member Jimmy Carter, who still performs with the band.

The Blues Brother

In the movie, the henpecked Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy didn’t think what he was going to do to Aretha Franklin and went on to join The Blues Brothers on their Mission of God. Murphy had played with The Blues Brothers — a supergroup of blues and soul session men fronted by actors Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi — after a long career playing with the greats of blues, from Ike Turner and Howlin’ Wolf to Chuck Berry, Memphis Slim, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Koko Taylor, Buddy Guy, Albert King, Etta James, Otis Rush and so on.

Fleetwood Mac’s ‘unsung hero’

Guitarist Danny Kirwan has been called the “forgotten hero of Fleetwood Mac”, the band he belonged to from 1968-72. It’s his slide guitar that supports Peter Green’s lead on the band’s early instrumental hit Albatross, but in their coked-up LA pomp Fleetwood Mac were rather a different band from the blues-rock outfit Kirwan and Green were part of. The flip-side of Albatross, titled Jigsaw Puzzle Blues, was written by the then-18-year-old. Kirwan has been described as a crucial creative force in the band prior to his involuntary 1972 departure. He released some solo material but increasingly struggled with mental illness and alcoholism, culminating in homelessness at one point.

The Veteran guitarist

Guitarist Bob Bain, who has died at 94 on an unspecified day in June, backed some of the great vocalists, including Billie Holiday (among others, on God Bless This Child), Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Mahalia Jackson, Nat King Cole (apparently on Unforgettable), Rosemary Clooney, Sammy Davis, Duke Ellington, Billy Eckstine, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke and others. He also played for Henry Mancini (apparently also on the Peter Gunn and Mission:Impossile themes) and on several TV scores. For 22 years he played in Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Band. He made his last recording in 2008 and last played on stage in 2015, some 70 years after debuting with Harry James and his Orchestra.

The jazz guardian

She was not a musician, but Lorraine Gordon made an indelible contribution to jazz, first as the wife of Blue Note co-founder Alfred Lion, whom she married in 1942, and then as the wife of Max Gordon, owner of the career-making Village Vanguard jazz club in New York’s Greenwich Village. After Max’s death in 1989 she closed the club for a day, and re-opened it the following day under her management. A peace and women’s activist in the 1960s, Gordon also wrote to keep the memory of jazz alive.

The doo wop legend

The Jive Five came on to the doo wop scene rather late in the genre’s heyday, but they turned out to be one of its longer-running acts, in part thanks to the band’s ability to jump on to the soul train in the mid-1960s. With the death this month of lead singer Eugene Pitt, I think only one member of the original line-up is still alive, Billy (Thurmond) Prophet. I was working on a mix of songs featuring in The Sopranos just days before I learnt of Pitt’s death; the Jive Five’s 1961 song What Time Is It? is very much in contention (it featured in Season 1, the scene where Tony dreams of getting head from Dr Melfi).

The Catholic satanist

You wouldn’t expect a devout Roman Catholic to play in a band called Deicide, which is led by a professed Satanist, and proclaim as his favourite song one whose title calls for the death of Jesus. Yet, so it was with metal guitarist Ralph Santolla, who has died at 51 following a heart attack. Many Deicide fans, who unsurprisingly are hostile to the Christianity, apparently didn’t really like Santolla and reportedly even issued death threats against him over his Catholic ways. But Santolla said he’d not betray his faith just to be liked. When he eventually left Deicide, it was over mundane business matters.

 

Demba Nabé, 46, member of German dancehall/rap group Seeed, on May 31

Eddy Clearwater, 83, blues singer and guitarist, on June 1
Eddy Clearwater – I Wouldn’t Lay My Guitar Down (1980)

Clarence Fountain, 88, founding member of gospel band The Blind Boys of Alabama, on June 3
The Blind Boys of Alabama – I Can See Everybody’s Mother But I Can’t See Mine (1948)
Clarence Fountain – Ain’t No Way (1974)
The Blind Boys of Alabama – Way Down In The Hole (2001)
The Blind Boys of Alabama with Lou Reed – Jesus (2009)

Marc Ogeret, 86, French protest singer, on June 4
Marc Ogeret – Le chant des partisans (1990)

Norman Edge, 84, jazz double-bassist, on June 4
Gene Ammons – Ca’ Purange (Jungle Soul) (1968, on double-bass)

Brian Browne, 81, Canadian jazz pianist, on June 5

Teddy Johnson, 98, English singer, on June 6
Teddy Johnson & Pearl Carr – Sing, Little Birdie (1959)

Ralph Santolla, 51, heavy metal guitarist, on June 6

Jimmy Gonzalez, 67, singer with Tejano band Mazz, on June 6

Stefan Weber, 71, Austrian singer, on June 7

Danny Kirwan, 68, British guitarist (Fleetwood Mac 1968-72), on June 8
Fleetwood Mac – Jigsaw Puzzle Blues (1968, also as writer)
Fleetwood Mac – Sands Of Time (1971, also as writer)
Danny Kirwan – Hot Summer Day (1975)

Gino Santercole, 77, Italian singer and songwriter, on June 8
Gino Santercole – Questo Vecchio Pazzo Mondo (1966)

Lorraine Gordon, 95, owner of NYC jazz club Village Vanguard, on June 9
Wynton Marsalis Septet – Midnight In Paris (Live At The Village Vanguard, 1999)

Ras Kimono, 60, Nigerian reggae musician, on June 10

Neal E. Boyd, 42, America’s Got Talent winner 2008, on June 10

Jon Hiseman, 73, English drummer, producer and engineer, on June 12
John Mayall – Sandy (1969, on drums)
Colosseum II – Secret Places (1976, as drummer, writer, producer)

Wayne Dockery, 76, American jazz double bassist, on June 12

D.J. Fontana, 87, rock & roll drummer (Elvis Presley), on June 13
Elvis Presley – Hound Dog (1956, on The Milton Berle Show, on drums)
Elvis Presley – Return To Sender (1962)
Scotty Moore & D.J. Fontana feat. Steve Earle – Hot Enough For Ya (1997)

Santos Blanco, 46, singer of Spanish pop group Locomía, on June 13
Locomía – Locomía (1984)

Matt Murphy, 88, blues guitarist, on June 14
Chuck Berry – Jaguar And Thunderbird (1960)
Koko Taylor – Don’t Mess With The Messer (1969)
The Blues Brothers – Think (1980, on guitar)

Nick Knox, 60, drummer of The Electric Eels and The Cramps, on June 14
The Cramps – Bikini Girls With Machine Guns (1986)

Rebecca Parris, 66, American jazz singer, on June 17
Rebecca Parris – Never Let Me Go (2001)

Delia Bell, 83, bluegrass singer, on June 18
Delia Bell & Bill Grant – Sad Situation (1984)

XXXTentacion, 20, rapper, shot on June 18

Jimmy Wopo, 21, rapper, on June 18

Lowrell Simon, 75, soul singer and songwriter, on June 19
Lowrell – Mellow Mellow (Right On) (1979)

Bansi Quinteros, 41, Spanish keyboardist of Dutch trance duo GMS, on June 19

David Bianco, 63, record producer, engineer and mixer, on June 20
Bruce Springsteen – Trapped (Live) (1980/85, as co-producer)
Lisa Loeb – I Do (1997, as engineer)
Tift Merritt – Another Country (2008, mix)

Vinnie Paul, 54, founding drummer of heavy metal band Pantera, on June 22
Pantera – Cemetery Gates (1990)
Pantera – Revolution Is My Name (2000)

Geoffrey Oryema, 65, Ugandan musician, on June 22
Geoffrey Oryema – Umoja (1993)

Violeta Rivas, 80, Argentine singer and actress, on June 23
Violeta Rivas – Chim Chimenea (1965)

Bob Bain, 94, jazz guitarist, in June
Harry James and his Orchestra – It’s Been A Long, Long Time (1945, on guitar)
Bob Bain – Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? (1962)
Carpenters – I Can Dream Can’t I? (1975, on guitar)

George Cameron, 70, drummer and co-lead singer of The Left Banke, on June 24
The Left Banke – She May Call You Up Tonight (1967)

Big Bill Bissonnette, 81, jazz trombonist, drummer, producer, on June 26

Fedor Frešo, 71, Slovak rock and jazz bassist, on June 26

Steve Soto, 54, bassist of punk bands Agent Orange, The Adolescents, on June 27
Adolescents – Amoeba (1981)

Joe Jackson, 89, father and manager of The Jackson 5, on June 27

Eugene Pitt, 80, singer with doo wop band The Jive Five, on June 29
The Jive Five – My True Story (1961)
The Jive Five feat. Eugene Pitt – Sugar (Don’t Take Away My Candy) (1968)

Smoke Dawg, 21, Canadian rapper, shot dead on June 30

Alan Longmuir, 70, founder and bassist of the Bay City Rollers, on July 2
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In Memoriam – May 2018

May 29th, 2018 7 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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