LaVern Baker had a strong, soaring voice and scored hits such as Jim Dandy, Tweedle Dee, and I Cried A Tear. She also did some well-received duets, such as You're The Boss with Jimmy Ricks or Shake A Hand with Jackie Wilson. Her life wasn't as smooth as her voice, though; her hits were constantly ripped off by a white singer, and when she went to Vietnam to entertain American troops, she came down with pneumonia and was left behind by the others on the tour. "She described the fantastical saga that ensued: "I didn't know what to do, who to go to. The tour was gone and I was in a strange country where telephone service was practically nonexistent. I hitched with farmers on wagons to Bangkok…. I'd had to slog through rice paddies in water up to my shoulders in some places to get to Bangkok, so by the time the Marines got me to the base I'd had a relapse."" The difficulties were just beginning..
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]
Sixth-grader Jackson C. Frank was horribly burned when the boiler at his Cheektowaga, New York, elementary school exploded March 31, 1954, killing fifteen of his classmates. While recovering from his injuries, Frank was introduced to the guitar, and the insurance settlement he received a decade later helped fund a trip to England, where he recorded his first and only album. [more inside]
Guitarist and banjo player Erik Darling died last Sunday at age 74. His arrangements of traditional songs played a significant role in the folk music revival of the late 1950s and early 1960s. [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.
A Pretty URL Is Like A Melody: By a waterfall, I'm calling Who's Who In Musicals, diligently compiled by John Kenrick, a wonderful little resource.
I Nominate Richie Havens As The Most Criminally Unappreciated Recording Artist Ever: In this recent Guardian article, John Aizlewood asked "How on earth did this man miss the boat?" Indeed! His voice is deep and beautiful, his guitar-playing is exciting and innovative and, to my mind, he's the best and busiest no-nonsense live performer around. On his website he generously shows us how to play guitar in his own special way. He also comes across as an inspiring, wonderful human being. And yet, for all his Woodstock kudos, he's more well known for his voice-overs on commercials(McDonalds and Pepsi, for example) than for his music. His new record, Wishing Well, is just out. But nobody seems to care. He's a hero in Europe but negligently seen as a hippy in his native land. There are a lot of other unnaccountably underrated and unknown veteran artists around. Grrrr! Who's yours?