Songwriters were essential to the rise of rock and roll. This category highlights those composers and lyricists that never or hardly ever made it to the stage, but nevertheless wrote the tunes that sold the music.
December 30, 2017 – Lord Luther McDaniels, lead singer of vocal group the 4 Deuces, was born in Panola County, Texas in 1938. He never knew his father, who was killed in an accident soon after Luther was born. Mostly raised by his grandmother, he joined the Mitchell Brothers gospel group when he was about 11 or 12. While Luther had no musical training, he still traveled with the group all over East Texas, appearing in many gospel group “battles.” Around the end of World War 2, his mother remarried and moved to Salinas, California, about a hundred miles south of San Francisco (his new stepfather was stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey, only a few miles away). Luther went to California, decided he didn’t like it, went back to Texas, decided California wasn’t that bad, and returned to California to stay, settling in the fertile Salinas Valley south of the Bay Area, a region often referred to as America’s Salad Bowl. Continue reading Lord Luther McDaniels 12/2017
December 12, 2017 – Pat DiNizio (The Smithereens) was born October 12, 1955 in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, where he actually lived his entire life. As a youngster, he was inspired by the pop music emanating from his transistor radio in the ‘60s and the hit tunes being written by his musical idols Buddy Holly, The Beatles, and The Beau Brummels among others.
He began playing music with several local bands in the early 1970s, but got serious around 1975 when he joined three classmates from nearby Cateret High School – guitarist Jim Babjak, bassist Mike Mesaros and drummer Dennis Diken and formed the Smithereens. That lineup would remain in place for nearly 25 years. Continue reading Pat DiNizio 12/2017
November 24, 2017 – Mitch Margo (The Tokens) was born on May 25, 1947 in New York City. He began singing a cappella at age 9 alongside his brother Phil.
Young Margo learned to play piano in those early days, but over the years established himself as a multi-instrumentalist, also playing guitar, bass, drums and percussion.
Margo was a student at Abraham Lincoln High School in Brooklyn when he and his brother joined the Linc-Tones, also featuring Neal Sedaka, Hank Mendress and original member Tokens founder Jay Siegel, who soon renamed themselves the Tokens and recorded “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” while Mitch was just 14 years old. Continue reading Mitch Margo 11/2017
November 19, 2017 – Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles) was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. A childhood friend of Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, the two met at a musical event given by the Detroit Public School system, where Moore spotted Robinson singing as part of the show. The two became friends and formed a singing group, which eventually became the Miracles. Besides his work in the Miracles, Moore helped Miracles member Smokey Robinson write several hit songs, including The Temptations’ “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and two of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, the Top 10 million sellers, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone”. Continue reading Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017
November 18, 2017 – Malcolm Young (AC/DC) was born on January 6, 1953 in Glasgow, Scotland, into a rater large musical family. When he was 10 years old, the family decided to move to Australia, after surviving the worst winter on record in Scotland and TV spot that offered assisted travel for families for a different life in Australia. In late June of 1963, 15 members of the family flew to a new life in “Down Under”, including his older brother George and younger brother Angus.
November 12, 2017 – Chad Hanks (American Head Charge) was born in 1971 in Los Angeles, California.
With vocalist friend Cameron Heacock he formed American Head Charge in 1997 after they met in 1995 in rehab in Minneapolis and emerged as major players from the late ’90s nu-metal boom. The success of their 1999 indie debut, Trepanation, caught the ear of mega-producer Rick Rubin (Metallica, Beastie Boys, Chili Peppers), who signed the band to his American Recordings label and got the group out to his allegedly haunted Los Angeles mansion to record 2001’s “The War of Art.” Metal magazines Kerang and Rough Edge each gave the album four-star reviews (out of five), and VH1 picked it as one of the “12 Most Underrated Albums of Nü Metal.” Continue reading Chad Hanks 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Fred Cole was born August 28, 1948 in Tacoma, Washington and he moved with his mother to Las Vegas where he attended high school. Here he began his recording career in 1964, with his band, the Lords, at the Teenbeat Club, releasing a single titled “Ain’t Got No Self-Respect. “His next single, from 1965, was a promo-only called “Poverty Shack” b/w “Rover,” with a band named Deep Soul Cole.
In 1966 Cole’s band The Weeds gained notice in garage rock circles, and their only single, a 60s punk track called It’s Your Time (b/w Little Girl, Teenbeat Club Records), has become a collectors’ favorite. The A-side appeared on one of the Nuggets anthologies. The band was promised an opening slot on a Yardbirds bill at the Fillmore in San Francisco, but on their arrival found that the venue hadn’t heard of them. Continue reading Fred Cole 11/2017
November 9, 2017 – Hans Vermeulen (Sandy Coast) was born on September 18, 1947 in Voorburg, the Hague in the Netherlands. He grew up in what was to become the birthplace of Nederpop, which produced bands like Golden earring (Radar Love) and Shocking Blue (Venus), Q 65, Rob Hoeke and many others.
He scored hits like I See Your Face Again , Capital Punishment and my favorite True Love That’s a Wonder with his first group Sandy Coast which he had formed in 1961.
When the first run of late sixties rock and roll ran dry, Sandy Coast disbanded in the early seventies, and did not reform until 1981, with a big comeback hit. In 1975 Vermeulen founded Rainbow Train, a open door clearing house formation for musicians, in which he sang with his then-wife Dianne Marchal . In those years he made impact as a much in demand EMI producer for popular Dutch singers like Margriet Eshuijs (Lucifer) and Anita Meyer. For Meyer he wrote in 1976 the number 1 hit The Alternative Way, on which he also sang and for Eshuijs he produced the still today hugely popular “House for Sale” hit.Continue reading Hans Vermeulen – 11/2017
October 23, 2017 – George Young (with his bandmate and songwriting partner Harry Vanda-right in the picture) – Easybeats was born on November 6, 1946 in Glasgow Schotland. The lower middle class Young family were all musicians, but when the worst winter on record in Schotland arrived in post Christmas into January 1963, the family split as a result of 15 family members taking the opportunity to emigrate to Australia, including almost 16 year old George. Continue reading George Young 10/2017
October 2, 2017 – Tom Petty was born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville Florida. Growing up in the town that houses the University of Florida, music became the young Petty’s refuge from a domineering, abusive father who despised Tom’s sensitivity and creative tendencies—but would later glom on to his son’s rock-star fame for status. Continue reading Tom Petty 10/2017
September 23, 2017 – Charles Bradley was born on November 5, 1948 in Gainesville, Florida Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.
In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown’s style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Continue reading Charles Bradley 9/2017
September 18, 2017 – Mark Selby was born in September 2, 1961. Born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma, Selby spent his youth harvesting wheat and playing in bands throughout the Midwest before moving to Hays, Kansas to attend Fort Hays University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in music.
He was musically gifted in three ways: as a songwriter, a singer with a soulful voice and a guitarist with some impressive chops. His future as a blues rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist and producer started in Germany, where he signed as a solo artist to ZYX Records. Continue reading Mark Selby 9/2017
September 13, 2017 – GrantHart (Hüsker Dü) was born in St. Paul, MN on March 18, 1961 and at the age of 10, he inherited his older brother’s drum set and records, after he was killed by a drunk driver. Hart described his family as a “typical American dysfunctional family. Not very abusive, though. Nothing really to complain about.” He soon began playing in a number of makeshift bands throughout high school. Continue reading Grant Hart 9/2017
September 3, 2017 – Dave Hlubek was born on August 28, 1951 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the age of 5 or 6, Hlubek and his family moved to the naval base in Oahu, Hawaii, where he attended Waikiki Elementary School. From there, Hlubek’s father was transferred and the family moved to Sunnyvale, California, then to Mountain View, and finally settling in San Jose. It was the South Bay that Dave called home during the next few years, before moving back to Jacksonville, Florida, around 1965. There he attended and graduated from Forrest High School.
Hlubek, founded the band Molly Hatchet in 1971. Vocalist Danny Joe Brown joined in 1974, along with Steve Holland, guitarist in 1974. Duane Roland, Banner Thomas and Bruce Crump completed the line up in 1976. Continue reading Dave Hlubek 9/2017
September 3, 2017 – Walter Becker (Steely Dan) was born February 20, 1950 in Queens, New York. Becker was raised by his father and grandmother, after his parents separated when he was a young boy and his mother, who was British, moved back to England. They lived in Queens and as of the age of five in Scarsdale, New York. Becker’s father sold paper-cutting machinery for a company which had offices in Manhattan. Continue reading Walter Becker 9/2017
September 1, 2017 – Mick Softley was born in 1939 in the countryside of Essex, near Epping Forest.
His mother was of Irish origin (from County Cork) and his father had East Anglian tinker roots, going back to a few generations. Softley first took up trombone in school and became interested in traditional jazz. He was later persuaded to become a singer by one of his school teachers, and this led to him listening to Big Bill Broonzy and promptly changed his attitude to music, to the extent of him buying a mail-order guitar and some tutorial books and teaching himself to play.
By 1959, Mick Softley had left his job and home and spent time traveling around Europe on his motorbike, with a friend, Mick Rippingale. He ended up in Paris, where he came into the company of musicians such as Clive Palmer, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and Wizz Jones. Here he improved his guitar skills and spent time busking with friends until his return to England in the early 1960s. Continue reading Mick Softley 9/2017
August 8, 2017 – Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936 in Billstown, a tiny community near Delight in Pike County, Arkansas. He was the seventh son of 12 children. His father was a sharecropper of Scottish ancestry. He received his first guitar when he was four years old. Learning the instrument from various relatives, especially Uncle Boo, he played consistently throughout his childhood, eventually gravitating toward jazz players like Barney Kessel and Django Reinhardt. While he was learning guitar, he also sang in a local church, where he developed his vocal skills. By the time he was 14, he had begun performing with a number of country bands in the Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico area, including his uncle’s group, the Dick Bills Band. When he was 18, he formed his own country band, the Western Wranglers, and began touring the South with the group. Four years later in 1960, Campbell moved to Los Angeles, California, where he became a session musician.Continue reading Glen Campbell 8/2017
July 20, 2017 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) was born on 20 March 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona. The son of a police detective who worked with child sex abuse cases, Bennington had a troubled youth. “Growing up, for me, was very scary and very lonely,” he told Metal Hammer magazine in 2014. “I started getting molested when I was about seven or eight,” he said, describing the abuser as an older friend. “I was getting beaten up and being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. It destroyed my self-confidence. Like most people, I was too afraid to say anything. I didn’t want people to think I was gay or that I was lying. It was a horrible experience,” he told the magazine.
His parents divorced when he was 11 years old, and he went to live with his father, whom he described as “not emotionally very stable then”, adding that “there was no-one I could turn to”. Soon after his parents divorced he began abusing marijuana, alcohol, opium, cocaine, methamphetamine and LSD. The abuse and situation at home affected him so much that he felt the urge to kill people and run away. To comfort himself, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs. He later revealed the abuser’s identity to his father, but chose not to continue the case after he realized the abuser was a victim himself.
After years of intense drug use as a teenager, he got sober and moved to Los Angeles, where he successfully auditioned to join Linkin Park.
An early line-up of Linkin Park was formed in 1996 and the band’s 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, surfed the popular wave of nu-metal, Rolling Stone magazine writes. The album’s canny mix of pop, hip-hop, and melodic alt-rock drove it to sales of more than 11 million copies early on, making it the top-selling rock record of the ’00s. Given the rapid changes to the music industry in the immediate aftermath of Hybrid Theory, it’s plausible to suggest that no rock record will ever come close to achieving those sorts of sales figures ever again. The album single-handedly initiated Bennington into a small (now rapidly shrinking) fraternity of arena-rock vocalists — Bennington was one of the few guys on the planet with the qualifications to front a big-time rock band.
Hybrid Theory eventually sold more than 30 million albums and became one of the top-selling albums since the start of this millennium.
The angst-ridden vocals of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington helped lead the group to global critical acclaim.
The frontman’s brooding charisma – added to the group’s blend of rap, metal and electronic music – spawned a string of chart-topping hits.
Later in the 2000s, as the band’s success took off, he again began using drugs before returning to sobriety, telling Spin Magazine in 2009: “It’s not cool to be an alcoholic.
“It’s not cool to go drink and be a dumbass.
“It’s cool to be a part of recovery.
“Most of my work has been a reflection of what I’ve been going through in one way or another,” he added.
The band has sold 70 million albums worldwide and won two Grammy Awards.
Linkin Park had a string of hits including Faint, Numb, What I’ve done, In The End and Crawling, and collaborated with rapper Jay-Z.
Their latest music video for the song ‘Talking to Myself’ was released on the same day this father of six took his life. Another coincidence of his day of departure: Sound Garden’s Chris Cornell, who took his own life in May, would have turned 53. Bennington and Cornell were close for many years. The two had toured together and joined each other onstage, and Bennington even performed Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” at Cornell’s private Los Angeles funeral at Hollywood Forever Cemetery on May 26. He was also the Godfather to Cornell’s son Christopher.
Upon hearing the horrible news of Cornell’s death, the night before Linkin Park’s Kimmel tribute, Bennington posted a heart-wrenching open letter to Cornell, writing:
“I dreamt about the Beatles last night. I woke up with their song ‘Rocky Raccoon’ playing in my head and a concerned look on my wife’s face. She told me my friend has just passed away. Thoughts of you flooded my mind and I wept.
“I’m still weeping, with sadness, as well as gratitude for having shared some very special moments with you and your beautiful family. You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known. Your talent was pure and unrivaled. Your voice was joy and pain, anger and forgiveness, love and heartache all wrapped into one. I suppose that’s what we all are. You helped me understand that.
“I just watched a video of you singing ‘A Day In The Life’ by the Beatles and thought of my dream. I’d like to think you were saying goodbye in your own way. I can’t imagine a world without you in it. I pray you find peace in the next life. Send me love to your wife and children, friends, and family. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life.”
With All My Love
In addition to working with Linkin Park, he also sang for the Stone Temple Pilots from 2013-2015 replacing Scott Weiland, for his side project Dead by Sunrise, and Kings of Chaos.
Bennington leaves six children from two marriages and an early relationship as he moves on to another life at 41.
For millennials, who were in their teens when Linkin Park’s blockbuster debut Hybrid Theory was released in 2000, Bennington looms as a defining rock star of the era. A singer capable of both piercing bombast and pained sensitivity, Bennington’s nimble tenor initially played off the rapping of Mike Shinoda, but over time his versatility and soulfulness made him the band’s primary frontman. For kids who found solace in Linkin Park’s music, Bennington was the band member they were most likely to connect with.
May 21, 2017 – Jimmy LaFave was born July 12, 1955 in Willis Point, Texas where he was also raised. Music was his destiny from very early on, but he started his journey on drums.
Some years later he moved to Stillwater, Oklahoma and played in the school band but at age 15 LaFave switched to guitar and began writing and singing his own songs in a band called The Night Tribe.
After graduating from high school LaFave played music at night while working during the day. He had a job as the manager of a music club called Up Your Alley and during this period recorded the albums Down Under in 1979 and Broken Line in 1981. Continue reading Jimmy LaFave 5/2017
May 17, 2017 – Chris Cornell (Soundgarden) was born Christopher John Boyle on July 20, 1964 in Seattle, Washington, where he was also raised. He was the fourth of six children. His father, Ed, was a pharmacist; his mother, Karen, was an accountant. Cornell was a loner; he tried to deal with his anxiety around other people through rock music but during his early teenage years, he spiraled into severe depression and almost never left the house. His first favorite band were the Beatles. A noteworthy rumor later was that Cornell spent a two-year period between the ages of nine and eleven solidly listening to the Beatles after finding a large collection of Beatles records abandoned in the basement of a neighbor’s house. Continue reading Chris Cornell 5/2017
9 May 2017 – Robert Miles was born Roberto Concina on 3 November 1969 in Fleurier Switzerland to an Italian military family stationed there. He did not return to Italian soil until the age of ten, settling in the town of Fagagna. Raised primarily on the classic American soul sound of the 1970s, Miles began studying piano as a teen, and at 13 began DJ’ing local house parties. By the late ’80s he was regularly spinning hardcore trance sets at Venice area clubs under the name Robert Milani, eventually adopting the name Miles as symbolic of the musical journey awaiting him. In time, he assembled a basic studio system comprising a sampler, mixer, keyboard, and 32-track digital board, accepting production work with the Italian label Metromaxx. In 1990, he used his savings to establish his own recording studio and a pirate radio station. Continue reading Robert Miles 5/2017
April 14, 2017 – Bruce Langhorne was born on May 14, 1938 in Tallahassee, Florida.
At age 4 he moved with his mother to Spanish Harlem, New York. When he was a 12-year old violin prodigy living in Harlem in the fifties, he accidentally blew several of his finger tips off with a cherry bomb that he held onto for too long. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, Bruce looked up at his distraught mom and said, “At least I don’t have to play violin anymore.” In a gang fight, he got involved in a stabbing and left the country for Mexico for 2 years. By age 17 he started to pick the guitar. Continue reading Bruce Langhorne 4/2017
April 11, 2017 – Toby Smith (Jamiroquai) was born Toby Grafftey-Smith on October 29, 1970.
Growing up he received classical training on piano and early on developed a keen interest in the “nerdy” side of music. At age 14 he started recording his own tunes on a Tascam and produced his first record at 17, then signed his track “Kleptomaniacs” to London Records. At about the same time his sister took him clubbing in London and he developed an interest in house (dance) music. Continue reading Toby Smith 4/2017
April 5, 2017 – Paul O’Neill (Trans Siberian Orchestra) was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City on February 23, 1956.
The second born child in a household with ten children he was raised in a home filled with art and literature. “Back then, in the 60s, it was OK to be smart and artistic,” he said. “I loved books. I loved music. I loved Broadway — and I had it right down the street, y’know? It really was a special, magical time.” He learned to play guitar and became a rock fan and began playing guitar with a number of rock bands in high school and quickly graduated to folk guitar gigs at downtown clubs. Continue reading Paul O’Neill 4/2017
April 3, 2017 – Brenda Jones was born on December 7, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Frazier Jones, she was raised in a gospel singing family. The Jones Girls Valorie, Brenda and Shirley spent the better part of the 60s and 70s as sought-after backing vocalists, first regionally and then on a national basis, between Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.
The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the ’60s with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the latter part of the decade, but sales of those records weren’t much more encouraging.
It was during this period that session work came to dominate their activities — the Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists’ singles. Aretha Frankling, Lou Rawls, Betty Everett, Peabo Bryson and dozens of other charting soul acts. In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson’s activities as a producer and arranger. Continue reading Brenda Jones 4/2017
April 1, 2017 – Lonnie Brooks, Chicago bluesman who achieved fame in the late 70s, was born Lee Baker Jr. on December 18, 1933 in Dubuisson, St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. He learned to play blues from his banjo-picking grandfather but did not think about a career in music until after he moved to Port Arthur, Texas, in the early 1950s. There he heard live performances by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Long John Hunter, Johnny Copeland and others and began to think about making money from music.
He focused on the guitar comparatively late in life, when he was already in his 20s. But he learned fast and a little while later, Award winning Zydeco king Clifton Chenier heard Brooks strumming his guitar on his front porch in Port Arthur and offered him a job in his touring band. Continue reading Lonnie Brooks 4/2017
March 4, 2017 – Valerie Carter was born on February 5, 1953 in Winterhaven, near Orlando, Florida.
Being an “army brat” she moved between many cities in her young years. Her first break in music came while living with her family in Tucson, where she joined a band fronted by Gretchen Ronstadt, sister of Linda Ronstadt.
Next she was off to New York City where she formed the folk band Howdy Moon. They headed to California, released a self-titled album in 1974 and regularly played at the West Hollywood rock club, the Troubadour.
In the early 1970s in Los Angeles, she became known as a songwriter, penning tunes such as Cook With Honey for Judy Collins and Love Needs a Heart for Jackson Browne, who was introduced to her by Lowell George of Little Feat fame.
March 4, 2017 – Tommy Page was born on May 24, 1970 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. He began playing the piano at age eight and learned keyboards at age 12, joining his brother in a band. Obviously gifted, he graduated from Highschool at age 15 and found himself in New York attending the Stern School of business at age 16.
To help support himself during his freshman year at Stern (then 16), Page worked as a cloakroom attendant in a popular New York nightclub called Nell’s. The job gave Page a chance to play his demo tape to the house DJ, who then used the demos as part of his club mixes. The unknown sounds were so impressive that soon Page was introduced to Sire Records founder Seymour Stein. Continue reading Tommy Page 3/2017
February 17, 2017 – Peter Skellern was born in Bury, Lancashire on March 14, 1947.
He played trombone in a school band and served as organist and choirmaster in a local church before attending the Guildhall School of Music, from which he graduated with honors in 1968. Because “I didn’t want to spend the next 50 years playing Chopin,” he joined the vocal harmony band March Hare which, after changing their name to Harlan County, recorded a country-pop album before disbanding in 1971.
Married with two children, Skellern worked as a hotel porter in Shaftesbury, Dorset, before music struck lucky at the end of 1972 with a self-composed U.K. number three hit, “You’re a Lady.” The record featured the Congregation, who had previously recorded the top ten hit “Softly Whispering I Love You”.
“You’re a Lady” reached number three on the UK Singles Chart and number 50 in the United States Billboard Hot 100 and sold several million copies world wide. Continue reading Peter Skellern 2/2017
February 5, 2017 – David Axelrod was born on April 17, 1931 in Los Angeles, California. His father was active in radical labour union politics who died when he was 13 and he was raised in tumultuous LA’s South Central Crenshaw neighborhood, where Axelrod’s future musical direction was influenced by the multicultural environment of the mostly black neighborhood.
At the time Axelrod’s parents moved into the area, it was changing from a working-class white district south of downtown Los Angeles into an area of predominantly African American stores, businesses, and homes. Even today, Crenshaw remains one of the most notable African-American communities in Los Angeles, with a cultural scene that includes museums devoted to black history and an active political life strengthened by some of the city’s most ardent black activists. During Axelrod’s youth, the Crenshaw district included the main thoroughfare of African-American cultural life in Los Angeles: Central Avenue–a street filled with music clubs, barber shops, beauty parlors, and other institutions of the African-American community. The fact that Axelrod was white did not prevent him from absorbing many of these influences.
January 31, 2017 – Deke Leonard (Man) was born Roger Leonard on 18 December 1944 in Llanelli, South Wales in the UK, the son of Winston, a dog breeder, and his wife, Ella. He attended Llanelli boys’ grammar school, where he formed his first band, Lucifer and the Corncrackers, with his cousin Meic Rees (vocals), Geoff Griffiths (drums) and Clive “Wes” Reynolds (bass), in 1962, taking his stage name from “Deke” Rivers, the character played by Elvis Presley in his 1957 movie Loving You. Leonard left school to work as a management trainee for a building contractor, where he quickly left to avoid getting fired. He decided to become a full-time musician or as he later confessed: “”serving a life sentence in the music business”.
The Corncrackers ran their own club, the “L” Club, featuring themselves and booking other Welsh musicians such as such as Tommy Scott (Tom Jones) and the Senators. He went on to play with other Welsh bands, the Jets, Smokeless Zone and the Dream., whilst also playing support to acts such as Johnny Kidd & The Pirates and The Hollies at a rival venue. When Rees left they continued as a trio; Keith Hodge then replaced Griffiths, but when Reynolds left to join the South Wales band The Jets, The Corncrackers broke up. Continue reading Deke Leonard 1/2017
January 31, 2017 – John Wetton (ASIA) was born on June 12, 1949 in Willington, Derbyshire, and grew up in the coastal city of Bournemouth, Dorset, England.
He first cut his musical teeth on church music at his family’s piano where he often played the bass parts to help his brother rehearse tunes for services….an experience that led to John’s love of the relationship between top line and bass melodies. It stayed a major feature of his music throughout his career. In his teens, John focused those melodies on the bass guitar and honed his skills by playing and singing with local bands. He also discovered a knack for songwriting with an early bandmate, Richard Palmer-James; a relationship that would continue to flourish through five decades.
John’s early work with a variety of bands (Splinter, Mogul Trash and Family) allowed him to show off his impressive bass talents, but did little to showcase his equally impressive singing and songwriting skills. Frustrated, John began to listen a bit closer to the sales pitch of an old friend, Robert Fripp, who set about to reform King Crimson in 1972. Wetton first came to rock fans’ attention when he joined a revamped King Crimson lineup, sticking with the group over a two-year span that included the records Larks’ Tongues in Aspic, Starless and Bible Black and Red. This Crimson core of Wetton, Fripp, and Bill Bruford is often considered the “classic” line-up, releasing three studio albums, that truly stretched the band to its imaginative limits. But after a blistering show in New York’s Central Park in 1974, the band took what was supposed to be a hiatus, but sadly became permanent.
He then served stints with Roxy Music and Uriah Heep before co-founding U.K. with his engine room buddy Bill Bruford, as comments from fans and even the media proved to John that there could still be some life in the Wetton/Bruford rhythm section of King Crimson. A series of phone calls and meetings proved to be all the momentum needed in getting U.K. off the ground.
The line-up of Wetton, Bruford, Eddie Jobson, and guitar phenomenon Allan Holdsworth delivered a potent mix of jazzy fusion and progressive pop that brought great success, but also division in the band. After one album, Bruford and Holdsworth were out, and drummer Terry Bozzio in. This trio delivered one studio album and one live album before a demise similar to King Crimson….a hiatus that turned permanent.
At this point, John decided to turn his attentions to a solo career and entered the studio to record “Caught in the Crossfire,” an album that, in hindsight, shows a logical bridge from the music of U.K. to the eventual music of Asia. While most Wetton fans are now familiar with “Caught in the Crossfire,” not many people heard it in 1980. E.G. Records failed to give it the necessary promotion; a move EG blamed on John’s advancing age. He was 31 at the time…
Feeling it was time to clean house, John parted ways with his old management, publisher, and record company, and joined forces with Brian Lane, who had just ended a successful run with Yes. John had already started working with Atlantic Records’ A&R man John Kalodner, Kalodner was moving to the newly-formed Geffen Records, and wanted to assemble a group that would unleash a new sound across the musical landscape while preserving the finest elements of progressive rock. He found his dream line-up with Wetton, Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer drummer, Carl Palmer. Together they formed Asia — a so-called progressive rock supergroup, whose self-titled debut album topped the charts in the U.S. on its way to more than eight million in worldwide copy sales and the title of Billboard magazine’s No. 1 album of 1982.
This “fab four” of progressive pop would rule radio and record sales for a scant year and a half before losing Wetton in an unceremonious shake-up just weeks before MTV’s heavily-promoted Asia in Asia concert broadcast. (Wetton was fired from Asia at the insistence of Geffen Records, ostensibly because of less-than-expected sales of the Alpha (1983) album). Wetton was brought back to Asia in 1985, with Mandy Meyer replacing Steve Howe on lead guitar, to complete Astra (1985). The album showcased a few Wetton/Downes classics such as “Rock and Roll Dream” and “Go,” but the die had been cast, and the record company’s confidence translated into lack of promotion; loss of momentum equalled lost sales and a waning interest and Asia ultimately disbanded following 1985’s little-heard Astra LP.
By the end of the ‘80s however, interest in Asia reignited in Europe. John, who had been collaborating with ex-Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, rejoined Carl Palmer, and eventually Geoff Downes, for a series of ASIA concerts that proved successful, but left John empty. To him, Asia was sounding tired and he was ready for a break. Further enticing him was a solo deal with Virgin Records. So, after wrapping up a South American tour in 1991, John temporarily bid adieu to Asia…at least that’s what he thought. (The word Hiatus was not used this time).
With renewed energy, John moved to California to focus on his solo career and began work on his “Voice Mail” album, the first album to really show off his talents for emotional, autobiographical material. Two songs from the album, “Hold Me Now” and “Battle Lines,” have become classics among Wetton fans. In fact, “Battle Lines” eventually replaced “Voice Mail” as the album’s title when British producer Bob Carruthers selected it as the theme for his film “Chasing the Deer.” To promote the album, John embarked on his first solo tour and later released a live CD called “Akustika.”
Returning to the studio in the mid 90s, John contributed tracks to tribute albums featuring the works of Jethro Tull, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Genesis. He furthered the link to Genesis by signing on with Steve Hackett for his “Genesis Revisited” project, which culminated in several highly successful live performances in Japan.
Continued autobiographical songwriting led to 1997’s “Arkangel” album, an emotionally gritty album that would add more staples (“Arkangel,” “Emma”) to John’s live solo performances. 2000’s “Sinister” album, also entitled “Welcome to Heaven,” finished the trilogy of solo offerings. He further promoted these albums with extensive tours of Europe, Japan, and South America.
Despite being left off the tour schedule, American fans had plenty to celebrate in 2002 with the first-ever John Wetton Fan Convention in suburban Allentown, PA. Hundreds filled a local venue to spend a weekend with John, his band, and Geoff Downes, who joined John for a gala Saturday night concert which marked the first time the two had shared a stage in more than ten years.
Fans delighted in a resurgence of the Wetton/Downes team when John returned to the studio to begin work on 2003’s “Rock of Faith.” Two new songs written by John and Geoff (“I’ve Come to Take You Home” and “I Lay Down”) created a buzz among fans hoping for an eventual reunion of the original Asia line-up. That buzz roared in 2005 with the release of “iCon,” an album of original music by Wetton and Downes that the duo followed with a number of live shows. Fans cheered the fact that Wetton sounded as good in person, if not better, than he did during the heyday of Asia.
With Wetton at the top of his game once again, imagine what it would sound like if Downes, Howe, and Palmer all joined in! It indeed happened in early 2006, as the four musicians responsible for Billboard’s Number One Album of 1982 sat down in a London hotel and began the groundwork for a worldwide reunion tour. After a media blitz across the US, the tour kicked off in Rochester, NY in August of 2006. Fans quickly snapped up tickets as more and more dates were added.
Several months into the reunion tour, Asia and its fans were stunned to learn that John Wetton needed emergency heart surgery. During his hospital stay in London, worried fans flooded the switchboard with calls about his progress. Thankfully, John made a remarkably quick recovery and, after a few short weeks of resting at home, Asia returned to the road.
“I accept the fact that I might not be here tomorrow, but having said that, having come through it you feel great,” Wetton said after his heart surgery. “It gave me a completely new outlook on life, that it could all end tonight while I’m asleep, so let’s make the most of today. Let’s make the most of now.”
During this same time, John and Geoff released the second of their iCon albums, “Rubicon.” The historical meaning of the title was not lost on the musicians or their fans, as the songs reflected John and Geoff’s personal and professional decisions to sever restrictive ties of the past and forge a positive new outlook. As Asia set out on a much-anticipated second year of touring, fans demanded more. They wanted to hear what would happen if Wetton, Downes, Howe and Palmer sat down in a studio and created a new album. Fans got their wish as the band retreated to the studios at Liscombe Park and got to work on “Phoenix.” The appropriately titled project was an incredibly balanced one, fully showcasing the writing and playing of each band member. John’s thoughtful reflections on his health crisis and his healthy resurgence colored many of the lyrics on the album.
Asia wrapped up months of touring in the spring of 2008 with a series of shows in Eastern Europe, leaving John and Geoff with time to craft their third iCon album. The Phoenix tour resulted in the Live CD/DVD “Spirit of the Night”. A track from that album, An Extraordinary Life, was also selected as the theme to America’s Got Talent.
The band’s success continued with the recording of the second album of their reunion, Omega. The subsequent World Tour resulted in the release of “Resonance” which captured a live performance in Switzerland.
Wetton returned to his solo career in 2011 to record Raised in Captivity, an album of new compositions with Billy Sherwood. A band was formed to tour the UK and Japan, playing music from the new album and a career spanning back catalogue. Wetton’s other ventures during this period included the reunion of UK with Eddie Jobson and guest appearances for Cleopatra Records.
In 2012, ASIA returned to the studio to record XXX, proving that a reunion can last longer than first time around. The album cover shows the ASIA dragon 30 years later and was supported by another World Tour, taking in America, Europe and Japan.
In 2013, Steve Howe announced he was leaving ASIA and Wetton was instrumental in selecting new guitarist, Sam Coulson, to join the band. The band planned to record a new studio album, Valkyrie, which was released as Gravitas in 2014.
In 2016 Wetton went public with his colon cancer diagnosis, which forced him to pull out of Asia’s scheduled tour dates with Journey so he could undergo chemotherapy, which sadly did not turn out to heal him.
John Wetton, the bassist and singer for Asia, as well as a former member of King Crimson and U.K., died on January 31, 2017 at the age of 67, after a battle with colon cancer.
“With the passing of my good friend and musical collaborator, John Wetton, the world loses yet another musical giant,” wrote Asia drummer Carl Palmer in a statement. “John was a gentle person who created some of the most lasting melodies and lyrics in modern popular music. As a musician, he was both brave and innovative, with a voice that took the music of Asia to the top of the charts around the world. His ability to triumph over alcohol abuse made him an inspiration to many who have also fought that battle. For those of us who knew him and worked with him, his valiant struggle against cancer was a further inspiration. I will miss his talent, his sense of humor and his infectious smile.
May you ride easy, my old friend.”
“He will be remembered as one of the world’s finest musical talents, and I for one of many was wholly blessed by his influence,” added Downes in a lengthy post. “It was a massive privilege for me to have worked with this genius so closely on our numerous projects together over the years. His bass playing was revolutionary. His voice was from the gods. His compositions — out of this world. His sense of melody and harmony — unreal. He was literally a ‘special one.'”
In the short term, Wetton is scheduled to be replaced for the Journey tour by Yes veteran Billy Sherwood; over the long term, Downes has signaled a determination to continue Asia in honor of his longtime partner. “It is the end of an era for all of us,” he wrote. “But we will soldier on — the music of John Wetton needs to be heard loud and clear from the rooftops.”
AN EXTRAORDINARY LIFE AN INTERACTIVE CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE & MUSIC OF JOHN WETTON JUNE 17, 2017 AT THE BERGEN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
ASIA and their fans will pay tribute in a special concert to the late singer / songwriter, John Wetton, who spearheaded the legendary British band. The event is called “An Extraordinary Life” and will be a fully interactive celebration whereby fans can contribute to the remembrances of the acclaimed musician. It will be held on Saturday, June 17th at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, NJ.
John Wetton, who was the lead vocalist, bassist and co-writer with the iconic group, lost his brave fight against cancer on 31st January 2017, just as the band was about to embark on a four month tour as special guests of Journey, recreating the days when both bands were world best sellers.
“An Extraordinary Life”, a reference to one of the band’s most popular songs, will pay tribute to John. Special guest Billy Sherwood of YES is filling in as bassist and vocalist. Also appearing will be current ASIA members Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes, and Sam Coulson. The group will do a full set of ASIA music, as well as some of the best loved songs from the members’ previous super-groups, bands such as King Crimson; YES; The Buggles; and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
In addition to the ASIA performance, the evening will be highlighted with rare video clips of John and the band, historical footage and fan remembrances of John and his music. ASIA fans will be encouraged to send in written or video accounts of their love of the music and the man behind much of it. Still photos of fans with John are also welcomed and will be projected onto the screen. Fans who send media to the band in advance will be balloted to share memories on the evening.
January 23, 2017 – Bobby Freeman was born on June 13, 1940 in Alameda County and raised in San Francisco.
By his early teens Bobby was not only literally singing on street corners in the city’s Fillmore District but also spending every hour not in school dancing at the Booker T Washington community centre. He got his first taste of the record business as a tenor with a local vocal group led by Alvin Thomas; the Romancers, who made two singles for Dootsie Williams’ Dootone label in 1955. The group cut a further single for the local Bay Tone label (on which Freeman does not appear) before splintering, while Bobby formed another team, the Vocaleers. Having learned piano from Thomas, Freeman also began to write his own material in the mould of Little Richard and Fats Domino.
Itinerant deejay Jim “Specs”Hawthorne caught the group at a football rally at Mission High School in early 1958 and called for an audition at Sound Recorders. The rest of the Vocaleers weren’t interested, and so it was just Freeman and a bongo-playing pal who showed up at Sound Recorders in San Francisco. “Hawthorne asked, do you have any original songs, and I said yeah,” Bobby recounted to me in 2000. “He said OK, when I do this [points], start doing the material. There were some other songs, ‘Follow The Rainbow’, ‘Responsible’, and then we got into ‘Do You Wanna Dance’. Where the break is, the song was over. But Hawthorne wanted to get his money’s worth with whatever he was being charged, so he told me, do some more. That’s why the song starts up again – it wasn’t designed that way. But now, they call that a hook.”Continue reading Bobby Freeman 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Walter “Junie” Morrison was born sometime in 1954 in Dayton, Ohio. The exact date has not been found as if intentionally hidden by his later alter ego J.S. Theracon, showing up on an infrequent basis during his life, mostly when contractual obligations got in the way of making music.
Morrison sang and played piano as a child in church, soon learning a range of other instruments such as guitar , bass, drums and brasses, making gospel a foundation for his music. He soon became a student school choir director and orchestra conductor at Roosevelt High School in Dayton. In 1970, in his mid-teens, after graduating from high school, he joined the funk band the Ohio Players.
He became their lead singer, trumpeter and keyboardist, and soon their musical director and producer, involved in some of their major hits and the albums Pain, Pleasure, and Ecstasy. He was largely responsible for writing and arranging the band’s 1973 hit single, “Funky Worm“. The band members nicknamed him Junie, he told the Red Bull Music Academy, because they were older. “It took quite a while before they let me forget my age and lack of experience in the ‘ways of the world,’ ” he said.Continue reading Junie Morrison 1/2017
January 21, 2017 – Maggie Roche was born on October 26, 1951 in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Together with her sister Terre, she dropped out of Park Ridge High School to tour as a duo in the late sixties. Maggie wrote most of the songs, with Terre contributing to a few. The sisters got a big real break when Paul Simon brought them in as backup singers on his 1973 #2 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon. In return they got his support and an appearance by the Oakridge Boys, when they recorded their only album as a duo in 1975 titled Seductive Reasoning.
A year later their youngest sister Suzzy completed the Irish singer/songwriting trio The Roches. Maggie was their main songwriter in the beginning as they became increasingly known for their unusual harmonies, quirky lyrics and comedic stage presence. Continue reading Maggie Roche 1/2017
January 16, 2017 – Steve Wright (Greg Kihn Band) was born in El Cerrito California in 1950.
Wright had played in a band called Traumatic Experience with El Cerrito residents John Cuniberti and Jimmy Thorsen.
After changing their name to Hades Blues Works (later, Hades) they expanded into a quartet with Craig Ferreira in 1970
In 1975 Greg Kihn had already signed to Berserkley Records and had a song included on the album Beserkley Chartbusters before entering the studio to record the debut album with a new band consisting of Wright, Robbie Dunbar and Larry Lynch – the Greg Kihn Band.
January 8, 2017 – Peter Eardley Sarstedt was born on Dec 10, 1941 in Delhi, India where his parents Albert and Coral Sarstedt, worked in the British civil service as India was still a British possession in 1942.
The following year, his parents moved the family to Kurseong near Darjeeling, in the shadow of Mt. Everest, where Albert took over the management of a tea plantation. Peter Sarstedt was one of six children and, like his siblings, was educated at boarding schools favored by the British living in India for much of his childhood. From the time he was five years old, the family relocated to Calcutta, and later — amid the turmoil and uncertainty following independence in 1947 — the family finally moved to England in 1954. Albert Sarstedt had passed away during the extended preparation for the relocation, and it was a truly new existence that they began in South London that year. Continue reading Peter Sarstedt 1/2017
January 6, 2017 – Sylvester Potts (the Contours) was born on January 22, 1938 in Detroit and attended North Eastern High, the same school where Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, and Bobby Rogers were educated at.
His love of music and the excitement he got from performing, made him once say he wanted to die on stage. In the fall of 1960, a Detroit group called The Contours (consisting of Joe Billingslea, Billy Gordon, Billy Hoggs, Leroy Fair and Hubert Johnson) auditioned for Berry Gordy’s Motown Records. Gordy turned the act down, prompting the group to pay a visit to the home of group member Hubert Johnson’s cousin, R&B star and Gordy associate Jackie Wilson. Wilson in turn got The Contours a second audition with Gordy, at which they sang the same songs they had at the first audition, the same way they claim, but this time were signed to a seven-year contract.Continue reading Sylvester Potts 1/2017
December 25, 2016 – George Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou in Finchley, North London, England on June 25, 1963. His father, was a Greek Cypriot restaurateur, who moved to England in the 1950s and his mother, was a dancer. Michael spent the majority of his childhood in Kingsbury, London, in the home his parents bought soon after his birth.
While he was in his early teens, the family moved to Radlett, Hertfordshire where he attended Bushey Meads School in the neighbouring town of Bushey, and where he also befriended his future Wham! partner Andrew Ridgeley. Continue reading George Michael 12/2016
December 24, 2016 – Rick Richard John Parfitt (Status Quo) was born in Woking, Surrey on 12 October 1948. His father was an insurance salesman “who was a drinker and a gambler” and his mother worked in cake shops. He described his upbringing as “wonderful”, and has described his childhood self as a “typical naughty boy”.
Parfitt first started to learn to play the guitar at the age of 11. He began playing a guitar when he was 11. In 1963 Parfitt was playing guitar and singing in The Feathers, a pub on Goodge Street in Camden, London, when his father was approached by an agent from Sunshine Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, who gave Parfitt a performing job. At the camp Parfitt joined Jean and Gloria Harrison, performing at the time as the double act The Harrison Twins, to form a cabaret trio called The Highlights.
Following the season, the Harrison Twins’ manager Joe Cohen—who had been one of the Keystone Cops—arranged for The Highlights to perform at Butlins in Minehead. It was at Butlins that Parfitt met future Status Quo partner Francis Rossi, who was playing with Alan Lancaster and John Coghlan in a band called The Spectres (soon to be renamed Traffic Jam) — a forerunner to Status Quo. After Parfitt became friends with the band, their manager Pat Barlow invited him to join the group as they needed another singer and, on leaving school at 15, got a job performing at Sunshine Holiday Camp in Hayling Island, Hampshire, earning £5 a week. Much of his new income went to his father however, who was a committed drinker and gambler.
“He was forever getting in trouble and coming to me crying,” Parfitt later recalled. “I probably ended up giving him a couple of thousand quid in total. Back then, that was a lot of money.”
His partnership with Francis Rossi became the core of Status Quo, one of Britain’s most enduring bands.
Their brand of boogie-woogie rock survived changes in musical fashion and made them one of the best-loved live acts of their generation.
In 1967, Traffic Jam changed their name to The Status Quo (they soon dropped the definite article and later still would often be known simply as ‘Quo’), beginning Parfitt’s almost 50-year career in the band. Early successes came with the Rossi-penned hit “Pictures of Matchstick Men“, which embraced the psychedelic movement of the time and went to number seven in the UK charts.
Their follow up, Black Veils of Melancholy, failed to chart but they did get to number eight with Ice in the Sun, written by Marty Wilde. The single became the group’s only Top 40 hit in the United States, peaking at number twelve on the Billboard Hot 100.
But the band became disillusioned with the direction they were taking and abandoned their flowery clothes, embraced denim and T-shirts and settled down to a more traditional style of rock.
Parfitt co-wrote two of the tracks on their breakthrough album, Piledriver, released on the Vertigo label in 1972.
In an interview in 2014, Parfitt said of the record. “You know what? I love every track on that album! I think All The Reasons is just such a beautiful song. I wrote that about my wife at the time.” Piledriver reached number 5 and spent a total of 37 weeks on the UK Albums Chart.
The album became the template for subsequent releases, with Parfitt receiving a number of writing credits.
Whatever You Want, co-written by Parfitt and Andy Bown, became one of the band’s biggest hits and a staple of their increasingly popular live shows.
The band’s more popular songs during the early 70s include “Paper Plane” (1972), “Caroline” (1973), “Down Down” (1975), “Rain” (1976), “Rockin’ All Over the World” (1977) and “Whatever You Want” (1979). “Down Down” topped the UK Singles Chart in January 1975, becoming their only UK number one single. In 1976, they signed a pioneering sponsorship deal with Levi’s.
The 1976 hit “Mystery Song“, co-written with Bob Young, was composed after Rossi had laced Parfitt’s tea with amphetamine sulphate during the sessions for the Blue for You album. Rossi later said: “He was playing the riff when we left the studio, and he was still playing it when we came back the next day!”
By the late seventies the rock musical landscape was changing, from prog to punk, and into the ’80s with the New Romantics. Inside the tent, Status Quo continued to play their 12-bar blues style maintaining an ever loyal fan base.
The band set off on a farewell tour in 1984 but decided to carry on after Bob Geldof persuaded them to open the Live Aid concert the following year. “God, I’m so pleased we did it now. Quo opening Live Aid, it was meant to be.”
Quo continued to be highly successful in Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand throughout the 1980s and 90s, and were the opening act for 1985’s Live Aid, and they continue to be successful in the present day. By February 2015 they had sold over 118 million records worldwide. With his flowing blonde locks, denim gear and Fender Telecaster, Rick Parfitt was one of rock’s most recognizable guitarists. As well as driving the Quo sound on stage, Parfitt penned and co-wrote many of the band’s biggest hits.
They also embraced the hedonistic rock lifestyle with gusto. Parfitt admitted spending £1,000 a week on cocaine and another £500 on vodka. His addictions, coupled with the tragic drowning of their two-year-old daughter, Heidi, led to the breakdown of his first marriage to Marietta Broker.
“It’s not buying the drugs that is the most expensive thing,” he later said. “It’s the divorce which taking drugs eventually leads to.”
He later married Patty Beedon, who had been his childhood sweetheart. The couple divorced and reunited again, before finally going their separate ways. It was an acrimonious separation, with Patty later describing him as “a selfish child who never grew up”.
Parfitt’s experience of paying millions in divorce settlements made him vow never to marry again, but he tied the knot again in 2006 with Lyndsay Whitburn, a fitness instructor.
Other band members came and went over the years but Parfitt remained, with Rossi, the definitive face of Status Quo. While Rossi officially remained the band’s frontman, the musical partners were hard to separate on stage. In contrast to the rows that are part of many rock bands, the two remained good friends throughout the decades. When Status Quo had embarked on what they hinted would be their final tour, Parfitt offered an explanation for the longevity of veteran rock bands. “Why do you think all these bands like the Stones and Deep Purple stay on the road? We’re having fun and I love being up there on stage. Once the lights go down and the crowds roar, something magical happens. All your aches and pains go.”
He added: “It would be weird to just stop because I would have nothing to do.”
He had a throat cancer scare in December 2005. He suffered a second heart attack in December 2011 and underwent surgery on the following day.
In 2010, Parfitt and Ross were awarded the OBE ( Officers of the Order of the British Empire) for services to music, posing together with their gongs after the investiture ceremony.
By this time Parfitt had suffered a number of health problems including undergoing quadruple heart by-pass surgery in 1997. He made a full recovery and was performing with the band within a matter of months.
Doctors warned the musician that he would have to leave behind his rock lifestyle, although he admitted at the time that he still enjoyed “the odd pint”.
In 2013 and 2014, Parfitt and Rossi reunited temporarily with original Quo bandmates Lancaster and Coghlan for a series of reunion concerts on what would be called the “Frantic Four” tour. On 1 August 2014, while on the European tour leg, Parfitt was hospitalized in Pula, Croatia, forcing the cancellation of six shows on the tour. He had suffered another heart attack while on his tour bus after performing a concert in Austria, and had a stent inserted. He later told the Daily Mail he was pleased to have suffered another heart attack as it had forced him to stop smoking and drinking after 50 years.
By 2014 he was living a relaxed life in Spain. “I haven’t smoked a joint for 27 years and I haven’t done any cocaine for 10 years. I just do normal stuff – the kids keep me busy and I go shopping with the missus.”
In April 2015, along with his wife Lyndsay and Julian Hall, Parfitt set up “Status Homes”, a real estate company based in Marbella, Spain.
On June 14, 2016, however, after playing with the band in Antalya, Turkey, he had another heart attack and was hospitalized. His management described his condition as serious. Parfitt was clinically dead for several minutes, resulting in mild cognitive impairments. The band announced that their ongoing tour would continue with Freddie Edwards, son of bassist John “Rhino” Edwards, as a temporary replacement. On 22 June it was announced that Parfitt had been flown home to the UK and was described as “comfortable” in hospital in London, where he was undergoing more tests. He had a defibrillator fitted into his chest.In September it was announced that he would not be well enough to tour in the autumn and he did not intend to tour with the band in future.
Parfitt died on December 24, 2016 in Marbella, Spain from septicaemia, after being admitted the previous day, following complications to a shoulder injury. He was 64.
In 1973, Parfitt married his first wife, Marietta Boeker, and in 1974 they had their first son, Richard, better known as sports car racer and musician Rick Parfitt Jr. The couple also had a daughter, Heidi, who drowned in the family pool at the age of 2.
This tragedy, combined with Parfitt’s cocaine habit, led to the couple divorcing, and Parfitt going on to marry his second wife and former girlfriend, Patty Beedon, in 1988. They had a son, Harry, in 1989. They divorced when Parfitt had an affair with Boeker, before reuniting in 2000.
Parfitt and Beedon split up again when he secretly became engaged to fitness instructor Lyndsay Whitburn, whom he married in 2006. The couple remained married for the remainder of Parfitt’s life, and had twins Tommy and Lily in 2008, although by the time of Parfitt’s death, the couple were apparently separated.
In July of 2017, Whitburn claimed that Parfitt’s death was mostly the result of medical negligence.
December 7, 2016 – Gregory Stuart “Greg” Lake was born on 10 November 1947 in Poole, Dorset near Bournemouth, England. Lake was given his first guitar at the age of 12 and took lessons from a local tutor called Don Strike.
first learned to play guitar at age 12. After 12 months of guitar lessons, Lake ended his tuition as he wished to learn songs by The Shadows but his instructor “wouldn’t have any of it.” After he left school, Lake worked as a draughtsman for a short period of time before he joined The Shame, where he is featured on their single “Don’t Go Away Little Girl”, written by Janis Ian. Lake then became a member of The Gods, which he described as “a very poor training college”.
In the 1960s, Lake formed a close friendship with guitarist Robert Fripp, who was also from Dorset and had shared the same guitar teacher. When Fripp formed King Crimson in 1969, he chose Lake to be the singer and bassist. Lake had been a regular guitarist for 11 years and this change marked Lake’s first time playing the instrument.
“I am both a bass guitarist and guitarist,” Greg explains. “A lot of the really good bass players also play guitar. McCartney and Sting for example both play guitar and I certainly grew up on it. But, because King Crimson didn’t need two guitarists, I took over playing the bass.”
In taking on the instrument, he also pioneered a new way of playing it. “I derived a great deal of enjoyment playing bass partly – I think – because I played it in a different way from most people at the time. The style I developed was a more percussive and more sustained approach, which almost certainly came from all my years on guitar. I was frustrated by the normal dull sound of bass guitars at the time and was searching for a more expressive sound. I discovered the key was to use the wire wound bass strings, which have far more sustain, rather like the low end of a Steinway Grand Piano. I think I was the first bass player to really use them in this way.” However, it was the acoustic guitar that provided the setting for the ballads ELP and Lake became famous for. Lake wrote and sang: “C’est La Vie,” “From the Beginning,” “Still…You Turn Me On,” “Watching Over You,” and “Lucky Man.” One of the most famous Christmas songs ever was penned by Greg Lake. “I Believe in Father Christmas” has been covered by artists ranging from classical to rock, among them Irish rockers U2, actress and singer Sarah Brightman, and Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess. Greg has performed it with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson frequently as a fundraiser. Greg Lake composed ballads, he says, so he could play the guitar with ELP and still contribute the electric bass that paired so well with Emerson’s fiery keyboards and Palmer’s explosive drums.
Though Peter Sinfield was the band’s lyricist, Lake had some involvement in the lyrics for their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King. After their contracted producer Tony Clarke walked away from the project, Lake produced the album. Released in October 1969, the album an immediate commercial and critical success, as Lake recalled: “There was this huge wave of response. The audiences were really into us because we were an underground thing – the critics loved us because we offered something fresh”. He won worldwide acclaim as lead vocalist, bass guitarist and producer.
The album featured such songs as 21st Century Schizoid Man. The album set a standard for progressive rock and received a glowing, well-publicized testimonial from The Who’s Pete Townshend, who called it “an uncanny masterpiece”.
King Crimson supported In the Court of the Crimson King with a tour of the UK and the US, with some of the shows featuring prog-rock band The Nice as the opening act. During the US leg, Lake struck up a friendship with Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson and the two shared similar musical interests and talked about forming a new group.
When King Crimson returned to the UK in early 1970, Lake agreed to sing on the band’s second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, and appear on the music television show Top of the Pops with them, performing the song “Cat Food”.
After returning from the USA tour, founding member Mike Giles quit, but Lake stuck around long enough to sing on their second album, In the Wake of Poseidon, which was criticized for treading old ground, but refused to work with the band on the promotional tours.
He was approached by Keith Emerson to be the bass player and singer for his new band. Introduced to Atomic Rooster and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer Carl Palmer, by Robert Stigwood, very soon thereafter they formed Emerson Lake and Palmer and made their live debut at the Guildhall in Plymouth in 1970 before giving a career-making performance at the Isle of Wight Festival. That special concert propelled them on their path to become one of the world’s first “super groups.”
The 1971 debut album, Emerson Lake and Palmer went platinum and underscored their Super Group status. It was produced by Lake and featured a song Greg had written while still in school: “Lucky Man.” “Lucky Man,” performed on acoustic guitar, would become an iconic song for the band and a popular classic on radio. The song has become synonymous with Greg Lake and the title was chosen as the title for Greg Lake’s 2012 autobiography.
Unusually, the band combined heavy rock riffs with a classical influence and created a unique live theatrical performance which stretched the imagination and enthralled audiences. In the next several years they scored hit albums with Pictures at an Exhibition (a full rock-ified version of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky’s famous 1874 piano suite), Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery – many of them produced by Lake himself. They were commercially successful in the UK with five albums charting in the Top 10, while Lake contributed acoustic and electric guitar work to Emerson Lake & Palmer, and his voice had a wider and more diverse range than anything The Nice had recorded.
Tarkus, released in 1971, featured an opening track inspired by the fictional Tarkus character – a half-tank, half-armadillo creature that would appear on stage at gigs – that lasted more than 20 minutes. Emerson and Lake conflicted between Emerson’s interest in complex, classically-influenced music and Lake’s more straightforward rock tastes. During the making of Tarkus, Lake initially rejected the title track, but was persuaded to record it following a band meeting with management, which ended in the addition of an original Lake tune, “Battlefield”, into the suite.
In 1975, while still a member of ELP, Lake achieved solo chart success when his single, “I Believe in Father Christmas”, reached number two on the UK Singles Chart. It has become a Yuletide perennial.
The band went on to enjoy chart success in 1977 with their version of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.
ELP’s ambitious light shows and on-stage theatrics were the epitome of ’70s rock excess, and several punk acts cited ELP as one of the bands they were reacting against.
But the band sold more than 48 million records, and Lake continued to be an influential and popular touring musician even after the band wound down in the late 1970s and split in 1979, following the unsuccessful album Love Beach. The group reformed for a number of years in the mid-1990s before permanently disbanding, bar a one-off gig in 2010.
Lake briefly joined Asia in 1983, replacing fellow King Crimson alumnus John Wetton, along with Palmer, members of Yes and King Crimson—before joining with Emerson to form the slightly poppier ELP reboot Emerson, Lake and Powell (Cozy Powell on drums) in the late 80s, featuring the Hot 100 hit “Touch and Go.”
He also formed partnerships on stage, and off, in performances, writing, recording, and productions with musicians whose brilliance matches his own. Solo tours and recordings have been extremely successful as he continues to recreate hits, add to his vast repertoire and raise the bar for others in the industry. His collaborations are many and impressive: Sheila E; Ringo Starr (joining Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band to great acclaim and with great enjoyment); Led Zepplin’s Robert Plant; The Who’s Roger Daltrey (which led to a guest recording on a hit Who single); Procol Harum’s Gary Booker, and Gary Moore. Greg has joined his friend Ian Anderson onstage with Jethro Tull and performed with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
Greg also completed a successful and critically acclaimed tour in 2010. That tour was the foundation for the unique and inventive format which relies on audience participation. It preceded the reunion performance of Emerson Lake and Palmer as the headliners of the first and much celebrated and awarded High Voltage Festival.
2012 sees a reimagining and expansion of his intimate, interactive musical event format with his autobiographical tour, Songs of a Lifetime, full of drama, pathos, and humor. That show was inspired by the writing of Greg Lake’s greatly anticipated autobiography, Lucky Man. Available in both audio (read by the author) and hard cover formats, the book is not a recording of the show; it is completely different.
Greg Lake was a formidable producer in his own right. He was one of the driving forces behind the now legendary Manticore Records, which he says, was built “with the noble ideal of helping other progressive artists, music we thought worth supporting, that weren’t getting help from the majors.”
Lake’s inventive production shaped the best selling ELP albums and his solo work.
In 2005, Lake toured Germany and the United Kingdom with his “Greg Lake Band” which included David Arch, Florian Opahle, Trevor Barry on bass, and Brett Morgan. Lake performed “Karn Evil 9” with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra at several shows. He was a special guest on the album Night Castle (2009).
In July 2010, Lake joined Emerson and Palmer for what was to be the final live concert by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, at the High Voltage rock festival, in Victoria Park, London. The entire concert was later released as the double-CD live album, High Voltage, and subsequently on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Most recently Greg worked with arranger, composer and keyboard artist David Arch (whose vast credentials include scoring and playing now-classic movies including three Harry Potter films, Star Wars, Bridget Jones’ Diary and Notting Hill).
On 9 January 2016, he was awarded an honorary degree in music and lyrics composition by Conservatorio Nicolini in Piacenza, Italy, the first degree awarded by the conservatory.
Greg Lake passed on after a long and troubled fight with cancer on December 7, 2016. He was 69 years old.
“The greatest music is made for love, not for money,” Lake is quoted as saying on his official website. “The early ELP albums were pioneering because there is no standing still; time is always moving forward.” Greg says “There is a common thread throughout all the music. The forms may be different, but each one to some degree draws upon inspiration from the past. I am as proud to have been as influenced by people like Elvis and Little Richard as I am by composers like Copeland and Prokofiev and I’m honored when other musicians regard me as one of their inspirations.
“I love acoustic guitars. They’re delicate and light and yet at the same time are unbelievably powerful. They are really a strange instrument from that point of view, but there is something very special about them,” he explains. “You just have to look at some of the truly great songs written on acoustic guitar – “Scarborough Fair,” “Forever Young,” “Yesterday” – truly iconic songs that all came from a small piece of wood with thin steel strings tied to each end.” The acoustics worked perfectly with Lake’s “golden” voice, which Record Collector magazine calls “extraordinary, altering comfortably between angelic and magisterial.” Lake’s remarkable voice also powered ELP’s more electric pieces such as Karn Evil #9, one of the world’s most beloved songs. The opening line “Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends…” is an international favourite, globally used as a television theme. To date Emerson Lake and Palmer has sold over 48 million records. Lake produced Tarkus, Pictures at an Exhibition, Trilogy, Brain Salad Surgery, Works Vol. 1 and 2, and two different live albums. All went platinum and featured a series of hit singles , most written and all sung by Greg, who credits their success to his constant search for perfection and his heart.
“The greatest music is made for love, not for money. The early ELP albums were pioneering because there is no standing still; time is always moving forward.” It wasn’t just the albums, it was the performances. The band filled arenas and stadiums in record breaking numbers. They toured the world with an enormous assembly of technicians, musicians and artists to realize their spellbinding shows.
November 12, 2016 – Leon Russell was born Claude Russell Bridges in Lawton, Okla., on April 2, 1941. An injury to his upper vertebrae at birth caused a slight paralysis on his right side that would shape his music, since a delayed reaction time forced him to think ahead about what his right hand would play.
He started classical piano lessons when he was 4 years old, played baritone horn in his high school marching band and also learned trumpet. At 14 he started gigging in Oklahoma; since it was a dry state at the time, he could play clubs without being old enough to drink. Soon after he graduated from high school, Jerry Lee Lewis hired him and his band to back him on tour for two months.
He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and found club work and then studio work; he also learned to play guitar. Calling himself Leon Russell — the name Leon came from a friend who lent him an ID so he could play California club dates while underage — he drew on both his classical training and his Southern roots, playing everything from standards to surf-rock, from million-sellers to pop throwaways. He was glimpsed on television as a member of the house band for the prime-time rock show “Shindig!,” the Shindogs, in the mid-1960s.
In 1967, he built a home studio and began working with the guitarist Marc Benno as the Asylum Choir, which released its debut album in 1968. He also started a record label, Shelter, in 1969 with producer Denny Cordell. Russell drew more recognition as a co-producer, arranger and musician on Joe Cocker’s second album, “Joe Cocker!,” which included Russell’s song “Delta Lady.”
By the time Mr. Russell released his first solo album in 1970, he had already played on hundreds of songs as one of the top studio musicians in Los Angeles. Mr. Russell was in Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound Orchestra, and he played sessions for Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, the Ventures and the Monkees, among many others. He is heard on “Mr. Tambourine Man” by the Byrds, “A Taste of Honey” by Herb Alpert, “Live With Me” by the Rolling Stones and all of the Beach Boys’ early albums, including “Pet Sounds.”
When Joe Cocker’s Grease Band fell apart days before an American tour, Russell assembled the big, boisterous band — including three drummers and a 10-member choir — that was named Mad Dogs & Englishmen. Its 1970 double live album and a tour film became a showcase for Russell as well as Cocker; the album reached No. 2 on the Billboard album chart. Russell also released his first solo album in 1970; it included “A Song for You” and had studio appearances from Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton, two ex-Beatles and three Rolling Stones. But Russell’s second album, “Leon Russell and the Shelter People,” fared better commercially; it reached No. 17 on the Billboard chart.
With a top hat on his head, hair well past his shoulders, a long beard, an Oklahoma drawl in his voice and his fingers splashing two-fisted barrelhouse piano chords, Russell had his widest visibility as the 1970s began. His songs also became hits for others, among them “Superstar” (written with Bonnie Bramlett) for the Carpenters, “Delta Lady” for Joe Cocker and “This Masquerade” for George Benson. More than 100 acts have recorded “A Song for You,” a song Mr. Russell said he wrote in 10 minutes.He played the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden with George Harrison and Bob Dylan; he produced and played on Dylan’s songs “When I Paint My Masterpiece” and “Watching the River Flow.” He toured with the Rolling Stones and with his own band. His third album, “Carney,” went to No. 2 with the hit “Tight Rope.” In 1973 his “Leon Live” album reached the Top 10; he also recorded his first album of country songs under the pseudonym Hank Wilson. The fledgling Gap Band, also from Oklahoma, backed Russell in 1974 on his album “Stop All That Jazz.” His 1975 album “Will O’ the Wisp” included what would be his last Top 20 pop hit, “Lady Blue.”
But he continued to work. He made duet albums with his wife at the time, Mary Russell (formerly Mary McCreary). And he collaborated with Willie Nelson for a double LP in 1979 of pop and country standards, “One for the Road,” which sold half a million copies.
The music Leon Russell made on his own, put a scruffy, casual surface on rich musical hybrids, interweaving soul, country, blues, jazz, gospel, pop and classical music. Like Willie Nelson, who would collaborate with him, and Ray Charles, whose 1993 recording of “A Song for You” won a Grammy Award, Russell made a broad, sophisticated palette of American music sound down-home and natural.
In 1979 Mr. Russell married Janet Lee Constantine, who gave him six children: Blue, Teddy Jack, Tina Rose, Sugaree, Honey and Coco. For the next decades, Mr. Russell delved into various idioms, mostly recording for independent labels. He toured and recorded with the New Grass Revival, adding his piano and voice to their string-band lineup. He made more country albums as Hank Wilson. He recorded blues, Christmas songs, gospel songs and instrumentals. In 1992 songwriter and pianist Bruce Hornsby, who had long cited Russell’s influence, sought to rejuvenate Russell’s rock career by producing the album “Anything Can Happen,” but it drew little notice. Mr. Russell continued to tour for die-hard fans who called themselves Leon Lifers.
A call in 2009 from Elton John, whom Russell had supported in the early 1970s, led to the making of “The Union” — which also had guest appearances by Neil Young and Brian Wilson — and a 10-date tour together in 2010. Russell also sat in on Mr. Costello’s 2010 album, “National Ransom.” Then Russell, who had bought a new bus, returned to the road on his own.
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. At the ceremony, Elton John called him “the master of space and time” and added, “He sang, he wrote and he played just how I wanted to do it.”
His website announced on November 13 in the early morning hours that Leon Russell has passed on in his sleep. Russell had significant health difficulties over the past five years. In 2010, he underwent surgery for a brain fluid leak and was treated for heart failure. In July of this year, he suffered a heart attack and was scheduled for further surgery.
October 23, 2016 – Peter Jozzeppi “Pete” Burns was born on August 5, 1959 in Port Sunlight, Cheshire, England. His mother was the daughter of a German Jew and had escaped Nazi Germany before the war. She met Burns’s father, Francis Burns, then a soldier, in Vienna, from where they returned together to Liverpool.
Burns described his upbringing as unconventional. His mother was an alcoholic, and attempted suicide several times when Burns was growing up.
“As far as parental skills go in the conventional, normal world, she certainly wasn’t a mother, but she’s the best human being that I’ve ever had the privilege of being in the company of, and I know that she had a special plan for me,” he said. “She called me ‘Star Baby’ and she knew that there was something special in me.”
“I lived, I know now, a very solitary childhood. I had nothing to compare it with, so it seemed fine to me. I rarely left the house. I didn’t need to; I had a secret world I shared with my mother. In those early years, I couldn’t possibly have wished for a better friend. She gave me the power to dream, the power to remove myself from where I might not be having any fun, and go inside my head and be somewhere else.”
Burns spoke German until he was five, which resulted in local children spending days outside his door shouting “Heil Hitler”. According to Burns, school was “almost non-existent”, and his mother frequently kept him away so he could spend the day with her. He dropped out of school at the age of 14 after being summoned to the headmaster’s office because he had arrived at school with “no eyebrows, Harmony-red hair, and one gigantic earring”. At around this age he was raped by a man who took him for a drive; Burns later recalled that he wasn’t upset by this, though he knew that people would expect him to be. He stated that he already knew the man, who drove him to Raby Mere and threatened him with an air gun.
While building his career, Burns worked at a Liverpool record shop, Probe Records, which became a meeting place for local musicians. Burns was notorious for his maltreatment of customers, sometimes throwing their purchases at them because he disapproved of their selection. Burns first performed as a member of the short-lived Mystery Girls, who gave one performance only and comprised Burns, Pete Wylie and Julian Cope, who stated that Burns’s performing style drew on that of the transgender punk performer Wayne County. Burns was next in Nightmares in Wax, a proto-Goth group that formed in Liverpool in 1979; they released a 12″ single, “Black Leather”, and a 7″ single, “Birth of a Nation”, each containing the same three songs, but never produced an album. In 1980, after replacing several members, Burns changed their name to Dead or Alive.
Dead Or Alive’s first album, Sophisticated Boom Boom (1984), had paved the way for the group’s success by reaching the UK Top 30 and yielding a Top 40 single with a cover of KC & The Sunshine Band’s That’s the Way (I Like It). The following year they released Youthquake, which was produced by the upcoming hit-makers Stock, Aitken and Waterman and not only contained You Spin Me Round, which became a number one hit in the UK, and a top 20 hit in the US, but also gave them a No 9 album in the UK and reached 31 on the US Billboard chart.
His heyday as a pop star coincided with the rise of the “New Pop” epitomised by Boy George and Culture Club, Wham! and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. With his ambiguous sexuality, androgynous look and spectacular fashion choices, Burns, after several years of trying, found himself in the right place at the right time. “Everything goes round in circles and luckily we’ve got the current sound of the moment,” he commented in 1984, a remark pointing to his inherent scepticism about fame, fashion and pop music.
Despite further hits with Lover Come Back to Me, In Too Deep and Brand New Lover, the huge success of You Spin Me Round was not to be repeated. Dead Or Alive continued through the 80s, but by the end of the decade had been reduced to the core duo of Burns and the drummer Steve Coy. Their album Nude (1989) gave them a belated chart fling by delivering a No 1 hit on the US dance charts with Come Home With Me Baby, while Turn Around & Count 2 Ten reached No 1 in Japan.
During the 90s, Dead Or Alive released several albums in various territories outside the UK, with limited success. In 1994 Burns sang and co-wrote the single Sex Drive for the Italian techno act Glam, and that same year Burns and Coy recorded David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel, calling themselves International Chrysis. Fragile (2000) was Dead Or Alive’s final album of new material, though some tracks were remixes and cover versions. The new century brought the compilations Evolution: The Hits (2003) and That’s The Way I Like It: The Best of Dead Or Alive (2010).
Burns’s decision to embrace reality TV came after he had spent years protesting that he would never do it (“I still have a career, and I don’t really do reality,” he said in 2003), but his outsized personality and caustic manner made him a natural. The sight of him dancing with the politician George Galloway, both of them dressed in lycra leotards, on Celebrity Big Brother was unforgettable for any number of reasons. Burns triggered further controversy on Big Brother when he claimed to be wearing a coat made of illegal gorilla skin, though tests proved it was made from the skin of the colobus monkey, using pelts that pre-dated legislation outlawing their use.
In 2007 Burns appeared on Big Brother’s Big Mouth and Celebrity Wife Swap, where he swapped places with Leah Newman, partner of the footballer Neil “Razor” Ruddock. Also on the show was Burns’s husband, Michael Simpson, whom he married in 2006 after his divorce from the stylist Lynne Corlett whom he had married in 1978. The three remained on good terms. In the series Pete’s PA, on Living TV, contestants competed to become Burns’s assistant.
In 2015, Burns was evicted from his London flat after running up £34,000 in rent arrears. Last month, Burns appeared on Channel 5’s Celebrity Botched Up Bodies and talked frankly about his horrific experiences with cosmetic surgery, which had given him near-fatal blood clots and pulmonary embolisms as he underwent further procedures to try to correct mistakes.
In the end Pete Burns later became a living advertisement for the dangers of plastic surgery. Burns, who died of a heart attack aged 57, on October 23, 2016, claimed to have undergone 300 surgical procedures, many of them in an attempt to repair previous botched efforts.
Pete Burns defied categorization and challenged those who pitied or sneered. The chaos, flamboyance and craven attention-seeking were matched by genuine eccentricity and intelligence. And despite bouts of depression and years of agony and ill health as the result of a botched lip filler operation, he appeared to be entirely lacking in self-pity. As he explained after the publication of his 2006 autobiography, Freak Unique, “I’m not thinking ‘Why me?’ but ‘Why NOT me?’ ”
A statement released by his partner, Michael Simpson, his ex-wife, Lynne Corlett, and his manager and former band member, Steve Coy, read: “All of his family and friends are devastated by the loss of our special star. He was a true visionary, a beautiful talented soul and will be missed by all those who loved and appreciated everything he was and all of the wonderful memories he has left us with.”
A couple of years after divorcing his wife Lynne and marrying his partner Michael Simpson, they separated and Burns remarked: “I view marriage as a sacred institution. I think two men naturally are predators. Gay relationships are a commercial break, not a whole movie. The relationships I’m aware of, apart from one … it’s as though there’s some kind of emotional inadequacy or narcissism, where they feel emotionally inadequate and need more validation, from either a father figure or a mirror image of themselves.I’m not condemning it, I think it needs researching and help.”
March 10, 2016 – Keith Noel Emerson (Emerson,Lake,Palmer ELP) was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire on 2 November 1944. His family had been evacuated there from the south coast of England during the Second World War. He grew up in Goring-by-Sea, in the borough of the seaside resort of Worthing, West Sussex and attended West Tarring School. His parents were musically inclined and arranged for him to take piano lessons starting at the age of 8. His father, Noel, was an amateur pianist, and thought that Emerson would benefit most as a player from being versatile and being able to read music. However, he never received any formal musical training, and described his piano teachers as being “local little old ladies”. He learned western classical music, which largely inspired his own style, combining it with jazz and rock themes. Continue reading Keith Emerson 3/2016
February 4, 2016 – Maurice “Moe” White (Earth, Wind & Fire) was born December 19, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, the eldest of nine siblings. He grew up in South Memphis, where he lived with his grandmother in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones, with whom he formed a “cookin’ little band” while attending Booker T. Washington High School. He made frequent trips to Chicago to visit his mother, Edna, and stepfather, Verdine Adams, who was a doctor and occasional saxophonist. In his teenage years, he moved to Chicago and studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music, and played drums in local nightclubs.
By the mid-1960s he found work as a session drummer for Chess Records. While at Chess, he played on the records of artists such as Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Stitt, Muddy Waters, the Impressions, the Dells, Betty Everett, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Buddy Guy. White also played the drums on Fontella Bass’s “Rescue Me” and Billy Stewart’s “Summertime”. In 1962, along with other studio musicians at Chess, he was a member of the Jazzmen, who later became the Pharaohs. One song on which he played, Rescue Me by Fontella Bass (1965), was a worldwide hit. In 1966 he joined a trio led by the jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis and went on to play on nine of Lewis’s albums: the 1966 song Hold It Right There won a Grammy for best R&B group performance. While in the Trio he was introduced in a Chicago drum store to the African thumb piano or kalimba and on the Trio’s 1969 album Another Voyage’s track “Uhuru” was featured the first recording of White playing the kalimba. White brought the kalimba into mainstream use by incorporating its sound into the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. He was also responsible for expanding the group to include a full horn section – the Earth, Wind & Fire Horns, later known as the Phenix Horns.
In 1969, White left the Trio and joined his two friends, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, to form a songwriting team who wrote songs for commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol Records and called themselves the Salty Peppers. They had a moderate hit in the Midwest area with their single “La La Time”, but their second single, “Uh Huh Yeah”, was not as successful. White then moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, and altered the name of the band to Earth, Wind & Fire, the band’s new name reflecting the elements in his astrological chart and thus he became the founder of Earth, Wind & Fire.
White got the concept of EWF from a drum and bugle corps band from his hometown. He formed the band after having touring stints with Santana, Weather Report, and Uriah Heep. One night after an EWF concert in Denver, Colorado, White briefly met singer Philip Bailey. It was an encounter that was to prove vital to Bailey’s future and to the history of American pop music. Bailey left college a year later and decided to pursue a musical career in Los Angeles. Once he arrived on the West Coast, he hooked up again with Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice White had arrived in L.A. only the year before with visions of creating a truly universal music group, one that was spiritually charged and ambitious in scope, defying boundaries of color, culture, and categorization. Those ideas appealed to Bailey as well and he joined the group in 1972. Bailey’s shimmering falsetto blended perfectly with White’s charismatic tenor. White served as the band’s main songwriter and record producer, and was co-lead singer along with Philip Bailey. EWF combined high-caliber musicianship, a wide-ranging musical genre eclecticism, and ’70s multicultural spiritualism that included Biblical references.
It took until 1973 for Earth, Wind & Fire to find a mass audience: that year, the group’s fourth album, Head to the Sky, with its danceable, groove-heavy songs featuring horns and White’s kalimba, or African thumb piano, was the first of a series of huge-selling records.
Open Our Eyes (1974) and That’s the Way of the World (1975) consolidated this position, embedding the group’s recipe of soul, funk, R&B and disco in the American public’s affections. Boogie Wonderland, on which the band collaborated with the singing sister-act the Emotions, sold more than a million copies and was in the British singles charts for three months. Their 1978 cover of the Beatles’ Got to Get You Into My Life, injected with the band’s distinctive and inventive strident brass and guitar riffs, won a Grammy.
With Maurice as the bandleader and producer of most of the band’s albums, EWF earned legendary status winning seven Grammy Awards out of a staggering 20 nominations, a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame, and four American Music Awards. The group’s albums have sold over 90 million copies worldwide. Other honors bestowed upon Maurice as a member of the band included inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, individually in The Songwriters Hall of Fame and The NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.
Also known by his nickname “Reece”, he worked with several famous recording artists, including Deniece Williams, the Emotions, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond.
In 1976, White, with Charles Stepney co-produced Deniece Williams‘ – a former backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder – debut album, This Is Niecy, which was released on Columbia Records. The album was the first project for the newly formed production company Kalimba Productions which was formed by Maurice White and Charles Stepney in the same year. This Is Niecy rose to number 3 on the R&B charts and contained the single Free which reached number 25 on the pop charts, number 5 on the R&B charts and number 1 on the UK singles charts. This is Niecy has been certified gold in the United States by the RIAA. With the death of Charles Stepney a few months after the release of This Is Niecy White solely produced Williams second album Song Bird, released in 1977. The single “Baby, Baby My Love’s All For You” reached number 13 and number 32 on the black and UK singles chart respectively. Williams later released four more albums on Columbia Records for Kalimba Productions which were 1978’s That’s What Friends Are For, 1979’s When Love Comes Calling, My Melody released in 1981 and 1982’s Niecy respectively. In a 2007 interview Deniece says: “I loved working with Maurice White … he taught me the business of music, and planning and executing a plan and executing a show.”
After Stax Records became embroiled in financial problems, the girl group the Emotions looked for a new contract and found one with Columbia Records which released their album Flowers in 1976. With Charles Stepney co-producing their album with White, Flowers was their first charting album since 1969. It rose to number 5 on the R&B and number 45 on the Pop charts, and has been certified gold in the US. The singles “Flowers” and “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” from this album reached, respectively, number 16 and number 13 on the R&B charts (number 87 and number 51 on the Pop charts). Following Charles Stepney’s death, White took over producing the Emotions as well.
He played the drums on Minnie Riperton’s debut 1970 album, Come to My Garden, and contributed vocals to Weather Report’s 1978 album Mr. Gone. White also produced Ramsey Lewis’ albums: Sun Goddess (1974), Salongo (1976), and Sky Islands (1993), Jennifer Holliday on her 1983 release Feel My Soul, Barbra Streisand on her 1984 platinum album Emotion, Atlantic Starr on their platinum 1986 album All in the Name of Love and Neil Diamond on his 1986 gold album Headed for the Future. He also co-wrote the song “Only In Chicago” with Barry Manilow which was included on his 1980 platinum album Barry, the track “Tip of My Tongue” for the rock band the Tubes which appeared on their album Outside Inside, and contributed vocals to Cher’s 1987 self-titled platinum album.
White wrote songs for the movies Coming to America and Undercover Brother. He composed music for the television series Life Is Wild and worked in 2006 with Gregory Hines’ brother, Maurice, on the Broadway play Hot Feet for which White and Allee Willis wrote several new songs.
White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1987, which led him eventually to stop touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994. He retained executive control of the band, and remained active in the music business, producing and recording with the band and other artists.
Messages of encouragement from celebrities including: Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine were published for White.
From time to time, after his retirement, he appeared on stage with Earth, Wind & Fire at events such as the 2004 Grammy Awards Tribute to Funk, and alongside Alicia Keys at Clive Davis’ 2004 pre-Grammy awards party where they performed the band’s 1978 hit “September”.
White died in his sleep from the effects of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Los Angeles, California, on the morning of February 4, 2016, at the age of 74.
His brother Verdine posted the following on Facebook:
My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep. While the world has lost another great musician and legend, our family asks that our privacy is respected as we start what will be a very difficult and life-changing transition in our lives. Thank you for your prayers and well-wishes. Yours Truly, Verdine White
All in all the Chicago-born, LA based band had 46 charting R&B singles and 33 charting pop singles, including eight gold singles.At their peak, Earth, Wind & Fire bestrode the popular music scene like a troupe of magnificently attired angels of funk, upbeat and apparently perpetually partying. Their slick blend of panache and optimism owed much to the songwriting, producing and vocals of Maurice White.
January 28, 2016 – Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane founding guitarist) was born on March 17, 1941, in San Francisco, California. Kantner had a half-brother and a half-sister by his father’s first marriage, both much older than he. His father was of German descent, and his mother was of French and German ancestry. His mother died when he was eight years old, and Kantner remembered that he was not allowed to attend her funeral. His father sent him to the circus instead. After his mother’s death, his father, who was a traveling salesman, sent young Kantner to Catholic military boarding school. At age eight or nine, in the school’s library, he read his first science fiction book, finding an escape by immersing himself in science fiction and music from then on. As a teenager he went into total revolt against all forms of authority, and he decided to become a protest folk singer in the manner of his musical hero, Pete Seeger. He attended Saint Mary’s College High School, Santa Clara University and San Jose State College, completing a total of three years of college before he dropped out to enter the music scene.
During the summer of 1965, singer Marty Balin saw Kantner perform at the Drinking Gourd, a San Francisco folk club, and invited him to co-found a new band, Jefferson Airplane. When the group needed a lead guitarist, Kantner recommended Jorma Kaukonen, whom he knew from his San Jose days. As rhythm guitarist and one of the band’s singers, Kantner was the only musician to appear on all albums recorded by Jefferson Airplane as well as Jefferson Starship. Kantner’s songwriting often featured whimsical or political lyrics with a science-fiction or fantasy theme, usually set to music that had a hard rock, almost martial sound. Kantner wrote many of the Airplane’s early songs, including the chart hits “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil”, “Watch Her Ride”, “Crown of Creation”, and the controversial “We Can Be Together”; and, with Balin, co-wrote “Today” and “Volunteers”. He also wrote, with David Crosby and Stephen Stills, the song “Wooden Ships”, (one of my absolutely favorite songs ever!) though for contractual reasons he was not credited initially.Continue reading Paul Kantner 1/2016
December 27, 2015 – Stevie Wright (The Easybeats) was born Stephen Carlton Wright on December 20, 1947 in Leeds, England. When he was 9, his family moved to Melbourne, Australia and four years later to Sydney where they lived in Villawood near the Villawood Migrant Hostel. He was lead vocalist for local band, The Outlaws, and by 1964 had formed Chris Langdon & the Langdells, which initially played The Shadows-styled surf music, but converted to beat music under the influence of The Beatles.
After a Langdells performance, Wright met the Dutch-born Johan van den Berg (later Harry Vanda), who was staying at Villawood Migrant Hostel, and his landsman Dingeman van der Sluys (later Dick Diamonde)., this introduction was arranged by their first manager a man named Alan Kissick. The pair convinced Wright to form a band with Vandenberg’s friend and fellow hostel resident Scottish-born George Young. Together with another Englishman, Gordon “Snowy” Fleet, they formed the Easybeats in mid-1964. The initial line-up of the Easybeats was Diamonde on bass guitar, Fleet on drums, Vanda on guitar, Wright on vocals and Young on guitar.
During his time with the Easybeats, Wright was popularly and affectionately known as “Little Stevie”. Early hits for the Easybeats were co-written by Wright with bandmate Young, including, “She’s So Fine” (No. 3, 1965), “Wedding Ring” (No. 7, 1965), “Women (Make You Feel Alright)” (No. 4, 1966), “Come and See Her” (No. 3, 1966), “I’ll Make You Happy” (track on Easyfever EP, No. 1, 1966), and “Sorry” (No. 1, 1966).
He was lead vocalist on their international monster hit “Friday on My Mind”, which peaked at No. 1 in Australia in 1966 and it in to the top Ten in UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy and the US in 1967. In 2001, the song was voted the Best Australian Song of All Time by the Australasian Performing Rights Association. Wright was renowned for his energetic stage performance, which included acrobatic back-flips and mod dance moves.
“Stevie would hurl himself off stage he would catapult, he would somersault, it was an extraordinary thing to witness, he gave everything.”
They recorded several more hits including Sorry, She’s So Fine, Wedding Ring, and Good Times, which was covered in the late 1990s by INXS and Jimmy Barnes.
The Easybeats broke up in 1969 with Vanda & Young becoming freelance musicians, songwriters and producers and Wright became a top solo artist.
He formed the band Rachette and produced Bootleg’s debut single, “Whole World Should Slow Down.” He performed with Rachette at the Odyssey Music Festival in 1971, before briefly joining Likefun in Perth. He returned to Sydney to perform in the Australian production of Jesus Christ Superstar and stayed with the production from 1971-1973. During 1972 he also performed with Black Tank and appeared on the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack, released in 1973.
He then began work on his solo debut album Hard Road with Easybeats’ songwriters Harry Vanda and George Young, who had returned from the UK and were now staff producers and songwriters at Albert Productions. For his Live work he formed Stevie Wright & the Allstars.
In April 1974 his debut solo LP, Hard Road, was released which featured the single “Evie (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” The song was written and produced by Vanda & Young and it became a hit—the only 11-minute song to chart at No. 1 anywhere in the world. and is now regarded as an Australian rock classic. Part 1 is subtitled, “Let Your Hair Hang Down”, and part 3 is “I’m Losing You”. Wright performed three concerts at the Sydney Opera House with backing by Vanda, Young and AC/DC’s Malcolm Young (George Young’s brother).
Long before MEATLOAF sang his Triple-Song Rock Anthem, PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHTS ….. Many years ahead of VANGELIS and his Multi-Themed, Storytelling narrative, FRIENDS OF MR. CAIRO ….. Australian Rocker STEVIE WRIGHT sped through our heads with his 1975 ….. 11 Minute,Triple-Songed, torch, love rock ballad EVIE. With it Stevie Wright became one of Australia’s biggest rock stars of the 70s and delivering one of the greatest rock songs of all-time, the epic ‘Evie’.
Wright fell on hard times after the follow-up ‘Black Eyed Bruiser’ album of 1975 failed to chart.
The All Stars left to back John Paul Young in 1975 so Wright formed the Stevie Wright Band but, by this time, Wright’s drug addiction had begun to curtail his career. By 1976 Wright was addicted to heroin, which he had reportedly begun using during his time in the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar.
He was hospitalised and undertook methadone treatment. His mental health suffered further after his self-admission to the notorious Chelmsford Private Hospital in Sydney. A psychiatrist, Harry Bailey, administered a highly controversial treatment known as deep sleep therapy which was alleged to treat drug addiction by a combination of drug-induced coma and electroconvulsive therapy. Many patients, including Wright, suffered brain damage and lifelong after-effects. The scandal was later exposed and Bailey committed suicide.
He performed a few gigs with Sacha in 1976 and performed “Evie” alongside performances by the cream of Australian pop and rock at the Concert of the Decade in November 1979, captured on the double album Concert of the Decade (1980).
In 1982, Wright returned to the studio with his former Easybeats buddies Vanda & Young to record vocals for their project Flash & The Pan and the ‘Headlines’ album for the songs ‘Where Were You’ and ‘Waiting For A Train’. That same year there was talk of an Easybeats’ reunion. Wright told Juke Magazine in 1983 “we had our lawyers working out the deal” because there was a venue interested in having them “but at the last minute they tried to change the venue and we just said ‘forget it’.
His career, however, soon derailed again when Wright appeared in court charged with housebreaking in January 1984 while undergoing drug rehabilitation. Wright was arrested for heroin use in the same month after being found unconscious in a hotel toilet. The Easybeats reformed for a successful six-week national tour in October 1986. Wright formed the band Hard Rain in 1988 and released the album Striking It Rich in 1991. With his health declining, Wright gave his final performance with Hard Rain at Sydney’s Coogee Bay Hotel on April 4, 1992.
Wright went on to battle drug and alcohol addiction for another decade before settling on the Australia’s south coast.
In 2012 he appeared on the ABC’s Australian Story program, when he spoke about the devastation caused by his long-term drug addictions. He said if he had his time again, he “wouldn’t pick up any hard drugs”. “It does destroy. Because it’s all inside anyway, all, all the things in the mind and the power that you think the drugs are going to add to, and they don’t at all, they take everything away,” he said. “Never touch hard drugs. You blow your marriage, blow your jobs, blow your friends. You can’t do that you know. It just doesn’t work.”
In 2005 Wright was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame for his success with The Easybeats.
Wright’s last performance was at the Legends of Rock Festival at Byron Bay in 2009.
Wright contracted pneumonia on the second day of Christmas (Boxing Day) and perished a day later on December 27, 2015 at the age of 68.
• “Stevie will be sadly missed by all who knew him and countless more who did not know him but loved his music,” Mr Albert said in a statement. (Albert Productions) “We have lost one of Australia’s greatest front men who has left an indelible mark on our musical landscape.He could take any audience and absolutely slay them with his energy.”
• Fellow Australian singer Normie Rowe remembered Wright as “an amazing performer”. “The Easybeats were one of the most remarkable pop bands of their time, and I think probably recorded the definitive pop song of the era in Friday On My Mind,” he said.
• 1960s singer-songwriter and Young Talent Time host Johnny Young said Wright was “one of the greatest rock n’ roll stars” ever produced in Australia. “Stevie was a wonderful musician, a great songwriter,” he said. “He lived a pretty rugged life at the end of it. “Everybody knew he had some serious addictions that he had huge problems with, but I like to remember Stevie as he was when he was younger.”
• Aside from tracks for the Easybeats, Wright and George Young also wrote “Step Back” for Johnny Young which peaked at No. 1.
Very unusual for 1967, when everything on TV was lip-synch, this video covers a live performance of the song Friday on my Mind in a German TV program called “BeatClub”.
November 10, 2015 – Allen Toussaint was born January 14, 1938 in is an American musician, songwriter and record producer and one of the most influential figures in New Orleans R&B.
Allen Toussaint has crossed many paths in his illustrious 40 years plus career in music. He has produced, written for, arranged, had his songs covered by, and performed with music giants The Judds, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Patti LaBelle, Mac “Dr. John” Rebannac, Aaron and Art Neville, Joe Cocker, The (original) Meters, Glen Campbell, The Band, Little Feat, The Rolling Stones, Devo, Ernie K-Doe, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Eric Gale and the countless others.
His songs/productions have been featured in numerous films, including but not limited to, Casino, Moulin Rouge, and Maid in Manhattan. He served as musical director for the off Broadway play, Staggerlee, which won the prestigious Outer Circle Critics Award.
Toussaint career began in his early twenties when hired by the local Minit Records to supervise its recording activities, awaiting their arrival of Harold Batiste. Toussaint quickly accumulated an amazing string of hits for the label, producing, writing, arranging and often performing on tracks by Ernie K-Doe, Irma Thomas, Art and Aaron Neville, Chris Kenner, and Benny Spellman, putting his signature New Orleans sound on the map, an obvious continuation of the Domino/Bartholomew era.
Toussaint got his shot as a solo artist with a record for RCA. Two of his earliest tunes, “Java,” which became a mega-hit for trumpeter Al Hirt and “Whipped Cream,” the Herb Alpert hit, became instrumental standards. Toussaint then went onto team up with Lee Dorsey, who was often backed by the funky rhythm section known as The Meters, turning out a string of hits that included Working in the Coalmine; Holy Cow; Ride Your Pony; and many others. Working in the Coalmine was then recorded by The Judds; Yes We Can became a smash hit by The Pointer Sisters; Sneaking Sally thru the Alley was recorded by both Robert Palmer and Ringo Starr. Toussaint continued to put his mark on the music business with his arrangements on LaBelle’s hit, Lady Marmalade, continuing on with Patti through the early stages of her solo career. After establishing himself as one of the greatest songwriters, accredited to him by BMI Music, Toussaint was honored with a Grammy nominee for 1977’s song of the year, Southern Night, performed by Glen Campbell. Years later Southern Night was featured on the MCA’s Grammy nominated compilation CD, Country, Rhythm, and Blues, where Toussaint teamed up with Country legend Chet Atkins, to perform his hit.
His career has spanned over 40 years, all adding up to include being inducted into the “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” After years of writing, producing, recording, arranging, performing and conducting, Toussaint’s music is continuing on. Several of his songs are commercial themes, Yes We Can (Slim Fast) and Working in the Coalmine (WalMart).
His productions are continuously sampled, introducing it to an entire new arena of listeners (Louie—ODB and Lady Marmalade (Christina Aguilera, Lil Kim, Missy Elliot). Songs Java and Southern Night have both been credited and cited for over 2 million airings. The most recent of Toussaint’s long list of honors and accolades was the Grammy nominated pop/vocal album of the year, The River in Reverse; Toussaint’s collaboration with Elvis Costello. As Mr. Toussaint said, Hurricane Katrina was the best booking agent, and with that he started to tour and perform before a whole new audience.
Toussaint passed away hours after performing at a concert in Madrid on November 10, 2015 at the age of 77.
Gary Dean Richrath (REO Speedwagon) was born on October 18, 1949.
Gary Richrath provided much of the creative and driving force in the early days of the band, Gary Richrath wrote much of the material for REO Speedwagons first twelve albums. In 1977, Gary Richrath and other members of the band took over their own production, which resulted in the band’s first platinum album. Gary Richrath wrote many of the band’s most memorable songs including “Golden Country” from 1972, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” 1973, “Only the Strong Survive” 1979 and “Take It On the Run” from 1981.
In addition, Gary Richrath sang several REO Speedwagon songs including “Find My Fortune” 1973 and “(Only A) Summer Love” 1976. Gary Richrath was asked to leave REO Speedwagon in 1989, and released a solo album titled Only the Strong Survive in 1992, under the name “Richrath”.
When Gary Richrath left REO, it was rumored the band was breaking up because of extreme personality conflicts among REO’s members.
Gary Richrath did admit to crossing swords a few times with lead singer Kevin Cronin. “We had songwriting conflicts about whose songs would go on the albums,” Gary Richrath said. Gary Richrath saw the band move away from the “rockier” style. Kevin Cronin preferred a slower, more sentimental ballads, and Gary Richrath was not ready to slow down.
REO Speedwagon continued to tour and record without Gary Richrath but never was able to capture that great REO sound that fans had grown to love and records sales were never the same.
Gary Richrath moved on and formed a band that was more in touch with his own tastes. The band played over 1,000 concerts, mostly in small clubs and halls, and Gary Richrath said audiences were eating up the two hour shows, half REO classics and half new Gary Richrath tunes, and the new songs were getting noticed. Garys band continued to tour throughout the 1990’s until Gary Richrath headed back into the studio in 1998 to create a new CD that remains unfinished.
Gary Richrath says “I wasn’t trying to create a new REO, just carrying on with what I do.”
There were always rumors that Gary Richrath was rejoining REO Speedwagon, but unfortunately this never happened but for one special occasion on December 4, 2013 in Bloomington, Illinois. Gary Richrath reunited with REO for a performance of “Ridin’ the Storm Out” at a benefit concert titled “Rock to the Rescue” to raise money for the affected families of the tornado hit in central Illinois. Watch the video here.
Richrath passed away on September 13, 2015, as confirmed by his former REO Speedwagon associate Kevin Cronin Gary Richrath. He was 65 when he passed away.
July 8, 2015 – Ernie Maresca was born on August 21st 1938 in the Bronx, New York City.
He began singing and writing in a doo-wop group, the Monterays, later renamed as the Desires, and, after Maresca left, as the Regents, who had a hit with “Barbara Ann”.
In 1957, his demo of his song “No One Knows” came to the attention of Dion DiMucci, who recorded it successfully with the Belmonts on Laurie Records, the record reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 record chart in 1958.
Ernie Maresca was a fairly successful songwriter in the New York doo wop/rock & roll scene in the first half of the 1960s, most known for writing several of Dion’s biggest hits (by himself or in collaboration with Dion): “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer,” “Lovers Who Wander,” “A Lover’s Prayer,” and “Donna the Prima Donna.” He also wrote for a great deal of other artists throughout the 1960s, usually in a style that combined doo wop with the developing sounds of girl groups or Dion’s boastful Bronx pop/rock; the Regents’ modest modern doo wop hit “Runaround” was the biggest of these. Although he didn’t think of himself as a singer, and was an average nondescript vocalist at best, he was persuaded to record as a solo artist. In mid-1962, he ended up with his one and only hit under his own name, “Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out).” A fun if extremely basic rocker that used the same chord pattern that anchored Dion hits like “Runaround Sue” and added the dance-rock energy of bands like Joey Dee & the Starliters, it made number six.
Maresca made an album in 1962, and continued to record, without success, for Seville through 1965 and then for Laurie during the remainder of the 1960s. He kept on writing for plenty of artists, too (often on the Laurie roster), and in that capacity had some modest hits with Reparata & the Delrons (“Whenever a Teenager Cries”), Bernadette Carroll (“Party Girl”), and Jimmie Rodgers (“Child of Clay,” co-written with Jimmy Curtiss). While some of his songs for Dion were classics, Maresca was a limited songwriter, many of his compositions limited to variations (or replicas) of the ascending, circular basic doo wop chord structures heard on Dion’s “Runaround Sue,” “The Wanderer,” “Lovers Who Wander,” and “Donna the Prima Donna.” By the 1970s he was head of Laurie Records’ publicity department, which concentrated on reissuing the label’s catalog, and as of 2000 was working as a consultant to EMI and administrator for Laurie’s publishing.
Ernie died at his home in South Florida, after a brief illness on July 8, 2015 at the age of 76.
27 June 2015 – Christopher Russell Edward ‘Chris’ Squire was born March 4, 1948 in the Kingsbury area of London. was an English musician, singer and songwriter. He was best known as the bassist and founding member of the progressive rock band Yes. He was the only member to appear on each of their 21 studio albums, released from 1969 to 2014.
Squire took an early interest in church music and sang in the local church and school choirs. After he took up the bass guitar at age sixteen, his earliest gigs were in 1964 for The Selfs, which later evolved into The Syn. In 1968, Squire formed Yes with singer Jon Anderson; he would remain the band’s sole bassist for the next 47 years.
He grew up there and in the nearby Queensbury and Wembley areas. His father was a cab driver and his mother a secretary for an estate agent. As a youngster Squire took a liking to Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald records belonging to his father, though his main interest was church music. At age six he joined the church choir at St. Andrew’s in Kingsbury with Andrew Pryce Jackman, a friend of his who lived nearby. The choirmaster was Barry Rose, who was an early influence on Squire: “He made me realize that working at it was the way to become best at something”. Squire sang in the choir at his school, Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ School, then located in Hampstead.
Squire did not consider a music career until the age of sixteen when “the emergence of The Beatles” and the Beat music boom in the early 1960s inspired him to learn the bass guitar.His first bass was a Futurama, “very cheap, but good enough to learn on.” In 1964, Squire was suspended from school for having hair that was too long and was given money for a hair cut. Instead he went home and never returned. He took up work selling guitars at a Boosey & Hawkes shop in Regent Street, using the staff discount to purchase a Rickenbacker 4001 bass.
Squire made his debut public performance as a member of The Selfs at The Graveyard, a youth club in the hall of St. Andrew’s church. His friend Andrew Pryce Jackman was the group’s keyboardist. Following several personnel changes, The Selfs evolved into The Syn, a London based psychedelic rock band consisting of Squire, Jackman, singer Steve Nardelli, guitarist John Painter and drummer Gunnar Hakanarssen. After a few months, Painter was replaced by guitarist Peter Banks. The five gained a following large enough to secure a weekly residency at the Marquee Club in Soho, sign with Deram Records, and release two singles before disbanding.
Squire was fond of using LSD in the 1960s until a 1967 incident where he had a bad acid trip. He recalled that “it was the last time I ever took it, having ended up in hospital in Fulham for a couple of days not knowing who I was, or what I was, or who anybody else was.” During his recovery he spent months inside his girlfriend’s apartment, afraid to leave. Squire used this time to develop his style on the bass, citing bassists John Entwistle, Jack Bruce and Larry Graham as influences.
In January 1968, Squire joined Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, a psychedelic group that included Peter Banks, singer Clive Bayley and drummer Bob Hagger. They played at the Marquee club where Jack Barrie, owner of the La Chasse drinking club a few doors down, saw them perform. “The musicianship … was very good but it was obvious they weren’t going anywhere”, he recalled. One evening at La Chasse, Barrie introduced Squire to Jon Anderson, a worker at the bar who had not found success as the lead singer of The Gun or as a solo artist. The two found they shared common musical interests including Simon & Garfunkel, The Association and vocal harmonies. In the following days they developed “Sweetness”, a track later recorded for the first Yes album.
When talks on forming a new, full-time band developed, Anderson and Squire brought in drummer Bill Bruford, keyboardist Tony Kaye and Banks for rehearsals. The five agreed to drop the name Mabel Greer’s Toyshop; they settled on the name Yes, originally Banks’s idea. The band played their first show as Yes at a youth camp in East Mersea, Essex on 4 August 1968. Squire spoke about the band’s formation: “I couldn’t get session work because most musicians hated my style. They wanted me to play something a lot more basic. We started Yes as a vehicle to develop everyone’s individual styles.”
In August 1969, Yes released their self-titled debut album. Squire received writing credits on four of the album’s eight tracks—”Beyond & Before”, “Looking Around”, “Harold Land”, and “Sweetness”.
When Bruford was replaced by Alan White in July 1972, Squire altered his playing to suit the change in the band’s rhythm section. He felt he was “playing too much, though he was never really sure. With Bill, the things that I did felt right … With Alan, I found that I was able to play a bit less than before and still get my playing across”.
Squire described his playing on “The Remembering (High the Memory)” from Tales from Topographic Oceans (1973) as “one of the nicest things I think I’ve ever played”.
While most of the band’s lyrics were written by Anderson, Squire co-wrote much of their music with guitarist Steve Howe (with Anderson occasionally contributing). In addition, Squire and Howe would supply backing vocals in harmony with Anderson on songs such as “South Side of the Sky” and “Close to the Edge”.
Squire concentrated overwhelmingly on Yes’ music over the years, producing little solo work. His first solo record was 1975’s Fish Out of Water, featuring Yes alumnus Bill Bruford on drums and Patrick Moraz on keyboards and The Syn/The Selfs alumnus Andrew Jackman also on keyboards.
Squire was later a member of the short-lived XYZ (eX-Yes/Zeppelin) in 1981, a group composed of Alan White (Yes) on drums and Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) on guitar. XYZ recorded several demo tracks, but never produced anything formal, though two of the demos provided the basis for two later Yes tracks, “Mind Drive” and “Can You Imagine?”. Squire later said Robert Plant was not ready to record with the band so soon after the death of John Bonham, Led Zeppelin’s drummer.
Squire also played a role in bringing Trevor Rabin into the Cinema band project, which became the 90125 line-up of Yes.
In later years, Squire would join with Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood in a side project called Conspiracy. This band’s self-titled debut album in 2000 contained the nuclei of several songs that had appeared on Yes’ recent albums. Conspiracy’s second album, The Unknown, was released in 2003.
In late 2004, Squire joined a reunion of The Syn. The reformed band released the album Syndestructible in 2005 before breaking up again.
Squire also worked on two solo projects with other former Syn collaborators Gerard Johnson, Jeremy Stacey and Paul Stacey. A Christmas album, Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir, was released in 2007 (with Johnson, J. Stacey and Steve Hackett). Squire collaborated again with Hackett, formerly of the band Genesis, to make the Squackett album A Life Within a Day, released in 2012.
Squire was the only member to play on each of their 21 studio albums released from 1969 to 2014. He was seen as one of the main forces behind the band’s music, as well as being “perhaps the most enigmatic” group member. Heaven & Earth was his final studio album.
Following Squire’s death from acute erythroid leukemia on 27 June 2015, the band’s show on 7 August of the same year marked the first Yes concert ever performed without him. Former member Billy Sherwood replaced Squire during their 2015 North American tour with Toto from August to September 2015, as well as their performances in November 2015.
From 1991 to 2000, Rickenbacker produced a limited edition signature model bass in his name, the 4001CS.
Squire was widely regarded as the dominant bassist among the English progressive rock bands, influencing peers and later generations of bassists with his incisive sound and elaborately contoured, melodic bass lines. I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Chris Squire, legendary bassist and co-founder of Yes. Squire was a distinctly melodic player as well as a fantastic songwriter and a very very funny man. He had significant influence on the progressive rock movement of the 1970s and inspired countless bassists who came after him. I will never forget “Owner of a Lonely Heart” one of two hits for Yes, together with “Roundabout”, but will forever be in love with The Gates of Delirium.
May you journey safe to the heart of the sunrise, Chris.
June 9, 2015 – James Last was born Hans Last on April 17, 1929 in Bremen Germany, the third son for Louis and Martha Last, and christened Hans. His father, a post-office worker, was a keen amateur musician, competent on both drums and bandoneon. He learned to play piano as child, and bass as a teenager. He joined Hans-Gunther Oesterreich’s Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946, when he was 17 years old.
The brothers Last, Robert, Werner and young Hans, enjoyed their game of street football and so father Louis was pleased when all three expressed more than just an passing interest in music.
By the age of nine, young Hans could play “Hanschen Klein”, a German folk song in the piano, but his first music teacher, a lady, claimed at the age of ten he was totally unmusical. A year or so later with tutor number two, a gentleman, things started to happen. At the age of fourteen Hans was off to military school in Frankfurt where he studied brass, piano and tuba.
Hans’ parents were pleased with the appointment. It was hoped that he would emerge from the school as classically trained conductor. After passing his first exam, the school was bombed and the students were evacuated to Buckenburg, just outside Hanover, to continue their training.
Later, Buckenburg was also lost in the war. Hans claims that if he had stayed at Buckenburg, he would have been a conductor of serious music by the time he was twenty three.
After the war, Hans-Gunter Oesterreich, who organised entertainment for the American clubs, signed Hans Last for his first professional engagements. Later, Oesterreich secured a major post with Radio Bremen, and soon, the Last brothers were all working together.
In 1948, they joined forces with Karl-Heinz Becker, and became known as the Last-Becker Ensemble.
Hans was sold on jazz, Woody Herman and Stephan Grapelli being among his favorites. In 1959 Hans Last was voted Germany’s Top Jazz Bassist, a title held until 1953. In 1955 the Last-Becker Ensemble was on the verge of breaking up. At this stage Hansi considered forming his own band, but lack of funds halted this project. Instead they joined the North German Radio Dance Orchestra in Hamburg.
Soon Hans was arranging music for the NDR, he stayed with the NDR until 1964 when he signed a contract for Polydor. He became a much sought after arranger and was soon scoring hits for Caterina Valente, Freddy Quinn, Helmut Zacharias in Hamburg, he even flew to Nashville to record Brenda Lee singing in German.
It was in 1955 that Hans married the attractive Waltraud Wiese from Bremen and by 1958, the Last household had become four, with the birth of a son Ronald and a daughter Caterina.
Soon a couple of albums hit the market. Hans Last and his Orchestra had arrived, but suddenly the next release on the Polydor label featured James Last and his Orchestra. Somebody somewhere within the record company felt that James had more international appeal than Hans.
Now James Last wanted to unleash upon the Germans his new party sound. His idea was to record the top hits of the day, and them hold a party in the studio to build up the atmosphere. In 1965 the Non Stop Dancing sound of James Last was launched.
In 1967, with seven or eight of his early albums making the German charts, and the launch of the Non Stop Dancing series, Polydor produced a budget price sampler album “This is James Last” and suddenly the Last sound was launched worldwide.
In the United Kingdom, this sampler sold for twelve shillings and sixpence. “This is James Last” entered the British album charts on April 15th, 1967, it stayed for forty-eight weeks and reached the number six position. In the U.K. sales topped 400,000. James Last had arrived.
James Last albums were selling by the thousands in Germany, Holland, Belgium, and here in the United Kingdom. Album after album reached the national charts. Whilst on a crest of the wave in Europe, it is reported that in Canada in 1967, five percent of the total record sales were by James Last. By 1969, the success in the record sales was phenomenal, but the Last band was a studio band, and yet to appear live. During 1969 Hans Last was persuaded to take the James Last Orchestra on tour. A four week tour of Germany had been lined up.
Many artists throughout the music business are great on disc, and terrible on stage, and vice-versa. Hansi wanted to recreate on stage the stereo sound which had been so succesful in the studio.
First the services of Peter Klemt were secured, he had succesfully mastered and mixed the early recordings. Peter immediately went out and purchased two mixers, one for the Hanover strings, whom Hansi had hired for the tour, and one for the brass section. The rhythm quartet was in front flanked by the English choir. By the end of the tour, Last was well and truly established. Soon plans were in hand to take the Orchestra to Canada for Expo 69 in Montreal.
1969 was a big year for the James Last Orchestra. In Cannes they received the International Midem Prize, the music industry’s Oscar. In Germany they were voted the number one Orchestra. The Germans gave Hansi the title of “Arranger of the Year”.
In 1970 the Last Orchestra were on the road in Germany again, a tour which had to be lengthened because of the demand for tickets. They toured Denmark and the gold discs were arriving thick and fast.
Now Hansi wanted to conquer the British. The entourage finally arrived in October, 1971. The New Victoria Theatre in London, housed the first concert. Whilst records came at the rate of around six a year, 1972, must have been the most productive year on the road. Another tour of Germany was followed by visits to Russia, South America, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. 10,000 fans attended a James Last Voodoo Party in the Hamburg woods.
Last returned to Britain in 1973. The tour included three sell out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall. By the time the 1973, UK tour was under way, twenty seven Last albums have entered the British album charts. After Britain, another tour of Canada and in December 1973, Hansi received his 100th Gold Record. During 1973, we saw the composition of a leissure centre Hansi built for the band at Fintel on Lumberg Heath. Here the band coudl relax and take a few days break, the complex had half a dozen or so bedrooms, kitchen, lounge, sports equipment. All the members in the band were given a key, and the centre was frequently used by many Last musicians to get away and relax after weeks on the road and in the recording studio.
By the mid-seventies Hansi and the James Last Orchestra were established as a top recording artist and sell out concerts attraction around the world. Hansi, was also scoring as a composer. Most Last albums have included a Last composition. In March 1969 Andy Williams entered the U.S. charts with Hansi’s composition “Happy Heart”, it stayed for 22 weeks and reached number seven. Here in May, it reached number nineteen, appearing in the charts for nine weeks. Elvis Presley recorded Hansi’s composition called “No Words”, words were added and “No Words” became “Fool”. “Fool” reached number 23 in the U.K. charts in August 1973 and stayed for seven weeks.
Without any chart success, probably the most famous Last composition is “Games That Lovers Play”. Over 100 recordings available worldwide including versions by Freddy Quinn, Connie Francis and Eddie Fisher.
Although Andy Williams scored with “Happy Heart” the number has been recorded by Petula Clark, Roger Williams, The Gunter Kaftan Choir, The Anita Kerr Singers, Norrie Paramor and his Orchestra and Peggy March.
Television has played a major part in the James Last success story. In 1968 ZDF Television launched a new music spectacular entitled Star Parade. The James Last Orchestra were residents for the 50 shows produced. The biggest names in music all guested on the show; Abba, Barry Manilow, Cliff Richard, Boney M, Roger Whitaker. Many television specials had been produced here in the United Kingdom. In 1971 on their first British tour the BBC took Hansi and the Orchestra along to the Dorchester Hotel, to record a fifty minute special before an invited audience. Dance Night at the Royal Albert Hall was captured by the Beeb, and in 1976 was recorded a the Shepherd Bush studios.
By 1978, the James Last Orchestra, had achieved virtually what they set out to do. Hansi had noticed that at concerts in Great Britain, the audience would get up and dance when he played his non stop dancing titles. The German audiences loved him too, and so later that year Hansi persuaded ZDF Television to come to London, to record a concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The show was put together over two nights, each of those two nights some 5000 fans attended and had a ball.
The British fans were on their feet long before the interval, dancing and prancing around the Royal Albert Hall arena to their favourite James Last polkas. The second half was a riot, the fans had invaded the stage, they danced, they sang, and when Hansi asked them to sit on the floor, they sat on the floor and listened to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”.
Whilst seated, they sang “Cockless and Mussels”, “Daisy, Daisy”, and “Abide With Me”. Back on their feet James Last struck up the band and introduced his version of “Dancing Party”, and what a Dancing Party it was, all taking place at a James Last concert and being captured on film.
The show entitled “Live in London” became available on a single album in Germany, a double album in Great Britain. In Germany on television, ZDF presented a ninety minute special, whilst here the BBC gave us two thirty minute shows. On top of that a year or so later, Polydor released the official video, which they sold by the case load. In fact, sales were so good that several dealers listed this video in their top sellers chart.
On April 23rd, 1978 Hansi received the highest award that can be won in Germany. He was awarded the “Bundesverdienstkreuz” by the President of West Germany, for his services to his country.
April 1979, Hansi celebrated his fiftieth birthday in London and the fans presented him with a special birthday cake. In fact, seven cakes shaped into letters and numbers spelling out H-A-N-S-I-5-0. Two days earlier, Hansi’s most successful recording released in Great Britain’s “Last The Whole Night Long” entered the British charts. It reached number two and stayed in the charts for forty five weeks.
The demand for live concerts was as high as ever. Late October 1979, the entourage left Hamburg for a month long tour of Japan. For this special occcasion, Hansi recorded a new album specially for the Japanese market entitled “Paintings”. Last was succesful now almost throughout the whole world. Although Hansi has a home in Florida, success in the U.S. has been limited to one album making eighty in the Billboard Top 100.
In April 1980, “The Seduction” hit the Billboard singles charts. It received air play across the United States, achieved position twenty eight and stayed for six weeks. A month later it made the British charts for four weeks reaching position number forty-eight.
In June 1980, the ZDF Television series “Star Parade” came to a close after 50 minute shows. In September 1980, ZDF launched the “Show Express”, another ninety minute production featuring James Last, but his came to a halt after ten shows.
James Last worldwide album sales cannot be counted – only estimated. However, in Germany, the trade paper Musicmart claimed Last has sold 1,800,000 in Germany in 1979, and an American publication called “They Have Sold A Million” claim estimated worldwide sales in excess of 40 billion. Throughout the sixties and seventies, the Last sound was dominant, hearing a track on the radio, the fans would reply “that is James Last”.
In the eighties, Hansi experimented with some new sounds. His album “Biscaya” strongly featured bandoneon and synthesizer, “Bluebird” featured pan flute and synthesizer, “Deutsche Vita” was mainly electronic. Many fans welcomed the new sounds, sound were disappointed that the Old James Last sound was missing. However, tracks from these albums, became firm favourites and concert show pieces.
Last continued to record around six albums per year. He did not spend so much time on the road, but in the early years of the new millennium he consistently toured the United Kingdom, Belgium and Holland.
In 1987, Last took the Orchestra to East Berlin for four sell out concerts, the East Berliners had a ball. From those four sell out concerts, Polydor released an album “Live in Berlin”, followed by a video. In 1990, James Last joined forces with Richard Clayderman to produce a new album, “Golden Hearts”.
By his own admission Last played as hard as he worked and his memoirs, My Autobiography (2007), revealed a man whose workaholic lifestyle and enthusiastic partying (including struggles with alcohol and serial womanising) blinded him to the demands of his family for many years. He always enjoyed a close relationship with his orchestra, however, many members of which had been with him from the beginning to the end of his career.
When his first wife Waltraud, whom he had married in 1955, died in 1997 he moderated the more excessive aspects of his behaviour, eventually marrying his second wife Christine, with whom he divided his time between homes in Hamburg and Florida. She survives him, with two children of his first marriage.
Songs composed by Last which achieved success in the US include “Happy Heart” and “Music From Across The Way”, both recorded by Andy Williams, “Games That Lovers Play”, recorded by Eddie Fisher, and “Fool”, recorded by Elvis Presley. By the time of his farewell tour in the spring of 2015, Last was reported to have sold well over 200 million albums.
James undertook his final tour months before his death at age 86, upon discovering in September 2014 that a life threatening illness had worsened. His final UK performance was his 90th at London’s Royal Albert Hall, more than any other performer except Eric Clapton.
He died 86 years old on June 9, 2015.
Writing in The Independent, Spencer Leigh suggested once that Last’s Non-Stop Dancing albums “paved the way for disco and dance mixes”. Asked if he minded being labelled the “King of Corn”, Last had replied “No, because it is true”.
June 3, 2015 – Andrew Maurice Gold was born on August 2, 1951 at Burbank, Los Angeles, into a musical family. His father, Ernest Gold, composed the scores for dozens of Hollywood films, including Exodus (1960) — for which he won an Oscar — Too Much Too Soon (1958) and On The Beach (1959); his mother, the classically-trained soprano Marni Nixon, was best known for supplying the singing voices for film actresses, notably Deborah Kerr in The King And I (1956), Natalie Wood in West Side Story (1961), and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady (1964). She also appeared as Sister Sophia in The Sound Of Music (1965).
Andrew was 13 when he started writing pop songs, although he never learned to read music. At Oakwood School in north Hollywood, he introduced himself to the singer Linda Ronstadt when she played a gig there with her group the Stone Poneys . By the early 1970s he had joined her band, and in 1974 played a variety of instruments and made the musical arrangements for Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough album Heart Like A Wheel, as well as for her next four albums. Among other accomplishments, he played the majority of instruments on “You’re No Good,” Ronstadt’s only #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and the same on “When Will I Be Loved,” “Heat Wave” and many other classic hits. He was in her band from 1973 until 1977, and then sporadically throughout the 1980s and 1990s.Continue reading Andrew Gold 6/2015
May 6, 2015 – Lester Errol Brown was born on December 11, 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, but moved with his family, to the UK when he was twelve years old. In the late 60s, Errol and his friend Tony Wilson formed a band which was first called ‘Hot Chocolate Band’ but this was soon shortened to Hot Chocolate by Mickie Most.
Hot Chocolate started their recording career making a reggae version of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance”, but Errol was told he needed permission. He was contacted by Apple Records, discovered that Lennon liked his version, and the group was subsequently signed to Apple Records. The link was short-lived as The Beatles were starting to break up, and the Apple connection soon ended. But it was in the disco era of the mid-1970s when Hot Chocolate became a big success. A combination of high production standards, the growing confidence of the main songwriting team of Errol and Tony Wilson and tight harmonies enabled them to secure further big hits such as “You Sexy Thing” and “Every 1’s a Winner”, which were also U.S. hits, peaking at No.3 in 1976 and No.6 in 1979, respectively. After Tony’s departure for a solo career, Errol took over songwriting duties on his own.
In 1977, after 15 hits, they finally reached Number One with “So You Win Again”. The band became the only group, and one of just three acts, that had a hit in every year of the 1970s in the UK charts, the others being Elvis Presley and Diana Ross. The band eventually had at least one hit, every year, between 1970 and 1984. Critically, they were often lambasted or simply ignored, and apart from compilations their albums such as Cicero Park sold modestly.
The band continued well into the 1980s, and clocked up another big hit record: “It Started With a Kiss”, in 1982, which reached Number 5 in the UK. In all, the group charted 25 UK Top 40 hit singles. Their single “You Sexy Thing” became the only track that made British Top Ten status in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
In 1981, he performed at the wedding reception following the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer, at Buckingham Palace and when Hot Chocolate disbanded in 1986, Errol began to concerntrate more on his solo career.
Two of his singles “Personal Touch” and “Body Rockin'”made the UK Singles Chart. Errol was highly honored in 2003, when Queen Elizabeth II named him a Member of the Order of the British Empire for “services to popular music for the United Kingdom”. Then honored again the following year in 2004, he received an Ivor Novello Award for outstanding contributions to British music.
He died of liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas on May 6, 2015 at the age of 71.
May 1, 2015 – John Tout was reportedly born in Hackney South London in September of 1944.
He got a piano on his 8th birthday and studied music for the next 8 years. He was mostly into classical Russian composers. By age 18 he joined his first band, got entangled with the Rupert’s People line up and replaced John Hawken on the keys for Renaissance between 1970 and 1980 and again from 1999 to 2002. When he joined the band, in 1970, Renaissance had undergone a complete overhaul from its beginnings as a project founded by Yardbirds members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty, and by the end of 1970, no original members remained.
When Tout joined, Renaissance was looking for a mix sound of classical with popular and manager Miles Copeland, who later joined the Police on drums, heard potential in the group’s new sound, and shepherded them through a revamped (but still constantly shifting) lineup that led to a series of increasingly successful albums throughout the ’70s.
“I just played what came naturally, really,” Tout later said of the way his distinctive playing enhanced Renaissance’s classically inspired sound. “It didn’t seem as though it was different to me. I just liked classical music, and the idea of Renaissance originally was to feature so-called classical music and that appealed to me, which is why I joined in the first place. … It was something I enjoyed, playing classical music. It’s funny, really, because I like soul music and I was playing soul music for a long time. I suppose the opportunity to do something a bit different came and I took it and carried on.”
Tout left the band in 1980, later explaining that at the time, he was subconsciously “blocking off everything to do with music” because of grief over his sister’s passing. “I thought the music had to die as well,” he recalled. “I just shut myself away. I didn’t do anything at all. … For 10 years, I didn’t do anything at all.”
I didn’t play for for ten years because my sister died and I had a bit of a block against playing. She was a piano player too and we used to play together. I was in therapy for three years. That was seven years after my sister died and I suddenly realised something was wrong because I was just staying in bed and I didn’t want to get up and do anything. A friend of mine recommended a psychologist to me. I went to see him and a lot of things came out then. Basically what I was doing was blocking off everything to do with music; because my sister had died I thought the music had to die as well so I just shut myself away. I didn’t do anything at all. So for ten years I didn’t do anything at all. I started playing again when some very good friends of mine who live in Worthing bought a piano. I went down there and her husband said, “Give us a tune.” I’d taken some music down to try this piano out for them as they wanted to know if it was any good or not. They encouraged me to start playing again so that’s when I realised I could actually take back all the stuff that I’d buried.
Renaissance folded in 1987, but reunited in 1998 with a lineup that boasted a quartet of returning alumni that included Tout, and although he left the following year, he remained part of the band’s circle, joining members sporadically in the studio and onstage. He’d planned to work on a new project with former Renaissance bassist Jon Camp, but declining health, including a heart attack he suffered in 2009, forced him to scale back on his activities.
He also was part of Renaissance drummer Terry Sullivan’s band Renaissant which released one album in 2005. Prior to joining Renaissance he was briefly a member of Wishbone Ash.
Tout, whose age was 70 died of lung failure on May 1, 2015 while he was in the care of doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in London.
April 30, 2015 – Benjamin Earl ‘Ben E’ King was born on September 28, 1938, became perhaps best known as the singer and co-composer of “Stand by Me”—a US Top 10 hit, both in 1961 and later in 1986 (when it was used as the theme to the film of the same name), a number one hit in the UK in 1987, and no. 25 on the RIAA’s list of Songs of the Century—and as one of the principal lead singers of the R&B vocal group the Drifters.
When you think of Ben E. King, you don’t think of teenage crushes, even though his songs were the soundtrack for hundreds of millions of them. You think of eternal life and everlasting love, or at least the desire for these things.
“Among all the kids singing back then, Ben was the most mature-sounding young man,” songwriter/producer Mike Stoller told Jazzwax in 2012. “His delivery and the timbre of his voice was advanced beyond his years. Most of the young kids singing back then sounded like, well, kids. Ben had a style that was akin to Arthur Prysock or Billy Eckstine. His sound was settled. It wasn’t in a hurry. That was a wonderful characteristic about Ben.”
King said that he was “never supposed to be a lead singer” because, as a baritone, his role was to provide backup, but once he was unexpectedly drafted to sing lead on the Drifters’ “There Goes My Baby,” an unlikely baritone star was born. His vocal sound was so settled and timeless that pop fans tended to either assume King was already long-dead or would never die.
He passed away Thursday April 30, 2015 of natural causes at 76, just a little more than a month after “Stand by Me” was selected for induction into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
Here are parts of the stories behind a few of his most beloved recordings:
STAND BY ME
“Stand by Me” was very loosely based on a gospel song, transferring that spiritual craving into the yearning to have earthly fidelity survive even longer than the hereafter. That was a lot of weight for one young man still in his early 20s to carry, but King could shoulder it.
According to the documentary History of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Ben E. King had no intention of recording the song himself when he wrote it. King had written it for The Drifters, who passed on recording it. After the “Spanish Harlem” recording session, he had some studio time left over. The session’s producers, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, asked if he had any more songs. King played “Stand by Me” on the piano for them. They liked it and called the studio musicians back in to record it.
Stoller recalls it differently:
I remember arriving at our office as Jerry and Ben were working on lyrics for a new song. King had the beginnings of a melody that he was singing a cappella. I went to the piano and worked up the harmonies, developing a bass pattern that became the signature of the song. Ben and Jerry quickly finished the lyrics …
In another interview, Stoller said:
Ben E. had the beginnings of a song—both words and music. He worked on the lyrics together with Jerry, and I added elements to the music, particularly the bass line. To some degree, it’s based on a gospel song called “Lord Stand By Me”. I have a feeling that Jerry and Ben E. were inspired by it. Ben, of course, had a strong background in church music. He’s a 50% writer on the song, and Jerry and I are 25% each…. When I walked in, Jerry and Ben E. were working on the lyrics to a song. They were at an old oak desk we had in the office. Jerry was sitting behind it, and Benny was sitting on the top. They looked up and said they were writing a song. I said, “Let me hear it.”… Ben began to sing the song a cappella. I went over to the upright piano and found the chord changes behind the melody he was singing. It was in the key of A. Then I created a bass line. Jerry said, “Man that’s it!” We used my bass pattern for a starting point and, later, we used it as the basis for the string arrangement created by Stanley Applebaum.
THERE GOES MY BABY
This is the song that got it all started for Ben E. King. He was part of a group called the 5 Crowns that was drafted wholesale to replace the Drifters when a previous incarnation of that combo was fired by their manager in 1958. The all-new Drifters recorded “There Goes My Baby” as their first single and had it soar to No. 2 on the pop chart and go No. 1 at R&B. This, despite the fact that it has a slick, strings-laded sound that confused King when he first heard it coming together in the studio, despite the fact that he was a co-writer with renowned producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
“Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller had came up with a new concept of black music and black singers, and it took off and it never turned back,” King said in an interview with the TV program In the Groove. “It was the first time that strings was used successfully in a recording such as that… Their whole arrangement and concept of the song ‘There Goes My Baby’ has nothing to do with what I actually heard when I first wrote it. The only thing I owned about the song is the lyrics, because their arrangement was completely left field (and had) nothing to do with gospel at all the way, they arranged it…
Our lead singer was Charlie Thomas, and because he was having trouble with the lyrics, that’s how I became a lead singer anyway. I was never supposed to be a lead singer, ever. There never should have been a Ben E. King in life because I was a baritone singer. I was the one that did the steps and watched the girls while the other guys had the responsibility of making the song happen. I was not that guy. I had no intentions of being that guy but as luck would have it or not, Charlie Thomas couldn’t do the song. Jerry Wexler got upset about it and said, ‘Who wrote the song?’ And they pointed at me. And he said, ‘Well, if he wrote it, let him sing it.’”
The world has certainly stood by this song: It’s BMI’s third most-played song of all time.
“Of all the songs I wrote or co-wrote in my career, this is my favorite,” King told the Guardian. “It came at a strange time, though. I’d just left the Drifters and had to plead with Ahmet Ertegün, the president of Atlantic Records, to find a place for me.”
Ertegun put him back to work with Leiber and Stoller, the architects of “There Goes My Baby,” which King described as “like a schooling for me – a kid from Harlem who knew nothing about anything.” This time, he was the principal writer on the song, although his mentors added crucial musical elements.
“It was 1960, but in my vocal I think you can hear something of my earlier times when I’d sing in subway halls for the echo, and perform doo-wop on street corners. But I had a lot of influences, too – singers like Sam Cooke, Brook Benton, and Roy Hamilton. The song’s success lay in the way Leiber and Stoller took chances, though, borrowing from symphonic scores.”
It was a combination of the symphony and gospel, really. Stoller remembers the lyrical concept being a thinly disguised variation on a gospel classic, “Lord, Stand by Me.” King, for his part, said he borrowed it from another gospel song, “Lord, I’m Standing By.” Whatever the inspiration, the Lord worked in not-so-mysterious ways in making this plea for earthly faithfulness into one of the most cherished songs of the 20th century.
Amazingly, “Spanish Harlem” came out of the same exceedingly fruitful session as “Stand by Me.” King admitted that he thought the lyrics about a “rose” might be a bit too, well, flowery when he first heard them. King said his natural vocal style came out of gospel music, where the same phrase might be repeated over and over for maximum effect.
And then Leiber and Stoller “would take me and say, do this song: ‘There is a rose in Spanish Harlem, a red rose up in Spanish Harlem. It is the special one, it’s never seen the sun, it only comes out when the moon is on the run, and all the stars are gleaming.’ I say, you got to be joking! I would look at them like they were absolutely mad, but yet once I would do it with the band, with the strings, it all made sense. And whatever I was feeling, when I’d sing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ or anything else in church, I can actually find the same feeling when I’m doing ‘There’s A Rose In Spanish Harlem.’ They taught me that it’s not what you’re singing, it’s how you’re feeling when you’re singing it.”
SAVE THE LAST DANCE FOR ME
The lyrics were written by Doc Pomus, who was wheelchair-bound and regretted not being able to dance with his wife. Not only did King not overlook this then-unknown story behind the song, he actually took to heart as he was recording the tune.
“He gave me more than lyrics. He gave me a reason why the song was born,” King told Into the Groove. “When you go into a studio and you get a song from a writer and you don’t have anything other than what he wrote… because I knew this was actually from the experience that Doc himself had felt and this is very personal, I just closed my eyes in front of the microphone and I could see him watching his wife as she was dancing, and I could sing the song because now the whole complete picture of the song and the reason it was written was all in my head.”
I (WHO HAVE NOTHING)
When you think of Ben E. King’s songs being used in other media, you immediately jump to as obvious an example as “Stand by Me” actually becoming the title of a Rob Reiner movie. But The Sopranos made just as evocative a use of King’s songs, on multiple occasions. “This Magic Moment” was used for highly ironic effect at the end of the episode “Sopranos Home Movies,” after the Bobby character has been forced to make his first murder, signaling that that moment will change him forever just as surely as the young romance indicated in the song.
Another episode, “The Telltale Moozadell,” ended with one of King’s slightly lesser remembered hits, “I (Who Have Nothing).” The recording could hardly be more dramatic, with the lack of drums more than made up for by the jolting strings. On The Sopranos, it followed a scene of low-key, decaying domesticity between Tony and his wife, suggesting that the show’s anti-hero really does have little in his life to grasp onto, despite the appearance of normalcy.
But there’s nothing subdued about King’s reading of it as a declaration of despair. Other singers took the song to greater chart peaks, including Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey in the UK, and a generation of younger singers has rediscovered it, making it nearly a staple on American Idol. But it’s King’s pleadings to a lost lover to rediscover meaning in his life that stick with us more than anyone else’s.
March 16, 2015 – Andy Fraser (Free) was born on Andrew McLan “Andy” Fraser 3 July 1952 in the Paddington area of Central London and started playing the piano at the age of five. He was trained classically until twelve, when he switched to guitar. By thirteen he was playing in East End, West Indian clubs and after being expelled from school in 1968 at age 15, enrolled at Hammersmith F.E. College where another student, Sappho Korner, introduced him to her father, pioneering blues musician and radio broadcaster Alexis Korner, who became a father-figure to him.
Shortly thereafter, upon receiving a telephone call from John Mayall, who was looking for a bass player, Korner suggested Fraser and, still only 15, Andy was in a pro band and earning £50 a week, although it ultimately turned out to be a brief tenure.
Korner was also instrumental in Fraser’s next move, to the ultimately very influential band Free, which consisted of Paul Rodgers (vocals), Paul Kossoff (guitar) and Simon Kirke (drums). Fraser produced and co-wrote the song “All Right Now” with Rodgers, a No. 1 hit in over 20 territories and recognised by ASCAP in 1990 for garnering over 1,000,000 radio plays in the United States by late 1989. In October 2006 a BMI London Million-Air Award was given to Rodgers and Fraser to mark over 3 million radio and television plays of “All Right Now“.
Simon Kirke later recalled: “All Right Now was created after a bad gig in Durham. We finished our show and walked off the stage to the sound of our own footsteps. The applause had died before I had even left the drum riser. It was obvious that we needed a rocker to close our shows. All of a sudden the inspiration struck Fraser and he started bopping around singing All Right Now. He sat down and wrote it right there in the dressing room. It couldn’t have taken more than ten minutes.”
Fraser also co-wrote two other hit singles for Free, My Brother Jake and The Stealer. Free initially split in 1971, and Fraser formed a trio, Toby, with guitarist Adrian Fisher (later with Sparks), and drummer Stan Speake. Material was recorded but not released, and Fraser re-joined Free in December 1971. He left for the second time in June 1972.
After leaving Free, Fraser formed Sharks with vocalist Snips (later Baker Gurvitz Army), guitarist Chris Spedding plus drummer, Marty Simon. Despite being well received by the critics, especially for Spedding’s tasteful guitar work, Fraser left after their debut album, First Water (1973).
He then formed the Andy Fraser Band, a trio with Kim Turner on drums and Nick Judd on keyboards. They released two albums, Andy Fraser Band and In Your Eyes, both in 1975, before that too folded. Attempts to form a band with Frankie Miller came to nothing, and Fraser re-located to California, to concentrate on songwriting. He crafted hits for Robert Palmer, Joe Cocker, Chaka Khan, Rod Stewart and Paul Young.
Fraser’s most famous compositions remain “All Right Now” and “Every Kinda People”, which Robert Palmer recorded in 1978 for his Double Fun album. In 1984, Fraser released another album of his own. Fine, Fine Line featured ex-Back Street Crawler drummer Tony Braunagel, Bob Marlette (keyboards), Michael Thompson (guitar) and David Faragher (bass), with Fraser contributing vocals.
Having been diagnosed with HIV, he was later diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma, a form of cancer that had been very rare until the onset of the AIDS epidemic. This time-line was called into question by Fraser’s subsequent revelation that he was homosexual. He played bass with former Free colleague, Paul Rodgers, at Woodstock ’94, but otherwise kept a low profile until 2005, when a new release, Naked and Finally Free, appeared. At the time of the new album’s release, Fraser was interviewed by Dmitry M. Epstein for the DME website and revealed: “To be quite honest, I never thought of myself as a bass-player. I actually only used the bass-guitar because the other kids in our school-band wanted to be the singer, or drummer, or guitarist. I have always thought of myself as doing whatever was necessary to make the whole thing work. I’m happy adding piano, or tambourine, or anything that helped”.
In early 2006, writing for Vintage Guitar magazine, Tom Guerra conducted a comprehensive interview with Fraser, covering his career, influences and instruments and, in April, Fraser responded to the revival of interest in his music by announcing two rare live shows at Southern California’s Temecula Community Arts Theatre on 4 May. The shows, highlighted by an eight-piece band, were his first live performances since the 1994 Woodstock reunion.
In 2008, Fraser wrote and sang the song “Obama (Yes We Can)”, to support the campaign to elect Barack Obama as president of the United States.
In May 2010, Andy Fraser was interviewed for BBC2’s documentary series titled Rock ‘n’ Roll. The project includes a five-part documentary, narrated by British music show anchor-man Mark Radcliffe plus online and radio content. “The documentary aims to explain the success of some of the greatest bands of the past 50 years, including the Who, the Police, the Doors, Bon Jovi and the Foo Fighters”.
In mid-2013, Fraser played a supporting role as bassist in the band of protege Tobi Earnshaw for a short series of UK dates. Accompanying Earnshaw and Fraser was a veteran ally, guitarist Chris Spedding. Fraser has produced and mentored Earnshaw on a number of album releases.
Fraser died on 16 March 2015 at his home in California. He was 62 and had been battling cancer and AIDS. The cause of his death however has been under investigation ever since.
March 4, 2015 – Jim McCann, Irish guitarist and singer, was born in Dublin on October 26th 1944. He dropped out of University College Dublin where he was studying medicine, when he became interested in folk music during a 1964 summer in Birmingham, UK. He began to perform in folk clubs in the area, and, upon his return to Dublin, he joined a group called the Ludlow Trio in 1965. They had an Irish No.1 hit 1966, with “The Sea Around Us”, but the band broke up the following year.
Jim began a solo career, releasing an album, McCann and making several appearances on several folk programs for Telefis Éireann.
Amongst other pursuits, he spent the next few years involving himself in theatrical productions (starting with Maureen Potter’s “Gaels of Laughter” in 1968), and he toured throughout Ireland and Britain. He released a second album, McCanned, made a television special called Reflections of Jim McCann, and then hosted a series called The McCann Man. It was on The McCann Man that he met fellow folk artist, Luke Kelly of The Dubliners. During this appearance, Kelly did his only televised performance of the Phil Coulter song “Scorn Not His Simplicity”, a song that he chose to perform sparingly out of respect to the subject matter (Coulter’s intellectually disabled son).
McCann subsequently performed alongside Kelly in the original cast of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1973, in the role of Peter. In April 1974 Kelly asked McCann to join The Dubliners temporarily, to replace Ciarán Bourke during a period of illness. However, he became a permanent member soon afterwards, when Ronnie Drew left the group to pursue a solo career. McCann remained with The Dubliners until the end of 1979, during which he toured incessantly, as well as recorded several albums with the group.
Jim released 7 solo albums including From Tara to Here which went gold.
He rejoined the Dubliners in 2002 for their 40th anniversary album, but during the subsequent tour was diagnosed with throat cancer. Although treatment for the illness was successful, the damage to his voice left him unable to sing. However, he still collaborated with the Dubliners by taking the photographs for them, appearing as a compere in their concerts, and sometimes playing the guitar. During the Dubliners’ last concert in December 2012, he performed with them as a guitarist.
McCann’s death from throat cancer was announced by his family on 5 March 2015. He was 70.
March 11, 2015 – Jimmy Greenspoon aka Maestro was born on February 7, 1948 in Los Angeles and raised in Beverly Hills. He was taught the piano at aged 7 by his mother, the silent screen star, Mary O’Brien. While a senior at school he formed a surf group The New Dimensions, in 1963, before attending the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music to studiy piano. Jimmy worked on the Sunset Strip in the 1960s with the groups Sound of the Seventh Son and The East Side Kids. His bands held residence at The Trip, Stratford on Sunset later The House Of Blues, Brave New World, Bidos Litos, Ciros, and The Whiskey.
In late 1966, he moved to Denver, Colorado, with the members of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and formed the group Superband. In 1968, he moved back to Los Angeles, where he met Danny Hutton, and subsequently formed Three Dog Night with whom he performed for the next 46 years, until he was too ill to tour in 2014.
The band earned 12 gold albums and recorded 21 consecutive Billboard Top 40 hits, seven of which went gold. Their first gold record was “One”, and they had three US No.1 songs, “Mama Told Me Not to Come”, “Joy to the World” and “Black and White”.
As well as with Three Dog Night, over his long career Jimmy has performed and recorded with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, America, The Beach Boys, Beck, Bogert & Appice, Nils Lofgren, Lowell George, Donovan, Eric Clapton, Buddy Miles, Stephen Stills, Jeff Beck, Chris Hillman, Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, James Burton, Hal Blaine, Leon Russell, The Wrecking Crew, Osibisa, Shaun Cassidy, Cheech & Chong, Redbone, and Jimi Hendrix.
He also served as an Entertainment and Media Consultant with the Murry-Wood Foundation and composed original music for the movies Fragment, produced by Lloyd Levin, United 93, Hellboy, Watchmen, Field of Dreams, Predator, and Die Hard. He collaborated with composer Neil Argo and in 2000 and received a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars.
Jimmy Greenspoon died March 11, 2015 at the age of 67 while fighting metastatic melanoma at his home in North Potomac, Maryland.
Feb 22, 2015 – Chris Rainbow (Camel) was born Christopher James Harley in Glasgow, Scotland on November 18, 1946.
He started out in a band called Hopestreet, in 1972-3. Following this he adopted the stage name “Rainbow” to avoid confusion with Steve Harley and recorded as Christopher Rainbow, then Chris Rainbow and released three solo albums: Home of the Brave in 1975, Looking Over My Shoulder in 1977 and White Trails in 1979 which produced hits including “Give Me What I Cry For” and “Solid State Brain”.
Apart from his solo career, he made frequent vocal contributions to The Alan Parsons Project, starting on their 1979 Eve album through to their 1987 album Gaudi, and Eric Woolfson’s Freudiana in 1990, an APP album in all but name.
Chris recorded and toured with Camel, including singing some lead vocals on studio albums The Single Factor in 1982 and Stationary Traveller in 1984. He worked with Camel keyboardist Ton Scherpenzeel (Kayak) on his 1984 album Heart of the Universe in a duo format, performing five lead vocals.
He sang backing vocals on the album “Song Of Seven” by former Yes frontman Jon Anderson, and toured with Anderson’s New Life Band. Chris also wrote, produced and recorded jingles for Capital Radio 95.8FM 1973 to 1984 for Kenny Everett, Mike Aspel, Tommy Vance, David Symonds and others.
In later years he produced several albums for the Scottish Gaelic rock group Runrig.
Chris died after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease on Feb 22, 2015 at the age of 68.
February 12, 2015 – Sam Andrew III was born in Taft, California on December 18, 1941, but having a military father he moved a great deal as a child. His early musical influences were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard and by the time he was seventeen living in Okinawa, he already had his own band, called the “Cool Notes”, and his own weekly TV show, an Okinawan version of American Bandstand. He also listened to a great deal of Delta blues. His brother Leland Andrew frequently stated his brother was the “Benny Goodman of Japan”.
He attended the University of San Francisco, and became involved with the San Francisco folk music scene of the early 1960s. However it was not until he returned from over a year in Paris and almost a year in Germany, that he met Peter Albin at 1090 Page Street. After playing together at Albin’s home, Sam suggested they form a band. They found guitarist James Gurley and drummer Chuck Jones, and Big Brother and the Holding Company was formed ready for their first gig, at the Trips Festival in January 1966. Soon after painter and jazz drummer David Getz, replaced Jones. As Big Brother and the Holding Company began to gel, Andrew brought many songs into the band.Continue reading Sam Andrew III 2/2015
January 31, 2015 – Don Covay was born Donald Randolph in Orangeburg, South Carolina on March 24, 1938. Covay was the son of a Baptist preacher who died when his son was eight. The family soon after relocated to Washington, D.C., where he and his siblings formed a gospel group dubbed the Cherry Keys; while in middle school, however, some of Covay’s classmates convinced him to make the leap to secular music, and in 1953 he joined the Rainbows, a local doo wop group that previously enjoyed a national smash with “Mary Lee.”
By the time Covay joined the Rainbows the original lineup had long since splintered, and his recorded debut with the group, 1956’s “Shirley,” was not a hit. He stuck around for one more single, “Minnie,” before exiting; contrary to legend, this iteration of the Rainbows did not include either a young Marvin Gaye or Billy Stewart, although both fledgling singers did occasionally fill in for absent personnel during live performances.
In the meantime Covay landed a job chauffeuring his idol, Little Richard, doing double-duty as the hitmaker’s opening act; Richard soon produced Covay’s 1957 solo debut “Bip Bip Bip,” a blistering single credited to Pretty Boy. Issued on Atlantic, the record went nowhere and he next landed at Sue. During the remaining years of the decade Covay released four more singles for as many labels — “Switchin’ in the Kitchen” on Big, “Standing in the Doorway” on Blaze, “If You See Mary Lee” on Firefly and “‘Cause I Love You” on Big Top — none of them hits. He then signed to major label Columbia, issuing three 1961 singles — “Shake Wid the Snake,” the Ben E. King-soundalike “See About Me,” and “Now That I Need You” — that showcased the vast eclecticism of his approach, from retro-doo wop to uptown soul to smoldering R&B.
As his recording career refused to catch fire, Covay increasingly focused on songwriting, partnering with fellow Rainbows alum John Berry to pen a dance tune called “Pony Time” — recorded by Covay for the Arnold label with backing band the Goodtimers, the resulting 1961 single proved to be his first chart hit, inching to the number 60 spot on the Billboard pop countdown. Equally significant, Chubby Checker soon after recorded his own version, topping the pop and R&B charts in early 1962.
Covay resumed his solo career with 1962’s “I’m Your Soldier Boy,” his lone effort for Scepter; he then signed to Cameo, scoring another minor chart hit with “The Popeye Waddle,” a novelty record inspired by New Orleans’ “Popeye” dance craze. Its 1963 follow-up “Wiggle Wobble” went nowhere, however, as did “Ain’t That Silly” and “The Froog,” both cut for Cameo’s Parkway subsidiary. At the same time, however, Covay continued an impressive string of songwriting hits, including Jerry Butler’s “You Can Run (But You Can’t Hide),” Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Letter Full of Tears” and Connie Francis’ “Mr. Twister.” He also authored “I’m Gonna Cry,” Wilson Pickett’s debut single for Atlantic.
Covay next landed at the tiny Rosemart label, where he entered perhaps the most creatively rewarding period of his career — his first single for the label, 1964’s “Mercy Mercy,” was cut with a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix on guitar, and went on to crack the Billboard Top 40 after Atlantic picked it up for distribution. The song remains an R&B classic, and earned even greater notoriety a year later when the Rolling Stones recorded their own rendition for the Out of Our Heads LP; even upon cursory listens, it’s impossible not to hear the massive impact of Covay’s brash style and bluesy phrasing on Mick Jagger’s own frontman persona.
In the meantime, Covay squeaked back into the Hot 100 with “Take This Hurt Off Me,” graduating to Atlantic on a full-time basis with 1965’s “The Boomerang.” The latter didn’t chart at all, but the move to Atlantic gave him access to collaborators including Memphis legends like keyboardist Booker T. Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper, and his music achieved an even more powerfully soulful edge. “Please Do Something” fell just shy of the R&B Top 20, and its follow-up “See Saw” proved Covay’s biggest hit to date, reaching the R&B Top Five and coming in at number 44 on the pop charts.
By now the likes of Etta James (“Watch Dog” and “I’m Gonna Take What He’s Got”) and Otis Redding (“Think About It” and “Demonstration”) were recording his material, but he could never quite maintain the same momentum as a performer, in 1966 releasing three brilliant Atlantic singles — “Sookie Sookie,” “You Put Something on Me” and “Somebody’s Got to Love You” — that all failed to chart. The relatively minor “Shingaling ’67” at least made it as far as the R&B Top 50, but both “’40 Days-40 Nights”” and “You’ve Got Me on Your Critical List” sank without a trace. And even though Aretha Franklin scored one of her biggest and most enduring hits in 1968 with “Chain of Fools,” written by Covay some 15 years earlier, his own recording that same year went nowhere.
Covay attempted to reignite his flagging career by organizing the Soul Clan, a Murderers’ Row of R&B greats that also included Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Ben E. King and Arthur Conley. The supergroup’s lone Atlantic effort “Soul Meeting” was a minor pop it, reaching the R&B Top 40 in late 1968. After two more failed solo singles, “I Stole Some Love” and “Sweet Pea,” Covay teamed with former Shirelles guitarist Joe Richardson and folkie John Hammond in the Jefferson Lemon Blues Band, an odd stab at underground blues-rock that yielded a 1969 LP, The House of Blue Lights and hit number 43 on the R&B chart with the single “Black Woman.”
He left Atlantic for Janus in 1970, releasing a second Jefferson Lemon Blues Band LP, Different Strokes for Different Folks, before signing to Mercury in 1972 as an A&R exec. There he also began work on Superdude, the blistering 1973 album that many groove-heads regard as his masterpiece — the album yielded a pair of hits, the pop smash “I Was Checkin’ Out While She Was Checkin’ In” and “Somebody’s Been Enjoying My Home.”
The gospel-inspired non-LP single “It’s Better to Have (And Don’t Need)” returned Covay to the charts in 1974, followed a year later by “Rumble in the Jungle,” a novelty effort inspired by the now-legendary heavyweight bout pairing Muhammad Ali against George Foreman. He then migrated to Philadelphia International, teaming with famed producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for 1976’s Travelin’ in Heavy Traffic — neither “Right Time for Love” nor the title track charted, and apart from two indie records, 1977’s U-Von effort “Back to the Roots” and 1980s Newman release “Badd Boy,” it seemed Covay’s recording career was over.
The career of singer spanned virtually the entirety of the R&B spectrum, from the electrifying rock & roll of his earliest records to the gritty, swaggering deep soul of his most enduring efforts. The scope and diversity of his catalog no doubt contributed to his failure to enjoy consistent commercial success, however, and the general public is probably better acquainted with his songs than with his own renditions of them.
He didn’t resurface until 1986, contributing backing vocals to the Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work — in 1993, the Stones’ Ron Wood repaid the favor, joining the likes of Iggy Pop and Todd Rundgren for the tribute LP Back to the Streets: Celebrating the Music of Don Covay. That same year, Covay was honored by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation with one of its prestigious Pioneer Awards, but he was unable to attend the awards ceremony due to the lingering effects of a stroke he suffered in 1992. He gradually regained his health, however, and in 2000 issued Ad Lib, his first new studio album in nearly a quarter century.
Covay died on January 31, 2015 at the age of 78, after suffering another stroke.
January 29, 2015 – Rod McKuen was born on April 29th, 1933 in Oakland, CA. He ran away from home at the age of 11 and drifted along the West Coast, supporting himself as a ranch hand, surveyor, railroad worker, rodeo cowboy, lumberjack, stuntman and radio disk jockey.
He went on to become one of the best-selling poets in the USA during the late 60s and throughout his career. He produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. His songs include “Jean”, “Seasons in the Sun”, “The Loner”, and “I Think of You”.
He earned two Academy Award nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his music compositions. In the early 1960s, he moved to France, where he first met the Belgian singer-songwriter and chanson singer Jacques Brel. He was instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world.
Rod wrote over 1,500 songs which have accounted for over 100 million records sales worldwide. His songs have been performed by such diverse artists as Glenn Yarbrough, Barbra Streisand, Perry Como, Petula Clark, Waylon Jennings, The Boston Pops, Chet Baker, Johnny Cash, Pete Fountain, Andy Williams, Al Hirt, the Kingston Trio, Percy Faith, the London Philharmonic, Dusty Springfield, Johnny Mathis, Greta Keller, and Frank Sinatra.
Rod died from pneumonia on 29 January 2015, three months short of his 83rd birthday.
Jan 20, 2015 – Edgar Willmar Froese was born in Tilsit, East Prussia, on D-Day 6 June 1944 during the Second World War. Members of his family, including his father, had been killed by the Nazis and his mother and surviving family settled in West Berlin after the war.
He took piano lessons from the age of 12, and started playing guitar at 15. After showing an early aptitude for art, Froese enrolled at the Academy of the Arts in West Berlin to study painting and sculpture. In 1965, he formed a band called The Ones, who played psychedelic rock, and some rock and R&B standards.
While playing in Spain, The Ones were invited to perform at Salvador Dalí’s villa in Cadaqués. Froese’s encounter with Dalí was highly influential, inspiring him to pursue more experimental directions with his music. The Ones disbanded in 1967, having released only one single (“Lady Greengrass” / “Love of Mine”).
He is best known for founding the electronic music group Tangerine Dream. Although his solo and group recordings prior to 2003 name him as “Edgar Froese”, his solo albums from 2003 onward bear the artist name “Edgar W. Froese”.
After returning to Berlin, Froese began recruiting musicians for the Berlin-based band Tangerine Dream, a prolific solo artist, and one of the most influential pioneers of electronic music. That term, however, was one that Froese rejected. “We don’t like what we do to be called ‘electronic music’,” he insisted. “We are people making music, not machines. We are writing songs and compositions and then translate them with synthesizers … but also other instruments.” Initially, the group found themselves trying to emulate the superstars of Anglo-American rock music, such as Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, before it dawned on Froese that they needed to find a way to express their own background and experiences. “The Germans have no roots in rock music,” he said. “We didn’t have the attitude for rock’n’roll, the blues and so on.”
This philosophy would enable Tangerine Dream to encompass various kinds of classical, avant-garde and minimalist influences within their music as well as heavy rock and ambient atmospheres, and it set Froese and Tangerine Dream apart from other “Krautrock” bands such as Neu! or Kraftwerk, whose so-called “motorik” beats emphasized machine-like repetition. Froese’s versatility and artistic inquisitiveness drove Tangerine Dream to create more than 100 studio albums; his catalogue of more than 20 solo albums included Macula Transfer (1976), Stuntman (1979), Kamikaze 1989) and the four-volume series Ambient Highway (2003).
Froese’s composition “Stuntman” has been used as the opening theme music for “Mabat Sheni” (“Second Look”), an investigative news program from Channel One television in Israel, since the 1980s.
In his personal life Edgar Froese declared himself to be vegetarian, teetotaler, and a non-smoker; he also did not take drugs. Froese was married to artist and photographer Monique Froese from 1974 until her death in 2000. Their son Jerome Froese was a member of Tangerine Dream from 1990 through 2006. Edgar Froese remarried to artist and musician Bianca Acquaye.
he band’s live performances became increasingly rare in recent years, though they played selected European dates in 2007 to mark the group’s 40th anniversary, including one at the Astoria in central London. Their show at the Royal Albert Hall on 1 April 2010 was billed as the Zeitgeist concert, and was captured on a three-CD live album. The Electric Mandarine Tour 2012 took the band to Europe and North America, and they performed in Melbourne, Australia, in November that year.
Froese died suddenly in Vienna on 20 January 2015 from a pulmonary embolism and was posthumously awarded the Schallwelle Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2015.
Dec 21, 2014 – Udo Jürgens wasborn Udo Jürgen Bockelmann on September 30, 1934 in Klagenfurt, Austria. Udo grew up in the family castle Ottmanach in Kärnten with his brothers John (1931) and Manfred (1943). In 1939 he gets a harp (harmonica) as a present and he teaches himself to play national anthems on it. In 1942 he moves up the ladder with an accordeon and six years later he gets his formal music education at the conservatory of Klagenfurt in piano, singing and compositions.
In the 1950 he won a composer contest organized by Austria’s public broadcasting channel ORF with the song “Je t’aime” and he gets his music education on the road with the Udo Bolan band and several other reincarnations. The 50s is a long learning curve and his first record deal comes apart in a big flop and in 1956 he changes his artist name into Udo Jürgens.
But then in 1961 he wrote the 1961 worldwide hit “Reach for the Stars”, sung by Shirley Bassey. In 1964, he represented Austria for the first time at the Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Warum nur warum?”, finishing sixth. The UK participant, Matt Monro, was impressed with the melody and covered the song as “Walk Away”. His song “Sag ihr, Ich lass Sie grüßen” came fourth in 1965’s contest, and on his third try he won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 in Luxemburg with “Merci, Chérie”, which then becomes a top 10 hit in more than 20 countries.
Over his career, Udo composed close to 1,000 songs, and sold over 100 million records, including “Griechischer Wein”, “Aber bitte mit Sahne”, “Mit 66 Jahren”, and one of his biggest successes “Buenos Días, Argentina”, which he performed together with the Germany national football team in 1978.
On 2 December 2007, hise jukebox musical ‘Ich war noch niemals in New York’ (I’ve never been to New York) opened in Hamburg’s Operettenhaus. It weaves his songs into a familial storyline, similar to the treatment of ABBA songs in Mamma Mia!, the musical it succeeded at the venue.
Udo Jürgens holds the worldwide-record as the artist with the longest presence in the charts ever – more than 57 years from his first entry 1958 till 2015.
He died of acute heart failure in Münsterlingen, Switzerland on Dec 21, 2014 at the age of 80, just two weeks after his last Udo Jürgens Live Concert in Zürich, Switzerland.
December 18, 2014 – Lawrence Joel “Larry” Henley was born on June 30, 1937 in Arp, Texas. He grew up in Odessa, Texas. Little is known about his early years other than that he had originally planned on an acting career before becoming a singer and songwriter. He met the Mathis brothers Dean and Mark when he auditioned for their band the Newbeats in 1962 in Shreveport Louisiana, singing in a distinctive falsetto that would bring them their first and only global hit song “Bread and Butter” in 1964 when it charted in the top 20 of Billboard magazine, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling over a million copies. Subsequently they toured Australia and New Zealand with Roy Orbison, Ray Columbus and the Invaders and the Rolling Stones on the “Big Beat ’65” tour. There were some lesser known hits such as “Run Baby Run”, but the group never reached the Bread and Butter popularity again.
The group’s last single was released in 1974 after they disbanded. Henley had a solo album, Piece a Cake, released in 1975. But his songwriter talents had taken over at this point.
Over the years he co-wrote with Red Lane “‘Til I Get It Right” for Tammy Wynette, a 1973 #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Country Singles, later covered by Barbra Streisand and Kenny Rogers. Other #1 country hits were his songs “Is It Still Over?” (performed by Randy Travis), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (performed by Tanya Tucker), and “He’s a Heartache (Looking for a Place to Happen)” performed by Janie Fricke. Other songs included “Shotgun rider” for Delbert McClinton, “You’re Welcome to Tonight” by Lynn Anderson and Gary Morris and “The World Needs a Melody” by The Carter Family with Johnny Cash.
Henley was a friend of Bobby Goldsboro and it was because of Henley’s urging that Goldsboro sang the Bobby Russell penned song “Honey” and launched Goldsboro’s career.
Another hit was “Love Is on the Air” written by Henley with Jim Hurt and Johnny Slate, performed by Lou Rawls was used in The Cannonball Run movie, but his pinnacle composition was the song “Wind Beneath My Wings” written by Henley and guitarist/musician Jeff Silbar which became a blockbuster U.S. #1 hit for Bette Midler and has since totaled in excess of 6 million radio air plays.
The song earned Henley and Silbar the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for 1989, and Bette Midler the Record of the Year award. The song was originally recorded by Roger Whittaker in 1982 and has since been covered by numerous artists.
Henley was a 2012 inductee into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His 1964 hit “Bread and Butter” has been used in Sunbeam Bread advertisements and multiple films, while “Wind Beneath My Wings” was part of the soundtrack for Beaches (1988).
He died on Dec 18, 2014 at age 77 from Lewd Body Dementia in Nashville, Tennessee.
August 31, 2014 – Jimi Wayne Jamison (Survivor) was born in rural Durant, Mississippi, but moved with his mother to Memphis, Tennessee, the day after his birth.
In his teens, he taught himself to play the guitar and piano while honing his vocal abilities. By middle school (Messick Jr. High, Memphis), he was playing in a band called The Debuts, who recorded what became a local hit song (“If I Cry” (1968) on the Scudder label. He also was part of the band D-Beaver, who released one album (Combinations, 1971).
By late 1970, Jamison was fronting the local Memphis band, Target. Jamison and the group released a pair of albums, Target (1976) and Captured (1977), on A&M Records, plus a live concert at the High Cotton school (which marked the beginning of a contract with the record company) and opened concerts for Black Sabbath, Boston, and KISS.
In 1982, Jamison teamed up with Memphis-based Swiss expatriates, guitarist Mandy Meyer (ex-Krokus) and bassist Tommy Keiser, in their new band, eventually named Cobra. Rounded out by guitarist/keyboardist Jack Holder (ex-Black Oak Arkansas) and drummer Jeff Klaven and managed by Butch Stone, who had also handled Jamison’s old band Target as well as Krokus and Black Oak Arkansas, the band became a fixture on the local scene and managed to score a record deal with Epic Records. The group issued their lone album, the Tom Allom-produced First Strike, in 1983. It was also during this time that Jamison began providing background vocals for bands such as ZZ Top (with ZZ Top frontman Billy Gibbons even referring to Jimi as the “fourth member” of the group). Meanwhile, First Strike was only a moderate commercial success, and Cobra went their separate ways in 1984, with members going on to join Asia, Krokus, and, in Jamison’s case, he was invited to join Survivor and had been the only constant member of the band since.
Although he was initially not keen on fronting what he considered more of a “pop rock” band, which would contrast significantly with the heavier stylings of Cobra to which he had become accustomed, Jamison acquiesced to the band and its agents, ultimately joining and becoming Survivor’s new frontman, in the footsteps of Dave Bickler, who’s vocal problems seemed to cause the wane Survivor was experiencing after their number one hit “Eye of the Tiger”.
Although Jamison originally joined Survivor in 1983/84, the charismatic performer would leave and return many times over the next few decades. Often sueing each other, enforced by management groups, fact remains that when there was harmony between the bandmates, the music shined.
Jamison’s first Survivor release was “The Moment of Truth,” a song that didn’t fare well on the radio but became the theme for the hit movie ‘The Karate Kid.” His debut album with the band was much more successful, catapulting them back to superstardom; “Vital Signs” (1984) went platinum and spun off several hits, including the rock ballads “I Can’t Hold Back,” “High On You” and “The Search Is Over.”
“I’m stronger on ballads,” Jamison told The Los Angeles Times in 1985. “I like to sing them more than anything else but I didn’t get much of a chance before. I wanted to sing more ballads. Being in this group is just right for me.”
Survivor’s biggest hit, “Eye of the Tiger” — which sold over 2.5 million copies, topped the Billboard Hot 100 and became an athletic anthem as part of the soundtrack for “Rocky III” — was released two years before Jamison joined the band. Over the next 30 years, however, he would perform the soaring tune countless times in concert, much to the joy of fans. He also recorded the vocals for “Burning Heart,” a song that appeared on the “Rocky IV” soundtrack.
In 1988, Survivor released what would be their final studio album of the 1980s, Too Hot to Sleep. Jamison composed several songs on this album, including “Rhythm of the City” and the album’s title track. While Jamison and his bandmates believed it to be one of their best works to date (with Jamison citing it retrospectively as his favorite Survivor album), Too Hot to Sleep suffered from a lack of promotion from the record label, and while two singles (“Across the Miles” and “Didn’t Know It Was Love”) charted, it was not as successful as previous Survivor albums. The band then released a greatest hits album to close out the decade and went on hiatus until 1993.
In 1989, Jamison contributed his own version of “Ever Since the World Began,” a song Survivor had initially recorded prior to his tenure in the band, to the film Lock Up. That same year, he was asked to be the lead vocal replacement for Deep Purple, who had just fired Ian Gillan. Said Purple organist Jon Lord of Jamison in a 1993 interview, “He was an enormous Deep Purple fan and he would happily have taken over the job. But at the time he was afraid of his managers. They didn’t want him to leave [Survivor] and he didn’t dare to get into a fight with them.” In fact, Lord’s record label was preparing to release Jamison’s new album, When Love Comes Down (which eventually surfaced in 1991), and they wanted him to stay and promote the record instead of joining Deep Purple.
Jon Lord Deep Purple On replacing Ian Gillan in 1989 :
I myself was against Joe Lynn Turner from the beginning on. He just wasn’t the singer I imagined. It’s funny because in fact none of us wanted him, but he was the only one that was left. The guy we actually wanted, if we *had* to work with a replacement for Gillan, was the singer of Survivor [Jimi Jamison], a very nice, very quiet and very pleasant guy. He was an enormous Deep Purple fan and he would happily have taken over the job. But at the time he was afraid of his managers. They were Italo-Americans; that says enough. Yes, they have connections with a certain “family”. They didn’t want him to leave the band and he didn’t dare to get into a fight with them. After a long period, during which we though he’d accept the job, he turned it down. We were very disappointed and had to do auditions. http://www.picturedwithin.com/interviews/tbro_int.html
After Survivor disbanded in 1989, Jamison decided to focus on a solo career. He released two albums, “When Love Comes Down” (1991) and “Empires” (1999), and cowrote and sang “I’m Always Here,” which became the theme for the the TV show “Baywatch.”
In 1992, Jamison began touring, billing his band as “Survivor” or “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.” After Jamison’s success touring overseas that year, original Survivor guitarist and founding member Frankie Sullivan contacted Jamison’s management and asked to be included on the tour; he performed on eight to ten dates before leaving the group. Soon after, in late 1992–early 1993, Survivor was tapped to do a new and more extensive greatest hits package with two new songs. For a short time, Peterik, Sullivan and Jamison were reunited in the studio to record new material for the new package and forthcoming world tour. But after contract talks broke down, Jamison quit and went back on the road again as “Jimi Jamison’s Survivor.”
At this point, Sullivan, along with fellow Survivor cofounder Jim Peterik filed a lawsuit against their former colleague for using the name but ultimately failed (at the time) in their bid to stop Jamison from touring under the “Survivor” banner. However, in late September 1999, Sullivan, who had brought forth another lawsuit against Jamison, won ownership of the name “Survivor,” thereby ending the ongoing trademark battle.
Survivor reunited in 1993, with former lead singer Dave Bickler back on the mic. But Jamison reunited with the band in 2000, played and recorded for six years, left for five and then returned again in 2011.
Between 2006 and 2011 he worked with Whitney Wolanin for the theme, “It Takes Two” in 2005.
In 2008, Jamison teamed up with his former Survivor bandmate, Jim Peterik and released a solo album called Crossroads Moment in Europe. The album was produced by Peterik and released in the United States in 2009 with one more song, “Streets of Heaven”. Then, in 2010, an album titled Extra Moments surfaced, featuring songs from the Jamison/Peterik collaboration that didn’t appear on Jamison’s previous album and some songs sung by Peterik.
In 2009 and 2010, he performed to a sold out crowd at Firefest, the yearly Melodic Rock Festival in Nottingham, England. This performance included Survivor songs such as “It’s the Singer, Not the Song”, “Caught in the Game”, “Didn’t Know It was Love”, “I See You in Everyone”, “Is This Love”; the Cobra song “Blood on your Money”; as well as solo material such as “A Dream Too Far “, “Crossroads Moments”, and “I’m Always Here.” He ended with “Burning Heart” and “Eye of The Tiger”. He also performed at the Melodic Rock Fest in 2010 and 2013.
2010 saw the release of a pair of new singles, “Wouldn’t It Feel Like Christmas” and “House That Love Built,” the latter of which benefited the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis. He also performed at the annual concert and event When Rock Meets Classic in Germany, singing the songs “Burning Heart”, “I Can’t Hold Back”, and “The Search is Over”.
In October 2011, he released an album with Bobby Kimball (former lead singer of Toto) titled Kimball/Jamison. That same year, he joined the band One Man’s Trash with Fred Zahl, and they released the album History.
On November 15, 2011, Jamison announced his return to Survivor following a five-year absence from the group.
While still a member of Survivor, Jamison again joined with Peterik to release a country-flavored album titled Unreleased Music. That same year, he released a new solo album, Never Too Late, which was more in the melodic hard rock vein. He continued to tour with Survivor until his death. His last show was on August 30, 2014 in Morgan Hill, California at the CANcert benefit event during the ARTTEC Summer Concert Series.
Survivor’s 58 minute set consisted of “Feels Like Love”, “Broken Promises”, “Take You On A Saturday”, “High On You”, “Rockin’ into the Night”, “The Search is Over”, “Rebel Girl”, “I Can’t Hold Back”, “Burning Heart”, “Poor Man’s Son”, “It’s The Singer Not The Song” and ended with “Eye Of The Tiger”.
The next evening on August 31, 2014, Jimi died from a methamphetamine induced brain stroke at his house in Memphis. He was 63 and scheduled to go on tour again 12 days later.
July 30, 2014 –Dick Wagner was born on December 14th 1942 in Oelwein, Iowa, but grew up in Saginaw, Michigan area and graduated from Waterford Township high school in 1961. His first band, called the Bossmen, was a favourite in the Detroit area and scored radio play with the Wagner-penned composition “Baby Boy”, “You’re the Girl for Me” and others.
Wagner formed his next band, the Frost, with Donny Hartman, Bobby Rigg and Gordy Garris, in the late 1960s and built up a substantial following in the Michigan area. The band featured the dual lead guitars of Wagner and Hartman. The band released three albums during their tenure together on Vanguard Records: 1969’s Frost Music and Rock and Roll Music, plus 1970’s Through the Eyes of Love. Wagner was the principal songwriter, arranger and lead singer of The Frost. Their live appearances brought out large crowds of young fans throughout the region.
June 19, 2014 – Gerald “Gerry” Goffin was born in Brooklyn, New York on February 11, 1939 and grew up in Queens. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School. After spending a year at the U.S. Naval Academy, he resigned from the Navy to study chemistry at Queens College.
While attending Queens College in 1958 he met Carol Klein, who had started writing songs under the name Carole King. They began collaborating on songwriting, with Carol writing the music and Gerry the lyrics, and…. began a relationship. Goffin had written the lyrics for a musical but needed someone to write the music. King didn’t like musicals; she liked rock ‘n’ roll. King was driven; Goffin went along. When King became pregnant, they married in August 1959, he was 20 and she was 17.
Don Kirshner hired the newlyweds to write songs for his Brill Building song publishing firm, Aldon Music. With King composing music on piano and Goffin penning lyrics, the pair banged out hits to order from a cubicle in a work environment that has all but vanished from the music business. Their success was so substantial that Kirshner set up a new label, Dimension, as a vehicle for Goffin-King songs, and the team moved into production and arranging as well. The pair kept abreast of stylistic changes on the vibrant Sixties scene, writing with vividness and versatility for British Invasion groups and R&B artists alike. They were paid a high compliment by the Beatles, who recorded their song “Chains” (previously a hit for the Cookies) and cited Goffin-King as songwriting influences.
To capitalize on the Twist and other dance fads, Goffin and King wrote “The Loco-Motion.” Their young babysitter, Eva Narcissus Boyd, sang on the demo, which was released with minimal production and became a No. 1 record in 1962 credited to Little Eva. (It was later covered by Grand Funk Railroad.) Though they wrote hits for Bobby Vee, such as “Take Good Care of My Baby,” and even the Monkees (“Pleasant Valley Sunday”), Goffin’s most remarkable gift was capturing, in just a few brief phrases, the mood of a young nation.
They co-wrote many international pop hits of the early and mid-1960s, including the US No.1 hits “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Take Good Care of My Baby”, “The Loco-Motion”, and “Go Away Little Girl”.
Like songwriting peers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, and Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, Gerry Goffin grew up as part of the fecund hothouse of largely Jewish immigrant ambition that was Brooklyn in the early and mid 20th century. Born in Jamaica, Queens, on February 11, 1939, Goffin was a math and science geek who attended the still elite high school Brooklyn Tech. However, he had one quirk that went beyond the numbers. According to Ken Emerson’s definitive book about these writers and their era, Always Magic in the Air, Goffin had been making up songs in his head from the time he was eight years old, words he’d put to an “inane melody” in his head.
“Up On the Roof,” by the Drifters featuring lead singer Rudy Lewis, was one of those records, “teenage tunes with Latin syncopation,” according to Jerry Wexler in his autobiography with David Ritz, The Rhythm and the Blues. Wexler credits the song with carrying Atlantic Records in the early 1960s. But Goffin’s masterpiece was his lyric to a song that Wexler wanted Aretha Franklin to sing. The song was “Natural Woman,” and it wasn’t even a song – just an idea for a song. Wexler had only those two words: no melody, no verse, chorus or bridge. Blessed with the gift for writing words for women’s voices, Goffin’s lyric to King’s music became one of Aretha’s signature tunes, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” “The song has become part of Aretha’s own persona, a product of her own soul,” Wexler said.
In 1968, Goffin and King divorced and went their own ways. Goffin continued to write for and with others, while King evolved into a masterful interpreter of her own increasingly mature songs.
Goffin continued to write blockbuster tunes for some of the greatest female singers of popular music: “Do You Know Where You’re Going To” by Diana Ross and “Saving All My Love for You” by Whitney Houston, both featuring music by Michael Masser.
But for many, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” will never be surpassed.
Frankie Valli, famous frontman of the 1960s harmony sensation the Four Seasons, collects antique furniture, and compares Goffin’s lyric to a great piece of handmade furniture. “I have a 16th-century country French armoire that I will never get rid of,” he says. “I look at it sometimes and I’m amazed. The whole thing comes apart and there is not one nail in the whole thing.” Gerry Goffin’s craft was like that: Handmade, created in the moment, so beautiful yet sturdy that it is not hard to imagine his songs lasting 500 years.
Goffin died on June 19, 2014 at the age of 75.
“He had a profound impact on my life and the rest of the world. Gerry was a good man and a dynamic force, whose words and creative influence will resonate for generations to come. His legacy to me is our two daughters, four grandchildren, and our songs that have touched millions and millions of people, as well as a lifelong friendship. He will be missed by his wonderful wife Michele, his devoted manager, Christine Russell, his five children, and six grandchildren.”- Carole King
June 27, 2014 – Robert Dwayne Bobby Womack was born on March 4, 1944 into the songwriting and performing Womack family in Cleveland, Ohio’s Fairfax neighborhood.
Since the early 1960s, when he started his career as the lead singer of his family musical group The Valentinos and as Sam Cooke’s backing guitarist, Womack’s career spanned more than 60 years, during which he played in the styles of R&B, soul, rock and roll, doo-wop, gospel, and country.
His mother played the organ for the church choir, and their father was a steelworker, part-time minister, musician who played the guitar and also sang gospel. His father would advise his sons to not touch his guitar while he was away. One night, eight-year-old Bobby, who was often playing it, broke a guitar string. After Friendly replaced the string with a shoelace, he let Bobby play the guitar for him. According to Bobby, Friendly was stunned by his son’s talents as well as the talents of his other sons. Soon afterwards, he bought Bobby his own guitar.
Sam Cooke, the lead singer of The Soul Stirrers, first saw the Womack Brothers performing in the mid-1950s. He became their mentor and helped them go on tour. They went on national tours with The Staple Singers. Even though Curtis Womack often sang lead, Bobby Womack was allowed to sing alongside him showcasing his gruff baritone vocals in contrast to his older brother’s smoother tenor. During performances, Bobby would sometimes imitate the role of a preacher, which later became his nickname. At just 16, Bobby dropped out of high school.
At the beginning of the 1960s, Cooke formed SAR Records and signed the quintet to the label in 1961, where they released a handful of gospel singles. Then, Cooke changed their name to The Valentinos, relocated them to Los Angeles and convinced them to transition from gospel music to secular soul- and pop-influenced sound. Cooke produced and arranged the group’s first hit single, “Lookin’ for a Love”, which was a pop version of the gospel song, “Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray”, they had recorded earlier. The song became an R&B hit and helped land the group an opening spot for James Brown’s tour. The group’s next hit came in 1964 with the country-tinged “It’s All Over Now”, co-composed by Bobby. Their version was rising on the charts when The Rolling Stones covered it. Actually nine days after hearing the song for the first time during a radio interview, Mick and the Boys quickly interrupted their US tour for a recording session at Chess Studio in Chicago; that’s how eager they were to add this song to their historic repertoire climbing to the top of Rock and Roll.
Womack was also a member of Cooke’s band, touring and recording with him from 1961. The Valentinos’ career was left shaky after Sam Cooke was shot and killed in a Los Angeles motel. Devastated by the news, the brothers disbanded and SAR Records folded. Womack continued to work as a session musician. Between 1965 and 1968 he toured and recorded with Ray Charles.
Bobby Womack was closely related to Sam Cooke’s life and music, so much that 3 months after Cooke got killed in a mysterious Motel altercation in Los Angeles, Womack married his wife Barbara and his brother Cecil later married Cooke’s daughter Linda.
Womack became a prolific songwriter who further wrote New Birth’s “I Can Understand It”. As a singer he is most notable for the hits “Lookin’ For a Love”, “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha”, “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, “Harry Hippie”, “Across 110th Street”, and his 1980s hits “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” and “I Wish He Didn’t Trust Me So Much”.
Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s other artists would regularly record his songs. They included Ella Washington and Baby Washington who recorded ‘I Can’t Afford To Lose Him’ in 1968, Jerry Butler who released ‘Yes My Goodness Yes’ in 1968, Margie Joseph who issued ‘What You Gonna Do’ and Roosevelt Grier who had an R&B success with ‘People Make The World’. One of his most famous songs ‘Trust Me’ was recorded by Janis Joplin and later by Winfield Parker amongst others. The 1960s and 1970’s were especially profitable years for Womack’s songwriting, either solo efforts or in partnership with the likes of Darryl Carter and Jim Ford. Whilst working as a session musician with Wilson Pickett he regularly contributed songs included the original version of ‘I’m In Love’, later covered by Aretha Franklin. Another Atlantic Records artist Percy Sledge issued ‘Baby Help Me’ in 1967. The J. Geils Band covered “Lookin’ For A Love”, released on several albums, including the live gem “Blow Your Face Out”.
In the following decade Millie Jackson with ‘Put Something Down On It’ , Kokomo and New Birth with ‘I Can Understand It’, Ronnie Wood with ‘I Got A Feeling’ and George Benson with the instrumental ‘Breezin’ recorded versions of Womack songs. Lou Donaldson, the American jazz saxophonist reinterpreted ‘You’re Welcome To Stop On By’ in 1974. The British singer Rod Stewart used the distinctive string arrangement from ‘Put Something Down On It’ for his massive hit ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy’. Other significant artists to record Bobby Womack songs include: Georgie Fame and Kelly Rowland with ‘Daylight’, O V Wright’s cover of ‘That’s The Way I Feel About You’ and reggae acts Dennis Alcapone who issued a distinctive version of ‘Harry Hippy’ entitled ‘Sorry Harry’ and Triston Palma who issued ‘Love Has Finally Come At Last’ in 1984.
Jodeci’s K-Ci Hailey, a notable admirer of Womack’s work, covered “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” in 1994. Hailey again covered Womack in 2006 with his rendition of “A Woman’s Gotta Have It”. The song is referenced in Mariah Carey’s song “We Belong Together”, a number one hit in June 2005. Carey sings “I can’t sleep at night / When you are on my mind / Bobby Womack’s on the radio / Singing to me: ‘If you think you’re lonely now.'” In 2007, R&B singer Jaheim interpolated the song as “Lonely” on his album “The Making of a Man”. Neo Soul Singer, Calvin Richardson also covered many of Womack’s tunes. “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha” was covered by the late R&B musician Gerald Levert and fellow singer Mary J. Blige on Levert’s 1998 album Love & Consequences.
Film director Quentin Tarantino used “Across 110th Street” (which, in a different version, had been the title song of the 1972 movie) in the opening and closing sequences of his 1997 film Jackie Brown. His work has been used in several other popular films, including Meet the Parents (2000), Ali (2001) and American Gangster (2007). A 2003 Saab commercial used Womack’s interpretation of “California Dreamin'”. In 2005, “Across 110th Street” appeared in the hit Activision video game True Crime: New York City.
On the 1994 release 1-800-NEW-FUNK, Nona Gaye covered “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, produced by Prince and backed by his band, New Power Generation.
During the spring of 1997, R&B singer Rome covered the original song from his self-titled debut album.
In 2008, Kelly Rowland of Destiny’s Child recorded her own version of his R&B hit “Daylight” with Travis McCoy of the Gym Class Heroes, which became a hit in the UK Singles Chart, where it was previously released as a single by Womack in 1976.
In 2009, Calvin Richardson was chosen to record a tribute album to Womack to coincide with Womack’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Grammy-nominated album was entitled Facts of Life: The Soul of Bobby Womack. It reached No. 30 on the US R&B chart.
Bobby Womack, singer/songwriter and guitarist, who was a session musician for Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Dusty Springfield and Wilson Pickett, to name just a few left a rich musical legacy spanning seven decades and 28 studio albums.
He passed on June 7, 2014 and although the exact cause of the 70-year-old’s death was not announced, he had suffered from cancer and Alzheimer’s and had battled drug addiction. Womack’s life was blighted by drugs, and he slipped off the radar for years at a time. Despite this – and pneumonia, diabetes, two forms of cancer and the early stages of Alzheimer’s – Womack outlived most of the artists he was associated with, including Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. He said towards the end of his career: “Maybe if I wasn’t high, my life might not have lasted so long.”
June 4, 2014 – Bernard Patrick “Doc” Neeson (the Angels) was born on January 4, 1947 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Australian singer and musician, best known as the charismatic lead singer for the Australian hard rock band The Angels. His father, Bernard James Neeson, was a British Army soldier, and his mother was Kathleen née Corrigan. He was the eldest of six children. They were raised as Catholics although the family lived in a Protestant area of Belfast. He attended boarding school at Terenure College in Dublin.
Neeson emigrated with his family to Adelaide on April 14, 1960 aboard SS Strathnaver when he was 13 years old. In the late 60’s, he was conscripted into the Australian army, serving as an education corps sergeant in Papua New Guinea for 18 months. Returning to Adelaide, he attended Flinders University and completed degrees in film and drama and intended to become a film director.
While he was a student, in 1971 he joined an acoustic blues group, Moonshine Jug and String Band, on vocals and guitar. The band evolved into The Keystone Angels in 1974, switching to electric instruments and began playing 1950s rock and roll on the pub circuit. In 1975, the band supported AC/DC during a South Australian tour. On the recommendation of Bon Scott and Malcolm Young from AC/DC, the band was offered a recording deal with the Albert label. Another slight name change* and the iconic Australian act The Angels, fronted by Neeson was born. It was Neesons memorable and theatrical stage presence that became one of the Angels defining characteristics. Since releasing their debut single Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face.
Record producer George Young suggested the new band he was working with, the Keystone Angels, rename themselves simply as ‘‘the Angels’’ and that the band choose a lead vocalist instead of sharing the singing. The choice came down to John Brewster’s clear tones or Doc Neeson’s gruff shout.”Our drummer, Buzz Bidstrup, said, ‘Let’s go with Doc. He’s got the worst voice in the band’,” Neeson said. ”While I was looking daggers at him, he changed that to ‘distinctive’ and the penny dropped with everyone. We’d sacrifice sweetness for distinctiveness. That’s how I became the Angels’ lead singer.” And that’s how Australian music was changed.
Again in 1976, and following up with hits like No Secrets, Take A Long Line, and We Gotta Get Out Of This Place, The Angels did go on to enjoy an extraordinary career remaining one of the most enduring bands in Australian music history. Neesons energetic stage performances came to an abrupt end on December 1, 1999 when he was in a near fatal car accident. A truck rear-ended his car while waiting in line at a tollbooth. He sustained serious neck and back injuries. Neeson was scheduled to perform in Dili, a gig he had organised to support the Australian troops stationed in East Timor. He still performed in Dili but upon his return to Australia, his specialist warned him that if he continued to perform, he would end up in a wheelchair and was told to retire.
In 2008, he reunited with the original Angels band and went on tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of their Face to Face album. In 2010 Neeson launched his solo career. The Angels 100% Tour was announced in November, 2012 for early 2013.
Neeson was at a family Christmas dinner in 2012 when he began feeling unwell and was taken by ambulance to Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital. After having a seizure at the hospital, he was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. The tumor was surgically removed and he began an intensive program of radio and chemotherapy. Due to his health problems, The Angels 100% tour was cancelled.
News quickly spread about his condition and the music community organised a benefit concert Rock For Doc to help raise funds to assist him with the funds needed for his medical treatment and day-to-day living expenses. The concert raised $200,000 AU. In February 2014, Neeson had a follow up MRI scan that revealed the tumor had returned. On June 4, 2014 Bernard “Doc” Neeson passed away peacefully in his sleep aged 67.
April 11, 2014 – James Ridout “Jesse” Winchester was born in Bossier City Louisiana on May 17th 1944. He had 10 years of piano lessons, played organ in church and picked up guitar after hearing rockabilly, blues and gospel on Memphis radio.
During the height of the Vietnam War he moved to Canada in 1967, where he began his career as a solo artist. After he became a Canadian citizen in 1973, he gained amnesty in the U.S. in 1977 but did not resettle there until 2002.
Winchester was born at Barksdale Army Air Field, near Bossier City, Louisiana, and raised in northern Mississippi and in Memphis, Tennessee, where he graduated from Christian Brothers High School in 1962 as a merit finalist, a National Honor Society member and the salutatorian of his class. He graduated from Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts, in 1966. Upon receiving his draft notice the following year, Winchester moved to Montreal, Canada, to avoid military service. “I was so offended by someone’s coming up to me and presuming to tell me who I should kill and what my life was worth,” he told Rolling Stone magazine in 1977. “I didn’t see going to a war I didn’t believe was just, or dying for it,“ he said in an interview with No Depression magazine.
Winchester began playing guitar in bands while still in high school. He played in Germany during college study abroad and after graduation. Upon arriving in Quebec in 1967, he joined a local band, Les Astronautes. He also began writing songs, which he performed as a solo artist at the Montreal Folk Workshop and at coffeehouses throughout eastern Canada, adding impetus to a revival in folk music that was taking place across Canada. After a friend introduced him to Robbie Robertson of the Band, Mr. Winchester was signed by the Band’s manager, Albert Grossman. His debut album was produced by Robbie Robertson and received admiring reviews.
Sales were modest, partly because Mr. Winchester could not tour the United States to promote it. But “Yankee Lady” was a hit in Canada for Winchester, and later in the United States for Brewer & Shipley, and “Biloxi” became a staple of Jimmy Buffett’s repertoire.
His highest charting recordings were of his own tunes, “Yankee Lady” in 1970 and “Say What” in 1981. Probably best known as a songwriter, with his works being recorded by many notable artists, including Patti Page, Elvis Costello, Jimmy Buffett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray, Reba McEntire, The Everly Brothers and Emmylou Harris. His song “I’m gonna Miss You Girl” performed by Michael Martin Murphey from 1987 is probably best known. Many of these recordings have had success on various rock, folk and country charts.
“The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” which Winchester said was the first song he wrote, was recorded by, among others, Joan Baez, the Everly Brothers, Anne Murray and Patti Page, who had a huge hit in 1950 with “The Tennessee Waltz.”
His songs were rooted in country, soul and gospel, and they strove to stay plain-spoken and succinct, whether he was singing wryly about everyday life or musing on philosophy and faith. In 1989 he told Musician magazine, “You can always find a way to say things in fewer words.”
In 2002, he moved back to the United States, settling in Virginia. That year, his song “Step by Step”, from the album Let the Rough Side Drag, was used as background music for the montage that ended the first season of the television program The Wire. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 2007. Winchester continued to record and perform throughout the United States and Canada, releasing his tenth studio album, Love Filling Station, in 2009.
In 2011, Winchester was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and underwent treatment for the next couple of months. He was later given a clean bill of health from his doctor and resumed touring, but in April 2014, it was revealed that Winchester was “gravely ill” and receiving hospice care at his home, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He died there on the morning of April 11, 2014, aged 69, from bladder cancer.
Winchester’s final CD, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble, was released in September 2014, with liner notes by his friend Jimmy Buffett. Rolling Stone called it “a gentle collection of playful songs about love, memory and gratitude that amounts to one of the most moving, triumphant albums of Winchester’s 45 year career.
March 15, 2014 – Cees Veerman (the Cats) was born on October 6th 1943 in the Dutch town of Volendam, near Amsterdam. He initially played in the bands Electric Johnny & The Skyriders, Sputniks, Mystic Four and The Blue Cats, prior to becoming one of the founders The Cats.
From the late 60s to the mid 70s, The Cats of which Cees was frontman and main song writer too, the band saw a large number of successes, including Sure He’s a Cat and Lea (1968), Why (1969), Marian (1970), Where Have I Been Wrong (1970) and Be My Day (1974). Their best-selling single was One Way Wind from 1972, which reached No.3 in the Top 40.
The Cats are considered the founders of the Palingsound (Eel Sound), a category that is used to indicate a classic, typical Dutch style in pop music coming from the fishing village Volendam.
In 1976 Cees released a solo album called “Another Side Of Me”, which spawned the hit single “Sailor, Sail On (Dreamer, Dream On)”.
The Cats disbanded in 1979. On March 23rd 2006, The Cats were made Members of the Order of Orange-Nassau,the same year they made a reunion to record a single for inclusion on a Best Of-album which went gold. Cees performed also with the Cats Aglow Band as support act of Willy De Ville’s Amsterdam Carré show on July 7th 2000.
Cees Veerman died on March 15, 2014 at age 70 in Yogjakarta, Indonesia.
24 February, 2014 – Francis “Franny” Beecher was born on September 29, 1921 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.
Franny Beecher joined Bill Haley and the Comets in 1954, replacing guitarist Danny Cedrone, who had died. Frank Beecher had already enjoyed fame as the lead guitarist in the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1948-49. He appeared on The Toast of the Town show (which later became The Ed Sullivan Show) on CBS television with the Benny Goodman band in December, 1948. He is featured on two Benny Goodman albums, Modern Benny on Capitol and Benny Goodman at the Hollywood Palladium. Personnel lists generally refer to him as Francis Beecher.
During his time with Bill Haley the Comets Beecher’s guitar solos became legendary combining elements of country music and jazz. He composed the classics “Blue Comet Blues”, “Goofin’ Around” and “Shaky”. He also played with The Kingsmen in 1958, a band made up of members of Bill Haley & His Comets who were moonlighting from their regular work with Haley. This group scored a hit record (#35) on Billboard with the instrumental entitled “Week End”, written by Rudy Pompilli, Franny Beecher, and Billy Williamson. They released a follow-up single on East West Records featuring “The Catwalk” backed with “Conga Rock”.
Although the Comets did the actual recordings, when The Kingsmen went on tour a different set of musicians performed instead of Haley’s people.
The band made at least one appearance on American Bandstand in 1958.
Beecher left the Comets in 1962, but 25 years later in 1987, he participated in a Comets reunion and, though in his late 70s, he continued to perform and record with the band into 2006.
In 2012, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted him as a member of the Comets by a special committee, aimed at correcting the previous mistake of not inducting the Comets with Bill Haley.
He died peacefully in his sleep on Feb. 24, 2014 at the age of 92.