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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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In Memoriam – August 2017

September 6th, 2017 6 comments

I dealt with the big death of September, that of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, already on Sunday, before I had a  chance to post the August round-up… So, here are last month’s dearly departed.The headliner death in August doubtless was that of Glen Campbell. Much has been said about Campbell’s singing career, which truly hit its stride with those great Jimmy Webb songs — there are many people who report Wichita Lineman as their all-time favourite song. Campbell might have fallen from musical relevance for many years, but his career-closer will surely be regarded as a landmark record in time to come, as the baby boomers and the generation that followed it slowly face age-related illnesses and mortality. In his swansong, poignantly titled I’m Not Gonna Miss You, Campbell says a last goodbye before his Alzheimer’s would kick in.

The tributes noted Campbell’s session work in the 1960s, and that he was a Beach Boy for a while. He was indeed a member of the group on stage, though not an official part of the recording group. But as a member of the collective of LA session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew he played on several of their songs. On Pet Sounds alone, he played the guitar on I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times, I Know There’s An Answer, Caroline No, That’s Not Me and Put Your Head On My Shoulder. He also played on many Phil Sector records, including Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep-Mountain High. And he played on records by Elvis (on Viva Las Vegas), Sam Cooke, Jan & Dean, Dick Dale And His Del-Tones, Ricky Nelson, Nancy Sinatra, Merle Haggard, Quincy Jones, The Monkees, Harper’s Bizarre, Gene Clark, Delaney & Bonnie, Jefferson Airplane, Randy Newman, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and more.

An alumnus of the Sun label in the mid-1950s, rockabilly singer and guitarist Sonny Burgess had a reputation for raucous performances but also sang gospel — a bit like that other Sun star, Jerry Lee Lewis. Unlike Lewis, Burgess never had a big breakthrough. Still, he kept performing and recording, receiving recognition late in life, especially in Europe. In his 80s he was still presenting a radio programme in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Recording engineers and mixers rarely get the props they deserve. Jason Corsaro, who has died of cancer at 58, might not have been a household name but he was a big name among producers, including Nile Rodgers. He first made his name in the mid-1980s is New York’s Power Station studio, in particular as the engineer and mixer of Madonna’s Like A Virgin album and the debut by the supergroup that took its name from the studio’s name. He engineered or mixed for acts as diverse as Duran Duran, The Cars, Sly & Robbie, Peter Gabriel, Spyro Gyra, Motörhead, Cameo, and Soundgarden (including Black Hole Sun, which featured to mark the death of Chris Cornell in In Memoriam May 2017.

I could not in good conscience take part in the mawkish tributes for comedian and occasional singer Jerry Lewis. The cross-eyed, gurning, quack-voiced village idiot shtick that once passed for comedy (and, mystifyingly, still does in parts of Europe) is not my jam in any way. Though as a serious actor Lewis did a great job basically playing himself in King Of Comedy (a film in which one is tempted to root for Rupert Pupkin). He released a few records, even reaching the US Top 10 with one, performed in that stupid comedy voice. In the In Memoriam series I have shared some pretty awful stuff by way of tribute, but I won’t inflict Jerry Lewis’ stylings on you.

Lewis was not a nice man. He was a misogynist and a bigot of many stripes who admired Donald Trump. And he was unspeakably rude to interviewers. Whatever bonus points he might merit for is impressive charity work are deducted for Lewis’ tendency to use that to self-aggrandise himself. “Nobody has worked harder for the human condition than I have” indeed. “[Syrian] refugees should stay where the hell they are,” Lewis said in a spectacularly ugly interview a couple of years ago. Those are the words of a very dark man.With Wilson das Neves one of the great names in Brazilian music has passed away. In a career that spanned more than 50 years, the percussionist and singer played on countless records by some of the country’s biggest names in music, apart from those he released himself. He is credited with having had a great influence on samba in particular. He also played with international artists such as Sarah Vaughan, Toots Thielemans and Michel Legrand. At the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics in 2016, das Neves appeared in a segment with other Brazilian stars Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Anitta.

Americans of a certain generation will know the sound of Larry Elgart’s saxophone well: it featured on the theme of American Bandstand, performed as part of his brother Les’ big band. Larry brought the big band sound back inti the charts in 1982 when he compiled the Hooked On Swing medleys.

Few people outside Oakland, California, will have heard of Dave Deporis. It would be a happier circumstance had it stayed that way. But on August 9 the singer-songwriter was sitting in an outdoor café when thieves grabbed his laptop computer and fled in it in a car. Deporis gave chase but got caught on the car. The drivers didn’t stop but dragged the musician for 200 metres before running him over, causing lethal injuries. On that laptop was all his music…

Sometimes LP cover designers merit a mention in the In Memoriam series, and so it is with Chris Whorf, who has died at 76. He made his mark especially as the art director of Casablanca records, where he was responsible for everything from corporate design to music videos. As for the LP covers he designed or art-directed, there are hundreds of them. Most notable among them are Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul, John Lennon & Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy and — a very controversial cover — Yoko Ono’s Seasons Of Glass. A small selection is represented in the collage below (a bigger version of it is in the mix).

Richard Shirman, 68, singer of psychedelic rock band The Attack, on July 26
The Attack – Lady Orange Peel (1968)

Goldy McJohn, 72, keyboardist of Canadian band Steppenwolf, on August 1
Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride (1968)

Daniel Licht, 60, soundtrack composer and musician, on August 2
Daniel Licht – Theme from Dexter (2006, score)

Tony Cohen, 60, Australian producer and engineer, on August 2
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Carnival Is Over (1986, as producer-engineer)
The Cruel Sea – Black Stick (1993, as producer)

Jessy Serrata, 63, US Tejano musician, on August 4

Luiz Melodia, 66, Brazilian singer, songwriter and actor, on August 4
Luiz Melodia – Falando de Pobreza (1978)

Bruno Canfora, 92, composer, conductor and arranger, on August 5
Shirley Bassey – This Is My Life (La Vita) (1968, as composer)

Chris Whorf, 76, LP cover designer, on August 5

Glen Campbell, 81, country legend, on August 8
Ike & Tina Turner – River Deep-Mountain High (1966, on guitar)
Glen Campbell – Wichita Lineman (1968)
Glen Campbell – If These Walls Could Speak (1988)
Glen Campbell – Southern Nights (1977)
Glen Campbell and The Wrecking Crew – I’m Not Gonna Miss You (2014)

Barbara Cook, 89, singer and actress, on August 8
Barbara Cook with Arthur Harris’ Orchestra – Glad To Be Unhappy (1958)

Janet Seidel, 62, Australian jazz singer and pianist, on August 8
Janet Seidel – I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning (2001)

Dave Deporis, 40, singer-songwriter, killed on August 9

Robert Yancy, 39, drummer, son of Natalie Cole, on August 14

Benard Ighner, 72, songwriter and producer, on August 14
Marlena Shaw – Loving You Was Like A Party (1975, as producer & co-writer)
Randy Crawford – Everything Must Change (1977, as writer)

Jason Corsaro, 58, engineer and mixer, on August 16
Duran Duran – A View To A Kill (1985, as engineer, mixer, co-producer)
Steve Winwood – Higher Love (1986, as engineer)
Ramones – Pet Sematary (1989, as mixer)

Jo Walker-Meador, 93, long-serving heads of the Country Music Association, on August 16

Jesse Boyce, 69, producer, songwriter and musician, on August 17
Bottom & Company – Gonna Find A True Love (1974, as member on bass)
Bill Brandon & Lorraine Johnson – Just Can’t Walk Away (1977, on bass and piano)

Sonny Burgess, 88, rockabilly singer, songwriter and guitarist, on August 18
Sonny Burgess – We Wanna Boogie (1956)
Sonny Burgess – Ain’t Got A Thing (1957)

Bruce Forsyth, 89, English TV entertainer, on August 18
Bruce Forsyth – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (2011)

Bea Wain, 100, Big Band singer, on August 19
Larry Clinton and his Orchestra feat. Bea Wain – Deep Purple (1939)
Bea Wain – My Reverie (1944)

Concha Valdes Miranda, 89, Cuban composer, on August 19

Margot Hielscher, 97, German singer and actress, on August 20
Margot Hielscher – Frauen sind keine Engel (1943)

Jerry Lewis, 91, actor and occasional singer, on August 20

John Abercrombie, 72, jazz guitarist, on August 22
Dreams – Devil Lady (1969, as member)
John Abercrombie & Andy LaVerne – Now Hear This (2005)

Martin ‘Big Larry’ Allbritton, 80, blues singer and drummer, on August 24

Winston Samuels, 73, singer with Jamaican ska band The Aces, on August 24
Desmond Dekker & The Aces – The Israelites (1968, on backing vocals)

Wilson das Neves, 81, Brazilian singer and percussionist, on August 26
Wilson das Neves – Bólido 74 (1969)

Melissa Bell, 53, singer with British funk band Soul II Soul, on August 28
Soul II Soul – Be A Man (1993, on vocals)

Larry Elgart, 95, jazz bandleader, on August 29
Les Elgart and his Orchestra – Bandstand Boogie (1954, on saxophone)
Les & Larry Elgart – Nowhere Man (1966)

Skip Prokop, 73, drummer of Canadian groups Lighthouse, The Paupers, on August 30
Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper – That’s All Right (1968, on drums)
Lighthouse – Feel So Good (1969)

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In Memoriam – July 2017

August 3rd, 2017 2 comments

Just two months after the death by hanging of Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, his friend Chester Bennington, lead singer of Linkin Park, took his life by the same method. Reportedly, Bennington had been suicidal for a while, for reasons relating to sexual abuse he suffered as a child (his abuser was a victim himself, so Bennington, evidently a man of extraordinary empathy, declined to press charges). He had apparently taken Cornell’s death badly, and had a history of battling with alcohol addiction. He leaves six children from two marriages. An awful story in every respect. What strikes me is the number of young people with depression issues who have testified that Bennington verbalised what they could not articulate.

The man who signed Barbra Streisand and Sly and the Family Stone prepared for his imminent death by posing on Facebook with his specially designed coffin. David Kapralik, who reached the age of 91, saw the young Babs on a TV show in 1962 and convinced Columbia head Goddard Lieberson to see her in concert — as she was supporting a comedian. Within three months Streisand released her debut LP. A few years later, Kapralik saw Sly Stone and his racially diverse group in a San Francisco a club, and became their manager, signing them to Epic. In between, he produced various acts, most notably Peaches & Herb (as well as the original Peaches — Francine Baker — when she went solo) and the legendary drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, as well as more novelty-type records by Bette Davis and Cassius Clay. And along the way, he helped Tommy Mottola on his path to becoming a legendary music executive. Kapralik retired in the 1970s to become a children’s musician and selling organic produce from his farm.

Canadian soul singer Bobby Taylor enjoyed a few minor hits, but his headlining legacy is as the man who discovered the Jackson 5. Taylor and his band, The Vancouvers, had themselves been discovered by The Supremes. The band was previously known, charmingly, as Four Niggers and a Chink — the Asian component being Tommy Chong (later Cheech’s stoner sidekick) who was half-Chinese, half-Scottish. It was in 1969 when the Vancouvers played in Chicago that Taylor was so impressed by the supporting act, the Jackson children. He personally took them to Detroit and introduced them to a doubtless grateful Motown. The label also signed Taylor and his group, but their two singles flopped and things fell apart over internal disputes. One of the songs they recorded but didn’t get released, the Marvin Gaye composition The Bells I Hear, ended up being chopped into two bits, both successful songs for The Originals: Baby I’m For Real and The Bells. Taylor auditioned for David Ruffin’s spot in the Temptations, but didn’t get that gig. His solo singles, though good, did little business.

Elvis in the end wished him death, but Red West outlived his old friend and bodyguard by a month short of 40 years. West was a member of the so-called Memphis Mafia, the entourage that formed a protective cordon around Presley. West had been close to Elvis since the early days, but the relationship fractured when West was fired by Elvis’ father Vernon in 1976. Red then wrote a book about Elvis with his cousin Sonny West and David Hebler, who had also been fired by Vernon. Titled Elvis, What Happened?, the authors claimed their revelations about Elvis’ drug-use was a desperate attempt at saving the singer; the Presley camp saw the book as a betrayal. In happier times, West had recorded a few records and wrote a whole bunch for Elvis, Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson and others. He was also an actor and stuntman.Rap took a nasty turn in the late 1980s, coinciding with the advent of 2 Live Crew, who brought to the fore a sense of the sexually explicit, which rather too often found expression in misogyny, in the lyrics of 2 Live Crew and acts that followed (stuff like Face Down Ass Up with its immortal line: “I make her do things like nothin’ before, and when I’m done, she’ll always be sore). In the more puritan times of the late 1980s and early ‘90s this kind of stuff created legal court cases and precedents; today the USA has a president who might critique 2 Live Crew for being to restrained in dealing with women. The one constant in 2 Live Crew’s ever-changing line-ups was Fresh Kid Ice, who has died at 53, seven years after suffering a debilitating stroke. Born Chris Wong Won in Trinidad & Tobago, he was also a prolific solo artist, delighting his audience with anthems like Long Dick Chinese and the pretty self-explanatory Suck My Dick (the song Steve Bannon likes to sing to himself) and We Like Too Fuck.

I had just seen French electronic music pioneer and collaborator Pierre Schaeffer on an old German TV show when I learnt of the death of his contemporary Pierre Henry. It was those two who paved the way for the synth-button doodlings of Jean-Michel Jarre and their ilk. Henry studied under the great French classical composer Olivier Messiaen, and was a classical composer in his own right, though of a modernistic bent, as in 1950s Symphonie pour un homme seul, which he co-wrote with Schaeffer (fans of things like The Beatles’ Revolution #9 might enjoy it; it’s not my thing). But his best-remembered piece of music might be the 1969 electronic tune Psyché Rock, which we recognise in only a slight adaptation as the theme song for Futurama.

If you want to hear the sound of Cape Town, one of the world’s great cities, you could do worse than turn to guitarist Errol Dyers, who has died at 65. Like many of the city’s jazz musicians, he guarded its jazz tradition jealously, to the point that he resented the commercialisation of his recordings (aside from the fact that the musicians almost invariably get ripped off by record companies). He was an exquisite guitar player and one of a dying generation of jazz masters. Some of the greats — Monty Webber, Sammy Hartman, Lionel Beukes, Basil ‘Manenberg’ Coetzee, Monwabisi, Dyers — came together in 1976 to record an album in tribute to District Six, a mixed-race conurbation in the centre of Cape Town which was being demolished at the time by the apartheid regime, its people forcibly removed to gang-ridden townships. Dyers and his fellow musicians knew District Six as a cultural hub that celebrated the joys and pains of its people. The featured track from that album, Happy All The Time, reflects this.One of the biggest stars in West-Germany in the early- to mid-1970s was Chris Roberts. He was the kind of well-behaved boy every mom wished for her son-in-law. Always deferential, the likable Roberts maintained a scandal-free career with a bunch of catchy but banal Schlager hits and appearances in comedy movies that were light of heart and even more light on substance. Bizarrely, one of the biggest German stars lived almost all of his life without having a nationality. He was born in 1944 in Munich as Christian Klusáček, the son of a German mother and a Yugoslavian father. But because it was illegal for German s to marry Yugoslavs, Roberts was not registered as a German. For some reason he didn’t get around to apply for German citizenship until 2016. He finally received that citizenship in April this year.

Just over a year after Prince went, his long-time drummer John Blackwell died of a brain tumor, aged only 43. Blackwell was backing Patti LaBelle in concert when Prince discovered him and invited him to join his backing band, the New Power Generation, in 2000. He stayed with Prince for the next 15 years, but in-between also drummed, live or in the studio, for Cameo, Frankie Beverley and Maze, D’Angelo, P. Diddy, Utada Hikaru, Nikki Costa and others, and released a solo album in 2006.

It’s fair to suspect that most performers would, given the choice, be quite prepared die while doing what they love: performing on stage. But their preference would be a natural death. French singer Barbara Weldens, 35, died on stage, but 50 years or so too early and not because her natural jig was up. The singer, who had released her well-received debut only in February, was performing at a festival at a church in the village of Goudron, in France’s south-west, when she suddenly collapsed and died of cardiac arrest. Investigators suspected that she might have been electrocuted by faulty equipment.

Chris Roberts, 73, German Schlager singer, on July 2
Chris Roberts – Ich bin verliebt in die Liebe (1970)

Rudy Rotta, 66, Italian blues guitarist and singer, on July 3
Rudy Rotta & Friends – To Love Somebody (2006)

John Blackwell, 43, funk drummer, on July 4
Prince – If Eye Was The Man In Ur Life (2004, on drums)
Nikka Costa – Around The World (2005)

Pierre Henry, 89, French composer and electronic music pioneer, on July 5
Pierre Henry – Psyché Rock (1967)

Melvyn “Deacon” Jones, 73, blues-soul organist, on July 6
Baby Huey & The Babysitters – Messin’ With The Kid (1965, as member)

Erik Cartwright, 67, guitarist of rock band Foghat, on July 9
Foghat – Live Now – Pay Later (1981)

Joseph Fire Crow, 58, Native-American folk flutist, on July 11
Joseph Fire Crow – The Young Wolves (2000)

David Kapralik, 91, producer and label executive, on July 12
Peaches & Herb – Close Your Eyes (1967, as co-producer)
Pretty Purdie – Soul Drums (1967, as co-producer)
Francine Barker – Don’t You Know Love When You See It (1968, as co-producer)

Joe Fields, 88, Jazz producer and label owner, on July 12

Ray Phiri, 70, founder, singer, guitarist of South African Afro-jazz band Stimela, on July 12
Stimela – African Changes (1991)

Simon Holmes, 55, singer, lead guitarist of Australian band The Hummingbirds, on July 13
The Hummingbirds – Word Gets Around (1989)

Pede ‘Pete’ Marshall, singer with soul band The Choice Four, on July 13
The Choice Four – I’m Gonna Walk Away From Love (1975)
The Choice Four – Come Down To Earth (1976)

Fresh Kid Ice, 53, rapper with 2 Live Crew, on July 13
2 Live Crew – Fresh Kid Ice Is Back (1995)

Clara (Cuqui) Nicola, 90, Cuban guitarist, on July 14

David Zablidowsky, 37, metal bassist, in traffic accident on July 14
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Winter Palace (2012, on bass)

Bob ‘Red’ West, 81, singer, songwriter, actor, Elvis friend, on July 19
Red West – F.B.I. Story (1960)
Elvis Presley – If You Think I Don’t Need You (1965, as co-writer)

Kitty Lux, 59, co-founder of the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain, on July 16
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – Anarchy In The UK (1990)

Roland Cazimero, 66, guitarist of Hawaiian band The Brothers Cazimero, on July 16

Wilfried, 67, Austrian singer, on July 16
Wilfried – Lisa Mona Lisa (1988)

Peter Principle, 63, member of avant-garde group Tuxedomoon, on July 17
Tuxedomoon – In A Manner Of Speaking (1985)

Barbara Weldens, 35, French singer, on July 20
Barbara Weldens – Du pain pour les réveille-matin (2017)

Chester Bennington, 41, singer of Linkin Park, suicide on July 20
Linkin Park – In The End (2001)
Linkin Park – Numb (2003)
Linkin Park – Shadow Of The Day (2007)

Paapa Yankson, 73, Ghanaian highlife musician and producer, on July 20
Paapa Nyankson – Kokroko

Andrea Jürgens, 50, German schlager singer, on July 20

Errol Dyers, 65, South African jazz guitarist and composer, on July 21
Monty Webber & Friends – Happy All The Time (1976, on guitar)
Errol Dyers – Sugar Shake (1997)

L.C. Cooke, 84, R&B/gospel singer, brother of Sam Cooke, on July 21
L.C. Cooke – Take Me For What I Am (1963)
L.C. Cooke – Put Me Down Easy (1963)

Kenny Shields, 69, singer of Canadian rock band Streetheart, on July 21
Streetheart – Teenage Rage (1980)

Caleb Palmiter, 53, guitarist, founding member of alt.country band The Jawhawks, on July 21
The Jayhawks – Falling Star (1986)

Geoff Mack, 94, Australian country singer, songwriter, on July 21
Hank Snow – I’ve Been Everywhere (1962, as writer)

Polo Hofer, 72, Swiss musician (Rumpelstilz), on July 22

Bobby Taylor, 83, Canadian soul singer and producer, on July 22
Bobby Taylor & The Vancouvers – Does Your Mama Know About Me (1968)
Bobby Taylor – Oh, I’ve Been Blessed (1969)
Zulema – Tree (1973, as producer)

Abby Nicole, 25, country singer, in a traffic accident on July 23

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, 46, Indigenous Australian musician, on July 25
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu – Gurrumul History (I Was Born Blind) (2008)

Billy Joe Walker Jr, 65, guitarist, country songwriter and producer, on July 25
Eddie Rabbitt – B-B-B-Burnin’ Up With Love (1984, as co-writer)

Michael Johnson, 72, country singer, songwriter and guitarist, on July 25
Michael Johnson – Bluer Than Blue (1973)

D.L. Menard, 85, American Cajun musician, on July 27
D.L. Menard – It’s Too Late You’re Divorced (1980)

Sam Shepard, 73, playwright and actor, occasional musician, on July 27
Bob Dylan – Brownsville Girl (1986, as co-writer)
Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit (2007, on banjo)

Chuck Loeb, 61, jazz fusion guitarist, on July 31
Chuck Loeb – Rhythm Ace, Funky Stuff (1999)

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In Memoriam – June 2017

July 4th, 2017 4 comments

A mercifully easy month… No big names died, but as always, some interesting characters left us.

Every perceived wanker on an English football pitch, and at sports events all around the world, will have been serenaded by way of insult to the tune co-written and first recorded by Gary DeCarlo, who has died at 75: Na, Na, Hey, Hey Kiss Him Goodbye. De Carlo and two associates, Dale Frashuer and producer/writer Paul Leka, wrote and recorded the song as the fictional band Steam. It became a worldwide mega-hit, and got covered by an array of stars, from The Supremes to Liberace. To promote the song a bunch of lip-synchers were put together for public performances. DeCaelo didn’t like the deception and walked away from it. DeCarlo also recorded under the name Garrett Scott, though with little success.

This year has seen the death of two Allman Brothers alumni— Butch Trucks and Gregg Allman — and now their associates are dying too. Guitarist Jimmy Nalls was a session musician — including on Gregg Allman’s 1973 solo album Laid Back — before joining Allman Brothers members Chuck Leavell (with whom he had worked before), Jaimoe and Lamar Williams to form blues-rock band Sea Level in 1976. After Sea Level split in 1981, Nalls returned to session work. After he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1994 he had to scale back his work, but nonetheless released two solo albums– the latest was released only two days before his death at the age of 66.

An unsung hero in the lore of Earth, Wind & Fire is jazz musician Phil Cohran. Already richly experienced as a multi-instrumentalist for Sun Ra in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, Cohran mentored future members of EWF’s horn section as part of a black empowerment project in Chicago. His friend Maurice White would take inspiration from an instrument Cohran invented, the Frankiphone (or Space Harp), which is basically an electronic mbira or kalimba. This prompted White to use an electronic kalimba on EWF’s records.The greatest song which country singer-songwriter Norro Wilson ever wrote and recorded became a worldwide hit for somebody else — and under a different title. In 1969, Wilson released a song named Hey Mister. A few years later Charlie Rich reworked the thing under the name The Most Beautiful Girl In The World. To be fair to the old Silver Fox, his version is better. But Norro’s more understated original is pretty good too.

In 1958, doo wop band The Olympics had a hit with Western Movies; a year later they initiated a dance craze with (Baby) Hully Gully, even if their song wasn’t a hit. They kept releasing records for the better part of a decade, including an early version of Good Lovin’, recorded a month after Lemme B. Good’s original and a year before The Young Rascals had a big hit with it. With the passing of tenor Eddie Lewis, who kept performing with the band even after the death in 2006 of cousin and lead singer Walter Ward, the last original member of The Olympics has died.

As the “German Johnny Cash”, country singer Gunter Gabriel was pals with the real Johnny Cash, who’d call his German counterpart to join him on stage when he played in Deutschland. And in 2010 Gabriel played Cash in a stage play. Gabriel carefully maintained his man-of-the-people country image, in deliberate image construction as well as in his hard-drinking, fortune-losing, loved-ones-alienating, self-destructive ways. Gabriel’s heyday was the 1970s, when he had hits with songs whose titles translate as “Hey Boss, I Need More Money”, “Come Under My Blanket”, “With A Hammer In The Hand (Song Of The Common Man), “Daddy Drinks Beer”, and “He’s A Tough Guy (My 30-Tonner)”. He also wrote and produced big Schlager hits, such as Juliane Werding’s 1976 hit “Wenn Du denkst Du denkst” and Frank Zander’s comedy number “Ich trink auf dein Wohl, Marie”. Gabriel died a few days after breaking his neck in a fall, on the eve of his 75th birthday. Going out country style.

Eddie Lewis, tenor of The Olympics, on May 31
The Olympics – Western Movie (1958)
The Olympics – (Baby) Hully Gully (1959)
The Olympics – Good Lovin’ (1965)

Carl Driggs, singer of Kracker, Foxy, Paul Revere and the Raiders, on May 31
Kracker – A Song For Polly (1973)
Foxy – Get Off (1978, also as co-writer)

Richard Caire, 81, songwriter and guitarist as Kai-Ray, on June 2
Kai-Ray – I Want Some Of That (1961)

Educated Rapper, 54, rapper with hip-hop group UTFO, on June 3
UTFO – Roxanne, Roxanne (1984)

Skipp Pearson, 79, jazz musician, on June 5

Vin Garbutt, 69, British folk singer, on June 6
Vin Garbutt – If (1983)

Sandra Reemer, 66, Dutch singer, on June 6

Norro Wilson, 79, country singer-songwriter, on June 7
Norro Wilson – Hey Mister (1969)
Norro Wilson – Do It To Someone You Love (1970)

Rosalie Sorrels, 83, folk singer, on June 11
Rosalie Sorrels – Starlight On The Rails (1967)
Rosalie Sorrels – My Last Go Round (2006)

Sheila Raye Charles, 53, singer-songwriter, daughter of Ray Charles, on June 15

Thara Memory, 68, jazz trumpeter, arranger and educator, on June 17
Thara Memory – Livin’ For The City
Esperanza Spalding – City Of Roses (2012, as arranger)

Chris Murrell, 61, jazz and gospel singer, on June 18

Prodigy, 42, rapper with hip hop duo Mobb Deep, on June 20
Mobb Deep – Hell On Earth (1996)

Belton Richard, 77, Cajun accordionist, on June 21

Jimmy Nalls, 66, founder and guitarist of Sea Level, on June 22
Gregg Allman – Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing (1973, on guitar)
Sea Level – King Grand (1978)

Gunter Gabriel, 75, German country singer, composer and producer, on June 22
Gunter Gabriel – Hey Boss, ich brauch’ mehr Geld (1974)
Juliane Werding – Wenn Du denkst Du denkst (1975, as writer and producer)

Nick Knowlton, singer of rock groups Katfish, Katahdin, on June 23
Katfish – Dear Prudence (1975)

Geri Allen, 60, jazz pianist, composer and educator, on June 27
Geri Allen – Let Us Break Bread Together (2011)

Dave Rosser, 50, guitarist with Indie bands Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs, on June 27
The Twilight Singers – The Beginning Of The End (2011)

Gary DeCarlo, 75, singer and songwriter, on June 28
Steam – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (1969, on lead vocals)

Phil Cohran, 90, jazz musician, on June 28
Sun Ra – Tiny Pyramids (1960, released 1967, on cornet)
Kelan Phil Cohran and Legacy – Cohran Blues (2010)

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In Memoriam – May 2017

June 8th, 2017 4 comments

The death of alt.rock legend Chris Cornell came out of the blue, as suicides often do. When successful celebrities end their lives, one is tempted to question the reasons, perhaps even to moralise. It’s not our job to do either, unless the suicide was the result of evading the consequences of one’s evil acts. But in Cornell’s case there seems to be the unusual dimension of a number of pharmaceuticals interacting to have impaired his judgment, leading to his death by hanging. According to his wife, Cornell had been excitedly making plans for the future just hours before his death; he had just come off stage after a successful gig with Soundgarden when he died. At 52, and off alcohol and proscribed substances, he was still young enough to make plans, to thrill his audience with that immense voice which could do anything, from rock screaming to soulful falsetto. We are right to mourn that this voice has fallen silent. And we may now hear Soundgarden songs like Pretty Noose, The Day I Tried To Live, and Like Suicide in a different, poignant way.

In January we lost Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, also to suicide. Now the last of the three founder members of the band has died. Gregg Allman and his brother Duane gave their name to the group. After Duane died in a motorcycle accident in 1971, there was no question about renaming the band: they remained the Allman Brothers, even if Gregg was the only Allman in it. Gregg was something of a contradiction. On the one hand, he was content to bury his head behind the keyboard and let others take the centre of the stage. On the other hand, he was truly a rock star, with the charisma and the looks and the love life that are part of the job description. He was, of course, also a gifted songwriter. Gregg was still performing until last year. In November he announced the cancellation of all tour plans for 2017, citing vocal cord damage. He promised he would tour again. Death broke that promise.

Of the five Womack Brothers who first shot to fame as The Valentinos, only one, Friendly Jr, is still alive, after the death of Curtis Womack. Curtis, or “Binky”, was the second-oldest, and when the brothers began playing as a group, the ten-year-old was the nominal leader. As Curtis Womack and the Womack Brothers they released their first single, Buffallo Bill, in 1954. Two years later they were discovered by Sam Cooke, then still a star in the genre of gospel. Now led by Bobby, who switched lead vocals with Curtis, the Womack Brothers released a few gospel records, which flopped. Cooke then advised them to go secular. The group took the name The Valentinos. Success came soon: they reworked their gospel song Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray to Lookin’ For A Love. When they cut their song It’s All Over Now, it was covered to huge success by the Rolling Stones. The group slowly fell apart following Cooke’s death and the scandal surrounding Bobby’s marriage to Cooke’s widow. By 1968, the group was only a trio – Curtis, Friendly and Harry – and released one final single, Tired Of Being Nobody, before breaking up.

With her smoky voice, Israeli singer and actress Daliah Lavi was a massive star on the German Schlager circuit in the 1970s, trading in songs that were rather more sophisticated than the clap-along fare that were the standard on that scene. Two of her biggest hits — Wann kommst Du and Willst Du mit mir geh’n — were German covers of songs by South African singer-songwriter John Kongos; another was her take on Melanie’s What Have They Done To My Song Ma. Before that Lavi had enjoyed a career as an actress in Europe and, to a lesser extent, in Hollywood, earning a Golden Globe nomination for her part in Vincente Minnelli’s 1962 film Two Weeks in Another Town. Other notable parts included roles in Casino Royale and opposite Dean Martin in The Silencers. The end of her thespian career coincided roughly with her breakthrough as a singer in Germany in 1971. Despite her accent, the language doesn’t seem to have been a problem: her mother was a German Jew who emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s. Lavi said she never experienced anti-Semitism in Germany and made it clear that she didn’t hold the young people who made up her audience responsible for the Holocaust.

A blind singer being motivated by another blind singer to become a professional musician, and then making it big in his genre: it sounds like a Hallmark movie plot. That’s how it went with Jamaican reggae star Frankie Paul. Born blind, Frankie had his sight partially restored on a hospital ship. One day Stevie Wonder visited his school, and Frankie sang for him. Impressed, Wonder encouraged the boy, who then decided to make his career in music. Frankie went on to become a superstar in Jamaica, and one of the leading voiced in dancehall reggae, releasing 55 albums between 1982 and 2011.

On his deathbed, knowing the end of leukemia was near, English session drummer Jimmy Copley recorded a final EP to raise funds for the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre and Royal United Hospital in Bristol. In his career Copley had played with acts such as Jeff Beck, Tommy Iommi, Pretenders, Tears For Fears, Go West, Paul Rodgers, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band and Magnum. Early in his career, he was the drummer of UPP, the jazz-funk band featuring Jeff Beck. The guitar legend and other well-known musicians joined Copley on his 2008 solo album. As the end neared, musician pals came to his hospital room, which had been converted to a temporary recording studio, to record the Psyche Funk EP. Copley said: “I’m making the EP to give something back to the wonderful people at the NHS wards that have treated me. It gave me something to aim at during the dark days. I feel good about leaving some new music behind.” The NHS is the British National Health Service, which guarantees health coverage for the population something Theresa May’s Tories are aiming to destroy, finishing the job of the previous Tory government.

A contender for the longest music career ever must be gospel musician Rosa Nell Speer, who has died at 94. She was only three years old in 1925 when her father, George Tomas “Dad” Speer, roped her and older brother Brock into his full-time band which would be variously known as The Speer Family and The Speer Family Gospel Choir. Rosa Nell became a gifted pianist, and was still playing weekly at the First Church of the Nazarene in Tennessee until just shortly before her death, bringing to an end an almost 92-years-long life in music.

Bruce Hampton, 70, avant-garde musician and actor, on May 1
Col. Bruce Hampton & The Aquarium Rescue Unit – Satisfaction Guaranteed (1994)

Erkki Kurenniemi, 75, pioneering Finnish electronic musician, on May 1

Kevin Garcia, 41, bassist for indie band Grandaddy, on May 2
Grandaddy – Laughing Stock (1997)

Saxa, 87, Jamaican-born British ska saxophonist, on May 3
The Beat – Mirror In The Bathroom (1980)

Daliah Lavi, 74, Israeli singer and actress, on May 3
Daliah Lavi – Oh wann kommst Du (1970)
Daliah Lavi – This Is My Life (1973)

C’el Revuelta, tour bassist with Black Flag (1986/2003), on May 3

Bruce Tucker, bass player of garage rock band The Mustangs, on May 4
The Mustangs – That’s For Sure (1965)

Clive Brooks, 67, drummer of English prog-rock groups Egg, The Groundhogs, on May 5
Egg – While Growing My Hair (1970, also as co-writer)

Almir Guineto, 70, Brazilian samba musician, on May 5

Dave Pell, 92, jazz musician, on May 8
T Bones – No Matter What Shape (My Stomach Is In) (1966, as leader of the Wrecking Crew)

Robert Miles, 47, Swiss-born electronic dance musician, producer, on May 9
Robert Miles – Children (1996)

Joy Byers, 82, songwriter, on May 10
Timi Yuro – What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You) (1962, as writer)
Elvis Presley – C’mon Everybody (1963, as writer)

Bill Dowdy, 84, drummer of jazz trio The Three Sounds, on May 12
Gene Harris & The Three Sounds – Put On Train (1971)

Jimmy Copley, 63, English drummer, on May 13
UPP – Friendly Street (1975) (1975)
Jimmy Copley – It’s Your Thing (2009)

Tom McClung, 60, jazz pianist and composer, on May 14

Keith Mitchell, drummer of Mazzy Star, on May 14
Mazzy Star – Fade Into You (1993)

Derek Poindexter, 52, bassist of Indie-rock group The Waynes, on May 15

Rosa Nell Speer, 94, singer with gospel group The Speer Family, on May 16
The Speer Family – I Believe In The Old Time Way (1960)

Kevin Stanton, 61, guitarist of New Zealand rock band Mi-Sex, on May 17
Mi-Sex – Computer Games (1979)

Chris Cornell, 52, frontman of alt.rock groups Soundgarden, Audioslave, of suicide on May 18
Temple Of The Dog – Hunger Strike (1991)
Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun (1994)
Audioslave – Be Yourself (2005)

Frankie Paul, 51, Jamaican dancehall reggae singer, on May 18
Frankie Paul – Sara (1987)

Curtis Womack, 74, singer with the Womack Brothers/The Valentinos, on May 21
Bobby Womack & Womack Brothers – Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray (1961)
The Valentinos – It’s All Over Now (1964)
The Valentinos – Tired Of Being Nobody (1968)

Jimmy LaFave, 61, folk singer-songwriter, on May 21
Jimmy LaFave – Not Dark Yet (2007)

Tulsa Pittaway, 42, drummer of South African rock band Watershed, in car crash on May 21
Watershed – Shine On Me (2000)

Mickey Roker, 84, jazz drummer, on May 22
Sonny Rollins – On Green Dolphin Street (1965)
The Mary Lou Williams Trio – Free Spirits (1976)

Saucy Sylvia, 96, singer-comedian, on May 25

Gregg Allman, 69, singer-songwriter, keyboardist of Allman Brothers Band, on May 27
Allman Brothers Band – Whipping Post (1969)
Allman Brothers Band – Statesboro Blues (1971)
Gregg Allman – I’m No Angel (1987)

Marcus Intalex, British bass & drums musician, DJ, producer, on May 28

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