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.
Dan Hicks, Bay Area music icon, dies at age 74. Last night Clare Wasserman announced that her husband, musician Dan Hicks, had succumbed to liver cancer. [more inside]
Pete Seeger, singer, musician, songwriter, political activist for more than 7 decades died, age 94. As a song writer, he is best known as the author or co-author of Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, If I Had a Hammer, and Turn, Turn, Turn! [more inside]
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.
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]
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 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]
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.
"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)
"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.
She's been called "the greatest posthumous success story in music history." But when she died of melanoma at age 33, few people outside of the Washington DC-area had heard of Eva Marie Cassidy. [more inside]
Garry Shider, singer, guitarist and musical director of George Clinton's P-Funk All-Stars for much of their history, has passed on at age 56. Shider (the man in the diaper for so many P-Funk performances) was co-author of One Nation Under a Groove and many other masterpieces of the funk. RIP, Garry Shider.
I hear babies cry and I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than we'll know. And I think to myself: What a Wonderful World
You may not know who Israel "Brudda Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole was, but you're probably familiar with his medley of "Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World," which has been included on several movie soundtracks and used on television shows & commercials throughout the world.... [more inside]
Tom "T-Bone" Wolk, a.k.a. that guy with the hat, is dead at 58. Hall & Oates won't be the same without him. [more inside]
The man behind the classic sound of Al Green, Memphis producer and soulmeister supreme Willie Mitchell has passed on. Many of the Al Green sides are legendary, of course, and very well known (as is the fantastic "I Can't Stand the Rain, by Ann Peebles), but be sure and head over to the excellent Funky 16 Corners where you can hear three of his lesser-known but deeply grooving productions. Fat stuff. So long, Willie Mitchell, and thanks for the wonderful music.
Dee Dee Warwick, sister of Dionne and a fine soul singer in her own right, recently passed on to that other shore. This blog entry on Dee Dee features mp3 links to her wonderful cover of the Elvis Presley hit Suspicious Minds and the heartrending She Didn't Know. More: I'm Gonna Make You Love Me, Monday Monday and Foolish Fool.
Don Helms, the steel guitarist in Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboys band, died on August 11. He was 81. Don provided the smooth-as-silk string stylings for over 100 of Hank's tunes, including Hey Good Lookin' and I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry. See Don demonstrate some of that steel guitar goodness in a snazzy version of Blues Stay Away From Me, or this instrumental rendition of Hank's Cold Cold Heart, or this sprightly little number, Fireball Mail. [more inside]
A musician passed away just the other day. In all likelihood you never knew his name. But you've probably heard him, no exaggeration, on thousands of occasions. He was drummer Earl Palmer, and some of the thousands of songs he propelled with his versatile grooves and masterful sense of time include Tutti Frutti and Lucille, La Bamba, Let's Go Get Stoned, I Don't Need No Doctor, Unchained Melody, You've Lost That Loving Feeling... the list goes on and on. Oh, and there's the TV themes he drummed on, like say, Mission Impossible. And here you can see New Orleans native Earl demonstrating how he put the beat under Professor Longhair's classic Tipitina and on Fats Domino's I'm Walkin'. He was one superb rhythmist. Au revoir, Earl Palmer. [more inside]
Master of the 'didge' - after veins burst in his throat some years ago while he was playing the didgeridoo, doctors warned that continued playing would threaten his life. Admitted to hospital last week with bleeding on the brain, he died on Sunday from a brain haemorrhage. He was 40. [more inside]
Luther Vandross is gone. The great R&B balladeer died today, apparently due to complications from a stroke he suffered two years ago. Believers in an afterlife can hope he's enjoying a dance with his father. After all, he did believe in the "Power of Love". RIP.
San Carlo of the Symphony. Il Maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, orchestra conductor who passed away Tuesday at 91 "had an almost uncanny ability to transform the sound of an orchestra, any orchestra, into a dark and intense glow, which became his trademark over the years". "We have lost one of the greatest musicians of our time," says Esa-Pekka Salonen (.pdf), music director of the LA Philharmonic. Giulini has been called "the last humanist", a gentle man beloved by his orchestras, so humble in his approach to music that, always feeling the necessity to "fathom" each new work, it wasn't until the 1960s that he finally felt ready to conduct Bach, or the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. This from a man who, at the beginning of his career (as a viola player) had played under Richard Strauss. "I had the great privilege to be a member of an orchestra," Giulini said in 1982. "I still belong to the body of the orchestra. When I hear the phrase, 'The orchestra is an instrument,' I get mad. It's a group of human beings who play instruments." More inside.
Musician on the Moon Lucia Pamela passed away this June at the age of 98, but not without garnering several moving tributes from her fans. Ms. Pamela not only believed that she had a pink Cadillac that could fly to the moon, but released a concept album about it. She also sponsored a coloring book contest to promote a surrealistic space-age coloring book that later inspired a song by Stereolab. A true American original.
George Harrison is gone. It's not totally unforseen, but is still a little sad. Here comes the sun has always been one of my favorites. It has a gentle way of making me smile. That's a nice legacy to leave people .