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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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In Memoriam – April 2017

May 4th, 2017 6 comments

Mr Tambourine Man is gone. Bob Dylan has cited folk music guitarist and percussionist Bruce Langhorne as the inspiration for the song which would become a huge hit for The Byrds (sorry, not LSD after all). Langhorne, who had lost three fingers on his right hand as a child, played his jingle-jangle electric guitar on the Dylan version of the track (he takes care of the counter-melody). When Langhorne wasn’t playing the guitar, he’d do percussions on a large Turkish frame drum, the tambourine whereof Dylan speaks. He worked with Dylan on The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan and Bringing It All Home. Notably, Langhorne also played the guitar solo on Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Langhorne was already a name on the folk scene when Dylan turned up. “I thought he was a terrible singer and a complete fake, and I thought he didn’t play harmonica that well,” he’d later recall. He was converted when he heard Dylan’s writing. Langhorne went on to write several movie scores, mostly for Peter Fonda films.

I don’t diiiig this: with Cuba Gooding Sr, another one of the great ’70s soul legends is gone. The singer with the Main Ingredient had a great voice, of course, but his phrasing was even greater. Gooding joined the band after original lead singer Donald McPherson died in 1971 of leukaemia. They’d already had some success with Spinning Around and Black Seeds Keep Growing, but with Gooding they broke through thanks to the hit Everybody Plays The Fool, on which Gooding spoke the intro (“so you’re sayin’ you’re even thinking of dying?”). They had another million-seller in 1974 with Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely, but a year later band member Tony Silvester left to pursue a solo career, and in 1977 Gooding followed suit. Neither could replicate the success they had with the band.

The name Cuba was what his parents called him. Apparently, Gooding’s Barbadian father Dudley was involved in black liberation politics in Cuba when his first wife was mortally wounded in an assassination. On her deathbed Dudley promised to name his first son after the island. Oh, and, yes, Cuba Gooding Sr was the dad of the actor Cuba Gooding Jr. No paternity tests were ever necessary to prove that.

It’s fair to say that by his inventions, Ikutaro Kakehashi changed music. The Japanese engineer, who has died at 87, developed the Roland keyboards and drum machines that gave the 1980s much of its sounds. They are still widely used today, especially the Roland TR-808 drum machine that has scored songs for artists from Marvin Gaye (Check it on Sexual Healing) to Pharell. Kakehashi began his career in the electronics store he set up as 23-year-old, in which he’d repair, among other things, organs. This led to his decision in the late 1950s to specialise in electronic musical instruments, which found its first culmination with the establishment of Ace Electronics where he developed his first electronic drum in 1964. Eight years later he founded the Roland Corporation. In 1983, he helped introduce the MIDI standard which, in the words of Wikipedia, “a technical standard that describes a protocol, digital interface and connectors and allows a wide variety of electronic musical instruments, computers and other related devices to connect and communicate with one another”.

Thank Sylvia Moy for the career of Stevie Wonder. According to Berry Gordy, the child star Little Stevie was about to be dropped by the label after puberty changed the voice that had made Fingertips such a hit. It was Moy who persuaded Gordy to persist with Stevie, and who mentored the kid in the craft of songwriting — something he’d become pretty good at. For or with Stevie Wonder she co-wrote such classics as Uptight (Everything’s Alright), My Cherie Amour, Never Had a Dream Come True, I Was Made To Love Her, and Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day. With Holland-Dozier-Holland she wrote the Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart of Mine, and with Mickey Stevenson the Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston hit It Takes Two. Among the songs she wrote with Wonder (and frequent collaborator Hank Cosby) is 1966’s album track Sylvia. Soon Sylvia Moy would have to persuade Stevie to change the title of a track the singer wanted to dedicate to another girl’s name (I think it was Marsha). Moy suggested going French instead, and My Cherie Amour was born.

The early days of rock ‘n’ roll are replete with bizarre stories of violated ethics and protracted royalty battles. One such case concerned Rosie Hamlin, of Rosie and The Originals, who died at 71 on March 30 (her death was reported after the last In Memoriam was posted). As a teenager in San Diego, Rosie wrote a song about her boyfriend, titling it Angel Baby. She and her group recorded a master of the song in a private studio, and then persuaded the manager of a department store’s music section to play it. It proved popular and when a representative from Highland Records heard it, the group was signed — on condition that the songwriting credit would be changed to the eldest member of the group, David Ponci. Rosie agreed, unaware that she’d not collect royalties for what turned out to be a hit song which would be widely covered over many years. And, as always, what should have been fixed as a matter of honour instead turned into decades of protracted legal wrangling. Several singles followed, but Angel Baby remained Hamlin’s defining song. It was one of John Lennon’s favourites, even being covered during the recordings for his 1975 Rock and Roll LP. It was left off (it was eventually released on 1986’s Menlove Ave.), much to the fury of the publishing company that now owned the song — but that’s another story.

One day in September 1968, a 26-year-old Johnny Cash fan took his seat in a Fayetteville auditorium to see his hero perform a fund-raising concert for Republican gubernatorial candidate Winthrop Rockefeller. Due to flight cancellations, Cash found himself without a guitarist, so the fan, Bob Wooton, volunteered to fill in. He knew every line of every song, playing them perfectly. Within days, Cash invited Wooton to join his band. They’d go on to play together until 1997, though the most memorable performance came early: the gig at San Quentin State Prison in 1969 which has been elevated to cult status. Wooton also played the lead guitar on Bob Dylan’s 1969 remake of Girl from North Country, a duet with Cash. Wooton died on April 9 at the age of 75. Oh, and Winthrop Rockefeller, an anti-segregationist, won that 1968 election.

Of the three Jones Girls, the soul outfit that scored a few hits in the late 1970s and early ’80s, there’s now only one left after the death of Brenda Jones, killed by several cars as she was trying to cross a road. Valorie Jones died in 2001, leaving now only Shirley. The Detroit-born Jones Girls started out as a backing band, working with acts like Lou Rawls, Teddy Pendergrass, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Linda Clifford. They broke through in their own right with 1979’s excellent eponymous late-Philly soul debut album, and subsequently had hits with tracks like You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else and I Just Love The Man (on which Brenda sings a part solo). Shirley left the band in 1984 to pursue a solo career though there were reunion albums until Valorie’s death.

Strangely, I’d never really spend much time pondering what the J in the J. Geils Band stood for until the man who gave his name to the rock band died at the age of 71. Boringly, it’s John. He founded his band as a student in the late 1960s. Having released their debut in 1970, they traded in blues- and country rock, finding little sustained success though they did hit the charts occasionally (and their pretty good Cry One More Time was later covered by Gram Parson). Big success came when they switched to the kind of US new wave that would also work well for The Cars and The Tubes. Their biggest success was, of course, 1982’s Centrefold, an impossibly catchy and rather misogynist song, though the purists tend to cite Freeze-Frame as the better track. Within three years, the band split up, and Geils mostly retired from music to build up an automobile restoration business and to race cars.

The Funkadelic curse struck again in April: virtually every month, at least one person once connected with the Funkadelic/Parliament/Bootsy Collins collective dies. This month it was drummer Barry “Frosty” Smith, who once toured with Funkadelic. Smith had a varied career: he first had success with multi-instrumentalist Lee Michaels (drumming under the intentionally unwieldy moniker Bartholomew Eugene Smith-Frost, “to be sure I’d be seen on album covers”), then joined rock band Sweathog, whose song Hallelujah would be covered to great effect by Chi Coltrane. He then toured with a range of funk acts, which also included Sly & the Family Stone and Rare Earth, and later with roots-rocker Delbert McClinton. In the 1990s he returned to the charts with grunge act Soulhat, and backed various bands from Austin, Texas, where the Californian had made his home.

Just a few months before John Lennon’s murder, singer and political activist David Peel called in song for the ex-Beatle to be president. O’Neill used music as a vehicle for his activism, in the late 1960s to promote weed, then in the ’70s in the political domain, often shoulder-to-shoulder with Lennon (Peel appeared in 2006 film The U.S. vs. John Lennon), who produced Peel’s widely-banned 1972 album The Pope Smokes Dope.

One moment he was a prolific singer-songwriter with a good life, then Brazilian musician Belchior suddenly disappeared in 2007. For two years nothing was heard from the man. Few thought he had died, but rumours abounded about what he was doing. He had gone into hiding in Uruguay, said some. Or hiding on a beach in north-east Brazil. Or cooped up in a secret location to translate Dante’s Divine Comedy into Portuguese. He became the subject of discussion on Internet forums dedicated to solely to his whereabouts. In 2009 a Brazilian TV station tracked him down. The Uruguay theory proved correct: he now lived in a small village in San Gregorio de Polanco, resting, composing and contemplating life — and apparently leaving Dante well alone. He didn’t return to public life. On April 30 Belchior left for good.

 

Rosie Hamlin, 71, singer of Rosie and the Originals, on March 30
Rosie and the Originals – Angel Baby (1961, also as writer)

Elyse Steinman, guitarist of hard rock band Raging Slab, on March 30
Raging Slab – Anywhere But Here (1993)

Lonnie Brooks, 83, blues guitarist and singer, on April 1
Lonnie Brooks – I Want All My Money Back (1983)

Ikutaro Kakehashi, 87, Japanese developer of Roland keyboards, drum machines, on April 1

Brenda Jones, 62, singer with soul trio The Jones Girls, on April 3
McFadden & Whitehead – I Heard It In A Love Song (1980, on backing vocals)
The Jones Girls – I Just Love That Man (1980)
The Jones Girls – Nights Over Egypt (1981)

Andre ‘L.A. Dre’ Bolton, producer and keyboardist, on April 3
Michel’le – Something In My Heart (1989, on keyboards and as co-producer)

Paul O’Neill, 61, producer, songwriter and manager, on April 5
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Moonlight And Madness (2009, as producer)

David Peel, 73, singer and activist, on April 6
David Peel & The Super Apple Band – John Lennon For President (1980)

Ben Speer, 86, singer and pianist with southern gospel group Speer Family, on April 7

Keni Richards, 60, drummer of rock band Autograph, on April 8
Autograph – Turn Up The Radio (1984)

Kim Plainfield, 63, jazz drummer, on April 8

Bob Wootton, 75, country guitarist for Johnny Cash, on April 9
Johnny Cash – Wreck Of The Old 97 (1969, on guitar)
Johnny Cash – I Walk The Line (1969, on guitar)
Bob Dylan – Girl From The North Country (1969, on lead guitar)

Alan Henderson, 72, bassist of Northern Irish group Them, on April 9
Them – Here Comes The Night (1965)
Them – Mystic Eyes (1965)

Stan Robinson, 80, British jazz saxophonist and flautist, on April 9
Maynard Ferguson – Spinning Wheel (1972, on tenor saxophone)
Buzzcocks – What Do You Know (1980, on saxophone)

Banner Thomas, 63, bassist of rock group Molly Hatchet, on April 10
Molly Hatchet – Boogie No More (1979, also as co-writer)

Linda Hopkins, 92, actress and R&B/gospel/jazz singer, on April 10
Jackie Wilson & Linda Hopkins – Shake A Hand (1963)

Toby Smith, 46, keyboardist with British acid-jazz band Jamiroquai, on April 11
Jamiroquai – Alright (1996)

Scotty Miller, 65, drummer of disco band Instant Funk, on April 11
Instant Funk – I Got My Mind Made Up (1978)

J. Geils, 71, guitarist of The J. Geils Band, on April 11
J. Geils Band – Cry One More Time (1971)
J. Geils Band – Love Stinks (1980)

Mika Vainio, 53, member of Finnish electronic band Pan Sonic, on April 12

Barry ‘Frosty’ Smith, 71, drummer with rock bands Sweathog, Soulhat, on April 12
Lee Michaels – Who Could Want More (1969, on drums)
Sweathog – Hallelujah (1972)
Soulhat – Good To Be Gone (1994)

Tom Coyne, 62, mastering engineer (Rolling Stones, De La Soul, Beyoncé), on April 12

José Miguel Class, 78, Puerto Rican singer, on April 13

Bruce Langhorne, 78, folk guitarist and film score composer, on April 14
Bob Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man (1965, countermelody on electric guitar)
Joan Baez – Farewell, Angelina (1965, on guitar)
Richie Havens – Just Above My Hobby Horse’s Head (1969, lead and acoustic guitar)

Sylvia Moy, 78, Motown songwriter, on April 15
Brenda Holloway – Hurt A Little Everyday (1966, as co-writer)
Dusty Springfield – Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone (1968, as co-writer)
Stevie Wonder – Never Had a Dream Come True (1970, as co-writer)

Allan Holdsworth, 70, English guitarist and composer; member of Soft Machine, on April 15
Soft Machine – Land Of The Bag Snake (1975, also as writer)
Allan Holdsworth – City Nights (1989)

Matt Holt, 39, singer of heavy metal group Nothingface, on April 15

Pat Fitzpatrick, 60, keyboardist of Irish rock band Aslan, on April 19
Aslan – This Is (1986)

Dick Contino, 87, singer and accordionist, on April 19
Dick Contino – Lady Of Spain (1954)

Cuba Gooding Sr, 72, singer of soul legends The Main Ingredient, on April 20
The Main Ingredient – Everybody Plays The Fool (1972)
The Main Ingredient – Work To Do (1973)
Cuba Gooding – Hold On To What You Got (1978)

Jerry Adriani, 70, Brazilian singer and actor, on April 23

Calep Emphrey Jr, 67, drummer for B.B. King (1977-2009), on April 25
B.B. King – I’ll Survive (1998, on drums)

Zoe Realla, 32, rapper, murdered on April 28

Belchior, 70, Brazilian singer and composer, on April 30
Belchior – A Palo Seco (1974)

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In Memoriam – March 2017

April 4th, 2017 5 comments

The headline death of the month was, obviously, that of Chuck Berry, who died at the age of 90 years. I’ve had my say on his musical legacy in the Any Major Chuck Berry Covers post. I could write about how Berry’s character was on the side of those you’d be best advised to avoid. One could have long discussion about the point at which one ceases to separate a man’s dark personality from his musical genius — is Chuck Berry a better man than, say, Gary Glitter? But let’s leave all that with just one observation: To celebrate an artist’s music and its impact must not mean that we lionise a deeply flawed man.

I felt one other death this month more than that of Berry’s. If I was to reduce the production style of Tommy LiPuma to one word, it would be “warmth”. Or, as in the title of an Al Jarreau album he produced, “glow”. There is such enormous intimacy in the recordings LiPuma produced for acts like George Benson, Michael Franks, Randy Crawford and Jarreau. It found perfect expression in that spectacular a-side of the 1982 Casino Lights album, of Jarreau and Crawford singing four cover songs live at the Montreaux festival. I post songs from it at every opportunity, as I did last month to mark Jarreau’s death (in fact, the first three of the songs posted in tribute to the singer were LiPuma productions). Before all that, in the 1960s, LiPuma produced on A&M records, including The Sandpipers’ megahit Guantanamera and records for the likes of Claudine Longet and Chris Montez. In 1968 he founded a record company, Blue Thump, which would have on its roster such acts as Hugh Masekela, Ike & Tina Turner, The Crusaders, The Pointer Sisters, Phil Upchurch, Gerry Rafferty, Dave Mason and Gabor Szabo.

As a freelancer he produced the soundtrack for Barbra Streisand’s The Way We Were, including the title song, and soon after signed on as staff producer for Warner Bros. He won his first Grammy for George Benson’s version of This Masquerade, from the Breezin’ album, the title track of which he had first produced with Gabor Szabo and Bobby Womack. In 1977 he became Warner’s vice-president for jazz and progressive music. He produced almost everything by Benson (other than the Quincy Jones-produced Give Me The Night), most of Randy Crawford’s and Al Jarreau’s output. Others he produced in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s included Michael Franks, Brenda Russell, Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Patti Austin, Joe Sample, David Sanborn, Bob James, Miles Davis, Earl Klugh, Yellowjackets, Deodato, Larsen-Feiten Band (including Who’ll Be The Fool Tonight), Randy Newman, Rubén Blades, Stephen Bishop, and Dr. John, as well as tracks for British bands Aztec Camera and Everything But The Girl. Later, working for GPR/Verve, he nurtured the career of Diane Krall while also producing for Natalie Cole, Michael Bublé, Queen Latifah, Willie Nelson, Paul McCartney, Gladys Knight and, again, Streisand.

Of the four Sledge sisters, youngest Kathy stood out as the most charismatic, and Debbie as the most distinctive-looking. Joni Sledge, the first of the four to pass away, turned out to be the creative one: she earned a Grammy nomination for her production of the band’s 1997 album African Eyes. With Kathy leaving in 1989 and Kim, an ordained minister, dropping in and out, Joni and Debbie were the only constant members of Sister Sledge, who started their career in 1971. They first earned international notice in the mid-1970s, and exploded huge in the disco era with Nile Rodgers-produced hits like We Are Family, The Greatest Dancer and, best of them, Thinking Of You.

You may have heard the voice of Valerie Carter, who has died at 64, backing up acts like James Taylor, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, Christopher Cross, Little Feat, Nicolette Larsson, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Aaron Neville, Outlaws, Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Lyle Lovett or Shawn Colvin. You might have heard her compositions for Judy Collins, Jackson Browne, Brothers Johnson or Earth, Wind & Fire. Or you might have heard songs from her albums with Howdy Moon or her three solo studio and one live albums. A couple of times she also featured in the Not Feeling Guilty series.

Few songs give me as much joy to croon along to as The Foundations’ Baby Now That I’ve Found You, the vocalist of which, Clem Curtis, has died. Born in Trinidad, Curtis came to London and followed an usual career path: from interior designer to boxer to singer in a mixed-race soul group. He sang on one of the band’s two big hit; by the time The Foundations had a hit with Build Me Up Buttercup, Curtis had left the band because of frustration with what he saw as lax commitment by his bandmates. He went to the US to play on the club circuit, and with the Righteous Brothers in Vegas. Despite good reviews the move didn’t work out and he returned to Britain to relaunch The Foundations.

Last month we lost the jazz musician and producer David Axelrod; this month we lost the trumpeter on many of the records made and produced by Axelrod, Tony Terran. But Terran’s career preceded those collaborations. Just 20 years old, he joined Desi Arnaz’s band in 1946, and was the last surviving member of the incarnation that featured on the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Later Terran was sought after as a session man on many jazz and big band records, and was also a member of the Wrecking Crew, the informal band of LA session musicians that played on countless pop classics in the 1960s and ‘70s. He backed he likes of Sam Cooke, Elvis (on Fun In Acapulco), Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, The Monkees, Bob Dylan (on Self-Portrait), Neil Diamond (on Jonathan Livingston Seagull), Bonnie Raitt, Maxine Weldon, The Sandpipers, PJ Proby, Four Tops, Fifth Dimension, Randy Newman, Tina Turner, Nilsson, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Linda Ronstadt, Madonna and many others. He was also present on many TV and film scores and themes including, on TV, The Brady Bunch, I Dream of Jeannie, Get Smart, Happy Days, The Carol Burnett Show, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Cheers, L.A. Law, The Simpsons, and on film the first three Rocky The Karate Kid movies, Dirty Harry, All the President’s Men, Saturday Night Fever, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Grease, The Right Stuff, An Officer and a Gentleman, Ghostbusters and Field of Dreams.

One moment you’re the bass player on some of pop’s greatest hits; the next you change track to be a ukelele player with special emphasis on Hawaiian music. That’s how it went with Lyle Ritz. Another Wrecking Crew alumni, like Tony Terran he played on many of the hits produced by Phil Spector, for the Beach Boys (including most of Pet Sounds), Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, Ray Charles, Herb Alpert, Randy Newman (who worked with at least three of this month’s dead), Linda Ronstadt, Nilsson, Warren Zevon, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and others. He also played bass on the theme tunes for Kojak, The Rockford Files and Name That Tune. Then he chucked all that in to return to his first love: the ukulele. Before becoming a legendary bass player, he had recorded some ukulele jazz albums on Verve. And the ukulele Steve Martin plays in 1979’s The Jerk? That was Ritz. But he went full-ukelele jacket in 1984. In 2007 he was inducted into the Ukulele Hall of Fame.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson has lost his quasi-father-in-law with the death of ex-Boston drummer Sib Hashian, who died at 67 while performing on a cruise ship (Johnson’s partner is Sib’s daughter, the musician Lauren Hashian). Sib played on the first two Boston albums, having replaced Jim Masdea, for whom he had to clear his stool in 1986 during the recording of Third Stage. Apparently Epic Records had forced Masdea’s departure after he had played on the demos for the first album, on which Hashian played the arrangement of the man he had replaced, including that of More Than A Feeling. I’ve been unable to confirm whether it was Hashian or Masdea playing on 1986’s Amanda, which was first laid down in 1980.Currently running on TV is a pretty decent drama series on the early days of Sun Records. Alas it makes no reference to blues singer and harmonica player James Cotton, who as a teenager cut a couple of records with Sam Philips’ label (I think it’s the great blues guitarist Pat Hare playing the solo on the featured song). Before that he had been backing Howlin’ Wolf on harmonica; later he did the same for other blues legends such as Muddy Waters (including his legendary 1977 album Hard Again), Little Walter, Otis Spann, Big Mama Thornton and Koko Taylor (let’s not mention his bills-paying gig with Steven Seagal). He also recorded for rock acts such as the Steve Miller Band and Johnny Winters, and toured with Janis Joplin. And all the while he kept releasing his own records, solo or as part of the James Cotton Blues Band. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006.

Japanese musicians who enjoy international success tend to come from the world of jazz, but briefly in the 1960s, beat group The Spiders gained enough attention to merit tours of Europe and the USA. In Japan they were massive, having a string of hit singles in the 1960s and early ‘70s, and following in the footsteps of The Beatles by appearing in films. Founder, singer and guitarist Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu died on the first day of the month at 78 from pancreatic cancer.

As John Lennon’s childhood friend and bandmate in The Quarrymen, Pete Shotton remained on The Beatles scene, occasionally adding moments that have become part of pop history. One might wonder whether the other Quarrymen — Lennon’s group which McCartney would join — ever thought about what might have been had Lennon stuck with them to form The Beatles. Not Shotton, the washboard player who had his instrument smashed over his head by Lennon when he announced that he didn’t want to play music anymore. As part of the broader Beatles encourage, Shotton ended up working for Apple but left when Yoko arrived on the scene. He went on to become a successful businessman, starting the Fatty Arbuckle’s chain of restaurants in Britain.

It’s not normal to feature photographers in this music In Memoriam, but Don Hunstein merits an exception, alone for his photographs of Bob Dylan with his then-girlfriend Suze Rotolo that became immortal on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Hunstein had joined Columbia Records as in-house photographer in 1955 and stayed with the label until 1986, which have him access to many jazz, rock and soul legends, for cover shoots and candid shots of greats such as Johnny Cash, Barbra Streisand, Miles Davis (including the cover of his Nefertiti album), Billie Holiday, Dave Brubeck, Leonard Bernstein, Duke Ellington, Theolonius Monk, Tony Bennett, Glenn Gould, Aretha Franklin, Simon & Garfunkel, Loretta Lynn, Janis Joplin, Billy Joel and Stevie Ray Vaughan working on their craft. He became so friendly with his subjects that some invited him to spend time with them privately. One of them was Dylan: the photos of Bob and Suze were more spontaneous observations rather than carefully planned staged shoots. See some of Hunstein’s photos at www.donhunstein.com

Ric Marlow, 91, songwriter and actor, on Feb. 28
Billy Dee Williams – A Taste Of Honey (1960, as co-writer)
Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – A Taste Of Honey (1965, as co-writer)

Leone di Lernia, 78, Italian singer, composer and radio personality, on Feb. 28

Hiroshi ‘Monsieur’ Kamayatsu, 78, singer-guitarist for Japanese rock band The Spiders, on March 1
The Spiders – Kaze Ga Naiteriru (1967)

Wally Pikal, 90, one-man vaudeville musician, on March 1

Lyle Ritz, 87, bassist and ukulelist, on March 3
Beach Boys – Caroline No (1966, on ukulele)
Harry Nilsson – Without Her (1967, on bass)
Lyle Ritz – I’m Old Fashioned (2006)

Misha Mengelberg, 81, Dutch jazz pianist, composer, on March 3

Tommy Page, 46, singer-songwriter, record label executive, on March 3
Tommy Page – I’ll Be Your Everything (1990)

Valerie Carter, 64, singer-songwriter, on March 4
Little Feat – Long Distance Love (1975, on backing vocals)
Valerie Carter – Ooh Child (1977)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Turn It Into Something Good (1980, as writer)

Edi Fitzroy, 62, Jamaican reggae singer, on March 4
Edi Fitzroy – Princess Black (1982)

Lars Diedricson, 55, Swedish singer-songwriter, on March 6
Take Me To Your Heaven – Charlotte Nilsson (1999, as co-writer; winner of Eurovision 1999)

Robbie Hoddinott, 62, guitarist of country-rock band Kingfish, on March 6
Kingfish – Feels So Good (1978)

Dave Valentin, 64, Puerto Rican jazz flautist, on March 8
Lee Ritenour – Etude (1978, on flute with Ray Beckenstein & Eddie Daniels)
Dave Valentin – I Want To Be Where You Are (1978)

Tony Lorenzo, 30, guitarist with death metal band Sons of Azrael, on March 9

Joni Sledge, 60, singer with Sister Sledge, on March 10
Sister Sledge – Love Don’t You Go Through No Changes On Me (1974)
Sister Sledge – Thinking Of You (1979)
Sister Sledge – Walking In The Light (1997, also as producer)

Don Warden, 87, country steel guitarist, manager of Dolly Parton, on March 11
Moe Bandy – Here I Am, I’m Drunk Again (1976, as co-writer)

Evan Johns, 60, singer-guitarist of H-Bombs, LeRoi Brothers, on March 11
LeRoi Brothers – Ballad Of LeRoi Brothers (1986)

Robert ‘P-Nut’ Johnson, 70, singer with Paliament-Funkadelic, on March 12
Bootsy’s Rubber Band – The Pinocchio Theory (1977, on tenor/falsetto vocals)

Joey Alves, 63, lead guitarist of hard rock band Y&T, on March 12
Y&T – Lipstick And Leather (1984)

John Lever, 55, drummer of British rock band The Chameleons, on March 13
The Chameleons – Singing Rule Britannia (While The Walls Close In) (1985)

Maxx Kidd, 75, pioneering go-go singer and producer, on March 13

Tommy LiPuma, 80, legendary record producer, on March 13
Claudine Longet – Walk In The Park (1968; as producer and as “Harold”)
George Benson – This Masquerade (1976, as producer)
Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong (1982, as producer)
Bob James & David Sanborn – Maputo (1986, as producer)
Aztec Camera – How Men Are (1988)

Phil Garland, 75, New Zealand folk musician, on March 14

James Cotton, 81, blues singer, harmonica player, on March 15
James Cotton – My Baby (1954)
Muddy Waters – The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll (1977, on harp)
James Cotton feat. Ruthie Foster – Wrapped Around My Heart (2013)

Chuck Berry, 90, rock ‘n’ roll legend, on March 18
Chuck Berry – Maybellene (1955)
Chuck Berry – Brown Eyed Handsome Man (1956)
Chuck Berry – Come On (1963)
Chuck Berry – Night Beat (1965)

Don Hunstein, 88, photographer, on March 18

Tony Terran, 90, trumpeter and session musician, on March 20
Sam Cooke – Shake (1965)
Tony Terran – Over The Rainbow (1968)
Tony Terran – Theme of ‘The Magician’ (1973, on piccolo trumpet)

Roy Fisher, 86, English poet and jazz pianist, on March 21

Chuck Barris, 87, TV personality and songwriter, on March 21
Freddy Cannon – Palisades Park (1962, as writer)

Sib Hashian, 67, drummer of rock band Boston, on March 22
Boston – More Than A Feeling (1976)
Boston – Feelin’ Satisfied (1978)

Sven-Erik Magnusson, 74, singer of Swedish danc e band Sven-Ingvars, on March 22

Peter Shotton, 75, washboardist with The Quarrymen, on March 22
The Quarrymen – That’ll Be The Day (1958)

Vincent Falcone, 79, pianist, conductor (also for Frank Sinatra), on March 24

Avo Uvezian, 91, Lebanese-born jazz pianist, on March 24
Avo Uvezian – Armenia (2004)

Jimmy Dotson, 82, blues musician, on March 26

Alessandro Alessandroni, 92, Italian composer, conductor and guitarist, on March 26
Ennio Morricone – For A Few Dollars More (1965, on guitar, whistling, conductor of chorus)

Clem Curtis, 76, Trinidadian-born singer of British soul group The Foundations, on March 27
The Foundations – Baby, Now That I’ve Found You (1967, on lead vocals)
Clem Curtis – Point Of No Return (1972)

Edward Grimes, 43, drummer of rock groups Rachel’s, Shipping News, on March 27

Arthur Blythe, 76, jazz saxophonist and composer, on March 27
Arthur Blythe – Caravan (1978)

Aldo Guibovich, 64, singer with Peruvian Latin pop band Los Pasteles Verdes, on March 28
Los Pasteles Verdes – Fumando Espero (1973)

Terry Fischer Siegel , 70, pop and jazz singer, on March 28
The Murmaids – Popsicles And Icicle (1963)

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In Memoriam – February 2017

March 2nd, 2017 4 comments

When the 2017 In Memoriam round-up is written in December, I will record the death of Al Jarreau as one of the more cheerless of the year. I admit it: the man recorded some really bland stuff in his time. But when he was good… oh, how sublime he was! Plus, he was a genuinely nice man when I briefly met him during my short stint as an entertainment journalist. A couple of weeks before his death, Al Jarreau featured on the Any Major Favourites 2016 Vol. 2 mix; in 2016, he appeared on five mixes. Jarreau’s end came quite suddenly: he had been booked to tour when he fell ill recently, forcing him to announce his retirement. A couple of days later, the great voice was silenced forever.

I wonder how David Axelrod will be better remembered: as an innovative jazz musician who wrote a jazz Mass (as did fellow jazz greats Mary Lou Williams and Dave Brubeck) performed by The Electric Prunes, or as the producer in the 1960s of acts like Lou Rawls, Cannonball Adderley, Letta Mbulu and Kay Starr, or as the creator of countless samples used in hip-hop tracks? Either way, the man had a genius for fusing jazz, soul, funk, rock, classical, religious and avant garde influences, sometimes in ways that produced great hits, and at other times in ways that were too eccentric for popular consumption. On the featured track, 1968’s Holy Thursday, check out Earl Palmer’s masterful drumming.

And talking of which: the Funky Drummer is dead. As one of James Brown’s two drummer, with Jab’o Starks, Clyde Stubblefield was the gold standard in funk drumming, on tracks like Sex Machine, Say It Loud – I’m Black And Proud, Hot Popcorn and, of course, the endlessly sampled  Funky Drummer. He left the J.B.s in 1971 and continued to play on the club circuit in Madison, releasing his solo debut only in 1997. In his latter years, Stubblefield suffered from kidney disease; since he had no health insurance in those pre-Obamacare days, fan Prince supported him in paying his medical bills. In the end, kidney failure killed Stubblefield, ten months after the death of Prince.

Another funk legend fell, in January, though his death was reported only in February: Ohio Players keyboardist, vocalist and producer Walter “Junie” Morrison. In his short tenure in the Ohio Players, from 1970-74, Morrison was involved in the group’s greatest hits, including the much-sampled Funky Worm, which he mostly wrote and arranged. After a brief spell as a solo artist, Junie joined the Parliament-Funkadelic collective as musical director, shaping the P-Funk sound at the height of its popularity (De La Soul fans will know the sample from the featured track). He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as part of Parliament-Funkadelic in 1997.

Last Thursday I was listening to the Playboy mix as I re-upped it by request. One of the songs playing was Leon Ware’s 1976 song Body Heat. A couple of hours later I saw that Ware had died that day. Ware was less known as a soul singer than he was for his writing and, to a lesser extent, producing (Marvin Gaye, Al Wilson, G.C. Cameron, Syreeta, Melissa Manchester, Con Funk Shon, Mica Paris, Maxwell among others). Just look at some of the great tracks he (co-) wrote: Marvin Gaye’s I Want You and After The Dance, Michael Jackson’s Wanna Be Were You Are, Minnie Riperton’s Inside My Love, Jermaine Jackson’s If I Were Your Woman, The Main Ingredient’s Rolling Down A Mountainside, The Four Tops’ Just Seven Numbers, Isley Brothers’ Got To Have You Back, Odyssey’s I Can’t Keep Holding Back My Love, Average White Band’s If I Ever Lose This Heaven (which he originally sang with Minnie Riperton, with Al Jarreau backing them, for Quincy Jones), Bobby Womack’s Git It, Parliament’s Fantasy Is Reality… and later Zhané’s grooving Hey Mr DJ, Maxwell’s Sumthin’ Sumthin’, Lulu’s Independence, John Legend’s So High, and El DeBarge’s Heart, Mind & Soul. On last year’s Saved! Vol. 7 mix, the Leon Ware track precedes Al Jarreau’s. Do we have to worry about Marlena Shaw now?

From Cliff Richard, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons and The Mamas & the Papas to John Lennon, T. Rex, Bette Middler and the Ramones, the 1958 hit Do You Wanna Dance has been covered prodigiously. The song’s writer and original singer, Bobby Freeman, died on January 28. He had a Top 5 US hit with it, but follow-up singles charted only moderately. He returned briefly to the higher reaches of the charts in 1964 with C’mon And Swim, which was co-written by the 20-year-old Sly Stone.

As Australia’s first wild “rock chick”, at a time when “chicks” weren’t supposed to be rock, Carol Lloyd blazed a trail for the likes of The Divinyls’ Chrissy Amphlett to touch herself. Lloyd was not only a pioneer in the field of music, but also in the area of LGBQT rights. In 2013 she was given a few months to live after being diagnosed with interstitial pulmonary fibrosis. Defiantly, she lived on for more than three years until death caught up with her at the age of 68.

Carol Lloyd was never destined to become a woman of the cloth, unlike British singer-songwriter Peter Skellern, who died four days after her. Skellern had one big hit, 1972’s You’re A Lady, which was covered throughout Europe. It remained his biggest hit, though British TV audiences also got to know his voice from the series the 1973 series Billy Liar. More lately, Skellern had written choral music. In October last year he was ordained a priest in the Church of England, just after it became known that he was suffering from a terminal brain tumor.

 

Walter ‘Junie’ Morrison, 62, musician with Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic, on Jan. 21
Ohio Players – Funky Worm (1972)
Funkadelic – (Not Just) Knee Deep (1979)

Bobby Freeman, 76, R&B singer and songwriter, on Jan. 28
Bobby Freeman – Do You Wanna Dance (1958)
Bobby Freeman – C’mon And Swim (1964)

Deke Leonard, 72, guitarist with Welsh prog rock band Man, on Jan. 31
Man – Daughter Of The Fireplace (live, 1972, also as writer)

Carsten ‘Beethoven’ Mohren, 54, keyboardist of East-German rock band Rockhaus, on Jan. 31
Rockhaus – Bleib cool (1987)

Robert Dahlqvist, 40, Swedish rock singer and guitarist with The Hellacopters, on Feb. 3

Steve Lang, 67, bassist of Canadian rock band April Wine, on Feb. 4
April Wine – I Like To Rock (1979)

Noel Simms, 82, Jamaican reggae percussionist and singer, on Feb. 4

David Axelrod, 83, Jazz and R&B arranger, composer and producer, on Feb. 5
Cannonball Adderley – Mercy,Mercy,Mercy (1966, as producer)
Lou Rawls – Love Is A Hurtin’ Thing (1966, as producer)
David Axelrod – Holy Thursday (1968)

Sonny Geraci, 70, singer with rock bands The Outsiders, Climax, on Feb. 5
Climax – Precious And Few (1971)

Svend Asmussen, 100, Danish jazz violinist, on Feb. 7
Svend Asmussen Quartet – A Pretty Girl (1978)

Tony Davis, 86, singer with British folk group The Spinners, on Feb. 10
The Spinners – In My Liverpool Home (1964)

Al Jarreau, 76, jazz and soul singer, on Feb. 12
Al Jarreau – Your Song (1976)
Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Sure Enough (1982)
Al Jarreau – Teach Me Tonight (1985)
Al Jarreau – So Good (1988)

Barbara Carroll, 92, American jazz pianist, on Feb. 12
Barbara Carroll – Mame (live, 1967)

Damian, 52, British pop singer, on Feb. 12

Robert Fisher, 59, leader of Americana collective Willard Grant Conspiracy, on Feb. 12
Willard Grant Conspiracy – Fare Thee Well (2003)

Carol Lloyd, 68, Australian rock singer, on Feb. 13
Railroad Gin – A Matter Of Time (1974)

E-Dubble, 34, rapper and record label founder, on Feb. 15

Peter Skellern, 69, English singer-songwriter, on Feb. 17
Peter Skellern – You’re A Lady (1972)

David Yorko, 73, guitarist for Johnny & the Hurricanes, on Feb. 17
Johnny & The Hurricanes – Red River Rock (1959)

Clyde Stubblefield, 73, drummer with James Brown, on Feb. 18
James Brown – Say It Loud – I’m Black And Proud (1968)
James Brown – Funky Drummer (1970, on drums)
Clyde Stubblefield – The Revenge Of The Funky Drummer (1997)

Larry Coryell, 73, jazz-fusion guitarist, on Feb. 19
Larry Coryell – Yesterdays (1990)

Ilene Berns, 73, record label executive, widow of Bert Berns, on Feb. 20

Leon Ware, 77, soul singer, songwriter, producer, on Feb. 23
Leon Ware – I Know How It Feels (1972)
Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are (1972, as writer)
Quincy Jones feat. Leon Ware & Minnie Riperton- If I Ever Lose This Heaven (1974, also as writer)
Minnie Riperton – Inside My Love (1975, as writer)
El DeBarge – Heart, Mind & Soul (1994)
Zhané – Hey Mister DJ (1994, as writer)

Horace Parlan, 86, jazz pianist, on Feb. 23
Horace Parlan – On Green Dolphin Street (1960)

Fumio Karashima, 68, Japanese jazz pianist, on Feb. 24

Don Markham, 85, saxophonist/trumpeter of Merle Haggard’s  Strangers, on Feb. 24

Rick Chavez, guitarist of metal band Drive, on Feb. 25

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In Memoriam – January 2017

February 2nd, 2017 7 comments

The first month of January might have spared us the death of superstars, but the Grim Reaper wrought almost as great carnage in his domain as the Orange Horror Clown did in his.Perhaps the most famous name to be struck off the roll call of the living was that of Peter Sarstedt, the British folk-rock singer who suffered the double-edged sword of having an enduring mega-hit that came to define him. It didn’t help that this hit, Where Do You Go To My Lovely?, became one of those songs that gained a reputation, to the point of perceived wisdom, of being awful. While one can see how it might not be everybody’s cup of herbal tea, it didn’t merit this derision — it is a fine song. And Sarstedt did not deserve to be defined by his big hit; he actually had better songs than that, including Where Do You…’s flip-side, I am A Cathedral.

One of the premier jazz labels in the 1950s and ‘60s was Verve, and arranger and conductor Buddy Bregman was there from the start in 1956, having been appointed head of A&R by the label’s great founder, Norman Granz, at only 25. As part of his A&R job, he brought Bing Cosby to the label. But it was as an arranger that he made his name — so much so that it appeared on the title of Cosby’s first album for Verve, the platinum-seller Bing Sings Whilst Bregman Swings. Bregman also arranged the label’s first album, the classic Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter (he’d also arrange some of Ella’s subsequent songbook albums). Bregman arranged for the likes of Count Basie, Anita O’Day, Fed Astaire, Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Sammy Davis Jr., Peggy Lee, Bobby Darin, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson, Jerry Lewis, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Buddy Rich, Gogi Grant, Eydie Gormé, Johnny Mercer, Coleman Hawkins, Eddie Fisher (on whose TV show he was musical director), Carmen McRae, and Ethel Merman. He also presented his own TV show in the late 1950s, and scored or orchestrated several films in the 1950s and ‘60s, including Bob Fosse’s The Pajama Game. In the 1960s he worked in Britain for a while, as head of light entertainment on the ITV television station.

It wasn’t a good month for Buddys who once lived in England.  Two days after Bregman, the jazz vocalist and pianist Buddy Greco died at 90. He was performing from seven years of age, including appearances on the radio. Greco’s professional music career began in 1942 when at the age of 16 he joined Benny Goodman’s touring band. By the time he left Goodman four years later, Greco was an experienced singer, pianist and arranger. In 1947 he scored his first US chart hit — Ooh! Look-A There, Ain’t She Pretty — which peaked at #15. Many more hits followed, including his greatest in 1960 with a version of The Lady Is A Tramp. Unusually for singers in his genre, he lived much of his time in England, where he had great success on stage (though none in the charts, other than a middling position with The Lady Is A Tramp). He was still performing on stage until a couple of years ago, marking his 80th anniversary as a performer with a concert in 2013.

The lifestory of South African jazz singer Thandi Klaasen might make for a pretty good movie. Having reached adulthood just as the apartheid regime was putting its racist boot on the throats of South Africa’s black people, Klaasen became a young singing sensation in early 1950s Sophiatown, a township that was the capital of jazz in Johannesburg, by breaking the male monopoly with her all-female vocal quartet, the Quad Sisters. It paved the way for other female Sophiatown artists, such as Miriam Makeba and Dolly Rathebe. Klaasen, a woman of formidable character, also taught the pretty singers how to deal with the sexual advances of the assorted gangsters and thugs who formed a large part of their audiences. In 1961 Klaasen featured with Makeba in the  London run of the all-black jazz-musical King Kong, which served as a requiem for Sophiatown after it had been ethnically-cleansed and torn down by the apartheid regime.

Klaasen was prolific mostly as a stage performer, but that might have ended in 1977 when she was disfigured by an acid attack on her face, allegedly by “rivals”. After more than a year in hospital, she drew from that immense inner strength to reboot her career. She became an icon not only for her contralto and jazz-scatting, but also for her defiance of fate’s cruel tricks. Among the mourners at her funeral was South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki. On February 3, 1959 a bunch of musicians on a tour tossed coins to see who could fly to the next venue, and who’d suffer the mid-winter journey on the beat-up bus. Guitarist Tommy Allsup lost the toss to Richie Valens — and lived for another almost 58 years. After rock music’s most famous plane crash, Allsup, who was a member of Buddy Holly’s Crickets, completed the tour, which was joined by a young Bobby Vee, who also recently died.  Allsup had recorded with Holly (for example on Heartbeat) and previously toured with Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys. Later he backed acts like Bobby Vee, Johnny Cash, The Everly Brothers, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Mother Maybelle Carter, Faron Young, George Jones, Leon Russell, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jean Shepard, Tom T Hall, Billie Jo Spears, Reba McEntire, Charlie Rich, Marty Robbins, Asleep At The Wheel and Elvis Costello.

A year and five days after Mott the Hoople drummer Dale Griffin died, bassist Pete Overend Watts followed him. Watts and Griffin were also fellow band members in The Soulents, one of the two groups that would morph into the Hoople. It was Watts who confided to David Bowie that the band was about to split due to their lack of success. Bowie offered them his song Suffragette City, which the band turned down. Instead, Bowie wrote All The Young Dudes for them, providing their breakthrough hit in 1972. Within four years, the band had burnt out. Watts, Griffin and Mott keyboardist Morgan Fisher carried on as British Lions, releasing two modesty successful albums. Watts later went into production. He died on January 22 of throat cancer.

On the same day Watts died, German drummer Jaki Liebezeit said his final Auf Wiedersehen. For drum connoisseurs, the drummer of the legendary Krautrock band Can ranks among the greats, crediting him with innovation and a funkiness you’d not immediately expect from a German. As a resident of Cologne, he recorded with a few local acts that sang in the city’s local dialects, and mentored upcoming Neue Deutsche Welle acts like Joachim Witt. He drummed on early Eurythmics and later Depeche Mode records, and collaborated extensively with poet-singer-guitarist Jah Wobble. Liebezeit is one of the central voices in David Stubbs’ magisterial 2014 book on Krautrock, Future Days (the book was named after a Can album), which has been translated into several languages, including Japanese.

In the world of soul, Marvell Thomas was something of royalty: his father was the hugely influential Rufus Thomas, who was called “Memphis’ Other King”, his sister was the erstwhile Queen of Soul, Carla Thomas. Marvell was more of a behind-the-scenes guy, playing the keyboard and organ on the records of others produced on Stax and at Muscle Shoals — among them the flip-side of Rufus’ and Carla’s 1960 duet Deep Down Inside, Stax’s first big hit. From the ‘70s onwards he backed the likes of Wilson Picket, Clarence Carter, Duane Allman, Mavis Staples, Denise LaSalle, The Soul Children, Inez Foxx, Shirley Brown (including on Woman To Woman), Yvonne Elliman, Albert King, Tony Joe White, Irma Thomas, Pops Staples, Margie Joseph, among others. He wrote several songs, arranged others, and — by the way — also co-produced Isaac Hayes’ classic Hot Buttered Soul album.Actor Miguel Ferrer was best-known as an actor, especially in RoboCop and the TV series Twin Peak and NCIS: Los Angeles. But the son of actor José Ferrer and the legendary singer Rosemary Clooney (and therefore George Clooney’s cousin), Ferrer also had a career as a backing and session drummer. He was only 21 when he backed Bing Crosby on his 60th anniversary concert in 1976. The year before, he played the drums on Who drummer Keith Moon’s solo album.

Auriel Andrew was not your archetypal country singer. For one thing, she was Australian; for another, she was an Aborigine (her skin name was Mbitjana and her totem the hairy Caterpillar). It seems that the Aboriginal community has a rich tradition of making country music, going back to the 1940s, a time when the term “country” wasn’t even in use yet. A protégé of the godfather of the genre, Jimmy Little, Auriel Andrew was one of its biggest stars in the 1970s and ‘80s, and kept performing and recording until recently.  She was the first Aboriginal woman to perform on Australian television, and appeared in a couple of episodes of the TV soap A Country Practice in 1983. Once she also performed for Pope John Paul II in Pitjantjitjara. She stood in the line, shook his hand, and then joined the back of the line to shake his hand again.

In the canon of Beatles history, Magic Alex has a poor reputation. Known to his mom as Alexis Mardas, the Greek electronics engineer had struck up a friendship with John Lennon, who was impressed by the lightshow Magic Alex had produced for The Rolling Stones. Lennon brought Magic Alex to Apple where he declared the Abbey Road studios with the 8-track recording system as inadequate, and built a 72-track system in Apple’s Savile Row studio. It was a disaster: in the end the expensive mixing desk he devised was sold for scrap, recouping a full £5. When Allen Klein became Beatles manager, Magic Alex was fired in short order. Mardas wasn’t a complete fool, however. He devised a telephone that dialled by voice recognition and displayed the numbers of callers — not unlike what another outfit named Apple would offer a few decades later. Magic Alex was also central in Lennon’s sordid split from Cynthia: it was he who delivered the message that John was leaving her for Yoko Ono.

The death of sound engineer Bill Price on December 22 was announced only in mid-January. Engineers don’t really get much attention, but their contribution to the production of records is crucial. Price was involved in engineering some pop classics, including Tom Jones’ It’s Not Unusual and What’s New Pussycat, Engelbert Humperdinck’s The Last Waltz and Release Me, Los Bravos’ Black Is Black, possibly The Flirtations’ Nothing But A Heartache, Marmalade’s Reflections Of My Life, Wings’ Live And Let Die (as co-engineer), Mott the Hoople’s All The Way From Memphis (which gives us an overlap in light of Peter Overend Watts’ death), Tom Robinson Band’s Glad To Be Gay, Boomtown Rats’ She’s So Modern, The Clash’s London Calling, Pretenders’ Brass In Pocket, Kid, Stop Your Sobbing, Talk Of The Town and I Go To Sleep, Elton John’s I’m Still Standing , Blue Eyes, I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues and Kiss The Bride, Black’s Everything’s Coming Up Roses, Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain (the LP mix), and much more. His resumé as a producer is shorter, but it includes The Sex Pistols’ Pretty Vacant, The Clash’s I Fought The Law and the Jesus And Mary Chain’s triple whammy of April Skies, Darklands and Happy When It Rains.My intimate knowledge of Colombian rock is not flawless, so I had no idea who Elkin Ramírez was. It turns out that he was about the biggest rock star in the Latin American country. As frontman of the hard rock band Kraken, he was generally known as Colombia’s Freddie Mercury — so much so that there were rumours that he’d replace Freddie in Queen. The Medellín band began its rise to fame in the mid-’80s. Their last album was released in 2015, when Ramírez was diagnosed with the brain tumor that killed him at 54.

A second ex-King Crimson and future superband member died this month in singer-bassist John Wetton, a month after Greg Lake departed. They were Crimson members at different times, but like Lake, Wetton enjoyed his biggest success as part of a superband, Asia. In between finishing his two-year stint with King Crimson in 1974 and co-founding Asia in 1982, he was also a member of Wishbone Ash, UK and Uriah Heep. He also had session stints with Roxy Music on their live album and various solo albums by all of its members.

A hallmark of the sound created by The Allman Brothers, besides that guitar, was the use of two drummers: Butch Trucks provided the thundering backbeat, Jaimoe Johanson the funky syncopation (also using percussions). Butch remained the one constant in the 46-year span of the Allman Brothers Band, a group he co-founded with the brothers Duane and Greg. The band broke up for good in 2014, and Trucks continued to perform, latterly leading the group Les Brers, which features various Allman alumni, including Jaimoe. Butch last performed on stage on January 6. Eighteen days later the 69-year-old drumming legend put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

 

Bill Price, 72, sound engineer and producer, on Dec. 22
Tom Jones – It’s Not Unusual (1965, as engineer)
Sex Pistols – Pretty Vacant (1977, as producer)
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Happy When It Rains (1987)

Auriel Andrew, 69, Australian country musician, on Jan. 2
Auriel Andrew – Truck Driving Woman (1970)

Elliot Meadow, 71, Scottish-born jazz producer, broadcaster and writer, on Jan. 4
Claire Martin – You Hit The Spot (1991, as producer)

Mike ‘Jefe’ Gaborno, 51, singer of Chicano punk group Manic Hispanic, on Jan. 4

Sylvester Potts, 78, singer with soul group The Contours, on Jan. 6
The Contours – Do You Love Me (1962)
The Contours – It’s Growing (1974)

Johnny Dick, 73, Australia-based rock drummer, on Jan. 6
Johnny Dick ‎- The Warrior (1975)

Eddie Kamae, 89, ukuleleist with Sons of Hawaii, on Jan. 7

Peter Sarstedt, 75, English singer-songwriter, on Jan. 8
Peter Sarstedt – I Am A Cathedral (1969)
Peter Sarstedt – Frozen Orange Juice (1969)

Buddy Bregman, 86, producer, arranger and composer, on Jan. 8
Anita O’Day – Fine And Dandy (1956, as arranger and conductor)
Bing Crosby & Buddy Bregman – Have You Met Miss Jones (1956, as arranger and conductor)
Ella Fitzgerald – Anything Goes (1956, as arranger and conductor)

Crazy Toones, 45, hip-hop producer and DJ, on Jan. 9

Buddy Greco, 90, jazz singer and pianist, on Jan. 10
Buddy Greco – Ooh! Look-A-There, Ain’t She Pretty? (1947)
Buddy Greco – The Lady Is A Tramp (1960)
Buddy Greco – Like A Rolling Stone (1969)

Tommy Allsup, 85, rockabilly, pope & country guitarist, and arranger, on Jan. 11
Buddy Holly – Heartbeat (1958, on lead guitar)
Bobby Vee – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961, on guitar)
Kenny Rogers – The Gambler (1978, on bass)

Meir Banai, 55, Israeli singer, on Jan. 12

Larry Steinbachek, 56, keyboardist of Bronski Beat, announced on Jan. 12
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy (1984)

Jan Stoeckart, 89, Dutch composer, conductor and trombonist, on Jan. 13
Simon Park Orchestra – Eye Level (Van der Valk Theme) (1972, as composer)

Alexis ‘Magic Alex’ Mardas, 74, Greek electronics engineer, on Jan. 13

Richie Ingui, 70, singer with the Soul Survivors, on Jan. 13
Soul Survivors – Expressway To Your Heart (1967)
Soul Survivors – City Of Brotherly Love (1974)

Alan Jabbour, 74, fiddler and folklorist, on Jan. 13

Mark Fisher, 48, British music journalist and cultural theorist, on Jan. 13

Greg Trooper, 61, American singer-songwriter, on Jan. 15
Steve Earle – Little Sister (1988, as writer)
Greg Trooper – Good Luck Heart (2013)

Thandi Klaasen, 86, South African jazz singer, on Jan. 15
Thandi Klaasen – Sophiatown (2007)

William Onyeabor, 70, Nigerian singer-songwriter, on Jan. 16
William Onyeabor – Better Change Your Mind (1978)

Charles ‘Bobo’ Shaw, 69, free jazz drummer, on Jan. 16

Steve Wright, bassist of the Greg Kihn Band, on Jan. 16
Greg Kihn Band – The Breakup Song (They Don’t Write ‘Em) (1981)

Franz Jarnach, 72, keyboardist of German band The Rattles (1991-95), actor, on Jan. 16

Mike Kellie, 69, English multi-instrumentalist and producer, on Jan. 19
Spooky Tooth – That Was Only Yesterday (1969, as member)
The Only Ones – You’ve Got To Pay (1979, as member)

Miguel Ferrer, 61, actor and session musician, on Jan. 19
Keith Moon – Don’t Worry Baby (1975, on drums)

Loalwa Braz, 63, Brazilian singer-songwriter, on Jan. 19
Kaoma – Lambada (1989, on vocals)

Frank Thomas, 80, French songwriter, on Jan. 20
Françoise Hardy – Des bottes rouges de Russie (1969, as writer)

Bingo Mundy, 76, singer with doo wop band The Marcels, on Jan. 20
The Marcels – Blue Moon (1961; Mundy sings the “Moon, moon, moon, moon, moon” line)

Joey Powers, 82, pop singer, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 20
Joey Powers – Midnight Mary (1963)

Maggie Roche, 65, songwriter and singer with The Roches, on Jan. 21
The Roches – No Shoes (2007)

Karl Hendricks, 46, singer, songwriter and guitarist, on Jan. 21
The Karl Hendricks Trio – The Last Bus (1992)

Pete Overend Watts, 69, English bassist of Mott the Hoople, on Jan. 22
Mott The Hoople – Thunderbuck Ram (1970)
Mott The Hoople – Honaloochie Boogie (1973)

Jaki Liebezeit, 78, drummer of German rock band Can, on Jan. 22
Can – Moonshake (1973)
Zeltinger Band – So wie ein Tiger (1979, on drums)
Depeche Mode – The Bottom Line (1997, on percussions)

Marvell Thomas, 75, American keyboardist, on Jan. 23
Carla & Rufus Thomas – Cause I Love You (1960)
The Soul Children – All That Shines Ain’t Gold (1972, on piano)

Butch Trucks, 69, drummer of the Allman Brothers Band, of suicide on Jan. 24
Allman Brothers Band – Southbound (1973)
Allman Brothers – Old Before My Time (2003)

Gil Ray, 60, drummer of power pop bands Game Theory, The Loud Family, on Jan. 24
Game Theory – Erica’s Word (1986)

Björn Thelin, 74, bassist of Swedish guitar band The Spotnicks, on Jan. 24
The Spotnicks – The Rocket Man (1962)

Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson, Jamaican singer and musician, on Jan. 25
Ronald ‘Nambo’ Robinson – Sunset (2001)

Ronnie Davis, 66, Jamaican reggae singer, on Jan. 26
Ronnie Davis – Jah Jah Jehovah (1977)

Geoff Nicholls, 68, keyboardist of Black Sabbath, Quartz, on Jan. 28
Quartz – Street Fighting Lady (1977)
Black Sabbath – Die Young (1980)

Guitar Gable, 79, swamp blues singer, on Jan. 28
Guitar Gable with King Karl – This Should Go On Forever (1959)

Elkin Ramírez, 54, singer of Colombian rock band Kraken, on Jan. 29
Kraken – Muere Libre (1987)

James Laurence, 27, half of instrumental hip hop duo Friendzone, on Jan. 30

John Wetton, 67, singer and bassist of Asia, King Crimson, on Jan. 31
King Crimson – Fallen Angel (1974)
John Wetton – Caught In The Crossfire (1980)
Asia – Heat Of The Moment (1982)

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In Memoriam – December 2016

January 5th, 2017 7 comments

im1612-gallery-1The tributes have been exhaustive, the Last Christmas references been made. There’s not really much left to say about George Michael. It is now being revealed just how generous and caring a person he was, mostly discreetly. It needn’t be stated that George Michael was a gifted songwriter and arranger. He was also a marvellous vocalist, in tone and phrasing. Seek out his unjustly overlooked 1986 solo single A Different Corner (featured on the All The People Who Died 2016 mix). It has a lovely melody, understated arrangement and very good lyrics. But George’s soulful delivery is the real star here. He was great on ballads: Kissing A Fool and One More Try from the Faith album are other good examples of it.

But the stand-out performance is his version at Live Aid of Elton John’s Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. Forget the 1990s recording (also live); this is the more-or-less spontaneous version, without post-production. It’s perfect; George Michael’s vocal performance is breathtaking, as is fellow Pinner boy Elton’s arrangement. Had Queen bombed at Wembley, then this would be regarded as the singular highpoint of Live Aid. So, yeah, there were quite a few things left to say about George Michael.

With the death of Status Quo rhythm guitarist and co-singer Rick Parfitt the day after George Michael, the first two performers to appear on the Band Aid record have died (and, I think, the first two to have appeared on the London leg of Live Aid). Status Quo were considered a bit of a two-chord band by the purist, but their records were huge fun — especially for the dedicated air guitarists. A friend remarked after Parfitt’s death that it was harsh to expect much variation from a band named Status Quo. But they could also do slow songs, such as the lovely Living On An Island, which featured on A Life In Vinyl 1980. By all accounts, Parfitt was a gregarious party animal with no big star pretensions. But he also knew tragedy, having lost a two-year-old daughter in a drowning accident in 1980. He became a father again, to twins, in 2008, at the age of 60.

As 2016 began, prog-rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer were still all alive. Now only Carl Palmer is left. Keith Emerson went in March; now Greg Lake died — just as his song I Believe in Father Christmas was going back on seasonal rotation (it featured on Any Major 1970s Christmas), though that selection was made weeks before his death). Before becoming a target of contempt for 1970s punks as a member of ELP, Lake was the singer and bass guitarist for prog-rock pioneers King Crimson. On a tour that also included fellow prog-rockers The Nice on the bill, Lake struck up a friendship with that group’s Keith Emerson. They decided to form a band, roping in drummer Palmer, to create ELP. By 1974, ELP were done due to artistic differences between Emerson and Lake (a contractually obliged 1979 album still followed). His autobiography, Lucky Man, is now due for publication in September 2017; it’s named after a song he wrote at age 12 and recorded by ELP in 1970.

im1612-gallery-2There is a certain symmetry between ELP and the Australian rock band Daddy Cool: both lost members in March — in the case of Daddy Cool, guitarist Ross Hannaford — and in December, with bass player Wayne Duncan, of a stroke. The Melbourne group was the first local act to sell 100,000 LPs in Australia, with their 1970 debut LP Daddy Who?… Daddy Cool. That album included their 1970 hit Eagle Rock, which topped the Australian charts for ten weeks, and featured here earlier this year. In the comments to the March edition of In Memoriam, reader J Loslo noted that there’s an Australian bar tradition to drop one’s trousers and shuffle around with your pants around your ankles if it happens to come on the jukebox. Eagle Rock featured in the tribute for Hannaford; here I’ll go with one of J Loslo’s recommendations.

As a great actress might, Debbie Reynolds made her exit in emphatic style, of a broken heart the day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died. With that, she gave this rotten year a symbolic accent. Reynolds was a gifted talent; in the Good Morning sequence in Singin’ In The Rain, the just 19-year-old held her own against the seasoned hoofers Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor — after just four months of hyper-intensive training. In music, Reynolds scored her big hits by way of musicals, including the chart-topper Tammy, which was from the 1957 film Tammy and the Bachelor. She also had minor hits in the 1950s with pop covers of country songs. Later she tried her hand at bubblegum pop, being produced by Wes Farrell, who later invented The Partridge Family. Subsequently she had a long-running cabaret stint in Las Vegas. In a month when the Reaper took several stars with connections to Christmas records, it’s suitable that Reynolds’ final recording was an album of festive season numbers, recorded with Singin’ In The Rain co-star O’Connor in the early 1990s.

Saxophonist and trumpeter Herb Hardesty, a World Wart 2 veteran, was really a jazzman, but he played a role in the rise of rock & roll as a tenor saxophonist for Fats Domino, including on crossover hits such as Ain’t That A Shame and Blueberry Hill, and earlier on Lloyd Price’s 1952 proto-rock & roll number Lawdy Miss Clawdy (on which Domino played the piano; the song was based on an earlier Domino track). Hardesty also backed acts such as Smiley Lewis, T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Little Richard, Lee Dorsey and, later, Dr John. Playing with him on many of these tracks, as part of producer Dave Bartholomew’s backing band, was future Wrecking Crew drummer Earl Palmer, who got Hardesty a session gig with Tom Waits on his 1978 Blue Valentine LP. In 1953, it was Hardesty who prepped a young Ray Charles for his first tour. Hardesty went on to do a lot of live backing on stage with acts like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Fats Domino, as well as Waits.

In the 1960s Larry Muhoberac played on several Elvis records, and then he was the keyboardist in Elvis TCB backing band during his early Las Vegas stints. He also played as a session keyboardist on records by the likes of Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Kim Carnes, BW Stevenson, Nancy Wilson, José Feliciano, John Prine, Jessi Colter, Ann Murray, Johnny Cash, Hoyt Axton (on Evangelina, which featured on the Any Major Mexico mix), Helen Reddy, Bobbie Gentry, Carpenters, Maxine Nightingale, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams Jr, Andraé Crouch, Dolly Parton and others. He also produced or arranged for Diamond, Haggard, Gentry, Crouch, Dean Martin, Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood, Al Martino, Red Simpson, Jim Gilstrap (including House of Strangers on Any Major Soul 1975 Vol. 1), Yvonne Elliman, Ray Charles, Eddie Rabbit, Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle and more…

im1612-gallery-3Gospel is a difficult genre to define, even if one just sticks to black gospel. The popular image is of robed choirs doing Oh Happy Day kind of stuff, or maybe Mahalia Jackson’s more blues inflected spirituals. Of course, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a gospel singer who did more than most to help invent rock & roll. Joe Ligon, the founder of the Mighty Clouds Of Joy who has died at 80, was another innovator. The group started in the early 1960s as a traditional Southern Baptist shout-and-yell gospel band. But over time they incorporated influences from secular soul music, culminating in secular recognition, including being the first gospel act to appear on Soul Train. In that way, they blazed a trail for contemporary gospel acts such as The Winans. The secular world appreciated the Mighty Clouds Of Joy as well: they opened for acts like the Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Aretha Franklin.

In the world of jazz-fusion, drummer Alphonse Mouzon was royalty. A founder member of Weather Report (even if that stint was short-lived) he released several LPs and backed some of the great names in the genre, from Roy Ayers and Herbie Hancock to Al di Meola , but also more traditional jazz people, such as Miles Davis and Les McCann. He also drummed for non-jazz acts, such as Tim Hardin, Roberta Flack, Eugene McDaniels and Freda Payne.

The Grim Reaper made it a habit in 2016 of taking musicians before their time. French singer Léo Marjane can have no such complaints: she lived to the age of 104. At one point, before and during World War 2, Marjane was among the biggest singing stars in France, right up there with Edith Piaf, Jean Sablon and Charles Trenet (who wrote Marjane’s biggest hit, 1941’s Seule ce soir). Her career collapsed with the liberation of France when she was accused of having sung in venues frequented by German officers and performed on radio stations controlled by French collaborators. She ascribed this to naiveté. A comeback attempt in the 1950s failed, partly because her genre of music was on the decline, and partly because the French public had not forgotten the past. By 1957 she married a French aristocrat and quit the music business.

This month we lost the singer-writers of two beloved Christmas pop songs in George Michael and Greg Lake (and Rick Parfitt, who sang on the Band Aid single). Irish band manager Frank Murray had a role in the creation of another Christmas classic: Fairytale Of New York. Murray was the manager of The Pogues when he suggested they cover The Band’s Christmas Must Be Tonight. The band turned down the idea, so Murray challenged frontman Shane McGowan to write something better. Which he did. Murray also got Kirsty MacColl to duet on the song.

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Mark Gray, 64, country singer, songwriter, keyboardist with Exile, on Dec. 2
Exile -Take Me Down (1980, as co-writer)

Herbert Hardesty, 91, jazz trumpeter & saxophonist, on Dec. 3
Fats Domino – Blue Monday (1956, on baritone sax)
Herb Hardesty – Perdido Street (1962)
Growly-the-DCM-monster – Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard (1978)

Larry Muhoberac, 79, arranger, producer, and keyboardist, on Dec. 4
Neil Diamond – I Am…I Said (1971, as arranger)
Barbra Streisand – Beautiful (1971, on piano)
Jessi Colter – I’m Not Lisa (1975, on piano)

Wayne Duncan, 72, bassist of Australian rock band Daddy Cool, on Dec. 4
Daddy Cool – Zoop Bop Gold Cadillac (1971)

Ralph Johnson, lead singer of The Impressions (as of 1973), on Dec. 4
The Impressions – I’m A Changed Man (Finally Got Myself Together) (1973)

Adam Sagan, 35, drummer of metal bands Circle II Circle, Into Eternity, on Dec. 5

Big Syke, 48, rapper, on Dec. 5
2Pac feat. Big Syke and Kurupt – Check Out Time (rel. 1996; as co-rapper)

Greg Lake, 69, English singer and guitarist/bassist (King Crimson, ELP), on Dec. 7
King Crimson – I Talk To The Wind (1969)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Lucky Man (1970)
Greg Lake – I Believe In Father Christmas (1975)

Palani Vaughan, 72, Hawaiian music singer, on Dec. 8

George Mantalis, 81, singer with vocal group The Four Coins, on Dec. 10
The Four Coins – Memories Of You (1955)

Damião Experiença, 81, Brazilian singer-songwriter, musician, producer on Dec. 10

Joe Ligon, 80, lead singer of gospel group Mighty Clouds Of Joy, on Dec. 11
Mighty Clouds Of Joy – You’ll Never Know (1961)
Mighty Clouds Of Joy – Time (1974)

Valerie Gell, 71, member of English beat group The Liverbirds, on Dec. 11
The Liverbirds – Leave All Your Old Loves (1964)

Bob Krasnow, 82, record executive, co-founder of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on Dec. 11

Jim Lowe, 93, singer-songwriter and DJ, on Dec. 12
Jim Lowe – Green Door (1956)

Barrelhouse Chuck, 58, American blues musician, on Dec. 12

Mark Fisher, 57, keyboardist of British pop group Matt Bianco, on Dec. 12
Matt Bianco – Don’t Blame It On That Girl (1988, also as co-writer)

Betsy Pecanins, 62, US-born Mexican singer, songwriter, producer, on Dec. 13

Alan Thicke, 69, Canadian actor and TV theme songwriter, on Dec. 13
Al Burton – Theme of Diff’rent Strokes (1978, as songwriter)

Bunny Walters, 63, New Zealand singer, on Dec. 14
Bunny Walters – Brandy (1972)

Dave Shepherd, 87, English jazz clarinetist, on Dec. 15

Léo Marjane, 104, French singer, on Dec. 18
Léo Marjane – Seule ce soir (1941)

Sven Zetterberg, 64, Swedish blues musician, on Dec. 18

Gordie Tapp, 94, Canadian country singer and comedian (Hee Haw), on Dec. 18
Gordie Tapp  – Trouble In The Amen Corner

Andrew Dorff, 40, country songwriter (brother of actor Stephen Dorff), on Dec. 19
Blake Shelton – My Eyes (2013, as co-writer)

Sam Leach, 81, British concert promoter (also for the early Beatles), on Dec. 21

Betty Loo Taylor, 87, jazz pianist, on Dec. 21

Frank Murray, 66, Irish manager of Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, on Dec. 22
The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988, as manager)

Mick Zane, 57, guitarist of heavy metal band Malice, on Dec. 23

Rick Parfitt, 68, guitarist and singer with Status Quo, on Dec. 24
Status Quo – Pictures Of Matchstick Men (1967)
Status Quo – Down Down (1974)
Status Quo – Accident Prone (1978)

Carole Smith, 94, country songwriter, on Dec. 24
Sonny James – Don’t Keep Me Hangin’ On (1970, as co-writer)

George Michael, 53, singer and songwriter, on Dec. 25
Wham! – Wham Rap! (1982)
George Michael – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me (at Live Aid, 1985)
George Michael – Kissing A Fool (1987)
George Michael – Fastlove (1996)

Alphonse Mouzon, 68, jazz-fusion drummer, on Dec 25.
Eugene McDaniels – Susan Jane (1971, on drums)
Alphonse Mouzon – Playing Between The Beats (1978)

Knut Kiesewetter, 75, German jazz singer, songwriter and producer, on Dec. 28
Knut Kiesewetter – Good Night Irene (1963)

Pierre Barouh, 82, French actor, writer and musician, on Dec. 28

Debbie Reynolds, 84, American actress and singer, on Dec. 28
Debbie Reynolds & Carleton Carpenter – Aba Daba Honeymoon (1950)
Debbie Reynolds – Tammy (1957)
Debbie Reynolds – With A Little Love (Just A Little Love) (1969)

Allan Williams, 86, first manager of The Beatles, on Dec. 30

David Meltzer, 79, beat-poet and musician, on Dec. 31
Tina & David Meltzer – Pure White Place (1996)

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