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.
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 – Grant Hart (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.
And here I have to stop and make a confession. Continue reading Valerie Carter 3/2017
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
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.
What followed was 20 years of recording and touring with several monster hits composed by Steve Wright and Greg Kihn. Continue reading Steve Wright 1/2017
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.
Lake’s death comes as a particular shock to ELP fans, coming just months after Keith Emerson’s tragic suicide in March.
‘Love not money’
“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.
With Jefferson Airplane, Kantner was among the performers at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966 and the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Recalling Woodstock 40 years later, Kantner stated: “We were due to be on stage at 10pm on the Saturday night but we didn’t actually get on until 7.30am the following day.” Later in 1969, the group also played at Altamont, where Marty Balin was knocked unconscious during their set by a Hells Angels member originally hired as security for the concert. Kantner appears in the documentary film about the Altamont concert, Gimme Shelter, in a tense on-stage confrontation with a Hell’s Angel regarding the altercation.
Despite its commercial success, the Airplane was plagued by intra-group fighting, causing the band to begin splintering at the height of its success. Part of the problem was manager Bill Graham, who wanted the group to do more touring and more recording. During the transitional period of the early 1970s, as the Airplane started to come apart, Kantner recorded Blows Against The Empire, a concept album featuring an ad hoc group of musicians whom he dubbed Jefferson Starship.
This earliest edition of Jefferson Starship included members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (David Crosby and Graham Nash), members of the Grateful Dead, (Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart), as well as some of the other members of Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick, Joey Covington and Jack Casady).
In Blows Against the Empire, Kantner and Slick sang about a group of people escaping Earth in a hijacked starship. The album was nominated in 1971 for the Hugo Award, the premiere award voted by science fiction fandom. A sequel, The Empire Blows Back, was released in 1983 and included most of the same musicians, performing this time under the name The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra.
Kantner had been in love with Grace Slick for some time, but she was involved in a relationship with the band’s drummer, Spencer Dryden. After their two-year affair ended, he finally had a chance with Grace. In 1969, Kantner and Grace Slick began living together publicly as a couple. Rolling Stone magazine called them “the psychedelic John and Yoko.” Slick became pregnant, and a song about their child’s impending birth, “A Child Is Coming,” appeared on Blows Against the Empire. Kantner and Slick’s daughter China Wing Kantner was born in 1971.
Kantner and Slick released two follow-up albums. Sunfighter was an environmentalism-tinged album released in 1971 to celebrate China’s birth. China appears on the album cover, and the track list includes “China,” a song written and sung by Slick about her new baby. Kantner and Slick made news again in 1972, when they were accused of assaulting a policeman after their Akron, Ohio concert. 1973’s Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun was named after the nicknames David Crosby had given to the couple. Through a songwriter friend Kantner discovered teen-aged guitarist Craig Chaquico during this time, who first appeared on Sunfighter and went on to play with all of the incarnations of the Starship name through 1991. Slick left Kantner in the 1970s to marry Skip Johnson, a Jefferson Starship roadie. Despite the split, Slick remained with the band through 1978.
After Kaukonen and Casady left the Airplane in 1973 to devote their full attention to Hot Tuna, the musicians on Baron von Tollbooth formed the core of a new Airplane lineup that was formally reborn as “Jefferson Starship” for a tour in 1974. Kantner, Slick, and David Freiberg were charter members along with late-Airplane holdovers – drummer John Barbata and fiddler Papa John Creach – plus Chaquico and Pete Sears, who played bass and keyboards. Marty Balin also joined Jefferson Starship while their first album, Dragonfly, was still in the works, co-writing with Kantner the album’s biggest hit “Caroline.”
After the 1978 release of the album Earth – to which Kantner contributed just one song – Jefferson Starship saw major personnel changes. Slick took a leave of absence, and Balin quit the group to pursue a solo career. No attempt was made to replace Slick, but Balin was replaced by Mickey Thomas, who had previously achieved success as a member of the Elvin Bishop Group. Freedom at Point Zero, an album dominated by Kantner compositions, was released to commercial success. Grace Slick returned for the follow-up album, Modern Times, which also featured Kantner’s science fiction themes.
In October 1980, Kantner was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in serious condition from a cerebral hemorrhage. Kantner had been working in Los Angeles on an album when he became ill. He was 39 years old at the time and beat considerable odds with a full recovery without surgery.
A year later, Kantner talked about the experience, saying, “If there was a Big Guy up there willing to talk to me, I was willing to listen. But nothing happened. It was all just like a small vacation.” It was his second brush with serious illness or injury, having suffered a serious motorcycle accident in the early 1960s: “I hit a tree at 40 miles an hour head first and nearly shattered my skull. I had a plate in there for a while.” The injury from the motorcycle accident was credited with saving Kantner from serious complications from the cerebral hemorrhage; the hole left by the accident relieved the accompanying cranial pressure.
In 1984, Kantner (the last founding member of Jefferson Airplane remaining) left Jefferson Starship, complaining that the band had become too commercial and strayed too far from its counterculture roots. Kantner made his decision to leave in the middle of a tour. Upon quitting Kantner took legal action against his former bandmates over the Jefferson name (the rest of the band wanted to continue as Jefferson Starship). Kantner won his suit, and the group name was reduced to simply “Starship.” Under the terms of the settlement, no group can call itself Jefferson Starship without Paul Kantner as a member, and no group can call itself Jefferson Airplane unless Grace Slick is on board. The legal battle had personal repercussions as well, permanently damaging Kantner’s friendships with Mickey Thomas and Craig Chaquiço.
In 1985, following his departure from Jefferson Starship, Paul Kantner rejoined with Balin and Jack Casady to form the KBC Band, releasing their only album, KBC Band (which included Kantner’s hit, “America”), in 1987 on Arista Records. There was a video made for “America” as well as a national KBC tour. In 1986, Kantner headed for court with Slick and her then husband, Skip Johnson, over the taping of some telephone conversations.
With Kantner reunited with Balin and Casady, the KBC Band opened the door to a full-blown Jefferson Airplane reunion. In 1988, during a San Francisco Hot Tuna gig where Kantner was performing, they found themselves joined by Grace Slick. This led to a formal reunion of the original Jefferson Airplane (featuring nearly all the main members, including founder Marty Balin, but without Spencer Dryden, who left in 1970). A self-titled album was released by Columbia Records. The accompanying tour was a success, but their revival was short-lived, although the band never formally disbanded.
According to Grace Slick, the reunion began as a joke: “We hadn’t even talked for a year, and we were battling legally – in fact, there are still some standing lawsuits between me and Paul, something to do with the Airplane. Anyway, the idea was that I’d just sneak in, stand at the side of the stage and come out and sing ‘White Rabbit’ and see what Paul did. Paul never got the joke, but he liked it, the audience liked it, and that’s how it started.”
Kantner and his Jefferson Airplane bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. The performance at the induction ceremony was the first time original members Marty Balin, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden and Kantner had played together since 1970. Grace Slick had to miss the ceremonies because of a serious leg infection, but sent a message which was delivered by Kantner, “Grace sends her love.”
In 1991 Kantner and Balin reformed Jefferson Starship and Kantner continued to tour and record with the band through 2013. Jefferson Starship was primarily a Paul Kantner solo band, with various former Airplane and Starship members dropping in for tours or specific shows. With their latest female vocalist Cathy Richardson and Kantner’s son Alexander Kantner on bass, Jefferson Starship released their first studio album in a decade, titled Jefferson’s Tree of Liberty in September 2008. The album was a return to Kantner’s musical roots featuring covers of 1950s and 1960s protest songs.
In late 2010 Kantner started to compile collections of “sonic art” performed by him and various artists, including a mix of cover songs, sound effects, and spoken word, releasing multiple volumes under the title “Paul Kantner Windowpane Collective”.
On March 25, 2015, it was reported that Kantner had suffered a heart-attack.“Paul’s health took a bad turn this week,” the members of Jefferson Starship said via a Facebook post. “He’s in the hospital, stable and undergoing tests to find out exactly what’s going on, but doctors suspect he had a heart attack. He is in the best possible care and we are sending him all of our best wishes, good thoughts and healing vibes.”
The band also stated that they’re “continuing the tour without him, as most of the shows are sold out or close to it and we have to honor our contracts and our fans who bought tickets and put on the best show possible,” the band said in its official statement. “We will dedicate every show to Paul until he is well enough to rejoin us onstage.” Kantner returned to the group later on in the year, in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jefferson Airplane with special shows that also featured Grateful Dead tribute group Jazz is Dead.
Kantner died in San Francisco at the age of 74 on January 28, 2016 from multiple organ failure and septic shock after he suffered a heart attack days earlier. Shortly after Kantner’s passing, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart reflected, “He was kind of the backbone of that band. It was always about Grace and Jack and Jorma (Kaukonen), I don’t think he got the credit he deserved.” Coincidentally he died on the same day as Jefferson Airplane co-founder Signe Toly Anderson, who left the band to be replaced by Grace Slick.
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 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.
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.
Gold was a multi-instrumentalist who played guitar, bass, keyboards, accordion, synthesizer, harmonica, saxophone, flute, drums and percussion, and more arcane musical devices such as ukulele, musette, and harmonium. He was also a member of the Los Angeles band Bryndle, alongside Kenny Edwards, Wendy Waldman and Karla Bonoff, releasing the single “Woke Up This Morning” in 1970.
Branching out as a record producer and musician, Gold recorded with Art Garfunkel on his solo hit I Only Have Eyes For You (1977), on which Gold played all the instruments; in the same year he played on Eric Carmen’s album Boats Against The Current, from which the track She Did It was a minor chart hit. Over the years he worked with many other major artists, among them John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Cher, James Taylor, Carly Simon and The Eagles.
In the early Eighties, Gold produced, co-wrote, sang and played on three 10cc tracks that appeared on the hit-making pop-rock band’s 1981 album Ten Out of 10. Subsequently, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman of 10cc invited Gold to become a member of the group. Although he had worked with them in the studio, business conflicts prevented him from actually joining their ranks.
In late 1983, 10cc broke up, and in the aftermath, Gold and Gouldman formed Wax. Wax recorded and toured for five years. They enjoyed international success, particularly in the U.K. where the duo had several Top 10 hits including “Right Between the Eyes” and their biggest hit “Bridge to Your Heart.” Wax broke up as a recording and touring entity in 1989, but Gold and Gouldman continued to write and record together when possible.
Gold played on Cher’s hit 1989 album Heart of Stone and, during the early ’90s, wrote and composed hits for Trisha Yearwood as well as Wynonna Judd, for whom he co-wrote the #1 single “I Saw The Light” with Lisa Angelle. (Later, Gold would produce Angelle on her own album, which featured a number of songs on whose authorship and composition they collaborated.) He also produced singles for Vince Gill, wrote and produced tracks for Celine Dion, and arranged a cover of the Everly Brothers’s hit “All I Have to Do Is Dream” that was sung by stars Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen in the 1984 science-fiction film Starman.
In the 1990s, Gold once again joined forces with ex-bandmates Karla Bonoff, Wendy Waldman and Kenny Edwards to re-form Bryndle and finally release their first full-length album, Bryndle.
In 1996, Gold left Bryndle and released the children’s Halloween-oriented novelty album Halloween Howls with John Waite, featuring the track “Spooky Scary Skeletons.” The same year, he released the solo album ….Since 1951, and produced Stephen Bishop’s Blue Guitar album. Thereafter, he recorded the psychedelic ’60s tribute album Greetings from Planet Love under the pseudonym “The Fraternal Order Of The All,” and released it on his own record label, “QBrain Records.” This album was a multi-tracked solo affair with Gold essentially playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals on original songs in the style of Gold’s favorite 1960s bands such as The Beatles, The Byrds and The Beach Boys.
He produced, composed, and/or wrote tracks for numerous films, such as the comedy Rectuma from director Mark Pirro, and contributed songs to many television soundtracks and commercials. Among his more high-profile gigs, he sang “Final Frontier,” the theme song for the television sitcom Mad About You. In a remarkable turn of events, his rendition of the song was used as the wake-up call for the Mars Pathfinder space probe in 1996. Gold also produced seven albums for Japanese singer-songwriter Eikichi Yazawa.
During 2000, Gold compiled a Wax rarities album, House of Wax on Wax, as well as recording and releasing a new solo album The Spence Manor Suite; this last was followed in 2002 by another solo collection, Intermission. He appeared in a 2006 concert with the classic rock group America, and singer-songwriter Stephen Bishop, and the performance was later released as a DVD titled “America And Friends – Live at the Ventura Theater.” The show featured Gold performing “Thank You for Being a Friend,” “Final Frontier,” “Bridge to Your Heart” and “Lonely Boy,” as well as accompanying America and Bishop on guitar and vocals. Gold had earlier produced America’s Holiday Harmony Christmas album back in 2002, wherein he also played most of the instruments and co-wrote the track “Christmas in California.”
In the 1990s Gold, recording under a pseudonym, released an album of original songs in the style of his favourite Sixties’ bands, among them The Beatles, The Byrds and The Beach Boys. He was also a prolific composer of music for commercials and of film and television soundtracks.
From 1985, Cindy Fee’s version of Thank You For Being A Friend was used as the theme song for the American sitcom The Golden Girls.
In 1996 Gold’s was the first human voice to be “heard” on the surface of Mars, when Final Frontier, his theme from the American television series Mad About You, was used to activate a robot for the Mars Pathfinder space probe.
Andrew Gold died on June 3, 2011 from an apparent heart attack at age 59.
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.
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.
Here is an Interview from 1998 with John Stout.
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.
“Stand by Me”, “There Goes My Baby”, and “Spanish Harlem” were named as three of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll;and each of those records plus “Save The Last Dance For Me” has earned a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.
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.
Big Brother became the house band at the Avalon Ballroom, when they contacted Janis Joplin in Austin, Texas, who traveled to San Francisco and debuted with Big Brother at the Avalon on June 10th 1966. It took a while for some of the band’s followers to accept the new singer. Her music was completely different from that which Big Brother was playing at that time. Big Brother had a very experimental and non-conventional sound, but with Janis, their songs adopted a more conventional structure, and the band started to increase its popularity in the underground San Francisco psychedelic scene.
The band’s historic performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 attracted national and international attention and they also released their self titled debut album in 1967, followed by Cheap Thrills in 1968 which went gold. At the end of 1968 Janis and Sam left Big Brother and Sam joined Janis’s new band, Kozmic Blues Band. After about nine months and one album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, Sam returned to Big Brother.
After Big Brother stopped performing in 1972, he moved to New York City, where he studied harmony and counterpoint at the New School for Social Research and composition at Mannes School of Music. During this period he also scored several major motion films in the US and Canada as well as writing two string quartets and a symphony.
He remained in New York City for eight years before returning to San Francisco, where he began playing clarinet and saxophone, before Big Brother and the Holding Company reunited in 1987. During the 1990s, in addition to touring with Big Brother, he was involved with his solo project, The Sam Andrew Band and toured across North America.
He performed at the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Concert on August 15, 2009 at Bethel Woods, New York and was also the Music Director of the musical Love, Janis, based on the life of Janis Joplin, written and directed by Randal Myler and based on the book by Laura Joplin.
He was a prolific songwriter all of his life, penning his first tune at the age of six. Of his early compositions, “Call on Me” and “Combination of the Two” have been two of Big Brother’s most enduring classic tracks. Until up until his final illness in early 2015 Andrew continued in his original role as the musical director of the band.
Sam Andrews passed on February 12, 2015 from complications of open heart surgery in San Francisco.
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 was born 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.
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 – Richard Allen “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.
In the late 60s he formed his second band The Frost, it was in these days he penned one of the best-known songs “Only Women Bleed”.
In 1972, Wagner moved to New York and formed the short-lived group “Ursa Major”. The original line-up included Billy Joel on keyboards and Rick Mangone on drums. As Billy Joel had to leave the band for personal reasons, Wagner replaced him with former Amboy Dukes bassist Greg Arama. They released one seminal, acclaimed self-titled album as a power trio. The band toured nationally with Jeff Beck and then with Alice Cooper.
In 1973, Wagner was recruited by producer Bob Ezrin for Lou Reed’s band along with Steve Hunter. Wagner and Hunter were featured guitarists on Lou Reed’s dark and controversial 1973 studio album, Berlin. Soon after, Wagner and Hunter were joined by Prakash John, Pentti “Whitey” Glan and Ray Colcord for Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal Tour. As band leader and arranger, Wagner took the early Lou Reed songs that had been recorded by the Velvet Underground and rearranged them for the concert stage. The new arrangements left behind the laid back feeling that had been established by the prior Reed band and won Reed his first gold album. The band toured internationally with Reed, culminating in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal album, recorded live at the New York Academy of Music in December 1973. Readers of Guitar World ranked the Hunter/Wagner solos on the 1973 live version of “Sweet Jane” 81st among the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of all time.
It was during Wagner’s days with the Frost that he first met Alice Cooper. Producer Bob Ezrin brought both Wagner and Steve Hunter into the studio to play guitar on the early Alice Cooper albums. Wagner had already been featured on the band’s School’s Out album, notably for playing the memorable guitar solo on the track “My Stars”. Wagner continued to play lead guitar (sometimes uncredited) on every Alice Cooper Group album that followed, through the break up of the original group.
When the members of the original Alice Cooper group parted ways in 1974, Wagner officially teamed up with Alice Cooper and became his principal co-writer, lead guitarist and band director. Together they wrote their first concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare.
Produced by Bob Ezrin, the album was released in 1975. The Nightmare Tour became the largest and longest touring rock show of the time. The live show also featured the duelling lead guitars of Wagner and Hunter in a guitar battle captured on the film of the same name. The film became a TV special and was released on home video in 1976. The world tour covered more than 120 cities over an eighteen-month period. Wagner continued to co-write songs and play lead guitar on additional Cooper albums, including: Goes To Hell, The Alice Cooper Show, Lace and Whiskey, From the Inside (written by the team of Alice Cooper, Dick Wagner and Bernie Taupin), Zipper Catches Skin, DaDa and Hey Stoopid among others.
At the suggestion of producer Bob Ezrin, Wagner contributed guitar tracks to the highly successful 1976 Kiss album Destroyer – the first Kiss album to prominently feature outside musicians. Though uncredited, Wagner replaced Ace Frehley as lead guitarist for the tracks “Flaming Youth” and “Sweet Pain”, while also playing the acoustic guitar found on the ballad “Beth”. As one of Ezrin`s hired guns throughout much of the 1970s and 1980s, Wagner continued to lend his playing (and in some cases, songwriting) talents to albums including Peter Gabriel’s self-titled solo debut (1977), Air Supply, Aerosmith’s Get Your Wings, Hall & Oates’ Along the Red Ledge, Kiss’s Revenge, and Burton Cummings’ Dream of a Child. Wagner produced and co-wrote songs for Mark Farner’s solo début and a pair of albums for the star of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim Curry and more.
In 1978, Wagner released a solo LP called Richard Wagner, produced by Bob Ezrin, and released on Atlantic Records. The album title confused both record stores and disc jockeys, who relegated the record to the classical music bin, assuming it was a classical music record composed by the 19th-century classical composer with the same name.
One of the best-known songs written by Wagner is “Only Women Bleed“. Written during Wagner’s days with the Frost, Wagner was initially unhappy with his lyrics and did not release it. Once his collaboration with Alice Cooper started, Wagner played the song for him. Alice had a title for a song he had been wanting to write. Cooper and Wagner penned new lyrics and recorded it for Cooper’s album Welcome to My Nightmare. The song delivered a message against domestic abuse. Since its initial release in 1975 “Only Women Bleed” has been covered by more than 30 artists, including Tina Turner, Etta James, Guns N’ Roses, Lita Ford, Carmen McRae and Tori Amos.
Following “Only Women Bleed”, Wagner co-wrote a series of hit power ballads with Alice Cooper, including “I Never Cry”, “You And Me” and “How You Gonna See Me Now” (the latter written by Cooper, Wagner and Bernie Taupin). Other songs co-written by Wagner brought him public recognition as a songwriting talent. First “Shine Silently” with Nils Lofgren, who performed it originally on his 1979 album Nils, then as part of Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band’s 1990 eponymous first album. “Just As I Am”, written by Wagner with Rob Hegel, was a hit record for Air Supply. At the behest of producer Bob Ezrin, Wagner flew to Toronto and recorded seven tracks of guitars on the Air Supply record. Another power ballad, “I Might As Well Be on Mars”, again with Alice Cooper, was featured on Cooper’s 1991 album Hey Stoopid.
One of the songs Wagner was most proud of is “Remember The Child“, written to address the issue of child abuse. Written from the point of view of a child, the lyrics and sing song melody deliver a powerful and poignant message to adults that a child will forever remember the love or abuse of their childhood. New York Times best selling author John Bradshaw selected “Remember The Child” as the theme song for his award winning PBS television special, “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child”.
Bradshaw invited Wagner to join him on his nationwide tour to perform the song as a cathartic and healing piece of music to the thousands who attended Bradshaw’s lectures and seminars. Embraced by psychiatrists and psychologists in their practices, the song has been used as a tool to evoke emotion from patients who are unable to express feelings. In 1996, Wagner was invited by Leo Najar, conductor of the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra to perform a two and a half hour concert of his songs with the symphony. Wagner entitled the concert, “The Remember The Child Concert”, raising funds for child abuse agencies in central Michigan through his “Remember The Child Foundation”.
Wagner moved to Phoenix, Arizona, in 2005 where he was writing a new album with Alan Gordon (Happy Together, Celebrate). In 2007 he produced and wrote songs for artist Wensday on the album Torch Rock, released on his independent record label Desert Dreams Records. Her début album, produced by Wagner, was included in the 2007 50th Anniversary Grammy Awards ballot.
A film about the work of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, entitled “Rock and Roll Animals”, was in production in 2007 by Noble Savage Productions. In filmed interviews, Alice Cooper talks about hiring Dick Wagner, writing with him and hiring the greatest guitar players to be in his band. Fred Mandel, keyboardist with the Alice Cooper Band was also interviewed. The film was never completed, but the clips are on YouTube.
In 2006, Wagner cooperated with the Italian rock singer Chris Catena in recording a cover version of “Theme for an Imaginary Western,” the famous rock song by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, which will be released in the third album of the Italian singer around 2015.
In 2007, Wagner suffered a massive heart attack and stroke. After arriving DOA at a Scottsdale hospital, he spent two weeks in a coma, awakening with a paralyzed left arm. While recovering from his heart attack, Wagner continued to write songs and began writing his memoirs, which ultimately became his book, Not Only Women Bleed.
As he slowly recovered from his heart attack and stroke, Wagner manifested unusual symptoms, including difficulty walking and concentrating, loss of balance, and symptoms of dementia, threatening his music career and his life. In 2011, Wagner was diagnosed with normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), a type of dementia which affects, among other things, fine motor skills and gait. In late 2011, after successful surgery at Barrow Neurological Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, Wagner was able to make a significant recovery, regaining almost all of the dexterity which had been lost over the course of the disorder’s progression.
Dick Wagner’s former band the Frost was voted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends online Hall of Fame in 2008. The group’s recording of “Mystery Man”, a Wagner composition, was voted a Legendary Michigan Song in 2009. He continued to recover from his near-fatal heart attack and recorded with long-time collaborator Steve Hunter on an unnamed single for Wensday.
Wagner released a new CD in October 2009, called Full Meltdown on Desert Dreams Records. It features 15 lost and newly discovered songs recorded by Wagner between 1979 and 1995. He also produced the band Warsaw Pact and the independent artist Brandon Bullard with releases from both in early 2010. Wagner scored with Alice Cooper and the British funk rock band the Velvet Hearts the soundtrack to the Indie horror film Silas Gore, A Film Trilogy. Similar to his original work on the first Alice Cooper solo album Welcome to My Nightmare, Dick also contributed lead guitar to the final track, “The Underture”, from the album Welcome 2 My Nightmare. It represents instrumental versions of several songs from each album.
In 2010, Gibson.com honored the guitar tandem of Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter with two places in the Top 50 Guitar Solos of All Time – #25 for “Intro to Sweet Jane” (Lou Reed), and as #41 “Train Kept A Rollin’ (Aerosmith). In 2012, Gibson published Riff This Way: Aerosmith’s Top 10 Riff-Heavy Tracks, placing Dick Wagner with two winning guitar solos: The #1 Best Aerosmith Guitar Solo for his lead guitar on “Same Old Song and Dance”, and also #4, honoring his performance as lead guitarist with Steve Hunter on “Train Kept A Rollin'”. Wagner won a number of BMI Songwriter awards and other international music awards and his work has been featured on albums earning more than 35 gold and platinum records.
In 2012, Wagner’s memoirs, Not Only Women Bleed, Vignettes from the Heart of a Rock Musician, were released to tremendous acclaim, spending more than two weeks at No. 1 on Amazon.com’s Hot New Releases in Biographies & Memoirs of Entertainers. His book has won five international book awards.
The same year, Wagner joined forces with the Mugshots – the only European band ever produced by the musician- and spent two weeks in Italy to produce their acclaimed release “Love, Lust And Revenge”, on which he is featured as lead guitarist as well. Susan Michelson is featured as associated producer, British ladies Never The Bride provided backing vocals, American actress Suzi Lorraine] is featured on the cover. The record was then mixed in Phoenix by Otto D’Agnolo at Chaton Studios, and mastered by Wagner’s longtime friend and collaborator, Gil Markle. The Mugshots – “a majestic Euro-American combination of classic rock and dark stories” in the musician’s words – are known to be the only band to have recorded a cover version of “Pass The Gun Around”, written by Dick Wagner back in 1983 for Alice Cooper’s DaDa.
In 2013 and 2014, after suffering more than six years of extreme health adversities: two heart attacks, a stroke, a paralyzed left arm, a diagnosis of hydrocephalus (NPH) two brain surgeries, a pacemaker and more, Wagner’s guitar playing facilities had returned, and he fully resumed performing, touring, writing songs and producing music. His book tour for Not Only Women Bleed took him to more than 40 states. With personal appearances in documentary films and writing film scores, Wagner had three songs featured in the multi-award winning documentary “Louder than Love” (including the opening song and the closing credits song). Leading up to his death, Wagner’s projects included producing and writing for Danish rock star, Maryann Cotton, in a concept album and TV project reminiscent of Wagner’s shock rock history, a featuring in the forthcoming third solo album of the Italian rocker Chris Catena, entitled Return of the Freak.
On July 30, 2014, Wagner died of respiratory failure at the age of 71.
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
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.”
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.
Feb 17, 2014 – Robert Edward “Bob” Casale Jr. aka Bob 2 -(Devo) was born Robert Edward Pizzute, Jr on July 14, 1952 in Kent, Ohio. His birth name was Pizzute because his father had legally changed his name from Robert Edward Casale to that of his foster parents.
He originally trained as a medical radiation technologist, but was recruited by his brother Gerald Casale to join his band, the new wave band Devo. In Devo concerts, Bob played lead-rhythm guitar and keyboards while working with MIDI sampling. He also sang backup vocals both on album and at live shows.
Ohio-based Devo introduced themselves to the world in 1977 by making a frenetic version of the Rolling Stones’ Satisfaction. The new wave band released its Brian Eno-produced debut, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!, in 1978. They reached platinum status in the 1980’s with record Freedom of Choice, largely thanks to the success of Whip It, which became the theme song of a generation.
Devo is short for devolution, the idea that man was regressing into an earlier state.
The band stopped performing in 1991, but reformed as a musical act in 1995.
As music engineering and production opportunities expanded he began working for TV and movies, including Four Rooms, Happy Gilmore, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Rugrats Go Wild. (
Bob died from heart failure on February 17, 2014. He was 61.
Jan. 13, 2014 – Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee was born Frederick John Cheesman in Chopwell, Durham, England in 1937. As a child an accident with a dart led to the loss of his right eye. Throughout his life he made light of his disability and refused to let it be a handicap. Though hardly a household name, Lee was a wild and notorious presence on the UK rock and roll scene from the early ’60s up to his death. Born in 1937, he lost his right eye at the age of three after an accident with a stray dart thrown by his father. According to the North Hampton Chronicle, Lee’s daughter remembers her father occasionally dropping his glass eye in people’s drinks while they weren’t looking. “He was the most unconventional dad ever, but I wouldn’t of had it any other way.”
Freddie’s career started in the fifties as a guitarist in a skiffle group, playing between films on the Star Cinema circuit. His life profoundly changed in 1957, when Jerry Lee Lewis released ‘A Whole Lotta Shakin’ and that inspired him to take up the piano. Freddie said, “All I had heard as a kid was Winifred Atwell and I just didn’t believe that a human being could play piano like that.” Cheesman had various scaffolding jobs in his teens and while working in London, he taught himself to play a landlady’s piano. He played with workmates in various skiffle and rock’n’roll groups and in 1960, he joined Screaming Lord Sutch and the Savages, Sutch renaming him Freddie Fingers Lee. He play piano with Screaming Lord Sutch, in the house band at The Star Club in Hamburg. He contined to work with Screaming Lord Sutch until Lord Sutch’s suicide in 1999. The following year he was backing the hit-making Eden Kane, but his tenure ended after a fight with the audience led to him having stitches in his good eye. He became the resident pianist on the gold piano at the Star-Club in Hamburg and met several of his heroes. “Jerry Lee Lewis wouldn’t even pass you the toilet paper,” he said.
Returning to the Savages, Lee played on Sutch’s infamous “Jack the Ripper” and every night Sutch would want to perform it with himself as the killer and Lee as the prostitute. “He knocked me into the orchestra pit in Sheffield and he strangled me in Hamburg,” Lee told me in 1993, “and he said, ‘If you don’t turn up for the next show, I’m taking it out of your wages’.” Lee also worked as a session musician playing with Alvin Lee, Ian Whitcomb and Twinkle, whose “Golden Lights” was a hit in 1965.
Lee struck out on his own in 1965 and among the musicians in his band was Ian Hunter, later to form Mott The Hoople. He made the singles “The Friendly Undertaker” (1965) and “Bossy Boss” (1966) but he excelled on stage. He attacked pianos with a chainsaw and he once blew up his piano using his knowledge of explosives. At the De Montfort Hall in Leicester he removed the ivory keys with an axe and hurled them into the audience, who promptly threw them back. Doing handstands on the piano was commonplace and he often used paraffin to ignite his hat. He did however maintain that he had never, ever destroyed “a good piano”.
One of British rock ‘n’ roll’s most colorful characters was Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee, a guy who never lost the true spirit of rock ‘n’ roll.
In the early ’60s he joined the Savages, Screaming Lord Sutch‘s band. Sutch was arguably the first rocker to incorporate theatrics into his concerts, long before Arthur Brown or Alice Cooper would make the scene. Lee was the guitarist in the band until a young upstart named Ritchie Blackmore stepped in. It was then that Lee moved over to piano.
Freddie started down the road to nuttydom playing piano for Screaming Lord Sutch, his long time partner in crime, while the young Ritchie Blackmore took over his job on guitar. He later joined Eden Kane’s band touring with Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde until, like many other British acts in the sixties, he found his way to Hamburg, initially playing with Sutch and later joining the houseband at the legendary Top Ten Club and The Star Club. When asked the inevitable questions about the Beatles, Freddie said “Lennon was a nut case but they were the same as the rest of us, just a bunch of working-class lads playing the circuit, we didn’t see them any differently; it just happened for them and they got on.”
Years later Paul McCartney paid Freddie the ultimate tribute by inviting him on stage at The Hammersmith Odeon. It was, however, visiting Americans who made Hamburg memorable for Freddie, when he met and sat in with all of the rock ‘n’ roll greats. “I played with Jerry Lee Lewis for a week, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, The Crickets and Gene Vincent, I also met Sam Cooke there, who was a real gentleman“.
These musicians, particularly Jerry Lee, remained an enduring influence on Freddie’s prolific writing career which eventually resulted in 19 singles, 8 albums, 12 compilations and had stars such as Tom Jones and Charlie Gracie covering his songs. “In my mind and in my music, I stayed in the fifties; I love country music though and do a few country numbers in the set, there are so many facets to it, from Cash to Lewis. Rock ‘n’ roll is pure excitement, there is nothing else that can make an entire audience, of all ages and descriptions, start stamping their feet. It’s that incessant drive in the beat. Fads come and go but rock’n’roll has stayed. I have been playing it since day one and I’m still playing it now”.
For many people, Freddie burst into prominence with the 1979 revival of the Jack Good TV show ‘Oh Boy’ which made him a household name, especially on the continent. “I have followed the re-runs of it right across Europe, playing major dates of the back of it. ‘Oh Boy’ sparked a massive following in Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany and, believe it or not, in Africa”. Freddie’s life now consisted of jetting backwards and forwards across European capitals playing festivals and TV dates, sharing billing with his own heroes like Sleepy Labeef, Scotty Moore and Chuck Berry. “I’m glad that the TV success happened later in life because I could handle it, a lot of people couldn’t. It also saddens me that some missed it the second time around, people like Johnny Kidd who could have taken the whole scene by storm”.
Freddie Lee was an unassuming bloke, with no time for the superstar syndrome he simply reckoned that “If you can’t mix with people what can you do? I am lucky to have travelled the world, met some great people and got paid for what I love to do”.
Mott the Hoople lead singer Ian Hunter, who played with Lee in Hurricane Harry and the Shriekers back in the mid-’60s, offered this tribute on his official website:
I’m so sorry.
Fred, Miller Anderson, Pete Phillips and I had some great times back in the day. Fred was a character. He told me he started with Sutch on ten bob a week AND he had to drive the van. We starved together in Germany – van broken down – club owner not paying us – but we got to play for hours every night and that was the buzz. Somehow disasters were averted and we’d make it back.
I always felt bad for Fred. He was – quite naturally – Jerry Lee Lewis’ twin. Same range, same power on the keyboards, same arrogance and he could be really funny – same love of American Country music – he would often sail into a song the band had never heard of. Fred loved the raw original beginnings of Rock ‘n’ Roll and remained staunchly loyal to it during a long, successful career. He had a lot of fans in Europe and never seemed to stop working – music was his life.
We all went off and did different things, but I’ll always be grateful to Fred for giving me a little hope at a time when I thought the factory was my only future. I’ll always remember him saying to me “You’re a good songwriter – but don’t ever try to sing.” He was probably right!!!
Rest In Peace, Freddie. Condolences to all.
Freddie ‘Fingers’ Lee passed away on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. He was 76 years old. Lee suffered two strokes within the past decade and had recently contracted pneumonia.
December 23, 2013 – Ricky Lawson was born on November 8, 1954. The Detroit native learned to play drums as a young teenager in Cooley High School. He would borrow his uncle’s drum set and carry it to his house across town via the Detroit bus system. He then played in the high school jazz band, which consisted of only five members, including the band director. Outside of the school jazz band he also played for The Sons of Soul, who performed at the 1969 Michigan State Fair, opening for The Jackson Five along with The Blazer, a band from Cooley High School in Detroit that included La Palabra.
While in high school, he had a talent for such sports as water polo and swimming. His swimming talent eventually earned him a scholarship to college. He only spent one year at college though, being invited to play drums for Stevie Wonder and from there developing into one of the nation’s top studio musicians in the 1980s. Early on, Ricky developed expertise in jazz, country and western, pop, R&B, funk and Latin rhythms – a versatility that allows him to play with anyone he wants to. He has earned his jobs and professional reputation by always being well prepared for his gigs. Some of the biggest Number 1 and multi-platinum singles and albums have featured Ricky’s impressive talents, including Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love”, James Ingrams’ “I Don’t Have The Heart” and Lionel Richie’s “Dancing On The Ceiling”.
A co-founder of the group The Yellowjackets in 1977. Known originally as the Robben Ford Group, the Yellowjackets consisted of Robben Ford, Russell Ferrante, Jimmy Haslip and Ricky Lawson, all top-notch L.A. session musicians. Ricky received a Grammy in 1986 for co-writing the hit song “And You Know That” on the album Shades, which he co-produced. He also co-authored the Pointer Sisters’ hit “Uh-Uh” and co-produced the album Seriously Slammin and the Fattburger hit “Good News”.
In the ’80s and ’90s, he played drums for Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. He played on Whitney’s famous hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Lawson has a one note “solo” in the song, where he hits the snare drum before Whitney’s dramatic vocal finale. He says that this is his favorite solo of his career.
Throughout his career he worked extensively as a session musician, collaborating with the likes of Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Phil Collins, Babyface, Toto, Al Jarreau, Whitney Houston, Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Bette Middler, Russell Ferrante, George Benson, Lionel Richie, Toto and George Duke, among others.
He was the musical director of Michael Jackson’s Bad Tour in 1988.
Ricky was the featured drummer on Steely Dan’s Grammy winning Best Album “Two Against Nature”, Lionel Richie’s release “Renaissance”, the soundtrack to the blockbuster film “Brothers” and the score for the epic “Anna and The King” starring Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat.
He also appeared on Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature tour DVD, Two Against Nature: Steely Dan’s Plush TV Jazz-Rock Party and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds “MTV Unplugged DVD 1997”.
In 2001, Lawson released the solo album Ricky Lawson and Friends, on which he performed, arranged, produced, and wrote all of the songs in collaboration with leading artists Gerald Albright, Phil Collins, George Duke, Sheila E., Nathan East, Donald Fagen, Jon Herington, Robben Ford, James Ingram, Boney James, Al Jarreau, Kirk Whalum, Vesta Williams, and others. The album is a blend of R&B, pop, and jazz.
In 2008, Lawson put together a classic Christmas CD, Christmas with Friends, with special guests Ron Reinhardt and Philppe Saisse on acoustic piano, Rick Braun on trumpet, Richard Elliot, Michael Paulo, and Steve Alaniz on sax, Paul Brown, Adam Hawley and Ian Keene on guitar, Lenny Castro on percussion, Roberto Vally and Sekou Bunch on bass.
In one of his final studio recordings, Lawson appears on 8 of 13 tracks of well-known bassist and Fourplay founding member Nathan East’s March 2014-released album, Nathan East. The album dedication In memory of Ricky Lawson appears as the final statement in the liner notes.
Sadly Lawson became disoriented while performing at the Spaghettini jazz club on December 13, 2013 in Seal Beach, California. It was diagnosed that a brain aneurysm on December 13 had been the cause. He died on December 23, 2013, aged 59, when he was removed from life support after ten days.
August 14, 2013 – Allen Glover Lanier (Blue Öyster Cult) was born on June 25th 1946 on Long Island New York. In 1967 together with Eric Bloom, he was a founding member of the band Soft White Underbelly, but after a bad review in 1969 they changed their name to Oaxaca, to the Stalk-Forrest Group, to the Santos Sisters, until the band settled on Blue Öyster Cult in 1971.
They released their debut album Blue Öyster Cult in January 1972. Because of their unique sound and diversity, Blue Öyster Cult has been influential to many modern bands that span many genres and are important pioneers of several different styles of rock music that came to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s. Many heavy metal bands have cited them as a major influence, and bands such as Metallica and Iced Earth have covered their songs.
Lanier wrote several songs for Blue Öyster Cult albums, including “True Confessions”, “Tenderloin”, “Searchin’ for Celine”, “In Thee”, and “Lonely Teardrops” and contributed to hits like “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” “Godzilla,” and “Burnin’ for You.” In addition to his work with Blue Öyster Cult, he also contributed to music by Patti Smith, John Cale, Jim Carroll, The Dictators and The Clash, among others. He dated Patti Smith for several years during the 1970s.
“After living on and off for more than six years with the same man, (Blue Oyster Cult keyboard player, Allan Lanier), Patti has certainly come a long way with quite an education. Patti confesses that she’s the kind of gal who “jes’ falls apart if my ol’ man cheats on me,” and for two busy performers on the road, the situation can get pretty rough. “
Lanier left the group in 1985, and was replaced by Tommy Zvoncheck (of Clarence Clemons and Public Image Ltd fame). He returned in 1987. He retired from performing with them after the autumn of 2006.
In 2007, without any official announcement from Blue Öyster Cult, the band’s line-up photograph was updated to remove Allen, and a brief mention on the page for Richie Castellano had the following to say: “Since the retirement of Allen Lanier, Richie has switched over to the guitars/keyboards position, both of which he’s quite the master!”
That would seem to indicate that Allen Lanier retired from both Blue Öyster Cult and music in 2007, having played his last concert with them in late 2006. He would rejoin them for their 40th anniversary concert in New York in November 2012, which proved to be his last ever appearance with the band.
Allen’s death on August 14, 2013 was announced by Blue Öyster Cult on their official Facebook page, “Allen succumbed to complications from C.O.P.D.” Lead singer Eric Bloom posted the following:
My great friend Allen Lanier has passed. I’ll miss the guy even though we hadn’t spoken in awhile. He was so talented as a musician and a thinker. He read voraciously, all kinds of things, especially comparative religion. We drove for years together, shared rooms in the early days. We partied, laughed, played. All BOC fans and band members will mourn his death. Ultimately smoking finally got to him. He had been hospitalized with C.O.P.D. It was Allen who heard some old college band tapes of mine and suggested I get a shot as the singer in 1968. A lot of great memories, over 40 years worth. Maybe he’s playing a tune with Jim Carroll right now.
Allen died fighting a chronic lung disease COPD as a result of lifelong smoking, on August 14, 2013 at the age of 67.
‘Don’t fear the reaper’ sweet man. We love you and miss you.
“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult is not only one of my own personal favorite heavy metal songs, but is among those selected by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top 500 rock songs of all time. The song is not only a romanticizing about Death’s inevitability, and his personification as the Grim Reaper, but also about premature death, suicide and eternal love (“Romeo and Juliet are together in eternity”). The song and the album it appeared on, “Agents Of Fortune,” came out in time for October and Halloween 1976. At that time there was a mysterious illness called Legionnaire’s disease and a swine flu epidemic scare in progress in the United States. The entire US population had to be vaccinated against swine flu, beginning on October 1, 1976. The scare was unwarranted and the vaccine caused more deaths and illnesses from side effects than the disease it was intended to protect everyone against. I always thought the lyrics of “Reaper,” along with its wild and scary lead guitar solo in the middle part, was especially ironic given the almost apocalyptic mood of the time.
August 10, 2013 – Eydie Gormé was born Edith Garmezano on August 16, 1928 in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of Nessim and Fortuna, Sephardic Jewish immigrants. Her father, a tailor, was from Sicily and her mother was from Turkey. Gormé was a cousin of singer-songwriter Neil Sedaka.
She graduated from William Howard Taft High School in 1946 with Stanley Kubrick in her class. She worked for the United Nations as an interpreter, using her fluency in the Ladino and Spanish languages, while singing in Ken Greenglass’s band during the weekends.
Straight out of high school, she also started singing with various big bands in 1950 such as the Tommy Tucker Orchestra and Don Brown.
She changed her name from Edith to Edie but later changed it to Eydie because people constantly mispronounced Edie as Eddie. Gorme also considered changing her family name; however, her mother protested, “It’s bad enough that you’re in show business. How will the neighbors know if you’re ever a success?”
Her big break came after she auditioned for, and joined, “The Tonight Show” in 1953. There, for $90 a week, she sang solos and duets with the up-and-coming Steve Lawrence. The two performed on the show for five years, and married in 1957. After their “Tonight Show” stint, the pair had a short-lived TV show of their own, The Steve Lawrence-Eydie Gormé Show (1958). Then, Lawrence entered the Army leaving Gormé, a new mother, to frequent the night club circuit on her own.
Two years later, when Lawrence was discharged, the couple came to a decision to enter show business more professionally. Their career took off, with audiences drawn to their penchant for the classics in favor of rock ‘n’ roll, as well as their spontaneous banter. They became famous on stage for their banter, which usually involved tart yet affectionate, and sometimes bawdy, references to their married life, which remained a feature of their live act.
Eydie Gormé enjoyed hit singles of her own, none selling bigger than 1963’s “Blame It on the Bossa Nova”, which was also her final foray into the Top 40 pop charts. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. In the UK, “Yes, My Darling Daughter” reached #10. She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance in 1967, for her version of “If He Walked Into My Life”, from Mame. The latter made #5 on the Billboard magazine Easy Listening chart in 1966, despite failing to make the Billboard Hot 100. Many of Gormé’s singles chart success from 1963 onward were on the Easy Listening/Adult Contemporary charts, where she placed 27 singles (both solo and with her husband) from 1963 to 1979 (of which “If He Walked Into My Life” was the most successful). As a soloist, her other biggest hits during that period included “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have?” from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (#17 Easy Listening, 1966) and “Tonight I’ll Say a Prayer” (#45 Pop and #8 Easy Listening, 1969, also her last Hot 100 entry as a solo artist).
As a duo with her husband, the act was billed as Steve and Eydie. They began their careers as members of the cast of the Steve Allen original Tonight Show. On February 8, 1960 they were awarded a star for recording on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1541 Vine Street. Also in 1960, Steve and Eydie were awarded the Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Vocal Group for the album “We Got Us”. Their biggest hit single as a duo, “I Just Want to Stay Here”, was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King and reached #3 in the UK and #28 in the US in 1963. Under the pseudonym “Parker and Penny”, Lawrence and Gormé achieved their last chart single (#46 on the Adult Contemporary chart) with a cover of the 1979 Eurovision song contest winner, “Hallelujah”. The song most closely identified with the duo, the Steve Allen composition “This Could Be the Start of Something”, never reached the charts, though it remained a staple in their live act.
Gormé and Lawrence appeared numerous times on TV, including 13 appearances on The Carol Burnett Show, as well as The Nanny. She and Lawrence starred together on Broadway in the musical Golden Rainbow. After the 1970s, the couple focused strictly on the American pop repertoire, recording several albums themed around individual American pop composers.
Also she did a duo with one of the most popular Mexican boleros in the 1950s Los Panchos. They released the song “Sabor a mí,” which started an entire Latino career for her. In 1964, her label released the album, Amor, which spent 22 weeks on the charts. One of the songs, Sabor a Mí, became closely identified with Gormé and emerged as one of her signature tunes. The disc was later reissued 18 times, with various names including as Eydie Gormé Canta en Español con el Trio Los Panchos; it remains the top-performing album in her oeuvre on iTunes. In 1965, a sequel appeared called More Amor (later reissued as Cuatro Vidas). Her last album with Los Panchos was a 1966 Christmas collection, Navidad Means Christmas, later reissued as Blanca Navidad. Gormé also recorded other Spanish albums in her career, including the Grammy-nominated La Gormé (1976), a contemporary outing. The 1977 release Muy Amigos/Close Friends, a duet collection with Puerto Rican singer Danny Rivera, also received a Grammy nomination.
As a duo they then appeared at leading nightclubs in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Las Vegas, combining music with the comedy bits they had learned during their apprenticeship on Allen’s show. In Las Vegas, the showroom sweethearts played the Sands, the Desert Inn and headlined for 10 years at Caesars Palace.
“Oh God, it was the best,” Gorme told The Associated Press in 2003 about that period. “After the shows, we would all get together and hang out. If it got later, we would all get together for breakfast.”
With nightclubs dwindling in popularity in the 1980s, they moved their act to large theaters and auditoriums, drawing not only older audiences but also the Baby Boomers who had grown up on rock `n’ roll.
In 1995, Eydie and Steve were honored by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, winning the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award. It is worth quoting from that award:
Steve and Eydie’s television specials saluting the great American songwriters are considered primers of quality, style and showmanship. The critically-acclaimed Steve and Eydie Celebrate Irving Berlin, received seven Emmy Awards. Their tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, Our Love is Here to Stay, garnered two more Emmys and From This Moment On, their musical salute to Cole Porter, won the duo an Award of Excellence from The Film Advisory Board. A highlight of Steve and Eydie’s career was their “Diamond Jubilee World Tour” with Frank Sinatra. Playing to SRO audiences around the world and winning rave reviews, the one-year tour culminated in New York’s Madison Square Garden. Frank Sinatra says, “Steve and Eydie represent all that is good about performers and the interpretation of a song..they’re the best.”
She won a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance in 1967, for her version of “If He Walked Into My Life”.
She was also awarded Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
As the 21st century arrived, the couple announced their plans to cut back on their touring, launching a “One More For The Road” tour in 2002. In 2006, Gormé became a blogger, posting occasional messages on her official website. In November 2009, after his wife retired, Lawrence embarked on a solo musical tour.
Gormé died on August 10, 2013, six days before her 85th birthday, following a brief, undisclosed illness.
July 26, 2013 – John Weldon ‘J.J.’ Cale was born on December 5, 1938 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was also raised and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1956. As well as learning to play the guitar he began studying the principles of sound engineering while still living with his parents in Tulsa, where he built himself a recording studio. After graduation he was drafted into military service, studying at the Air Force Air Training Command in Rantoul, Illinois. Cale recalled, “I didn’t really want to carry a gun and do all that stuff so I joined the Air Force and what I did is I took technical training and that’s kind of where I learned a little bit about electronics.” Cale’s knowledge of mixing and sound recording turned out to play an important role in creating the distinctive sound of his studio albums.
Along with a number of other young Tulsa musicians, Cale moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, where he found employment as a studio engineer. While living in Los Angeles he cut a demo single in 1966 (in those days professional demos were actual 45 rpm vinyl singles) with Liberty Records of his composition “After Midnight”. He distributed copies of this single to his Tulsa musician friends living in Los Angeles, many of whom were successfully finding work as session musicians. Although he managed to find a regular spot at the Whisky a Go Go (which is where, according to his own testimony, Elmer Valentine suggested he call himself J.J. Cale to avoid confusion with John Cale of the Velvet Underground he found little success as a recording artist and, not being able to make enough money as a studio engineer, he sold his guitar and returned to Tulsa, where he joined a band with Tulsa musician Don White.
In 1970, it came to his attention that Eric Clapton had recorded a cover of “After Midnight” on his debut album in 1970. As a result of this, it was suggested to Cale that he should take advantage of this publicity and cut a record of his own. His first album, Naturally, established his style, described by Los Angeles Times writer Richard Cromelin as a “unique hybrid of blues, folk and jazz, marked by relaxed grooves and Cale’s fluid guitar and laconic vocals. His early use of drum machines and his unconventional mixes lend a distinctive and timeless quality to his work and set him apart from the pack of Americana roots music purists.”
In his 2003 biography Shakey, Neil Young remarked, “Of all the players I ever heard, it’s gotta be Hendrix and JJ Cale who are the best electric guitar players.” In the 2005 documentary To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale, Cale’s guitar style is characterized by Eric Clapton as “really, really minimal”, and he states precisely, “it’s all about finesse”.
His biggest U.S. hit single, “Crazy Mama”, peaked at #22 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1972. In the 2005 documentary film To Tulsa and Back, Cale recounts the story of being offered the opportunity to appear on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand to promote the song, which would have moved it higher on the charts. Cale declined when told he could not bring his band to the taping and would be required to lip-sync the words. Though he deliberately avoided the limelight (being temperamentally averse to celebrity) his influence as a musical artist has been widely acknowledged by figures such as Mark Knopfler, Neil Young and Eric Clapton who described him as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock”. He is considered to be one of the originators of the Tulsa Sound, a loose genre drawing on blues, rockabilly, country, and jazz.
Many songs written by Cale have been recorded by other artists, including “After Midnight” and “Cocaine” by Eric Clapton; “Call Me the Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Mayer, Johnny Cash and Bobby Bare; “Clyde” by Waylon Jennings and Dr. Hook; “I Got The Same Old Blues” by Captain Beefheart, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Freddie King; and “Magnolia” by Beck, Lucinda Williams and Iron and Wine Jose Feliciano and Ben Bridwell.
Cale often acted as his own producer, engineer and session player. His vocals, sometimes whispery, would be buried in the mix. He attributed his unique sound to being a recording mixer and engineer, saying, “Because of all the technology now you can make music yourself and a lot of people are doing that now. I started out doing that a long time ago and I found when I did that I came up with a unique sound.”
In 2008 he, along with Clapton, received a Grammy Award for their album, The Road to Escondido.
J.J. Cale died at the age of 74 in La Jolla, California, on July 26, 2013, after suffering a heart attack.
June 4, 2013 – Joseph Edward “Joey” Covington (Hot Tuna) was born Joseph Edward Michno on June 27, 1945 in East Conemaugh, Pennsylvania. He became a professional drummer as a young teenager, taking gigs in, among other things, polka bands and strip clubs in his hometown Johnstown, Pennsylvania. A colorful character, on his website he listed among his fondest early memories “Getting to New York City on a Greyhound bus with a suitcase, a set of drums, and a hundred dollars in my pocket.”
He built a long storied career starting at age 10 as a self-taught drummer/percussionist, along with becoming an award-winning songwriter and ultimately recording on over 22 albums, 16 went gold and platinum.
In the early to mid-’60s, he was playing with bands that opened shows for the Rolling Stones, Dave Clark 5, The Shangri-Las, Lee Dorsey, Lou Christie, Chad and Jeremy, Jimmy Beaumont and the Skyliners, among others, and a stint playing drums backing up Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars featuring acts such as the Supremes.
Covington settled in Los Angeles late 1966 and was quickly discovered and produced by famed producer/songwriter Kim Fowley as a singing drummer. The single released was a cover of The Who’s “Boris The Spider” with “I’ll Do Better Next Time” on the B side (the first song Covington ever wrote). He co-formed several bands in Los Angeles during that period. Tsong with Mickey Rooney Jr., and a yet-to-be-named band with Papa John Creach, Jimmy Greenspoon and Joe Schermie.
Papa John later was brought in by Joey to Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship and went on to a long solo recording career. Jimmy & Joe went on to become members of Three Dog Night.
A member of Jefferson Airplane, Joey at first co-formed Hot Tuna with Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady in late 1968 while Grace Slick was undergoing and recovering from throat node surgery. With Hot Tuna they opened shows for the Airplane. In early 1969 Joey was playing in both Hot Tuna and augmenting, then ultimately replacing Airplane drummer Spencer Dryden.
Covington appeared on their chart topping albums “Volunteers”, “Bark” and “Long Long John Silver”. Covington co-wrote Jefferson Airplane’s 1971 hit single “Pretty As You Feel” that reached number 60 on the charts and the 1976 Jefferson Starship hit single “With Your Love” that reached number 12 on the Billboard 100. He also recorded with members of Jefferson Airplane on their solo projects including Paul Kantner’s 1970 Jefferson Starship album “Blows Against The Empire”, Papa John Creach’s first solo album in 1971, and “Sunfighter” an album by Paul Kantner and Grace Slick released in November of 1971. It was Joey Covington who discovered violinist John Creach, gave him the nickname Papa, and brought him into the Jefferson Airplay family in 1970.
After leaving the Airplane in 1973 Covington released his solo album Fat Fandango and founded the San Francisco Allstars with former members of New Riders of the Purple Sage and other bands. He toured with the Allstars during the 1980s and 1990s. As a session player Covington recorded with Peter Kaukonen, Kim Fowley, Nick Gravenites, Juan Gabriel, Cristian Castro, Jaci Velasquez, and Jay Gordon. In 2006 he composed several songs for the artist Lauren and produced her album “Hideout Is a Crook’s Best Friend”.
The Early Years
Polka Bands and Strippers in Johnstown
Joey Covington was born Joseph Edward Michno on June 27, 1945 in Johnston, Pennsylvania. The third of six children he grew up near Johnston in the very small town of East Conemaugh. His father Louis had been a minor league baseball player projected to play in the majors before he was drafted into World War II. After the war, Louis became a truck driver and married Elizabeth (Betty) Sisco, an aspiring country singer. Joey Michno began playing drums at age 10 teaching himself by listening to the music of jazz percussionists Joe Morello, Cozy Cole, Sandy Nelson, Candido and Preston Epps. During his years at East Conemaugh High School he played tom toms in the marching band, learned rudimental drumming, and became the drum sergeant.
He began performing professionally in 1958 at age 13 playing drums in polka bands at VFW Lodges. As he was underage his mother and father had to chaperon his gigs. Without his parent’s knowledge he played drums in a strip joint called the Airway Club in Johnston, Pa. He beat on his Tom-toms while the strippers did their bump and grinds. At age 15 Joey decided he wanted make a career as a professional drummer.
While in high school Covington joined the Johnston surf rock band called the Vibra-Sonics. The Vibra-Sonics were comprised of George Tweedy (lead), Bob Tweedy (rhythm), Bill Sabo (2nd lead, rhythm), Joe Colner (bass) and Joey Michno (drums and vocals). They won several battles of the bands and opened a show for Simon and Garfunkel. The Vibra-Sonics played shows throughout Western Pennsylvania in the early 1960s. In 1963 they lost all of their instruments when the Conneaut Lake Park nightspot that they played at, the Cowshed, burnt to the ground. They recorded a single for Ideal Records. Ideal was a Pittsburgh based label owned by Augie Bernardo that also released singles by the El-Reys, the Stereos, John Harrison & the Hustlers, and the Four Challengers. The Vibra-Sonic’s released the single “Drag Race” / “Thunder Storm” on Ideal Records in 1964. On Drag Race, surf song reminiscent of the garage band classic “Wipeout”, Joey played rapid fire snare. Both songs from the single have been reissued on two surf music compilations.
Graduating from high school at age 18 Michno faced the Vietnam era draft. The Navy offered him a chance to play tympani with a Navy band if he enlisted. But a terrible car accident, one night after a gig, took away that chance. In December of 1964 the Vibro-Sonics were returning from a gig in Latrobe, Pa when one of their cars was struck by another car driven by a drunk driver. Joseph Colner the 16 year old bassist was killed. Joey Michno suffered multiple fractures of his pelvis, right leg, and three toes. The driver of the car that struck the Vibro-Sonics was arrested for involuntary manslaughter, speeding, driving without a permit, and for fleeing the accident. Covington spent three months in a pelvic sling before he went home to his parent’s house to learn to walk again. His recovery took six months.
On the Road to Rock Stardom
In 1965 at age 20, Covington left home for New York City after his father gave him an ultimatum. Louis told Joey “son, if you’re gonna be a rock star, you’ve got a month to take your drums and get out on the road, or, if you’re gonna live at home, you’d better get a job and bring some money into the house.” Joey took on his father’s challenge. He took to the road in search of a professional drumming job. Joey grabbed a hundred bucks, packed up his grey marine Ludwig drum kit and bought a one-way bus ticket to New York City.
In New York Joey went to the Peppermint Lounge to see Joey D of the Starliters who wrote the hit song “Peppermint Twist”. Michno walked up to Joey D, introduced himself, and asked where he could find a gig. Joey D told him to contact his agent Sid Green. The next day Michno called on Mr. Green saying Joey D sent him. Green gave him a card and said I’ll call you if anything comes up. But Joey persisted. He told Green “I can’t go back to Johnstown, my father will make me get another kind of job, and I’m a great drummer, and I’m gonna be a star, and I’m not leaving your office until you find me a gig!.” Joey pulled out his Vibra-Sonics single and had Mr. Green listen to it. Green liked his fast drumming but told Joey to come back in a few years. He offered to buy Joey a ticket back to Johnstown. Joey was about to leave when the night club singer and pianist Danny Apollinar came into see Mr. Green. Appollinar told Sid that two members of his trio just quit and he needed a new drummer and bass player in a hurry for a gig in Fort Lauderdale in two days. Mr. Green said Danny I have a drummer right here who can play anything. Appollinar hired him on the spot for $200 a week plus room and board. Green waved his commission and told Joey to go be a star. After two days of rehearsals Joey Michno went on tour with Appollinar. With that experience he got more calls and went on the road in 1965 playing shows with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, the Shangri’la’s, Billy Stewart, the Supremes, Donald Jenkins and the Delighters and the Shirelles.
In 1966 Sonny Di’Nunzio, leader of the Pittsburgh band the Fenways, called Joey offering him a steady gig, He remembered Joey from the Vibra-Sonics battle of the bands shows. The Fenways were the hot band in Pittsburgh in 1966. They had several hit singles on Pittsburgh radio including “ Be Careful Little Girl,” (1964), ”Nothing to Offer You” (1964), The Number One Song In The Country” (1964) and “Walk” (1965). They were regulars on Terry Lee’s Channel 11 Come Alive TV dance show and had opened for the Rolling Stones and the Dave Clark Five. Joey joined the Fenways playing with them seven days a week at the Staircase, Mancini’s, and other Pittsburgh area clubs. They opened shows for the Shangri-La’s, Lee Dorsey, Lou Christie, Chad and Jeremy, and the Skyliners. Joey recorded four singles with the Fenways in 1966 that were released on Nick Cenci’s Co&Ce label. The singles were “I’m A Mover” / “Satisfied” and “A Go Go” / “I Move Around”
Go West Young Man
In the spring of 1967 Joey’s musician friend Louie called asking if he’d like to ride out to Los Angeles in his new Mercedes. Seeking a new adventure Joey hit the road again with his drum kit in tow. They cruised down Route 66 making it to Sunset Boulevard in four days. In L.A. Joey Michno changed his professional name to Joey Covington.
Looking for work at the L.A. musician’s union hall, Joey met another Western Pennsylvanian musician violinist John Creach. They put together a band and played a few gigs before Creach found work playing jazz at the Parision Room. Working with producer Kim Fowley Joey record several songs at a solo artist in 1967. He sang, wrote several songs, recorded his own arrangement of the Who’s “Boris the Spider”. Covington formed a band with pianist Jimmy Greenspoon who later became one of the founding members of Three Dog Night. When Greenspoon moved on Covington joined with Mickey Rooney Jr. to found the band Tsong that signed with MGM Records. Covington co-wrote two songs “Let’s Be Friends” and the Brit Pop single “Like We Were Before” that were released on the MGM album “Song” in 1970. During this time Covington dated Art Linkletter’s daughter Dianne.
Flying High with the Jefferson Airplane
In 1968 Marty Balin of the Jefferson Airplane heard Covington play at an L.A. club and invited him to meet the Airplane at their next Whiskey A Go Go gig. Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady invited Covington to jam with them at RCA Studios in L.A. Covington continued to jam with Jorma and Jack in L.A. The trio of Jorma, Jack and Covington played their first live shows together in L.A. during October 1968. Those appearances led to the formation of Hot Tuna in 1969.
Marty Balin contacted Covington in 1969 asking him to come to San Francisco to audition for Jefferson Airplane. Covington won the audition and moved to San Francisco. During 1969 he played Hot Tuna gigs with Jorma Kaukonen. He also played Jefferson Airplane shows drumming alongside the original drummer Spencer Dryden. Covington made his first appearance as the lone the Airplane drummer on Aug 2 1969 at the Pop Festival in Atlantic City. He missed the chance to play with the Airplane at Woodstock when he broke his leg. Joey made his first recordings with the Jefferson Airplane playing percussion on two tracks of their November 1969 release “Volunteers” that reached number 13 on the Billboard charts in 1970. In December of 1969 Covington performed with the Jefferson Airplane at the infamous Altamont Free Concert. Headlined by the Stones the concert drew 300,000 but was marred by one murder and three accidental deaths.
Spencer Dryden, the Jefferson Airplane’s original drummer, was fired from the band in February 1970 by a unanimous vote of the other members. Burned out by acid and Altamont, Dryden took some time off before he joined the New Riders of the Purple Sage in 1972. The Jefferson Airplane sent out a press release in April of 1970 announcing Joey Covington as their new drummer. He toured the U.S. and Europe with the Airplane in 1970.
Covington invited his friend Papa John Creach to sit in with the Airplane for a concert at Winterland in San Francisco on October 5, 1970. The Airplane members loved Papa John’s playing and made him a permanent member of the Airplane and Hot Tuna. Joey helped Papa John put together his first solo album by selecting the songs, hiring the musicians, playing drum, and writing the Papa John top 40 single “Janitor Drives a Cadillac”.
Blows Against the Empire
In December of 1970 Covington played drums on Paul Kantner’s “Blows Against the Empire” album that was the forerunner of Jefferson Starship. David Crosby. Graham Nash, Grace Slick, Jack Cassidy and several members of the Grateful Dead appeared on the album.
Barking Up the Right Tree
Covington recorded with the Airplane in the summer of 1971 on their album “Bark”. It was the first release on the band’s own label Grunt Records. Covington co-wrote and sang lead vocals on the single “Pretty As You Feel” which was the last Jefferson Airplane song to reach the Billboard 100. Covington also wrote and sang vocals on the whimsical track “Thunk”. He played drums on all eleven of the tracks. Bark was another commercial success reaching number 11 on the Billboard charts.
In 1972 Covington began to work on outside recording projects lessening his role with the Airplane. He recorded the album Black Kangaroo with Jorma Kaukonen’s brother Peter. Covington played on two tracks of the Airplane’s July 1972 album release “Long John Silver”. Joey play live concerts with the Airplane into 1973.
Wanting to work on his own projects Covington left the Airplane in 1973. He released a solo album entitled “Fat Fandango” on Grunt Records in 1973. Joey wrote all of the songs on the album and produced it. The Allmusic Guide reviewer wrote: “Fat Fandango by Jefferson Airplane drummer Joey Covington is a major revelation, a wonderful artifact from the day when record labels allowed certain bands their own imprint and side musicians a chance to fully express their artistry. ….This is a great, lost party album”.
Covington formed the San Francisco All Stars in 1978 with Steve Love of the New Riders of the Purple Sage and Quicksilver Messenger Service guitarist John Cipollina. They toured the U.S. but never released any recordings. As who’s who of musicians and movie actors have been members of the All Stars including Slash, Spencer Davis, Rick Danko, Mike Finnegan, Skunk Baxter, Billy Roberts, Spencer Dryden, Paul Shortino, Jimmy Crespo, James Gurley, Brian May, Albert Collins, Joe Shermie, Mike Bloomfield, Fuzzy Knight, Joe Chambers, Bruce Willis, Kiefer Sutherland, Max Gail, Jr., and Gary Busey.
Joey Covington has composed songs recorded by Juan Gabriel, Pandora, Jaci Velasquez, and Cristian Castro and has played drums on records of Nick Gravenites Blue Star and Jay Gorden’s Jaywalking.
In the Pittsburgh Music Hall of Fame
The Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. But the Hall of Fame did not include Joey Covington saying he was not an original member. The Hall ignored the fact that Grace Slick was not an original member. They also ignored the fact the Covington recorded on three of the Airplane’s albums, wrote the Airplane’s last hit single, toured extensively with the band, recorded on solo projects with Paul Kanter and Grace Slick, brought Papa John Creach into the band, and was one of the founders of Hot Tuna. Pittsburgh Music History recognizes the achievements and talent of Joey Covington. From humble beginnings playing VFW polka gigs in Johnston, he took on his father’s challenge to earn a living as a drummer, went on the road and was invited by Marty Balin to become an important contributing member of one of the seminal rock bands of the 1960s and 1970s.
Joey Covington died in a car crash in Palm Springs, Calif.on June 4th 2013 at the age of 67. According to the Desert Sun newspaper, Covington, who was not wearing a seat belt, crashed into a retaining wall at a highway curve. His car flew off the road hitting an elevated highway. Joey’s wife believed that a heart attack or stroke caused him to drive off the road. He died on the scene.
He died at age 67 on June 4, 2013.
May 23, 2013 – Georges Moustaki was born on May 3, 1934 in Alexandria, Egypt as Giuseppe “Yussef” Mustacchi. His parents, Sarah and Nessim Mustacchi, were Francophile, Greek Jews from the island of Corfu, Greece. They moved to Egypt, where their young child first learned French. They owned the Cité du Livre – one of the finest book shops in the Middle East – in the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria where many ethnic communities lived together.
At home, everyone spoke Italian because the aunt categorically refused to speak Greek. In the street, the children spoke Arabic. At school, young Joseph, as he was known, learned and spoke French. His parents were very attached to French culture and put him into a French school, along with his sisters. The young boy was very interested in French literature and song. He listened to Charles Trenet, Tino Rossi or Edith Piaf. As he played the piano, he amused himself by re-creating their songs.
He would later write: “The Alexandria of my childhood was the world in miniature with all races and all religions. I was rarely a foreigner anywhere because I always found some reference to Alexandria in the languages I heard, the smells I breathed or the colours.”
His father, Nessim, spoke five languages; his mother, Sarah, six. At home, the young Giuseppe and his two older sisters spoke Italian, in the streets Arabic, at school French. In his parents’ shop he discovered the literature of André Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus.
At the age of 17, once he had passed his Baccalauréat, he thus quite naturally came to Paris for a holiday, in 1951. After an idyllic summer holiday in Paris, Moustaki obtained his father’s permission to move there, working as a door-to-door salesman of poetry books. He went to live with his sister and brother in law, also a bookseller. He tried to earn his living as a travelling salesman for books of poetry. In his free time, he messed around with a guitar his mother sent him. He also went to clubs, the Trois Baudets, for example. Here he heard the young Georges Brassens one evening when he was just starting out. This had a great influence on Moustaki. By a stroke of luck, the singer turned up one day in his brother in law’s bookshop. He was able to show Brassens his small store of songs, and Brassens encouraged him to persevere.
Stimulated by this encouragement but still lacking funds, the young man, who had decided to change his name to Georges Moustaki, in honour of Georges, he began to knock on cabaret doors for jobs as a singer. He made his living writing chronicles of Paris cultural life for an Egyptian newspaper. Although he was only twenty, he also got married to Annick. His daughter, Pia, was born the following year. But family life was difficult for this debutante artist who was still hesitating between music and painting at this time. The same year, 1954, he met Henri Salvador whom he offered songs to.
“My taste for music came from French songs: Charles Trénet, who dazzled me, and who, a long time afterwards, I told as much; Henri Salvador; Georges Ulmer; Yves Montand; Georges Guétary, Luis Mariano. “I would borrow my father’s long trousers (when young) to go and hear them sing. I even saw Piaf with my mother when I was 13 years old, 10 years before I met her,” he said.
It was guitarist Henri Crolla whom George Moustaki admired fervently, who introduced the young songwriter to Edith Piaf in 1958. His friend’s praise of the young composer was so flattering that Piaf, then at the height of her fame, asked somewhat sarcastically to hear him sing his best works there and then.
“I picked up a guitar and I was lamentable. But something must have touched her. She asked me to go and see her perform that same evening at Olympia [the Paris music hall] and to show her later the songs I had just massacred.”
In 1958 he began writing songs for Songbird Piaf, the most famous of which, Milord, about a lower-class girl who falls in love with an aristocratic British traveler. The music was written in fact by Marguerite Monnot. Moustaki accompanied Piaf on her tours for a whole year, but the relationship was highly charged and they broke off suddenly. Libération described it as a year of “devastating, mad love”, with the newspapers following “the ‘scandal’ of the ‘gigolo’ and his dame day after day”.
After this year of intense experiences, Georges Moustaki returned to a quieter life, studying music and learning classical guitar. He did, however, continue to write for people like Colette Renard, the creator of “Irma la Douce”, Montand or Barbara. From 1960 to 65, he brought out several singles on the Pathé Marconi label, and even an LP, on which there were “Eden Blues”, “Les Orteils du Soleil” and “Les Musiciens”. But at this time Moustaki’s ambition was not to be a singer. Despite this, in 1966 he offered the rough draft of “Le Métèque” to his recording company, which turned up its nose and terminated his contract.
This was the period during which Moustaki went back to his Greek origins. He went to Greece for the first time in 1966 and visited several regions. He met actress Melina Mercouri and became friends with her. Later she was to have the “Métèque” and “En Méditerranée” translated and sing them as hymns of the resistance to the dictatorship of the Greek Colonels.
He also met Serge Reggiani. in 1966. The actor wished to start a true career as a singer, and persuaded Moustaki to write songs for him. Thus, powerful songs such as “Sarah”, “Votre fille a vingt ans”, “Ma liberté” or “Ma solitude” were born. Reggiani scored huge successes with these, which also brought the songwriter to prominence.
Over the years, Moustaki made many faithful friends of players in the French musical world of the period, such as Barbara. He wrote one of the most beautiful songs in her repertoire, “La longue dame brune” which they actually sang in a duo throughout the singer’s tour in 1968. But when Barbara was due to sing a concert in Mulhouse , she fell ill and could not go on stage. Moustaki took over for an impromptu – virtual debut – performance on a live stage.
After a decade of composing songs for various famous singers, such as Édith Piaf, Dalida, Françoise Hardy, Barbara, Brigitte Fontaine, Herbert Pagani, France Gall, and Cindy Daniel, Moustaki launched a successful career as a performer himself, singing in French, Italian, English, Greek, Portuguese, Arabic and Spanish, all languages he was fluent in. His songwriting career peaked in those days with songs like “Sarah”, performed by Serge Reggiani, and “La Longue Dame brune”, written for the singer Barbara (Monique Serf).
But in 1969, Moustaki composed the song “Le Métèque” — ‘métèque’ is a pejorative word for a shifty-looking immigrant of Mediterranean origin — in which he described himself as a “wandering Jew” and a “Greek shepherd”. Serge Reggiani rejected it and the record companies refused to produce it. Moustaki then sang it himself, on a 45rpm disc, and it became a huge hit in France, spending six non consecutive weeks at number one in the charts. “A small, subliminal settling of scores became the hymn of anti-racism and the right to be different, the cry of revolt of all minorities,” Moustaki said of the song. It was such a success that he was able to follow it with an LP which was awarded the Prix de l’Académie Charles-Cros the following year. Several songs, of which “Ma Solitude” or “Joseph”, were to be favourites on tours.
He finally appeared as the star of Bobino in Paris in January 1970. He knew how to create a warm, intimate atmosphere with his musicians, and this enchanted the public. At his time he brought out a live album including titles which had never been recorded, such as “Donne du rhum à ton homme” or “la Pierre” by the Greek composer Manos Hadjidakis. The following year, in addition to a Canadian tour, he played in a film based on Albert Cossery’s novel “Mendiants et orgueilleux”. He also brought out a new album called “Il y avait un jardin”, my favorite!
And that was it – Moustaki finally had become a singer. In 1972, he wrote the album “Danse” in which there was “Ligne droite”, and two tracks by another Greek, Mikis Theodorakis, “L’homme au coeur blessé” and “Nous sommes deux”, followed in quick succession by a second series of concerts at Bobino in February 72 and a tour in Africa and Canada. The event of the year was no doubt the international festival of popular music in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Fascinated by Jorge Amado’s books and an amateur of bossa nova after Pierre Barouh had introduced it, Moustaki had already been drawn to Brazilian culture. On the occasion of this festival, he met stars of Brazilian music such as Elis Regina, Chico Buraque, Gilberto Gil or Jorge Ben.
In his next album, “Declaration”, Brazilian influences could be heard. Moustaki took “Aguas de março” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, and turned it into “Eaux de Mars”. He appeared at the Tokyo Festival and continued his world tour with concerts in Canada and the United States, appearing at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Far from having forgotten his first loves, Moustaki honoured Georges Brassens in the 1974 album “Les Amis de Georges”. He also adapted two Brazilian songs, one by Chico Buarque, “Portugal” and the other by Toquihno and Vinicius de Moraes, “Je suis une guitare”. “Le droit à la paresse”, also much remarked, suited him well. After another concert at Bobino, he went on tour to Germany.
Georges Moustaki’s life was that of a travelling artist, finding his inspiration on every continent, delving within himself and in his roots to find materials for his songs. The years from 1975 to 1977 were devoted to albums : “Humblement il est venu”, “Prélude”, and “Espérance”, but mostly to concerts, which he gave all over the world, from Germany to Japan, from France (with three weeks at the Théâtre de la Ville in 1976 and 3 weeks at the Olympia in 1977) to Cairo, Egypt (3 dates in 1976).
In 1979 he brought out two albums “Si je pouvais t’aider” and “Et pourtant dans le monde”. In November he appeared at the Olympia for two weeks and continued on a European tour for most of 1980.
After his album “C’est là”, in 1981, Moustaki abandoned the south for a while and joined the Dutch group Flairk to record songs on his album “Moustaki & Flairk” (82) and for the tour which followed, including Bobino in Paris.
He changed direction for the next, unnamed album, recorded in May 84 in Paris and Rio. It contains “Pornographie” by Hadjidakis, and “l’instrument du malheur”, which in fact was the accordion, which he had started learning in 1980 with José Rossi. After the Olympia, he went to the island of Reunion for the Festival de l’Océan Indien. In 1985 he left on another long tour (Europe, Chile and Korea). He also took French nationality. He had been Greek until then.
At this period in the middle of the eighties, he broke with his recording company, Polydor, and it was therefore Blue Silver which brought out his new album, “Joujou”, in 1986. A few heavyweights lent him a hand, Maxime Le Forestier to write “une Cousine”, the Spaniard Paco Ibañez for the music to “l’Espagne au cœur”, and accordionists Joe Rossi and Richard Galliano. That year, Moustaki inaugurated a new type of tour: tours of Paris. His started in the Salle Gaveau classical concert hall and ended at the 19th arrondissement parish hall, with a series of 19 concerts. This tour allowed him to go back home to his flat in the Ile Saint-Louis in the centre of Paris every night.
He appeared again in Paris at the Théâtre Dejazet at the end of 1987. A live double album came out in 88. The following year he published “Les Filles de la Mémoire”, prefaced by the great Jorge Amado. The book was translated into Greek, Italian and Spanish.
Return to the Mediterranean
After the release of a collection, “Ballades en ballade”, containing a large number of his productions with Polydor, Georges Moustaki recorded a new album in the studio in 1992, entitled “Méditerranéen”. Maxime le Forestier signed “Chanson de Jerôme”, Joe Rossi “Nini” and “Boucle d’oreille” and Areski Belkacem, Brigitte Fontaine’s partner, “Méditerranéen”. A newcomer to the Moustaki galaxy, François Rauber took over arrangements. In March 93 Moustaki performed in three concerts at the Casino de Paris and then went off on tour as usual.
After a series of concerts at the famous Paris jazz club, le Petit Journal Montparnasse, in 1995, Moustaki returned with a new album in 96, “Tout reste à dire”. The title may seem surprising for a man of his career in songwriting. But this great traveller was still swept by inspirations: “As-tu brisé un coeur?” is a Sufic poem by Turk Yunus Emre. He also sings “Demande de réparation pour dommages de guerre”, to lyrics by Dan Ben Amots, accompanied by Nilda Fernandez. There is also Enzo Enzo’s liquid voice accompanying him on “Des mots démodés”. Yet again, Moustaki used sounds and words from other worlds, like “Ave maria no morro”, sung in Portuguese.
Moustaki’s true passion is the relationship he has built up with his public throughout his travels. Tours occupy most of his time. If he still pops up in Paris (Casino in January 97 or the Petit Journal Montparnasse in February 98), it is only so that he can return all the better to faraway lands where, in his own words, “he can rest”.
On November 23 1998 Moustaki brought the house down when he performed in Warsaw, delighting fans with a concert lasting more than two hours. Needless to say, the French singer received a standing ovation at the end of his mega-show!
Following the publication of his memoirs “Fils du brouillard” in January 2000, Moustaki brought the house down when he performed in Paris at the legendary Olympia on June 6th. He continued his tour throughout 2001, performing at a series of major summer festivals including the famous “Francofolies” in La Rochelle and “Les Vieilles Charrues” in Brittany.
In December 2002, at the age of 68, Georges Moustaki released his first generic collection in the form of a boxed set of 10 CDs. Having spent the last 40 years singing about life’s pleasures and joys, he can now take stock of his life’s work : here we find a unique brand of nonchalance, a strong love of love, as well as collaborations with marvellous musicians which produced so many classic songs. There was a surprise release in November 2003 : that of a new album simply called “Moustaki”, which included the studio version of the first song he ever composed, “Gardez vos reves”, and a first-time own recording of the song which made his name, “Milord”, first written for Edith Piaf, and here discreetly inserted at the end of the CD, without a word on the cover. Jean-Claude Vannier, well-known for his Serge Gainsbourg arrangements, adds a contemporary touch to the album.
After these album releases, Georges Moustaki took the opportunity to tour again in 2004 : France, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland (where he paid tribute to deceased friend Serge Reggiani), Germany, Tunisia and Algeria.
His singing career ended in 2009, when emphysema made it impossible for him to carry on performing.
Georges Moustaki died from the disease on May 23, 2013 and France lost one of the greatest poetic singer/songwriter chansonniers that ever walked its land. He was 79. A few months earlier Moustaki told French radio station RTL that he wanted to be buried in Alexandria, his birthplace. “There is a cemetery that is the cemetery of free thinkers and it is there that I want to rest for eternity,” he said. He however is buried in Paris’s most famous cemetery “Pere Lachaise” amongst many other free thinkers like Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde, just a couple of yards from his one time paramour Edith Piaf.
In a tribute Juliette Gréco said: “He was an absolutely charming man, a gentleman, a fine man. This was an elegant man with infinite softness, and of course, talent. He was like all poets, there was something different about him.”
May 25, 2013 – Marshall Lytle (Bill Haley & His Comets) was born on September 1st 1933 in Old Fort, North Carolina. He was a guitar player before joining Bill Haley’s country music group, The Saddlemen, in 1951, but was hired to play double bass for the group, so Haley taught Marshall the basics of slap bass playing.
In September 1952, they changed their name to Bill Haley & His Comets. Soon after, he co-wrote with Haley the band’s first national hit, “Crazy Man, Crazy” although he did not receive co-authorship credit for it until 2002.
He played on all of Haley’s recordings between 1951 and the summer of 1955, including “Rock Around the Clock”. In September 1955, he, along with drummer Dick Richards and saxophone player Joey Ambrose, quit The Comets in a salary dispute and formed their own musical group, The Jodimars. They became one of the first rock ‘n’ roll groups to take up residence in Las Vegas.
Lytle’s style of playing, which involved slapping the strings to make a percussive sound, is considered one of the signature sounds of early rock and roll and rockabilly. The athletic Lytle also developed a stage routine, along with Ambrose, that involved doing acrobatic stunts with the bass fiddle, including throwing it in the air and riding it like a horse. This became a signature performance for The Comets that later musicians working for Haley were instructed to emulate.
By 1958 the Jodimars had broken up, though Lytle attempted to continue the group on his own. Lytle continued to work in music off-and-on into the 1960s, but also got involved in other interests, changing his name to Tommy Page and getting into real estate and later opening an interior design business.
In October ’87, 6 years after the death of Bill Haley, Marshall was invited to take part in a reunion of the original 1954-55 Comets that was held in Philadelphia as part of a tribute concert in honor of Dick Clark. Despite the musicians not having seen each other in decades, The Comets quickly found their groove again although Lytle sang the lyrics of “Rock Around the Clock” out-of-order. Their performance was the hit of the show, and over the next couple of years The Comets began touring again, primarily in Europe. The band has recorded several albums for the German label Hydra Records, the UK-based Rockstar Records, and the US label Rollin’ Rock Records.
In the late 1990s he and his friend Warren Farren wrote a topical tune called “Viagra Rock” that The Comets recorded; the song proved to be quite popular on radio stations in Florida. In 2006 the group took up a long-term residence at the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Missouri, performing more than 150 shows at the venue, with more in 2007. The group also toured Europe in early 2007. He continued working and touring with the Comets until his retirement in 2009.
In 2012 he was inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Bill Haley & His Comets
Marshall died while bravely fighting lung cancer on May 25, 2013. He was 79.
May 2, 2013 – Jeffrey John “Jeff” Hanneman was born on January 31, 1964 in Oakland CA, but grew up further south in Long Beach. He is best known as a founding member of the American thrash metal band Slayer.
The story goes that in 1981 he approached Kerry King, when King was auditioning for a southern rock band “Ledger”. After the try-out session, the two guitarists started talking and playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs and decided to form their own band, and Slayer was born.
A journalist once wrote, “The mark of greatness is when everything before you is obsolete and everything after you bears your mark.” This quote was originally used to memorialize iconic comedian Richard Pryor, but the significance of those words shine great enlightenment onto the career and creative accomplishments of late Slayer guitarist Jeff Hanneman.
Jeff Hanneman was the Beethoven of thrash metal. The guitarist’s unique compositional skills mixed with his atmospheric leads and full-speed-ahead shredding was unlike anything that came before it. Two years after Slayer formed in 1981, the band unleashed their debut album, ‘Show No Mercy,’ which contains Hanneman masterpieces such as ‘Die by the Sword’ and ‘Fight Till Death.’ The guitar work showcased by Hanneman within those pieces combines the technical prowess of Randy Rhoads or Eddie Van Halen while recklessly stomping on the accelerator to attain inhuman velocity. Drooling crowds worldwide had never witnessed any guitarist attack a solo with such a chaotic stranglehold, and Hanneman kept it going for three decades.
Already renowned as underground messiahs, Slayer gifted the world of thrash with their signature album, ‘Reign in Blood,’ in 1986. This is when Jeff Hanneman truly immortalized himself as one of the best thrash composers of all time. The greatest of evils sparked possessive inspiration within Hanneman as the guitarist penned both the music and lyrics for the genre-defining ‘Angel of Death’; a piece exploring the practices of monstrous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Hanneman was the most prolific contributor to ‘Reign in Blood,’ shaping further classics including ‘Postmortem’ and the divine opus ‘Raining Blood.’
Hanneman more than contributed lyrical and musical material to every Slayer album. He was Slayer and wrote the songs “Raining Blood”, “War Ensemble”, “South of Heaven”, “Seasons in the Abyss” and “Angel of Death”.
The unparalleled genius continued to ooze from Hanneman’s every pore as the guitarist spearheaded every original track on Slayer’s essential 1988 album, ‘South of Heaven,’ along with the bulk of its proceeding masterwork, ‘Seasons in the Abyss.’ Hanneman’s last great achievement with Slayer came with the 2009 full-length, ‘World Painted Blood,’ as the musician molded the phenomenal ‘Psychopathy Red’ along with ‘Unit 731′ and the album’s title track.
In 2011, Jeff Hanneman was stricken with a bizarre case of necrotizing fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating disease which spreads through the deeper layers of skin and subcutaneous tissues. Hanneman likely contracted the affliction from a spider bite, and according to the guitarist, was “an hour away from death” by the time he reached medical care.
The final years of Jeff Hanneman’s life were spent recovering from his bout with necrotizing fasciitis while Exodus guitarist and friend Gary Holt filled in for Hanneman during Slayer’s live dates. Fans had been anxiously awaiting Hanneman’s return to the stage, eager to welcome back the shredder after more than two years spent on the sidelines.
Tragically, Slayer fanatics and future converts will never be able to witness such a return, as the legendary guitarist passed away from liver failure on May 2, 2013. The most afflictive aspect of Hanneman’s passing, which continuously and painfully twists the blade now forced into our stomachs, is that fate or destiny or life or nature or God has seemingly given us the wrong ending to a phenomenal story and a phenomenal life. We as human begins, who share a collective consciousness, accept that there is a second date which will unavoidably be etched onto our tombstones.
On some mystery day, all we’ve taken in our lives will be taken back, but despite the unpredictability of death, we all share the desire to go out with guns blazing. What if Jeff Hanneman had been able to play one more show? Would a triumphant return to the stage have dulled the sting of his untimely death? Regardless, we as metalheads hold our memories of Jeff Hanneman with an iron clutch, and the means in which he enriched our lives can never be ripped away.
Jeff died from liver failure at age 49. R.I.P. Jeff Hanneman (Jan. 31, 1964 – May 2, 2013)
May 20, 2013 – Raymond Daniel Manczarek Jr. was the architect of The Doors’ intoxicating sound. His evocative keyboard playing fused rock, jazz, blues, classical and an array of other styles into something utterly, dazzlingly new, and his restless artistic explorations continued unabated for the rest of his life.
He was born on February 12, 1939 to Polish immigrants Helena and Raymond Manczarek and grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and was introduced to the piano at the tender age of seven.Growing up, he took private piano lessons from Bruno Michelotti and others although he originally wanted to play basketball, but only power forward or center. When he was sixteen his coach insisted either he play guard or not at all and he quit the team. Manzarek said later if it was not for that ultimatum, he might never have been with The Doors.
Though he would later be electrified by the sensual strut of boogie-woogie, the raw power of the blues and the transgressive energy of rock ‘n’ roll, Manzarek credits the “little red book”, written by John Thompson, that his first piano teacher gave him with ideas and motifs he would draw on throughout his career.
While at St. Rita high-school he began playing in a band with his brothers, Rick and Jim, earning pocket money at dances and talent shows. He continued this sideline as an economics student at DePaul University; upon graduating he moved west in the fall of 1961 to attend law school at UCLA. Unable to acclimate to the curriculum, he transferred to the Department of Motion Pictures, Television and Radio as a graduate student before dropping out altogether after breaking up with a girlfriend. Although he attempted to enlist in the Army Signal Corps as a camera operator on a drunken lark during a visit to New York City, he was instead assigned to the Army Security Agency as an intelligence analyst in Okinawa and then Laos. While in the Army, Manzarek played in various musical ensembles and first smoked and grew cannabis. However, because he wanted to eventually visit Poland, he refused to sign the requisite security clearance and was discharged as a private first class after several months of undesignated duty. According to Britt Leach, a fellow Army Security Agency enlistee, Manzarek “had collected an entire duffel bag” of cannabis specimens during his service in Laos; this may have been used to fund his subsequent graduate education.
In 1962, he re-enrolled in UCLA’s 3 year graduate film program, where he received a M.F.A. in cinematography in 1965. During this period, he not only met future wife Dorothy Fujikawa, but also undergraduate film student Jim Morrison. At the time, Manzarek was in a band called Rick and the the Ravens with his brothers Rick and Jim.
Forty days after finishing film school in 1965, thinking they had gone their separate ways, Manzarek and Morrison met by chance on Venice Beach in California. Morrison said he had written some songs, and Manzarek expressed an interest in hearing them, whereupon Morrison sang rough versions of “Moonlight Drive,” “My Eyes Have Seen You” and “Summer’s Almost Gone.” Manzarek liked the songs and co-founded the Doors with Morrison at that moment. The singer’s poetry wturned out to be a perfect fit for the classically trained keyboardist’s musical ideas.
When Robby Krieger and John Densmore came onboard as guitarist and drummer, The Doors were complete.
Manzarek met guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore at a Transcendental Meditation lecture. Densmore said, “There wouldn’t be any Doors without Maharishi.
Though several bassists auditioned for the group, none could match the bass lines provided by Manzarek’s left hand on the keyboards.
In January 1966, the Doors became the house band at the London Fog on the Sunset Strip. According to Manzarek, “Nobody ever came in the place…an occasional sailor or two on leave, a few drunks. All in all it was a very depressing experience, but it gave us time to really get the music together.” The same day the Doors were fired from the London Fog, they were hired to be the house band of the Whisky a Go Go.
The Doors’ first recording contract was with Columbia Records. After a few months of inactivity, they learned they were on Columbia’s drop list. At that point, they asked to be released from their contract. After a few months of live gigs, Jac Holzman “rediscovered” the Doors and signed them to Elektra Records. And from there their Shooting Star into one of the most defining band’s in Rock and Roll History was established until Jim Morrison passed away under dubious circumstances in Paris in July of 1971.
Signed to Elektra, The Doors released six studio albums, a live album and a compilation before Morrison’s untimely demise in 1971.
Devastated the remaining band members attempted two albums without Morrison, featuring Manzarek on vocals as Manzarek occasionally sang for the Doors, including the live recording “Close To You” and on the B-side of “Love Her Madly,” “You Need Meat (Don’t Go No Further).” He sang on the last two Doors albums, recorded after Morrison’s death, Other Voices and Full Circle. Additionally, he provided one of several guitar parts on the song “Been Down So Long” but fan support was low and the band slowly fell apart.
In 1973, he released his first solo album, The Golden Scarab, and began to tour again. 1974’s The Whole Thing Started with Rock and Roll Now It’s Out of Control came next, but Manzarek was itching to work with a band again and eventually started Ray Manzarek’s Nite City, which invited comparisons to Mott the Hoople and Aerosmith. The quintet released its self-titled debut in 1977 and the follow-up “Golden Days Diamond Nights” the following year, but they failed to capitalize on the success of the original Doors and fell apart again. The sixties were gone forever.
The surviving Doors reunited to create a musical backdrop for Morrison’s recorded poetry on the 1978 release “An American Prayer.”
It was soon after that that the punk movement became a driving force in Los Angeles, and the band X contacted Manzarek about working with them in a production capacity. The end result was Los Angeles, one of the all-time most important punk albums, which remains one of the high-water marks of the punk movement.
Reinvigorated, he began work on Carmina Burana, a high-concept solo album about opera and minstrels that was released in 1983. Unfortunately, the effort was viewed as too pretentious and he quietly faded away for almost ten years.
When Oliver Stone’s film biography The Doors was released in 1991, Manzarek came out of semi-retirement to voice his displeasure in how the band was portrayed by the controversial filmmaker. In 1993, he released an album of Michael McClure’s beat poetry over his keyboard playing, Love Lion, to a warm reception. The duo toured the country with the act, while Manzarek worked on his autobiography and a Doors tribute album. Both eventually came out, and he continually voiced his desire to make a musical based on the career of his former band. At the turn of the century, he released an album with British musician/actor Darryl Read and saw his son score a major-label record deal with his band A.I.
Other collaborators have included acclaimed modern-classical and film composer Philip Glass; poet Michael McClure; glam-punk icon Iggy Pop; the British band Echo and the Bunnymen; U.K. poet-musician Darryl Read; writer Scott Richardson, with whom he recorded the innovative spoken-word-and-blues series “Tornado Souvenirs;” guitarist Roy Rogers, who joined him for the 2008 collection “Ballads Before the Rain” (featuring instrumental takes on a couple of Doors songs, among other material); and pop parodist Weird Al, for whose 2009 Doors homage “Craigslist” Manzarek did a spot-on salute to his own work.
The keyboardist’s memoir “Light My Fire: My Life With the Doors” was published in 1998; he subsequently published two novels, 2001′s “The Poet in Exile” (riffing on the urban legend that Morrison faked his own death) and the ghostly 2006 Civil War tale “Snake Moon.” He also flexed his cinematic chops as the writer-director (and score composer) of the 2000 thriller “Love Her Madly.”
In 2002, Ray rejoined forces with Robby Krieger and they toured together for over ten years, playing classic Doors material to sold-out crowds composed of longtime fans and newcomers alike.
Although he subsequently made some challenging and interesting music, including the soundtrack to the film Love Her Madly in 2006, his huge influence over the world of rock will forever associate him with the Doors, and luckily Manzarek seemed completely comfortable with that legacy.
He died on May 20, 2013 in Rosenheim, Germany after a brief battle with bile duct cancer; Ray Manzarek was 74 years old.
There was no keyboard player on the planet more appropriate to support Jim Morrison’s words.”
Greg Harris, President and CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, said in reaction to Manzarek’s death that “The world of rock ‘n’ roll lost one of its greats with the passing of Ray Manzarek.” Harris also said that “he was instrumental in shaping one of the most influential, controversial and revolutionary groups of the ’60s. Such memorable tracks as ‘Light My Fire’, ‘People are Strange’ and ‘Hello, I Love You’ – to name but a few – owe much to Manzarek’s innovative playing.” At 9:31 on May 21, 2013 The Whisky a Go Go and other clubs where the Doors played, dimmed their lights in his memory.
April 22, 2013 – Richard Pierce Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013), known as Richie Havens, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He is best known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), soulful covers of pop and folk songs, and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock. Richie Havens sang every song he knew when he was called in to open legendary Woodstock Festival in August 1969.
The Brooklyn born 6’6″ tall singer came out of a mixture of folk, blues, gospel and soul that he fine tuned during the sixties in New York’s Greenwich Village. A local celebrity he was originally scheduled as the fifth performer for the festival, but long artist travel delays forced him to play for 3 hours on end. Previously only regionally known, he came upon the world stage when he ran out of tunes and improvised his performance of ‘Freedom’ based on and incorporated into the spiritual ‘Sometimes I feel like a motherless child‘, made famous by Nina Simone.
Havens is often praised for his lyrical messages of peace and freedom as well as his fiery vocals and guitar playing. His early exposure to music was singing in doo-wop groups on the streets of Brooklyn at age 16.
The Brookyln-bred Havens moved to the Greenwich Village at the age of 20 to be a part of the thriving artistic scene in the ’60s. He was first recognized at clubs such as Cafe Wha? for his percussive guitar playing and unique voice. Havens toured for 45 years before kidney complications forced him to stop in 2012. In addition to many world tours, Havens has also released 21 studio albums.
Though initially more interested in visual art and spoken word, musical influences including Nina Simone, Fred Neil and Dino Valenti eventually inspired Havens to pick up a guitar. Word of Richie’s talent eventually spread beyond the Greenwich Village, catching the interest of manager Albert Grossman who helped him land a record deal with the Verve label. Havens released his first album, Mixed Bag, in 1967. His second studio release,Something Else Again came out just a year later and hit the Billboard chart.
Havens soon became a popular live act, playing festivals such as the Newport Folk Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Miami Pop Festival and others. His performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival lasted over three hours and proved to be a big turning point for his career. After Woodstock, Havens started his own record label Stormy Forest, delivering six of his own albums on the label between 1970-1974. He was recognized for his original songs as well as popular covers of The Beatles and Bob Dylan. Havens started reaching more mainstream popularity, appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show for back-to-back nights in front of eager audiences. He also dabbled in acting, appearing in the original stage production of The Who’s rock operaTommy in 1972 as well as the 1974 feature film Catch My Soul amongst other roles.
In keeping with his peaceful message, Havens was very active with charity work. In the mid-1970’s, he co-founded an oceanographic children’s museum called the Northwind Undersea Institute. This eventually led to the start of The National Guard, an organization that Richie helped start. The National Guard carried out a mission to help children learn about their effects on the environment. His charity work eventually won him the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in 1991. In 2003, he was given the American Eagle Award by the National Music Council for his role in America’s music heritage.
Havens continued to tour and release albums through the decades. Special appearances include a Madison Square Garden appearance in 1992 for the Bob Dylan 30th Anniversary concert and a slot at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993. In the jamband world, Havens appeared at festivals such as Mountain Jam and played The Sixth Annual Jammy Awards in 2006. He has also performed with the likes of Assembly of Dust, Groove Armada and The Preservation Jazz Hall Band.
Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young fame said: “Richie Havens was one of the nicest most generous and pure individuals I have ever met, adding “when I was a young sprite in Greenwich Village, we used to have breakfast together at the diner on 6th Avenue next to The Waverly Theatre. He was very wise in the ways of our calling. He always caught fire every time he played.”
Richie Havens never recovered enough from a kidney operation in 2010 to tour again. He suffered a fatal heart attack on April 22, 2013 at age 72. An insight into the man behind the music was published in July of 1968 in Rolling Stone.
April 21, 2013 – Christine Joy “Chrissy” Amphlett was born on October 25, 1959. She grew up in Geelong, Australia as a singer and dancer and left home as a teenager to travel around England, France and Spain where she was imprisoned for three months for singing on the streets.
In 1976, Amphlett played the role of Linda Lips in the R-rated musical Let My People Come. In 1980 back in Australia, Amphlett met Mark McEntee at a concert at the Sydney Opera House in 1980 and they formed Divinyls with Jeremy Paul (Air Supply).
After several years performing in Sydney, they recorded several songs for the film Monkey Grip, in which Amphlett also acted. Amphlett made her film debut in Monkey Grip (1982) in a supporting role as the temperamental lead singer of a rock band. Monkey Grip’s author, Helen Garner, claimed that the film’s director preferred Amphlett in the role of Jane Clifton as “Clifton was neither good looking enough or a good enough singer to play herself.”
In 1988, she starred opposite Russell Crowe in the first Australian production of Willy Russell’s stage musical Blood Brothers. Amphlett played Judy Garland in the original touring production of The Boy from Oz, with Todd McKenney playing the role of Peter Allen. When the highly successful show transferred to Broadway in the year 2000, Garland was played by American performer Isabel Keating and Allen by Hugh Jackman. On its return to Australia as an arena spectacular, Amphlett resumed playing the role.
Divinyls consisted of an ever-changing line-up formed around Amphlett and McEntee, whose relationship was always volatile. Nevertheless, the band released six studio albums, with four of them reaching the Top 10 in Australia, and one, reaching No.15 in the US. Their biggest-selling single, “I Touch Myself” in 1991, achieved No.1 in Australia, No.4 in the US and No.10 in the UK.
Divinyls did not release another album for six years, breaking up around the time of Underworld’s release in Australia.
Then Amphlett lived in New York City with her husband, concentrating on a solo career and writing her autobiography, Pleasure and Pain: My Life.
Amphlett and McEntee barely spoke after the band broke up, but resumed contact when they were inducted in the 2006 ARIA Hall of Fame and eventually announced a new tour and album. They recorded and released a single, “Don’t Wanna Do This”, and toured Australia, but the proposed reunion album was never made.
Sadly Chrissy died fighting breast cancer and multiple sclerosis on April 21, 2013. She was 53.
Miller’s father recorded his son singing the theme from the TV show Have Gun—Will Travel when Scott was four years old. Soon Miller was making up his own songs to sing. By age nine, he was taking folk and classical guitar lessons from a man named Tiny Moore, who had played with Bob Wills.
By 1971, Miller had switched to rock, and he was in his first band just a year later. Throughout his childhood, he had been interested in anything having to do with recording, and when he turned fifteen he finally got the TEAC four-track machine he’d been coveting. Like many others his age, Scott Miller loved the Beatles, the space program, and those shows that counted down to the number one song for the week. He started making his own countdown lists when he was twelve.
Many people find that the music they listened to during a formative period in their lives has become their music, and they no longer feel the urge to keep up with what’s new, year in and year out. Miller, too, went on to college, got jobs in the non-music world, got married, started a family—but somehow he never stopped finding ways to play, and listen to, and talk about music… He’s had two major bands—Game Theory in the eighties and The Loud Family in the nineties—and he put out more than a dozen albums. Yet Miller once said of his failure to capture major success: “I’m utterly serious about music. I just respect the buying public’s judgment that it’s not what I should do for a living.” So instead he became a rather successful database programmer.
Sometime after the release of the Loud Family and Anton Barbeau album What If It Works? in 2006, Miller began to stay up after putting his daughters to bed to make CDs from the annual lists he’d maintained since his youth. As someone who never hesitates to set the bar a little higher, he conceived of using this CD-making project as a springboard to an even more ambitious idea, one that could connect with a like-minded audience. He approached Sue Trowbridge and Joe Mallon, his longtime friends and supporters through the Loud Family website and 125 Records, to suggest a project to write about each of the last 50 years in popular music… He called the new blog “Music: What Happened?” and published the first list (for 1966) on the website on May 26, 2008. Over the course of the next 16 months, he responded to requests for all 50 years, ranging from 1957 to 2006. The publication of this book draws the 50 blog entries together (plus three bonus years: 2007, 2008, and 2009) in a single, remarkable volume.
A revealing yet veiled observation Miller expressed in a 2011 interview read: “Predictably these days, I write fragments, but never finish whole songs. I’m looking for an opportunity to put out one more album before I’m too decrepit. I got to the point of really dreading self-promotion that doesn’t pay off that much, but the world keeps changing in ways that are mostly tragic for socializing music, but in some ways leave room for my position, which is it’s a waste of time if fewer than around a hundred people like it, but no particular advantage if a million more people than the first hundred like it. Hardly anyone actually gets paid anymore anyway, right?”
On April 15, 2013 Scott Miller committed suicide.
Music fans the world over were stunned and saddened by the news of the death of Scott Miller, the brilliant singer-songwriter who fronted Game Theory, Loud Family and Alternative Learning, better known as ALRN. Miller, a Sacramento-born musician, was considered an influential force in the ’80s- and ’90s-era Davis and San Francisco music scenes.
• Nan Becker, a keyboardist in ALRN and an early incarnation of Game Theory, remembered her late friend with admiration.
“I’ve known Scott since I was 10 years old, and he was my brother’s [drummer Jozef Becker from Game Theory, Loud Family and Thin White Rope] best friend,” she said. “He followed music like some people would follow baseball, which he also did. He had the most incredible mind that I have ever encountered.”
• The bands that Miller started are a testament to not only of his encyclopedic knowledge of music, but his love of literature as well. The Game Theory album Lolita Nationreferences Vladimir Nabokov, and he claimed T.S. Eliot and James Joyce as his two favorite writers.
That affinity made its way into Miller’s music. A Rolling Stone review of Lolita Nation likened it to “Big Star with lyrics written by Thomas Pynchon”—a near-perfect encapsulation of the sound of Game Theory and Loud Family. (To hear Miller’s work, all of Game Theory’s albums are available to stream at www.loudfamily.com/game.html.)
In 2006, Miller took a hiatus from music making after the release of What If It Works?—a collaboration between the Loud Family and Sacramento expat Anton Barbeau—and turned to writing a blog. His posts were wildly entertaining and had a huge following of musicians and fans. There, Miller reflected on the songs he loved and wrote about them in a style that was part confessional journal and part music critic, choosing a handful of songs from a specific year, ranging from 1957 to 2009, and explaining why he loved those songs, pointing out details that only deep listener and a lifelong fan would hear. Soon, he was approached to compile these lists into a book, and in 2010, Music: What Happened? (125 Records, $15) was released to widespread acclaim.
Sacramento writer and musician Jackson Griffith says Miller was as talented a critic as he was a musician. “I think he was fucking brilliant,” said Griffith. “His insights were completely original. He basically wrote what he thought. That’s not always the case,” Griffith added.
“With music critics, a lot of people are always looking over their shoulder to see what someone else is saying. I read one of his pieces—it was about a Kanye West and Jay-Z record—it was quite droll, and it seemed like he was giving props to them, but if you read in between the lines, it was like, ’Whoa!’ I thought it was very well-done.”
Becker, now residing in Wisconsin, said: “I’ve admired Scott’s music since I was about 19 years old, and it still blows me away.”“He was an amazing songwriter, an amazing lyricist. … He had the simplest ideas that could express the profoundest thoughts,” she said. “He was wonderful at being able to string words together in an original way.”
April 14, 2013 – George Jackson was born on March 12th 1945 in Indianola, Mississippi and moved with his family to Greenville at the age of five. He sang southern soul from the 1960s into the 1980s. As a writer, he provided scores of songs for Goldwax and Fame in the 1960s and Hi and Sounds Of Memphis in the 1970s. As a singer, he had a versatile tenor that was influenced by Sam Cooke, and released many records over the years, for a host of different labels, but his recordings never made him a star.
His songwriter relationship with Malaco Records, however saw him pen material for dozens of artists, such as “One Bad Apple” for the Osmonds, “Old Time Rock & Roll” for Bob Seeger and “The Only Way Is Up”, which became a UK No.1 for Yazz and Coldcut, having been written originally for Otis Clay.
Jackson recorded dozens of singles in the 1960s but made his mark as a writer, beginning with FAME Studios. He later was a songwriter for Muscle Shoals Sound Studios. When Malaco bought Muscle Shoals Sound, it hired Jackson to write songs.
Jackson had been writing songs by the time he was in his teens. It was Ike Turner who brought him to the New Orleans RNB pioneer Cosimo Matassa’s studio in 1963, where he recorded his first song. “George had hooks coming out of his ears,” said Wolf Stephenson, Malaco’s vice president and chief engineer. “They weren’t all hits, but I never heard him write a bad song. He never really got the recognition that’s normally due a writer of his stature.”
The Osmonds recorded Jackson’s “One Bad Apple” in 1970, taking it to No 1 in the US. Jackson and Thomas Jones III wrote “Old Time Rock and Roll“, which Bob Seger recorded in 1978. Stephenson said “Old Time Rock and Roll” is truly Jackson’s song, and he has the tapes to prove it, despite Seger’s claims that he altered it. “Bob had pretty much finished his recording at Muscle Shoals and he asked them if they had any other songs he could listen to for the future,” Stephenson recalled.
Besides Seeger, the Osmonds and Ike and Tina Turner, Jackson’s songs were also recorded by James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Clarence Carter. Later he wrote “Down Home Blues” for ZZ Hill, a song which was a keystone for Malaco. The Mississippi label is a storehouse of soul, rhythm and blues and gospel music.
“He had a way of seeing things about life and saying them in a way that a lot of other people could relate to,” said Thomas Couch, Malaco’s chairman.
He died from cancer on April 14, 2013 at age 68.
April 13, 2013 – Chi Cheng was born on July 15th 1970 in Davis, California, to Jeanne and Yin Yan Cheng. His father, a prominent Stockton cardiologist, was a Chinese immigrant. Cheng graduated from Tokay High School and attended California State University in Sacramento, enrolling in 1989. He worked on campus, wrote poetry, and played as the original full time bassist of the alternative metal band Deftones from Sacramento, founded in 1988.
Deftones released seven albums, with three Platinum: Adrenaline, Around the Fur, and White Pony and one Gold certification For Deftones.
Their many hit singles include “Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)”, “Change (In the House of Flies)”, “Minerva” and “Hole in the Earth”. Chi was also the author of a collection of poetry titled The Bamboo Parachute released in 2000 as a spoken word album. Cheng gave proceeds from the CD to various charities and to buy musical instruments for kids in the Sacramento area. He was a practicing Buddhist and maintained an interest in Taoism and Shamanism. In addition to his conversion to Buddhism during his university years, he also became a vegetarian.
Cheng was seriously injured in an automobile crash in Santa Clara, California, on November 4, 2008. Cheng was traveling with his sister, Mae, when their vehicle flipped three times after hitting another car going 60 mph. Cheng, who was in the passenger seat, was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle. Mae sustained minor injuries, as she had been wearing her seat belt. She attended to Cheng, holding his head until two off-duty EMTs, who happened to have their medical equipment, rendered aid. They were able to insert a tube into Cheng’s throat to help him breathe until the ambulance arrived, an action that doctors later said helped him survive. In spite of the assessment, the crash left Cheng in a 4 year semi-coma and he died on 13 April 2013 from heart failure at age 42.
A childhood neighbor was Charles McPherson, and while still a teenager (15) he played in McPherson’s ensemble with Sam Jones and Louis Hayes. At the beginning of the 1970s, he played electric piano with Parliament/Funkadelic, Earth, Wind and Fire, and Roy Ayers, before becoming a member of Lenny White’s group Twennynine, for whom he penned songs such as “Peanut Butter” and “Morning Sunrise”, key pieces in Jamaica Queens’ ’70s’ jazz-funk explosion.
He released his self-titled debut solo album in 1982 on Arista Records, including the songs “Holding You, Loving You”, “Heart’s Desire” and “Since You’ve Been Away So Long” that became minor hits in Europe.
He wrote the composition “Lie to Kick It”, which appeared on Tupac Shakur’s album R U Still Down? (Remember Me), “Dear Summer”, which appeared on Memphis Bleek’s album “534” featuring artist Jay-Z, and “Holding You, Loving You”, which appeared on Master P.’s album I Got The Hook Up. He sang and co-composed “Funky toons” for Skalp on his album “From my head to your feet”.
On television, he scored and wrote music for commercials, TV shows, and movies, appearing on Fox Network’s New York Undercover, producing and writing the theme song for Nickelodeon’s show “Gullah Gullah Island”, as well as producing songs for the MTV Network movie Joe’s Apartment.
He released his self-titled debut solo album in 1982 which including his songs “Holding You, Loving You”, “Heart’s Desire” and “Since You’ve Been Away So Long” that became hits in Europe.
As a session musician, he appearing on albums by Kurtis Blow, Bernard Wright, Najee, David Sanborn, Lenny White, Roy Ayers, Sting, World Saxophone Quartet, Janet Jackson’s “That’s the Way Love Goes” and Wayman Tisdale. He wrote the composition “Live to Kick It”, which appeared on Tupac Shakur’s album R U Still Down? (Remember Me); “Dear Summer” on Memphis Bleek’s album “534” featuring artist Jay-Z, and “Holding You, Loving You” on Master P.’s album “I Got The Hook Up”.
Don died while fighting cancer at age 59 on April 11, 2013.
Feb 18, 2013- Kevin Ayers (Soft Machine) was born August 16, 1944 in Herne Bay, Kent, the son of the journalist, poet and BBC producer Rowan Ayers, who later originated the BBC2 rock music program The Old Grey Whistle Test.
After his parents divorced and his mother married a civil servant, Ayers spent most of his childhood in Malaysia, where, he would later admit, he discovered a fondness for the slow and easy life.
At 12, he returned to Britain and settled in Canterbury. There, he became a fledgling musician and founder of the “Canterbury sound”, an often whimsical English take on American psychedelia that merged jazz, folk, pop and nascent progressive rock. As psychedelic rock songwriter, guitarist and bassist, he was quickly drafted into the Wilde Flowers, a band that featured Robert Wyatt and Hugh Hopper.
The Wilde Flowers later morphed into Soft Machine with the addition of keyboardist Mike Ratledge and guitarist Daevid Allen; Kevin switched to bass. The band often shared stages with Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd. British rock journalist Nick Kent once wrote: “Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett were the two most important people in British pop music. Everything that came after came from them.”
Soft Machine released their debut single ‘Love Makes Sweet Music’ / ‘Feelin’ Reelin’, Squeelin’ in February 1967, making it one of the first recordings from the new British psychedelic movement… In 1968, the group toured the US in support of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a brush with rock stardom and relentless gigging that left the laid-back Ayers weary and disillusioned. He sold his Fender bass guitar to Hendrix’s sideman Noel Redding, and fled to Ibiza with fellow Soft Machine maverick Daevid Allen. There he wrote the songs that would make up Joy of a Toy. It set the tone for much of what was to follow: Ayers’s sonorous voice enunciating songs that ran the gamut from wilfully weird to oddly catchy, the whole not quite transcending the sum of the many varied and musically adventurous parts.
A founding member of Soft Machine, Ayers became a key figure in the birth of British pastoral psychedelia, and then went on to enjoy cult status as a singer-songwriter in the late 1960s and early 70s.
He recorded four critically well-received albums for the British progressive rock label Harvest, the third of which, Whatevershebringswesing (1972), featured musical contributions from Robert Wyatt and Mike Oldfield and the orchestral arrangements of David Bedford. It included the dramatically melancholy Song from the Bottom of a Well and the catchy, more-roll-than-rock swagger of Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes, which became, if not quite a hit, a signature song of sorts in his subsequent live shows.
In his 2008 memoir, Changeling, Mike Oldfield recalled the anarchic atmosphere of the recording sessions at Abbey Road studio, where, on a day that no other musician bothered to turn up, he more or less cut the backing track for Champagne Cowboy Blues single-handedly. “Eventually, Kevin rolled in. I said, ‘I’ve done it, I’ve done a track!’ He was a bit put out, I think, that I had taken over his studio time … He did keep it as a backing track: he put some different words to it and it was put on the album.”
Ayers signed to Chris Blackwell’s Island label. The resulting album, The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories (1974), was more focused by his standards, and marked the beginning of a creative partnership with guitarist Ollie Halsall. The following year, Ayers’s appearance at the Rainbow Theatre in London alongside John Cale, Brian Eno and Nico was recorded for a subsequent live album entitled June 1, 1974.
In the late 1970s, as punk took hold in Britain, Ayers seemed to disappear from view, dogged by addiction and what often seemed like a general lack of interest in his own career. He made the lacklustre Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain (1983) with a group of musicians he befriended in Spain, and the well-received Falling Up (1988) in Madrid.
For a while, he lived a reclusive life in the south of France, before being tempted back to the studio for an album, The Unfairground (2007), featuring contributions from a new generation of musician-fans that included members of Teenage Fanclub, Neutral Milk Hotel and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.
“I think you have to have a bit missing upstairs,” he once said, “or just be hungry for fame and money, to play the industry game. I’m not very good at it.” That, of course, was part of his charm. He was a true bohemian and a fitfully brilliant musical drifter.
Kevin Ayers’s debut solo album, Joy of a Toy, released in 1969, concluded with a song called All This Crazy Gift of Time. “All my blond and twilight dreams,” sang Ayers in his signature, slightly wayward baritone, “all those strangled future schemes, all those glasses drained of wine …” In retrospect, it sounds like a statement of intent, though intent is perhaps too strong a word to apply to Ayers, whose singular songwriting talent was matched by a sometimes startling lack of ambition. “I lost it years ago; a long, long time ago,” he told one interviewer in 2007, referring to his lack of ego and self-belief. “But, in a way, I don’t think I’ve ever had it.”
Kevin died peacefully in his sleep at his home in the village of Montolieu, France on Feb 18, 2013 at the age of 68.
After his death, a piece of paper was found by his bedside. On it was written a note, or perhaps an idea for a song: “You can’t shine if you don’t burn.” He did both in his inimitable – and never less than charming – way.
February 14, 2013 – Kevin Peek (Sky) was born Dec 21, 1946 in Adelaide, Australia. He initially played classical percussion in the Adelaide Conservatorium of Music, before teaching himself the guitar.
In 1967 Peek formed a Psychedelic pop, progressive rock group, James Taylor Move but left by May 1968, moving to London. He returned to Adelaide, Australia, to join a newly formed rock band Quatro which, despite a contract from England’s Decca Records, proved artistically unsuccessful. For a time, following their move to London, he and his fellow Adelaide-born bandmates—guitarist Terry Britten, bassist Alan Tarney, and drummer Trevor Spencer—made their livings as session musicians together, playing with everyone from the New Seekers and Mary Hopkin (Earth Song, Ocean Song) to Cliff Richard, whose regular backing band they became on stage and on record during the 1970s. Peek also worked with Manfred Mann, Lulu, Tom Jones, Jeff Wayne (War of the Worlds), and Shirley Bassey, among others. He wrote the music for the internationally broadcast “Singapore Girl” television advertisements for Singapore Airlines.
In 1979, he joined the classical/progressive rock quintet Sky. In association with classical guitarist John Williams, keyboardist Francis Monkman, bassist Herbie Flowers, and drummer Tristan Fry, Peek played on seven studio albums with the band, before departing in 1985. Peek recorded three albums—Guitar Junction, Awakening, and Life & Other Games— but achieved greater prominence through his work with Sky and his session work with Olivia Newton-John, Kiki Dee, Sally Oldfield, the Alan Parsons Project, and the London Symphony Orchestra (in association with Francis Monkman on their Symphonic Rock: British Invasion releases). He also played on various soundtracks, including Monkman’s music for The Long Good Friday.
He also wrote the theme music for the internationally-broadcast “Singapore Girl” television advertisements for Singapore Airlines. “Even by the late 80s Sky was still a very well-known band and I think a lot of people jumped on that bandwagon because they wanted to be close to Kevin.”
However, by 1994 Peek had landed himself in jail, serving three years for an elaborate factoring fraud scheme, run out of that same studio.
And again following a failed business venture and bankruptcy, in 2010 he was prosecuted in Perth, Western Australia on two counts of making a false statement to deceive or defraud. A full trial was originally scheduled for 2011, later adjourned until 2012 and ultimately never took place as Peek died of melanoma in a Perth hospice on 11 February 2013, aged 66 years.
He was again up on fraud charges at the time of his death, more than 200 of them, regarding his relationship with an import-export business. Prosecutors were poised to argue the business had been a classic multi-million dollar ponzi scheme.
In life, internationally-revered guitarist Kevin Peek was a difficult man to put in a box. With rafts of financial impropriety hanging over the larger-than-life character over the past two decades, at one time landing him in jail, Peek also became a difficult man to track down.
In death, the enigmatic former guitarist for the progressive 70s British rock group Sky, remains as elusive as ever.
After his passing, tributes had started to filter through social media as whispers of the beloved Australian musician’s demise spread through Perth’s tight-knit recording studio community.
It was like working for Benny Hill.
“Kevin was always a very mysterious character,” said Soundbyte Studios director Julian Douglas-Smith who worked as a sound engineer for Peek from the late 80s to the early 90s. Adelaide-born Peek had returned to Australia after a successful career on the British rock scene and taken up part ownership over the West Perth studio.
His stories were littered with names like Elton John, Keith Richards, Tom Jones and Cliff Richard.
Any situation could be reduced to a witty one-liner when Peek was around.
“It was like working for Benny Hill,” Douglas-Smith said. “It was just bizarre.
“You could never have a serious conversation with him – he was always laughing.”
It was the 80s and Peek was a legitimate international rock star, people would have done anything to be close to him.
“He was larger than life,” Douglas-Smith said. “He was a true eccentric and an incredibly talented musician.”
“I think a lot of people were enamored by him and taken in by the fact that he was a rock star.”
February 4, 2013 – Reginald Maurice Ball was born on 12 June 1941 became better known by his stage name Reg Presley, was the lead singer with the 1960s British rock and roll band The Troggs, whose best known hit was “Wild Thing”, written by actor Jon Voight’s brother Wes (James Wesley) who went by the stage name Chip Taylor.
Wild Thing made it to no.2 in England, but reached no.1 in the US as it sold 13 million copies worldwide. Presley then wrote the band’s only UK number one single with the follow-up “With a Girl Like You”. He also wrote the song “Love Is All Around”, which was featured in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral. Other hits from their short-lived career (1965-1968) were ‘ I can’t control myself’ and ‘Anyway that you want me’.
The Troggs are widely seen as a highly influential band whose sound was an inspiration for garage rock and punk rock. Influential American critic Lester Bangs “called the band the progenitors of punk”, according to NPR. For example, the Troggs influenced artists such as Iggy Pop and the early version of British pop-punk pioneers Buzzcocks featured “I Can’t Control Myself” in their live repertoire. The Ramones are also amongst punk bands who cited the Troggs as an influence. “I Can’t Control Myself” is perhaps the most enduring favorite of critics; it continues to be championed for its originality and lasting influence by radio hosts such as “Little” Steven Van Zandt.
MC5 covered “I Want You” at their live shows and recorded the song for the album Kick Out the Jams, although they renamed it “I Want You Right Now”.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience famously covered “Wild Thing” during their appearance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, introducing it as the British/American joint “national anthem”, and climaxing with Hendrix burning his guitar.
More recently performing a live version of Wild Thing featuring Queen guitarist, Brian May to open the rockers ‘Wildlife Rocks’ event at Guildford Cathedral in May 2014.
In 1990, the first hit for the band Spiritualized was a cover of “Anyway That You Want Me”. This cover was later used in the movie Me and You and Everyone We Know.
“With a Girl Like You” is featured uncut in a school dance scene from the 1991 Nicole Kidman/Noah Taylor movie, Flirting. It is also featured in Shine, The Good Night and The Boat That Rocked.
In 1991, “Love Is All Around” was covered by R.E.M. during live performances and was released later that year as a B-side on their “Radio Song” single. They also performed an acoustic version of the song on MTV Unplugged.
In 1994, Scottish band Wet Wet Wet’s version of Love Is All Around spent fifteen weeks at number one in the UK after its inclusion in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The authorship royalties enabled Reg Presley’s 1990s research and publication on extraterrestrials and other paranormal phenomena.
The point-and-click adventure game Hopkins FBI features “I Can’t Control Myself” and “Lost Girl”.
A modified version of “Love Is All Around” was featured in the film Love Actually (2003), performed by actor Bill Nighy.
“The Troggs” was the name of the high school gang in the movie Bang Bang, You’re Dead, who persuade the main character to join them in attacking their high school.
“Trogg” is the name of one of Bane’s three henchmen in Dennis O’Neil’s Batman: Knightfall comic arc. The other henchmen are Byrd and Zombie, named after two other popular ’60s rock bands, the Byrds and the Zombies.
An in-studio tape of Reg Presley’s running commentary on a recording session, filled with in-fighting and swearing (known as The Troggs Tapes), was widely circulated in the music underground, and was included in the Archaeology box set, as well as the compilation album, The Rhino Brothers Present the World’s Worst Records. The in-group infighting is believed to be the inspiration for a scene in the comedy film, This is Spinal Tap, where the band members are arguing. Some of this dialogue was sampled by the California punk band The Dwarves on their recording of a cover version of the Troggs song “Strange Movies”.
Such was the influence Reg Presley and the Troggs had on Rock and Roll.
February 1, 2013 – Cecil Womack aka Zekuumba Zekkariyas was born on September 25th 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his brothers Bobby, Harry, Friendly and Curtis, began as a gospel group appearing on the gospel circuit in the mid 50s where they were seen by Sam Cooke of the Soul Stirrers. As Cooke’s protégés they changed their name to The Valentinos and in 1961 began to sing and record for secular audiences, producing hits such as “It’s All Over Now” and “Lookin’ for a Love”.
Cooke’s death at a L.A. motel in December 1964, had dramatic consequences for the Womack Brothers as SAR folded and Bobby Womack, who was now married to Sam Cooke’s widow, Barbara, left the group for a solo career. The Valentinos briefly disbanded before regrouping as a quartet in 1966, signing with Chess Records where they recorded the Northern Soul hit, “Sweeter than the Day Before”, written by Cecil Womack and Mary Wells. However, the group got dropped from Chess in 1968 after only two singles and Cecil Womack who had married former Motown artiste Mary Wells decided to leave the Valentinos.
The remaining trio of Harry, Curtis and Friendly Jr. signed with Jubilee Records where they recorded the Cecil-composed “Two Lovers History” and “Tired Of Being Nobody” before being dropped in 1970. Later in the 60s, Cecil concerntrated more on song writing and production. He provided his then wife, Mary Wells, with several chart successes including “The Doctor” released on Jubille Records.
His later songwriting credits include “Love TKO” a major hit for Teddy Pendergrass, “I Just Want To Satisfy You” for The O’Jays, “Love Symphony” for Patti LaBelle, and “New Day” for George Benson.
After Cecil divorced Mary Wells in 1977, he went on to marry Sam Cooke’s daughter Linda and they formed Womack and Womack.
In 1983, Cecil and Linda, began performing and recording together as Womack & Womack, and released a successful album, Love Wars on Elektra Records. The title track from the album was a no.14 hit in the UK, and the song “Baby I’m Scared Of You” was a minor hit on the Billboard R&B chart in the US. In 1988, their single “Teardrops”, taken from their fourth album Conscience, became a major international hit reportedly selling more than 10 million copies worldwide. It reached no.3 in the UK, and no.1 in the Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand, though it did not chart in the US.
After traveling to Nigeria, they discovered ancestral ties to the Zekkariyas tribe, and Cecil adopted the name Zekkariyas. In 1993 they released their final album with a major label, Transformed To The House Of Zekkariyas. They continued to write for other artists, including Ruby Turner and Randy Crawford, and released their final album, Circular Motion, in 2007.
Zekuumba Zekkariyas spent his final years traveling the world with his wife and 7 children, and using his time to explore his African heritage, spirituality and knowledge of the continent as well as making music. He died of unknown causes in South Africa on February 1, 2013, at age 65.
January 27, 2013 – Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner was born on March 14th 1943 in Hamilton, Ohio, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Cincinnati, the oldest of 14 children. He ran away from home as a young teenager and played the harmonica on street corners for change.
He joined the The Ohio Untouchables when they regrouped in 1964, which with Leroy’s rip-it-up guitar work and taste for something funky went on to become The Ohio Players, with Leroy as their front man, lead singer and guitarist.
Their first big hit single “Funky Worm”, reached No.1 on the Billboard R&B chart and made the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1973. Other hits include “Who’d She Coo?” and their double No.1 hit songs “Love Rollercoaster” and “Fire” in January 1976.
The Ohio Players had seven Top 40 hits in the 1970s and helped define a funk movement that included Parliament Funkadelic and Kool & the Gang. The band’s success stemmed substantially from Bonner’s playfully commanding lead vocals and gusto.
Humble yet charismatic, soft spoken and of few words, the weight of his thoughts, lyrics, and music has influenced countless other artists, songs, and trends. The band’s lineup changed over the years, but its instrumentation and sound remained basically the same: a solid, driving groove provided by guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, punctuated by staccato blasts from a horn section. Vocals were a secondary consideration. “We were players,” Bonner told The Dayton Daily News in an interview in 2003. “We weren’t trying to be lead singers.” The core members of the band did not originally sing, he explained, but “we got so tired of having singers leave us that we decided we’d just do the singing ourselves.”
“I used to play with my back to the audience in the old days,” he added. “I didn’t want to see them because they were distracting. Then the first time I turned around and opened my mouth, we had a hit record with Skin Tight. That’s amazing to me.”
After their break up Sugarfoot, assisted by Roger Troutman and his Zapp brethren, went solo in 1985 with Sugar Kiss – the same year Zapp released The New Zapp IV U (featuring “Computer Love”), while Shirley Murdock was on the verge of scoring with the Troutman-produced “As We Lay.”
From 1973 to 1976 the Ohio Players had seven singles in the Billboard Top 40. Both “Fire” and “Love Rollercoaster” reached No. 1. Although the band’s heyday was four decades ago, its sound has been kept alive by others. “Love Rollercoaster” gained new fans through a 1996 cover version by Red Hot Chili Peppers. “Funky Worm” has been sampled by many hip-hop artists.
With a career spanning 56 years, he had remained active in recent years with a spinoff band called Sugarfoot’s Ohio Players. Bonner passed barely short of his 70th birthday, fighting cancer on January 27, 2013.
The reclusive and soft-spoken composer, a mainstay in the world of progressive rock, was born, raised and educated in Surrey. His first job was selling clothing in a local shop followed by a stint as an airside driver at Heathrow Airport which enabled him to form a “skiffle” group which lead to his first rock band called Nashville Teens in the early 1960s. Nashville Teens reached #6 on U.K. singles charts with their version of Tobacco Road. On leaving them, he formed several other bands including The Pentad and The Plebes. One night he went to see the original band Renaissance perform locally and ended up joining them in the early 1970s. The original band members were Jim McCarty, Louis Cennamo, John Hawken, Keith Relf and Jane Relf.
Dunford entered the band during a period of transition. Though he wrote (and played guitar on) ‘Mr. Pine’ from 1971’s largely ignored ‘Illusion,’ his influence wasn’t truly felt until Renaissance’s third album, 1972’s ‘Prologue.’ This was the beginning of the band’s classic ’70s period, cementing their trademark brand of epic, symphonic prog. Dunford wrote two tracks on his own and co-wrote two others, though he didn’t actually contribute to the recording. Nonetheless, his writing gave the band focus: The elegant title-track (written by Dunford) is one of Renaissance’s most powerful instrumentals, featuring Haslam’s towering voice, John Tout’s jazzy, Latin-tinged piano, and Jon Camp’s furious bassline.
From that point forward, Dunford (along with writing partner, lyricist Betty Thatcher) was the band’s guiding creative force. He co-wrote all but one track on the band’s 1973 breakthrough, the orchestra-backed ‘Ashes Are Burning,’ making his studio debut and showcasing his signature acoustic guitar playing: subtle, misty, and slightly majestic.
And with each subsequent release, both Dunford and Renaissance grew more powerful. Their masterpiece was delivered in 1975 with ‘Scheherazade and Other Stories,’ their most cinematic and densely layered work, concluding with the 25-minute epic ‘Song of Scheherazade’ (which was also captured–in an arguably more thrilling context — on the 1976 live double-album ‘Live at Carnegie Hall’).
Though Renaissance were a British band, most of their success during this peak period came in the United States: ‘Scheherazade’ landed at No. 48 on the Billboard Album Charts, and their 1977 follow-up, ‘Novella,’ reached the same spot. The band’s biggest success, however, came in their home country with 1978’s ‘A Song for All Seasons,’ which peaked at No. 35 in the UK, thanks in large part to the success of that album’s hit single, ‘Northern Lights,’ which was built on Dunford’s shimmering strums and John Tout’s newly utilized synthesizers.
But these were also dark times. Punk and disco were diminishing the prog-rock’s relevance, leaving bands like Renaissance with a choice: either adapt or face extinction. As a result, Renaissance–under Camp’s guiding presence–went through a radical makeover in the 1980s. They released two albums, 1981’s ‘Camera Camera’ and 1983’s ‘Time-Line,’ both of which sought to blend the band’s artful rock with a more streamlined, synth-heavy approach leaning toward new-wave. After both albums tanked, the band’s remaining core trio (Dunford, Haslam, and Camp) dissolved into their own factions, with Dunford and Haslam seeking to continue the Renaissance name separately. Without each other, the magic wasn’t there.
But Dunford managed to reunite with Haslam, the magical voice behind his band’s best music, for 2001’s ‘Tuscany’ (also featuring Tout on keyboards, along with original drummer, Terence Sullivan), an album that recaptured some of the original Renaissance spirit.
Sadly, both Dunford and his old band are rarely mentioned in the same breath as their prog peers like Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson. Part of the reason is exposure: Even during their mid-to-late ’70s prime, Renaissance were never chart-toppers or stadium sell-outs (though they did manage one UK top-ten single, 1978’s ‘Northern Lights’). And they were never as technically flashy or boldly experimental as those bands: Throughout the group’s quietly excellent lifespan, the Renaissance catalogue is middle-of-the-road, but in a good way — consistently built on Annie Haslam’s soaring, operative, five-octave vocals, Jon Camp’s propulsive and melodic basslines, and Dunford’s tasteful guitar playing and arrangements. They were never prog’s trailblazers or sonic innovators — but they were certainly one of the most consistently great, album-to-album.
Dunford, the guitarist and chief composer behind Renaissance’s sweeping, symphonic progressive rock, passed away on November 20, 2012 after suffering an Instantaneous Cerebral Hemmorage at his Surrey, England home. He is survived not only by his wife, two sons, and sister — but also by some of the most hauntingly beautiful progressive rock albums ever recorded.
Before his death, Dunford was as musically active as he’d been in a decade: He’d just finished the first leg of a well-received tour (with Haslam and a new Renaissance line-up), with a newly recorded follow-up album, ‘Grandine il Vento,’ scheduled for a 2013 release. Ironically, what began as an incredibly exciting year for Renaissance turned into its final chapter. And considering the circumstances, ‘Vento’ should be the band’s swan song.
Though Dunford’s never been one of prog-rock’s most visible icons, he’s a crucial player in the genre’s rich history. He should be remembered that way.
September 5, 2012 – Joe South, aka Joseph Alfred Souter was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist born in Atlanta, Georgia on February 28, 1940. He started his pop career in July 1958 writing the novelty hit “The Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor”. In 1959, he wrote 2 songs which were recorded by Gene Vincent: “I Might Have Known” and “Gone Gone Gone”. He began his recording career with the National Recording Corporation, where he was staff guitarist along with other NRC artists Ray Stevens and Jerry Reed.
He was also a prominent sideman, playing guitar on the likes of Aretha Franklin’s “Chain of Fools”, Tommy Roe’s “Sheila”, and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album.
His 1969 “Games People Play”, a hit on both sides of the Atlantic was accompanied by a lush string sound, organ, and brass, the production won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Song and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
His compositions have been recorded by many artists, including Billy Joe Royal’s songs “Down in the Boondocks”, “I Knew You When”, “Yo-Yo”, later a hit for the Osmonds, and “Hush” later a hit for Deep Purple and Kula Shaker. Joe’s most commercially successful composition was Lynn Anderson’s 1971 monster hit “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden”, which was a hit in 16 countries and translated into many languages. Anderson won a Grammy Award for her vocals, and Joe won a Grammy Award for writing the song.
Joe was inducted into Georgia Music Hall of Fame. On September 5, 2012 he died from heart failure.
July 24, 2012 – Larry Lewis Hoppen (Orleans) was born on January 12, 1951 in Ithaca New York. From a musical family, Larry learned to play keyboards, guitar, bass, melodica and trumpet. His mom took him on her nightclub gigs when he was 10!
After briefly trying Music Ed. at Ithaca College (1967-69), he left to pursue a career as a musical artist and never looked back. Between 1969 and 1971 his Ithaca band Boffalongo made 2 LPs for United Artists Records, including the original recording of “Dancin’ in the Moonlight”, later a hit by friends King Harvest. Soon after Boffalongo disbanded in late 1971, Larry got a call from singer/songwriter (then-future, now-former US Congressman, D-NY, 19) John Hall, inviting him to come to Woodstock, NY to join with the late Wells Kelly and himself to form Orleans, which he did in early 1972. Larry’s younger brother, Lance, joined the band in the fall of that year.
The band initially found its core audience touring the clubs and college circuit of the northeastern United States and it was not until their third album, Let There Be Music, released in March 1975, that the band scored its first Billboard Hot 100 hit with “Let There Be Music”followed by Orleans biggest hits “Still the One“, “Dance With Me” and “Love Takes Time“. It was Larry’s remarkable tenor that clearly defined the success of these hits.
In 1977 Larry joined Jerry Marotta in the backing band for Garland Jeffreys. He and Orleans continued to tour with the likes of Stephen Stills and Chicago. In the early 80s Larry and his brother Lance formed a side group, Mood Ring. After a stint in Nashville, Larry and Orleans returned to Woodstock, and slowly re-established their presence in the Northeast over the next couple of years.
July 16, 2012 – John Douglas “Jon” Lord ( Deep Purple/Whitesnake) was born in Leicester, England on June 9th 1941 and retained a strong bond with the city throughout his life. His father was an amateur saxophone musician and encouraged Lord from an early age. There was an old upright piano in the house and Jon showed an early interest in the instrument so his parents enrolled him for formal piano lessons when he was seven. At nine he found another teacher, Frederick All, who gave recitals for the BBC and played the church organ. “He was a marvelous teacher”, says Lord. “He could impart a love of music to his students as well as teaching them to play it. He taught me to enjoy music and to want to play well.” Those influences were a recurring trademark in Jon’s work.
He attended Wyggeston Grammar School for Boys between 1952 and 1958 and then worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s office for two years, but was fired for taking too much time off work.
Lord absorbed the blues sounds that played a key part in his rock career, principally the raw sounds of the great American blues organists Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff and “Brother” Jack McDuff (“Rock Candy”), as well as the stage showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis and performers like Buddy Holly, whom he saw perform at the De Montfort Hall in Leicester in March 1958.
Lord moved to London in 1959–60, intent on an acting career and enrolling at the Central School of Speech and Drama, in London’s Swiss Cottage. Following a celebrated student rebellion he became a founder of Drama Centre London, from where he graduated in 1964. From here on his life became a Who’s Who in the early London years of the British Invasion and beyond.
Small acting parts followed, and Lord continued playing the piano and the organ in nightclubs and as a session musician to earn a living. He started his band career in London in 1960 with the jazz ensemble The Bill Ashton Combo. Ashton became a key figure in jazz education in Britain, creating what later became the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. Between 1960 and 1963, Lord and Ashton both moved on to Red Bludd’s Bluesicians (also known as The Don Wilson Quartet), the latter of which featured the singer Arthur “Art” Wood, brother of guitarist Ronnie Wood. Wood had previously sung with Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated and was a junior figure in the British blues movement.
In this period, Lord altered the spelling of his name from his birth name “John” to “Jon” and his session credits included playing the keyboards in “You Really Got Me”, The Kinks number one hit of 1964, however in a Guitar World interview Ray Davies of The Kinks stated it was actually Arthur Greenslade playing piano on that particular track.
Following the break-up of Redd Bludd’s Bluesicians in late 1963, Wood, Lord, and the drummer Red Dunnage put together a new band, The Art Wood Combo. This also included Derek Griffiths (guitar) and Malcolm Pool (bass guitar). Dunnage left in December 1964 to be replaced by Keef Hartley, who had previously replaced Ringo Starr in Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. This band, later known as “The Artwoods”, focused on the organ as the bluesy, rhythmic core of their sound, in common with the contemporary bands The Spencer Davis Group (Steve Winwood on organ) and The Animals (with Alan Price). They made appearances on the BBC’s Saturday Club radio show and on such TV programs as Ready Steady Go!. It also performed abroad, and it appeared on the first Ready Steady Goes Live, promoting its first single the Lead Belly song “Sweet Mary” — but significant commercial success eluded it. Its only charting single was “I Take What I Want”, which reached number 28 on 8 May 1966.
The jazz-blues organ style of black R&B organ players in the 1950s and 1960s, using the trademark blues-organ sound of the Hammond organ (B3 and C3 models) and combining it with the Leslie speaker system (the well-known Hammond-Leslie speaker combination), were seminal influences on Lord. Lord also stated later that he was heavily influenced by the organ-based progressive rock played by Vanilla Fudge after seeing that band perform in Great Britain in 1967, and earlier by the personal direction he received from British organ pioneer Graham Bond.
The Artwoods regrouped in 1967 as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre“. This was an attempt to cash in on the 1930s gangster craze set off by the American film Bonnie and Clyde. Hartley left the band in 1967 to join John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Lord next founded the “Santa Barbera Machine Head”, featuring Art’s brother, Ronnie Wood, writing and recording three powerful keyboard-driven instrumental tracks, giving a preview of the future style of Deep Purple. Soon thereafter, Lord went on to cover for the keyboard player Billy Day in “The Flower Pot Men”, where he met the bass guitarist Nick Simper along with drummer Carlo Little and guitarist Ged Peck. Lord and Simper then toured with this band in 1967 to promote its hit single “Let’s Go To San Francisco”, but the two men never recorded with this band.
In early 1967, through his roommate Chris Curtis of the Searchers, Lord met businessman Tony Edwards who was looking to invest in the music business alongside partners Ron Hire and John Coletta (HEC Enterprises). Session guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was called in and he met Lord for the first time, but Chris Curtis’s erratic behaviour led the trio nowhere. Edwards was impressed enough by Jon Lord to ask him to form a band after Curtis faded out. Simper was contacted, and Blackmore was recalled from Hamburg. Although top British player Bobby Woodman was the first choice as drummer, during the auditions for a singer, Rod Evans of “The Maze” came in with his own drummer, Ian Paice. Blackmore, who had been impressed by Paice’s drumming when he met him in 1967, set up an audition for Paice as well. The band was called the “Roundabout” at first and began rehearsals at Deeves Hall in Hertfordshire. By March 1968, this became the “Mark 1” line-up of “Deep Purple”: Lord, Simper, Blackmore, Paice, and Evans. Lord also helped form the band “Boz” with some of its recordings being produced by Derek Lawrence. “Boz” included Boz Burrell (later of King Crimson and Bad Company), Blackmore (guitar), Paice (drums), Chas Hodges (bass).
Lord pushed the Hammond-Leslie sound through Marshall amplification, creating a growling, heavy, mechanical sound which allowed Lord to compete with Blackmore as a soloist, with an organ that sounded as prominent as the lead guitar. Said one reviewer, “many have tried to imitate [Lord’s] style, and all failed.” Said Lord himself, “There’s a way of playing a Hammond that’s different. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that you can play a Hammond with a piano technique. Well, you can, but it sounds like you are playing a Hammond with a piano technique. Really, you have to learn how to play an organ. It’s a legato technique; it’s a technique to achieve legato on a non-legato instrument.”
In early Deep Purple recordings, Lord had appeared to be the leader of the band. Despite the cover songs “Hush” and “Kentucky Woman” becoming hits in North America, Deep Purple never made chart success in the UK until the Concerto for Group and Orchestra album (1970). Lord’s willingness later to play many of the key rhythm parts gave Blackmore the freedom to let loose both live and on record.
On Deep Purple’s second and third albums, Lord began indulging his ambition to fuse rock with classical music. An early example of this is the song “Anthem” from the album The Book of Taliesyn (1968), but a more prominent example is the song “April” from the band’s self-titled third album (1969). The song is recorded in three parts: 1. Lord and Blackmore only, on keyboards and acoustic guitar, respectively; 2. an orchestral arrangement complete with strings; and 3. the full rock band with vocals. Lord’s ambition enhanced his reputation among fellow musicians, but caused tension within the group.
Simper later said, “The reason the music lacked direction was Jon Lord fucked everything up with his classical ideas.” Blackmore agreed to go along with Lord’s experimentation, provided he was given his head on the next band album.
The resulting Concerto For Group and Orchestra (in 1969) was one of rock’s earliest attempts to fuse two distinct musical idioms. Performed live at the Royal Albert Hall on 24 September 1969 (with new band members Ian Gillan and Roger Glover, Evans and Simper having been fired), it was recorded by the BBC and later released as an album. The Concerto gave Deep Purple its first highly publicised taste of mainstream fame and gave Lord the confidence to believe that his experiment and his compositional skill had a future
Purple began work on Deep Purple in Rock, released by their new label Harvest in 1970 and now recognised as one of hard rock’s key early works. Lord and Blackmore competed to out-dazzle each other, often in classical-style, midsection ‘call and answer’ improvisation (on tracks like “Speed King”), something they employed to great effect live. Ian Gillan said that Lord provided the idea on the main organ riff for “Child in Time” although the riff was also based on It’s a Beautiful Day’s 1969 psychedelic hit song “Bombay Calling”. Lord’s experimental solo on “Hard Lovin’ Man” (complete with police-siren interpolation) from this album was his personal favourite among his Deep Purple studio performances.
Deep Purple released another six studio albums between 1971 (Fireball) and 1975 (Come Taste the Band). Gillan and Glover left in 1973 and Blackmore in 1975, and the band disintegrated in 1976. The highlights of Lord’s Purple work in the period include the 1972 album Machine Head (featuring his rhythmic underpinnings on “Smoke on the Water” and “Space Truckin'”, plus the organ solos on “Highway Star”, “Pictures of Home” and “Lazy”), the sonic bombast of the Made in Japan live album (1972), an extended, effect-laden solo on “Rat Bat Blue” from the Who Do We Think We Are album (1973), and his overall playing on the Burn album from 1974.
Roger Glover would later describe Lord as a true “Zen-archer soloist”, someone whose best keyboard improvisation often came at the first attempt. Lord’s strict reliance on the Hammond C3 organ sound, as opposed to the synthesizer experimentation of his contemporaries, places him firmly in the jazz-blues category as a band musician and far from the progressive-rock sound of Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman. Lord rarely ventured into the synthesizer territory on Purple albums, often limiting his experimentation to the use of the ring modulator with the Hammond, to give live performances on tracks like Space Truckin’ a distinctive ‘spacy’ sound. Instances of his Deep Purple synthesizer use (he became an endorser of the ARP Oyssey) include “‘A’ 200”, the final track from Burn, and “Love Child” on the Come Taste the Band album.
In early 1973 Lord stated: “We’re as valid as anything by Beethoven.”
Lord continued to focus on his classical aspirations alongside his Deep Purple career. The BBC, buoyed by the success of the Concerto, commissioned him to write another piece and the resulting “Gemini Suite” was performed by Deep Purple and the Light Music Society under Malcolm Arnold at the Royal Festival Hall in September 1970, and then in Munich with the Kammerorchester conducted by Eberhard Schoener in January 1972. It then became the basis for Lord’s first solo album, Gemini Suite, released in November 1972, with vocals by Yvonne Elliman and Tony Ashton and with the London Symphony Orchestra backing a band that included Albert Lee on guitar.(Ritchie Blackmore had played the guitar at the first live performance of the Gemini Suite in September 1970, but declined the invitation to appear on the studio version, which led to the involvement of Lee. Other performers were Yvonne Elliman, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Tony Ashton).
In March 1974, Lord and Paice had collaborated with friend Tony Ashton on First of the Big Bands, credited to ‘Ashton & Lord’ and featuring a rich array of session talent, including Carmine Appice, Ian Paice, Peter Frampton and Pink Floyd saxophonist/sessioner, Dick Parry. They performed much of the set live at the London Palladium in September 1974.
This formed the basis of Lord’s first post-Deep Purple project Paice Ashton Lord, which lasted only a year and spawned a single album, Malice in Wonderland in 1977, recorded at Musicland Studios Musicland Studios at the Arabella Hotel in Munich. He created an informal group of friends and collaborators including Ashton, Paice, Bernie Marsden, Boz Burrell and later, Bad Company’s Mick Ralphs, Simon Kirke and others. Over the same period, Lord guested on albums by Maggie Bell, Nazareth and even folk artist Richard Digance. Eager to pay off a huge tax bill upon his return the UK in the late-1970s (Purple’s excesses included their own tour jet and a home Lord rented in Malibu from actress Ann-Margret and where he wrote the Sarabande album), Lord joined former Deep Purple band member David Coverdale’s new band, Whitesnake in August 1978 (Lord’s job in Whitesnake was largely limited to adding color or, in his own words, a ‘halo’ to round out a blues-rock sound that already accommodated two lead guitarists, Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody.
A number of singles such as “Here I Go Again”, “Wine, Women and Song”, “She’s a Woman” and “Till the Day I Die” entered the UK chart, taking the now 40-something Lord onto Top of the Pops with regularity between 1980 and 1983. He later expressed frustration that he was a poorly paid hired-hand, but fans saw little of this discord and Whitesnake’s commercial success kept him at the forefront of readers’ polls as heavy rock’s foremost keyboard maestro. His dissatisfaction (and Coverdale’s eagerness to revamp the band’s line-up and lower the average age to help crack the US market) smoothed the way for the reformation of Deep Purple Mk II in 1984.
During his tenure in Whitesnake, Lord had the opportunity to record two distinctly different solo albums and was later commissioned by producer Patrick Gamble for Central Television to write the soundtrack for their 1984 TV series, Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, based on the book by Edith Holden, with an orchestra conducted by Alfred Ralston and with a distinctly gentle, pastoral series of themes composed by Lord. Lord became firmly established as a member of UK rock’s “Oxfordshire mansion aristocracy” – with a home, Burntwood Hall, set in 23.5 acres at Goring-on-Thames, complete with its own cricket pitch and a hand-painted Challen baby grand piano, previously owned by Shirley Bassey. He was asked to guest on albums by friends George Harrison (Gone Troppo from 1982) and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour (1984’s About Face), Cozy Powell (Octopus in 1983) and to play on an adaptation of Kenneth Grahame’s classic, Wind in the Willows. He composed and produced the score for White Fire (1984), which consisted largely of two songs performed by Limelight. In 1985 he made a brief appearance as a member of The Singing Rebel’s band (which also featured Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) in the Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais-scripted film Water (1985) (Handmade Films).
In the 1980s he was also a member of an all-star band called Olympic Rock & Blues Circus fronted by Pete York and featuring a rotating line-up of the likes of Miller Anderson, Tony Ashton, Brian Auger, Zoot Money, Colin Hodgkinson, Chris Farlowe and many others. Olympic Rock & Blues Circus toured primarily in Germany between 1981 and 1989. Some musicians, including Lord, took part in York’s TV musical extravaganza Superdrumming between 1987 and 1989.
Lord’s re-emergence with Deep Purple in 1984 resulted in huge audiences for the reformed Mk II line-up, including 1985s second largest grossing tour in the US and an appearance in front of 80,000 rain-soaked fans headlining Knebworth on 22 June 1985, all to support the Perfect Strangers album. Playing with a rejuvenated Mk. II Purple line-up (including spells at a health farm to get the band including Lord into shape) and being onstage and in the studio with Blackmore, gave Lord the chance to push himself once again. His ‘rubato’ classical opening sequence to the album’s opener, “Knocking at Your Back Door” (complete with F-Minor to G polychordal harmony sequence), gave Lord the chance to do his most powerful work for years, including the song “Perfect Strangers”. Further Deep Purple albums followed, often of varying quality, and by the late-1990s, Lord was clearly keen to explore new avenues for his musical career.
In 1997, he created perhaps his most personal work to date, Pictured Within, released in 1998 with a European tour to support it. Lord’s mother Miriam had died in August 1995 and the album is a deeply affecting piece, inflected at all stages by Lord’s sense of grief. Recorded largely in Lord’s home-away-from-home, the city of Cologne, the album’s themes are Elgarian and alpine in equal measure. Lord signed to Virgin Classics to release it, and perhaps saw it as the first stage in his eventual departure from Purple to embark on a low-key and altogether more gentle solo career. One song from Pictured Within, entitled “Wait A While” was later covered by Norwegian singer Sissel Kyrkjebø on her 2003/2004 album My Heart. Lord finally retired from Deep Purple amicably in 2002, preceded by a knee injury that eventually resolved itself without surgery. He said subsequently, “Leaving Deep Purple was just as traumatic as I had always suspected it would be and more so – if you see what I mean”. He even dedicated a song to it on 2004’s solo effort, Beyond the Notes, called “De Profundis”. The album was recorded in Bonn with producer Mario Argandoña between June and July 2004.
Lord slowly built a small, but distinct position and fan base for himself in Europe. He collaborated with former ABBA superstar and family friend, Frida (Anni-Frid Lyngstad,) on the 2004 track, “The Sun Will Shine Again” (with lyrics by Sam Brown) and performed with her across Europe. He subs