December 18, 2001 – Gilbert Bécaud was born François Silly in Toulon France on October 24, 1927 and became one of France’s most beloved and successful singer, composer and actor. He learned to play the piano at a young age, and then went to the Conservatoire in Nice.
In 1942, not even 16 years old, he left school to join the French Resistance during WorldWar II.
He began songwriting in 1948, after meeting Maurice Vidalin, who inspired him to write his early compositions. He began writing for Marie Bizet; Bécaud, Bizet and Vidalin became a successful trio, and their partnership lasted until 1950. Continue reading Gilbert Bécaud 12/2001
November 29, 2001 – George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool England. Harrison was not born into wealth and by his own admission, Harrison was not much of a student, and what little interest he did have in his studies washed away with his discovery of the electric guitar and American rock and roll. As Harrison would later describe it, he had an “epiphany” of sorts at the age 12 or 13 while riding a bike around his neighborhood and getting his first whiff of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was playing from a nearby house. By the age of 14, Harrison, whose early rock heroes included Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Buddy Holly, had purchased his first guitar and taught himself a few chords. Continue reading George Harrison 11/2001
August 25, 2001 -Aaliyah Dana Haughton (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) died in a small plane crash after take off in the Bahamas, ending a very promising career in music and acting. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Detroit, Michigan.Born Aaliyah Haughton in Brooklyn, N.Y., she made her stage debut as an orphan in a production of “Annie” at the age of 6. Her uncle was married to soul singer Gladys Knight, who invited Aaliyah to perform with her during a five-night stint in Las Vegas at age 11.
At the age of 10, she appeared on the television show Star Search and performed in concert alongside Gladys Knight, who was married to her uncle. Aaliyah’s song “Try Again” earned her a Grammy nomination this year for her best female R&B vocalist. In 1996, she released her second album and the single “If Your Girl Only Knew” went double platinum.
Aaliyah made her feature acting debut in 2000 with “Romeo Must Die” and also was signed on to appear in two sequels to the high-tech thriller “The Matrix.” She also starred in the title role of the latest Anne Rice vampire thriller, “The Queen of the Damned.”
August 2, 2001 – Ron Townson (The Fifth Dimension) was born on January 20, 1933 in St. Louis Missouri.
He started singing at the age of 6 and was a featured soloist on various choirs throughout his years in school, touring with Wings Over Jordan for 8 years while still in school. He was also their choir director for two years. His grandmother had initially inspired him to sing and his parents arranged for him to have private singing and acting lessons. During high school, he appeared for three seasons in productions of Bloomer Girl, Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat; he also won third place in the Missouri State trials for the Metropolitan Opera.
Later he entered Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, after which he went to L.A. touring with Dorothy Dandridge for 2 years, then took part in the Samuel Goldwyn motion picture production of Porgy & Bess and then later toured with Nat King Cole, as well as organizing and conducting his own 35 voice a cappella choir in LA.
In 1966, Ron, Billy Davis Jr, Lamonte McLemore, Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue formed The Versatiles, but soon changed their name to “The 5th Dimension”. Continue reading Ron Townson 8/2001
July 27, 2001 – Leon Wilkeson (bass player for Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1972 until his death). was born on April 2nd 1952 in Newport, Rhode Island, but raised in Jacksonville, Florida.
At about the age of 12, inspired by The Beatles, Leon began learning to play bass guitar copying his favorite member of the Fab Four, Paul McCartney. Only wanting to play music, he dropped out of his school band at the age of 14 and, soon he was playing bass with Ronnie Van Zant’s local group, the Collegiates.
However, due to plummeting school grades, Wilkeson had to drop out of the group at the behest of his parents. Soon Wilkeson found himself in another local group, the King James Version. He began to study the ‘lead bass style’ of such accomplished players as Cream’s Jack Bruce, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Jefferson Airplane’s Jack Casady, The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh and the Allman Brothers’ Berry Oakley. Continue reading Leon Wilkeson 7/2001
July 11, 2001 – Herman Brood was born on November 5th 1946 in Zwolle, the Netherlands. In the early years, his influences included Fats Domino and Little Richard. He always liked to paint and play piano.
He started playing the piano at age 12 and founded beat band The Moans in 1964, which would later become Long Tall Ernie and the Shakers. He also briefly played piano with Dutch premier blues band Cuby and the Blizzards, but was removed by management when the record company discovered he used drugs.
For a number of years in the late 1960, early 1970s Herman spent time in jail for dealing LSD, or moved abroad, while he had a number of short-term engagements with The Studs, the Flash & Dance Band, Vitesse.
In 1976, Brood started his own group, Herman Brood & His Wild Romance, (and started work with photographer Anton Corbijn) initially with Ferdi Karmelk on guitar, (Nina Hagen’s romantic partner and father of her daughter), Gerrit Veen (bass), Peter Walrecht (drums), and Ellen Piebes and Ria Ruiters (back vocals). They played the club and bar circuit, first in Groningen, In 1977 the band released their first album, Street.
June 30, 2001 – Chester Burton “Chet” Atkins was born on June 20th 1924 in Luttrell, Tennessee, near Clinch Mountain. Even though by many considered instrumental in bringing Country music mainstream with the Nashville Sound, Chet’s guitar virtuosity (he also played the mandolin, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele) was recognized with an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which makes him eligible in this website’s line-up.
His parents divorced when he was six, after which he was raised by his mother. He was the youngest of three boys and a girl. He started out on the ukulele, later moving on to the fiddle, but traded his brother Lowell an old pistol and some chores for a guitar when he was nine. He stated in his 1974 autobiography, “We were so poor and everybody around us was so poor that it was the forties before anyone even knew there had been a depression.” Continue reading Chet Atkins 6/2001
June 21, 2001 – John Lee Hooker was born on August 22, 1912, in Tutwiler or Clarksdale, Mississippi. The Hooker children were home-schooled. Since they were only permitted to listen to religious songs, the spirituals sung in church were their earliest exposure to music. In 1921, his parents separated. The next year, his mother married William Moore, a blues singer who provided Hooker with his first introduction to the guitar (and whom he would later credit for his distinctive playing style).
Moore was his first significant blues influence. He was a local blues guitarist, who learned in Shreveport, Louisiana, to play a droning, one-chord blues that was strikingly different from the Delta blues of the time. Continue reading John Lee Hooker 6/2001
May 23, 2001 – Tommy Eyre was born on June 5, 1949 in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. He moved to London in 1969 and what followed is the well spelled out timeline of one of rock and roll’s greatest keyboard players.
Very versatile and prolific keyboardist, Tommy had an incredible career playing with many top bands and artists of almost every genre. His name should be included in any hall of fame for keyboardists, and although his musical contributions are very extensive, he’ll always be remembered by two of his most famous works: The playing in Joe Cocker’s original version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’. Tommy’s organ arrangements gave the song such classy style, and the playing in the famous ‘Baker Street‘ by singer Gerry Rafferty, another eternal song. Such an in-demand keyboardist, Tommy played the Reading Festival eight different times with eight different bands.
May 28, 2001 – Tony Ashton was born on March 1, 1946 in Blackburn, Lancashire. When he was a child, his mother sent him to piano lessons. At the age of 13 in 1959, whilst Ashton was a student at St. George’s School, Blackpool, he joined a local group, The College Boys, on rhythm guitar and piano. When Ashton left school at the age of 15 he was already an accomplished pianist. He played in a jazz trio, The Tony Ashton Trio with drummer John Laidlaw and bass player Pete Shelton in 1961 and 1962 at the Picador Club in Blackpool. Although his work began during the Beatles era, his roots lay firmly in soul, jazz and the blues.
After playing with various Blackpool bands, Ashton was invited to join the Liverpool group The Remo Four as organist and vocalist. Tony was invited to join the Liverpool group the Remo Four as organist/vocalist. The group spent some time being the resident band at Hamburg Germany’s legendary Star Club, followed by a US tour accompanying the Beatles. They recorded some singles but their best work came in 1966 when they released their album Smile. Before their break-up in 1968, they backed George Harrison on his album Wonderwall.
April 15, 2001 – Joey Ramone was born Jeffry Ross Hyman on May 19th 1951 in Forest Hills, Queens, New York where he had a dysfunctional upbringing, but in 1974, he co-founded the punk rock band Ramones with friends John Cummings and Douglas Colvin.
All three adopted stage names using “Ramone” as their stage surname. Cummings became Johnny Ramone, and Colvin became Dee Dee Ramone, with Jeffry adopted the name Joey Ramone. The name Ramone stems from the fact that x-Beatle Paul McCartney used to check into hotels under the pseudonym “Paul Ramon” while touring.
Joey initially served as the group’s drummer and Dee Dee was the original vocalist. However, Dee Dee proved to be unsuited for the lead vocals so they switched positions. Even though The Ramones had enormous influence on the punk rock movement in the US, they achieved only minor commercial success, their only certified gold record was the compilation album Ramones Mania. In 1996, after a tour with the Lollapalooza music festival, the band played their final show and then disbanded.
March 18, 2001 – John Phillips (Mamas and Papas) was born on August 30th 1935 in Parris Island, South Carolina. His father, Claude Andrew Phillips, was a retired United States Marine Corps officer who won an Oklahoma bar from another Marine in a poker game on the way home from France after World War I. His mother, Edna Gertrude (née Gaines), who had English and Cherokee ancestry, met his father in Oklahoma. According to his autobiography, Papa John, Phillips’ father was a heavy drinker who suffered from poor health.
Phillips grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, where he was inspired by Marlon Brando to be “street tough.” From 1942 to 1946, he attended Linton Hall Military School in Bristow, Virginia; according to his autobiography, he “hated the place,” citing “inspections,” and “beatings,” and recalls that “nuns used to watch us take showers.” He formed a group of teenage boys, who also sang doo-wop songs. He played basketball at George Washington High School, now George Washington Middle School in Alexandria, Virginia, where he graduated in 1953, and gained an appointment to the Naval Academy. However, he resigned during his first (plebe) year. Phillips then attended Hampden–Sydney College, a liberal arts college for men in Hampden Sydney, Virginia, but dropped out in 1959.
March 4, 2001 – Glenn Hughes (Village People) was born on July 18th 1950. He graduated from Chaminade High School in 1968 and then attended Manhattan College, where he was initiated as a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity in 1969.
While a toll booth collector at the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, he responded to an advertisement by composer Jacques Morali seeking “macho” singers and dancers for the disco group “the Village People”. Glenn and other members of the band were given a crash course in the synchronized dance choreography that later typified the group’s live performances.
He became the original “Biker” character in the disco group Village People from 1977 to 1996. Glenn’s powerful bass voice played an important part in the background lyrics of almost all Village People’s most known hits, such as YMCA and In the Navy.
February 22, 2001 – John Aloysius Fahey was born on February 28, 1939 in Washington DC. Both his father, Aloysius John Fahey, and his mother, Jane (née Cooper), played the piano. In 1945, the family moved to the Washington suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland, where his father lived until his death in 1994. On weekends, the family attended performances of top country and bluegrass groups of the day, but it was hearing Bill Monroe’s version of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel No. 7” on the radio that ignited the young Fahey’s passion for music.
In 1952, after being impressed by guitarist Frank Hovington, whom he met while on a fishing trip, he purchased his first guitar for $17 from the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. Along with his budding interest in guitar, Fahey was attracted to record collecting. While his tastes ran mainly in the bluegrass and country vein, Fahey discovered his love of early blues upon hearing Blind Willie Johnson‘s “Praise God I’m Satisfied” on a record-collecting trip to Baltimore with his friend and mentor, the musicologist Richard K. Spottswood. Much later, Fahey compared the experience to a religious conversion and remained a devout blues disciple until his death.