Archive for the ‘In Memoriam’ Category

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)

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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)


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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

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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)

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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)

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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


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In Memoriam – June 2016

July 4th, 2016 6 comments

IM1606_1The year 2016 continued to be a bastard in June. But instead of killing off superstars, June took from us some important names.

Imagine what it was like for audiences in mid-1956 to be confronted with the explosion of loud energy that was Elvis’ Hound Dog. Louder and more aggressive than most Rock & Roll hits that came before, to ears used to Perry Como and Bing Crosby it must have sounded positively dystopian. Playing the guitar on Hound Dog, and all those 1950s Elvis hits, was Scotty Moore, who has died at 84. In fact, Elvis’ early Sun records were credited to “Elvis Presley, Scotty & Bill” (Bill being bassist Bill Black, who died in 1965). As such, Moore was instrumental, as it were, in introducing power chords and guitar solos to this new musical form. Rock & Roll Elvis left the building when he went to the army, but Moore continued to play on some Elvis records in the 1960s — including Good Luck Charm, Devil In Disguise, Surrender and Bossa Nova Baby — and appeared on the 1968 Comeback Special.

Moore was not the only artist with an Elvis connection to die in June. Only time prevented me from putting together a special collection of songs written or produced by the great Chips Moman, who has died at 79. His crowning moment might have been the resurrection of Elvis as a serious singer, having produced the sessions that yielded the glorious Suspicious Minds and In The Ghetto at Memphis’ American Sound Studio, which Moman founded with Don Crews. The studio produced many classics produced by Moman, including Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, BJ Thomas’ Hooked On A Feeling, Merilee Rush’s Angel Of The Morning, and Dusty Springfield’s Dusty In Memphis album. Before he started the studio, Moman worked at Stax, producing hits such as Carla Thomas’ Gee Whiz. Moman was a fine songwriter, too, co-writing hits such as Aretha Franklin’s Do Right Woman Do Right Man, James Carr’s The Dark End Of The Street, BJ Thomas’ (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, and Waylon Jennings’ Luckenbach, Texas (which featured on Any American Road Trip 2). On top of all that, Moman was also a session guitarist, playing with acts such as Aretha Franklin, Wilson Picket, Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash and Guy Clark (who died last month).

Just over a week after Moman passed, Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns died. The Memphis Horns were led by Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love (who died in 2012) on tenor sax. They produced some signature sounds in music, perhaps most famously the intro to Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness. Where there is brass on Stax records, you’d hear The Memphis Horns. Later Jackson and Love decamped to Stax-alumnus Chips Moman’s  American Sound Studio where they played on those career-reviving Elvis records. Later they played at Hi Records, giving Al Green some horn (oh, behave!), including on Let’s Stay Together. They played with King Curtis on his fantastic Live At The Filmore album. They also backed non-soul acts like James Taylor, Tony Joe White, Doobie Brothers, José Feliciano, Jerry Reed, BB King, John Prine, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Joe Cocker, Steve Winwood, Billy Joel, Robert Cray Band, Peter Gabriel and many others. Jackson is getting a bunch of tribute tracks here, but you can also hear him on Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved A Man and Elvis’ Kentucky Rain, both of which listed in tribute to Moman.

At the next karaoke when somebody does an impression of The Commitments’ version of Mustang Sally, spare a thought for Sir Mack Rice, who wrote and first recorded the song, later a hit for Wilson Picket. Rice had another minor hit with Coal Man, but his success resided in writing for others, especially on the Stax label. The biggest hit of these was Respect Yourself for the Staple Singers.IM1606_2There are few artists left who made their mark in the 1940s and have continued to perform into this decade. With the death at 89 of bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, we have lost one of those. The importance of Ralph Stanley in bluegrass cannot be overstated. Over seven decades in music, Stanley was known to be a fine man and a willing mentor to many who would become stars in bluegrass and country music. With his brother Carter, the banjo virtuoso was half of the Stanley Brothers and co-leader of The Clinch Mountain Boys. Starting in 1946 they were among the very first acts to play the bluegrass music of the genre’s pioneer, Bill Monroe (who initially resented the Stanleys and his erstwhile collaborators Flatt & Scruggs for “stealing” his music). Carter died in 1966, but Ralph continued on his own, releasing records — many of them gospel — right up to the last one in 2015. In 2002 Stanley won a Grammy for his vocal performance on the old Appalachian song O Death, which featured on the acclaimed O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

The legendary Bernie Worrell of the Parliament-Funkadelic collective changed funk with his keyboard grooves, especially once he became only the second person in the world to be given a Moog synthesizer by its inventor, Bob Moog. Armed with his Moog, Worrell had a lasting influenced on dance music, hip hop and new wave through songs like1977’s Flash Light. Worrell also arranged the horn sections for Parliament-Funkadelic. He appeared on the albums released by the outgrowths from the collective, such as Bootsy Collins, and played with Talking Heads during their Stop Making Sense period, as well as with acts like Lou Rawls, The Spinners, Stephanie Mills and Gil Scott-Heron.

Ask anybody who has worked with him, and they’ll tell you that ex-Wings and Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough was the loveliest of men. He backed Joe Cocker at Woodstock as a member of The Grease Band and played on Spooky Tooth’s 1970 The Last Puff album before joining Paul McCartney’s Wings in 1971, playing on hits such as My Love (that guitar solo is his), Hi Hi Hi, and Live and Let Die. In between he dabbled with Pink Floyd: at the end of Money on The Dark Side Of The Moon, you can hear him speak the words, “I don’t know; I was really drunk at the time”, a reference to a confrontation he had had the night before with his wife. In 2012 McCullough suffered a severe heart attack, leading Ireland’s RTE broadcaster and the BBC to announce his death. The rumours of his demise were greatly exaggerated, but death caught up with the guitarist on June 14.

The Fairport Convention defined British folk, and the group’s guiding member Dave Swarbrick defined fiddle-playing in British folk. Swarbrick introduced the electronic fiddle to the isles’ folk scene, and was much sought-after as a session musician by rock acts. Swarbrick was declared dead (yes, another case of that) by the Daily Telegraph in 1999 — a time before Twitter false alarms and hoaxes — when he was hospitalised with a serious chest infection. Swarbrick’s response: “It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.” The false alarm prompted a fundraising effort which culminated in the musician receiving a double lung transplant in 2004. Which leads me to ask you: have you registered as an organ donor? And if you haven’t, why not?IM1606_3In the same month that Swarbrick left, another important figure in the British folk scene died. Karl Dallas was a Christian socialist (he was named after Marx and, by way of middle name, Engels) and peace campaigner. In the run-up to the illicit invasion of Iraq, Dallas got the better of the lying wear-monger Tony Blair in a televised debate. He was also a journalist who passionately advocated for folk acts such as the Fairground Convention and Steeleye Span, especially during his long association with the Melody Maker.  As a songwriter himself, he had much empathy with those whose music he was writing about. Initially he gave Bob Dylan a very bad review but later became a fan. Arlo Guthrie reportedly wrote parts of Alice’s Restaurant as a guest of Dallas’ in London. Dallas’ best-known songs are The Family Of Man, written in 1955, and Derek Bentley, about a teenager executed for killing a policeman.

Manchester lost a local music legend in promoter Alan Wise who was instrumental in the launch of the Factory club which became the record label of that name, home to Joy Division and New Order, among other acts. He was also a key figure in the city’s Hacienda club, which was famous in the 1980s well beyond Manchester. Three months ago Wise’s 22-year-old daughter died of suicide after health authorities failed to provide the counselling for 18 months. Wise was loudly outspoken about this failure at the time; his criticism found an echo in his obituaries.

Few singers’ career path takes them from the stage to the benches of the judiciary and back, but so it was with Dutch songstress Corry Brokken, one of the Netherlands’ biggest stars in the 1950s and’60s. Brokken won the second-ever Eurovision Song Contest in 1957 with Net Als Toen (Just as it once was). She had unsuccessfully represented the Netherlands the year before, and tried to defend her title the year after her win. She came last, thus holding the distinction of being the only Eurovision contestant to finish top and bottom. She presented the Eurovision in 1976, the year England’s Brotherhood of Men won. Just after that she retired from the music industry and, at the age of 44, began studying law. In the 1980s she became an attorney and then a judge. She made a music comeback in the 1990s.

The Memphis Horns have fallen silent. After the death of Andrew Love (left), Wayne Jackson left us this month to join the great horn section in the sky.

The Memphis Horns have fallen silent. After the death of Andrew Love (left), Wayne Jackson left us this month to join the great horn section in the sky.

Corry Brokken, 83, Dutch singer, Eurovision Song Contest 1957 winner, on May 30
Corry Brokken – Net Als Toen (1957)

Alan Wise, 63, British music promoter and manager on June 1

Häns’che Weiss, 65, German jazz guitarist and composer, on June 2

Dave Swarbrick, 75, fiddler with British folk band Fairport Convention, on June 3
Fairport Convention – Walk Awhile (1970, also as co-writer)
Dave Swarbrick – Queen’s Jig/Dick’s Maggot (1978)

Muhammad Ali, 74, American boxer and occasional singer, on June 3
Cassius Clay – Stand By Me (1964)
(More Ali-related music)

Bobby Curtola, 73, Canadian pop singer, on June 4
Bobby Curtola – Fortune Teller (1962)

Brian Rading, 69, bassist of Canadian rock group Five Man Electrical Band, on June 8
Five Man Electrical Band – Half Past Midnight (1966)

Habib, 63, Iranian singer-songwriter, on June 10

Christina Grimmie, 22, singer-songwriter, contestant on the The Voice (US), murdered on June 11

Kim Venable, 72, drummer of pop band The Classics IV, on June 12
The Classics IV – Where Did All The Good Times Go (1970)

Chips Moman, 79, songwriter, producer, engineer, guitarist, on June 13
Carla Thomas – Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) (1960, as producer)
James Carr – Dark End Of The Street (1967, as co-writer)
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You) (1967, on guitar)
Elvis Presley – Kentucky Rain (1970, as producer)
Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind (1982, as producer & engineer & on guitar)

Randy Jones, 72, jazz drummer, on June 23

Henry McCullough, 72, Northern Irish guitarist with Spooky Tooth, Wings, on June 14
Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends (Live at Woodstock) (1969, on guitar)
Wings – My Love (1973, on guitar)
Henry McCullough – Lord Knows (1975)

OJB Jezreel, 49, Nigerian singer and producer, on June 14

Jerome Teasley, 67, soul drummer (Motown), on June 16
Jr Walker & The All Stars – What Does It Take (To Win Your Love) (1969, on drums)

‘Sir’ Charles Thompson, 98, jazz pianist, on June 16
Leo Parker’s Quintette – New Look Swing (1948, on piano)

Tenor Fly, British raga singer, rapper and freestyler, on June 17

Attrell Cordes, 46, singer with soul band P.M. Dawn, on June 17
PM Dawn – Set Adrift On Memory Bliss (1991)

Alejandro Jano Fuentes, 45, American-Mexican singer, murdered on August 18

Bob Williamson, 67, English musician and comedian, on June 19

Chayito Valdez, 71, Mexican-American folk singer and actress, on June 20

Wayne Jackson, 74, legendary trumpeter (The Memphis Horns), on June 21
Otis Redding – I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (1965, on trumpet)
Dusty Springfield – Son Of A Preacher Man (1969, on trumpet)
Al Green – Let’s Stay Together (1972, on trumpet)
Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets (1976, on trumpet)
Memphis Horns – Memphis Nights (1977)

Freddy Powers, 84, country singer and songwriter, on June 21
George Jones – I Always Get Lucky With You (1983)
Merle Haggard – The Road To My Heart (2010, as writer)

Karl Dallas, 85, folk songwriter, writer and peace campaigner, on June 21
Colin Wilkie & Shirley Hart – The Family Of Man (1972, as writer)

Steve French, 56, singer with gospel band Kingdom Heirs Quartet, on June 22

Jim Boyd, 60, singer-songwriter, on June 22
Jim Boyd – Father And Farther (1998)

Leo Brennan, 90, Irish musician (father of Enya and Clannad members), on June 22

Ralph Stanley, 89, bluegrass legend, on June 23
Stanley Brothers – Let Me Be Your Friend (1948)
Stanley Brothers & The Clinch Mountain Boys – Memory Of Your Smile (1959)
Ralph Stanley – O Death (2000)
Ralph Stanley – John The Revelator (2011)

Shelley Moore, 84, jazz singer, on June 23
Shelley Moore – The Thrill Is Gone (1962)

Bernie Worrell, 72, keyboard player with Parliament-Funkadelic, on June 24
Parliament – Flashlight (1977)
Bernie Worrell – Woo Together (1978)
Talking Heads – Girlfriend Is Better (1984)

Lor Scoota, 23, rapper, shot dead on June 24

Mike Pedicin, 98, American jazz bandleader, on June 26
Mike Pedicin Quintet – The Large Large House (1956)

Mack Rice, 82, soul songwriter and singer, on June 27
Sir Mack Rice – Mustang Sally (1965)
Staples Singers – Respect Yourself (1972, as co-writer)

Scotty Moore, 84, pioneering Rock & Roll guitarist, on June 28
Elvis Presley – Too Much (1956)
Roy Orbison – Crying (1962, on guitar)
Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, Keith Richards & The Band – Deuce & A Quarter (1997)

Rob Wasserman, 64, Upright bass player, on June 29

Don Friedman, 81, jazz pianist, on June 30
Don Friedman Trio – So In Love (1962)

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In Memoriam – May 2016

June 2nd, 2016 6 comments

IM_1605_1Some musicians wait tables while they try to make it in the business, others make porn movies. The latter was the path Candye Kane took. Born Candace Hogan in 1961, Kane capitalised on her pretty face, large breasts and libertine nature by becoming a star in mostly softcore porn movies with titles like Bra Breakers, Big Melons and Let Me Tell Ya Bout Fat Chicks in the 1980s and ’90s. This allowed her to support a career as a well-respected blues musician who would cross over into other genres. Indeed, she was signed by CBS as a country singer — and quickly dropped when the label learnt about her other career. As a singer she collaborated with acts as diverse as Black Flag, Los Lobos and Dwight Yoakam. She was also a philanthropist and activist in areas such as Down’s syndrome and gay rights. She died from pancreatic cancer, aged only 54.

The country Outlaws are falling one by one. Last month it was Merle Haggard, this month it’s Guy Clark. Clark’s biggest successes were as a songwriter of hits for others, most notably LA Freeway and Desperados Waiting for a Train for Jerry Jeff Walker (and the latter again for Outlaw supergroup The Highwaymen). Clark was very close to Townes van Zandt and Steve Earle; the three recorded the lovely Together At The Bluebird Café in 1995 — it was a fundraising event organised by Clark’s beloved wife Susanna for an inter-faith dental clinic for the poor. One of the tracks from that collection features here. Another track, the title track from his final album in 2013, My Favorite Picture Of You, is about Susanna, who died in 2012 after 40 years of marriage. He held the photo of Susanna about which he sang on the CD cover — it was taken when Susanna was very angry at another one of van Zandt’s alcohol-fuelled escapades at the Clarks’ home.

Perhaps more than any other genre, funk is driven by the bass. With the death at 75 of Marshall “Rock” Jones, one of the great bass players has joined the Great Disco in the Sky. Jones was a founding member of the Ohio Players, and of the group that preceded them, the Ohio Untouchables, of whom the bass player was the last surviving member. In the Ohio Players, Jones’ trademark was the white turban, the headgear he wore long after the band’s demise in 2002.

Why would a French actress who never released a record nor had a history of appearing in musicals feature here? Well, Madeleine Lebeau was seen singing in one of the great music interludes in film history: in Casablanca she played the woman jilted by Rick Blaine who then ostentatiously flirts with German soldiers, but recovers her French nationalism during the Marseillaise vs Wacht am Rhein sing-off (as the camera focuses on her tear-filled eyes, her impassioned voice is amplified). Lebeau, who died at 94, was the last surviving credited actors on possibly the greatest film of the 1940s.IM_1605_2Before the Beastie Boys were a pioneering hip hop trio, they were an average punk quartet comprising Adam Horwitz on bass and Mike Diamond on lead vocals, as well as drummer Kate Schellenbach (later of Luscious Jackson) and guitarist John Berry, who was replaced in 1982 by Adam Horwitz. John Berry died this month at the age of 52. His work with the Beastie Boys is preserved on the tracks that appeared on the group’s debut EP, the eight-track Polly Wog Stew from 1982. That EP is out of print, but the songs were re-released along with other early Beastie Boys work in 1994 as Some Old Bullshit. The band started in 1978 as The Young Aborigines. It was Berry who came up with the name The Beastie Boys.

Just as I revived the Any Major Flute series, jazz-rock flautist Jeremy Steig died — as it happens before I could re-post Vol. 3, on which he featured; though it is his flute that scores the Beastie Boys’ Sure Shot on Any Major Flute Volume 2.  Steig released close to 30 LPS, solo and as collaborations, and played as a sideman on the albums of many others, including Richie Havens, Nat Adderley, Hank Crawford, Art Farmer, Idris Muhammad, Lalo Schiffrin, Johnny Winter, Art Garfunkel, and Yoko Ono. Steig, who had retired to Japan with his Japanese wife, actually died on April 13, but his death was announced only in May.

The German new wave band Trio is now solo. After the death of Gert ‘Kralle’ Krawinkel in 2014, drummer Peter Behrens is now gone, leaving only singer Stephan Remmler. Trio, who had a massive international hit with Da Da  Da in 1982, broke up in 1986. Behrens, who before Trio played for Krautrock band Silberbart and trained as a clown, tried his hand at a solo career, without much success — though he did sing official song for the European Football Championship 1988. He acted in a few movies and when he was not being an artist he did social work.

Don Draper did not, after all, dream up the famous Coca-Cola hilltop commercial while meditating in a hippie commune. The man who did, McCann-Erickson advertising executive Bill Backer had that idea during a long forced layover in Shannon Airport in Ireland. It is perhaps the most famous commercial featuring original music (sort of; the melody had already been used on a record; I told the story in The Originals Vol.  36), which justifies Backer’s inclusion here. Backer also originated the slogans “Things go better with Coke” and “Coke is the real thing”, as well as the term “Miller Time” to indicate the hour at which diluted urine ought to be consumed.

Jeremy Steig, 73, jazz-rock flautist, on April 13 (announced in May)
Richie Havens – Indian Rope Man (1967, on flute)
Jeremy Steig – Up Tempo Thing (1972)

Doug Raney, 59, jazz guitarist, on May 1
Jimmy Raney & Doug Raney – Have You Met Miss Jones (1979)

Madeleine Lebeau, 92, French actress, on May 1
Casablanca – Medley: Die Wacht Am Rhein & La Marseillaise (1942)

Paul Dowell, 84, singer of the Temperance Seven and actor, on May 2
The Temperance Seven – You’re Driving Me Crazy (1961)

Kristian Ealey, 38, English singer (Tramp Attack; Edgar Jones & the Joneses) and TV actor, on May 3

Reggie Torian, 65, lead singer of The Impressions (1973-83), on May 4
The Impressions – Sooner Or Later (1975)

Olle Ljungström, 54, singer and guitarist with Swedish rock band Reeperbahn, on May 4

Isao Tomita, 84, Japanese synthesizer pioneer, on May 5

Candye Kane, 54, blues singer-songwriter and porn actress, on May 6
Candye Kane – All You Can Eat (And You Can Eat It All Night Long)

Paul Brown, jazz bassist and teacher, on May 6

Rickey Smith, 36, singer and American Idol contestant (Season 2), in traffic collision on May 6

John Stabb, 54, singer of hardcore punk brand Government Issue, on May 7

Joe Temperley, 86, Scottish saxophonist, on May 11
Tony Crombie and his Orchestra ‎– Stop It (1954, on baritone sax)

Peter Behrens, 68, drummer of German New Wave group Trio, on May 11
Trio – Halt mich fest, ich werd’ verrückt (1981)
Peter Behrens – Dep De Dö Dep (1990)

Julius La Rosa, 86, pop singer and actor, on May 12
Julius La Rosa – Anywhere I Wander (1953)

Tony Gable, jazz-fusion percussionist, on May 12
Tony Gable & 206 – The Bus Song

Buster Cooper, 87, American jazz trombonist, on May 13

Bill Backer, 89, advertising executive and songwriter, on May 13
Hilltop – I’d Like To Buy The World A Coke (1971)

Tony Barrow, 80, press officer of The Beatles (initiated the term “Fab Four”), on May 14

Paul Smoker, 75, American jazz trumpeter, on May 14

Cauby Peixoto, 85, Brazilian singer, on May 15
Cauby Peixoto – Conceição (1956)

Emilio Navaira, 53, country and Tejano singer, on May 16
Emilio Navaira – Ella Es Asi

Fredrik Norén, 75, Swedish jazz drummer, on May 16

Guy Clark, 74, folk and country singer-songwriter, on May  17
Guy Clark – Desperados Waiting For A Train (1975)
Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt & Guy Clark – Randall Knife (1995)
Guy Clark – My Favorite Picture Of You (2013)

Marlene Marder, 61, guitarist of Swiss punk rock group Kleenex/ LiLiPUT, on May 17
Kleenex – Ain’t You (1978)

John Berry, 52, guitarist and original member of the Beastie Boys, on May 19
Beastie Boys – Jimi (1982)

James King, 57, bluegrass musician, on May 19
James King – These Old Pictures (1993)

Nick Menza, 51, German-born drummer of Megadeth, on May 21
Megadeth – Countdown To Extinction (1993, also as co-writer)

Marshall Jones, 75, bassist of funk band Ohio Players, on May 27
Ohio Players – A Little Soul Party (1968)
Ohio Players – Skin Tight (1974)

Mike Barnett, 89, co-founder of vocal group The Lettermen (left 1958), on May 27

Jimmy Borges, 80, Hawaiian vocalist, on May 30

Thomas Fekete, 27, guitarist of indie band Surfer Blood, on May 30
Surfer Blood – Swim (2007)

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In Memoriam – April 2016

May 5th, 2016 9 comments

This year is a real bastard; in my years of doing this monthly round-up I cannot remember a sequence of months in which the Grim Reaper picked off fixtures in my music collection at such a relentless rate. At this point I fear for Stevie Wonder, Kris Kristofferson, Van Morrison, Donald Fagen, Burt Bacharach, Frankie Beverley, Hal Blaine and all four members of ABBA.IM0416_gallery_1In the great 1980s battle between Michael Jackson and Prince (who were born just 73 days apart), I was a cheerleader for the latter. Don’t misunderstand, Jackson was immense, and I’ll sooner listen to Off The Wall than to any Prince album (on the other hand, Purple Rain easily trumps Thriller, as I showed HERE). But Prince wrote his own songs (and for others), arranged them, played on them, was a fine dancer and great showman, and he played the guitar so beautifully. And he had something to say. Prince was a genius, and if he had not been so obsessed with hunting down the use of his music on blogs and YouTube, he’d feature heavily on Any Major collections.

April didn’t claim not one but two absolute legends: Prince, but also Merle Haggard, one of the true country giants. Merle was outlaw before Outlaw Country was a thing. In fact, he was a real outlaw in his younger days, and his life of robbery and larceny ended with him locked up at San Quentin prison, near San Francisco. Even in jail, Haggard was a troublemaker — until the day when Johnny Cash played one of concerts there (not his first one there in 1958, as is often written, but one of those he did in 1959 and 1960). Watching Cash — and having had a few other formative experiences before that — Merle decided to go on to the straight and narrow and finally make it in the music business. Which he did. Merle Haggard died of pneumonia on his 79th birthday. It’s not right that people should die on their birthday.

Controversy followed the gifted Philly soul singer Billy Paul, who had a massive hit in 1972 with Me And Mrs Jones. Against his express wishes, his label, PIR, released as the follow-up the provocative Am I Black Enough For You (Paul wanted the milder Brown Baby as the follow-up). It was indeed the second-best track on the 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul album, but predictably the white pop stations weren’t ready for a black consciousness song by a soul crooner. The episode sabotaged Billy Paul’s career, some first-class releases notwithstanding. More controversy hit the singer in 1975 with the gorgeous Let’s Make A Baby when the Rev Jesse Jackson and his Operation PUSH campaigned for a boycott of the song on grounds of its supposed lewdness (the good reverend seemed to have been unaware by what act babies are made). A year later, Billy Paul’s wonderful cover of Paul McCartney’s Let ’Em In caused some controversy, and also earned effusive praise, for its name-checks of deceased black leaders such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Elijah Muhammad, Medgar Evers and Louis Armstrong.

On the same day the master guitarist Prince died, one of the men who pioneered rock guitar playing, especially in the blues-rock field that was the domain of the likes of Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck and Duane Allman, passed away. Lonnie Mack’s 1963 instrumentals such as Wham! and Memphis have been acclaimed as being milestones in the development of rock music, particularly the nascent blues-infused rock guitar solo. Mack was also a great soul singer, but when R&B stations discovered that he was white, they stopped playing his records. He returned in the 1970s as a country singer before reverting to blues-rock, recording with the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan.IM0416_gallery_2Congolese soukos singer Papa Wemba, who has died at 66, was one of Africa’s most popular musicians, and a favourite also in the World Music market. He was a star in Africa almost as much for his dandyish sartorial style as he was for his marvellous music. But the life of the man born Jules Shungu Wembadio Kikumba was not universally admirable. In 2003 he was convicted of being part of a network that smuggled immigrants from the Democratic Republic of Congo (née Zaire), and was imprisoned for three months in France. He later said that the experience changed him. It was not his first time in prison. In 1976 Papa Wemba, already a star, was briefly incarcerated on grounds of a suspected relationship with the daughter of a general from dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s army. Wemba died on stage while playing a concert in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Session drummer Dennis Davis is probably best known for having backed David Bowie during the period of Young Americans to Scary Monsters, and after that also on stage. You hear Davis on Bowie classics like Heroes, Golden Years, Ashes To Ashes and Fashion. But my pick of tracks on which Davis drummed is Stevie Wonder’s marvellous Do I Do (one of the last really great Wonder songs). Among other Wonder tracks, he also drummed on Master Blaster. Davis also backed acts like Luther Vandross, Roy Ayers, Zulema, George Benson, Jermaine Jackson, Garland Jeffreys, Smokey Robinson, Webster Lewis and more.

The trumpet of Harrison Calloway has fallen silent. Calloway was the leader of the Muscle Shgoal Horns which can be heard on a huge amount of soul records and other tracks cut at the Muscle Shoals studio, including by acts like Bob Dylan, Jim Capaldi, Paul Simon and Rod Stewart, and also on Elton John’s 1975 performances with John Lennon.  IM0416_gallery_3The gloriously named Jack Hammer (real name Earl Burroughs) is most famous for co-writing a song he didn’t write. As a performer and songwriter he had enjoyed some success in the early 1950s, but when he brought his new song Great Balls Of Fire to songwriter Paul Case, the latter didn’t like it. He did, however, like the title and commissioned Otis Blackwell to write a song by that title for a film called Jamboree. In a rare outburst of ethics in the 1950s music industry, Hammer received half of the songwriting credit for coming up with the title for what would become one of the great rock & roll classics. Hammer kept writing and recording, and in the early 1960s moved to Europe where he had a huge hit with his song Kissin’ Twist and earned the title The Twistin’ King, after his 1961 single of that name, for his dance moves.

Emile Ford, who has died at 78, was the first black musician to sell a million copies of a single in Britain with his 1958 hit What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For. Born on the Caribbean island of St Lucia, he came to Britain in the mid-’50s, more with a view to being a sound engineer than a recording artist. Still, with his Checkmates he scored a few hits. At the same time he developed a backing track system for stage shows, which formed the basis for what would become karaoke.

The rise of Rock ‘n’ Roll depended to a great degree on the rhythm section: the bass and the drum. But drums were expensive and not easy to get because the drumheads were made of animal hides, usually from calves. The advent of synthetic drumheads changed that — and the developer of the first commercially viable synthetic drumheads, Remo Belli, has died at 88.


Mike Gibbons, 71, lead singer of Canadian group Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, on April 2
Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods – Who Do You Think You Are (1974)

Gato Barbieri, 83, Argentine free jazz saxophonist, on April 2

Bill Henderson, 90, jazz singer and actor, on April 3
Bill Henderson with the Oscar Peterson Trio – At Long Last Love (1963)

Don Francks, 84, Canadian jazz singer and actor, on April 3

Kōji Wada, 42, Japanese singer, on April 3

Carlo Mastrangelo, 78, bass and lead singer with The Belmonts, on April 4
The Belmonts – Come On Little Angel (1963)
Carlo – Fever (1970)

Dorothy Schwartz, 89, singer with The Chordettes (1946-52), on April 4
The Chordettes – Moonlight On The Ganges (1951)

Getatchew Mekurya, 81, Ethiopian jazz saxophonist, on April 4

Leon Haywood, 74, soul singer, on April 5
Leon Haywood – Don’t Push It Don’t Force It (1980)

Merle Haggard, 79, country singer-songwriter, on April 6
Merle Haggard & The Strangers – The Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp (1968)
Merle Haggard & The Strangers – If We Never Meet Again (1971)
Merle Haggard & The Strangers – Always Wanting You (1975)
Merle Haggard – My Life’s Been Grand (1986)
Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am (2010)

Dennis Davis, session drummer, on April 6
Roy Ayers Ubiquity – Brother Louie (1973, on drums & percussion)
David Bowie – Breaking Glass (1977, on drums, also as co-writer)
Stevie Wonder – Do I Do (1982, on drums)

Jimmie Van Zant, 59, rock musician, on April 7

Jade Lemons, member of hard rock group Injected, on April 7

Jack Hammer, 90, musician and songwriter, on April 8
The Cadillacs – Peek-A-Boo (1958, as writer)
Jack Hammer – Kissin’ Twist (1962)

Emile Ford, 78, Saint Lucia-born pop singer and sound engineer, on April 11
Emile Ford – Them There Eyes (1960)

Mike Lazo, 83, lead singer of The Tempos, on April 12
The Tempos – See You In September (1959)

Gib Guilbeau, 78, songwriter, singer, guitarist and fiddler, on April 12
The Flying Burrito Brothers – Wind And Rain (1975, also as co-writer)

Robbie Brennan, Irish rock drummer, on April 12
Townes Van Zandt – A Song For (1994, on drums)

Ismael Quintana, 78, Puerto Rican salsa singer and composer, on April 16

Pete Zorn, 65, multi-instrumentalist musician, on April 19
Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights (1982, on bass)

Richard Lyons, 57, member of experimental rock group Negativland, on April 19

Prince, 57, music genius, on April 21
I Feel For You (1979)
Sometimes It Snows In April (1986)
Starfish And Coffee (1987)
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World (1994)
Reflection (2004)

Lonnie Mack, 74, singer and guitar pioneer, on April 21
Lonnie Mack – Wham! (1963)
Lonnie Mack – Why (1963, released 1968)
Lonnie Mack ‎- Too Rock For Country, Too Country For Rock And Roll (1988)

Bill Sevesi, 92, Tongan-born New Zealand musician, on April 23

Billy Paul, 81, soul singer, on April 24
Billy Paul – Ebony Woman (1970)
Billy Paul – Am I Black Enough For You (1972)
Billy Paul – Let’s Make A Baby (1975)

Papa Wemba, 66, Congolese singer, on April 24
Papa Wemba – Le Voyageur (1992)

Remo Belli, 88, drummer, developer of the synthetic drumhead, on April 25

Wolfgang Rohde, 66, drummer of German rock band Die Toten Hosen, on April 25
Die Toten Hosen – Pushed Again (1998)

Philip Kives, 87, Canadian founder of K-tel records, on April 27

Harrison Calloway, 75, trumpeter and leader of the Muscle Shoals Horns, on April 30
Clarence Carter – Patches (1970)
Muscle Shoals Horns – Open Up Your Heart (1976)

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In Memoriam – March 2016

April 4th, 2016 5 comments

After a little respite in February, the Grim Reaper was very busy in March. Sadly, a full third of the 42 listed deaths were of people under the age of 60.

IM0316-gallery1Everything important has been said of George Martin, who has died at 90. It might merit emphasising that Martin was to The Beatles as a good professor is to the student whom he (or, indeed, she) guides from freshman  to doctorate. At first he was instructive, exercising his authority to have Pete Best dismissed; though The Beatles rightly baulked at his insistence that they should release How Do You Do It, a song they didn’t write, as a single. They did record it (halfheartedly, as we can hear on the featured track), but it instead became a UK #1 for Gerry and the Pacemakers—and was knocked off the top spot by the much bigger Beatles hit, From Me To You. From being the teacher figure Martin grew to be the facilitator and guide in the group’s rapid development from very good pop combo to genius innovators. Without Martin, the story of The Beatles, and that of pop music, might have been quite different.

George Martin will always be associated with The Beatles, of course, but he had his hand in many other pop classics. He produced a string of 1960s hits for the other Liverpudlian legends, Gerry & the Pacemakers and Cilla Black, as well as for Matt Munro and Billy J. Kramer. Later he produced such hits as Wings’ Live And Let Die, America’s Sister Golden Hair, Tin Man and Lonely People, Little River Band’s The Night Owls, Kenny Rogers’ Morning Desire, as well as many 1980s McCartney tracks (Say Say Say, Ebony and Ivory, No More Lonely Nights, Pipes Of Peace, We All Stand Together etc). Others whom he produced included Jeff Beck, Shirley Bassey, Stan Getz, Cleo Laine, Neil Sedaka, Jimmy Webb, Cheap Trick, Billy Preston, Mahavishnu Orchestra, José Carreras, Celine Dion, and Kate Bush. Alas, he was also co-responsible for that mawkish abomination that was Elton John’s Candle In The Wind 1997.

In the early 1990s, before hip hop became dominated by blinging, car-bouncing, Hennessy-quaffing, cap-in-yo-ass-bustin’ gangsta misogyny (at least at its platinum-selling levels), rappers had success talking about actual social issues, carrying the mantle of Gil Scott-Heron. One such group was A Tribe Called Quest, whose “Five Foot Assassin”, Phyfe Dawg, has died at 45 from complications relating to diabetes, which had previously required two kidney transplants.  With acts like De La Soul and the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest exercised a profound influence on hip hop artists like Common, The Roots and, when he does have something to say that isn’t mad or self-aggrandising, Kanye West.

You’ll probably know Thunderclap Newman’s 1969 hit Something In The Air, a call for revolution when that ship had already sailed. But do you remember that glorious piano break that kicks in at 2:00 minutes and goes on for close to a minute. That was played by Andy Newman, who has died at 73. It was his nickname and surname that gave the band its name after it was founded as a side project by The Who’s Pete Townshend (who under a pseudonym played bass on that mega hit). Townshend’s game was kindness: he wanted to give Newman and singer-guitarist Speedy Keen a showcase for their talents. Also in the band was Jimmy McCulloch, who went on to join Paul McCartney’s Wings before his death in 1979. Keen died in 2002. Besides the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Thunderclap Newman is the only classic ‘60s rock act I can think of whose official line-up is now all dead.  Thunderclap Newman recorded one album; Newman released a solo album in 1971.

Children of famous people have it easier to get through a door than random hopefuls, but few manage to emulate the success of their famous parent. So it was with Frank Sinatra Jr, who has died suddenly at 72. There is no doubt that Frank Jr had talent, but if you are going to have as Sinatra, you’ll go for Senior, or older sister Nancy, who followed her own musical path. Frank Jr acquired some fame by being a victim of a kidnapping in December 1963 (Frank Sr paid up to have his son released).

IM0316-gallery2Another pioneer of the Outlaw movement in country music — the sub-genre that counted among its heroes the likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr, Kris Kristofferson and Tompall Glaser — has fallen in the form of Steve Young, who is probably best known as the writer and original performer of the Eagles hit Seven Bridges Road. He also wrote and first performed the Waylon Jennings hit Lonesome On’ry and Mean and Montgomery In the Rain by Hank Williams Jr.

If you played at the age of 18 with Gene Krupa, you probably had some talent. Jazz trumpeter and later bandleader Joe Cabot made his mark with Krupa in 1939. He went on to play in the orchestras of people like Tommy Dorsey and Artie Shaw, and played with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz and his close friend Harry James. He backed artists such as Bobby Darrin (including on Mack The Knife and Beyond The Sea), Anita O’Day, Tony Bennett, Ruth Brown, Chris Connor and Eartha Kitt. (Alas, I could find no photo of the man.)

Patty Duke is obviously remembered as an actress of some skill who as a teenager won an Oscar for The Miracle Worker and later played identical twins on the TV sitcom named after her (I could never understand how TV execs expected viewers to suspend disbelief when they titled sitcoms after the lead actor, but obviously the ploy worked). What is not widely known is that Duke released four LPs in the mid-1960s, charting in the US with Don’t Just Stand There” (#8) and Say Something Funny (#22). In 1982 Duke was diagnosed as a bipolar depressive, and went on to become an activist around mental health issues — an matter that still needs further activism.

Every suicide is a tragedy; most of them are the result of an illness. Much as people die involuntarily of cancer, some people die involuntarily of mental illness. So, while it is shocking when a famous person, especially a rock legend, “commits” suicide, we should not state our head-shaking disbelief but use that as an occasion to understand the nature of mental illness and suicide, and to raise awareness about it in order to destigmatise it. Apparently Keith Emerson’s suicide was triggered by depression, brought on by health concerns and exacerbated by alcohol. May he be at rest now. In the meantime we remember Emerson as a supremely talented and influential keyboardist, and by all accounts a very nice man. Emerson, Lake & Palmer were hate figures for the prog-rock hating punks, led by the polemic of Johnny Rotten, who’d single out EPL for his spleen-venting. Later Emerson and John Lydon (the erstwhile Rotten) became neighbours in Hollywood — and good friends.

 graveyard at night

Gayle McCormick, 67, singer of blues-rock band Smith, on March 1
Smith – Baby, It’s You (1969, on lead vocals)

John Thomas, 63, guitarist with Welsh hard rock band Budgie, on March 3
Budgie – I Turned To Stone (1981, also as co-writer)

Brian Gallagher, 52, multi-instrumentalist with Greazy Meal and Prince, on March 3
Enthusiastic invoker of DMCA – Sexy MF (1990, on guitar)

Joey Feek, 40, singer with country duo Joey + Rory, on March 4
Joey + Rory – To Say Goodbye (2008)

Bankroll Fresh, 28, rapper, shot on March 4

Aaron Huffman, 43, bassist with rock band Harvey Danger, on March 6
Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sitta (1997)

Timothy Makaya, 67, Nigerian jazz guitarist, on March 7

Joe Cabot, 94, jazz musician and band leader, on March 7
Bobby Darin – Beyond The Sea (1959, on trumpet)
Chris Connor – Come Rain Or Come Shine (1959, on trumpet)

Bruce Geduldig, 63, experimental synth musician and filmmaker, on March 7

George Martin, 90, English record producer, composer, arranger and engineer, on March 8
Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren – Goodness Gracious Me (1960)
The Beatles – How Do You Do It (1963)
David & Jonathan – Softly Whispering I Love You (1967)
America – Sister Golden Hair (1975)
Ultravox – Hymn (1983)
Hayley Westenra – Beat Of Your Heart (2003)

Ross Hannaford, 65, guitarist of Australian rock band Daddy Cool, on March 8
Daddy Cool – Eagle Rock (1971)

Andrew Loomis, 54, drummer of rock band Dead Moon, on March 8
Dead Moon – Black September (1989)

Naná Vasconcelos, 71, Brazilian jazz percussionist and singer, on March 9
Talking Heads – Perfect World (1985, on water drum)
Naná Vasconcelos – Futebol (2002)

Léon Francioli, 69, Swiss jazz bassist, on March 9

Ray Griff, 75, Canadian country singer and songwriter, on March 9
George Hamilton IV – Canadian Pacific (1969, as writer)

Jon English, 66, English-born Australian singer and actor, on March 9

Keith Emerson, 71, English rock keyboardist (The Nice; Emerson, Lake & Palmer), of suicide on March 10
The Nice – Diary Of An Empty Day (1969)
Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Fanfare For The Common Man (1974)

Gogi Grant, 91, pop and musicals singer, on March 10
Gogi Grant – The Wayward Wind (1956)

Ernestine Anderson, 87, American jazz singer, on March 10
Ernestine Anderson – Welcome To The Club (1959)

Louis Meyers, 60, co-founder of South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, on March 11

Shawn Elliott, 79, singer and actor, on March 11
Shawn Elliott – Shame And Scandal In The Family (1965)

Joe Ascione, 54, jazz drummer, on March 11

Tommy Brown, 84, R&B singer, on March 12
The Griffin Brothers Orchestra feat. Tommy Brown – Tra-La-La (1951)

Conor Walsh, 36, Irish indie pianist and composer, on March 12

Daryl Coley, 60, gospel singer, on March 15
Vanessa Bell Armstrong & Daryl Coley – Comfort Ye My People (1992)

Ryo Fukui, 67, Japanese jazz pianist, on March 15

Frank Sinatra Jr., 72, singer and actor, on March 15
Frank Sinatra Jr. – Shadows On A Foggy Day (1967)

Lee Andrews, 79, doo-wop singer, on March 16
Lee Andrews & The Hearts – Try The Impossible (1958)

Steve Young, 73, country singer–songwriter, on March 17
Steve Young – Seven Bridges Road (1969)

David Egan, 61, Cajun rock musician, on March 18
David Egan – Bourbon In My Cup (2008)

Scabs, 41, drummer with punk outfit Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13, on March 19

Phife Dawg, 45, member of hip hop group A Tribe Called Quest, on March 22
A Tribe Called Quest – Oh My God (1994)

James Jamerson Jr, 58, session bass player, member of funk band Chanson, on March 23
Chanson – Don’t Hold Back (1978)
The Crusaders – Carnival Of The Night (1979, on bass)

Jimmy Riley, 61, Jamaican reggae singer, on March 23
The Sensations – Everyday Is Like A Holiday (1969)

Roger Cicero, 45, German jazz and pop singer, on March 24
Roger Cicero – Schieß mich doch zum Mond (2006)

Peter Andreoli (Anders), 74, doo wop singer, songwriter, producer, on March 24
The Videls – Mr Lonely (1960)
The Ronettes – The Best Part Of Breaking Up (1964, as co-writer)

Joe Skyward, 57, bassist with Sunny Day Real Estate, The Posies, on March 26

Ross Shapiro, singer-guitarist of Indie band The Glands, announced on March 26
The Glands – Livin’ Was Easy (2000)

David Baker, 84, jazz musician, composer and academic, on March 26

Patty Duke, 69, American actress and singer, on March 29
Patty Duke – Don’t Just Stand There (1965)

Andy Newman, 73, pianist of British band Thunderclap Newman, announced on March 30
Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air (1969)

Larry Payton, drummer of funk group Brass Construction, announced on March 30
Brass Construction – Changin’ (1975)

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