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David Crosby 1/2023

David Crosby was born August 14, 1941 in Los Angeles, California, second son of Wall Street banker turned Academy Award-winning cinematographer Floyd Crosby and Aliph Van Cortlandt Whitehead, a salesperson at Macy’s department store. His father was related to the famous Van Rensselaer family, a fiercely prominent family of Dutch descent during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries in the greater New York area. Members of this family played a critical role in the formation of the United States and served as leaders in business, politics and society. His mother—granddaughter of Bishop of Pittsburgh Cortlandt Whitehead—descended from the equally prominent Dutch descent New York Van Cortlandt family. For those of you interested in his ancestry, David Crosby could never have been anything else than what he became in life: freak, outspoken asshole and forever musical icon.

In all of Rock and Roll, this man was probably my very personal hero.  

David Crosby lived one of the wildest lives in rock and roll, flying the freak flag high through decades of global fame and several fortunes won and lost, a white knuckle outlaw ride crammed with drugs, sex, death and a stint in prison. But that’s not why I celebrate him or mourn his passing. Because he also participated in some of the most beautiful music heard in our times, writing gorgeous, complex songs of cosmic folk jazz, gilding the air with blissful harmonies and playing impossibly complex chords he seemed to pluck out of the ether. With his walrus moustache and a perpetual twinkle in his eye, he was a fantastic musician and a richly complex human being whose spirit became infused in the rock culture of the 1960s, seventies and beyond. Crosby always yearned for greater musical adventures. He was one of the great hippies, one of the great band members in a couple of the greatest bands, and just really one of the few absolute greats of rock and roll..

He was the younger brother of musician, environmentalist Ethan Crosby, who committed suicide in the northern California woods in 1997. Growing up in California, he attended several schools, including the University Elementary School in Los Angeles, the Crane Country Day School in Montecito, and Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara for the rest of his elementary school and junior high years. At Crane, he starred in HMS Pinafore and other musicals but he ultimately flunked out and did not graduate from the Cate School in Carpinteria. His parents divorced in 1960, and his father re-married.

David Crosby dropped out of a college in Santa Barbara to chase a career as a musician. First stop was New York City where Dylan and others had set the early 60s on fire. However, David’s family history in the area was not a good fit for this young, outspoken musician. He performed with Chicago’s African American singer Terry Callier in Chicago and Greenwich Village, but the duo failed to obtain a recording contract. However when he arrived in Chicago to hang out with Terry Callier, he met South African singer Miriam Makeba (Mama Africa) and her band, who in turn knew multi-instrumentalist Jim McGuinn. Callier introduced McGuinn to Crosby.

Back in LA he performed with Les Baxter’s Balladeers around 1962 and then he began working the L.A. folk clubs as a solo act. L.A.’s nascent singer-songwriter scene was then coalescing around the Folk Den, the front room at the Santa Monica Boulevard club the Troubadour. One evening in 1964, Crosby inserted himself into a jam session involving two young folksingers, Jim McGuinn and Gene Clark. His crisp tenor voice not only attracted the attention of Jim Dickson, the house engineer at Richard Bock’s L.A. label World Pacific Records, but also re-established his connection with Jim McGuinn. Dickson began demoing Crosby as a solo artist and recorded his first solo session in 1963. Those sessions ultimately culminated in the formation of the band that became the Byrds, as Crosby had the free studio time available whenever he wanted it. 

So Crosby joined Jim McGuinn (who later changed his name to Roger, per advice of Indonesian guru Bapak) and Gene Clark (from the New Cristy Minstrels), and they became  the Jet Set.

Though McGuinn was wary of Crosby’s outsized, opinionated personality, he was under the sway of the Beatles and envisioned the formation of a new group; Crosby’s access to free studio time at World Pacific led to first sessions by McGuinn, Crosby and Clark under the collective handle the Jet Set. Under the name the Beefeaters, the trio issued a flop single on Elektra Records, but soon reformulated themselves as a full-blown rock quintet that reflected the influence of the Beatles 1964 debut feature “A Hard Day’s Night.” The lineup was filled out with the addition of neophyte bassist Chris Hillmen, formerly mandolinist with the bluegrass-oriented World Pacific group the Hillmen, and the unskilled but photogenic drummer Michael Clarke. It is now a well known fact that early Byrds’ recordings were often embellished by members of Los Angeles’ famous studio musicians the “Wrecking Crew”.

Late in 1964, when Chris Hillman joined as bassist, Crosby relieved Gene Clark of rhythm guitar duties. Through connections that Jim Dickson (the Byrds’ manager) had with Bob Dylan’s publisher, the band obtained a demo acetate disc of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and recorded a version of the song, featuring McGuinn’s 12-string guitar as well as McGuinn, Crosby, and Clark’s vocal harmonizing. The song turned into a massive hit, reaching number one in the charts in the United States, the United Kingdom and many other European countries during 1965. While McGuinn originated the Byrds’ trademark 12-string Rickenbacker guitar sound, Crosby was responsible for the soaring harmonies and often unusual phrasing of their songs, and whilst he did not sing lead vocals on either of the first two albums, he sang lead on the bridge in their second single “All I Really Want to Do”.

David Crosby was the most vital Byrd – by all accounts, trouble to himself and those around him; but the most vivid and creative of that original musical tribe. Like many great partnerships, he and Jim McGuinn chafed against each other but generated an exquisite noise between them: Crosby had a voice like honey that draped over McGuinn’s more ant-like tones. Those guitars that seemed to floss your brain between the ears, coated with the warmth of Crosby’s dominant harmonies: their records alone made me want to levitate.

In 1966, Gene Clark, who had been the band’s primary songwriter, left the group because of stress.

Clark wrote or co-wrote many of the Byrds’ best-known originals from their first three albums, including “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “Set You Free This Time”, “Here Without You”, “You Won’t Have to Cry”, “If You’re Gone”, “The World Turns All Around Her”, “She Don’t Care About Time” and “Eight Miles High”. He initially played rhythm guitar in the band, but relinquished that position to David Crosby and became the tambourine and harmonica player. Bassist Chris Hillman noted years later in an interview remembering Clark, “At one time, he was the power in the Byrds, not McGuinn, not Crosby—it was Gene who would burst through the stage curtain banging on a tambourine, coming on like a young Prince Valiant. A hero, our savior.

Clark’s departure placed all the group’s songwriting responsibilities in the hands of McGuinn, Crosby, and Hillman. Crosby took the opportunity to hone his craft and soon became a relatively prolific songwriter, collaborating with McGuinn on the up-tempo “I See You” (covered by Yes on their 1969 debut) and penning the ruminative “What’s Happening”. His early Byrds efforts also included the 1966 hit “Eight Miles High” (to which he contributed one line, while Clark and McGuinn wrote the rest), and its flip side “Why”, co-written with McGuinn.
Because Crosby felt responsible for and was widely credited with popularizing the song “Hey Joe”, he persuaded the other members of the Byrds to record it on Fifth Dimension.

By Younger Than Yesterday, the Byrds’ 1967 album, Crosby began to find his trademark style on songs such as “Renaissance Fair” (co-written with McGuinn), “Mind Gardens”, and “It Happens Each Day”; however, the latter song was omitted from the final album and ultimately restored as a bonus track on the 1996 remastered edition. The album also contained a re-recording of “Why” and “Everybody’s Been Burned”, a jazzy torch song from Crosby’s pre-Byrds repertoire that was initially demoed in 1963.

Friction between Crosby and the other Byrds came to a head in mid-1967 after the Monterey Pop Festival in June, when Crosby’s onstage political diatribes and support of various Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories between songs, elicited rancor from McGuinn and Hillman. He further annoyed his bandmates when, at the invitation of Stephen Stills, he substituted for an absent Neil Young during Buffalo Springfield’s set the following night. The final internal conflict had boiled over during the initial recording sessions for The Notorious Byrd Brothers that summer of love, where differences over song selections led to intra-band arguments. In particular, Crosby was adamant that the band should record only original material despite the recent commercial failure of “Lady Friend”, a Crosby-penned single that stalled at No. 82 on the American charts following its release in July. McGuinn and Hillman dismissed Crosby in October after he refused to countenance the recording of a cover of Goffin and King’s “Goin’ Back”. Another approach may have been that tensions kept mounting to a breaking point and by October 1967 Crosby left.

“Roger and Chris Hillman drove up in a pair of Porsches and said that I was crazy, impossible to work with, an egomaniac. All of which is partly true, I’m sure, sometimes — that I sang shitty, wrote terrible songs, made horrible sounds, and that they would do much better without me. Now, I’m sure that in the heat of the moment they probably exaggerated what they thought. But that’s what they said. I took it rather much to heart. I just say, ‘OK. Kinda wasteful, but OK.’ But it was a drag.” I took a sabbatical to Southern Florida and discovered Joni Mitchell in Coconut Grove and life went on.”

While Crosby had contributed to three compositions and five recordings on his final album with the Byrds, his controversial menage-a-trois ode “Triad” was omitted; Jefferson Airplane released a Grace Slick-sung cover on Crown of Creation (1968); three years later, Crosby released a solo acoustic version on Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s double live album 4 Way Street (1971); the Byrds’ version appeared decades later on the 1988 Never Before release and later on the CD re-release of The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

In 1972, a reunion of the original Byrds lineup of Crosby, McGuinn, Clark, Hillman and Clarke was engineered by David Geffen for his Asylum label, and McGuinn, who had led the act following Crosby’s exit, disbanded the then-current edition of the group. However, while the 1973 release “Byrds” managed to reach No. 20 on the U.S. album chart, the set was largely dismissed by critics, and the members went their separate ways. No other new material was ever released under the Byrds’ name, inspite of Crosby’s efforts in later years.

Just before Crosby’s departure from the Byrds in late 1967, he had met a recently “unemployed” Stephen Stills, whose L.A.-based band Buffalo Springfield had just imploded amid internecine strife. At a party in March 1968 at the Laurel Canyon home of Cass Elliot (of the Mamas and the Papas), the newly cashiered Crosby started fulltime jamming with Stephen Stills. At another Laurel Canyon house party at Joni Mitchell’s house , Graham Nash, who had met the other two during a 1966 U.S. tour by his Manchester, England-bred group the Hollies, joined in with harmonies and a new sound was born.

Croz met up with Stills and Nash at Joni Mitchell’s house and discovered their incredible vocal blend. The first song the trio sang together was “You Don’t Have to Cry.” “They got to the end of it,” Nash recalled in 2020. “And I looked at Stephen and I said, ‘That’s an incredible song, Stephen. That’s really a beautiful song. Do me a favor and sing it one more time.’ And they looked at each other and shrugged, and they sang it one more time. They got to the end of it. And I said, ‘OK, all right, I’m English. Forget it. Do it one more time, please. One more time.’ In those three playings of that song, I had learned my harmony. I’d learned the words. I learned how Crosby was breathing. I learned Stephen’s body language about when he was going to start a line or end a line or put emphasis on particular words. When we sang that third time, my life changed.”

Laurel Canyon, just a short distance from Santa Monica Boulevard and the folk rock scene of the Troubadour Club, hosted most of the music royalty in Los Angeles area of the day and Crosby for awhile was the go to man in LA if you needed anything in the music sphere. He also had one of the most consequential relationships with Joni Mitchell during those psychedelic years, just before she embarked on a relationship with Nash.

“I walked into a coffeehouse in Coconut Grove, Florida and she was standing there singing those songs, and I just was gobsmacked,Crosby recalled. I fell for her. Immediately. It’s a little like falling into a cement mixer. She’s kind of a turbulent girl.”- David Crosby

Mind you, when CSN got together, they did not want to have contracts; they did not want a band with record company contracts. They wanted to be free to work with any and all musicians they wanted to work with, without contractual stipulations or limitations. After a deal brokered by David Geffen freed the three musicians from their outstanding contractual obligations, Crosby, Stills & Nash was signed to Atlantic Records.

But when their first album Crosby Stills Nash became an instant mega hit in spite of themselves in the same year the Beatles hung up their hats, they went on a scramble to put an electric band together to go on the road with and support the album. They were looking for a singer/songwriter, preferably with an acoustic, lightly electric sound.

The songs Crosby wrote for the first CSN album include “Guinevere”, “Long Time Gone”, and “Delta”. He also co-wrote “Wooden Ships” with Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane and Stills. The last three definitely leaning towards electric, just as most of Stephen Stills’ contributions. Consequently the problem arose that live shows would require more top notch musicians such as a bass player, percussion, some keyboards and additional guitar work as well.

So while Crosby and Nash went off sailing on Crosby’s newly acquired sailboat, a 59ft John Alden designed schooner called Mayan, Stills with drummer Dallas Taylor in tow, went to London to approach young Steve Winwood as the perceived ideal addition. Winwood got scared and refused. Eric Clapton simply refused and in the end, after much deliberation, on July 17, 1969, it became Neil Young who joined the group.

The album was an enormous success and Neil Young was added into the mix when they took it on tour in the summer of 1969.  As a quartet they played their second gig at Woodstock, in front of nearly 500,000 fans. “It’s significant to remember that amazing feeling that prevailed, a very encouraging thing about human beings,” Crosby wrote in his revealing 1990 memoir, Long Time Gone. “We haven’t managed to do it before or since, but for that one moment we did something that tells you what’s possible with human beings. For three days there was a very good feeling among half a million people.… Woodstock was a time where there was a prevailing feeling of harmony.” Crosby later said, “I think when the Beatles bomb blew apart, we were the best band in the world for awhile.”

Tragedy struck Crosby 6 weeks later on September 30, 1969, when Crosby’s on/off again girlfriend Christine Hinton, taking her cats to the vet in Crosby’s VW bus, was killed in a small car accident with a school bus, only days after Hinton, Crosby, and Debbie Donovan moved from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area. Crosby never was the same again said Graham Nash. Devastated he began abusing drugs more severely than he had before. Nevertheless, he still managed to contribute “Almost Cut My Hair” and the album’s title track “Déja Vu”to CSNY’s second album Déjà Vu, which peaked at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and the ARIA Charts and for awhile CSNY became the top band in the world. As music was taking a central spot in society, CSN’s second album also received key airplay on the new FM radio format. In its early days this radio format was populated by unfettered disc jockeys who then had the option of playing entire albums at once.

Yet here is another Zeitgeist detail from those days:

Christine Hinton was the beautiful, bohemian 21 year old girlfriend of David Crosby, the guitarist for folk-rock sensations The Byrds, one of the leading lights of Los Angeles’s so-called 1967 Laurel Canyon scene. According to most accounts. Hinton was a bona-vied hippie. Quick to go on naked beach strolls and roll up doobies at a moment’s notice. 

When Crosby got kicked out of the Byrds in 1967, he took a sabbatical to Florida, where he happened upon the relatively unknown Joni Mitchell performing in a local club. Enamored with her beauty and her talent, Crosby promptly broke up with Hinton to become Mitchell’s boyfriend and de-facto manager, eventually getting her a record deal and launching her to superstardom. 

While dating Mitchell, Crosby helped form Crosby, Stills, & Nash and started writing the song “Guinnevere” about Mitchell. But their relationship was tempestuous, and the couple broke up before he finished it. Crosby reunited with Christine Hinton and finished the last two verses of “Guinnevere” about her. 

On September 30th, 1969, Crosby, Stills, & Nash’s debut album, which included Guinnevere, went gold. On the same day, Christine Hinton borrowed David Crosby’s VW bus to take her two cats to the vet. En route, one of the cats jumped into Christine’s lap, startling her and causing her to lose control of the car, which drifted into the next lane and collided head on with a school bus, killing her.

After the release of the double live album 4 Way Street, the group went on a temporary hiatus to focus on their respective solo careers.
In December 1969, Crosby appeared with CSNY at the Altamont Free Concert. At the beginning of 1970, he briefly joined with Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, and Mickey Hart from Grateful Dead, billed as “David and the Dorks”, and made a live recording at the Matrix on December 15, 1970. By the summer of 1970 CSNY then called an indefinite hiatus , having had enough of the bickering and scrabbling for power that defined their behind-the-scenes interactions. (yet CSNY only officially broke up in 2016.)

Going solo, Crosby put out his debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name, in 1971, featuring contributions by Nash, Young, Joni Mitchell, members of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Santana. The album reached No. 12 on the Billboard 200. After that it took another 18 years before Crosby’s next album, Oh Yes I Can, was published, a witness to the fact that his life was a mess.His third record, Thousand Roads, followed in 1993, and then Crosby went another 19 years before sharing Croz in 2014. He went on, however, to release several more albums, including his last one, For Free.

Continuing after CSNY’s first hiatus, Crosby renewed his ties to the San Francisco milieu that had abetted so well on his solo album, Crosby sang backup vocals on several Paul Kantner and Grace Slick albums from 1971 through 1974 and the Hot Tuna album Burgers in 1972. He also participated in composer Ned Lagin’s proto-ambient project Seastones along with members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Starship. As a duo, Crosby & Nash (C&N) then released four studio albums and two live albums, including Another Stoney Evening, which features the duo in a 1971 acoustic performance with no supporting band. During the mid-1970s, Crosby and Nash enjoyed lucrative careers as session musicians, with both performers (as a duo and individually) contributing harmonies and background vocals to albums by Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne (whom Crosby had initially championed as an emerging songwriter), Dave Mason, Rick Roberts, James Taylor (most notably “Lighthouse” and “Mexico”), Art Garfunkel, J.D. Souther, Carole King, Elton John, and Gary Wright.

CSNY reunited in the summer of 1973 for unsuccessful recording sessions in Maui and Los Angeles. Despite lingering acrimony, they reconvened at a Stills concert at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in October. This served as a prelude to their highly successful stadium tour in the summer of 1974. Following the tour, the foursome attempted once again to record a new album, provisionally entitled Human Highway. The recording sessions, which took place at The Record Plant in Sausalito, were very unpleasant, marked by constant bickering. The bickering eventually became too much, and the album was canceled.

In rehearsals for the 1974 tour, CSNY had recorded a then-unreleased Crosby song, “Little Blind Fish”. A different version of the song would appear on the second CPR album more than two decades later. The 1974 tour was also affected by bickering, though they managed to finish it without a blow up. A greatest hits compilation entitled So Far was released in 1974 to capitalize on the foursome’s reunion tour.

In 1976, now as separate duos, Crosby & Nash and Stills & Young were both working on respective albums and contemplated retooling their work to produce a CSNY album. This attempt ended bitterly as Stills and Young deleted Crosby and Nash’s vocals from their album Long May You Run.

CSN with Young did not perform together again as a foursome until Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985. Without Young, however, Crosby, Stills & Nash performed much more consistently after its reformation in 1977. The trio toured in support of their 1977 and 1982 albums CSN and Daylight Again, the latter one featuring hits such as Wasted on the Way and Southern Cross. Then, starting in the late 1980s, CSN toured regularly year after year. The group continued to perform live, and since 1982 released four albums of new material: American Dream (1988, with Young), Live It Up (1990), After the Storm (1994), and Looking Forward (1999, with Young). In addition, Crosby & Nash released a self-titled album Crosby & Nash in 2004.

In 1985 Crosby went to jail in Texas on a 1982 drug and weapons charges. The previous decade had taken a serious toll on David Crosby’s mental and physical health. In April 1982, he was arrested in a Dallas nightclub and charged with possessing a .45-caliber handgun and a pipe he used to freebase cocaine. Convicted in 1983, he finally served five months of a five-year sentence in 1985.

“Prison is a very effective tool for getting your attention,” he said later. “When I went in, I was a junkie and a freebaser—as far down the drug totem pole as you can go. And I was psychotic. But what happens is, it’s no longer a matter of choice: You’re there and you can’t get any drugs. Eventually, you wake up from that nightmare you put yourself in and remember who you are. I don’t regret going to prison a bit, man. Later I wrote a letter to the judge saying, ‘I understand how much the system fails, but I wanted you to know that this time, it worked. Thank you.’”

After leaving the drug rehabilitation program he was allowed to enter instead of serving a five-year prison sentence for possessing cocaine and carrying a gun. He appeared with Stills, Nash, and Young at Live Aid while out on appeal bond. Crosby emerged from prison in 1986 newly clean, and married his longtime girlfriend, Jan Dance, in 1987, who is credited for his sobriety since.

Crosby worked with Phil Collins occasionally from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. He sang backup to Collins in “That’s Just the Way It Is” and “Another Day in Paradise”, and, on his own 1993 song, “Hero”, from his album Thousand Roads, Collins sang backup. In 1992, Crosby sang backup on the album Rites of Passage with the Indigo Girls on tracks 2 and 12. In 1999, he appeared on Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, singing a duet of the title track with Lucinda Williams.

Years of alcohol and drug abuse leading to Hepatitis C and in mortal need, he received a liver transplant in 1994, paid for by his friend Phil Collins and not much later he recorded another album with CSN, the commercially unsuccessful After the Storm. During the Nineties, Crosby gained more attention for a unique act of celebrity generosity when he became the sperm donor for Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher’s two sons. 

Speaking of sons. In 1996, Crosby formed CPR or Crosby, Pevar & Raymond with session guitarist Jeff Pevar, and pianist James Raymond, Crosby’s son with Celia Crawford Ferguson; who had been given up for adoption in 1962. When Raymond and Crosby reunited, they formed the trio CPR, releasing two studio albums and two live albums.

“I feel very fortunate that we found each other and that he so graciously invited me to experience that rarified air of creativity that surrounded him.” – James Raymond 

The first song that Crosby and Raymond co-wrote, “Morrison”, was performed live for the first time in January 1997. The song recalled Crosby’s feelings about the portrayal of Jim Morrison in the movie The Doors. The success of the 1997 tour spawned a record project, Live at Cuesta College, released in March 1998. There is a second CPR studio record, Just Like Gravity, and another live recording, Live at the Wiltern, recorded at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, which also features Phil Collins and Graham Nash. After the group split, Raymond continued to perform with Crosby as part of the touring bands for C&N and CSN, as well as on solo Crosby projects, including 2014’s Croz and the subsequent tour, for which he served as musical director.

Full-scale, financially highly successful CSNY tours, mostly initiated by Neil Young, took place in 2000, 2002, and 2006. In 2006, Crosby and Nash also worked with David Gilmour as backing vocalists on the latter’s third solo album, On an Island. The album was released in March 2006 and reached number 1 on the UK charts. They also performed live with Gilmour in his concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London in May 2006 and toured together in the United States, as can be seen on Gilmour’s 2007 DVD Remember That Night. They also sang backup on the title track of John Mayer‘s 2012 album Born and Raised.

Crosby, Stills, and Nash appeared together on a 2008 episode of The Colbert Report, and “Neil Young” joined them during the musical performance at the end of the episode. However, eventually, it became clear that it was only Stephen Colbert impersonating Young as the group sang “Teach Your Children”.
Following a November 2015 interview in which he stated he still hoped the band had a future, however Nash announced on March 6, 2016, that Crosby, Stills & Nash would never perform again because of his poor relations with Crosby.

In 2014, at 72, after a many years break from recording, he restarted what turned out to be a prolific solo career with “Croz” the first of five studio albums he released in the next seven years. He told Rolling Stone, “It’ll probably sell nineteen copies. I don’t think kids are gonna dig it, but I’m not making it for them. I’m making it for me. I have this stuff that I need to get off my chest.” He also told the Magazine: From there, his output picked up steam, and he released the albums Lighthouse in 2016; Sky Trails in 2017; Here If You Listen in 2019; and For Free in 2021. There were live recordings, too. His voice, amazingly enough, held up for his final creative surge. It sounded gentle and selfless, humbled and purified by time.

Crosby’s personal life had been calamitous enough in the 1970s and 1980s — cocaine and heroin addiction, prison time, medical crises, financial ruin — for him to chronicle it in two older-but-wiser autobiographies: “Long Time Gone” and “Since Then: How I Survived Everything and Lived to Tell About It.” Throughout his career, close musical collaborations gave way to harsh acrimony. But Crosby’s music incorporated different stories, unusual guitar tunings and syncopated rhythms. Shaped by the upheavals of the 1960s, his songs held cross currents of freedom and disorientation, of seeking and disillusionment, of yearning and alienation and, in later years, of seasoned reflection. Crosby was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: once for his work in the Byrds and again for his work with CSN. Five albums to which he contributed are included in Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, three with the Byrds and two with CSN(Y). He was outspoken politically and was sometimes depicted as emblematic of the counterculture of the 1960s.

On Wednesday January 18, 2023, the day of his death, he quoted-tweeted a user joking about tattooed people being barred from heaven. “I heard the place is overrated… .cloudy,” he wrote. 

I hope there is a warm wind blowing over your shoulder David. You definitely set my life’s course to go.

Tributes:

Graham Nash – “I know people tend to focus on how volatile our relationship has been at times,” he continued, “but what has always mattered to David and me more than anything was the pure joy of the music we created together, the sound we discovered with one another, and the deep friendship we shared over all these many long years.”

Stephen Stills – “He was without question a giant of a musician, and his harmonic sensibilities were nothing short of genius. The glue that held us together as our vocals soared, like Icarus, towards the sun. I am deeply saddened at his passing and shall miss him beyond measure.”

Neil Young – “David is gone, but his music lives on. The soul of CSNY, David’s voice and energy were at the heart of our band. His great songs stood for what we believed in and it was always fun and exciting when we got to play together.”

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Tina Turner 5/2023

Tina Turner, proud queen of rockTina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on Nov. 26, 1939, in Brownsville, Tenn., northeast of Memphis, and spent her earliest years on the Poindexter farm in Nutbush, an unincorporated area nearby, where she sang in the choir of the Spring Hill Baptist Church, along with her parents and two sisters. Her father, Floyd, known by his middle name, Richard, worked as the farm’s overseer — “We were well-to-do farmers,”  — and had a difficult relationship with his wife, Zelma (Currie) Bullock.

Her parents left Anna and her older sister, Alline, with relatives when they went to work at a military installation in Knoxville, TN during World War II. The family reunited after the war, but Zelma left her husband in the early 1950s and Anna went to live with her maternal grandmother in Brownsville.
After her grandmother died, she moved to St. Louis, Missouri, rejoining her mother as she attended Sumner High School there. She and sister Alline began frequenting the Manhattan Club in East St. Louis to hear Ike Turner and the Kings of Rhythm.

At one time she requested to sing with a band led by a handsome, dapper guitarist who would soon become the profoundly dominant influence in her life. At first Ike Turner refused to entertain her pleas to be allowed to sing with his Kings Of Rhythm – until she grabbed a microphone during a band break, and belted out B B King’s ‘You Know I Love You’. Ike asked her if that was the extent of her repertoire. On finding out that it wasn’t, he let her sing a few more. By the end of the night she was the band’s newest ‘chick singer’.

“I wanted to get up there and sing sooooo bad,” she recalled in “I, Tina: My Life Story” (1986), written with Kurt Loder. “But that took an entire year.” One night, during one of the band’s breaks, the drummer, Eugene Washington, handed her the microphone and she began singing the B.B. King song “You Know I Love You,” which Mr. Turner had produced. “When Ike heard me, he said, ‘My God!’” she told People magazine in 1981. “He couldn’t believe that voice coming out of this frail little body.”

In his book “Takin’ Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner” (1999), written with Nigel Cawthorne, Mr. Turner wrote: “I’d be writing songs with Little Richard in mind, but I didn’t have no Little Richard to sing them, so Tina was my Little Richard. Listen closely to Tina and who do you hear? Little Richard singing in the female voice.”
IkeTurner used her as a backup singer, billed as Little Ann, on his 1958 record “Boxtop.” When Art Lassiter, the group’s lead singer, failed to show up for the recording of “A Fool in Love,” she stepped in. The record was a hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard R&B chart and No. 27 on the pop chart. Ike Turner gave his protégée — who by now was also his romantic partner — a new name, Tina, inspired by the television character Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. And he renamed the group the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. For the next 7 years, the Ike and Tina Turner Revue mostly made a living by touring and performing shows.

It was a dynamic, disciplined ensemble, second only to the James Brown Revue, but until “Proud Mary,” in 1970 they never achieved significant crossover success. Up to that point they had only one single in the pop Top 20 in the United States, “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” in 1961. The group did generate several hits on the R&B charts, notably “I Idolize You,” “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” and “Tra La La La La,” but most of their income came from a relentless touring schedule with the revue.

However luck should have changed in 1966, when record producer Phil Spector, after hearing the Ike and Tina Turner Revue at the Galaxy Club in Los Angeles, offered $20,000 to produce their next song, on condition that Ike Turner stay away from the studio. Spector was impressed by Tina Turner and wanted to use her voice with the Wrecking Crew, and his “Wall of Sound” production technique. He went to the Turners’ house, and struck a deal with Ike Turner to produce Tina. Ike agreed, but wanted the recordings to be credited to Ike & Tina Turner. The result, “River Deep, Mountain High,” is often regarded as the high-water mark of Mr. Spector’s patented “wall of sound.” It initially failed in the United States, barely reaching the Top 100, but it was a huge hit in Britain and on the European continent, where it marked the beginning of a second career for Tina Turner. Ike Turner remarked that “if Phil had released the record and put anybody else’s name on it, it would have been a huge hit. But because Tina Turner’s name was on it, the white stations classified it an R&B record and wouldn’t play it. The white stations say it was too black, and the black stations say it was too white, so that record didn’t have a home. Well Europe did not have the problem that restricted so many colored artists in the US. “River Deep Mountain High became a megahit and made Tina Turner a superstar in other countries except in the US.

“I loved that song,” she wrote in her 1986 memoir. “Because for the first time in my life, it wasn’t just R&B — it had structure, it had a melody.” She added: “I was a singer, and I knew I could do other things; I just never got the opportunity. ‘River Deep’ showed people what I had in me.” It may also have been the reason that in later years Tina Turner decided that living in Europe, rather than in the States, would mean a better life.

Her relationship with Ike Turner, whom she had married in 1962 on a quick trip to Tijuana, Mexico, was turbulent. He was dictatorial, physically abusive and later, hopelessly addicted to cocaine.Before a concert one night in 1968, shortly prior to recording the song that would launch her into superstardom, Tina Turner swallowed sleeping pills and laid down to die. “People backstage noticed something was very wrong with me and rushed me to the hospital, which saved my life,” she writes in her book Happiness Becomes You. “At first I was disappointed when I woke up and realized I was still alive. I thought death was my only chance at escape. But it was not in my nature to stay down for long.”

After the Rolling Stones invited the group to open for them, first on a British tour in 1966 and then on an American tour in 1969, white listeners in both countries began paying attention.
Tina Turner, who insisted on adding rock songs by the Beatles and the Stones to her repertoire, reached an enormous new audience, giving the Ike and Tina Turner Revue its first Top 10 hit with her version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Proud Mary” in 1971 and a Grammy Award for best R&B vocal performance by a group.
“In the context of today’s show business, Tina Turner must be the most sensational professional onstage,” Ralph J. Gleason, the influential jazz and pop critic for The San Francisco Chronicle, wrote in a review of a Rolling Stones concert in Oakland in November 1969. “She comes on like a hurricane. She dances and twists and shakes and sings and the impact is instant and total.”

Most white rock fans knew who Ike & Tina were, but they were perceived to be relics of a bygone era. And then the “Gimme Shelter” movie played. You had to see it. Sure, it was ultimately about Altamont, but this was back in the era when you hungered for any scrap of information about your favorite acts, and video footage was hard to come by, and when there was a film, you went to see it. And Tina Turner stole the movie. It was the way she stroked the microphone during “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” we’d never seen anything like it. Sure, back then people had sex, but it was still behind closed doors, underground, you couldn’t Google it. For the rock acts it was a big thing to swear on your record, or stick out the middle finger in a photograph, both of which were ultimately airbrushed by the company when it found out. But something so overtly sexual? It was JAW-DROPPING! Just like James Brown owned the “T.A.M.I. Show,” Tina Turner owned “Gimme Shelter.” At this point everybody could sing, in this era before tapes, hard drives and Auto-Tune. But performing? Tina made the Stones look quaint. She was a bundle of energy. But she could go nice and slow too. She was an adult when her competitors were children. You were instantly hipped, you knew who Tina Turner was.

The song that helped shoot Tina Turner into the stratosphere was “Proud Mary.” A cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival hit from 1969, Turner’s sizzling version was released when she was still half of the married duo Ike and Tina Turner—and it was “the single that brought this dynamic group to national attention.” Before that, Turner and her infamously abusive husband were an established act in the world of R&B. The couple had yet to make a big impression on America at large—until “Proud Mary” busted down that door. After the single’s release in January 1971, it rose to No. 4 on Billboard’s pop chart, quickly sold more than 1 million copies, and earned Turner the first of her 12 Grammy Awards. Her delivery of the song has all the fury of James Brown, all the grit of Janis Joplin, all the swagger of the Rolling Stones. In the end, it’s Tina’s soulful ecstasy that sells it.

But the song’s success didn’t just help bring her back to life after her suicide attempt; it also planted the seeds of her liberation as both an artist and a woman. Tina Turner was elbowing her way into the rock and roll boys’ club, fitting herself into what was becoming a more and more homogenous white and male space. She had become rock ’n’ roll and eventually, she would be crowned its queen.

She then focused on a number of current international hits by giving them their own spin and put her hand to songwriting for the next album “Nutbush City Limits.”  Within three years of the victory of “Nutbush City Limits,” Tina finally broke away from Ike and went solo. She left him in 1976, with 36 cents and a Mobil gasoline card in her pocket, and divorced him two years later. She was 36, a hard age to start over as an entertainer. She fell out of favor musically for the next few years, scoring no hits of any consequence and playing small bars and lounges to keep herself afloat financially. But rather than fading, though, her career had just begun. The ’80s would see her revive herself yet again, and in so doing, conquer the world.

“When I left, I was living a life of death,” she told People in 1981. “I didn’t exist. I didn’t fear him killing me when I left, because I was already dead. When I walked out, I didn’t look back.”
Her marriage provided much of the material for the 1993 film “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” with Angela Basset and Laurence Fishburne in the lead roles. Ms. Turner rerecorded some of her hits, and a new song, “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” for the film, but otherwise declined to participate. “Why would I want to see Ike Turner beat me up again?” she said at the time.

In the wake of her sensational appearance in the Who’s “Tommy” movie as the Acid Queen in 1975……..1976 came along and then…nothing.

After she walked out on her marriage, encumbered with debt, Ms. Turner struggled to build a solo career, appearing in ill-conceived cabaret acts, before signing with Roger Davies, the manager of Olivia Newton-John, in 1979. Guided by Davies, she returned to the gritty, hard-rocking style that had made her a crossover star and would propel her through the coming decades as one of the most durable performers on the concert stage.

 In 1981, a little over 10 years after ‘Nutbush City Limits’ had peaked at # 4 on the U.K. Top 20, Tina finally scored another Top 10 hit here (peak # 6) with Al Green’s 1971 breakthrough hit ‘Let’s Stay Together’. 

It would be the first of 40 hits that she would rack up between 1983 and 2020, among them film themes for James Bond and ‘Mad Max’, duets with the likes of Sir Rod Stewart, Barry White, Eric Clapton, David Bowie and Bryan Adams, and the two songs more readily identifiable with her than almost anything she ever recorded with Ike.

A key person in that stratospheric rise was a man named John Carter. Carter worked at Capitol, a lame record company. Capitol was trying. And constantly failing. And then Carter signed Tina Turner.

TINA TURNER? Not only was she history, Carter had no background in Black music, his claim to fame was writing the lyrics for “Incense and Peppermints.” No one thought fortysomething Tina Turner could be on MTV, but we never ever got that far, because everybody firmly believed this was a folly, she’d had her shot, she was done. And the album took YEARS to make. Carter kept talking about it and you’d roll your eyes, you thought it would never come out.

And then it did.

Her fellow artists took notice. In 1982, Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, of the band and production company known as the British Electric Foundation, recruited her to record the Temptations’ 1970 hit “Ball of Confusion” for an album of soul and rock covers backed by synthesizers. Although not a success, it led to a second collaboration, a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” A surprise hit in the United States and Britain, it became the turning point that led to “Private Dancer.”

The “Private Dancer” album mixed rock, pop, and soul and featured the hit songs, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” “Better Be Good to Me” and the title track which was penned by her friend Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame and had her other friend Jeff Beck on lead guitar. And not to forget her interpretation of David Bowie’s 1984.

There she was, on MTV. In that jean jacket and a rooster haircut that put Rod Stewart’s to shame. Tina didn’t look old, she looked wise, experienced, a step above the girls featured on the channel. Furthermore, Tina was SEXY! She was not only comfortable in her body, she knew how to use it. She was beyond charismatic, she was magnetic and knew it.

AND EVERYBODY WAS FLOORED!

After several challenging years of going solo after divorcing Ike Turner, Private Dancer propelled Turner into becoming a viable solo Superstar, as well as one of the most marketable crossover singers in the recording industry. It became a worldwide commercial success, earning multi-platinum certifications. In 2020, the album was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

A 177 date tour to promote the album took place from February 8, 1985, to December 28, 1985. Called the Private Dancer Tour, there were 60 shows in Europe, 105 in North America, 10 in Australia, and 2 in Japan.

The album went on to quickly sell five million copies and ignite a touring career that established Tina Turner as a worldwide phenomenon. In 1988 she appeared before about 180,000 people at the Maracaña Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, breaking a record for the largest paying audience for a solo artist. Guinness World Records announced that she had sold more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.

Tina dove deeper into rock. She did a duet with the white hot Bryan Adams on “It’s Only Love,” the two of them emoting with all their powers, but as good as Bryan’s throaty voice is, Tina came in and put the track over the top, sprinkled her magic, pouring lighter fluid on an already burgeoning fire. This wasn’t a cash-in, this delivered. Listen to it today, with the slicing guitar riff and the exclaiming vocals…they don’t even make rock music like this anymore.

She made an impact onscreen as well. Ten years after she solidified her persona as a rock ’n’ roller with a riveting performance as the Acid Queen in Ken Russell’s film version of “Tommy,” the Who’s rock opera. She also drew enormous praise for her performance as Aunty Entity, the iron-fisted ruler of post apocalyptic Bartertown, in “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” in 1985.
That film also provided her with two more hit singles, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)” and “One of the Living,” which was named the best female rock vocal performance at the Grammys in 1986.

Tina Turner did not just do a cameo, she had a full role, and sang the theme song to boot, “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” which transcended the usual soundtrack schmaltz yet still sounded like it was movie music. And when you listened to it, you felt powerful. Still do. “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” was a gargantuan hit, everyone saw it, it was part of the culture. As was Ms. Turner. She was a cut above all the rest, she was the best. And unlike today, she never boasted, finally her talent was enough, people got it. Willie Nelson and Tina Turner, two people who’d been working in the trenches for decades who ultimately broke through. But Tina was even bigger than Willie, there was no one bigger than Tina, never mind that big. And since she cut across generations, and musical styles, when she went on tour it was an event, and it wasn’t about production, it was about HER!

In her 12 cylinder musical career Tina Turner followed the runaway success of “Private Dancer” with two more hit albums: “Break Every Rule” (1986) and “Foreign Affair” (1989), which contained the hit single “The Best.”

In 1991 she and Ike Turner, in prison at the time for cocaine possession, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. (She was inducted again as a solo artist in 2021). She received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2005 and a Grammy lifetime achievement award in 2018.

After releasing the album “Twenty Four Seven” in 1999, at age 60 and touring to promote it, grossing $100 million in ticket sales, Tina Turner reluctantly announced her retirement.  She told us, but we didn’t believe it. Starting with Frank Sinatra, our modern stars never do call it a day. Even after signing a retirement document in blood. They can’t get that hit of adrenaline, that jolt, that love that they get on stage anywhere else. But Tina Turner retreated to Switzerland and… Really retired. Not forgotten, but not in view. To us it looked like she’d taken her victory lap and gone out on top. Needed no more.

But the first time retirement did not last. In 2008, after performing with Beyoncé at the Grammy Awards, she embarked on an international tour marking her 50th year in the music business.
She announced her retirement again a few years later in her early 70s, but she remained active in other ways. In 2018, she published her second memoir, “My Love Story.”
She and Erwin Bach, her Swiss husband, whom she married in 2013 and moved to Switzerland with, were executive producers of “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical,” a stage show based on her life and incorporating many of her hits, which opened in London in 2018 and in Hamburg and on Broadway in 2019; Ms. Turner worked with the show’s choreographer and shared memories with its writers.
While reviews were mixed, the musical earned 12 Tony Award nominations; Adrienne Warren, who starred as Ms. Turner, won the award for best actress in a leading role. “In a performance that is part possession, part workout and part wig,” Jesse Green wrote in a review for The Times, “Adrienne Warren rocks the rafters and dissolves your doubts about anyone daring to step into the diva’s high heels.”
The show closed after four months because of the Covid pandemic lockdown, reopening in October 2021 before closing again a year later and embarking on a U.S. tour. Through it all however, Ms. Turner’s music endured.

Tina Turner, the earthshaking legendary queen of rock, whose rasping vocals, sexual magnetism and explosive energy made her an unforgettable live performer and one of the most successful recording artists of all time, died on May 24, 2023 at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland, near Zurich. She was 83. She had a stroke in recent years and was known to be struggling with intestinal cancer, a kidney transplant in 2017 and other illnesses.

“This is what I want in heaven… words to become notes and conversations to be symphonies.”- Tina Turner

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Robbie Robertson – 8/2023

Robbie Robertson (the Band) was born in Toronto, Canada on 5 July, 1943. His mother, Rosemary Dolly Chrysler, was a Cayuga/Mohawk Indian who had been raised on the Six Nations Reserve near Toronto. The man whom he believed to be his father and who raised him until he was in his early teens, James Robertson, was a factory worker.

When he was a child, his mother often took him to the Six Nations Reserve, where it seemed that everyone played a musical instrument or sang or danced. He thought “I’ve got to get into this club. I think the guitar looks pretty cool.” His mother bought him one, his older cousin Herb Myke taught him how to play.

“Rock ’n’ roll suddenly hit me when I was 13 years old,” Robertson told Classic Rock magazine in 2019. “That was it for me. Within weeks I was in my first band, Little Caesar and the Consuls,” with whom he performed covers of the then current rock and roll and r&b hits. In 1957 he formed Robbie and the Rhythm Chords with his friend Pete “Thumper” Traynor (who later founded Traynor Amplifiers). They changed the name to Robbie and the Robots after they watched the film Forbidden Planet and took a liking to the film’s character Robby the Robot. Traynor customized Robertson’s guitar for the Robots, fitting it with antennae and wires to give it a space age look. Traynor and Robertson joined with pianist Scott Cushnie and became The Suedes

His parents separated around that time, and his mother told him that his biological father was a Jewish professional gambler named Alexander David Klegerman, who had been killed in a hit-and-run accident before she met James Robertson. Years later In his memoir, “Testimony”, he wryly commented on his Indian and Jewish heritage: “You could say I’m an expert when it comes to persecution.”

In 1959, the Suedes, got a crucial break when they were seen by the Arkansas-based rockabilly star Ronnie Hawkins.

Hawkins saw enough in Mr. Robertson to write two songs with him, ‘Hey Baba Lou’ and ‘Someone Like You’, which he recorded, and he later invited that teenage guitarist to join his band, the Hawks, initially on bass. Roy Buchanan, a few years older than Robertson, was briefly a member of the Hawks and became an important influence on Robertson’s guitar style: “Standing next to Buchanan on stage for several months, Robertson was able to absorb Buchanan’s deft manipulations with his volume speed dial, his tendency to bend multiple strings for steel guitar-like effect, his rapid sweep picking, and his passion for bending past the root and fifth notes during solo flights.” Robertson soon developed into a veritable guitar virtuoso.

The Hawks also included Levon Helm on drums; by 1961, the other future members of the Band were also in the fold. They toured with Hawkins for two more years and recorded for Roulette Records. By 1964, they had gone off on their own as Levon and the Hawks.

The Hawks recorded a few singles for Atco, all written by Robertson, and in 1965 he was contacted by Bob Dylan’s management and invited to be part of his backing group. While he initially refused, he did perform with Dylan in New York and Los Angeles, bringing along Levon Helm for those gigs. At Robertson’s insistence, Dylan wound up hiring all the other future members of the Band (Garth Hudson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson and Rick Danko) for the full tour. Three of his fellow members — the drummer Levon Helm, the pianist Richard Manuel and the bassist Rick Danko — expressed those characters in distinctly aching vocals. Robertson rarely sang lead, instead finding his voice in the guitar.

Dylan also invited Robertson to perform in 1966 on a session for his album “Blonde on Blonde.” The next year, he asked the Hawks to move to his new base in the Woodstock area, and they rented a house in nearby Saugerties that was later known as Big Pink. It was there that they recorded the music released as “The Basement Tapes” and worked on the songs that would be included on “Music From Big Pink.”

“It was like a clubhouse where we could shut out the outside world,” Robertson wrote in his memoir. “It was my belief something magical would happen. And some true magic did happen.”

When “Music From Big Pink” was released in the summer of 1968, it boasted seminal songs written by Robertson like “The Weight” and “Chest Fever,”along with strong pieces composed by other members of the Band as well as by Dylan. “This album was recorded in approximately two weeks,” according to another close Dylan associate, Al Kooper. “There are people who will work their lives away in vain and not touch it.”

For the Band’s follow-up album, “The Band,” released in 1969, Robertson either wrote or co-wrote every song, including some of his most enduring creations, among them “Up On Cripple Creek,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which became a Top Five Billboard hit in a version recorded by Joan Baez. The album reached No. 9 on the magazine’s chart.

The Band’s next effort, “Stage Fright,” released in 1970, shot even higher, peaking at No. 5, buoyed by Robertson compositions like the title track and “The Shape I’m In.” Those songs, like many on the album, expressed deep anxiety and doubt, a theme that carried over to “Cahoots,” released in 1971. And while that album broke Billboard’s Top 20, it wasn’t as rapturously received as its predecessors. Possibly because time were changing fast in those year. Three of his fellow members — drummer Levon Helm, pianist Richard Manuel and bassist Rick Danko — expressed his anxiety and doubt in distinctly aching vocals. Mr. Robertson rarely sang lead, instead finding his voice in the guitar.

In its day, the Band’s music stood out as well by inverting the increasing volume and mania of psychedelic rock and by sidestepping its accent on youthful rebellion. “We just went completely left when everyone else went right,” Robertson said. The ripple effect of that sound and image went wide on impact, landing the group on the cover of Time magazine in 1970 and inspiring a host of major artists to create their own homespun amalgams, from the Grateful Dead’s album “American Beauty” (1970) to Elton John’s “Tumbleweed Connection,” released the same year. The Band’s music so affected fellow guitarist Eric Clapton that he actually lobbied for entry into their ranks. (The offer was politely declined.)

Robertson produced an album for Jesse Winchester in 1970 and played on Ringo’s ‘Ringo’ (1973) and ‘Goodnight Vienna’ (1974). He is heard on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Court and Spark’ and played guitar on ‘Mockingbird’ for James Taylor and Carly Simon. He was now one of the most sought after session musicians, working with Eric Clapton on ‘No Reason To Cry’ and producing Neil Diamond’s ‘Beautiful Noise’.

A collection of blues and R&B covers, “Moondog Matinee,” was released in 1973, and Robertson’s muse fully returned in 1975 on the album “Northern Lights — Southern Cross,” which included “Acadian Driftwood,” his first composition with a Canadian theme. The original group’s final release, “Islands” (1977), consisted of leftover pieces and was issued mainly to fulfill the group’s contract with its label, Capitol Records.

In 1976, Robertson made the decision that The Band would stop touring. It caused the break-up of the group but they went out with one final concert, called ‘The Last Waltz’. The Band was booked to perform at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on 25 November, 1976. Robbie asked film director Martin Scorsese to film the event. The Band would perform with famous friends including included Ronnie Hawkins, Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, Neil Diamond, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Emmylou Harris.

After the Band’s demise in 1977, Robertson released five solo albums, but devoted most of his artistic effort to movies, as a music producer or score composer.

The same year as “The Last Waltz,” Robertson produced a Top Five platinum album for Neil Diamond, “Beautiful Noise,” and a double live album by Mr. Diamond, “Love at the Greek,” which made Billboard’s Top 10 and sold more than two million copies.

Robertson told Musician magazine that he broke up the Band because “we had done it for 16 years and there was really nothing else to learn from it.” Another strong factor was Mr. Robertson’s frustration over hard drug use by most of the other members.

Without Robbie Robertson, the other members of the Band released three albums in the 1990s; the last, “Jubilation,” in 1998, was without Richard Manuel, who had died by suicide 12 years earlier at 42. Rick Danko died of heart failure in 1999 at 56, Levon Helm of throat cancer in 2012 at 71. 

Over the years, other members of the Band accused Robertson of taking more songwriting credits than he deserved. To them, it was a cooperative effort, with the other members adding important arrangements and contributing elements that helped define the essential character of the recordings. Levon Helm was particularly vociferous in his condemnation, amplified by his furious 1993 memoir, “This Wheel’s on Fire.”

In his own memoir, Robbie Robertson wrote of Levon Helm, “it was like some demon had crawled into my friend’s soul and pushed a crazy, angry button.”

The collaborations with Scorsese continued. Robbie scored Martin’s 1980 movies ‘Carney’ and ‘Raging Bull’ then later ‘The King of Comedy’ and ‘The Color of Money’. For ‘The Color of Money’, Robbie co-wrote the hit song for Eric Clapton ‘Its In The Way That You Use It’. Robertson also collaborated on film and TV soundtracks such as Casino (1995), Gangs of New York (2002), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Silence (2016), The Irishman (2019), and Killers of the Flower Moon (2023).

With his history it was remarkable that Robbie Robertson didn’t release a solo album until 1986. ‘Robbie Robertson’ was produced by Daniel Lanois and featured appearances from all members of U2, Peter Gabriel and his former Band mates Rick Danko and Garth Hudson.

Robbie Robertson’s fifth and final solo album appeared in 2019 with a title, “Sinematic,” that underscored his devotion to film work in his last four decades. He recently completed the score for his 14th film project, Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2023.

Robbie Robertson took his marvelous talents elsewhere when he departed this world on August 9, 2023 after a lengthy battle with prostrate cancer.

Marveling over where life had taken him, Mr. Robertson once told Classic Rock magazine: “People used to say to me, ‘You’re just a dreamer. You’re gonna end up working down the street, just like me.’ Part of that was crushing, and the other part is, ‘Oh yeah? I’m on a mission. I’m moving on. And if you look for me, there’s only going to be dust.’”

Robbie Robertson was inducted into the Canadian Juno Hall of Hall in 1989. In 1994, The Band were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Robbie was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2003. In 2005, he received a doctorate from York University and in 2006 the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. In 2008 Robbie was given a Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award. In 2011, he was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame and in 2011 made Officer of the Order of Canada.

Robbie is also on Canada’s Walk of Fame, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Native American Music Awards in 2017 and was given the keys to the city of Toronto in 2019.

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Randy Meisner – 7/2023

Randy Meisner (the Eagles) was born on March 8, 1946, in Scottsbluff, Nebraska to a farming family.  He got his first acoustic guitar when he was around 12 or 13 and, shortly after, formed a high school band. “We did pretty good, but we didn’t win anything,” according to Meisner.
“We couldn’t find any work because there were a million bands out here,” he said.
Meisner moved to California in 1964/65 and played with the likes of Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band and Poco, before co-founding the Eagles in 1971 alongside Don Henley, Glenn Frey and Bernie Leadon. 

They went on to define the country-tinged, laid-back West Coast pop-rock sound that ruled the US radio waves in the early 1970s, before later moving in a hard rock direction, essentially because of James Gang guitarist Joe Walsh being added to the line-up when Bernie Leadon left.

Once dubbed “the sweetest man in the music business” by former bandmate Don Felder, bass player Meisner stepped out of the shadows on the mournful, lovelorn waltz-time ballad Take It to the Limit – a song later covered by the likes of Etta James, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. He was with the band when they recorded the albums “Eagles,” “Desperado,” “On the Border,” “One of These Nights” and “Hotel California.”
“Hotel California,” with its mysterious, allegorical lyrics, became the band’s best-known recordings. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977 and won a Grammy Award for record of the year in 1978.

But Mr. Meisner was uncomfortable with fame.
“I was always kind of shy,” he said in a 2013 interview with Rolling Stone, noting that his bandmates had wanted him to stand center stage to sing “Take It to the Limit,” but that he preferred to be “out of the spotlight.” Then, one night in Knoxville, he said, he caught the flu. “We did two or three encores, and Glenn Frey wanted another one,” he said, referring to his bandmate, the singer-songwriter who died in 2016.
“I told them I couldn’t do it, and we got into a spat,” Mr. Meisner told the magazine. “That was the end.”

He left the band in September 1977 but was inducted with the Eagles into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. An essay by Parke Puterbaugh, published by the Hall of Fame for the event, described the band as “wide-eyed innocents with a country-rock pedigree” who later became “purveyors of grandiose, dark-themed albums chronicling a world of excess and seduction that had begun spinning seriously out of control.”

He was excluded from their reunion tour in 1994 but did appear once again beside the band in 1998 for their New York City induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He turned down an offer to re-join properly for a world tour in 2013, due to ill health. And his later life was clouded with mental health, addiction and domestic issues, exacerbated by his wife Lana’s death in an accidental shooting in 2016.

As a solo artist, Meisner had hits with songs like Hearts on Fire and Deep Inside My Heart and also played on records by other performers including James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg and another Eagles star, Joe Walsh.
He never quite eclipsed his achievements with the Eagles – the band that released two of the most popular albums of all-time during his tenure, Hotel California and Their Greatest Hits – but then few have.

“The purpose of the whole Eagles thing to me was that combination and the chemistry that made all the harmonies just sound perfect,” Meisner once said in an interview.
“The funny thing is after we made those albums I never listened to them and it is only when someone comes over or I am at somebody’s house and it gets played in the background that is when I’ll tell myself, ‘damn, these records are good.'”

Randy Meisner, passed away on July 26, 2023 in Los Angeles at age 77, due to complications from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Randy was an integral part of the Eagles and instrumental in the early success of the band. His vocal range was astonishing, as is evident on his signature ballad, ‘Take It to the Limit,’” said the Eagles.

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Sinéad O’Connor – 7/2023

Sinéad O’Connor (56) was born on 8 December 1966 in Dublin, Ireland at the Cascia House Nursing Home on Baggot Street in Dublin.  She was named Sinéad after Sinéad de Valera, the mother of the doctor who presided over her delivery (Éamon de Valera, Jnr.), and Bernadette in honor of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes. She was the third of five children; an older brother is the novelist Joseph O’Connor. Her parents were John Oliver “Seán” O’Connor, a structural engineer later turned barrister and chairperson of the Divorce Action Group and Johanna Marie O’Grady (1939–1985). She attended Dominican College Sion Hill school in Blackrock, County Dublin. Abused by an obsessively religious mother during her childhood, growing up in a politically charged environment of the Irish clashes and terrorist actions, she created a willingness to take a stand that made her powerful — and threatening, at the same time. Her mother also taught her to steal from the collection plate at Mass and from charity tins. In 1979, at age 13, O’Connor went to live with her father, who had recently returned to Ireland after re-marrying in the United States, in 1976.

At the age of 15, following her acts of shoplifting and truancy, O’Connor was placed for 18 months in a Magdalene asylum, the Grianán Training Centre in Drumcondra, which was run by the Order of Our Lady of Charity. She thrived in certain aspects, particularly in the development of her writing and music, but she chafed under the imposed conformity of the asylum, despite being given freedoms not granted to the other girls, such as attending an outside school and being allowed to listen to music, write songs, etc. For punishment, O’Connor described how “if you were bad, they sent you upstairs to sleep in the old folks’ home. You’re in there in the pitch black, you can smell the shit and the puke and everything, and these old women are moaning in their sleep … I have never—and probably will never—experience such panic and terror and agony over anything.” 

One of the volunteers at the Grianán centre was the sister of Paul Byrne, drummer for the band In Tua Nua, who heard O’Connor singing “Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand. She recorded a song with them called “Take My Hand” but they felt that at 15, she was too young to join the band. Through an ad she placed in Hot Press in mid-1984, she met Colm Farrelly. Together they recruited a few other members and formed a band named Ton Ton Macoute, the Haitian mythological bogeyman, Tonton Macoute (“Uncle Gunnysack”), who kidnaps and punishes unruly children by snaring them in a gunny sack (macoute) before carrying them off to be consumed for breakfast. The band moved to Waterford briefly while O’Connor attended Newtown School, but she soon dropped out of school and followed them to Dublin, where their performances received positive reviews. Their sound was inspired by Farrelly’s interest in world music, though most observers thought O’Connor’s singing and stage presence were the band’s strongest features.

O’Connor’s time with Ton Ton Macoute brought her to the attention of the music industry, and she was eventually signed by Ensign Records. She also acquired an experienced manager, Fachtna Ó Ceallaigh, former head of U2‘s Mother Records. Soon after she was signed, she embarked on her first major assignment, providing the vocals for the song “Heroine”, which she co-wrote with the U2 guitarist the Edge for the soundtrack to the film Captive. Ó Ceallaigh, who had been fired by U2 for complaining about them in an interview, was outspoken with his views on music and politics, and O’Connor adopted the same habits.

With Fachtna Ó Ceallaigh as her manager, O’Connor made her recorded debut with “Heroine,” a song she wrote and performed with the Edge that appeared on the soundtrack to the film Captive. While working on her debut album, she scrapped the initial tapes on the grounds that the production was too Celtic. Taking over the production duties herself, she re-recorded the album with a sound that emphasized her alternative rock and hip-hop influences. The result was November 1987’s The Lion and the Cobra, one of the year’s most acclaimed debut records. The album performed strongly throughout the world, reaching number 27 on the U.K. Albums chart, number 36 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart in the U.S., and charting in several other countries. The Lion and the Cobra was certified gold in the U.K., U.S., and Netherlands; in Canada, it was certified platinum. It spawned the hits “Mandinka,” “Troy,” and “I Want Your (Hands on Me),” and O’Connor’s accolades included a Grammy nomination for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. While promoting the album, she had another brush with controversy when she defended the actions of the provisional IRA (she later retracted these comments).

Following The Lion and the Cobra’s success, O’Connor appeared on The The’s 1989 album Mind Bomb and made her film debut in that year’s Hush-a-Bye-Baby, for which she also wrote the music. But she delivered a harrowing masterpiece with her next album, March 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Sparked by the dissolution of her marriage to drummer John Reynolds, the album was boosted by the global chart-topping single and video “Nothing Compares 2 U” (originally penned by Prince in 1984 for one of his side projects) and established her as a major star. Reaching number one in eighteen countries, the album went double platinum in the U.S. and U.K., quintuple platinum in Canada, and platinum in six other nations.

In her memoire Sinéad had a few choice words to say about Prince: Prince had composed the song in 1984, deciding to give it to the Family, a side project featuring the singers Susannah Melvoin and Paul Peterson. But the track never gained much recognition when the band released its self-titled album in 1985.
The response was considerably different when O’Connor, working with the Japanese jazz musician Gota Yashiki and the producer Nellee Hooper, recorded a stripped-down version for her 1990 album “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.”
“Nothing Compares 2 U” became a No. 1 hit in 17 countries, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for four straight weeks and helped win O’Connor a Grammy (which she later refused to accept). The track’s popular music video, featuring a close-up of O’Connor’s shaved head and piercing gaze, was itself nominated for a Grammy.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s my song,” O’Connor told The New York Times in 2021.
Prince was pleased to see O’Connor’s version become so popular, Melvoin said in an interview this week.
“When it hit and it was doing remarkably well, he had a big smile on his face about it.” Melvoin said. “He loved it. At one point later in his life, he was known to say, ‘Thank you for all the beautiful houses, Sinead.’”
Peterson said he was so shocked when he first heard O’Connor’s cover over the car radio that he had to pull over.
“I didn’t know who she was, and I felt like I had ownership in that song even though I didn’t write it,” he said in an interview. “So I think I was a little disappointed that our version didn’t get out there at the incredible rate that hers did.”
At the same time, Peterson said, he feels thrilled that O’Connor’s cover has been so influential. “It’s incredible the amount of people’s lives that song has touched,” he said. “I was just thrilled to be a small part of that.”
Melvoin said Prince wrote the song both about herself and his housekeeper, Sandy Scipioni, who left the role after her father died. Melvoin and Prince had been intimately involved for years, she said, but were encountering difficulties in their relationship when he wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U.”
It took only a short time for Prince to draft the song at his Eden Prairie warehouse studio, Susan Rogers, Prince’s sound engineer, said in Duane Tudahl’s book “Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions.”
“I was amazed how beautiful it was,” Rogers told Tudahl. “He took his notebook and he went off to the bedroom, wrote the lyrics very quickly, came back out and sang it.”
O’Connor wrote in her memoir, “Rememberings,” that she felt a particular resonance with the lines, “All the flowers that you planted Mama/In the backyard/All died when you went away.”
“Every time I perform it, I feel it’s the only time I get to spend with my mother and that I’m talking with her again,” wrote O’Connor, who was 18 when her mother died in a car crash. “There’s a belief that she’s there, that she can hear me and I can connect to her.”
Although “Nothing Compares 2 U” was vital to O’Connor’s career, she grew conflicted about Prince, writing in her memoir about a distressing encounter at his Los Angeles residence.
They had first met at a club around the time of O’Connor’s debut album in 1987, she wrote, but did not interact again until after her version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” became a hit in America.
When O’Connor arrived at Prince’s residence, she wrote, the singer criticized her for swearing in interviews. Prince then suggested the two engage in a pillow fight, she wrote, and began hitting her with a pillowcase containing a pillow and some hard object.
O’Connor fled and Prince pursued her in his car, she wrote, until she escaped to a nearby home. (A spokeswoman for Prince’s estate did not respond to requests for comment.)
“I never wanted to see that devil again,” O’Connor wrote.

Though I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got was nominated for four Grammy Awards and won the award for Best Alternative Music Performance, Sinead O’Connor refused to accept them; similarly, she did not attend the Brit Awards ceremony when she won the award for International Female Solo Artist. Later in 1990, she performed in Roger Waters’ Berlin performance of The Wall and appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s AIDS fundraising and Cole Porter tribute album Red Hot + Blue: A Tribute to Cole Porter with a cover of “You Do Something to Me.”

O’Connor became the target of derision in the US for refusing to perform in New Jersey if “The Star Spangled Banner” was played prior to her appearance, a move that brought public criticism from no less than mob asshole Frank Sinatra. She also made headlines for pulling out of an appearance on the NBC program Saturday Night Live in response to the misogynist persona of guest host Andrew Dice Clay.

O’Connor continued to defy expectations with her third album, September 1992’s Am I Not Your Girl?. A collection of mid-20th century pop standards and torch songs that sparked her desire to be a singer when she was young, its radically different sound and style led to mixed reviews and produced only a fraction of the commercial success she had with I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Nevertheless, the album was a Top Ten hit in the U.K. and achieved gold status there and in three other European countries. O’Connor followed the album’s release with her most controversial action yet: She ended her October 1992 performance on Saturday Night Live by ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II to protest the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church. The resulting condemnation was unlike any she’d previously encountered. Two weeks after the SNL performance, she was booed off the stage at a Bob Dylan tribute concert at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Kris Kristofferson comforted Sinéad when she was booed off the stage at this concert.
Sinéad O’Connor, just 25 years old at the time.
He later wrote this for her. May we all have her courage. May we all tell the truth.
—-
“I’m singing this song for my sister Sinéad
Concerning the god awful mess that she made
When she told them her truth just as hard as she could
Her message profoundly was misunderstood
There’s humans entrusted with guarding our gold
And humans in charge of the saving of souls
And humans responded all over the world
Condemning that bald headed brave little girl
And maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t
But so was Picasso and so were the saints
And she’s never been partial to shackles or chains
She’s too old for breaking and too young to tame
It’s askin’ for trouble to stick out your neck
In terms of a target a big silhouette
But some candles flicker and some candles fade
And some burn as true as my sister Sinéad
And maybe she’s crazy and maybe she ain’t
But so was Picasso and so were the saints
And she’s never been partial to shackles or chains
She’s too old for breaking and too young to tame

In the wake of the controversy, O’Connor stepped back from the public eye. For several months, she studied bel canto singing at Dublin’s Parnell School of Music, then joined Peter Gabriel’s Secret World tour in 1993 (she also contributed vocals to Gabriel’s 1992 album Us). That year, her song “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” appeared on the soundtrack to the film In the Name of the Father. Inspired by her bel canto lessons, O’Connor took a confessional approach on her next album, September 1994’s Universal Mother. A stripped-down set of songs featuring the single “Fire on Babylon” and a cover of Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” it reached number 19 in the U.K. and number 36 in the U.S., and was certified gold in the U.K., Austria, and Canada. The videos for “Fire on Babylon” and “Famine” were nominated for the Best Short Form Music Video Grammy Award. Also in 1994, O’Connor appeared in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, a pair of Carnegie Hall concerts produced by Roger Daltrey to celebrate his fiftieth birthday. The following year, she appeared on the Lollapalooza bill, and in 1996 she sang on Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright’s album Broken China. A year later, she played the Virgin Mary in Neil Jordan’s film The Butcher Boy and issued The Gospel Oak EP, a tender collection of songs about motherhood. O’Connor teamed up with the Red Hot Organization once more for 1998’s Red Hot + Rhapsody: The Gershwin Groove, on which she performed “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

After moving to Atlantic Records, she delivered her first full-length release in six years with June 2000’s Faith and Courage album. Tackling themes of survival and catharsis, the album featured collaborators including Wyclef Jean and Brian Eno. Charting throughout Europe and reaching number 55 in the U.S., Faith and Courage earned O’Connor some of her strongest reviews in some time. For her next album, October 2002’s Sean-Nós Nua, she reinterpreted traditional Irish songs in her own style. Along with reaching number three on the Irish charts, the album peaked at number one on the Top World Albums chart in the U.S. Health issues led O’Connor to take a break from intensive recording and performing for a few years. During this time, she covered Dolly Parton’s “Dagger Through the Heart” on the 2003 tribute album Just Because I’m a Woman: The Songs of Dolly Parton, appeared on Massive Attack’s 100th Window, and issued She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide Under the Shadow of the Almighty, a compilation of demos, unreleased tracks, and a late 2002 Dublin concert. Collaborations followed in 2005, gathering appearances on other artists’ records throughout her long career.

Sinéad O’Connor returned in October 2005 with Throw Down Your Arms, a collection of classic reggae songs from the likes of Burning Spear, Peter Tosh, and Bob Marley. Recorded at Kingston, Jamaica’s Tuff Gong and Anchor Studios with Sly & Robbie and released on O’Connor’s own That’s Why There’s Chocolate and Vanilla imprint, the album reached the number four spot on Billboard’s Top Reggae Albums chart. In 2006, she returned to the studio to begin work on her next album. Inspired by the complexities of the world post-9/11, June 2007’s double album Theology featured covers of spiritually minded songs as well as originals given acoustic and full-band interpretations. The album appeared on the charts of several European countries and reached number 15 on the Independent Albums chart in both the U.K. and the U.S. That year, O’Connor also lent her vocals to Ian Brown’s anti-war single “Illegal Attacks” as well as another song on his album The World Is Yours. In 2010, she collaborated with Mary J. Blige on a version of the Gospel Oak song “This Is to Mother You.” Produced by A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad, the song’s proceeds were donated to Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS). Two years later, O’Connor earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song for “Lay Your Head Down,” which appeared on the soundtrack to the film Albert Nobbs.

O’Connor’s ninth album, How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?, appeared in February 2012, offering raw yet often optimistic songs about sexuality, religion, hope, and despair that were seen as a return to form by some critics. The album was one of her more popular later releases, appearing on the charts of many European countries, reaching number 33 in the U.K., and number 115 in the U.S. A limited edition of How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? included excerpts of shows in Dublin, London, and Reykjavík. Her next album, August 2014’s I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, took inspiration from Lean In’s female empowerment campaign “Ban Bossy. As heard on the lead single “Take Me to the Church,” the album was a rock-oriented and melodious affair. Building on How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?’s popularity, I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss topped the Irish charts, peaked at number 22 in the U.K. and at number 83 in the U.S. That November, O’Connor took part in Band Aid 30’s updated version of “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” which raised funds to combat the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa.

In September 2019, O’Connor closed out the 2010s with her first live performance in five years, singing “Nothing Compares 2 U” with the Irish Chamber Orchestra on Irish radio. The following October, she issued a cover of Mahalia Jackson’s “Trouble of the World” to raise money for Black Lives Matter charities. Her 2021 memoir, Rememberings, was acclaimed as one of the year’s best books and praised for its wit and candor. The following year, a feature length documentary about her life and career, Nothing Compares, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; it was named Best Feature Documentary at the 2023 Irish Film & Television Awards. Though O’Connor was working on a new album, her grief over the death of her son Shane in 2022 led her to cancel its release and her upcoming performances. After she released a version of the traditional tune “The Skye Boat Song” in February 2023, Irish broadcaster RTE honored O’Connor by giving I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got the inaugural award for Classic Irish Album at the RTE Choice Music Awards, which she dedicated to the Irish refugee community.

In July 2023, O’Connor, who a couple of months earlier had retreated to her London apartment to step away from the loneliness, died some time around July 25 at age 56. She still died alone!

This stunningly beautiful woman Sinéad O’Connor once said she’d cut her hair off in response to male record executives who’d been trying to goad her into wearing miniskirts, into appearing more traditionally feminine. She’d grown up believing that it was treacherous to be a woman, she said. To be recognized as beautiful was only ever a liability: “I always had that sense that it was quite important to protect myself, make myself as unattractive as I possibly could.”

It is thoroughly sad that in this country called America, Sinéad O’Connor is still better known a the woman who tore up a picture of the Pope to defy how the Catholic Church approached the tragedy of child abuse, than for hurtingly beautiful songs as “Nothing Compares to You” or “Sacrifice”. Just unbelievable!

America was never ready to meet Sinéad O’Connor

February 22, 1989, the 31st annual Grammy Awards. Among the nominees for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female are Tina Turner, Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, Toni Childs, and Sinéad O’Connor. O’Connor has performed once on Late Night with David Letterman, but she has yet to appear on primetime American television. Tuxedo-clad host Billy Crystal introduces her to the tens of millions watching at home, explaining that O’Connor is a 21-year-old singer from Ireland and that “with her very first album, The Lion and the Cobra, she has served notice that this is no ordinary talent.”

Most people point to O’Connor’s destruction of a photo of Pope John Paul II, during her October 1992 performance on Saturday Night Live, as the reason for her exile from the pop world. But it was on this night in Los Angeles, three years prior, that revealed from the outset what the rest of the rest of the world would learn soon enough: her willingness to take a stand made her powerful — and threatening.

As the first few notes of O’Connor’s runaway college radio hit “Mandinka” kick in, the curtain rises on a darkened stage. She steps forward as if entering from a void, her hair shorn nearly to the scalp, her midriff exposed by a black halter top, her baggy, low-slung blue jeans ripped and torn. She touches her face almost like she can’t believe she’s there. O’Connor’s voice is clear and cutting, alternating between a whisper and a dare. If you look closely you might notice that she is wearing an infant’s sleepsuit tied behind her waist as she rocks back and forth in her Doc Martens, wailing, “I don’t know no shame/I feel no pain/I can’t see the flame!” Even from a distance, you can’t miss the massive man in the crosshairs of a gun that’s been painted onto the side of her shaved head, an arresting image even if you don’t immediately catch the reference.

After she was done, reporters from the L.A. Times described O’Connor as looking nervous backstage. Although they commended her performance, and her outfit, they quoted her remarking on what had just transpired, as though she were crashing the party. “I thought it was a little odd that they asked me to perform, because of the way I look,” she told them, “But I find it encouraging that they asked, because it’s an acknowledgment that they are prepared not to be so safe about the music and push forward with people slightly off the wall.”

If only that were true. ”Mandinka” was a fearless battle cry, but it was only her opening act. The onesie O’Connor wore was her son Jake’s, a middle finger to the executives at her record label who had warned her that motherhood and a career were incompatible. The man in the crosshairs was Public Enemy’s logo, which Chuck D described as symbolizing the Black man in America. She wore it as a badge of solidarity with the band, and by extension, all rappers who had been erased from the program. For years, the powerful white men who controlled the Recording Academy had dismissed rap as a passing fad or considered it dangerously subversive. Yet by 1989 the genre had become too popular to simply ignore. So they decided to confer the first-ever award for Best Rap Performance, but not to televise it. The trophy went to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince for their G-rated pop crossover single “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” but they weren’t on hand that night, having led a boycott that also included fellow nominees Salt-N-Pepa and LL Cool J.

O’Connor was in fact no ordinary talent, and she had served notice, using music’s biggest night to put herself on the map and set the terms of her agenda. Despite not winning the Grammy, she subverted the record label’s hot-girl marketing strategy at a time when starlets like Tiffany and Debbie Gibson were burning up the pop charts. Despite the Recording Academy’s attempts to suppress rap, she managed to foil those plans too. O’Connor showed us a fierceness that made her great, but also foreshadowed how it would all come crashing down, sooner rather than later.

Kathryn Ferguson’s new documentary Nothing Compares, now in theaters and streaming on Showtime, traces that arc, starting with O’Connor’s early life in theocratic Ireland, where she suffered severe abuse at the hands of her devoutly religious mother, then became a rebellious teen who found her voice at a Catholic girls reformatory school. After signing her first recording contract at 18, and concluding that the producer assigned to mold her debut was zapping the life out of her songs, O’Connor took over the reins herself, pouring all of her intensity into The Lion and the Cobra. But her record company still tried to soften her appearance, switching out the photo on the album cover because the original would make her look too “angry” to American audiences.

Despite being decidedly anti-pop, her piercing musical memoir became a surprise commercial hit, ultimately going gold. O’Connor then topped that with her multi-platinum follow up, 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Thanks in large part to non-stop MTV airplay of the music video for the Prince-penned lead single “Nothing Compares 2 U,” O’Connor became a global celebrity, her expressive face a meme before memes. But as her star rose even higher, so did the scrutiny. When O’Connor withdrew from a 1990 appearance on SNL after learning that the comedian Andrew Dice Clay was scheduled to host, The Diceman, known for his misogynistic and homophobic routines, performed a skit poking fun at the “bald chick.” After O’Connor declined to have the national anthem played before a show at New Jersey’s Garden State Arts Center, Frank Sinatra said she must be “one stupid broad” and threatened to “kick her ass.”

Politicians organized protests against O’Connor. DJs refused to play her records. O’Connor was widely accused of censorship when it was she who was being censored. She was also criticized for being “anti-American” and ungrateful for the success she had achieved. Still, that fall she swept the MTV Video Music Awards with wins for Best Female Music Video and Best Post-Modern Music Video, and even bested Madonna for Video of the Year.

O’Connor seemed a little shocked. Aside from saying thanks when she was presented with the first two trophies, she said almost nothing. But with the third, she doubled down, using her speech to connect her experience with the industry’s censorship of Black artists. Explaining her reasons for not wanting the national anthem played before her shows, O’Connor told the global audience, “It’s the American system I have disrespect for, which imposes censorship on people, which as far as I’m concerned is racism.” O’Connor then dug in even deeper. Referencing rap trio 2 Live Crew’s recent banning in Florida on obscenity grounds, she called attention to how MTV also used “obscenity” as an excuse not to play rap videos, stating that “censorship in any form is bad, but when it’s racism disguised as censorship, it’s even worse.”

When the Grammys came around again a few months later, O’Connor was nominated in four categories, but by then she’d had enough of the pop life, and the silence and complicity it demanded. She refused to attend the 1991 awards ceremony or accept her eventual win for Best Alternative Music Performance. Ahead of the event, O’Connor wrote an open letter to the Recording Academy in which she criticized the music industry for promoting false and materialistic values rather than rewarding artistic merit.

Photo: Recording Academy/GRAMMYs/YouTube

The award presentation for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group was still not to be televised, so when nominee Public Enemy learned of O’Connor’s letter, the band decided to boycott too, making its own statement and returning the solidarity she had offered in ‘89. When Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid accepted his Grammy that night for Best Hard Rock Performance, he appeared onstage with a giant photo of O’Connor on his T-shirt. When reporters asked Reid about it, he re-centered the conversation on representation, reminding them that the Recording Academy doesn’t dictate his dress code.

Hindsight has shown us that O’Connor was right to call out the music industry’s commercialism, and its racial and gender bias, as early as 1989 — issues that the Grammys are only beginning to seriously grapple with in the face of waning influence and relevance. Rather than asking about whether her decision to speak out was self-sabotage, better questions would be: What kinds of sacrifices would O’Connor have had to make to sustain her status as a pop star? What kinds of sacrifices have we made not to see or hear what she was trying to tell us?

Sinéad O’Connor, you were the original truth sayer who wouldn’t go easy into the night. The original “difficult” woman who didn’t make it easy. Because easy wasn’t the right thing to do and it wasn’t the truth. Gone too soon. “Nothing compares to you.”

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John Giblin – 5/2023

John Giblin was born on 26 February 1952, in Bellshill, a suburb of Glasgow in Scotland.

Little is known about John Giblin’s early years, but he must have picked up a guitar at an early age, considering how he became one of those musicians that gave rock and roll a foundation for others to shine on.

He worked as an acoustic and electric bass player spanning jazz, classical, rock, folk, and avant-garde music. Best known as a studio musician, recording film scores and contemporary music, Giblin also performed live and recorded with Peter Gabriel, John Martyn, Elkie Brooks, Annie Lennox, Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, Phil Collins, Empire with Peter Banks, Fish, rock/pop band Simple Minds,and has been closely associated with artists ranging from Kate Bush, Jon Anderson (Yes), to jazz fusion group Brand X, and with the avant-garde recordings by Scott Walker (including the album Tilt).
Later in life, Giblin moved further into the direction of acoustic bass, with projects involving drummer Peter Erskine (of Weather Report), and pianist Alan Pasqua (of Tony Williams Lifetime).

To get a feel for John Giblin’s work with the top of the crop, check out his oeuvre on AllMusic

Following his death, Kate Bush released a statement, saying: ” I loved John so very much. He was one of my very dearest and closest friends for over forty years. We were always there for each other. He was very special. I loved working with him, not just because he was such an extraordinary musician but because he was always huge amounts of fun. We would often laugh so much that we had to just give in to it and sit and roar with laughter for a while. He loved to be pushed in a musical context, and it was really exciting to feel him cross that line and find incredibly gorgeous musical phrases that were only there for him. He would really sing. It was such a joy and an inspiration to see where he could take it. We’ve all lost a great man, an unmatchable musician and I’ve lost my very special friend. My world will never be the same again without him.”

Giblin died from sepsis on 14 May 2023, at the age of 71.

 

 

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David LaFlamme – 8/2023

Violin for It's a Beautiful DayDavid LaFlamme (It’s a Beautiful Day) was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on May 4, 1941, the first of six children of Adelard and Norma (Winther) LaFlamme. His mother was from a Mormon family in Salt Lake City, and when he was eight years old, the family moved to Utah to be near her family. He spent his early years in Los Angeles, where his father was a Hollywood stunt double, before settling in Salt Lake City, where his father became a copper miner. David was about 5 when he got his first violin, a hand-me-down from an aunt back in Connecticut, whose daughter never took to the violin.

“I began fooling around with it on my own and taught myself to play ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’” he said in a 1998 interview. Formal training followed and in Salt Lake City in later years, he won a competition to perform as soloist with the Utah Symphony Orchestra.

After joining the Army — he was stationed at Fort Ord, near Monterey, Calif. — he suffered hearing damage from the firing of deafening ordnance. He ended up in Letterman military hospital in San Francisco, and from there put down roots in the city after his discharge in 1962. He found lodging in the same house as his future wife, Linda Rudman. “By the second day that I was there, she and I had already written a song together,” he said.

During the ensuing years he performed with a wide variety of notable San Francisco acts, such as Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Dino Valente (Love). In 1967, Mr. LaFlamme formed a band called Electric Chamber Orkustra, also known as the Orkustra, with Bobby Beausoleil, a young musician who played bouzouki and would later be convicted of murder as a follower of Charles Manson. He also created an early version of Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

But the times were the times, and in 1967, the year of the Summer of Love, he and his wife Linda, a keyboardist, formed It’s a Beautiful Day. The band bubbled up from the acid-rock cauldron of the Haight-Ashbury district, which also produced the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and other groups.

The band got its break in October 1968, when the promoter Bill Graham had them open for Cream in Oakland. It’s a Beautiful Day signed with Columbia Records soon after and the group’s eponymous LP was released by Columbia Records in 1969, containing their biggest hit, “White Bird”. The album was produced by David LaFlamme, who infused the psychedelic rock of the 1960s with the plaintive sounds of an electric violin. “White Bird,” encapsulated the hippie-era longing for freedom.

The LaFlammes wrote the song in 1967, when they were living in the attic of a Victorian house during a brief gig relocation to Seattle. The lyrics took shape on a drizzly winter day as they peered out a window at leaves blowing on the street below.

White bird – In a golden cage – On a winter’s day  – In the rain

“We were like caged birds in that attic,” LaFlamme recalled. “We had no money, no transportation, the weather was miserable.” He later said the song, with its references to darkened skies and rage, was about the struggle between freedom and conformity. In an email, Linda LaFlamme said that she considered it a song of hope, and that the only rage they had felt was about the Seattle weather.

Still, the song, with its pleading chorus, “White bird must fly, or she will die,” seemed to echo the mounting disillusionment of 1969, as marmalade skies turned into storm clouds with the realities of drug addiction and social turmoil, as epitomized by the bloodshed at the Altamont rock festival that year.

“It was a very solemn period of music on that first album,” Mr. LaFlamme said in a 2003 interview published on the music website Exposé. “If I would have kept going that way,” he added, “I would have ended up like Jim Morrison, getting more and more into that personal torture trip.”

My personal favorite on that album  was “Bombay Calling” and I didn’t realize until later that Deep Purple’s “Child in Time” was directly influenced by “Bombay Calling”. “Child in Time” was my favorite cover song to play in the band in those days. Here is Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan explaining how “Child in Time” came about. 

Ian Gillan said in an interview in 2002: “There are two sides to that song – the musical side and the lyrical side. On the musical side, there used to be this song ‘Bombay Calling’ by a band called It’s A Beautiful Day. It was fresh and original, when Jon was one day playing it on his keyboard. It sounded good, and we thought we’d play around with it, change it a bit and do something new keeping that as a base. But then, I had never heard the original ‘Bombay Calling.’ So we created this song using the Cold War as the theme, and wrote the lines ‘Sweet child in time, you’ll see the line.’ That’s how the lyrical side came in. Then, Jon had the keyboard parts ready and Ritchie had the guitar parts ready. The song basically reflected the mood of the moment, and that’s why it became so popular.”

Ironically enough David LaFlamme later on admitted that he got the idea for the song during one of his house jams when saxophone player Vince Wallace started out the tune.

It’s a Beautiful Day’s second album, Marrying Maiden, was released the following year. It was their most successful showing on the charts, reaching number 28 in the U.S. and number 45 in the U.K. Funny enough their opening track Don & Dewey featured clearly the riff  from Deep Purple’s 1968 release “Wring that Neck” on the album The Book of Taliesyn. Great humor in my opinion and also a strong indicator of how life has changed since those early days. Think how many times Zeppelin was taken to court for the opening riff on Stairway to Heaven. Randy California, the creator wouldn’t have cared a bit.

After two additional albums, Choice Quality Stuff/Anytime and Live at Carnegie Hall, LaFlamme left the group in 1972 over disputes regarding the direction and management of the band.
For a time he performed with the groups Edge City and Love Gun in the Bay Area before going solo.

In 1976, he released the album White Bird on Amherst Records. His remake of the song “White Bird” cracked the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 89 that same year. This was followed by the album Inside Out in 1978, also on Amherst Records. Both project releases were co-produced by David LaFlamme and Mitchell Froom.
After years of legal wrangling over ownership of the band’s name, LaFlamme resumed formal use of It’s a Beautiful Day when former mis-manager/leech Matthew Katz let the trademark of the name go un-renewed. From 2000, he performed with the reconstituted band, which included his second wife Linda LaFlamme (not the same person as his previous wife Linda LaFlamme) and original drummer Val Fuentes.

LaFlamme also appeared on the television shows Frasier, Ellen, and Wings, as a strolling violinist who stands right at the table in a restaurant, playing loudly or annoyingly.
It’s a Beautiful Day was included in the documentary film Fillmore, which covered the final days of the famed San Francisco music venue Fillmore West in 1971. The group split in 1973, but later re-formed with new membership, David LaFlamme remaining the only constant into the present era. He occasionally recorded under the group’s name for various labels, and also maintained a solo career, releasing several solo albums and working with other bands.

The band never found the commercial success of its hallowed San Francisco contemporaries. Its debut album, called simply “It’s a Beautiful Day” and released in 1969, climbed to No. 47 on the Billboard chart. “White Bird,” sung by David LaFlamme and Pattie Santos, did not manage to crack the Hot 100 singles chart, largely perhaps because of its running time: more than six minutes, twice the length of most AM radio hits. Even so, the song became an FM radio staple, and an artifact of its cultural moment.

LaFlamme released several albums over the years, including a solo album in the mid-1970s called “White Bird,” which included a disco-ready version of the original single. It actually outperformed the original, peaking at No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100. LaFlamme said in 1998, “It was a very difficult period musically, because during that period disco music ruled the earth.” “It was really the day the music died,” he said.

David LaFlamme died on Aug. 6, 2023 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Shortly after his friend Dan Hickman. He was 82. His daughter Kira LaFlamme said the cause of his death, at a health care facility, was complications of Parkinson’s disease. In addition to his daughter Kira, from his first marriage, Mr. LaFlamme is survived by his third wife, Linda (Baker) LaFlamme, whom he married in 1982; his sisters, Gloria LaFlamme, Michelle Haag and Diane Petersen; his brothers, Lon and Dorian; another daughter, Alisha LaFlamme, from his marriage to Sharon Wilson, which ended in divorce in 1973; and six grandchildren.

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Gary Wright – 9/2023

Mr. Dream WeaverGary Wright was born on April 26, 1943 in Cresskill, New Jersey, to Ann (nee Belvedere) and Louis Wright. His father was a construction engineer, and his mother was a singer, as were his two sisters. His older sister, Beverly, enjoyed some success as a pop and folk singer in the 60s, while his younger sister, Lorna, released the album Circle of Love (1978) and several singles.

His mother encouraged Gary to take an interest in music and acting. He appeared in the TV sci-fi series Captain Video and His Video Rangers, and when he was 12 he was hired as an understudy for a Broadway musical, Fanny. This resulted in him going on stage in the role of Cesario, son of the titular Fanny, played by Florence Henderson, and in 1955, appearing with Henderson on The Ed Sullivan Show.

His enthusiasm subsequently switched to music, and while at Tenafly high school in New Jersey, he played in several rock’n’roll groups. He would cite the R&B artists Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and James Brown among his musical idols, along with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Beatles.

Having attended William & Mary College in Virginia and then focused on medicine at New York University, Wright was studying psychology at the Free University of Germany in West Berlin when he abandoned his academic plans and formed a group called the New York Times. They supported Steve Winwood’s Traffic at a gig in Oslo, Norway, where he met the Island Records boss Chris Blackwell. Blackwell introduced Wright to four of the five members of the now-defunct band Art, and Spooky Tooth was formed. Traffic’s producer Jimmy Miller worked on their first two albums, It’s All About and Spooky Two (1969).

Distinguished by the standout tracks Evil Woman and Better By You, Better Than Me, the latter was widely regarded as the band’s finest hour. It cracked the American Top 50, but this was the highest Spooky Tooth ever climbed, though they made four subsequent visits to the bottom end of the US Top 100. They pulled enthusiastic audiences, not least on sold-out US tours with Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones, delivered some powerful and inventive music, and garnered generous accolades from the press, but somehow the stars never aligned in their favor.

Wright identified their third album, Ceremony (subtitled An Electronic Mass and also released in 1969), as the moment where it all went wrong. It was a collaboration with the French electronic composer Pierre Henry, and, as Wright described it, was supposed to be a Henry album rather than being billed as the latest Spooky Tooth offering. “We said … ‘it will ruin our career’, and that’s exactly what happened.”

So at that time in the early 1970’s Wright took a hiatus from Spooky Tooth to produce records for Traffic and Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller’s production company. He quickly became a part of London’s elite session musicians, playing keyboards on George Harrison’s classic “All Things Must Pass,” which also featured Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, Phil Collins and other greats. Thus began a continuing musical relationship with Harrison that embraced playing keyboards, as well as, co-writing several songs on George’s subsequent albums.

To the outside world I was strange that Gary Wright was allowed toput out solo albums? This was nearly unfathomable, a guy from a stiff group gets to put out his own music? We saw his 1970 album “Extraction,” with its pencil drawing cover, and thinking it was almost amateurish, like they didn’t have the money for color. As for the follow-up, 1971’s “Footprint”… It’s like it almost didn’t come out, that one many shops didn’t even stock.

Although Wright had left the band, in 1972 he got back together with another original member, Mike Harrison, and rebuilt it with a new lineup with the help of Mick Jones, who later joined Foreigner.. They recorded You Broke My Heart So … I Busted Your Jaw (1973), Witness (1973) and The Mirror (1974), but lack of commercial success prompted Wright to quit to pursue a solo career.

Gary then signed a solo deal with Warner Bros. Records in 1974. His ground-breaking 1975 release “The Dream Weaver” streatched the pop music envelope by featuring the first-ever all keyboard/synthesizer band, and by pioneering technologies in cut down versions of synthesizers and drum machines that revolutionized the musical instrument business and changed the sound of pop, rock and r&b forever.  It initially sold over 2 million and 2 million singles in the USA. The title track reached on 2 in America and no 24 in Australia. It was later used in the movie Wayne’s World. Wright also had a second hit off the record in the USA with ‘Love Is Alive’ (also no 2, USA, 1976).

But it didn’t work out for Gary Wright. There were numerous TV appearances, with a keyboard around his neck, a novelty at the time. He capitalized on his success, he wrung out every note. And then it was done. Two years later Gary put out another album, but the world had changed, synthesizer driven tracks were no longer a novelty, rock was becoming corporate, he never had another hit.

But for that one moment in time, that year of ’75, Gary Wright was as big as anybody on the radio, anybody in rock.

In a business where even the biggest success is often written in the wind, the popular appeal of Wright’s songwriting genius has endured. In 1991, Warner Bros. Records asked Gary to remake “Dream Weaver” for the “Wayne’s World” movie soundtrack — which went on to become Billboard’s #1 soundtrack album, selling over 2 million copies, “Dream Weaver” was also featured in the Golden Globe winner “The people vs Larry Flynt.”

The year 2001 brought 2 new versions of “Love is Alive” — one by Anastacia, whose International sales topped 3.5 million — the other by Joan Osborne whose version became the first single for the Michael Douglas/Matt Dylan film, “One Night at McCools.” In addition, “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive” were featured in the films “Daddy Day Care” and “Coyote Ugly” respectively. Eminem recorded one of Gary’s songs and re-titled it “Spend some Time” on his “Encore” album, and DJ Armand Van Helden sampled “Comin’ Apary” from “The Right Place” album and renamed it “mymymy.” The track became a huge hit in Europe and Asia selling over 4 million copies.

Gary Wright’s creative output was also extended to film scoring, with music for the Alan Rudolph thriller “Endangered Species,” the Sylvester Stallone-directed “Stayin’ Alive,” the Oscar-winning German film “Fire and Ice” and the 2000 Imax release “Ski to the Max” — both directed by Willie Bogner. It included Gary’s 1995 world music album, “First Signs of Life,” which incorporated music and percussion from Brazil and Nigeria, and featured guest appearances by George Harrison and Terry Bozzio. It continued with his solo effort “Human Love,” a studio album on which Gary is joined by guest artists Jeff Lynne, L. Shankar and Steve Farris.

The year 2007 marked the 40th anniversary of Spooky Tooth and ushered in the release of Nomad Poets live DVD featuring Gary and original members Mike Harrison and Mike Kellie. The band followed it up with sold out European tours in 2008 and 2009. During this stretch, Spooky Tooth was invited by Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Island, by performing at a concert in London in May 2009 along such artists as U2, Grace Jones, Amy Winehouse, Keane, Sly and Robbie and Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).

In 2008, Gary became the newest touring member of Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band before releasing an instrumental album of ambient music called Waiting To Catch the Light and an EP called The Light of a Million Suns that featured a duet with his son, Dorian, on a re-record of his hit song “Love is Alive.”

As Gary Wright began another new decade as a musical pioneer, this one was immediately highlighted by the June 8, 2010 release of Connected, his first pop-rock album in over twenty years and a brilliant culmination of Wright’s vast life experiences, songwriting ability and production know-how. Connected also continued a life-long tradition of embracing esteemed musical camaradarie as the album’s first single “Satisfied” includes performances by Ringo Starr on drums, along with Joe Walsh and Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter on guitar.

In addition to shows throughout 2010 with his own band to support his new album, Gary once again traversed the U.S. during that summer, touring as a member of Ringo’s band, as well as, doing a European and South American tour in 2011 with Ringo. “Dream Weaver” was also prominently featured in Disney’s Toy Story 3 movie, as well as, in an episode of “Glee” and the series of “Once Upon a Time.”

Gary also appeared in Martin Scorcese’s highly-anticipated George Harrison biopic “Living in the Material World,” and Jay Z and Kanye West recently used a sample from Gary’s first release with Spooky Toothy, “Sunshine Help Me” on their latest album. The track, “No Church in the Wild also appears in the new Denzyl Washington film “Safe House” as well as in “The Great Gatsby.” Gary was writing a new book titled “The Dream Weaver” which is his autobiography. The book contains stories of the years he spent with George Harrison and their spiritual journey together. It will also be released as an E book with rare photos and unreleased music.

Gary Wright was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia in 2018. He died on 4 September, 2023.

So I was sitting in my living room last night and my wife comes in and says: “Gary Wright is dead”. I already had received the message earlier, but It was still a dagger to my heart. Not as much as the news about Jimmy Buffett, who I had known personally or David Crosby, who was my all time shining hero singer/songwriter. But still, I remember 1975/1976. Vietnam was finally over; the first oil crisis was freshly in our hindsight (and future), the Club of Rome had just predicted a devastating climate crisis and we kept ignoring it. The generational cohesiveness of the late 1960s was slowly fading into corporate greed, Music was still peaking until way after the arrival of MTV, and Gary Wright was there telling us about Weaving Dreams.  It just wasn’t music, it was life.

I have to admit that it sometimes makes me crazy when people younger than baby boomers say it’s the same as it ever was, that every generation has its own popular music, and it’s just as good. It’s not. That’s patently untrue. Rock Music was Michelangelo, The Sistine Chapel, The Mona Lisa. Music was mostly peaks, and sometimes valleys, but it was everything, it rode shotgun, it drove the culture, and Gary Wright was right there, even if it was only for a short flash in 1975.

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Jimmy Buffett – 9/2023

Jimmy BuffettJimmy Buffett was born on December 25, 1946, in Pascagoula, Mississippi, and spent part of his childhood in Mobile and Fairhope, Alabama. He was the son of Mary Lorraine (née Peets) and James Delaney Buffett Jr, who worked for the Army Corps of Engineers. During his grade school years, he attended St. Ignatius School, where he played the trombone in the school band. As a child, he was exposed to sailing through his grandfather who was a steamship captain and these experiences influenced his later music. He graduated from McGill Institute for Boys, a Catholic high school in Mobile, in 1964. He began playing the guitar during his first year at Auburn University after seeing a fraternity brother playing while surrounded by a group of girls. Buffett left Auburn after a year due to his grades and continued his college years at Pearl River Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where he received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1969. From 1969 to 1970, Buffett worked for Billboard as a Nashville correspondent, and in 1969, he was the first writer to report that the bluegrass duo Flatt and Scruggs had disbanded.

Buffett began his musical career in Nashville, Tennessee, where during the late 1960s he was recognized as a country artist and recorded his first album, the country-tinged folk rock record Down to Earth, in 1970. During this time, Buffett could be frequently found busking for tourists in New Orleans. In the fall of 1971 after an impromptu audition, Buffett was hired by a Nashville club called the Exit/In to open for recording artist Dianne Davidson. Fellow country singer Jerry Jeff Walker took him to Key West on a busking expedition in November 1971. Key West in the 1970s was not the tourist-friendly town it is today – it was the last outpost of smugglers, con-men, artists and free-spirits who simply couldn’t run any further south in the mainland United States. It was there that  the 25 year old musician thrown into the midst of this eclectic mix found his true voice as a songwriter – telling the stories of the wanderers, the adventurers and the forlorn.

As a result of this experience Buffett then moved to Key West and began establishing the easy-going beach-bum persona he became known for. He started out playing for drinks at the Chart Room Bar in the Pier House Motel. Following this move, Buffett combined country, rock, folk, calypso and pop music with coastal as well as tropical lyrical themes for a sound sometimes called “gulf and western” (or tropical rock). He was a regular visitor to the Caribbean island of Saint Barts and neighboring St.Martin where he got the inspiration for many of his songs and later some of the characters in his books.
With the untimely death of friend and mentor Jim Croce in September 1973, ABC/Dunhill Records tapped Buffett to fill his space. Earlier, Buffett had visited Croce’s farm in Pennsylvania and met with Croce in Florida.
Buffett’s second release was 1973’s A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean. Albums Living & Dying in 3/4 Time and A1A both followed in 1974, Havana Daydreamin’ appeared in 1976, and Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes followed in 1977, which featured the breakthrough hit song “Margaritaville”. That year he also married to Jane Volslag, who became his wife for the rest of his life.

Later he offered the story of how he came to write his biggest hit: “I started writing it on a napkin in a Mexican restaurant in Austin, Texas, with a friend who was driving me to the airport, to fly home to Key West. On the drive down the Keys, there was a fender bender on the Seven Mile Bridge, west of Marathon, and I was stuck, overlooking Pigeon Key. I sat on the bridge for about an hour and finished the song there. That night, I played it for the first time at my job at Crazy Ophelia’s on Duval Street. The small crowd in the bar asked me to play it again. And I did. So, I guess it is a pretty good three-minute song that has stood the test of time.”

During the 1980s, Buffett made far more money from his tours than his albums and became known as a popular concert draw. He released a series of albums during the following 20 years, primarily to his devoted audience, and also branched into writing and merchandising. In 1985, Buffett opened a “Margaritaville” retail store in Key West, and in 1987, he opened the Margaritaville Cafe.
In 1994, Buffett dueted with Frank Sinatra on a cover of “Mack the Knife” on Sinatra’s final studio album, “Duets II”. In 1997, Buffett collaborated with novelist Herman Wouk to create a musical based on Wouk’s novel, Don’t Stop the Carnival, a MUST READ for everyone ever planning to move to a Caribbean Island. Broadway showed little interest in the play (following the failure of Paul Simon’s The Capeman), and it ran only for six weeks in Miami. He released an album of songs from the musical in 1998.

In January 1996, Buffett’s Grumman HU-16 airplane named Hemisphere Dancer was shot at by Jamaican police, who believed the craft to be smuggling marijuana. The aircraft sustained minimal damage. The plane was carrying Buffett, as well as U2’s Bono, his wife and two children, and Island Records producer Chris Blackwell, and co-pilot Bill Dindy. The Jamaican government acknowledged the mistake and apologized to Buffett, who penned the song “Jamaica Mistaica” for his Banana Wind album based on the experience.

Buffett’s 1999 song “Math Suks” caused a brief media frenzy in our exceedingly intolerant society. The song was in fact promptly condemned by the US National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Education Association for its alleged negative effect on children’s education. Comedian Jon Stewart also ‘criticized’ the song on The Daily Show during a segment called “Math Is Quite Pleasant”.

On February 4, 2001, he was ejected from the American Airlines Arena in Miami during a basketball game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knicks for cursing. After the game, referee Joe Forte said that he ordered him moved during the fourth quarter because “there was a little boy sitting next to him and a lady sitting by him. He used some words he knows he shouldn’t have used.” Forte apparently did not know who Buffett was, and censured Heat coach Pat Riley because he thought Riley—who was trying to explain to him who Buffett was—was insulting him by asking if he had ever been a “Parrothead”, the nickname for Buffett fans. Buffett did not comment immediately after the incident, but discussed it on The Today Show three days later.

In 2003, going back to his country roots, he partnered in a partial duet with Alan Jackson for the song “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere”, which spent a then record eight weeks atop the country charts. This song won the 2003 Country Music Association Award for Vocal Event of the Year. This was Buffett’s first award in his 30-year recording career.
Buffett’s album License to Chill, released on July 13, 2004, sold 238,600 copies in its first week of release according to Nielsen Soundscan. With this, Buffett topped the U.S. pop albums chart for the first time in his career.

Buffett continued to tour regularly until shortly before his death, although later in his career, he shifted to a more relaxed schedule of around 20–30 dates, with infrequent back-to-back nights, preferring to play only on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This schedule provided the title of his 1999 live album.
In the summer of 2005, Buffett teamed up with Sirius Satellite Radio and introduced Radio Margaritaville. Until this point, Radio Margaritaville was solely an online channel. Radio Margaritaville has remained on the service through Sirius’ merger with XM Radio and currently appears as XM 24. The channel broadcasts from the Margaritaville Resort Orlando in Kissimmee, Florida.
In August 2006, he released the album Take the Weather with You. The song “Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On” on this album is in honor of the survivors of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina. Buffett’s rendition of “Silver Wings” on the same album was made as a tribute to Merle Haggard. On August 30, 2007, he received his star on the Mohegan Sun Walk of Fame.
On October 6, 2006, it was reported that Buffett had been detained by French customs officials in Saint Tropez for allegedly carrying over 100 pills of ecstasy. Buffett’s luggage was searched after his Dassault Falcon 900 private jet landed at Toulon-Hyères International Airport. He paid a fine of $300 and was released. A spokesperson for Buffett stated the pills in question were prescription drugs, but declined to name the drug or the health problem for which he was being treated. Buffett released a statement that the “ecstasy” was in fact a B-vitamin supplement known as Foltx.[40]
On April 20, 2010, a double CD of performances recorded during the 2008 and 2009 tours called Encores was released exclusively at Walmart, Walmart.com, and Margaritaville.com.
Buffett partnered in a duet with the Zac Brown Band on the song “Knee Deep”; released on Brown’s 2010 album You Get What You Give, it became a hit country and pop single in 2011. Also in 2011, Buffett voiced Huckleberry Finn on Mark Twain: Words & Music, which was released on Mailboat Records. The project is a benefit for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum and includes Clint Eastwood as Mark Twain, Garrison Keillor as the narrator, and songs by Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, and others.
Of the over 30 albums Jimmy Buffett released, eight became Gold albums and nine are Platinum or Multiplatinum. In 2007, Buffett was nominated for the CMA Event of the Year Award for his song “Hey Good Lookin'” which featured Alan Jackson and George Strait.
In 2020, Buffett released Songs You Don’t Know by Heart, a fan-curated collection of his lesser-known songs rerecorded on his collection of notable guitars.
During a performance in Nashville, Tennessee on April 11, 2023, Buffett said he had recorded an album entitled Equal Strain on All Parts. Buffett got the idea for the album title from his grandfather’s description of a nap. The album has yet to be released.
Buffett performed his final full concert at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego on May 6, 2023. He made two further concert appearances, as an unannounced guest at concerts by Coral Reefer Band members, in Amagansett, New York on June 11 and Portsmouth, Rhode Island on July 2.

Giving in to the societal need of pigeon-holing genres, Buffett began calling his music “drunken Caribbean rock ‘n’ roll” as he said on his 1978 live album You Had To Be There. Earlier, Buffett himself and others had used the term “gulf and western” to describe his musical style and that of other similar-sounding performers. The name derives from elements in Buffett’s early music including musical influence from country, along with lyrical themes from the Gulf Coast. A music critic described Buffett’s music as a combination of “tropical languor with country funkiness into what some [have] called the Key West sound, or Gulf-and-western.” The term is a play on the form of “Country & Western” and the name of the former conglomerate and Paramount Pictures parent Gulf+Western. In 2020, The Associated Press described Buffett’s sound as a “special Gulf Coast blend of country, pop, folk and rock, topped by Buffett’s swaying voice. Few can mix steelpans, trombones and pedal steel guitar so effortlessly.” The DC Metro Theatre Arts magazine, in a review for Buffett’s musical Escape to Margaritaville, described Buffett’s music as “blend[ing] Caribbean, country, rock, folk, and pop music into a good-natured concoction variously classified as “trop rock” or “gulf and western”.
Other performers identified as gulf and western are often deliberately derivative of Buffett’s musical style and some are tribute bands, or in the case of Greg “Fingers” Taylor, a former member of Buffett’s Coral Reefer Band. They can be heard on Buffett’s online Radio Margaritaville and on the compilation album series Thongs in the Key of Life. Gulf and western performers include Norman “the Caribbean Cowboy” Lee, Jim Bowley, Kenny Chesney and Jim Morris.

Jimmy’s Rise to Superstardom

Through his ‘80s tenure at MCA, Buffett’s albums languished in the middle reaches of the U.S. pop charts, but he remained a top concert attraction. During that decade he began his deep move into personal branding and ancillary marketing, establishing the first Margaritaville retail store in Key West in 1987 and the first Margaritaville Café in 1987.
His fortunes rose in the ‘90s with the founding of his Margaritaville imprint, distributed successively by MCA and Island Records; four of his five studio albums during that decade – “Fruitcakes,” “Barometer Soup,” “Banana Wind” and “Beach House on the Moon” – reached the pop top 10 and went either gold or platinum. A pair of ‘90s concert shots, “Feeding Frenzy” (1990) and “Buffett Live: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays” (1999) were certified gold; the latter album was the first release on a new personal imprint, Mailboat Records.
After the turn of the millennium, marking his first appearances at the apex of the American pop charts, Buffett belatedly launched a pair of studio albums, “License to Chill” (2004) and “Take the Weather With You” (2006) to No. 1 on the pop album charts.
His biggest latter-day singles were collaborations that found success on the country singles charts. A duet with Alan Jackson, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” was No. 1 nationally in 2003, garnering a CMA Award as vocal event of the year. A 2004 version of Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’,” cut with Jackson, Clint Black, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, George Strait, rose to No. 8. In 2011, he reached No. 1 again alongside the Zac Brown Band on “Knee Deep.”

Buffett’s highly palatable variety of party-hearty music translated into a host of products, making him one of the most successful and wealthiest performers in the world. In 2016, his personal worth was estimated at $500 million.
Writing about “Margaritaville” on the 40th anniversary of the song’s release in 2017, Forbes stated that it “morphed into a global lifestyle brand that currently has more than $4.8 billion in the development pipeline and sees $1.5 billion in annual system-wide sales. This year, Margaritaville Holdings announced a partnership with Minto Communities to develop Latitude Margaritaville, new active adult communities for those ‘55 and better,’ including the $1 billion Daytona Beach, Florida location and a second in Hilton Head, South Carolina.”
The business magazine noted that the performer’s licensed brands included apparel and footwear, retail stores, restaurants, resort destinations, gaming rooms, restaurants and even a Margaritaville-branded line of beer, LandShark Lager, which was projected to shift an estimated 3.6 million cases during its first year of availability.
Buffett also found success as a writer: His novels “Tales from Margaritaville” and “Where is Joe Merchant?” and memoir “A Pirate Looks at Fifty” all reached No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list. He was also active in film and TV work, writing soundtracks and appearing as a cameo player, most recently in Harmony Korine’s 2019 comedy “The Beach Bum.”
His lone shot at musical theater, an adaptation of Herman Wouk’s “Don’t Stop the Carnival” written with the novelist, was an out-of-town flop in 1997.
An unflagging stage performer, Buffett toured annually with his Coral Reefer Band and remained a top concert draw late in his career – in 2018, he appeared co-billed on a national tour with the Eagles. Endlessly reprised in concert, his songs like “A Pirate Looks at Forty” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” were perennial sing-along favorites for a legion of parrotheads garbed in Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops.
Analyzing the enduring appeal of Buffett’s music, Christopher Ashley, director of the 2017 jukebox musical “Escape to Margaritaville,” said, “There is a celebratory bacchanalian quality but also a real strain of sadness in those songs. I think his songs have a real philosophical commitment to finding joy now, being as now is the only moment… Don’t postpone joy. Embrace it. Grab it. I think that’s profound and a great message to send in a world as joy-challenged as this one.”

Next to his pals Elton John and Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett amassed more that a $1 billion in his lifetime. Elton John and Paul McCartney are among the many stars who paid tribute to Jimmy Buffett after the American singer’s death on Friday, September 1, 2023.

Buffett passed away aged 76, at his home in Sag Harbor, New York due to complications from merkel-cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Buffett left behind his second wife Jane, their two daughters, Sarah and Savannah, and son Cameron.

Elton John remembered Buffett as: “Jimmy Buffett was a unique and treasured entertainer. His fans adored him and he never let them down. This is the saddest of news. A lovely man gone way too soon. Condolences to (his wife) Jane and the family from (my husband) David (Furnish) and me.”

McCartney meanwhile, reminisced about going on holiday with the late rocker, who restringed his guitar so the former Beatle could play it left-handed, before gifting him a specially made instrument.
“It seems that so many wonderful people are leaving this world, and now Jimmy Buffett is one of them,” the British star wrote before describing Buffett’s act of kindness. “I’ve known Jimmy for some time and found him to be one of the kindest and most generous people.” He added: “He had a most amazing lust for life and a beautiful sense of humour. When we swapped tales about the past his were so exotic and lush and involved sailing trips and surfing and so many exciting stories that it was hard for me to keep up with him. Right up to the last minute his eyes still twinkled with a humour that said, ‘I love this world and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it’. So many of us will miss Jimmy and his tremendous personality. His love for us all, and for mankind as a whole.”

The Beach Boys star Brian Wilson also paid tribute to his fellow musician, as did U.S. President Joe Biden.
In a statement, America’s leader said, “A poet of paradise, Jimmy Buffett was an American music icon who inspired generations to step back and find the joy in life and in one another,” before praising his “witty, wistful songs”. US president Joe Biden honored the singer as “an American music icon” and “a poet of paradise”, while expressing his and First Lady Jill Biden’s condolences to Mr Buffett’s family. “His witty, wistful songs celebrate a uniquely American cast of characters and seaside folkways, weaving together an unforgettable musical mix of country, folk, rock, pop, and calypso into something uniquely his own,” the White House statement read.
“We had the honor to meet and get to know Jimmy over the years, and he was in life as he was performing on stage – full of goodwill and joy, using his gift to bring people together.
“Jimmy reminded us how much the simple things in life matter – the people we love, the places we’re from, the hopes we have on the horizon.
“Jill and I send our love to his wife of 46 years, Jane; to their children, Savannah, Sarah, and Cameron; to their grandchildren; and to the millions of fans who will continue to love him even as his ship now sails for new shores.”

Jimmy, contrary to so many of his contemporaries liked reporters because he started as a journalist, writing for Billboard magazine. He thought of himself as a writer — not only of songs but also of best-selling books; he was one of just a few to scale both the fiction and nonfiction lists at The Times. It was more than that, though. He was blessed with an irresistible Southern, devil-may-care charm. Usually, joie de vivre is a sign you’re not paying attention. But with Jimmy, it was ensorcelling. He sang for wounded Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. He was able to transport them to a beach with no cares. During the Covid years, he did “cabin fever Zooms” with health care workers from across the country who were Parrotheads.
He loved pirates, mermaids, jukeboxes and the glamorous era of Pan Am flight attendants. In one sense, he was a model for how to live: Build your life around what you love.

In the end, having packed a thousand lifetimes into one, he was a model for how to die.
“Well, I have learned one thing from my latest in a series of the ever-appearing speed bumps of life — 75 is NOT the new 50,” he emailed me. “Thinking younger doesn’t quite do it. You still have to do the hard work of, as the Toby Keith song says, ‘Don’t let the old man in.’ And that is my job now, the way I see it.” Sadly he made it only until September 1, when he handed the towel in. He was one of a kind.

The titles of new songs he was working on that were so Jimmy: “Conch Fritters and Red Wine,” “Fish Porn” and “My Gummy Just Kicked In,” which featured a turn by his Hamptons pal Paul McCartney.
Jimmy urged all of us to keep after the bad guys. “Keep trolling out there; as a longtime fisherman, I can say with some authority, you never know what is going to wind up on the end of your rod. Fins up and see you soon.”

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Rodriguez – 8/2023

Rodriguez was born Jesus Sixto Diaz-Rodriguez on July 10, 1942. He was the sixth child of Mexican immigrant working-class parents. His mother died when he was three years old. They had joined a large influx of Mexicans who came to the midwest to work in Detroit’s industries. Mexican immigrants at that time faced both intense alienation and marginalization. In most of his later songs, Rodriguez takes a political stance on the difficulties that faced the inner-city poor. His name was pronounced as “Seez-too”.

In 1967, using the name “Rod Riguez” (given by his record label), he released a single, “I’ll Slip Away”, on the small Impact label. He did not record again for three years, until he signed with Sussex Records, an offshoot of Buddah Records. He used his preferred professional name, “Rodriguez”, after that. He recorded two albums with Sussex, Cold Fact in 1970 and Coming from Reality in November 1971. However, due to a criminal lack of marketing by Sussex, both sold few copies in the U.S. and he was dropped by Sussex two weeks before Christmas 1971, and Sussex itself closed in 1975. At the time he was dropped, he was in the process of recording a third album which has never been released.

Rodriguez quit his music career and in 1976 he purchased a derelict Detroit house in a government auction for $50 in which he lived to the end of his life. He worked in demolition and production line work, always earning a low income. He got politically active through his motivation to improve the lives of the city’s working-class inhabitants. He later run unsuccessfully several times for public office: for the Detroit City Council in 1989, for Mayor of Detroit in 1981 and 1993 and for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2000.

Rodriguez says he was past any dreams of rock ‘n’ roll fame by the time he got that call to tour Australia in 1979. “I renovated homes and buildings and residences in Detroit,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what I was doing. I basically went back to work.”

It wasn’t until the start of radio station Double J in Sydney, Australia giving the albums airplay in 1976 and later years, that Rodriguez, without him knowing, started to develop a cult following. The Rodriguez momentum was enough for an Australian promoter to bring Rodriguez to Australia to tour in 1979 and 1981. Both albums had thereafter been licensed by a small independent record company in Australia, Blue Goose Music. They had run out of Sussex produced copies, while Rodriguez’ fame had been rising. They then released a compilation of his two albums called ‘At His Best’ in Australia. Blue Goose stated they paid royalties to Sussex, even though Sussex went down in 1975. It later was suggested that former Sussex owner Clarence Avant had pocketed the payments without paying Rodriguez a penny. Ironically Avant passed away 5 days later than Rodriguez on August 13, 2023. (The lawsuits about the stolen royalties is still ongoing!)

His music was extremely successful and influential in South Africa, where he is believed to have sold more records than Elvis Presley, as well as other countries in southern Africa. Information about him was scarce to none, and it was rumored there that he had died by suicide shortly after releasing his second album. Rodriguez didn’t even know about his success in South Africa until much later.

That became the basis of the ‘Searching for the Sugar Man’ movie.

Rodriguez also toured Australia in 2016, 2014, 2013, 2010, 2007 as well as 1981 and 1979. For the 2013 tour he was backed by The Break, featuring members of Midnight Oil with Violent Femmes Brian Ritchie.
Even after all of Rodriguez’s international success after he was discovered in the mid 70s, he never released another studio album.

Rodriguez Took his final leave of absence on August 8, 2023. A genius singer-songwriter learned early in life that it isn’t fair.

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Jeff Beck – 1/2023

Geoffrey Arnold “Jeff” Beck was born on 24 June 1944 in Wallington, South London to Arnold and Ethel Beck. Before Beck discovered guitar, his mother had wanted him to play the piano. But once his parents saw how Beck took to the guitar, they allowed it.  They probably thought, ‘If he’s got the guitar, he’s not going out stealing.’ The only friends he had were pretty low-life; most of them were one step away from jail.

Beck said that he first heard an electric guitar when he was six-years-old and heard Les Paul playing “How High the Moon” on the radio. He asked his mother what it was. After she replied it was an electric guitar and was all tricks, he said, “That’s for me”. As a ten-year-old, Beck sang in a church choir and his original musical direction was essential formed by the music his older sister, Annetta, brought home.  As a pre-teenager he learned to play on a borrowed guitar and made several attempts to build his own instrument, first by gluing and bolting together cigar boxes for the body and an un-sanded fence post for the neck with model aircraft control lines as strings and frets simply painted on it.

“The guy next door said, ‘I’ll build you a solid body guitar for five pounds’,” he later told Rock Cellar Magazine. “Five pounds, which to me was 500 back then so I went ahead and did it myself.
“The first one I built was in 1956, because Elvis was out, and everything that you heard about pop music was guitar. And then I got fascinated. I’m sure the same goes for lots of people.”

Beck’s sister Annetta introduced him to Jimmy Page when both were teenagers. Eventually, Beck bonded with another boy who was a budding guitarist in his neighborhood, Jimmy Page. The two musicians shared a passion for rockabilly music (Beck credited his older sister with buying the records that shaped his taste) and would try to impress each other with their skills. After leaving school, he attended Wimbledon College of Art. Then he was briefly employed as a painter and decorator, a groundsman on a golf course, and a car paint sprayer. In his early years he spent time in bands such as The Nightshift, the Tridents and then the Yardbirds, which he joined in 1965 to replace Eric Clapton.

The legacy of The Yardbirds three iconic guitar heroes Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page is a little bit convoluted, but Page did his best in later years to explain it in a video for Fender taped in connection to his signature Fender Telecaster, which is based on the guitar Jeff had gifted him and he used in the Yardbirds and in the early days of Led Zeppelin.

Page says he and Jeff initially connected due to their mutual interest in the guitar. Electric guitarists were a rare breed in rock and roll’s early days, he noted. “There weren’t many guitarists in the area at that point,” Page recalled. “You’d hear of other guitarists, you’d meet other guitarists, but nobody was in really close proximity to me. There was an art college at Epsom that Jeff Beck’s sister Annetta was attending.”

 Somehow Annetta heard about Page and got the idea that she should introduce her brother to the other local guitarist Page. One day, Jeff and Annetta just showed up at Page’s house. “There was a knock on the door, and there was Jeff’s sister, and there was Jeff holding his homemade guitar,” Page recalled. “We just bonded immediately.” Jeff eventually upgraded from his homemade guitar to a 1959 Fender Telecaster. Page came to possess the Tele after scoring Jeff a big break playing for the Yardbirds.

Page says he was a studio musician, working his way up to being a record producer, when he was approached about joining the Yardbirds. But he wasn’t ready to give up working in the studio, and he suspected Clapton was unaware of the conversation, so he recommended Jeff for the job. Jeff got the gig and soon bought himself a new guitar. But rather than keep his Tele as a backup, he gifted it to Page as a thank you. The Yardbirds were one of the U.K.’s biggest blues bands at that point.

Jeff Beck rose to fame as part of the Yardbirds, where he replaced Eric Clapton, before forming the Jeff Beck group with Rod Stewart.
His tone, presence and, above all, volume redefined guitar music in the 1960s, and influenced movements like heavy metal, jazz-rock and even punk. Beck earned two spots in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 1992 with the Yardbirds and as a solo artist in 2009. During the first induction he vented: “I have done other music after the Yardbirds, and somebody told me I should be proud tonight, but I’m not—because they kicked me out. They did. Fuck them.” Next to him, Jimmy Page, who’d eventually shared lead guitar duties with Beck during his final months with the band, burst out laughing.

Page was tapped to induct Beck into the Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 2009. “He’d just keep getting better and better and better,” Page said, recalling the records his friend began cutting after striking out on his own. “And he still had, all the way through. And he leaves us mere mortals, believe me, just wondering.” During that event Beck – said: “I play the way I do because it allows me to come up with the sickest sounds possible.”
“That’s the point now, isn’t it? I don’t care about the rules.
“In fact, if I don’t break the rules at least 10 times in every song, then I’m not doing my job properly.”

The formidable pair of guitar slingers then reunited on stage at the ceremony, dueling through “Beck’s Bolero,” an epic rock instrumental Page had composed 43 years earlier, to be Beck’s first solo recording. 

It is somehow impossible to describe the talent and musician ship of Jeff Beck. Outerwordly maybe, but then I curse myself for not having the vocabulary to do him true justice. I guess it was 1966 or 67 when I first ran into his guitar playing, when my amateur band took on Yardbirds’ songs like Heartful of Soul, For Your Love and especially “Shape of Things”. The last one in particular posed a challenge in the lead as bottlenecks were not yet on sale in our neck of the woods. I decided to use a beer bottle for the slide part, as I had seen Jeff do on TV. By the time he hooked up with Rod Stewart and Ron Wood a couple of years later, for the blues rock album “Truth”, Jeff was already in a different stratosphere. 

After the Yardbirds, Beck wielded his firepower to form the Jeff Beck Group, and was improbably joined by two more giants of rock history—singer Rod Stewart and rhythm guitarist Ronnie Wood. Even more volatile than his previous band, the Group lasted all of two albums before imploding on the eve of Woodstock.

Later came Beck, Bogert & Appice, a supergroup he created alongside former Vanilla Fudge bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice. The power trio produced one stripped-down record termed “docile” by Rolling Stone before Beck decamped. He cut an all-instrumental solo album, 1975’s Blow by Blow, which quickly went platinum.

Over the course of Beck’s solo career, seven of his 10 albums went gold. He was nominated for 16 Grammy awards, winning eight. In 2014, he was honored with the British Academy’s Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. A year later, Rolling Stone gave him the No. 5 spot on its list of 100 greatest guitarists. They had no clue.

He also collaborated with the likes of David Bowie, Tina Turner, Mick Jagger, Stevie Wonder, and Jon Bon Jovi.

His solo output slowed down, until the release of 1999’s You Had It Coming, featuring Imogen Heap on vocals, followed in 2003 by an album he simply called Jeff. Around this time, he started incorporating more electronic and hip-hop elements into his music; culminating in his fourth Grammy victory for the tempestuous, shape-shifting instrumental Plan B. He toured extensively in the 2010s, including a joint-headline venture with Beach Boy Brian Wilson.
The duo had hoped to record together but those plans fell apart. Instead, Beck ended up befriending actor Johnny Depp, with whom he released a full-length album, 18, in 2022.
But the musician’s legacy lies in the balance between the fluidity and aggression of his playing, his technical brilliance equalled only by his love of ear-crunching dissonance.
“It’s like he’s saying, ‘I’m Jeff Beck. I’m right here. And you can’t ignore me’,” wrote Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers in an essay for Rolling Stone’s Greatest Guitar Players of All Time, where Beck placed seventh. Of course Rolling Stone played to the popular ear, because really, no one could do what Jeff did on a guitar. Jeff transcended music, much in a way as Michael Jordan and Pelé did theirs.
“Even in the Yardbirds, he had a tone that was melodic but in-your-face – bright, urgent and edgy, but sweet at the same time. You could tell he was a serious player, and he was going for it. He was not holding back.”
“He’d just keep getting better and better,” Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page once recalled. “And he leaves us, mere mortals”.

Marking Beck’s death, Page tweeted, “The six stringed Warrior is no longer here for us to admire the spell he could weave around our mortal emotions. Jeff could channel music from the ethereal.”.

Jeff Beck had been sick over the Christmas Holidays and died on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 at a hospital near his home in Surrey, England. The cause of death was bacterial meningitis.

Some Tributes:

• Responding to news of his death, singer Rod Stewart called Beck “the greatest”.
Posting a picture of the pair together on Instagram, he wrote: “Jeff Beck was on another planet. He took me and Ronnie Wood to the USA in the late 60s in his band the Jeff Beck Group and we haven’t looked back since.
“He was one of the few guitarists that when playing live would actually listen to me sing and respond. Jeff, you were the greatest, my man. Thank you for everything. RIP.”

• US rock band Hollywood Vampires, comprising Johnny Depp, Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Tommy Henriksen, also saluted “the passing of our dear friend and guitar legend”.
“Jeff’s incredible musicianship and passion for guitar has been an inspiration to us all,” the band wrote. “He was a true innovator and his legacy will live on through his music. Rest in peace, Jeff.”
Eric Clapton simply tweeted: “‘Always and ever’…….. ec”.

• Elsewhere, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page paid tribute to Beck as “the six-stringed warrior” and praised his “apparently limitless” musical imagination which could “channel music from the ethereal”.

• In another rock tribute, Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger shared a video of the pair playing together, saying music had lost “one of the greatest guitar players in the world” and “we will all miss him so much”.

• Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne said it had been “such an honor” to know and play with Beck, adding: “I can’t express how saddened I am…”

• And Queen guitarist Brian May said he was lost for words, but called Beck “the absolute pinnacle of guitar playing” and a “damn fine human being”. Then he took the opportunity to record a video praising Beck for making “possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded” with his track “Where Were You.” “If you want to hear his depth of emotion and sound and phrasing and the way he could touch your soul, listen to ‘Where Were You’ off the Guitar Shop album,” The Queen guitarist said in the clip. “Just Google ‘Where Were You Jeff Beck’ and sit down and listen to it for four minutes. It’s unbelievable.” “It’s possibly the most beautiful bit of guitar music ever recorded, probably alongside Jimi Hendrix‘s ‘Little Wing,’” he continued. “So sensitive, so beautiful, so incredibly creative and unlike anything you’ve ever heard anywhere else. Yes, of course he had his influences too, but he brought an amazing voice to rock music which will never, ever be emulated, or equaled.” May ended his video tribute with more praise for his fellow guitarist. “Jeff was completely and utterly unique, and the kind of musician who’s impossible to define,” he said. “And I was absolutely in awe of him.”

• Members of Kiss, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, also expressed their shock.
Simmons called the news “heartbreaking”, while Stanley said he had “blazed a trail impossible to follow. Play on now and forever”.
Singer Paul Young added in a Twitter post: “He was loved by everyone in the know; the guitarists’ guitarist!”

• “Jeff Beck has the combination of brilliant technique with personality,” the Heartbreakers’ Mike Campbell wrote when Beck placed Number Five on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists. “It’s like he’s saying, ‘I’m Jeff Beck. I’m right here. And you can’t ignore me.’ Even in the Yardbirds, he had a tone that was melodic but in-your-face — bright, urgent, and edgy, but sweet at the same time. You could tell he was a serious player, and he was going for it. He was not holding back.”

On a Personal Note:

Jeff Beck didn’t have a lot of songs that resonated with the masses in the way that other guitar heroes’ songs have. HIs music was too quirky, too outside, and just plain not catchy enough for him to have become as well known among the masses as a guy like Eric Clapton, Eddie van Halen or Jimmy Page.

Jeff Beck didn’t have a song like Cocaine where you just play the first few notes and everybody instantly recognizes it.

Instead he has classics like Freeway Jam. Not as many people will recognize this song as they will Layla or Voodoo Chile, but this is less rock and roll and more jazz fusion.

Yes, that’s Jimmy Page with Jeff Beck. And others! Listen to the part where they play some of The Immigrant Song. Hearing Jeff Beck play part of the vocal melody with all the whammy bar inflections he adds is pretty cool.

Jeff Beck isn’t known like Page and Beck doesn’t have a song like Stairway To Heaven and he doesn’t have a song with the popularity of The Immigrant Song either – at least not a song where Jeff Beck gets top billing. He had People Get Ready with Rod Stewart but wasn’t exactly the most cutting edge guitar playing Beck had to offer.

I saw Jeff Beck open for Stevie Ray Vaughan on SRV’s last tour, just a few months before the helicopter crash that took his life.  I loved Stevie Ray Vaughan’s set but Jeff Beck, even for us as guitarists was a little outside for our tastes. That was extreme though. He was really doing some real unusual stuff that night with the vibrato bar, intentionally bending notes out of tune just by micro-tones, and I guess Jeff Beck loved doing that, but while I have a ton of respect for him as a musician, I can understand why there were so many more kids trying to be like Eddie Van Halen than trying to be like Jeff Beck. Of course, if a kid wanted to try to be play like Jeff Beck, the big problem is: Where do you start? What would “playing like Jeff Beck” even call for? The concept is so nebulous! Play outside notes, sure, but which outside notes?

While I obviously didn’t always fully appreciate what he was artistically going for all the time, I’m glad that I got to see Jeff Beck play. He was and is a legend and will always be considered as one the best at what he did. Rest in Peace Jeff.

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Gary Rossington 3/2023

Garry Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd) was born in West Jacksonville Florida on December 4, 1951. Anybody familiar with the area knows, that West Jacksonville was considered the tough part of town where things were different. It’s the area where Lynyrd Skynyrd was born.  And now every original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd is dead. A Southern Rock band of musicians that passed before their time. The kind that used “to rape and pillage” across the country, who got drunk, did drugs, got laid… That was Lynyrd Skynyrd or at least that was the band’s reputation.

I know I can’t say “rape and pillage” anymore. But that’s how we described the rock star lifestyle back in the seventies, and Lynyrd Skynyrd were part of the firmament of the seventies, even after the plane crash.

Rossington had a strong childhood interest in baseball and aspired as a child to one day play for the New York Yankees. Rossington recalled that he was a “good ball player” but upon hearing the Rolling Stones in his early teens he became interested in music and ultimately gave up on his baseball aspirations.

It was Rossington’s love of baseball that indirectly led to the formation of Lynyrd Skynyrd in the summer of 1964 when he was not yet 13 years old. He became acquainted with Ronnie Van Zant and Bob Burns while playing on rival Jacksonville baseball teams and the trio decided to jam together one afternoon after Burns was injured by a ball hit by Van Zant. They set up their equipment in the carport of Burns’ parents’ house and played The Rolling Stones’ then-current hit “Time Is on My Side”. Liking what they heard, they immediately decided to form a band. Naming themselves The Noble Five, with the additions of guitarist Allen Collins and bassist Larry Junstrom, they later changed the name of the band to The One Percent before eventually settling on the name Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1969.

Rossington grew up in a single-parent household and said that early in their relationship, Ronnie van Zant became something of a father figure to him. He credited Van Zant, who was three years his senior, with teaching him and his bandmates how to drive a car, as well as introducing them to “all that stuff you learn when you’re 14, 15, 16”.

According to a New York Times article, Lacy Van Zant, patriarch of the Van Zant family, once went to West Jacksonville’s Robert E. Lee High School to plead Rossington’s case to school administrators after the fatherless Rossington was suspended for having long hair. Lacy Van Zant explained to the assistant principal that Rossington’s father, who died shortly after Rossington was born, had died in the Army and that Rossington’s mother needed the money Rossington made playing in his band. Lacy Van Zant further explained that, like his own sons, they were working men and long hair was part of the job. It is not known if the elder Van Zant’s efforts were successful, but Rossington later dropped out of high school to focus on Lynyrd Skynyrd full-time.

Rossington’s instrument of choice was a 1959 Gibson Les Paul which he had purchased from a woman whose boyfriend had left her and left behind his guitar. He named it “Berniece” in honor of his mother, whom he was extremely close to after the death of his father. Rossington played lead guitar on “Tuesday’s Gone” and the slide guitar for “Free Bird”. Along with Collins, Rossington also provided the guitar work for “Simple Man”. Besides the Les Paul, he used various other Gibson Guitars including Gibson SGs. Gibson later released a Gary Rossington SG/Les Paul in their Custom Shop. For most of his career, he played through Marshall and Peavey amplifiers.

“Free Bird” was not an immediate hit. After all, Skynyrd was on Al Kooper’s Sounds of the South label, distributed by MCA, and you remember Skynyrd’s song about MCA, right? And just a sidenote re Al… He produced the first three LPs, the band’s best work… Better than the iconic Tom Dowd’s stuff thereafter.

So… Skynyrd penetrated the populace kind of slowly with their first album “Pronounced ….. This was not “Led Zeppelin IV,” where “Stairway to Heaven” was immediately added to playlists. In truth, Skynyrd didn’t really break through nationwide or globally until the second album, “Second Helping,” with “Sweet Home Alabama.”

It’s when their tracks started to permeate FM radio…

God, if today’s youngsters lived through the days of AOR in the seventies. EVERYBODY listened, the FM rock station was the heartbeat of America. If you tuned in, you learned everything you needed to survive. And you never missed a show because you were unaware of it, when a band came to town…

So as the decade wore on, and they had the Memorial 500 and other holiday countdowns, number one was always “Stairway to Heaven.” Number two was “Free Bird.” And eventually “Kashmir” was number three. Always, year after year.

You see Lynyrd Skynyrd had three lead guitarists. We’d seen two drummers, but three lead guitarists? It pushed the music over the line, made it special, magical. It was called a Guitar Army…Not Navy or Air Force, but Army, because that’s where most Southern Boys ended up in real life.

In 1976, Rossington and fellow Skynyrd guitarist Allen Collins were both involved in separate car accidents in their hometown of Jacksonville. Rossington had just bought a new Ford Torino and hit an oak tree while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs. The band was forced to postpone a tour scheduled to begin a few days later, and Rossington was fined US$5,000 for the delay his actions caused to the band’s schedule. The song “That Smell”, written by Van Zant and Collins, was based on the wreck and Rossington’s state of influence from drugs and alcohol that caused it.

“Sweet Home Alabama” was one of those one listen records. Looped you right in. I asked Al Kooper the backstory. Just after the first LP was released, the band called and asked to come up to Hot Lanta to record a new song. That wasn’t released for another year. I asked Al if he knew it was a hit. He said…IT WAS SWEET HOME ALABAMA!

Though in time Rossington fully recovered from the severe injuries sustained in the plane crash, and later played on stage again, with steel rods in his right arm and right leg, he battled serious drug addiction for several years, largely the result of his heavy dependence on pain medication taken during his recovery. Rossington co-founded the Rossington Collins Band with Collins in 1980. The band released two albums, but disbanded in 1982 after the death of Collins’ wife, Kathy.

One important thing you’ve got to know is Ronnie Van Zant was the frontman and the band leader, and not a reluctant one like Gregg Allman. Ronnie had a large personality, he was full of quotes, and he didn’t give a fuck, he’d say whatever he wanted. Point being, the rest of the band stayed relatively faceless. You only knew the rest of the players from the album covers. But the key songwriters were Van Zant, Allen Collins, occasionally Ed King and Gary Rossington. Rossington had his hands all over the hits.

Even though no one could replace Ronnie, the Skynyrd legend could not be kept down. Ultimately, around 1987, the band was reformed with Ronnie’s brother Johnny as lead vocalist, and over time the original players came and went, and then they ultimately passed away. For the next 30 or so years they kept touring with limited interruptions and no…It’s not like Gary Rossington’s death is a shock. He had so many health problems, it seemed inevitable. He  suffered a heart attack on October 8, 2015, after which two Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts had to be canceled; he underwent emergency heart surgery in July 2021…and then he finally gave out on March 5, 2023. 

Even if every original member of Lynyrd Skynyrd is dead…the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd is still young. Doesn’t sound dated. Sounds as fresh as the seventies, when rock ruled the world, when we thought it could never die.

Skynyrd was not background. It wasn’t the soundtrack to a video game. The band and its music stood alone. That was enough. No brand extensions were necessary. Ronnie Van Zant’s identity, the band’s image was enough. Long after all the perfumes and other chozzerai the “musicians” of today are purveying is gone, they’ll still be playing Skynyrd music.

You see our music wasn’t momentary, it was FOREVER! And a good portion still is.

But you can only really get the hit by listening to the records. And no one else could be Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington. Without them, without either of them, it’s not Skynyrd. A band. Self-contained. Living the life we all wanted to. The dream was to go on the road, at least go backstage, just to touch, to be in the presence of these giants.

So it’s the end of an era, and those of us still here are left with this empty feeling. 

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Buddy Holly
Bar Reunion in Rock and Roll Paradise
Robert Johnson - Sold his Soul at Crossroads in Clarksdale, MS
The Day the Music Died - RIP Buddy Holly @ Ritchie Valens
Jimi Hendrix Memorial near Seattle, WA
Jim Morrison at Pere Lachaise in Paris
Duane Allman - Allman Brothers Band
Elvis - Gravesite at Graceland in Memphis
John Lennon Wall In Prague, Czech Republic
Bob Marley - One Love; made reggae music a world music
Freddie Mercury - Superstar Showman/Singer/Songwriter
Prince - Brilliantly Extravagant
Chuck Berry - Rollover Beethoven really started the Rock and Roll Era
Stevie Ray Vaughan - His every note became a lightning strike
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Bar Reunion in Rock and Roll Paradise
Robert Johnson - Sold his Soul at Crossroads in Clarksdale, MS
The Day the Music Died - RIP Buddy Holly @ Ritchie Valens
Jimi Hendrix Memorial near Seattle, WA
Jim Morrison at Pere Lachaise in Paris
Duane Allman - Allman Brothers Band
Elvis - Gravesite at Graceland in Memphis
John Lennon Wall In Prague, Czech Republic
Bob Marley - One Love; made reggae music a world music
Freddie Mercury - Superstar Showman/Singer/Songwriter
Prince - Brilliantly Extravagant
Chuck Berry - Rollover Beethoven really started the Rock and Roll Era
Stevie Ray Vaughan - His every note became a lightning strike
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More and more Rock and Roll Legends are fading into the rearview Mirror. My generation lived through a special creative time; an era that may never come around again. Much like the Renaissance gave birth to cultural art icons like Michelangelo, da Vinci, Raphael- all  in a relatively short timeframe, probably never to be recreated.  The Era of Rock and Roll  created a musical highlight in time so intense that it truly moved global cultural directions. Rock was all about blowing up the institutions. Searching for truth in a new way. Being the other and going down the road less taken. The sixties were all about growth, testing limits. The youth were quaking, and the establishment didn’t like it. And what drove the youth was the music, it was the tribal drum, radio was far more important than television, music was not compromised, it embodied truth, and everybody listened.

For more than 40 years rockmusic guided our sense of values, what was original and creative and what was waste, what was cool and what was not. The electric guitar was cool. Rock and Roll was driven by the advance of the electric guitar. It demanded attention, even if only because of the volume and reach. It guided the best educated, revolutionary generation in history into adult hood.

But when our generation and our rock and roll heroes became corporate brands,  too overly self important and self indulgent, Rock lost its driving cultural influence and handed it over to new genres like Rap, Hip Hop and Electronic Dance Music (EDM).

By the 1990s, as one generation handed the musical torch to a new generation, rock had been bent and bullied into new music genres, promoted by different music distribution platforms and rapidly advancing entertainment technology outlets, and we kind of turned away from rock as if it were a youthful indiscretion.

And then, as history usually goes, we turned old enough to remember the power of rock in our younger years and we created niche markets for rock to live in, at least for the remainder of our years. As we are entering the third decade of the 21st century, I am noticing that a lot of young females guitarists across the globe are picking up the rock and roll torch, aided by online marketing resources such as youTube, Patreon and Vimeo video channels. It gives me hope for the future of rock and roll. But for now it’s still a derivative of what we did fifty years ago. Give it time and they will make it their own and select new directions for rock and roll.

This website serves mostly as a tribute to our rock and roll heroes, and also a bit as a reminder to all of us baby boomers and rock music lovers, who picked up a guitar or kicked a drum in our formative years, and gained an understanding of how music transformed us and became the global language of love, peace and understanding. It was a special time. Thank You.

Johan Ramakers

I started this website sometime in 2013 as a legacy site to pay tribute to the many wonderful musicians, singer frontmen and songwriters that paved the soundtrack of my life with their music. As an amateur rocker, who did not only listen to the music, but also played in many coverbands, duos and trios over the decades since rock and roll exploded into our lives, I realized later on in life, as I’m reluctantly entering the supposedly quiet years, that rock music between the mid 1950s and the 1990s, drove our entire culture. More than ever before in history was a global generation defined by music, as Rock and Roll and Rock/Pop became the soundtrack of our lives. It changed and over time defined politics, commerce, industry, transportation, communication, social interaction and education. And for short while, the world seemed a better place. We called it the Garden. Now I realize that Rock and roll is a hard mistress. What seems like forever is really just a few years long. When you’re young you think these bands will last a lifetime. But few do. Except for the superstars, the rest go on to straight jobs, or die prematurely. It’s weird, without education or experience so many end up doing manual labor. They were our heroes, and now…

Meat Loaf
Gary Brooker
Vangelis
Judith Durham
Olivia Newton John
Jerry Lee Lewis
Christine McVie
Dino Danelli
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IN 2024 WE SAID GOODBYE TO:

• Del Palmer (71) long term great bass player for Kate Bush (3 November 1952 – 5 January 2024) – unknown • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Del_Palmer

• James Kottak (63) drummer for the Scorpions (December 26, 1962 – January 9, 2024)- cardiac arrest • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Kottak

• Mary Weiss (75) Singer with the Shangri-Las Dec. 28, 1948 – Jan 19, 2024 – cops • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Weiss

Melanie Safka (76) Folk-pop singer-songwriter Woodstock Festival (Feb 3, 1947- Jan 23, 2024) – unknown • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanie_(singer)

• Wayne Kramer (75) guitarist for MC5 (April 30, 1948 – February 2, 2024) – Cancer • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wayne_Kramer_(guitarist)

• Aston ‘Family Man’ Barrett (77) Bassist band leader for Bob Marley (22 November 1946 – 3 February 2024) – heart failure • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aston_%22Family_Man%22_Barrett

Ian ‘Titch’ Amey (79) Guitarist for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (15 May 1944 – 14 February 2024) – unknown • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Amey

• Eric Carmen (74) singer-songwriter for the Raspberries and later solo star (August 11, 1949 – March 2024) – heart failure • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Carmen

• Steve Harley (73) singer-songwriter for Cockney Rebel (27 February 1951 – 17 March 2024) – cancer • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Harley

• Gerry Conway (76) percussion for Jethro Tull, Cat Stevens, Fairport Convention etc. (11 September 1947 – 29 March 2024)- motor neurone disease • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerry_Conway_(musician)

• Dickey Betts (80) Guitar virtuoso for Allman Brothers Band (December 12, 1943 – April 18, 2024) – cancer and copd • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dickey_Betts

• Mike Pinder (82) Keyboard, founding member of the Moody Blues (27 December 1941 – 24 April 2024) – dementia • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Pinder

• Duane Eddy (86) rockabilly guitar pioneer (April 26, 1938 – April 30, 2024) – cancer • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duane_Eddy

• Dennis Thompson (75) Drummer for MC5 (September 7, 1948 – May 9, 2024) – heart attack • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Thompson_(drummer)

• David Sanborn (78) Saxophone virtuoso (July 30, 1945 – May 12, 2024) – Cancer • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sanborn

For all the Legends we lost  since the 1940s

CLICK HERE

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Dickie Peterson 10/2009

Dickie Peterson (Blue Cheer) was born on Sept. 12, 1946, and grew up in Grand Forks, N.D. He started playing bass guitar at 13, influenced by his brother, Jerre, who played guitar in an early, six-member version of Blue Cheer. He came from a musical family: his father played trombone, his mother played piano and his brother, Jerre Peterson, initially played flute and later lead guitar. Drums were Peterson’s first instrument, before he took up bass.

He attended Grand Forks Central High School from grade 10 through grade 12. His parents died when he was young, resulting in his living with his aunt and uncle on a farm in North Dakota, for part of his youth.

Peterson cited Otis Redding as a significant influence. He credited his brother, the late Jerre Peterson, as being his lifelong musical influence. Jerre was one of the lead guitarists in the initial lineup of Blue Cheer (the other being Leigh Stephens) and played with various formations of the band in later years.

Peterson moved to San Francisco in the mid-1960s and, with his brother, began playing with Group B. He was thrown out of the band for insisting on a hard-rock style, which he indulged to the fullest with Blue Cheer.

Blue Cheer’s six-member configuration was quickly reduced to three to achieve a heavier sound, Mr. Peterson told Rocktober Magazine in 2007. In 1968, the group released the album “Vincebus Eruptum,” generally regarded as its best. It included the band’s cover version of the Eddie Cochran hit “Summertime Blues,” which reached No. 14 on the Billboard charts. The album rose to No. 11.

The group released several more albums in quick succession, notably “Outsideinside” (1968), “New! Improved! Blue Cheer” (1969) and “Blue Cheer” (1969), before breaking up in 1972.

Throughout his life, Peterson’s relationship to music had been all-consuming. Peterson provided the following self-description: “I’ve been married twice, I’ve had numerous girlfriends, and they’ll all tell you that if I’m not playing music I am an animal to live with. … Music is a place where I get to deal with a lot of my emotion and displaced energy. I always only wanted to play music, and that’s all I still want to do.”

In various configurations, but always with Peterson, new versions of Blue Cheer recorded many studio and live albums over the years. Mr. Peterson recorded two solo albums in the 1990s, “Child of the Darkness” and “Tramp,” and toured frequently with Blue Cheer in the United States and Europe.

In his early life, Peterson was a user of various drugs and was a heroin addict for a number of years. In 2007, Peterson said he believed LSD and other similar drugs can have positive effects, but that he and other members of Blue Cheer “took it over the top.” He had ceased much of his drug use by the mid-1970s, and stopped drinking a decade before his death.

Blue Cheer has been considered a pioneering band in many genres. Peterson did not consider that the band belonged to any particular genre: “People keep trying to say that we’re heavy metal or grunge or punk, or we’re this or that. The reality is, we’re just a power trio, and we play ultra blues, and it’s rock ‘n roll. It’s really simple what we do.”

Peterson spent much of the past two decades preceding his death based in Germany, playing with Blue Cheer and other groups on occasion. In 1998 and 1999, he played various dates in Germany with the Hank Davison Band and as an acoustic duo with Hank Davison under the name “Dos Hombres.” He appeared on the album, Hank Davison and Friends – Real Live. In 2001 and 2002, Peterson played, principally in Germany, with Mother Ocean, a group he formed that included former Blue Cheer guitarist Tony Rainier, as well as brother Jerre Peterson.

On October 12, 2009, Peterson died in Erkelenz, Germany, at the age of 63 from liver cancer, after prostate cancer spread throughout his body.

Neil Peart, the drummer for Rush, said in tribute to Peterson:

Dickie Peterson was present at the creation — stood at the roaring heart of the creation, a primal scream through wild hair, bass hung low, in an aural apocalypse of defiant energy. His music left deafening echoes in a thousand other bands in the following decades, thrilling some, angering others, and disturbing everything — like art is supposed to do.