Archive for the ‘In Memoriam’ Category

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)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

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

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)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

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

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

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)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook


Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

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.



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)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook



Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

Notable music deaths of 2016

December 27th, 2016 20 comments


Readers of the monthly In Memoriam round-up would have spotted 2016 as an annus horribilis in music deaths already in March — by the time Prince went in April, we were just confirmed in that view.

The only nearly comparable year I can think of is 1977, when Elvis Presley, Marc Bolan, Bing Crosby, Sandy Denny and Buddy Johnson went, plus the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the plane crash (1978 was also shitty, so don’t even hope for a milder 2017). Given that the pool of pop musicians of death-appropriate age was still pretty small then, that was some heavy-going. But at least, for all its not insignificant problems, 1977 was not the political clusterfuck which 2016 was. Indeed, 1977 was the post-war 20th century we knew; 2016 put an end to that era.

As always in my end-of-year In Memoriam round-up, I nominate the most significant deaths of the year by categories of 20 (in pop-rock), tens or fives. Some people could have been included in more than one; I might have omitted somebody who you think must be included, but them’s the subjective shakes. There are some I wanted to include, but just couldn’t. The stories of many the people listed here, and many more who aren’t, were told in the monthly In Memoriams — revisit them here.

Some of the people who died were paid tribute to with special mixes:, a mix of songs that Rod Temperton wrote or produced or played on, a mix of covers of Leonard Cohen songs, a DJ setlist compiled by Prince himself, and Ziggy Stardust in cover versions.

And this year, I offer a People Who’ve Died 2016 mix: I’ve chosen the 20 people who died this year whose music meant the most to me. In that, I’ll limit myself to people actually being in the featured band, so no songwriters, producers or session musicians will feature, even if the body of their contributions was weighty.

So, with that to the year’s dead. If anybody meriting inclusion dies within the last few days of the year, I’ll include them in edits, as I did with Natalie Cole in last year’s Notable Music Deaths of 2015. Of course they’ll feature in the monthly In Memoriam list, which will appear in the first week of the new year.

And, 2016, do fuck off.


David Bowie
, 69, legend, on Jan. 10
Prince, 57, music genius, on April 21
Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
George Michael, 53, English singer and songwriter (Wham!), on Dec. 25
Leon Russell
, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13

Glenn Frey, 67, member of Eagles, singer-songwriter, actor, on Jan. 18
Rick Parfitt, 68, rhythm guitarist and singer with Status Quo, on Dec. 24
Greg Lake, 69, English singer and guitarist/bassist (King Crimson, ELP), on Dec. 7
Keith Emerson, 71, English rock keyboardist (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), on March 10
Black/Colin Vearncombe, 53, British singer-songwriter, on Jan. 26

Pete Burns, 57, English singer and songwriter (Dead or Alive), on Oct. 23
Henry McCullough, 72, Northern Irish guitarist with Spooky Tooth, Wings, on June 14
Paul Kantner, 74, guitarist, singer, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane/ Starship, on Jan. 28
Signe Toly Anderson, 74, original singer of Jefferson Airplane, on Jan. 28
Alan Vega, 78, half of protopunk duo Suicide, on July 16

Dale Griffin, 67, drummer of Mott The Hoople, on Jan. 17
Andy Newman, 73, pianist of British band Thunderclap Newman, announced on March 30
Lennie Baker, 69, singer with Sha Na Na, on Feb. 24
Nick Menza, 51, German-born drummer of Megadeth, on May 21
Steven Young, member of British electronic bands Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S, on July 13


Maurice White, 74, singer, drummer, composer, producer, arranger, on Feb. 4
Billy Paul, 81, soul singer, on April 24
Wayne Jackson, 74, legendary trumpeter (The Memphis Horns), on June 21
Bernie Worrell, 72, keyboard player with Parliament-Funkadelic, on June 24
Mack Rice, 82, soul songwriter and singer, on June 27

Phife Dawg, 45, member of hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, on March 22
Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Nicholas Caldwell, 71, extravagantly bearded singer with The Whispers, on Jan. 5
Kashif (née Michael Jones), 56, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 25
Clarence ‘Blowfly’ Reid, 76, soul-funk musician, songwriter and producer, on Jan. 17


Merle Haggard, 79, country singer-songwriter, on April 6
Ralph Stanley, 89, bluegrass legend, on June 23
Jean Shepard, 82, country singer and songwriter, on Sept. 25
Steve Young, 73, country singer–songwriter, on March 17
John D. Loudermilk
, 82, singer and songwriter, on Sept. 21

Red Simpson, 81, country singer and songwriter, on Jan. 8
Sonny James, 87, country singer-songwriter, on Feb. 22
Bonnie Brown, 77, member of country group The Browns, on July 16
Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Joe Clay, 78, rockabilly singer and guitarist, on Sept. 26


Guy Clark, 74, folk and country singer-songwriter, on May 17
Fred Hellerman, 89, folk singer-songwriter, guitarist with The Weavers; producer, on Sept. 1
Glenn Yarbrough, 86, folk singer, on Aug. 11
Dave Swarbrick, 75, fiddler with British folk band Fairport Convention, on June 3
Oscar Brand, 96, folk singer-songwriter, author and radio personality, on Sept. 30
Karl Dallas, 85, folk songwriter, writer and peace campaigner, on June 21


Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz harmonica player and guitarist, on Aug. 22
Alphonse Mouzon, 68, jazz fusion drummer, on December 26
Jeremy Steig, 73, jazz-rock flautist, on April 13
Joe Houston, 89, R&B and jazz saxophonist, on Dec. 28, 2015 (didn’t make on last year’s round-up)
Bill Henderson, 90, jazz singer and actor, on April 3


Bobby Vee, 73, pop singer, on Oct. 24
Kay Starr
, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
Marni Nixon, 86, singer (voice-over for Natalie Wood, Audrey Hepburn etc), on July 24
Gogi Grant, 91, pop and musicals singer, on March 10
Frank Sinatra Jr., 72, singer and actor, on March 15


Scotty Moore, 84, pioneering Rock & Roll guitarist, on June 28
Lonnie Mack, 74, singer and guitar pioneer, on April 21
Emile Ford, 78, Saint Lucia-born pop singer and pioneering sound engineer, on April 11
Jean-Jacques Perrey
, 87, pioneering French electronic musician, producer, on Nov. 4
Ray ‘Miss Ray’ Singleton, 79, early Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11


Papa Wemba, 66, Congolese singer, on April 24
Hubert Giraud, 94, French songwriter, on Jan. 16
Naná Vasconcelos, 71, Brazilian jazz percussionist and singer, on March 9
Buckwheat Zydeco, 68, accordionist and bandleader, on Sept. 24
, 38, South African kwaito musician, on Sept. 18


Prince Buster, 78, Jamaican ska musician, on Sept. 8
Joe Ligon, 80, lead singer of gospel group Mighty Clouds Of Joy, on Dec. 11
Long John Hunter, 84, blues guitarist and singer-songwriter, on Jan. 4
Candye Kane
, 54, blues singer-songwriter and porn actress, on May 6
L.C. Ulmer, 87, blues musician, on Feb. 14


Harrison Calloway, 75, trumpeter and leader of the Muscle Shoals Horns, on April 30
Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Herbert Hardesty, 91, jazz trumpeter & saxophonist, on Dec. 3
Al Caiola
, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Dennis Davis, session drummer, on April 6


George Martin, 90, English record producer, composer, arranger and engineer, on March 8
Chips Moman, 79, songwriter, producer, engineer, guitarist, on June 13
Rod Temperton, 66, English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 5
Lewis Merenstein, 81, producer (Van Morrison), on Sept. 6
Giorgio Gomelsky, 81, impresario, band manager, songwriter, producer, on Jan. 13


Curly Putman, 85, country songwriter, on Oct. 30
Sonny Sanders, 77, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
Jimmy Haskell, 79, arranger, conductor and TV/film composer, on Feb. 2
Gary S. Paxton, 77, producer and singer-songwriter, on July 16
Sandy Pearlman, 72, producer, songwriter and manager, on July 26


Phil Chess
, 95, producer and co-founder of Chess Records, on Oct. 19
Robert Stigwood, 81, Australian music, theatre and film impresario, on Jan. 4
Chris Stone, 81, co- owner of the Record Plant studio, on Sept. 10
David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12im16-movers-shakers

And so to the tribute mix. CD-R length, home-untertaken covers included. PW in comments.

1. Status Quo – Again And Again (1978)
2. David Bowie – Changes (1971)
3. Leon Russell – Roll Away The Stone (1970)
4. Mott The Hoople – All The Way From Memphis (1973)
5. Prince – Baby I ‘m A Star (1984)
6. Mandoza – Nkalakatha (2001)
7. Sir Mack Rice – Dark Skin Woman (Part 1) (1975)
8. Billy Paul – Let ‘Em In (1974)
9. Earth, Wind & Fire – In The Stone (1979)
10. Heatwave – Boogie Nights (1976)
11. The Whispers – Let’s Go All The Way (1978)
12. Black – Wonderful Life (1987)
13. George Michael – A Different Corner (1986)
14. Eagles – New Kid In Town (1976)
15. Leonard Cohen – Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (1967)
16. Papa Wemba – Le Voyageur (1992)
17. Bobby Vee – Run to Him (1961)
18. Guy Clark – Stuff That Works (1995)
19. Merle Haggard – In My Next Life (1994)
20. Ralph Stanley – O Death (2000)


Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Categories: In Memoriam, Mix CD-Rs Tags:

In Memoriam – November 2016

December 6th, 2016 6 comments

A month of utter carnage, just to top off a bad month for decency in the US. Still, all this prolific work by the Grim Reaper gives us the opportunity to sample great music… gallery-1In 1985 I was living in London. One day in late February that year I accompanied a girl I was trying to impress to a concert by Leonard Cohen at the Hammersmith Odeon. I liked Cohen songs in small doses, but I entered the show with trepidation. Cohen was known to play three-hour sets, and 180 minutes of that monotone seemed a fairly steep price to pay for the attention a girl. It turned out be one of the best gigs I have ever been to. It was long — 2,5 hours; 28 songs — but I never noticed. Cohen sang, talked, joked, engaged with the crowd as though we were sitting in an intimate bar. He engulfed the audience with his personality. The girl and I never happened, but Len stayed in my life. Here’s the set list of that gig. I paid a fuller tribute to Cohen on the Any Major Cohen Covers mix I posted a few days after his death.

The Carpenters’ genius in re-interpreting other people’s music found full expression in their timeless covers of two songs by Leon Russell: This Masquerade and A Song For You. The former was covered also to great effect by George Benson, the latter also by Donny Hathaway, whose version eclipses even the Carpenters one. It is the sign of great songwriting if your songs can be covered so well in different genres. Leon Russell was a great songwriter who himself travelled easily across genres: from swamp blues-rock to country to gospel to rock and so on. He was an idiosyncratic singer and performer, and a gifted producer and arranger (Joe Cocker’s classic Mad Dogs & Englishmen LP was produced by Russell). He appeared on Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh, and then backed various acts on the piano. Towards the end of his life, he recorded and toured with Elton John, on whom Russell was a great influence.

And besides all that, he was also a session man, serving as a pianist on the Wrecking Crew, that great collective of LA session players. He played on the classic Phil Spector Christmas album, on The Byrd’s Mr Tambourine Man, Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep-Mountain High, The Rolling Stones’ Shine A Light (which he wrote) and Live With Me, Rita Coolidge’s That Man Is My Weakness, The Flying Burrito Bros’s version of Wild Horses (released before that of the Stones), George Harrison’s You, Eric Clapton’s version of After Midnight, Bob Dylan’s When I Paint My Masterpiece, and many more.

With the death of Kay Starr, the last breath went out of a career that started in 1932 (or even earlier), when the then 10-year-old sang in public to supplement her father’s income during the Great Depression. Starr, whose father was an Iroquois Native-American and mother an Irish-American, was born on a reservation in Oklahoma. Though Starr was known for popular hits such as Wheel Of Fortune, her home was in blues and jazz. Billie Holiday once remarked that Kay Starr was “the only white woman who could sing the blues”. As an adolescent she sang hillbilly music and Western Swing; at 15 she joined the Joe Venuti Orchestra, and cut her first record with Glenn Miller. She went solo in 1946. Before that, she recorded a few songs, included the one featured here, with a bunch of labelmates calling themselves The Capitol International Jazzmen. They featured Nat King Cole on the piano, Max Roach on drums, Bill Coleman on trumpet, Buster Bailey on clarinet, Benny Carter and Coleman Hawkins on the sax, Oscar Moore on the guitar, and John Kirby on double bass — a true superband.

Smokey Robinson once said that it was Berry Gordy’s second wife, Ray Singleton, who taught the young guns on the nascent Motown label new chords and how to write songs, himself included. Production and mentoring was an expedient: when she joined Motown, she realised that Gordy didn’t rate her band, the Cute-Teens, and wasn’t going to make her a singing sensation. “Miss Ray” never features prominently in Motown histories, but it was she who found that house on Detroit’s 2648 West Grand Boulevard that became known as Hitsville USA and who helped set up the Jobete Music publishing company. She also produced songs and recorded one single herself, as Little Ivy. Her marriage with Gordy soon broke up, and for a while she tried to set up a label with her new husband. Eventually she returned to Motown — as a personal assistant to Diana Ross. In the 1980s she produced Rockwell’s hit Somebody’s Watching Me for Motown, but left soon after. She then helped her new lover, the late Sherrick, to a promising start to unfortunately short-lived his career, with his 1987 hit Just you grew up with Sesame Street in the ‘70s, you’ll have heard the work of jazz bassist Bob Cranshaw, who has died at 83: he was the bass player on all those Sesame Street songs produced by Joe Raposo, including the theme song, the original long version of which features here.  He was also the bass player of the Saturday Night Live band from 1975-80, and played on Jerry Jeff Walker’s original of the timeless Mr Bojangles. In the field of jazz, Cranshaw was an innovator, being one of the first jazz bassists to switch from upright bass to bass guitar. He played with the galaxy of jazz greats of his era: Sonny Rollins (on loads of albums), Gene Ammons, Mary Lou Williams, Hank Crawford, James Moody, Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Houston Person, Dexter Gordon, George Benson, Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Lionel Hampton, Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, Quincy Jones, Wes Montgomery, Milt Jackson, Horace Silver, Joe Zaniwul, Yusuf Latif, Wayne Shorter, Freddy Hubbard, Stanley Turrentine, the recently late Bobby Hutcherson and many others.

Another jazz icon Cranshaw played with was jazz/blues pianist and songwriter Mose Allison, who has died at 89. And in another bit of In Memoriam synergy, Leon Russell also recorded an Allison song, I’m Smashed — on the original of which Cranshaw played. Allison’s influence on the British rock-blues movement in the 1960s was profound; acts like the Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, John Mayall, Van Morrison and The Who cited him as an influence, and in the US he influenced the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits, JJ Cale, Bonnie Raitt and, very observably, Leon Russell.

If you danced in clubs in the mid-’80s, you almost certainly will have danced to Colonel Abrams’ 1985 hit Trapped. Before that he had a band — with the unpromising name Conservative Manor, 94 East — which featured on guitar a young fellow named Prince, who also had hits in 1985. Abrams could not sustain his success after the Trapped era, a few minor dance hits in the 1990s aside. His latter years were marked by illness related to diabetes, and, due to medical bills, destitution to the point of homlessness.  And now Orange Spinctermouth and his reptilian pals are looking at dismantling the Affordable Care Act….

The world of folk has lost several great names this year. With the death of producer Milt Okun, another name has been added to the list. Okun was a key producer in the careers of people like Laura Nyro, Peter, Paul & Mary, the Chad Mitchell Trio and, especially, John Denver, whose song Leaving On A Jet Plane he had produced for Peter, Paul & Mary and the Mitchell Trio before he produced that of Denver, the song’s writer. Apart from all those big John Denver hits, Okun also co-produced Starland Vocal Band’s Afternoon Delight. His range was wide, also including productions for artists as diverse as Miriam Makeba, Placido Domingo and the she made her first record, Sharon Jones worked as a prison guard on Rikers Island jail in New York and as a cash-transit security guard. She was a tough cookie, and when a few years ago she had to undergo chemotherapy for cancer, she played her concerts with a bald head. The story of Sharon Jones, who has died from cancer at 60, is quite marvellous. She had jobbed as a session musician, and at one such gig she was discovered by Gabriel Roth and Philip Lehman, the owners of the now defunct French Pure Records label. Her act of retro soul and deep funk earned Jones and her backing band, The Dap-Kings, a loyal following, with her live performances attracting much attention. In 2013 she was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas, and after chemo it seemed to have gone into remission, but the cancer returned in 2015, in her stomach, lymph nodes and lungs. And still she kept performing, chemotherapy notwithstanding, telling the New York Times in July: “Getting out on that stage, that’s my therapy.”

I was shocked to hear of the death at 54 of Northern Irish folk-rock singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy. His album The Sailor’s Revenge was my album of the year 2012. At the time I wrote about it: “Coming from Northern Ireland, Bap Kennedy is liable to be compared to Van Morrison. Van has declared himself a fan, and like Morrison’s music, Kennedy’s draws from Irish folk — pipes, flutes, whistles and mournful fiddles — and  with hints of American soul. Plus a generous fistful of Bob Dylan. Produced by Mark Knopfler, the trained diamond gemologist — not a traditional rock & roll background — has delivered an 11-track collection of superbly written, performed and arranged songs.” A mutual acquaintance confirmed that Kennedy was a quality guy. He died after a 5-month battle with pancreas and bowel cancer.

Guitarist Al Caiola had a large output of his own records, but he hit the charts more often by backing others. Caiola supported vocalists such as Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughn (including her fabulous version of Summertime), Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, and Julie London, and pop acts like Buddy Holly (Rave On), Marty Robbins, Elvis Presley, Chad & Jeremy, Jackie Wilson and many more. It seems he often was uncredited. Articles on him indicate that he played on tracks such as Paul Anka’s Diana, Percy Faith’s Theme From A Summer Place, Bobby Darin’s Mack The Knife and Dream Lover, Johnny Mathis’ Chances Are, and others, but I couldn’t verify these.

The Brady girls’ mom has passed away. Florence Henderson was best known as an actress, especially for her iconic role in The Brady Bunch. For those who follow these things, she was also well-known as a vocalist in stage musicals. But she also dabbled in pop music. In 1970 she released a pair of singles, and a few more records later in the decade. And in 1979 she brought out an album, With One More Look At You. As far as I can tell, she didn’t appear in the Brady Bunch records.

Bap Kennedy, 54, Northern Irish singer-songwriter, on Nov. 1
Bap Kennedy – The Shankill And The Falls
Bap Kennedy – Please Return To Jesus (2012)

Bob Cranshaw, 83, jazz bassist, on Nov. 2
Sonny Rollins – Brown Skin Girl (1962, on bass)
Jerry Jeff Walker – Mr. Bojangles (1968, on bass)
Joe Raposo – Sesame Street Theme (1969, on bass)

Kay Starr, 94, pop and jazz singer, on Nov. 3
The Capitol International Jazzmen – If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight) (1945)
Kay Starr – Wheel Of Fortune (1952)
Kay Starr – When The Lights Go On Again (All Over The World) (1966)

Jean-Jacques Perrey, 87, pioneering French electronic musician and producer, on Nov. 4
Jean-Jaques Perrey – Brazilian Flower (1968)

Eddie Harsch, 59, keyboardist of the The Black Crowes, on Nov. 4
The Black Crowes – Wiser Time (1994)

Laurent Pardo, 55, French bass guitarist, on Nov. 5

Leonard Cohen, 82, Canadian singer-songwriter and poet, on Nov. 7
Leonard Cohen – So Long, Marianne (live, 1968)
Leonard Cohen – Lover Lover Lover (1974)
Leonard Cohen – If It Be Your Will (1984)
Leonard Cohen – Going Home (2012)

Jimmy Young, 95, British singer and radio presenter, on Nov. 7
Jimmy Young – The Man From Laramie (1955)

Al Caiola, 96, American guitarist and composer, on Nov. 9
Pearl Bailey – Nothing For Nothing (1950, on guitar)
Fabian – Tiger (1958, on guitar)
Al Caiola – Bonanza (1960)

Martin Stone, 69, English guitarist, on Nov. 9
Wreckless Eric – If It Makes You Happy (1993, on electric guitar)

Lily, 64, Japanese singer and actress, on Nov. 11

Ray ‘Miss Ray’ Singleton, 79, Motown songwriter and producer, on Nov. 11
The Cute-Teens – When My Teen-Age Days Are Over (1959)
Jimmy Ruffin – Don’t Feel Sorry For Me (1961, as producer)
Sherrick – Just Call (1987, as producer)

Christopher Barriere, 44, rapper with Convicts, shot dead on Nov. 11

Victor Bailey, 56, bassist with Weather Report (1982-86), on Nov. 11
Victor Bailey – Bottom’s Up (1989)
Mary J. Blige – I’m Going Down (1994, on bass)

Doug Edwards, 70, Canadian musician and composer, on Nov. 11
Skylark – Wildflower (1973, as co-writer)

David Mancuso, 72, DJ and founder of New York club The Loft, on Nov. 12

Jacques Werup, 71, Swedish jazz poet, on Nov. 12

Leon Russell, 74, singer, songwriter and musician, on Nov. 13
Leon Russell – A Song For You (1970)
Leon Russell – This Masquerade (1972)
Leon Russell – Lady Blue (1975)

Billy Miller, 62, influential US rock & roll historian and musician, on Nov. 13

Holly Dunn, 59, country music singer-songwriter, on Nov. 14
Holly Dunn – Are You Ever Gonna Love Me (1989)

Bob Walsh, 68, Canadian blues singer and guitarist, on Nov. 15

Milt Okun, 92, singer and producer, on Nov. 15
Laura Nyro – Wedding Bell Blues (1966, as producer)
John Denver – Darcy Farrow (1972, as producer)
Starland Vocal Band – Afternoon Delight (1976, as producer)

Mose Allison, 89, jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, on Nov. 15
Mose Allison – Parchman Farm (1959)
Mose Allison – I’m Smashed (1970, with Bob Crenshaw on bass)
Mose Allison – Everybody Thinks You’re An Angel (2010)

Mentor Williams, 70, songwriter and producer, on Nov. 16
John Henry Kurtz – Drift Away (1972, as songwriter. Original version)

Diz Russell, 83, singer with doo-wop band The Regals and later The Orioles, on Nov. 16
The Regals – I’m So Lonely (1955, also as co-writer)

Don Waller, 65, US music writer and singer of ‘70s punk band Imperial Dogs, on Nov. 17
Blue Öyster Cult – This Ain’t The Summer Of Love (1976)

Sharon Jones, 60, R&B singer, on Nov. 18
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – Got A Thing On My Mind (2001)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 100 Days, 100 Nights (2007)

Hod O’Brien, 80, jazz pianist, on Nov. 20

Craig Gill, 44, drummer of British rock group Inspiral Carpets, on Nov. 22
Inspiral Carpets – Two Worlds Collide (1991)

Fred Stobaugh, 99, songwriter, on Nov. 23

Joe Esposito, 78, road manager for Elvis Presley, member of “Memphis Mafia”, on Nov. 23

Florence Henderson, 82, actress (The Brady Bunch) and singer, on Nov. 24
Florence Henderson – Conversations (1970)

Shirley Bunnie Foy, 80, jazz singer and percussionist, on Nov. 24

Colonel Abrams, 67, soul/funk singer, on Nov. 25
Colonel Abrams – Trapped (1985)

Pauline Oliveros, 84, composer and accordionist, on Nov. 25

Tony Martell, 90, music industry executive, on Nov. 27

Carlton Kitto, 74, Indian jazz guitarist, on Nov. 28

Ray Columbus, 74, New Zealand rock singer, on Nov. 28
Ray Columbus & The Invaders – She’s A Mod (1964)

Micky Fitz, singer  of UK punk band The Business, announced on Dec. 1

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook


Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

In Memoriam – October 2016

November 3rd, 2016 5 comments

im1610-gallery_1With the death at 95 of Phil Chess, a giant in the history of rock & roll, soul and blues has gone. With his more animated younger brother Leonard, who died in 1969, the Jewish migrant from Poland founded the Chess label in Chicago. The label produced and released the records of the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, The Moonglows, The Flamingos and Buddy Guy, and in the 1960s by acts like Ramsey Lewis, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, and The Dells. The young label in 1951 released what is often called the “first rock & roll record”, Rocket 88 by Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats, another name for Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm. In a bit of rock & roll synergy, it was recorded by Sam Philips at his Memphis studio. Many other rock & roll and soul classics were co-produced by the Chess brothers, notably the Chuck Berry output. In the film about Chess records, Cadillac Records, Phil Chess was played by Shiloh Fernandez; in Who Do You Love?, also from 2008, he was portrayed by Jon Abrams.

Bobby Vee, who has died at 73, had an impressive string of hits between 1960 and 1962, before he was even out of his teens, with songs like Run To Him, Rubber Ball, Take Good Care Of My Baby, The Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and More Than I Can Say (later a hit for Leo Sayer). He remained a performer but never had much recording success again. But before he was famous, he had links with two legends in popular music. With his band in Fargo, The Shadows, 15-year-old Vee (then known by his full name, Bobby Velline) took Buddy Holly’s spot on the bill at the Winter Dance concert in Moorhead, Minnesota, the event Holly, Big Bopper and Richie Valens were flying to that ill-fated February 3, 1959. Soon after, Vee had in his touring band a fellow calling himself, with a bizarre turn in spelling, Elston Gunnn. That chap later found fame as Bob Dylan. Dylan always spoke admiringly of Bobby Vee.

At a time when we count how many members of 1960s groups are still alive, it comes as a bit of a surprise these days when a band records its first death. So it is with Joan Marie Johnson, one of the three original Dixie Cups (actually, there were four initially, but one left before they became famous).  The R&B vocal group from New Orleans had hits in 1964/65 with Leiber/Stoller-produced songs like Chapel Of Love, Iko Iko, You Should Have Seen The Way He Looked At Me, and People Say. But in 1966 their recording career suddenly stopped; still, the trio continued touring. Johnson left in 1974 after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness (a year later, The Intruders’ Robert Edwards, who also died this month, did the same). In 2005 all three original members were displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Sisters Barbara and Rosa Hawkins moved to Florida, Johnson to Texas, where she died on October 3 at the age of 72.

im1610-gallery_2Fans of ’60s soul will have heard a lot of Sonny Sanders’ work, either as an arranger, producer, writer or backing singer. As an arranger, Sanders’ most famous songs are the two Jackie Wilson classics, Higher And Higher and The Sweetest Feeling, The Platters’ With This Ring, and Young-Holt Unlimited’s Soulful Strut (or, indeed, Barbara Acklin’s Am I The Same Girl), which he also co-wrote with the Chi-Lites’ Eugene Record. Other co-written songs include Acklin’s Love Makes A Woman (featured on Any Major Soul 1968, and later a hit for Joyce Sims), and Solomon Burke’s If You Need Me, later covered by the Rolling Stones. He worked with virtually any act that recorded on the Brunswick label in the 1960s (from Gene Chandler and Barbara Acklin to the Chi-Lites and Erma Franklin). Before all that, his band The Satintones were the first vocal group to be signed to Motown. Sanders sang backing vocals on early Motown hits such as Marv Johnson’s You Got What It Takes and Barrett Strong’s Money.

On the very same day Sanders died, early-era Motown songwriter and producer Robert Bateman also departed. The two were both members of the above-mentioned Satintones and remained occasional songwriting partners: for example, they co-wrote Solomon Burke’s If You Need Me, mentioned above, with Wilson Picket. Earlier they co-wrote The Marvelletes’ song Angel, which they originally recorded for The Satintones. Bateman’s biggest hit was another Marvellettes’ song: Please Mr Postman, which he co-wrote and then produced with Brian Holland. He also wrote their hit Playboy, as well as songs for acts like Mary Wells, The Miracles and Marv Johnson. He was the recording engineer on tracks like Money (on which Sanders did backing vocals). By 1964 he had left Motown, and worked with acts like Burke, Wilson Picket and The Shangri-La’s.

Three of the biggest crossover hits in country music feature Curly Putnam on their writing credit: Green Green Grass Of Home (a hit for Porter Wagoner in 1965 and again the following year for Tom Jones), Tammy Wynette’s D-I-V-O-R-C-E in 1968, and George Jones’ He Stopped Loving Her Today (the latter two co-written with Bobby Braddock). In addition, he wrote many country chart-toppers. His song Dumb Blonde provided Dolly Parton with a breakthrough hit. Putman kept friends also outside country circles. One of them was Paul McCartney, who stayed at Putman’s farm when he was recording in Nashville in 1974; he wrote the song Junior’s Farm about that. I trust they put a wreath up on Curly’s door…im1610-gallery_3The question Dead or Alive has become rhetorical with the sudden passing of the short-lived group’s frontman Pete Burns at the young age of 56. When Dead or Alive burst on to the scene in early 1985 with the Stock-Aitken-Waterman-produced UK #1 hit You Spin Me Round, Burns’ appearance was quite striking. Later it became extraordinary.  Always a media figure with an eccentric reputation in some way, he augmented his androgynous appearance with liberal cosmetic surgery. A botched lip injection gave him a disfiguring look; he planned to sue the cosmetic surgeon for it. He spent his life-savings on reconstructive surgery, and was declared bankrupt in 2014. Burns died suddenly of cardiac arrest.

German actor, author and singer Manfred Krug was a star in East and West Germany, transcending the intellectual space which he occupied in his artistic endeavours. Born in the West a couple of years before the war, his working-class parents moved to the new German Democratic Republic (or East-Germany) in 1949. In the late ’50s, Krug began his acting career, later also making a name for himself as a singer of jazz, chanson and pop. In the 1976 he fell out with the communist regime over the exiling of protest singer Wolf Biermann. Banned from performing, Krug successfully applied to leave for the West, a difficult process which he detailed in two books written 20 years later. Although already in his 40s, he soon became popular TV and film actor, gaining a fan base on Sesame Street and the crime series Tatort alike. All the while he released a string of albums. The featured track, which is really worth checking out, is from his East-German time, released on single in 1972.

I have already covered the death of Rod Temperton with a tribute mix (which turned out to be less popular than I had hoped for). Still, his passing merits special mention here, for very few who ever danced at parties in the 1980s would have failed to at least tap a toe to songs written by (and often arranged and/or produced) by the funkiest man to ever come out of Grimsby. Tracks like Rock With You, Off The Wall, Thriller, Stomp, Love X Love, Give Me The Night, Yah Mo Be There, Sweet Freedom, Boogie Nights, The Groove Line and so on.


Toni Williams, 77, New Zealand pop singer, on Oct. 1

Steve Byrd, 61, English guitarist, on Oct. 2
Kim Wilde – Love Blonde (1983, on guitar)

Joan Marie Johnson, 72, singer with R&B trio The Dixie Cups, on Oct. 3
Dixie Cups – Chapel Of Love (1964)
Dixie Cups – People Say (1964)

Caroline Crawley, 53, English singer with Shelleyan Orphan, This Mortal Coil, on Oct. 4
Shelleyan Orphan – Little Death (1992)

Rod Temperton, 66, English keyboardist, songwriter, producer, on Oct. 5

Don Ciccone, 70, American singer-songwriter and musician, on Oct. 8
The Critters – Mr. Dieingly Sad (1966, also as writer)
Four Seasons – December ’63 (Oh What A Night) (1975, as member, also on bass)

Angus R. Grant, 49, fiddler with Scottish folk-fusion bands Shooglenifty, Swamptrash, on Oct. 9
Shooglenifty – Johnny Cope (2009)

Guy Nadon, 82, Canadian jazz drummer, on Oct. 9

Bored Nothing (Fergus Miller), 26, Australian indie musician, suicide on Oct. 9
Bored Nothing – Why Were You Dancing With All Those Guys (2014)

Quique Lucca, 103, Puerto Rican salsa musician, on Oct. 9

Sonny Sanders, 77, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
Jackie Wilson – (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher (1967, as arranger)
Barbara Acklin – Am I The Same Girl (1969, as co-writer and arranger)
Sidney Joe Qualls – How Can You Say Goodbye (1974, as arranger)

Robert Bateman, 80, soul songwriter, arranger, producer, on Oct. 12
The Satintones – My Beloved (1960, also with Sony Sanders)
The Marvelettes – Angel (1961, as co-writer, also with Sonny Sanders, and co-producer)
Solomon Burke – If You Need Me (1963, as co-writer, also with Sonny Sanders)

Werner Lämmerhirt, 67, German folk singer-songwriter and guitarist, on Oct. 14
Werner Lämmerhirt – Nine Hundred Miles (1974)

Robert ‘Big Sonny’ Edwards, 74, singer with soul band The Intruders, on Oct. 15
The Intruders – Cowboys To Girls (1968)
The Intruders – (Win Place Or Show ) She’s A Winner (1972)

Bobby Ellis, 84, Jamaican trumpeter, on Oct. 18

Phil Chess, 95, producer and co-founder of Chess Records, on Oct. 19
Gene Ammons – My Foolish Heart (1950, first Chess Records release)
Chuck Berry – Maybellene (1955, as co-producer)
Etta James – At Last (1960, as co-producer)
Howlin’ Wolf – Little Red Rooster (1961, as co-producer)
Ramsey Lewis Trio – The ‘In’ Crowd (1965, as co-producer)

Chris Porter, 34, musician, in car crash on Oct. 19
Chris Porter – This Red Mountain (2015)

Mitchell Vandenburg, musician, in car crash on Oct. 19

Achieng Abura, Kenyan jazz-fusion musician, Oct. 20

Mieke Telkamp, 82, Dutch singer, on Oct. 20

Manfred Krug, 79, German actor and singer, on Oct. 21
Manfred Krug – Morgen (1972)

Pete Burns, 57, English singer and songwriter (Dead or Alive), on Oct. 23
Dead Or Alive – You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) (1984)

Go Go Lorenzo, 53, go-go musician, hit by car on Oct. 23
Go Go Lorenzo & The Davis Pinckney Project – You Can Dance (If You Want To) (1986)

Bobby Vee, 73, pop singer, on Oct. 24
Bobby Vee – Take Good Care Of My Baby (1961)
Bobby Vee – More Than I Can Say (1961)

Eddy Christiani, 98, Dutch musician and songwriter, on Oct. 24

John Zacherle, 98, TV presenter and novelty song singer, on Oct. 27
John Zacherle – Dinner With Drac (1958)

Bobby Wellins, 80, Scottish jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 27
Bobby Wellins – You Don’t Know What Love Is (1997)

Ron Grant, 72, TV & film score composer and software developer for composers, on Oct. 28

Paul Demers, 60, Canadian singer-songwriter, on Oct. 29

Curly Putman, 85, country songwriter, on Oct. 30
Curly Putman -Green Green Grass Of Home (1967, also as writer)
Tammy Wynette – D-I-V-O-R-C-E  (1968, as co-writer)
George Jones – He Stopped Loving Her Today (1980, as co-writer)

Bill Kyle, Scottish jazz fusion drummer, on Oct. 30

Jimmy Williams, lead singer of ’70s soul-disco band Double Exposure, on Oct. 31
Double Exposure – Ten Percent (1976)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook

Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

In Memoriam – September 2016

October 4th, 2016 2 comments

im_gallery_1609_1Fans of ska, and the ska revival of the late 1970s in Britain and Europe, will have been particularly saddened by the passing at the age of 78 of the king of the genre. Prince Buster, as the Jamaican musician Cecil Campbell called himself, didn’t have huge commercial success in Britain — a Top 20 hit in 1967 with Al Capone is the extent of his residency in the charts — but his influence was felt keenly. When the Two Tone label revived ska, Prince Buster was a revered godfather to the genre. The group Madness named themselves after a Prince Buster song, recorded their debut single The Prince as a tribute to him, and broke through with their sophomore single, a cover of Prince Buster’s One Step Beyond (the b-side of that solitary UK hit, Al Capone).

Before the 1950s there were very few successful women in country music, as explained in A History of Country Music  (get the free eBook of the series). That changed in 1952 with Kitty Wells’ huge hit It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. Jean Shepard, who has died at 82, was the first female singer to follow in Wells’ slipstream in 1953 when she had a hit with Dear John, her duet with fellow Bakersfielder Ferlin Husky (both breakthrough hits, Wells’ and Shepard’s, were covers, incidentally). At  19 years old, Shepard set a record as youngest female country chart-topper until 14-year-old Tanya Tucker eclipsed her almost two decades later. Along with comedian-singer Minnie Pearl, Shepard joined Wells as one of only three female regular on the Grand Ole Opry in 1955. Last year she became the second person to have been a member of the Opry for 60 consecutive years. Shepard married twice: her first husband, fellow country singer Hawkshaw Hawkins, died in the 1963 plane crash that also killed Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. She remained with second husband Benny Birchfield till the end.

In the late 1970s, two soul producers were pioneers in the use of the synthesizer in their productions: Stevie Wonder and Michael Jones, the latter a former keyboard player with funk group BT Express who on his conversion to Islam took the name Kashif. A multi-instrumentalist, Kashif wrote and produced Evelyn “Champagne” King’s hit I’m In Love, produced the more soul-oriented songs on Whitney Houston’s debut LP, You Give Good Love and Thinking About You (he co-wrote the latter and sang on it, too). Along the way, he also released his own albums, scoring a sizable hit in 1987 with Love Changes, his duet with Meli’sa Morgan. Privately, Kashif set up an organization to help kids get into suitable foster care.

A couple of years ago, three of the four original members of The Weavers, the pioneers of the folk scene, were still alive. Then Pete Seeger died in 2014; followed by Ronnie Gilbert last year, and with the death on September 1 of Fred Hellerman at 89, all the Weavers are now gone (Lee Hays died in 1981; latter members Bernie Krause and Frank Hamilton ate still alive). The group’s name was the idea of Hellerman—who had been investigated already in the 1930s for his left-wing activities—after Gerhart Hauptmann’ 1892 play Die Weber (“The Weavers” ) about an uprising of weavers in 1844. After the McCarthyist persecution of Seeger and Hays in the early ‘50s, The Weavers were blacklisted from performing for a few years. In the mid-’50s they made a comeback by the expedient of becoming mostly apolitical (though their continued existence was a political statement itself). The group split in 1964. Hellerman became a full-time producer; among his credits is Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant.

im_gallery_1609_2Fred Hellerman died on the first day of September. Another pivotal figure in the folk scene departed in singer-songwriter and radio presenter Oscar Brand, who died on the last day of September at the age of 96. Brand holds the world-record for hosting a radio show uninterrupted for the longest period of time: 70 consecutive years. His Oscar Brand’s Folksong Festival show from New York first aired on 10 December 1945. It was instrumental in introducing successive generations of folk singers to the public, from The Weavers and The Kingston Trio in the 1950s to the likes of Dylan, Baez, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Arlo Guthrie and Peter Paul & Mary in the ‘60s. Having been born in Canada, Brand helped break Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot in the US. Like Hellerman, his engagement in the folk scene and liberal politics earned him the attention of the McCarthyist persecution. Apart from his radio show, he recorded hundreds of songs of great variety, from modern folk and children’s songs to 19th century ballads. Brand was a co-founder of the Newport Festival. Brand was also involved in the development of Sesame Street; one story claims that Oscar the Grouch was named after him.

Van Morrison’s Moondance is one of my go-to albums, the type of LP which I know I will enjoy in any mood. In September its producer, Lewis Merenstein, died at the age of 81. He also produced Morrison’s Astral Weeks. Having come from jazz production, Merenstein had a flexibility that allowed Morrison to take his time with a song and to improvise. He went on to produce acts as diverse as Cass Elliott, The Main Ingredient, The Association, Miriam Makeba, Spencer Davis Group,  John Cale, Glass Harp, Curtis Mayfield, Charlie Daniels, Gladys Knight & the Pips,  and Phyllis Hyman. He also produced the wonderful Black California by Dorothy Morrison, a highlight on Any Major Road Trip – Stage 3.

South African kwaito musician Mandoza created one of his country’s great dance anthems with 2001’s Nkalakatha (Zulu for “Big Boss”), a track with an instantly recognisable, iconic riff. It’s a song he came to resent, because it came to define him for the rest of his career. Before he made his breakthrough with the song at the age of 23, Mandoza (or Mduduzi Tshabalala, as his mom knew him) spent 18 months in jail for car theft. Just a few days before his death, Mandoza was still performing on stage, by now blind from nasopharyngeal cancer. His end was sad: desperately ill in his Soweto home, he waited three hours for an ambulance to transport him to hospital. Eventually his manager took him; Mandoza died in the car on the way to the clinic.

im_gallery_1609_3As a recording artist, country/folk artist John D. Loudermilk had limited success, but as a songwriter, he made his mark. Best known for his songs Indian Reservation and Tobacco Road — both big hits for others — his music was also recorded by the likes of Johnny Cochran, Everly Brothers, George Hamilton IV, Linda Ronstadt, Stonewall Jackson, Johnny Cash, Skeeter Davis, Marianne Faithfull, James Brown and Glen Campbell. He was a cousin to the Louvain Brothers, whose real surname was Loudermilk.

With the death of 1930s male counterpart to Shirley Temple, Bobby Breen, only five of the 61 people pictured on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band are still alive (according to film historian  Rhett Bartlett): Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Dion and sculptor Larry Bell. Breen’s is the small head wedged between the shoulders of George Harrison and Marlene Dietrich. Canadian-born Breen was something of a sensation as the boy soprano in a series of popular movies, but his thespian stardom was cut short when his voice broke. He remained an entertainer, including a stint of entertaining troops during World War 2 and later recording with Motown. He died at 88 — only three days after his wife of 54 years passed away.

In the mid 1960s, the Record Plant studios changed the way rock music was recorded in studios, from the sterile, fluorescent-lit booths of old to the relaxed hang-out joints. The first record to be cut at a Record Plant studio, in New York, was the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland. Lots of classics would follow, recorded in the New York studio (Imagine, American Pie, School’s Out, Born To Run and Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Parallel Lines, among many others), in LA (such as the Isley Brothers’ 3+3, Rumours, Piano Man, Eagles’ On The Border, Cheap Trick’s Dream Police, Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique), and in Sausalito (Sly & the Family Stone’s Fresh, Songs in the Key of Life, Maze’s Joy and Pain, Huey Lewis and the News’ Sports, Metallica’s Load). John Lennon recorded at the NYC Record Plant the night he was murdered; legendary drummer Jim Keltner held his legendary star-studded jam sessions there. The creative brain behind the Record Plant was Gary Kellgren, who died in 1977. Some 39 years later, his co-founder and business brain Chris Stone has joined him in the Big Studio in the Sky, aged 81.

Fred Hellerman, 89, folk singer-songwriter, guitarist with The Weavers; producer, on Sept. 1
The Weavers – Rock Island Line (1957)
Arlo Guthrie – The Motorcycle Song (1968, as producer)
Roberta Flack – Business Goes On As Usual (1970, as co-writer)

Kacey Jones, 66, singer-songwriter and humorist, on Sept. 1
Kacey Jones – Donald Trump’s Hair (2009)

Jerry Heller, 75, manager of N.W.A., on Sept. 2

Joe Jeffrey, 80, soul singer, on Sept. 4
Joe Jeffrey Group – My Pledge of Love (1969)

Byron “BJ” Jackson, 52, Go-Go/funk/hip-hop musician, on Sept. 4
Rare Essence – Work The Walls (1992, on lead vocals and bass)

Fred McFarlane, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 5
Jocelyn Brown – Somebody Else’s Guy (1984, as co-producer)

Lewis Merenstein, 81, producer, on Sept. 6
Van Morrison – Caravan (1970, as producer)
Miriam Makeba – Measure The Valley (1970, as producer)

Clifford Curry, 79, R&B singer, on Sept. 7
Clifford Curry – She Shot A Hole In My Soul (1967)

Graham Wiggins, 53, multi-instrumentalist, on Sept. 7

Prince Buster, 78, Jamaican ska musician, on Sept. 8
Prince Buster – Madness (1963)
Prince Buster – One Step Beyond (1965)

Rex Thompson, 47, lead singer and bassist of lo-fi band The Summer Hits, on Sept. 8

Chris Stone, 81, co- owner of the Record Plant studio, on Sept. 10
Yoko Ono – Walking On Thin Ice (1981, as studio owner)

Leonard Haze, 61, drummer of hard rock band Y&T, on Sept. 11
Y&T – Alcohol (1977)

Tavin Pumarejo, 84, Puerto Rican comedian and singer, on Sept. 12

Don Buchla, 79, pioneering synthesizer designer, on Sept. 14

Jerry Corbetta, 68, singer of rock band Sugarloaf, on Sept. 16
Sugarloaf – Green-Eyed Lady (1970)
Peabo Bryson & Roberta Flack – You’re Lookin’ Like Love To Me (1983, as co-writer)

James ‘Jimi’ Macon, guitarist of The Gap Band, on Sept. 16
Gap Band – Outstanding (1983)

Trisco Pearson, singer with soul group Force M.D.’s, on Sept. 16
Force M.D.’s – Tender Love (1985)

Charmian Carr, 73, actress (Liesl in Sound of Music) and singer, on Sept. 17
Sound Of Music – Sixteen Going On Seventeen (1965)

Mandoza, 38, South African kwaito musician, on Sept. 18
Mandoza – Nkalakatha (2000)

Bobby Breen, 88, child-actor and singer, on Sept. 19
Bobby Breen – Rainbow On The River (1936)
Bobby Breen – Better Late Than Never (1964, on Motown)

Micki Marlo, 88, singer and model, on Sept. 20
Micki Marlo – Little By Little (1956)

Ernie Cruz Jr, 56, member of Hawaiian band Ka’au Crater Boys, on Sept. 20

John D. Loudermilk, 82, singer and songwriter, on Sept. 21
John D. Loudermilk – Tobacco Road (1960)
John D. Loudermilk – Road Hog (1962)

DJ Spank Spank, member of acid house group Phuture, on Sept. 21
Phuture – Acid Tracks (1987)

Shawty Lo, 40, rapper and record label founder (DL4), in car crash on Sept. 21

Buckwheat Zydeco, 68, accordionist and bandleader, on Sept. 24
Buckwheat Zydeco Ils Sont Partis Band – Zydeco La Louisianne (1984)
Buckwheat Zydeco – Hey, Good Lookin’ (1990)

Jean Shepard, 82, country singer and songwriter, on Sept. 25
Jean Shepard & Ferlin Husky – A Dear John Letter (1953)
Jean Shepard – Second Fiddle To An Old Guitar (1964)

Kashif (née Michael Jones), 56, soul singer, songwriter and producer, on Sept. 25
B.T. Express –  Do It (Til You’re Satisfied) (1974, on keyboards)
Whitney Houston – Thinking About You (1985, as producer, co-writer and co-singer)
Kashif – Bed You Down (1998)

Hagen Liebing, 55, bassist with German punk group Die Ärzte, on Sept. 25

Joe Clay, 78, rockabilly singer and guitarist, on Sept. 26
Joe Clay – Ducktail (1956)

Karel Růžička, 76, Czech jazz pianist, on Sept. 26

Mike Taylor, singer of British hard rock group Quartz, on Sept. 27
Quartz – Circles (1980, featuring Brian May and Ozzy Osbourne)

Royal Torrence, 82, singer of soul group Little Royal and The Swingmasters, on Sept. 29
Little Royal and The Swingmasters – Razor Blade (1972)

Lecresia Campbell, 53, gospel singer, on Sept. 29

Nora Dean, 72, Jamaican reggae and gospel singer, on Sept. 29
Nora Dean – Barbwire (1970)

Oscar Brand, 96, folk singer-songwriter, author and radio personality, on Sept. 30
Doris Day – A Guy Is A Guy (1954, as writer)
Oscar Brand – Jackson And Kentucky (1964)

GET IT! (PW in comments)

Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook



Categories: In Memoriam Tags:

In Memoriam – July 2016

August 4th, 2016 6 comments

IM0716_aAmong the many acts that are considered inventors of punk, Suicide have a good claim, having been among the first to use that term to advertise themselves. The New York duo even had the violence at their gigs to underscore that claim. With the death at 78 of singer Alan Vega of natural causes, half of Suicide is now gone (multi-instrumentalist Martin Rev is still alive at 68). After Suicide, Vega had a varied solo career, working a lot with The Cars’ Ric Ocasek. His last album appeared in 2010, two years before he suffered a stroke. Vega was also an exhibited artist.

On the same day Vega died, we also lost the producer Gary S. Paxton, perhaps remembered best for producing the hits 1960s Monster Mash and The Associations’ Cherish. If an enterprising scriptwriter were to tell Paxton’s lifestory faithfully in a film, he might be unjustly accused of taking literary licence. Born in 1939, Paxton was adopted at the age of 3 and grew up in rural poverty. He was molested when he was 7, and contracted spinal meningitis at 11. He recovered and at 14 joined a band that played country and the new-fangled rock & roll music. Stardom arrived in 1959 when he had a #1 hit with It Was I as Flip in Skip & Flip. They had another hit, Cherry Pie, and then split. Now living in LA, Paxton began producing records. Still only 21 he produced a #1 hit, Alley Oop, for The Hollywood Argyles. More hits followed as Paxton opened five studios and a series of record labels.

Paxton was a skilled, albeit eccentric, self-promoter. Once a radio station refused to play one of the records from his label because it was “too black”. Paxton registered his protest by staging a procession to the radio station building led by 15 cheerleaders and an elephant pulling a Volkswagen car. For his troubles Paxton was arrested – because the elephant was defecating in the street. In 1967 he returned to his country roots, first in Bakersfield and then in Nashville. In the early 1970s, following the suicide of his business partner and his own struggles with addiction, he found God and became a follower of the hippie Jesus movement while recording gospel music.

In 1980 he escaped an assassination attempt, apparently set up by a country musician whom he was producing. Paxton fought off the first hitman, getting part of a finger shot off after slapping away the gun that was pressed between his eyes. He got hold of the gun and shot the killer in the chest. But a second assassin managed to shoot Paxton three times in the back. It took Paxton eight years to recover; he later visited those involved in the hit in prison and forgave them. Shortly after recovering from the shooting, he nearly died of hepatitis C. Death finally claimed Gary S. Paxton at the age of 77 on July 16.

Classical sopranos don’t usually feature in this series, but Marni Nixon is an exception. When Audrey Hepburn sings in My Fair Lady, or Deborah Kerr in The King And I and An Affair To Remember, or Natalie Wood in West Side Story, it is Marni Nixon’s voice you hear. On the latter film’s Tonight, she also sang Rota Moreno’s part. She overdubbed also for Sophia Loren, Margaret O’Brien and Marilyn Monroe (the high notes on Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend). Nixon made her first on-screen appearance as Sister Sophie in The Sound of Music. Married three times, Nixon was the mother of the late singer Andrew Gold.

With the death of Allen Barnes, we have lost a great crossover jazz-soul-funk multi-instrumentalist. Barnes, who was primarily a saxophonist, was drafted by Donald Byrd into his Blackbyrds. On their greatest hit, the joyful Walkin’ In Rhythm, Barnes played the flute solo. He also wrote songs for the band, including 1974’s Summer Love, which featured on Any Major Summer Vol. 5. He recorded with many other artists, including Nina Simone, Prince, Martha Reeves, Bootsy Collins and Sonny Rollins. On stage he backed Gil Scott-Heron on saxophone and synthesizer. He also recorded under his own name and with singer/songwriter John Malone as the unsnappily-named funk band Malone & Barnes and Spontaneous Simplicity.

IM0716_bLast month we lost Chips Moman, who with Dan Penn founded the famous American Sound Studio in Memphis. Among the successful bands they produced were The Box Tops, who are most famous for that perfect slice of pope, The Letter. In July the Box Tops’ drummer Danny Smythe passed away at 67. Smythe drummed on the classic Neon Rainbow album as well as on the 1968 #2 hit Cry Like A Baby. But by the time the latter became a hit Smythe had left the band, having decided to go to college in order to avoid the Vietnam War draft. When the classic line-up of The Box Tops reunited in 1996, Smythe rejoined the bands, staying with it until 2010, when lead singer Alex Chilton died.

On July 7 I posted the Song Swarm of By The Time I Get To Phoenix. Among the 82 versions was one by jazz/funk organist Shirley Scott. Playing guitar on that version was the Antiguan jazz guitarist Roland Prince. Eight days after I posted it, Prince died at the age of 69. Which merits mention here, I think. Prince released a few solo albums, but was more usually a sideman to artists like Scott, James Moody, Roy Haynes, Dr Buzzard’s Savannah Band, and especially Elvin Jones.

On the same day as Roland Prince, drummer and drum manufacturer Johnny C. Craviotto passed away. He started as a drummer in the 1970s for acts like Ry Cooder, Arlo Guthrie, Moby Grape, Neil Young, and Buffy St. Marie. In the 1980s he founded a drum company with Huey Lewis & The News’ drummer Billy Gibson, the Select (later Solid) Drum Company, whose products seem to be particularly popular among country and indie drummers.

Finally, it is necessary to pay tribute to long-time Mad magazine cartoonist (all those covers he did!)  Jack Davis, who has died at 91. His link to music? He also designed LP covers, such as that below for Johnny Cash.



Teddy Rooney, 66, bassist of rock band The Yellow Payges, on July 2
The Yellow Payges – Our Time Is Running Out (1967)

William Hawkins, 76, Canadian folk musician and poet, on July 4
3’s a Crowd – Gnostic Serenade (1968, as songwriter)

Danny Smythe, 67, drummer of The Box Tops, on July 6
The Box Tops – Neon Rainbow (1967)
The Box Tops – Cry Like A Baby (1968)

Rokusuke Ei, 83, Japanese lyricist and author, on July 7
Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki (1963, as co-writer)

Gérard Bourgeois, 80, French composer, on July 8
Françoise Hardy – Rendez-vous d’automne (1966)

Geneviève Castrée aka Woelv aka Ô PAON, 34, Canadian indie musician, on July 9

Steven Young, member of British electronic bands Colourbox and M/A/R/R/S, on July 13
Colourbox – The Moon Is Blue (1985)
M/A/R/R/S – Pump Up The Volume (1987)

Roland Prince, 69, Antiguan jazz guitarist, on July 15
Shirley Scott – Lean On Me (1972, on guitar)

Erik Petersen, 38, founder and leader of folk-punk band Mischief Brew, on July 15
Mischief Brew – Coffee, God, And Cigarettes (2006)

Johnny Craviotto, 68, drummer and drum developer, on July 15
Claudia Lennear – It Ain’t Easy (1973, on drums)

Alan Vega, 78, half of protopunk duo Suicide, on July 16
Suicide – Ghost Rider (1977)
Alan Vega – Goodbye Darling (1983)

Gary S. Paxton, 77, producer and singer-songwriter, on July 16
Skip & Flip – It Was I (1959) (1959, as “Flip”)
Bobby Boris Pickett  & The Crypt-Kickers – Monster Mash (1962, as producer)
The Association – Cherish (1966, as producer)

Bonnie Brown, 77, member of country group The Browns, on July 16
The Browns – The Three Bells (1959)

Claude Williamson, 89, jazz pianist, on July 16
June Christy & Pete Rugolo – Look Out Up There (1954, on piano)

Karina Jensen, singer of Danish pop band Cartoons, announced on July 18
Cartoons – Witch Doctor (1998)

Tamás Somló, 68, singer of Hungarian rock band Omega, on July 19

Lewie Steinberg, 82, first bassist of Booker T. & the M.G.’s (replaced by Donald Dunn), on July 21
Booker T. & the M.G.’s – Green Onions (1962)

Mika Bleu, 34, singer of French grindcore band Miserable Failure, hit by a car on July 22

George Reznik, 86, Canadian jazz pianist, on July 23

Keith Gemmell, 68, British musician with Audience, Stackridge, Pasadena Roof Orchestra), on July 24
Audience – Indian Summer (1971)

Marni Nixon, 86, American singer, on July 24
Marni Dixon & Yulk Brynner – Shall We Dance (1956, The King And I)
Marni Nixon  – I Feel Pretty (1961, West Side Story)

Allan Barnes, 67, jazz/soul saxophonist with The Blackbyrds, on July 26
The Blackbyrds – Walking In Rhythm (1974, on flute)
Malone & Barnes And Spontaneous Simplicity – Workin’ Plan (1977)
J Dilla – Requiem (2012, on flute)

Sandy Pearlman, 72, producer, songwriter and manager, on July 26
Blue Öyster Cult – (Don’t Fear) The Reaper (1976, as co-producer)
The Clash – Tommy Gun (1978, as producer)

Roye Albrighton, 67, guitarist and singer with British rock group Nektar, on July 26
Nektar – Do You Believe In Magic? (1972)

Jack Davis, 91, illustrator, cartoonist with Mad and record cover designer, on July 27

Pat Upton, 75, singer and guitarist of pop band Spiral Starecase, on July 27
Spiral Starecase – More Today Than Yesterday (1969)

Lucille Dumont, 97, Canadian singer, on July 29

Fred Tomlinson, 90, English singer and composer, on July 29
Monty Python – Lumberjack Song (1969, as co-writer)

Penny Lang, 74, Canadian folk-singer, on July 31


Previous In Memoriams

Keep up to date with dead pop stars on Facebook





Categories: In Memoriam Tags: