27 September 1979 – James ‘Jimmy’ McCulloch was born 4 June 1953. From the age of 11, the year he picked up a guitar for the first time, he played in a band called The Jaygars which later changed it’s name to ‘One in a Million’, the Glasgow psychedelic band. Being a protegé of Pete Townshend of the Who and Hank Marvin of the Shadow, proved recognition of his tremendous talents when at age 11 he picked up the guitar and started convincingly imitating Django Reinhardt.
He rose to fame in 1969, just 16 years old, when he played with Andy Thunderclap Newman recording the mega hit “Something in the Air”. The band disbanded in 1971 and in October he was touring with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers.
In 1972 at 18, Jimmy joined the blues rock band Stone the Crows, replacing Les Harvey who died from getting electrocuted on stage. He helped the band to complete their Ontinuous Performance album, playing on the tracks, “Sunset Cowboy” and “Good Time Girl”. That band gave it up in 1973 and Jimmy did some session work in Blue and played guitar on Brian Joseph Friel’s first album, under the pseudonym ‘The Phantom’, after which in 1974, he joined Paul McCartney’s Wings playing lead guitar. He was also the composer of the anti-drug song “Medicine Jar” on the Wings album Venus and Mars, and the similar “Wino Junko” on Wings at the Speed of Sound album.
While in Wings he also formed his own band, White Line, with his brother Jack on drums and Dave Clarke on bass, keyboards and vocals.
In September 1977, McCulloch left Wings to join the reformed Small Faces during the latter band’s 9-date tour of England that month. He played guitar on the Small Faces’ album, 78 in the Shade. In early 1978, McCulloch started a band called Wild Horses with Brian Robertson, Jimmy Bain and Kenney Jones, which he had left that spring. In 1979, McCulloch joined the credited super group The Dukes with singer Miller Anderson, Ronnie Leahy on keyboards and bassist Charles Tumahai. His last recorded song, “Heartbreaker”, appeared on their only album, The Dukes.
On 27 September 1979, McCulloch was found dead by his brother in his flat in Maida Vale, North West London. Autopsy found that McCulloch died from a heroin overdose. He was 26.
A melodic, heavily blues-infused guitarist, McCulloch’s rig normally consisted of a Gibson SG and a Gibson Les Paul and he occasionally played bass guitar when McCartney was playing piano or acoustic guitar.
July 12, 1979 – Minnie Riperton was born on November 8th 1947 in Chicago, Illinois. The youngest of eight children in a musical family, she embraced the arts early. As a child she studied music, drama, and dance at Chicago’s Lincoln Center. In her teen years, she sang lead vocals for the Chicago-based girl group, The Gems.
At Chicago’s Lincoln Center, she received operatic vocal training from Marion Jeffery. She practiced breathing and phrasing, with particular emphasis on diction. Jeffery also trained Riperton to use her full range. While studying under Jeffery, she sang operettas and show tunes, in preparation for a career in opera. Jeffery was so convinced of her pupil’s abilities that she strongly pushed her to further study the classics at Chicago’s Junior Lyric Opera. The young Riperton was, however, becoming very interested in soul, rhythm and blues, and rock. After graduating from Hyde Park High School (now Hyde Park Academy High School), she enrolled at Loop College and became a member of Zeta Phi Beta sorority. She dropped out of college to pursue her music career.
June 29, 1979 – Lowell Thomas George (Little Feat) was born on April 13th 1945 in Hollywood, California, the son of Willard H. George, a furrier who raised chinchillas and supplied furs to the movie studios.
George’s first instrument was the harmonica. At the age of six he appeared on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour performing a duet with his older brother, Hampton. As a student at Hollywood High School (where he befriended future bandmate Paul Barrere as well as future wife Elizabeth), he took up the flute in the school marching band and orchestra. He had already started to play Hampton’s acoustic guitar at age 11, progressed to the electric guitar by his high school years, and later learned to play the saxophone, shakuhachi and sitar. During this period, George viewed the teen idol-oriented rock and roll of the era with contempt, instead favoring West Coast jazz and the soul jazz of Les McCann & Mose Allison. Following graduation in 1963, he briefly worked at a gas station (an experience that inspired such later songs as “Willin'”) to support himself while studying art and art history at Los Angeles Valley College for two years. Continue reading Lowell George 6/1979
March 3, 1979 – Mike Patto (Spooky Tooth) was born Michael McCarthy in Cirencester, Gloucestershire on September 22nd 1942 (also named name Michael Patrick McGarth).
Patto first came to light as the vocalist in a Norwich R&B outfit called Mike Patto and The Breakaways. After several line-up changes, The Breakaways became The Bluebottles, but soon after Patto headed for London to join The National Youth Jazz Orchestra. At the same time he had a spell with The Bo Street Runners and the Chicago Line Blues Band in 1966 before forming Timebox, which eventually evolved into Patto.
Developing from a complicated ancestry that included The Bow Street Runners, Patto’s People, and the Chicago Blue Line, Timebox made two singles for Pye’s Piccadilly subsidiary as a six-piece, before signing to Decca’s Deram label in 1967 with the line-up of Mike Patto (born Michael Patrick McGrath in Glasgow) on vocals, Pete ‘Ollie’ Halsall on guitar and vibes, Chris Holmes on piano, Clive Griffiths on bass and John Halsey on drums. This line-up recorded five singles for Deram between ’67 and ’69, none of which troubled the compilers of the Hit Parade, despite the excellent musicianship that allowed them to encompass several genres of music in their output (“Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind“).
In 1969, after their last single “Yellow Van” failed, and Chris Holmes departed, they decided that their future lay in the burgeoning progressive movement, which in itself was born of the freedom from instant commercialism that the better musicians of the psychedelic flowering had forged. And thus Patto (the group) was born.
Lucky enough to be signed to the recently created Vertigo label, soon to become home of many progressive rock classics, Patto went into the studio with Muff Winwood in the producer’s chair. Winwood had left the Spencer Davis Group shortly after his brother’s departure in 1967, in order to take up the job a the head of A&R at Chris Blackwell’s Island Records, Blackwell having managed the S.D.G. Perhaps as a reaction to the complicated sound of the Timebox records, Winwood decided to record Patto with a ‘live-in-the studio’ feel, though the result still showcased Ollie Halsall’s guitar virtuosity. The imaginatively-titled “Patto” was released in November of 1970, and whilst the album demonstrated the band’s expert handling of tricky time signatures and jazz changes (applauded by the critics and fellow musicians), their efforts were not rewarded with substantial sales. Mostly because the time was not right.
A second album, “Hold Your Fire“, issued a year later, contained many of the same ingredients, and resulted in similarly disappointing sales and Vertigo dropped the band. Muff Winwood’s connections got them a new deal at Island Records, and they returned to the studio with Winwood to record “Roll ‘Em Smoke ‘Em Put Another Line Out“, released in 1972. As is plainly audible, the ramshackle element of their live act is well to the fore, along with elongated examples of the band’s humor. The outstanding musicianship can still be heard, but the album was unfavorably received.
All three albums were heavier in style than what he’d done to date but failed to capture a wider interest. Nonetheless, “Patto” (1970), was a good jazz-rock fusion featuring some fine vibraphone and guitar playing from Ollie Halsall. “Hold Your Fire“, which is now hard to find on vinyl, was reputedly better, although their album for Island was rather disappointing. When the project disintegrated in 1973, Patto embarked on a brief solo career and in 1974 he joined Spooky Tooth as vocalist and 2nd keyboardist. Spooky Tooth was one of the very few bands to adopt the twin keyboard approach.
Afterwards he was a founding member of the rock band Boxer along with the legendary guitarist Ollie Halsall and keyboardist Chris Stainton. They toured both the US and Europe. His final solo 45, “Sitting In The Park” was a ballad done by Billy Stewart and Georgie Fame.
Ollie Halsall joined Jon Hiseman’s power trio Tempest for the latter of their two albums, before he and Patto formed Boxer in 1975, their first album being better remembered for its cover than its contents. Two more albums were recorded, but Mike Patto’s career was sadly arrested by illness.
He died of lymphatic leukemia on March 3, 1979 at age 39.
February 2, 1979 – Sid Vicious was born John Simon Ritchie on May 10th 1957 in Lewisham in Southeast London England. His mother dropped out of school early due to a lack of academic success and went on to join the Royal Airforce, where she met her husband-to-be, Ritchie’s father, a guardsman at Buckingham Palace and a semi-professional trombone player on the London Jazz scene.
Shortly after Ritchie’s birth, he and his mother moved to Ibiza, where they expected to be joined by his father who, it was planned, would support them financially in the meantime. However, after the first few cheques failed to arrive, Anne realized senior would not be coming. Anne later married Christopher Beverley in 1965, before setting up a family home back in Kent, England. Ritchie took his stepfather’s surname and was known as John Beverley.
Christopher Beverley died a short while later from cancer and by 1968 Ritchie and his mother were living in a rented flat in Turnbridge Wells, where he attended Sandown Court School. In 1971 mom and son moved to Hackney in east London. He also spent some time living in Clevedon, Somerset.
Ritchie first met John Lydon in 1973, when they were both students at Hackney Technical College. Lydon describes Ritchie at this time as a David Bowie fan and a “clothes hound”.
By age 17, Ritchie was hanging around London’s center. One favorite spot was Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood’s then-little-known clothing store, SEX. There he met American expatriate Chrissie Hynde before she formed the Pretenders. Though at least five years older, she tried (but failed) to convince Ritchie to join her in a sham marriage so she could get a work permit.
John Lydon nicknamed Ritchie “Sid Vicious” after Lydon’s pet hamster Sid, who had bitten Ritchie, eliciting Ritchie’s response: “Sid is really vicious!” The animal was described by Lydon as “the softest, furriest, weediest thing on earth.” At the time, Ritchie was squatting with Lydon, John Joseph Wardle (Jah Wobble), and John Gray, and the four were colloquially known as “The Four Johns”.
According to Lydon, he and Vicious would often busk for money, with Vicious playing the tambourine. They would play Alice Cooper covers, and people gave them money to stop. Once a man gave them “three bob” (three shillings, i.e., 15p in decimal currency) and they all danced. Yet the darker side of Sid’s personality emerged when he assaulted New Musical Express journalist Nick Kent with a motorbike chain, with help from Jah Wobble. On another occasion, at the Speakeasy (a London nightclub popular with rock stars of the day) he threatened BBC DJ and Old Grey Whistle Test presenter Bob Harris.
His ‘musical’ career started in 1976 as a member of The Flowers of Romance along with former co-founding member of The Clash, Keith Levene, Palmolive and Viv Albertine. He appeared with Siouxsie and the Banshees, playing drums at their notorious first gig at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London’s Oxford Street. According to members of The Damned, Vicious, along with Dave Vanian, was considered for the position of lead singer for The Damned but failed to show up for the audition. The song “Belsen Was a Gas” originates from this band, and was later performed live by the Sex Pistols, as well as Sid Vicious’ solo act.
He played his first gig with the Sex Pistols on 3 April 1977 at the The Screen On The Green in London. His debut was filmed by Don Letts and appears in Punk Rock Movie. In Nov. 1977, Sid met American groupie Nancy Spungen. Both the group and Sid visibly deteriorated during their 1978 American tour.
The Pistols broke up in San Francisco after their concert at the Winterland Ballroom on 14 January 1978. With Nancy acting as his “manager”, Sid embarked on a solo career during which he performed with musicians including Mick Jones of The Clash, original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, Rat Scabies of The Damned and the New York Dolls’ Arthur Kane, Jerry Nolan, and Johnny Thunders.
He performed the majority of his performances at Max’s Kansas City and drew large crowds. His final performances as a solo musician took place at Max’s.
On October 12th 1978, Sid claimed to have awoken from a drugged stupor to find Nancy dead on the bathroom floor of their room in the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan, New York. She had suffered a single stab wound to her abdomen and appeared to have bled to death. On October 22 1978, ten days after Nancy’s death, he attempted suicide by slicing his wrist and subsequently became a patient at Bellevue Hospital.
A little over three months later, on February 2nd 1979, Vicious died from a heroin overdose as he had been partying in a New York flat to celebrate his release on $50,000 (£29,412) bail pending his trial for the murder of his girlfriend. A few days after his cremation, his mother found a suicide note in the pocket of his jacket: “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye”.
He was 21 years old.
In 2006 he was inducted posthumously into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Sex Pistols.
January 13, 1979 – Donny Hathaway was born on October 1st 1945 in Chicago, but raised with his grandmother in St. Louis. Hathaway began singing in a church choir with his grandmother, a professional gospel singer, at the age of three. He graduated from High School in 1963 and from there on studied music on a fine arts scholarship at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he was a classmate and close friend of Roberta Flack and a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
While in college, he performed with a cocktail jazz outfit called the Ric Powell Trio, and wound up leaving school after three years to pursue job opportunities he was already being offered in the record industry. It was a decision based on money he later explained.
Donny Hathaway became one of the brightest new voices in soul music at the dawn of the ’70s, possessed of a smooth, gospel-inflected romantic croon that was also at home on fiery protest material. Hathaway achieved his greatest commercial success as Roberta Flack’s duet partner of choice, but sadly he’s equally remembered for the tragic circumstances of his death — an apparent suicide at age 33.
Hathaway first worked behind the scenes as a producer, arranger, songwriter, and session pianist/keyboardist. He supported the likes of Aretha Franklin, Jerry Butler, and the Staple Singers, among many others, and joined the Mayfield Singers, a studio backing group that supported Curtis Mayfield’s Impressions. Hathaway soon became a house producer at Mayfield’s Curtom label, and in 1969 cut his first single, a duet with June Conquest called “I Thank You Baby.” From there he signed with Atco as a solo artist, and released his debut single, the inner-city lament “The Ghetto, Pt. 1,” toward the end of the year. While it failed to reach the Top 20 on the R&B charts, “The Ghetto” still ranks as a classic soul message track, and has been sampled by numerous hip-hop artists. “The Ghetto” set the stage for Hathaway’s acclaimed debut LP, Everything Is Everything, which was released in early 1970. In 1971, he released his eponymous second album and recorded a duet with former Howard classmate Roberta Flack, covering Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” It was a significant hit, reaching the Top Ten on the R&B charts, and sparked a full album of duets, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, which was released in 1972. The soft, romantic ballad “Where Is the Love?” topped the R&B charts, went Top Five on the pop side, and won a Grammy, and the accompanying album went gold.
Also in 1972, Hathaway branched out into soundtrack work, recording the theme song for the TV series Maude and scoring the film Come Back Charleston Blue. However, in the midst of his blossoming success, he was also battling severe bouts of depression, which occasionally required him to be hospitalized. His mood swings also affected his partnership with Flack, which began to crumble in 1973.
Hathaway released one more album that year, the ambitious Extension of a Man, and then retreated from the spotlight; over the next few years, he performed only in small clubs. In 1977, Hathaway patched things up with Flack and temporarily left the hospital to record another duet, “The Closer I Get to You,” for her Blue Lights in the Basement album. The song was a smash, becoming the pair’s second R&B number one in 1978, and also climbing to number two on the pop charts.
Sessions for a second album of duets were underway when, on January 13, 1979, Hathaway was found dead on the sidewalk below the 15th-floor window of his room in New York’s Essex House. The glass had been neatly removed from the window, and there were no signs of struggle, leading investigators to rule Hathaway’s death a suicide; his friends were mystified, considering that his career had just started to pick up again, and Flack was devastated. Roberta Flack Featuring Donny Hathaway was released in 1980, and both of the completed duets — “Back Together Again” and “You Are My Heaven” — became posthumous hits.
Donny Hathaway died in 1979, but his warm, suave soul has never been more influential. He’s been name-checked in songs by Amy Winehouse, Nas, Common and Fall Out Boy (the new “What a Catch, Donnie”), and Justin Timberlake calls “(Another Song) All Over Again,” from FutureSex/LoveSounds, “my homage to Donny Hathaway.” It’s easy to hear why Hathaway still appeals to modern-pop and neo-soul singers alike. He was equally comfortable with smooth ballads (“The Closer I Get to You”) and rolling funk (“The Ghetto”). He was a master of melisma (while never overdoing it), and his smoky voice wrapped superbly around his female duet partners, most notably Roberta Flack. No wonder Timberlake calls him “the best singer of all time.” Rolling Stone Magazine declared him the 49th best singer ever, right behind Buddy Holly and before Bonnie Raitt. Not sure what that means but he was impressive nevertheless.
He was 33 years, 3 months and 12 days old when he died on 13 January 1979 jumping out of the window on the 15th floor.