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In Memoriam – May 2011

June 6th, 2011 4 comments

This series has noted a couple of hundred musicians’ deaths. Not many have caused me so much sadness as that of Gil Scott-Heron. Never mind that the man was a drug addict, and that he once wrote a homophobic song. He was a poet, and he set his poetry to glorious music. He was the Bob Dylan of the ghetto. I hope that with his dying breath, Scott-Heron appreciated the fact that astronauts were just then making a final journey and the US president has introcuded health care reform he was demanding in Whitey On The Moon).

As a soul fan, I noted with particular sadness the passing of jazz-funk guitarist Cornell Dupree, who played that opening riff of Aretha Franklin’s version of Respect, and also backed favourite acts like Bill Withers and Marlena Shaw.

We tend to mourn deaths by suicide, though that of Gramy-winning songwriter, screenplsy writer and director Joseph Brooks, who wrote the much-loathed You Light Up My Life, leaves us at best with mixed feelings: he killed himself while under indictment for a series of “casting couch” rapes (the details of which are nauseating). Not a very nice guy at all, it seems.


David Mason, 85, English trumpeter who played the piccolo solo on The Beatles’ Penny Lane, on April 29
The Beatles – Penny Lane (1967)

Hume Patton, 65, guitarist of Scottish psychedelic rock group The Poets, on April 30

Ernest ‘Shololo’ Mothle, 69, South African jazz bassist and percussionist, and session musician for Robert Hyatt, Hugh Masekela, Mike Oldfield, Jonas Gwangwa a.o., on May 2
Mike Oldfield – In Dulci Jubilo (1975) (as percussionist)

Odell Brown, 70, jazz/soul organist, arranger and songwriter, on May 3
Marvin Gaye – Sexual Healing (1982) (as co-writer)

Nigel Pickering, 81, rhythm guitarist and vocalist of Spanky and the Gang, on May 5
Spanky and Our Gang – Like To Get To Know You (1968)
John Walker, 67, founder of The Walker Brothers, on May 7
The Walker Brothers – Just For A Thrill (1966)

Big George Webley, 53, British composer and arranger of TV themes, including The Office (UK), and radio broadcaster, on May 7
Big George Webley (feat Fin) – Handbags and Gladrags (2001)

Johnny Albino, 93, Puerto Rican bolero singer, on May 7
Johnny Albino – 7 Notas de Amor

Cornell Dupree, 68, soul and jazz-funk guitarist, on May 8
Cornell Dupree – Teasin’ (1974)
Marlena Shaw – Time For Me To Go (1973) (as guitarist)

Dolores Fuller, 88, actress and songwriter for Elvis Presley a.o. (also cult director Ed Woods’ girlfriend, as portrayed in the movie), on May 9
Elvis Presley – Rock-A-Hula Baby (1961) (as composer)
John Carter, 65, producer, songwriter and A&R man, on May 10
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Peppermints (1967) (as writer)

Norma Zimmer, 87, “Champagne Lady” on The Lawrence Welk Show, backing singer for Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como a.o., on May 10

Zim Ngqawana, 51, South African jazz saxophonist, on May 10

Snooky Young, 92, jazz trumpeter with Jimmie Lunceford, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton a.o. and with The Band, on May 11
Count Basie Orchestra feat. Tony Bennett – Life Is A Song (1959)
The Band – Rag Mama Tag (1972)

Lloyd Knibb, 80, drummer of Jamaican ska band The Skatalites, on May 12
The Skatalites – Fidel Castro (1964)
Jack Richardson, 81, producer of Guess Who, Bob Seger, Rage Against The Machine a.o., on May 13
Bob Seger – Night Moves (1977) (as producer)

Bob Flanigan, 84, singer of The Four Freshmen, on May 15
The Four Freshmen – It’s A Blue World (1952)

M-Bone, 22, American rapper with Cali Swag District, killed in drive-by shooting on May 15
Cali Swag District – Where You Are (2010)

James ‘Curley’ Cook, 66, blues guitarist and founder member of Steve Miller Band, on May 16

Sean Dunphy, 73, Irish singer (the first to record in Nashville), on May 17
Kathy Kirby, 72, English ’60s pop singer, on May 19
Kathy Kirby – Dance On (1963)

Joseph Brooks, 73, songwriter (You Light Up My Life), suicide on May 22

Jeff Conaway, 60, actor (Kenickie in the movie Grease) and singer of 1960s ban The 3 1/2, on May 27

Gil Scott-Heron, 62, musician and poet, on May 27
Gil Scott-Heron – I Think I’ll Call It Morning (1971)
Gil Scott-Heron – Whitey On The Moon (1974)

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Coming home

January 19th, 2010 15 comments

And so I’m saying goodbye to lodging on the sofas of WordPress and Blogger, and move into my own home, with my own domain and my own armchair.  Please bookmark it and, if you are a fellow blogger, amend the link: www.halfhearteddude.com

The presentation here is a work in progress. Some of the things WordPress used to do for me automatically, I now must do myself. It’s a bit like leaving the caring landlord who painted your walls (but evicted you for putting a nail into the wall for a framed picture) and having to paint my own walls.

So, to get the housewarming going, a batch of songs on the theme of home, quickly collated by executing a couple of searches on my drives. There was enough for a hundred songs, it seems. Not of all of them are lyrically appropriate; Porter Wagoner’s song about an execution, for example. I’m pleased to have opportunity to highlight the great soul crooner Grady Tate. And the Terry Smith song…well, if anybody wants to know the sound of Cape Town, this is it, authentically.

Gil Scott-Heron – Back Home (1974).mp3
Grady Tate – After The Long Drive Home (1974).mp3
Porter Wagoner – Sing Me Back Home (1969).mp3
Sammy Davis Jr – Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home (live, 1967).mp3
Charlie Sexton – Bring It Home Again (2005).mp3
Bo Diddley – Down Home Special (1956).mp3
Terry Smith – Take Me Home (The Cape Town Song).mp3

Great covers: Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson – Winter In America (1974)

May 19th, 2009 2 comments

How many albums are there which bear the name of one of the artist’s most epic song which does not appear on it? Winter In America, the song, made its appearance a year later, on 1975’s The First Minute Of A New Day album, written at the decree of one Peggy Harris who created the artwork on the inner sleeve, and who believed there just should be a song called Winter In America. Read more…

Music for Bloggers Vol. 6

June 27th, 2008 3 comments

I last bigged up some fellow bloggers two months ago. So I thought I’d showcase a few more today. I made a shortlist, which soon turned into a very long list. I managed to whittle the lot down to 11. But that is too much to handle in the little free time I have right now. So, five now, and the rest within the next couple of weeks. As always, just because your blog has not featured does not mean I don’t love you (and two of those I’m holding over have a long-standing friendship with this blog).

my hmphs
Most bloggers who write about music tend to illustrate their posts with MP3 files. I like those blogs a lot, and the attentive reader of my little effort here might have spotted that I do exactly that myself (I do realise that everybody comes here to read every word I write, hanging on each with rapt attention…). my hmphs is one blog that offers nothing by way of music, other than the occasional embedded YouTube video (which my browser seems to hate). The blog started as a reaction to possibly the most objectionable pop hit in all of history: Black Eyed Peas’ My Humps. If people embrace that sort of crap, the idea went, then it is necessary that people with an appreciation of music contribute to the counterrevolution by discussing alternatives. The owner of my hmphs does so engagingly, almost invariably finding subject matter I can relate to. And I really like the clean layout. To celebrate the purpose of my hmphs, here’s a credible artist doing a (admittedly very good) song by a pop starlet who has little credibility. Check the Death Cab For Cutie singer telling the sniggering crowd that he isn’t taking the piss but “fucking love(s) this song”.
Ben Gibbard – Complicated.mp3

Visions Of Wrong Terrence
Disclaimer: I “know” Wrong Terrence from the Interweb; he posts on a message board I occasionally lurk on. So I am very familiar with his random musings on all manner of things, and the quality of his spontaneously cobbled together stories. I am a great fan, as I intend to demonstrate. He has just relaunched his blog (which for months lay dormant with four forlorn posts), and at the moment there is only one post. But what a fine post it is: it’s funny, self-deprecating and tells a good story. This is Wrong Terrence’s strength: he can tell a good story even when the subject matter is mundane. That is the mark of a really good writer. Alas, he does not write professionally. Lack of desire or talent are not the problem here. Forests the size of Belgium are denuded every day to provide the paper on which dull, dull, dull hacks spout forth their half-baked thoughts in poor prose. It is a scandal that the public is presented with so much rubbish when genuinely original, talented and hugely entertaining writers such as Wrong Terrence is roaming free. Most editors are obviously idiots. If I edited a newspaper in the right environment, I’d immediately appoint Wring Terrence to write a regular column. And I’m not saying so because I “know” the guy, or like to engage in self-righteous hyperbole. Judge for yourself. Wrong Terrence’s name isn’t actually Terrence (if you are an editor and want to give him a job, e-mail me and I’ll give you his name). Real Ter(r)ences in the world of entertainment have included Spike Milligan, Matt Monro, Mark Wynter, Terry Kath and Snowy White, the guitar-wielding ex-Thin Lizzy man who scored a hit in 1984 with this:
Snowy White – Bird Of Paradise.mp3

Don’t Burn The Day Away
Stephen of Don’t Burn The Day Away shares two passions with me: he likes early Billy Joel (we are amassing an army to defeat the Taste Police) and he has an affinity for songs that feature flutes. He even agrees with me that Josh Rouse’s James possibly has the best flute in pop history. I had long planned to do a post on flutes in pop; Stephen beat me to it with a promise of a follow up. So I’ll defer the flute beat to him. The man is talking sense: “You may think of the flute as similar to the Cowbell, but we all know we need more cowbell, so why not the flute?” And to celebrate the flute in pop, here’s another kick-ass example of the excellent use of the instrument — and a song everybody should own — from 1975′ Midnight Band: The First Minute Of A New Day (and, oddly, not on the masterful album with the same songtitle).
Gil Scott-Heron – Winter In America.mp3

Mine For Life
Blogger Fiftypercent decribes himself as “just a guy who likes music”. He can write about it as well, and has introduced a few brilliant ideas on his blog — and posts some difficult to find material. In my favourite feature on the blog, Fiftypercent presents the singles reviews from Britain’s Number 1 teen-pop magazine in the mid-80s, posting as many of the tracks featured as he can find. The vacuousness of the reviews makes for fantastic entertainment; especially when these half-brained critics dismiss songs that would become hits, or big-up songs which flopped horribly (of course, a great many fine singles have flopped despite their excellence). Much of the stuff here is ’80s oriented, which is heaven for the nostalgist who remembers that the decade was not just about Culture Club, Madonna and Come On Eileen… Fiftypercent’s latest post is about Alphaville’s Forever Young and the quite acceptable cover of the song by Australia’s Youth Group. He posts the Youth Group version; here’s the original:
Alphaville – Forever Young.mp3

3 Minutes 49 Seconds
On Current Rotation post). Like my hmphs, 3:49 offers no MP3s; but the reading material more than compensates for that. Like a couple of blogs previously featured in this series, Paul writes from Minnesota. There must be something in the cold air over there. Guess how long this song is:
Boomtown Rats – Diamond Smiles.mp3

Previously featured:
Music For Bloggers Vol. 1: Totally Fuzzy, Not Rock On, Serenity Now (RIP), Stay At Home Indie Pop, The Late Greats, Tsururadio, 200percent, Jefitoblog (RIP), Television Without Pity, Michael’s World
Music For Bloggers Vol. 2: Fullundie, Mr Agreeable, Greatest Films, Peanut’s Playground, Just Good Tunes, Csíkszereda Musings, Mulberry Panda, The Black Hole, Secret Love, Hot Chicks With Douchebags
Music For Bloggers Vol. 3: Girl On A Train, Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore, Earbleedingcountry, Spangly Princess, Ill Folks, Deacon Blues, One-Man Publisher, CD Rated
Music For Bloggers Vol. 4: Pop Dose, Todger Talk, Holy Goof (RIP), Echoes In The Wind, Sunset Over Slawit, The Hits Just Keep Coming, The Ghost of Electricity, Guitariotabs
Music For Bloggers Vol. 5: The Quietus, Barely Awake In Frog Pyamas, The Great Vinyl Meltdown, Fusion 45, Inveresk Street Ingrate, The Songs That People Sing

Lame hip hop for lame whiteys

October 14th, 2007 2 comments

Take a look at ‘The Top 10 Rap Songs White People Love’. Not because it hits the nail on the head (it doesn’t), not because it’s amusing (it mostly isn’t), not because we can learn anything from it (we can’t). I’m flagging it because the idea is at once interesting and ridiculous. Is the dude saying that white people are lame for supposedly liking these tracks, or is he saying that the tracks are lame for white people supposedly liking these songs? Either way, is he advocating some kind of a Taste Apartheid?

Of course, it seems evident that cap-in-yo-ass-bustin’ charlies such as 50 Cent, The Game or Fabolous, and even Snoop Dogg, are now marketed primarily at an audience in the ‘burbs, not that in the ‘hood. It would be fair to say that “Whitey” digs Fiddy probably more than Whitey’s African-American counterparts do. But by establishing a racial link between music and perceived audience, one risks engaging in the same silly stereotype which assumes that black people cannot possibly like rock or pop music due to some cultural or genetic proscription. Which, of course, is not true (and here is a blog about non-hip hop music black people like ).

Some rap acts will lack credibility, for a variety of reasons. Some had cred, and lost it when they sold their image to be used in kids’ cartoons (MC Hammer); some entered with no credibility in first place (any number of cash-in copycat herberts); and some are accused of not having any credibility when that is just uninformed nonsense, sometimes based on race (Beastie Boys, by people who know nothing; I’ve heard that even Vanilla Ice had credibility on the rap circuit before he sold out to MTV). Surely credibility cannot be based on whether a melanin-disadvantaged character dances poorly to Eazy E. Because — ha ha ha — Whitey ain’t got no rhythm. Flip that stereotype for a laugh.

A poster on my favourite message board suggested the following juxtaposition: “Transpose the post as ‘Top 10 country songs that black people love’ written by some redneck and see what responses it would garner.” Nail. MC Hammer. Bang.

Incidentally, the latest poll suggests that most readers here don’t give much of a damn about hip hop. I asked: What is the state of hip hop today?

Better than ever…………………..1%
Doing OK………………………………4%
Dying on its arse…………………26%
Who gives a 50 Cent…………..67% (that would be the Sir Mix-A-Lot fanbase, presumably)

Count me in the ‘dying on its arse’ constituency. But, frankly, hip hop has become so corporate that I’ve stopped giving much of a 50 Cent. Can rap be saved? We’ll have our old CDs and the memories should all these gimps invariably featuring Akon on their albums succeed in killing rap.

In the spirit of rap songs being liked by white people, a few random tracks which this (non-nasal) “whitey” likes:
Scarface – On My Block.mp3
Common – Real People.mp3
Jay-Z – Izzo (H.O.V.A.).mp3 (live unplugged)
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message.mp3
De La Soul – Me, Myself And I.mp3
Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.mp3 (proto rap track)

And for the fun of it:
Chris Rock – Rap Standup.mp3 (“love rap, tired of defending it”)
Chris Rock – Real People Of Ignorance.mp3 (a few laugh-out-loud moments!)
Ben Folds – Bitches Ain’t Shit.mp3 (live on 3FM)
Richard Cheese – Hey Ya.mp3

(Image borrowed from gregslab.com)