You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday. You can find previous Elder Music columns here.
Well, another year gone, another cliché written and too many fine musicians aren't with us any more. I know there are always new ones coming along but the ones I like most are, alas, approaching the edge of the cliff and too many have fallen over. Here are some of them.
Ruby Hunter was the most important female singer in Australia when she died of a heart attack. She was a Ngarrindjeri woman from South Australia and oone of the stolen generations whose plight was so well expressed in the song, Took the Children Away by her life-long companion and fellow singer/songwriter, Archie Roach.
Musician Paul Grabowsky said of Ruby:
"Her sound nursed somewhere at its heart a moan, a lament, which came from a deep place, a place outside of particularities of space and time, but a singularity, nonetheless. Occasionally I was reminded of Nina Simone, but more often it evoked the red earth of the interior, a vibration, a hum, an undulation on a distant horizon line.
“Like all great voices, it could be turned to many uses: the determination of a woman on the way up from nowhere in city streets, the patience and wisdom of an elder singing No Justice to the tune of a Bach chorale, the mother of us all when she sang her glorious children's songs to rapt audiences across the Kimberley."
“Sitting by the banks of the Murray River in Ngarrindjeri country late one afternoon, Ruby Hunter talked about her land and her people. 'This was our land,' she said, 'and they took it all away from us.' She cried quietly and Archie consoled her, as he always did, with the words, 'It's all right, Mum.'"
If you haven't had the opportunity to enjoy Ruby, it's time. Her recorded legacy lives on, and her voice will remind you of the rare and singular beauty of this old, old land.
Ruby sings Proud, Proud Women. She was just 55 years old.
Joan Sutherland was possibly the finest opera singer of the twentieth century.
La Stupenda, as the Italian opera lovers dubbed her, was born in Sydney and was rejected when she tried to join her school choir. Eventually she made the chorus at Covent Garden in London where she said she would have been happy to stay for the rest of her life.
She was rescued by Richard Bonynge, who had heard her sing, and suggested she stop singing this Wagner rubbish and do some decent stuff. So she did.
When she first appeared in Lucia di Lammermoor, all the opera companies in the world thrust contracts in her general direction. In 1965 when she did a season of operas for the Australian Opera, she brought along an unknown Italian tenor named Luciano Pavarotti.
They were a huge success, perhaps not the jolt she made in Lucia because who takes notice of anything in Australia? Australia has opera? Luciano remained a lifelong friend and singing partner.
When she retired, Joan said that she didn't want to "do a Melba" and went out with a concert at the Sydney Opera House with what she described as a "walk on, walk off" part. She was almost excessively modest about her great talent.
I decided not to play one of her famous roles that had been on the radio a lot (at least the stations I listen to), Lucia, Norma and so on, but go for Elvira from Bellini's I Puritani.
This is the aria Son Vergin Vezzosa with a little help from Luciano, and the orchestra is conducted by her long-time marriage partner, Richard Bonynge. She was 83.
Solomon Burke was the last of the great soul singers.
Indeed, a case could be made that he was also the first soul singer. Maybe his biggest hit was a soulful interpretation of a country song, Just out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms), however, I'll go with one from around the same time called Go on Back to Him, a more soulful tune. (Age 70)
Bobby Charles, born Robert Charles Guidry in Louisiana, was a singer and songwriter who wrote several of the most memorable songs in the fifties: See You Later, Alligator, covered by Bill Haley and the Comets; Walking to New Orleans by Fats Domino; (I Don't Know Why I Love You) But I Do by Clarence "Frogman" Henry.
He was good friends and sang with such people as The Band, Dr John, Willie Nelson, Neil Young and Fats of course. He kept writing and recording until his death. This is Bobby's own version of See You Later, Alligator. (71)
Marva Wright sang jazz and gospel but was better known for sultry, sometimes bawdy blues songs. She was a regular at blues festivals around the world and always drew large crowds.
She didn't start singing until she was 40 but sure made up for lost time. Marva met Mahalia Jackson when she was nine years old and remained a friend until Mahalia died. Marva died from complications of the two strokes she suffered last year. Here she sings Love Away The Pain. (62)
Herb Ellis was a fine, distinctive jazz guitarist who worked with Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and many others. He was initially influenced by Charlie Christian but developed his own modern style that still retained roots in traditional blues and jazz.
Oscar Peterson was something of a task master so Herb had to learn quickly and developed into a dexterous and imaginative guitarist who was greatly in demand. This is Herb playing Love For Sale with Joe Pass. Herb plays the melody on this one. (88)
Tuli Kupferberg was a leading figure in the Beat movement who claimed to be the world's oldest rock star. Tuli was referenced in Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl as the character who "jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, this really happened."
Actually it was the Manhattan Bridge. Nothing happened, Tuli reported, he just swam ashore, went home, took a bath and went to bed.
He immersed himself in the Greenwich Village scene, started magazines and after meeting Ed Sanders, decided to form a rock group. That group was The Fugs.
These were a bunch of amateurs, Allen Ginsberg was occasionally part of the mix, but they often had real musicians along to help - guitarist Danny Kalb, several members of The Holy Modal Rounders and others. The group recorded several albums in the late sixties and early seventies and split up.
They reformed in the nineties and recorded more albums. This is a track, from one of the very early albums, called Supergirl. (86)
Giulietta Simionato was one of Italy's finest mezzo-sopranos. Although she appeared at Covent Garden, New York and elsewhere, La Scala was her natural home where she appeared with more famous, but not necessarily better, singers such as Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas. She died just days before her 100th birthday.
This is Printemps qui commence from “Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens.
Dale Hawkins was a singer, songwriter and guitarist who, with the song Susie Q, established one of the iconic songs of rock & roll.
He was a cousin to another rocker, Ronnie Hawkins. In his early days, Dale worked in a record store by day and played clubs at night. In later years, he ran a record label and produced other musicians. He will always be remembered for Susie Q. (73)
Henryk Górecki was a Polish classical composer, one of the most popular in the second half of the 20th century.
He began his composing career with aggressively dissonant music that nobody liked but the critics. He later produced lovely tuneful compositions that everyone loved but the critics.
He was a leading voice of the Polish dissent movement under the communists. His 3rd symphony sold so well it surpassed both Michael Jackson and Madonna on the charts. He completed a 4th symphony just before he died and its premier has been postponed for the time being. (76)
Eddie Fisher is probably best known these days for his marriages, his affairs and his drug taking.
However, in the fifties he had hit after hit until rock & roll put paid to his hit parade career. He then did, like others of his ilk, the Las Vegas thing. (82)
Willie Mitchell was a Memphis-based producer and arranger of soul, R&B, rock & roll artists. He also made records himself, but he was most notable for discovering and recording Al Green for many years.
He was also associated with O.V. Wright, Ann Peebles and others and collaborated with such artists as Solomon Burke, Buddy Guy, Rod Stewart, Keith Richards, Pop Staples, Ike Turner. The list just goes on. (81)
Kate McGarrigle was a Canadian singer, usually with her sister Anna. She was once married to Loudon Wainwright and she was the mother of musicians Rufus and Martha Wainwright. She wrote many splendid songs like Heart Like A Wheel, Talk To Me Of Mendocino and The Work Song. (63)
Carl Smith was a country musician who had a number of hits in the fifties. He was married for a time to June Carter and was the father of musician Carlene Carter. (82)
Teddy Pendergrass was a soul singer in the seventies and early eighties until a car accident in 1982 left him in a wheelchair. He died of cancer at the young age of 59.
Al Alberts was the lead tenor voice in The Four Aces when they had all those hits in the fifties: Stranger in Paradise, Three Coins in a Fountain, Mr. Sandman, A Woman in Love and many more. (87)
Ed Thigpen was a subtle and talented jazz drummer, most notably with the Oscar Peterson Trio, but also recorded with many of the leading jazz (and other) performers as a studio musician. In later years, he moved permanently to Denmark to live. (79)
John Dankworth was a British clarinetist and sax player who pioneered bebop in that country. He later performed music for film and television. He was married to the fine jazz singer Cleo Laine and they were patrons of musical education. (82)
Alex Chilton was the lead singer, at age 16, for the group The Box Tops when they had their huge hit,
Alex later joined the group Big Star who were apparently rather successful but they didn't impinge on my consciousness. However, if the only song he'd done was The Letter, he'd be worth a mention here. (60)
James Gurley was the guitarist for the rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company, the group that gave Janis Joplin her start. He said that his guitar style was "play it like crazy" and if you ever heard him you'd believe it. (69)
Kenneth McKellar was a Scottish operatic tenor who eschewed the opera world to sing traditional Scottish songs, particularly those of Robert Burns and Walter Scott. (82)
Georgia Lee, or Dulcie Pitt to her folks, was Australia's first indigenous jazz singer and won acclaim in London in the 1950s. During the war, she packed parachutes and entertained the troops with her singing.
She found that the American troops in Sydney and Melbourne liked jazz and blues and she developed those styles. She was also the first person in Australia to record an album in stereo. (89)
Tom "T-Bone" Wolk was the long-term bass player for Hall and Oates. He was a multi-instrumentalist and played guitar, keyboards, mandolin, dulcimer and several others. He was much in demand as a studio musician. (58)
Hank Jones was a fine jazz pianist but spent most of his career as a sideman, most notably with Ella Fitzgerald. Other musicians seemed to like him as he appeared on more than a thousand albums over the years.
Holy Moly - another famous gig as a sideman was when he played for Marilyn Monroe when she sang Happy Birthday to the then-president John Kennedy. His brothers Thad and Elvin were higher profile musicians. (91)
Ronnie Dio, or Ronald Padavona, began his musical career as singer for Richie Blackmore's Rainbow. He later joined Black Sabbath as their singer after the group disposed of Ozzy Osbourne (as it were).
After that, he was in several bands including his own, Dio. (67)
Peter Porter was an Australian poet and generally recognized as one of the finest of the second half of the twentieth century. He was also a librettist and collaborated with musicians such as Elvis Costello. (81)
I first came across Dorothy Provine in the TV program The Roaring Twenties. In that program, she always sang a song from the period. Later, she made several records with music from that period as well as others.
She was in several films but married and lived in Britain for the last forty years or so. (75)
Marvin Isley was the youngest of the Isley Brothers and played bass and sang in the group. He was too young to perform in their biggest hits, Shout and Twist and Shout, however, after he joined, he was their main songwriter. (56)
Jimmy Dean will always be remembered for one song, Big Bad John. He had many other songs, had his own TV program and appeared in films. He later turned to making pork sausages. (81)
Crispian St Peters, or Robin Smith to his mum and dad, was an English singer (and song writer) who had a couple of hits in the sixties - The Pied Piper, You Were on My Mind, Changes.
He said at the time that he was a better songwriter than Lennon and McCartney, more exciting than Tom Jones and was going to bigger than Elvis. Well, that worked out as planned. (71)
Charles Mackerras was one of Australia's, and the world's, finest orchestral conductors. He was a great champion of the Czech composer Janáček and was probably the finest Mozart conductor of his generation. He also conducted many operas to great acclaim. (84
Harvey Fuqua formed the doo wop group the Moonglows, possibly inspired by his uncle who was in the Ink Spots. There was a falling out in the group and he sacked everyone and brought in others, including the young Marvin Gaye, to the new group Harvey and the Moonglows.
He later became a record producer at Motown, having conveniently married Berry Gordy's sister. He remained a producer for the rest of his life and introduced many musicians to the world. (80)
David Fanshawe was an English composer and explorer best known for African Sanctus that fused western music with field recordings from Africa.
He was classically trained but loved exploring, particularly the Middle East and Africa. He wrote the themes for many TV programs. (68)
Cindy Walker was a prolific songwriter and some-time singer. Her songs were recorded by everyone: Bing Crosby, Elvis, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, The Byrds and on and on and on. More than 400 of her songs have made the top 40 over the years. (87)
Mitch Miller was an American musician, singer, conductor, record producer, A&R man and record company executive. He was classically trained on the oboe and English horn and played oboe for several symphony orchestras.
As a record producer, he began the careers of Frankie Laine, Patti Page, Johnnie Ray, Johnny Mathis, Tony Bennett and Guy Mitchell amongst others. He didn't like this rock & roll nonsense and passed on signing Marty Robbins and Elvis. He also had a TV program. (99)
Bobby Hebb could be considered a one hit wonder, but when that hit is the song Sunny, it moves into a different category altogether. The song is one of the most recorded in history, and Bobby wrote it.
He actually wrote many songs but this is the one that will probably be on his tombstone. (72)
Richie Hayward was the drummer and a founding member of the group Little Feat. The Feat were a fine, adventurous band that mixed country, blues, jazz, soul into a single potent mix.
Richie was also an in-demand session musician who played with such luminaries as Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Warren Zevon, Joan Armatrading, Robert Plant and many others. He died of liver cancer. (64)
Maureen Forrester was a Canadian contralto who was celebrated for her interpretations of Mahler's works. She was also good with Brahms, Dvorák, Bach and Handel. She later turned to teaching, at which she excelled, and was a champion of Canadian music. (80)
Abby Lincoln, born Anna Marie Wooldridge, was a singer, songwriter and political activist. She made her professional debut in 1950, influenced by Billie Holiday.
She met and married Max Roach in the early sixties and also performed with some of the greatest jazz musicians - Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Clark Terry, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus and others. She appeared in several films and was very active in the civil rights movement as well poverty issues.
Her voice deteriorated with age and she increased her songwriting. Those songs were sung by Cassandra Wilson and Kendra Shank and others. (80)
Slim Bryant was probably the last surviving link to early country music, back when it was still called hillbilly music. He was a fine guitarist and session musician who played on many of Jimmie Rodgers tracks.
He ended up in Pittsburgh where he performed daily on TV from 1941 to 1960. After retiring, he taught guitar right to the end of his life. He was only 101 when he died.
Jiri Novak was a talented violinist most famous as the leader of the Smetana Quartet, perhaps the premier string quartet in the world. He attended the Prague Conservatoire from 1939, and graduated from its master class in 1948.
On track to be an orchestral violinist, he joined the Smetana where he remained until 1989. He occasionally played solo works, particularly of Bartok and Stravinsky. (86)
Shirley Verrett was an American mezzo (and occasional soprano) who made the role of Carmen her own. She was most at home in French opera but made the Met in New York her home for most of her career. She was also a fine gospel singer. (71)
James Freud was the singer for the successful Australian group The Models during their heyday in the eighties. He also had a solo career. Unfortunately, he was very partial to the demon drink and drugs of any kind. (51)
George Weiss was classically trained at Juilliard on viola and various woodwinds, however, he's best known to us as a songwriter. He wrote songs for Perry Como, Patti Page, Doris Day and others early in his career. He wrote the words to Lullaby of Birdland.
Later in his career, he wrote a number of songs for Elvis as well as Conway Twitty, Louis Armstrong, Cliff Richard, The Stylists and many more. (89)
James Moody was a jazz saxophone player, fluent on tenor and alto as well as a fine flute player. He spent years with Dizzy Gillespie and these two pushed each other to greater heights.
He also played with Miles Davis, Max Roach, Kenny Clarke and many others. In later years, he played with Van Morrison, Aretha Franklin and Milt Jackson to great acclaim. (85)
Captain Beefheart, or Don Glen Vliet to his mum and dad (he later added a Van to his name), was a singer, musician and composer in a style that fused rock, blues, jazz and avant garde classical. He made a number of albums that are generally impenetrable.
I've had "Tout Mask Replica" since the sixties and I still haven't played it all. In spite of, or because of that he was a huge influence on experimental, new wave, punk and other musicians. (69)
Billy Taylor was a jazz pianist who played both as a sideman and leader of his own trio. He earned a PhD in music from the University of Massachusetts and brought his music to TV and radio as well as organizing free concerts in poor neighborhoods.
He also taught music at various colleges. He was a composer and much in demand for others' recording sessions. (89)
...and Lena Horne. (92)