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In Memoriam – November 2011

December 5th, 2011 4 comments

Everybody knows that Ringo Starr left Rory Storm and The Hurricanes to replace Pete Best in The Beatles. This month, Ringo’s replacement in the Hurricanes passed on at the age of 67. As a bandleader, Keef Hartley later played at Woodstock. He died on November 27.

It is not very well known that boxing legend Joe Frazier, my favourite fighter of all time, was also a bit of a soul singer. Some of his stuff cashed in on his boxing background; the song featured here is a straight soul number, and it’s pretty good.

In July we lost song-writer Jerry Ragovoy; this month his sometime writing partner Jimmy Norman died. They wrote Time Is On My Side together.

A bit of spookiness happened on Wednesday: On my way to work, The Soul Children’s All Day Preaching (featured HERE ) came on the iPod, and later at work I played the quite amazing  I’ll Be The Other Woman (feature HERE). A couple of days later I learned that the leader of The Soul Children, J Blackfoot had died on the same day.

It is a pity that most readers of this blog won’t understand the lyrics of Franz-Josef Degenhardt‘s Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern, an indictment of what Germans call the Spiessergesellschaft – the squares. As a child, the protagonist from a “better home” likes to play with the working class children (the “Schmuddelkinder” of the title), but is then forced to abandon them. The kids tease him for that, and “for revenge he got rich”, and disciplines his own son for playing with the lower classes. But I’m doing the song injustice: in one passage Degenhardt uses words that actually sound as harsh and bitter as the protagonist feels. The leftist singer, incidentally, was a cousin of a conservative cardinal in the Catholic Church.

Finally, Andrea True‘s fascinating journey from porn-star to disco queen came to an end.


Reese Palmer, 73, member of doo wop group The Marquees (with Marvin Gaye), backing singer for Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Billy Stewart, on October 27
The Marquees – Wyatt Earp (1957)
Chuck Berry – Back In The USA (1959, as backing singer)

Beryl Davis, 87, British big band singer and actress, on October 28
Arthur Young And Hatchett’s Swingtette – How Am I To Know (1940, as vocalist)
Jane Russell, Connie Haines, Beryl Davis, and Della Russell – Do Lord (1954)

Liz Anderson, 81, country singer-songwriter and mother of Lynn Anderson, on October 31
Merle Haggard – (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers (1964, as songwriter)

Christiane Legrand, 81, French jazz singer, on November 1
Les Double Six – Ruby (1964)
Christiane Legrand – Maldonne (1968)

Cory Smoot, 34, guitarist of heavy metal  group Gwar, on November 3
Gordon Beck, 75, British jazz pianist and composer, on November 6
The Gordon Beck Quartet – Monday, Monday (1968)

Joe Frazier, 67, World Heavyweight Champion and part-time soul singer, on November 7
Joe Frazier – If You Go, Stay Gone (1971)

Andrea True, 68, porn actress-cum-disco star, on November 7
Andrea True Connection – More More More (1976)

Heavy D (Dwight Arrington Myers), 44, Jamaican-born American rapper and actor, on November 8
Heavy D – Is It Good To You (1991)

Jimmy Norman, 74, soul and jazz musician and songwriter, on November 8
Irma Thomas – Time Is On My Side (1964, as lyricist)
Bill Wells, 84, bluegrass musician, on November 8

Andy Tielman, 75, Dutch Indo-rock pioneer, on November 10
Andy Tielman – If I Only Had Time (2006)

Doyle Bramhall, 62, blues drummer and singer-songwriter, on November 12
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Dirty Pool (1983, as drummer)

Dixie Fasnacht, 101, New Orleans jazz singer, clarinetist and Bourbon Stret club owner, on September 13
Lee Pockriss, 87, songwriter (Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini, Tracy), on September 14
Perry Como – Catch A Falling Star (1957)

Jackie Leven, 61, Scottish folk singer-songwriter, on November 14
Jackie Leven – Hotel Mini Bar (2010)

Franz-Josef Degenhardt, 79, German protest singer-songwriter, satirist and writer, on November 14
Franz-Josef Degenhardt – Spiel nicht mit den Schmuddelkindern (1965)

Laura Kennedy, bassist of punk-funk band Bush Tetras, on November 14
Bush Tetras – Too Many Creeps (1980)
Moogy Klingman, 61, keyboardist with prog-rock band Utopia, on November 15
Utopia – Set Me Free (1980, live)

Gary Garcia, 63, member of novelty duo Buckner & Garcia, on November 17
Buckner & Garcia – Pac-Man Fever (1982)

Paul Yandell, 76, country guitarist, on November 21

Paul Motian, 80, influential jazz drummer, on November 22
Bill Evans Trio – Autumn Leaves (1959)
Barry Llewellyn, 63, founding member of Jamaican ska/reggae group The Heptones, on November 23
The Heptones – Fattie Fattie (1966)

Ludwig Hirsch, 65, Austrian singer-songwriter, of suicide on November 24

Coco Robicheaux, 64, New Orleans blues musician, on November 25
Coco Robicheaux – Shake Down Here

Ross MacManus, 84, English musician and father of Elvis Costello, on November 25

Don DeVito, 72, producer of Bob Dylan in the mid- and late 1970s and record company exec, on November 25
Bob Dylan – Sara (1976, as producer)

Keef Hartley, 67, English blues drummer (with Toots Mayall a.o.) and bandleader, on November 27
Keef Hartley Band – Too Much Thinking (1969)

Thomas Roady, 62, drummer for Ricky Scaggs, James Brown, Art Garfunkel, Dixie Chicks, Lynyrd Synyrd a.o., on November 28
Vince Gill – What The Cowgirls Do (1994, as drummer)

Nelly Byl, 92, prolific Belgian songwriter, on November 30
The Gibson Brothers – Que Sera Mi Vida (1980, as songwriter)

J. Blackfoot, 65, soul singer, on November 30
The Soul Children –  I Want To Be Loved (1972)
J. Blackfoot – Taxi (1983)

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In Memoriam – April 2011

May 2nd, 2011 4 comments

For a blog going by this name, the death of multiple Grammy award-winning producer and pioneering sound engineer Roger Nichols is particularly noteworthy. The school mate of Frank Zappa was crucial in the development of Steely Dan’s sound, from the West Coast rock of Can’t Buy A Thrill to the jazz-tinged material on Aja and the comeback album Two Against Nature.It’s his hand on the back-cover of Countdown To Ecstasy.

Actor Tim Robbins’ parents were folk singers. Gil Robbins was a member of the pioneering folk group The Highwaymen; he died on 5 April; his wife Mary passed away 12 days later. It’s romantic in a way, but poor Tim.

The oldest death this month was that of bandlerader Orrin Tucker at the age of 100. His recording career went back to the late 1930s. And I was most saddened by the death at 60 of Phoebe Snow, a wonderful singer who cut down her music career to care for her disabled daughter for more than 30 years.

Richard Patterson, 66, drummer of Canadian group The Esquires, on April 2

Calvin Russell, 62, singer-songwriter, on April 3

Scott Columbus, 54, drummer of heavy metal band Manowar, on April 4
Manowar – Manowar (1982)

Gil Robbins, 80, singer with folk group The Highwaymen and father of actor Tim Robbins, on April 5
The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar (1962)

John Bottomley, 50, Canadian singer-songwriter, of suicide on April 6
Bill Pitcock, 59, guitarist of power pop group Dwight Twilley Band, on April 8
Dwight Twilley Band – I’m On Fire (1975)

Orrin Tucker, 100, orchestra leader, on April 9
Orrin Tucker and his Orchestra – You’d Be Surprised (1939)

Roger Nichols, 66, sound engineer and producer for Steely Dan, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Diana Ross a.o., on April 9
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (1974)

Lacy Gibson, 74, blues guitarist and singer, on April 11
Kent Morrill, 70, singer and keyboardist for garage rock pioneers The Fabulous Wailers, on April 15
The Fabulous Wailers – Out Of Our Tree (1965)

Mary Robbins, 78, American musician, mother of Tim Robbins, on April 17

Roy Burris, 79, songwriter and drummer for Merle Haggard & the Strangers, on April 19
Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee (as drummer and co-writer, 1969)

Gerard Smith, 36, bassist of TV on the Radio, On April 20
TV On The Radio – Staring At The Sun (2003)
Joe Pennell, 66, member of surf rock band The Rivieras, on April 21
The Rivieras – California Sun (1964)

Hazel Dickens, 75, bluegrass singer, on April 22
Hazel Dickens – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (1983)

Tom King, 68, founder and singer of ’60s pop band The Outsiders, on April 23
The Outsiders – Time Won’t Let Me (1967)

Dutch Tilders, 69, Australian blues musician, on April 23

Poly Styrene, 53, singer of punk band X-Ray Spex, on April 25
X-Ray Spex – I Am A Cliché (1977)

Phoebe Snow, 60, singer-songwriter, on April 26
Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man (1974)

Dag Stokke, 44, keyboardist of Norwegian glam metal group TNT, on April 27

Neusinha Brizola, 56, Brazilian pop singer, on April 27
Neusinha Brizola – Mintchura (1983)

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Unrequited love again

November 6th, 2009 7 comments

The theme of unrequited love continues to provide a goldmine, and we’re not even close to even scratching the surface! It’s a universal thing, of course; most people have had a bout of unrequited love. If it was infatuation, they got over it fairly soon. If it really was love, they bear the scars forever. Or at least until they find another true love. Surveying the search engine terms that bring visitors here, there are many people looking for music to soundtrack their lovelorn existence (there are also lots of hits for the songs about impossible love, which tells you all you need to know about just how fucked up a thing romance is). Anyway, if he or she doesn’t love you back, remember to love yourself.

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Cat Stevens – Here Comes My Baby (1967).mp3
cat_stevensWell, it does sound like everything is well with the still beardless Cat. He’s taking a walk at midnight, which is nice. But soon we are alerted that all is, in fact, not well, for the mile he walks is not only long (as miles go), but also lonely. And he keeps “seeing this picture of you”. Which is were the songtitle comes in. But, oh no, she’s not alone: “It comes as no surprise to me, [she’s] with another guy”. And things don’t look like she’ll dump the chump any time soon: “Walking with a love, with a love that’s all so fine. Never could be mine, no matter how I try.” So is Cat entirely discouraged and looking to move on? Is he fuck! Like anybody in unrequited love, he hangs on to that thread of hope woven from the strands of a particularly thin cobweb: “I’m still waiting for your heart, because I’m sure that some day it’s gonna start.” Let’s make a bet it won’t, Cat. The loser turns Muslim.

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Warren Zevon – A Certain Girl (1980).mp3
zevonZevon is having a conversation about his unrequited love — and not just unrequited love, but the dreaded frienditis —coyly refusing to reveal the name (aaah!) of the “certain chick I’ve been sweet on since I met her”, which is “a long, long time” ago. He resolves that “someday I’m going to wake up and say: ‘I’ll do anything just to be your slave’”. In the interim he’ll do what most guys in unrequited love do: procrastinate, hoping that the girl will suddenly realise that actually she is in love with him. Which she won’t, not because Warren refers to her as a “chick”, but because, as she will point out, it’ll destroy the fucking friendship.

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Earth, Wind & Fire – Wait (1979).mp3
Frienditis is indeed a bastard. Here, our singer is suffering his frienditis with a heroic and surprisingly jaunty optimism, as though he is inebriated with the godfather of self-help books, The Power Of Positve Thinking. “To wait, it takes love that’s for real”, and if his love is authentic, he reasons, reciprocity is inevitable. The certainty — not just mere hope — that she will eventually fall for him sustains him. All he needs is patience, that great source of succor for the poor devils suffering from frienditis: “It’s crazy if you think we’re just friends. Loving when infatuation ends. The wait for you, baby it now begins.” He seems to pick up mixed signals — “You sigh, when I come close to your heart” — which persuade him that she shall come around (“someday you’ll grow”). Of course, these sighs might be prompted by her discomfort at his clumsy moves, perhaps because she knows how he feels, and how she feels, and that there will be one broken heart and the end of a friendship.

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Sam Cooke – Cupid (live, 1963).mp3
sam_cookeAh, a Cupid who unquestioningly follows orders would be a fine thing. Alas, the best alternative, if one wishes to invoke imaginary entities, is to outline your predicament with a plea for intercession. Sam, heard here in his live performance at the Harlem Square Club, states his case to Cupid with humility and urgency: “Now, I don’t mean to bother you, but I’m in distress. There’s danger of me losin’ all of my happiness, for I love a girl who doesn’t know I exist. And this you can fix.” He knows Cupid’s methods — “draw back your bow and let your arrow go straight to my lover’s heart for me” — and makes a pretty big pledge should Cupid choose to make “a love storm” for him: “I promise I will love her until eternity”. Ah, go on then Cupid, let’s test the dude’s ambitious promise.

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Pete Yorn – A Girl Like You (2001).mp3
yornIf you can’t get the one you want, aspire for a clone. That’s what Pete Yorn is doing on this rather good bonus track from his musicforthemorningafter album: “Some day I’ll look into her green eyes and know that she’ll come with me – a girl like you. Tomorrow I think I’ll tell you something, the thing that I haven’t said – to a girl like you.” The poor girl-like-her will, of course, be just a proxy, forever liable to be compared to Unrequited-love Girl, and possibly hear Pete moaning Unrequited-love Girl’s name in the throes of passion. And, unless Pete isn’t just throwing a strop here, he might pass on some perfectly great girls who don’t have green eyes…

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Liz Phair – Extraordinary (2003).mp3
phairAn anthem for the outsider girl in love with a guy who she thinks has too high expectations. He might see her as average, but she thinks of herself as extraordinary. And not just ordinarily extraordinary; she’s “your ordinary, average, every day sane psycho supergoddess”. And she’ll go to extraordinary measures to get him (or at least his attention); “I drive naked through the park, and run the stop sign in the dark; stand in the street, yell out my heart…To make you love me.” I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there probably is a good reason why the guy isn’t falling for Liz.

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Mama Cass Elliott – I Can Dream, Can’t I? (1969).mp3
cassThe story of Cass’ life in the ’60s was defined by her unrequited love for Papa Denny Doherty, with whom she started on the road to stardom in the Mugwumps. So when she sang about unrequited love (as she did with Denny on Glad To Be Unhappy) in this beautiful version of the old standard, she did so from her broken heart, the pain of which is palliated by daydreaming. She doesn’t go into the specifics of her reverie, other than “that I’m locked in the bend of your embrace”. She takes a frequent reality check as she justifies why she won’t give up on her dream: “I can see no matter how near you’ll be, you’ll never belong to me. But I can dream, can’t I?”

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Wilco – I’m The Man Who Loves You (2002).mp3
Tweedy goes all poetic on us, blathering on about unsent love letters and dropping metaphors about him apparently being like the sea. Basically your average victim of unrequited love who can’t find the right words to say. And then he nails it when he makes the most basic observation: “But if I could, you know, I would just hold your hand and you’d understand: I’m the man who loves you.” Sometimes that works better than complex literal devices.

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Indigo Girls – Ghost (1992).mp3
The spectre of a person the singer was in love with (unrequited, death; though a line in the first verse suggests that it might have been a failed adolescent relationship) lingers still, and does terrible injury. “And time passed makes it plain, of all my demon spirits I need you the most. I’m in love with your ghost.” She has sexual dreams about the person which just add to the pain: “When I wake, the things I dreamt about you last night make me blush. And you kiss me like a lover, then you sting me like a viper.” The protagonist is trapped by a love that will never find expression: “Unknowing captor, you never know how much you pierce my spirit. But I can’t touch you. Can you hear it? A cry to be free. Oh, I’m forever under lock and key as you pass through me.”

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Merle Haggard – Always Wanting You (1975).mp3
merleApparently a song about Dolly Parton. As country singers do, Merle is telling Dolly, and us, exactly how he feels: “Always wanting you but never having you makes it hard to face tomorrow, ’cause I know I’ll be wanting you again. Always loving you but never touching you sometimes hurts me almost more than I can stand.” And there he had thought that he had it all together. The song could go into the post on love that can’t be, and maybe that’s where it belongs, since there seemed to have been “a yearning and a feeling across the room that you felt for me”, suggesting that Merle’s feelings were reciprocated, if not actually acted on. Of course, when a relationship isn’t possible, love remains unrequited even when the sentiments are reciprocal. Either way, Merle regrets knowing her: “I’d been better off if I’d turned away and never looked at you the second time.”

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