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.
Richard Lyons, Negativland Founder, Dead at 57 A founding member of audio collage band Negativland, passed away from nodular melanoma today, on his 57th birthday. According to the band's Facebook posting, he died "peacefully and pain free." [more inside]
Scott Weiland, Ex-Singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Dies at 48. The troubled singer died in his sleep on a tour stop in Minnesota. Weiland, who had been fired from STP, was in his third act, comparing himself to Keith Richards, and had lost a bandmate earlier in the year. Weiland rose to stardom 23 years ago with STP's debut Core. [more inside]
RIP singer Diane Charlemagne, probably best know as the vocalist on Goldie's classic drum and bass track 'Inner City Life'. Among her many other contributions across a wide range of music she had top ten hits with the Urban Cookie Collective with 'The Key, The Secret' and 'Feels Like Heaven'
RIP Rico Rodriguez, most commonly know simply as 'Rico', the reggae and ska trombonist. He worked as a solo artist as well as with many other bands and musicians including Prince Buster and Jools Holland's Rhythm and Blues Orchestra but was probably best known as a member of The Specials. [more inside]
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]
Ornette Coleman has died at 85. Free Jazz. Lonely Woman, from "The Shape of Jazz to Come". What Reason Could I Give?. Skies of America, with the London Symphony Orchestra. Gunther Schuller interviews Coleman; Ethan Iverson on Coleman.
Jean Ritchie, largely responsible for the revival/survival of traditional ballads and mountain dulcimer as living folk arts in the United States, tradition-bearer of Appalachian culture, national treasure, has passed away at the age of 92. [more inside]
A.J. Pero drummer for Twisted Sister during their early eighties peak, the drummer behind "You Can't Stop Rock & Roll", "I Wanna Rock" and of course "We're Not Gonna Take It" (which features some nice drum work) has passed on. Staten Island born Pero, who broke in to rock with the hard rock band Cities was touring with his new band Adrenaline Mob when he was found unresponsive on a tour bus in Poughkeepsie, New York. he was rushed to the local hospital and pronounced dead of an apparent heart attack. RIP, SMF.
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.
It's time to say so long to legendary Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief Bo Dollis, who, for many years, led his Wild Magnolias through the streets of the Crescent City. Handa Wanda, Big Chief, Ho Na Nae and Jockomo Jockomo. Oops Upside Your Head [more inside]
Singer Joe Cocker has died at age 70, according to the BBC. Here's his iconic performance of "With a Little Help from my Friends".
Tim Hauser, founder of the jazz vocal group The Manhattan Transfer, has died at the age of 72. [more inside]
Christopher Hogwood, conductor, scholar, musician and champion of historically informed performance, died on September 24 at the age of 73. [more inside]
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]
Ever wonder where the "House" in "House Music" comes from? In 1977, a young DJ named Frankie Knuckles started DJing at a club called the Warehouse in Chicago, bringing the new style of continuously mixing dance records with him, and perfecting it, just as cheap electronic drum machines enabled anyone to put together a dance record in their basement. All the people whose minds were being blown by the new music went to the local record stores to demand "Warehouse Music", and the world of music was changed forever. Frankie Knuckles died today, leaving a legacy that started in the '70s and carries on to the Grammy-winning success of acts like Daft Punk today.
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]
"And let it be set down, Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the 20th century, and the greatest genius of 20th-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that. And it hardly matters. He knew it. That the world was too stupid to keep up was not his problem." Robert Ashley dies at 83. [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.
Bebo Valdes has passed away. A giant of Cuban music, he was a "big man whose music revealed a huge heart." He famously worked with Nat King Cole, and also handed down his musical chops to son Chucho, who would become one of the founding members of the band Irakere. There are some videos inside the fold to allow us to celebrate Bebo and his music. [more inside]
1985 marked a few beginnings for gangsta rap, with Schooly D releasing the influential P.S.K. What Does It Mean? (YT), and a few Korean swap-meet vendors opening the Compton Fashion Center, the first indoor swap meet. It was there and then that Wan Joon Kim got his start as an unlikely godfather of gangsta rap. [more inside]
Tandyn Almer, composer of Along Comes Mary, died last month. Dawn Eden wrote about Almer after attending his funeral, and more recently he was profiled in The Washington Post.
Sadly, it's time to say farewell to a unique and visionary musician and musical thinker who developed and articulated an extraordinary method of directing large-ensemble improvisation with a method that he dubbed "conduction". Mr. Butch Morris has left us, but his ideas will surely reverberate in the hearts and minds of creative musicians and lovers of creative music everywhere.
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.
Jazz prodigy Austin Peralta has died. Announcement and links to his music at Brainfeeder. Peralta contributed to Flying Lotus' recent album Until the Quiet comes; on Twitter this morning Flying Lotus wrote "it kills me to type that we lost a member of our family, Austin Peralta. I don't really have the right words right now." From Fact: "In his tragically short life, the California native had proved himself to be a fearsome and precocious talent. At 15 years old, Peralta was already touring the world with his own trio, and performing alongside legends like Chick Corea and Omar Hakim. Whilst still at high school, Peralta headed up ensembles featuring luminaries like Ron Carter and Buster Williams. He also released two LPs (2006′s Maiden Voyage and Mantra) in Japan before the age of 16." His entry on Wikipedia. Tribute from Frank Ocean.
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.
He's responsible for the deliciously relaxed and understated guitar work you remember from Rainy Night in Georgia and the driving chukka chukka whipsnap that propelled Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady, as well as her version of Spanish Harlem. And he's lent his masterful musical sense to many, many other tunes from artists as diverse as Ringo Starr, Archie Shepp, Joe Cocker, Miles Davis and Paul Simon. Guitarist Cornell Dupree has died at age 68. Primarily a studio musician, Dupree was more often heard than seen, but you can catch some glimpses of his Southern-fried six-string artistry on this live version of King Curtis' Memphis Soul Stew.
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]
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]
Between February 1989 and May 1990, there were three significant deaths in the Sesame Street world. The first was Joe Raposo, a significant musician for Sesame Street and Electric Company. The last was Jim Henson, mourned by Big Bird, remembered by Frank Oz, and celebrated in song by many (from the St. John's Memorial, detailed here). The second person to die in this time period was Northern Calloway, Sesame Street's David. Unlike Joe and Jim, there were no television tribute to Northern's life and career on Sesame Street or Broadway. Instead, David, once a young, cool, urban guy, who was studying to be a lawyer while working at Mr. Hooper's storeand the initial romantic interest of Maria, left the show through a letter, read by Gordon. The story behind David is told below the fold. [more inside]
The man who lent his wonderfully warm and soaring voice to the rolling soul ballad Get It While You Can, the limber southern funk of Eight Days on the Road, the coolly driving How Come My Bulldog Don't Bark, the mellow soul lilt (with breathtaking falsetto interjections!) of I Learned It All the Hard Way and so many other delightful soul numbers has died. Farewell Howard Tate. [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.