Isao Tomita, early pioneer of electronic music, has died. In the 1970s, he made several albums of classical pieces played on Moog synthesizers, including Debussy's "Clair de Lune", and "Arabesque no. 1" (which for many years was used as the theme music for the PBS "Stargazer" program). He also recorded a full version of Holst's "The Planets." [more inside]
One of Africa's most well known and influential musicians, and an international style icon, Congolese singer Papa Wemba died suddenly during a performance in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on April 24, at age 66. Aside from the video clips contained within this NPR obituary, I'd recommend the entertaining feature film from 1987 starring Papa Wemba, La Vie est Belle.
Lonnie Mack, one of rock & roll's earliest guitar heroes, role model to Stevie Ray and a fine singer to boot, passed yesterday at 74.
One of the great composers of our time, Peter Maxwell Davies, has died. Some of his best known works include 8 Songs for a Mad King, Kommilitonen!, and 10 fantastic symphonies. The great anti-establishment composer was perhaps most well known, however, for a 2005 incident regarding eating swans that fell on his island home. Rest in peace, Max! [more inside]
Philthy Animal Taylor, drummer for Motorhead's golden age lineup*, has passed away. RIP, you Philthy bastard. *this clip shows that along with being a great drummer, he could really cut a rug
Academy Award-winning composer James Horner died in a plane crash Monday. He was known for the scores to Titanic (the soundtrack for which sold 27 million copies), Braveheart, Apollo 13, and A Beautiful Mind among many others. [more inside]
Ben E. King has died at 76. He was the original singer of "Stand by Me" (later covered by John Lennon, Otis Redding, Bono/Springsteen, and many others), which he cowrote with the famous songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller. [more inside]
Today we bid a sad farewell to the last of the old-school Mississippi Hill Country bluesmen: Mr. Robert Belfour was a purveyor or that gritty, driving, riff-based, often one-chord Hill Country style pioneered by people like Mississippi Fred McDowell, and in more recent years popularized by artists like RL Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and Jessie Mae Hemphill. Let's take a listen, then, as we pay our respects to the "Wolfman", to some of his rocking, soulful blues. Here's Black Mattie, I Got My Eyes On You, Hill Stomp, Go Ahead On, My Baby's Gone, Done Got Old and You Got Me Crying. And here's an hour-long recording from February 2013, via NPR: Robert Belfour: Live In Concert.
Lesley Gore, who sang "It's My Party" (live performance) and "You Don't Own Me," which Wikipedia calls a "proto-feminist" song (live performance + more), died of lung cancer at age 68 today in New York City. [more inside]
Big Bank Hank, one-third of the Sugarhill Gang, the unlikely ambassadors who took hip-hop out of Bronx parks and onto the pop charts, died on Tuesday in Englewood, N.J. He was 58. [more inside]
NOLA bounce artist and rapper Nicky Da B is dead. Nicki was best known for his colorful, aggressively infectious music and videos, including Hot Potato Style (previously), Express Yourself with Diplo (previously), and his collaboration with photographer Clayton Cubitt Go Loko (NSFW, strobe and flashes warning)
Bob Abrahamian was a Chicago DJ, record collector, and chronicler of Chicago's soul history whose death in June at age 35 shocked soul music lovers around the world. The Chicago Sun-Times' Mark Guarino says: "He left behind tens of thousands of 45-rpm records, but to those who knew him, it was the generous spirit in evangelizing the music that made the greatest impact." His work lives on on the site for his radio show, Sitting in the Park, which features exclusive music from and extensive interviews with 60s and 70s Chicago soul musicians. [more inside]
Bobby Womack--one of the last surviving soul greats from the Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding generation--has died. Nicknamed "The Preacher" for his authoritative, church-trained voice and the way he introduced songs with long discourses on life, Womack never had the success of contemporaries like Marvin Gaye, Al Green or Otis Redding. For a good part of his career, he was better known as a songwriter and session musician. [more inside]
Gary Burger, lead singer and guitarist for seminal proto-punk band The Monks, passed away early Friday morning after battling pancreatic cancer. He was 71. [more inside]
Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest known Holocaust survivor and subject of the film "The Lady in Number Six" has died at the age of 110. Before World War II, Alice was a concert pianist who travelled across Europe. During the war, Alice's mother and husband were sent to Auschwitz where they were murdered, and Alice and her six year old son were sent to Theresienstadt. Alice performed more than 100 concerts at Theresienstadt, and immigrated to Israel with her son after surviving the camp. [more inside]
Phil Everly, one half of the iconic and deeply influential vocal duo the Everly Brothers, has died at age 74. Marked by their sweet, tight harmonies and chopping acoustic guitars, tunes like All I Have To Do Is Dream, Bye Bye Love, Wake Up Little Susie, Cathy's Clown and When Will I Be Loved made an indelible mark on the musical consciousness of America.
The much-renowned and very influential singer, songwriter and bandleader Tabu Ley Rochereau, the legendary pioneer of soukous, has died. His music was characterized by his sweet, mellow voice, smoothly beautiful and quintessentially African vocal harmonies, and chiming, smooth-as-silk interwoven guitar melodies. Not to mention a steady, infectious beat that kept people moving on dance floors all across Africa for the past five decades. Here is but a small sampling, spanning from his very fruitful, prolific musical career: Mokolo Nakokufa, Muzina, Kaful Mayay, Bania Irene, Mongali... and since the man is said to have written as many as 3000 songs, there's plenty more out there to discover. RIP Tabu Ley Rochereau.
Philip Chevron - "singer, writer, composer, punk rocker, poet, Radiator, Pogue" - passed away from esophageal cancer on October 8th, far too young at only 56. He was most widely known as the Pogues’ rhythm guitarist, who penned "Thousands Are Sailing", a haunting ballad about Irish immigration to the USA that quickly became a live favourite (in later shows usually sung by Phil himself). [more inside]
Sadly true, at 74. (JJ Cale previously, and Wikipedia.) Otherwise best to just let the man and his guitar speak for themselves via classic albums such as Troubadour, Grasshopper, Naturally, Okie and Shades.
It's time to say farewell to one of the great and legendary voices of American music. Mr Bobby 'Blue' Bland has died. With the perfect combination of muscle and tenderness, grit and sweetness, he gave us so many stellar performances over his long career. Here are but a few: Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City, The Way You Treated Me, Stormy Monday, Further Up the Road, St. James Infirmary, I'll Take Care of You, I Stand Accused, That's the Way Love Is, Ain't Nothing You Can Do... and the list goes on. Thanks for the music, Bobby Bland.
Country crooner Slim Whitman has passed away at the grand old age of 90. His gentle, relaxed and pristine voice (featuring an effortlessly soaring falsetto and a mighty fine yodel, friends) is the kind that, well, you just don't really hear anymore on the pop music landscape. Let's take a moment to revisit a musical aesthetic that now seems a million miles away... Cattle Call, Rose Marie, North Wind, Blues Stay Away From Me and Indian Love Call. So long and happy trails, Slim.
The poet Jayne Cortez passed away this past December 28th in New York City (New York Times obituary). She started publishing her poems in the late 1960s and in the 70s began performing her poetry backed by music, first in collaboration with bassist Richard Davis, and then backed by her own band The Firespitters. Some of their tracks have found their way to YouTube: I See Chano Pozo, If the Drum Is a Woman, There It Is, Maintain Control & Economic Love Song I, Everybody Wants to Be Somebody, Takin' the Blues Back Home, Talk to Me (for Don Cherry), I've Been Searching, You Can Be and Endangered Species List Blues. Just two years ago she performed solo with her son by Ornette Coleman, drummer Denardo Coleman: Find Your Own Voice, I'm Gonna Shake and She Got He Got. In 1997 she was featured on University of California television network in the series Artists on the Cutting Edge where she read poems and discussed her work. Finally, here's a brief clip from the 1982 documentary Poetry in Motion, where she was interviewed.
Bob Welch former member of Fleetwood Mac, founder of power trio Paris, and the solo artist behind the 70's hits "Ebony Eyes" and "Sentimental Lady" has taken his own life in Nashville, aged 66.
Robin Gibb, CBE, has died at 62 of colorectal cancer. The Guardian pays tribute in words and music. [more inside]
Millions may know him best from one of the only lines he delivered in the Blues Brothers movie: "We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline". Others who notice these things will remember him as the guy who also played the bass in the Blues Brothers band. And those for whom Stax records and the Memphis sound are important will know him as the four-string foundation of the great Booker T and the MGs, and the man who lent his solid, no-frills bass lines to many a tune by soul luminaries Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and lots of other greats. Memphis-born bassman Donald "Duck" Dunn has died while on tour (along with fellow legend and bandmate Steve Cropper) in Tokyo. RIP, Duck Dunn, and if there's any goat piss in heaven, I know you're gonna turn it into gasoline up there, too.
The Band singer and drummer Levon Helm is in the final stages of cancer, according to a note posted on his website Tuesday by his wife, Sandy, and daughter, Amy. [more inside]
"Whether writing as herself, or through one of the many voices she heard in her head, Previn's sinister riverboat chansons revealed the pain, games, lies and loneliness behind the L.A. free love myth. 1971's Mythical Kings And Iguanas was, perhaps, the peak point of Previn's eerily confessional style containing the searingly honest Lemon Haired Ladies and The Lady With The Braid, both of which recount encounters between young men and single older women in chilling detail. Her third album, Reflections In A Mud Puddle was a concept album based upon her life with her father, and contained the astonishing Doppelganger, a Weillian Sympathy For The Devil in which the world's evils are found to lurk in all of us. " Singer-Songwriter Dory Previn has died. (previously on Metafilter).
Over its amazing 35 year run, Soul Train provided American television viewers with an incredible panorama, a veritable cornucopia of black popular music, and of course, entertained everyone with their legendary line dance segments. The man who created and hosted the show from its beginnings up until 1993, Mr. Don Cornelius, was on Wednesday found dead in his home, an apparent suicide.
Chances are that sometime, somewhere, out of the corner of one ear, at least, you've heard the iconic (yet all-but-forgotten) "Willie and the Hand Jive". Set to a Bo Diddley beat, it was an infectious little number that made quite a splash back in its day. Here's a fun live version of the bouncy tune, complete with the three largest dancing girls you're ever likely to see, and here's the original 1958 recording. The composer of the tune, the son of Greek immigrants who decided that the world of black music was where he wanted to be, was one Johnny Otis, who has just died at the grand old age of 90. Shortly after its release, "Willie and the Hand Jive" was covered by early rock icons like Bo Diddley and, across the pond in England, Cliff Richard. But apart from his most famous tune, Johnny did a LOT of recording and performing throughout his lengthy career, so there's... [more inside]
The world just got a little less funky. Jimmy Castor passed away today. You might know him as the doo-wop Junior who replaced Frankie Lymon in The Teenagers. You might know him forYou Might know his hits Troglodyte, Hey, Leroy, or maybe the Bertha Butt Boogie. You might even know his Magic Saxophone. [more inside]
Paul Motian (wiki) (myspace) (allaboutjazz), one of the great jazz drummers of our time, is dead at 80. [more inside]
Somewhere along the line, you might've heard one of the biggest hits to ever come out of the world of jazz: it was a song originally made famous by Les McCann and Eddie Harris back in 1969, called Compared To What. If you were in the right place at the right time, you might've even caught them doing it live. Or, if you were born a little too late for all that, you might've heard the song performed by John Legend and the Roots. Well, the man who wrote the song, Gene McDaniels, has just left us at age 76. RIP Gene McDaniels.
Influential record producer Martin Rushent has passed away. He was 63. Rushent is best known for his work with the Buzzcocks, the Human League, and the Stranglers, though he worked with everyone from Altered Images to Yes. A sampling of his music follows the jump. [more inside]
"In 1955 "Rock Around the Clock" went to the top of the charts and turned Bill Haley into the king of rock and roll. Twenty-five years later, he was holed up in a pool house in Harlingen, TX, drunk, lonely, paranoid, and dying. After three decades of silence, his widow and his children tell the story of his years in Texas and his sad final days." (Via)
"A ballet dancer needs a mirror to perfect her style, her technique. A singer needs the same -- an aural mirror."In 1950 and '51, Japan’s first reel-to-reel tape recorders, the "G-Type" (for gov't use) and the "H-1" (for home use) were released by a company named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. Music student Norio Ohga was unimpressed by the wobbly sound of "Talking Paper," so he wrote a note complaining to the firm's founders, who hired him. Mr. Ohga never achieved his original dream of becoming a baritone opera singer, but the future President of TTK, (later renamed Sony,) would still make an indelible, global impact on the world of music -- including the development and introduction of the compact disc. Mr. Ohga died on April 24, 2011. [more inside]
Louisiana-born, Texas-based record producer Huey Meaux, the so-called "Crazy Cajun", has died. He was the man behind Barbara Lynn's 1962 hit You'll Lose a Good Thing. Three years later, in a move to cash in on the British Invasion, he created a faux-British rock band called "the Sir Douglas Quintet" around San Antonio-born singer-songwriter Doug Sahm, and produced their hit, She's About a Mover. Meaux also produced Tex-Mex rocker Freddy Fender's bilingual hit Before the Next Teardrop Falls as well as Fender's Wasted Days and Wasted Nights. Sadly, however, Meaux had a very ugly darker side: he was arrested not once but twice on child-sex charges, doing prison time in the late 60s, and an 11-year bid from '96 to '07. Some of the ugly details of this side of his life are detailed in this Houston Press article from 1996, shortly after his arrest, which will pretty much make your skin crawl... Well, so long Huey.
"The "chitlin' circuit" sounds like something that's gone, and with good reason. After all, the name itself derives from the "soul food" of chitterlings (fried pig intestines) that was a staple at early performances. But from CC Blues Club on Thomas Street to the Cannon Center downtown, thousands of Memphis music fans flock to hear stars like Marvin Sease and Bobby Rush sing what's too risqué for radio play, and to watch dancers shake what's too big for TV. That's both the beauty of the chitlin' circuit and the reason for its survival. While its roots run back to racial segregation, it thrives today because performers give audiences what they can't get through mainstream media. It's called "grown folks music," and it's all in the name of the blues."Soul-blues singer Marvin Sease has died at age 64. Here's a comprehensive playlist of his (sexually-explicit/NSFW) songs on YouTube, including the one that never received any radio airplay but whose title the former gospel singer took as his professional nickname: Candy Licker [more inside]
Eugenio Arango, better known as Totico, a Cuban-born percussionist and singer who was one of the most celebrated figures in the drumming, dancing and singing culture of New York rumba, died on Jan. 21 in the Bronx, where he lived. He was 76.
Guitarist Gary Moore, former member of Thin Lizzy and accomplished solo artist, passed away today at the age of 58. [more inside]
Country music legend Charlie Louvin has passed on. Charlie rose to fame with his brother Ira as the Louvin Brothers, whose career was cut short by Ira's death by automobile accident in 1965. Charlie continued to record and perform solo, and though his popularity never quite reached the heights that it did with his brother he retained a loyal fanbase until the very end. [more inside]
Debbie Friedman passed away today. She was the most well known and influential composer of Jewish music and litergy in the United States. The Jerusalem Post says that "Friedman’s music is performed in synagogues around the world more than that of any other modern composer." Her most well known song is a setting of Mi Shebeirach, a prayer for healing.
19th-century newspaper ads for patented stomach cures and digestive aids [...] foregrounded mince pie as the K2 of digestive summits. But for every published warning on the dangers of mince, the newspapers published a poem, essay, or editorial praising it as a great symbol of American cultural heritage or a nostalgic reminder of mother love and better times bygone—or even, as the State of Columbia, South Carolina, asserted in 1901, a beneficial Darwinian instrument that had "thinned out the weak ones" among the pioneering generations.So wrote Cliff Doerksen in his wonderful, James Beard award-winning article Mince Pie: The Real American Pie. Doerksen not only gives the history of this once most American of foods, he also makes two mince pies from 19th Century recipes to see if they are indeed all that. This is but one of many great articles Doerksen wrote for The Chicago Reader in recent years (links to a selection below the cut). Sadly, Cliff Doerksen passed at the age of 47 just before Christmas. [more inside]
Fred Anderson was a monster on the tenor sax. Fred Anderson was one of the founders of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, and his "home court," the Velvet Lounge, remains a place for Chicago creative musicians to find welcoming audience. Fred died June 24 in Chicago. A wake will take place from 5 to 6 PM this Tuesday (June 29) at Leak and Sons Funeral Chapel, 7838 S. Cottage Grove, followed immediately by Anderson’s Going Home service. [more inside]