This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
Oh my, a lot of good performers and others associated with the music industry died this year. Soon there'll be no one left. Well, no one that our readers know and love. This is the first of two columns.
CHUCK BERRY was one of the three or four most important musicians in the development of rock & roll, maybe the most important. Unlike all the others at the time, except Buddy Holly, he wrote his own songs that were sly, humorous, joyous and sad. He brought a joy and freshness of language.
His singing was subtle and more akin to a jazz singer than a rocker. Also, and importantly, he could play his guitar like a'ringing a bell. Every guitarist since who wanted to play rock & roll copied his style and his licks, at least initially.
Although he started in rhythm and blues, he brought elements of country and jazz into his singing and playing. He was one of a kind. Chuck performs, as only he can, Brown Eyed Handsome Man. (He was 90)
FRED WEINTRAUB, as owner of the Bitter End in Greenwich Village, showcased all the up-coming folkies of the sixties (and later). He also started the careers of most of the best comedians of the last sixty years.
Later Fred was a movie producer, most famously for the film of the Woodstock festival. (88)
BRUCE LANGHORNE was a session guitarist most noted for playing on Bob Dylan's first electric albums. He also played on records by Tom Rush, Judy Collins and many others. Bob Dylan has said that Bruce was the inspiration for his famous song, Mr Tambourine Man. Bruce also wrote many film scores. (78)
PAUL OLIVER was one of the foremost writers on blues music. His books were instrumental in reviving the careers of many great blues performers. (90)
NICOLAI GEDDA was one the greatest tenors of the 20th century. Indeed, he was almost certainly the most versatile and industrious. He was Swedish by birth and grew up bilingual in Swedish and Russian, due to his adoptive father (who was Russian).
Unusually for an important and prominent opera star, he was quite shy and very modest about his talent. He not only performed all the famous tenor roles, he sought lesser known challenging music as well. Here he performs the aria Allons! Courage et confiance (etc) from Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman". (91)
TOMMY ALLSUP was a country guitarist who played with Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, George Jones and, most notably, Buddy Holly. He famously "lost the toss" and gave up his seat to Ritchie Valens on the plane that cost Ritchie's life. (85)
JIM NABORS was best known for acting in TV programs, but he had a fine baritone voice and recorded many albums. (87)
USTAD ABDUL HALIM was an Indian sitar player who also dabbled in western music, collaborating with Dave Brubeck and others. (89)
GEORGE YOUNG was a songwriter and member of Australia's most successful rock group of the sixties, The Easybeats. Afterwards, he teamed up with fellow Easybeat Harry Vanda to become a hugely successful songwriting and producing team. He was also instrumental in the creation and success of the group AC-DC that contained two of his brothers.
The most famous song that Vanda and Young wrote and performed while in the Easybeats is Friday on my Mind. The singer was the late Stevie Wright, and Vanda and Young played the guitars. (70)
George's brother MALCOLM YOUNG was a co-founder and rhythm guitarist for AC-DC, a group that even surpassed The Easybeats (and every other group from Australia) in popularity. Their success was mostly due to the combination of Malcolm's churning rhythm and brother Angus's inventive lead guitar. (64)LOUIS FREMAUX was a French conductor who was also part of the French Resistance during the war. Later he attended the Paris Conservatoire where he topped his class. His major positions were as conductor of the Birmingham and Sydney Symphony Orchestras. (95)
BARBARA COOK was a Broadway singer and actress who appeared in just about every musical in the fifties and sixties. (89)
GRADY TATE was a jazz drummer who also worked as a session musician, particularly on Motown and other soul records. (85)
GEOFFREY GURRUMUL YUNUPINGU was generally just known as Gurrumul. He was blind since birth. He was from a musical and activist family in Arnhem Land in northern Australia and he had one of the most beautiful voices in the world.
Gurrumul was a unifying voice in Australia between the indigenous community and the mainstream society. He sings and plays Wiyathul. (46)
BILL HORVITZ was an experimental guitarist and composer who worked with many of the greatest jazz musicians. He also wrote music for film, dance, and theatre. (69)
HAYWARD BISHOP was a Nashville based session drummer who played on the records of just about every country musician, as well as quite a few pop ones as well. (71)
GORD DOWNIE was lead singer and songwriter for the group the Tragically Hip, one of Canada's most revered bands. (53)
TOM PETTY was taught guitar by Don Felder, later a member of the Eagles. Tom's first semi-successful band was Mudcrunch that also contained several people who went on to form Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.
This group kept alive the style and joy of rock & roll and made Tom a worldwide star. He was later a founder and member of the superest super group of all time, the Traveling Wilburys (along with Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison and Jeff Lynne).
Tom was an advocate of artistic control of their creations and of artistic freedom. Tom and the Heartbreakers play Refugee. (66)
GEORGES PRÊTRE was a French conductor who spent many years with the Vienna Philharmonic. He was also head conductor with several American orchestras. (92)
DON MARKHAM was a saxophone, trumpet, bass, keyboards player who started in jazz but ended up in Merle Haggard's band for decades. (85)
AL JARREAU was a jazz and pop singer who also performed on Broadway. He won several Grammies and also wrote some songs. (76)BRENDA LEWIS was an opera singer who was equally adept at musical theatre. As well as the traditional opera roles she performed several original modern opera roles. (96)
GLEN CAMPBELL was a guitarist of the first order. He was also a fine singer, TV host, actor, songwriter and session musician. He was a member of the "Wrecking Crew", Los Angeles session musicians who played on just about everyone's records from that city in the sixties.
After a brief stint as a Beach Boy (replacing Brian Wilson) he became huge in the country and pop fields covering songs by John Hartford and (especially) Jimmy Webb as well as performing his own songs. This lead to TV programs and pretty much everything else.
Glen sings one of Jimmy's songs, Wichita Lineman. (81)
VALERIE CARTER was a backup singer for many artists, including Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, James Taylor and many similar artists. She also wrote songs that many of those recorded. (64)
EDI FITZROY was a Jamaican reggae artist who was successful in his home country as well as elsewhere that music is appreciated. (62)
CLIVE STARK was an Australian radio presenter who specialised in classical music but was happy to include other musical genres as well. (81)
BELTON RICHARD was a Cajun accordion player and singer who played not only Cajun but rock and roll and "swap pop" music. He was equally proficient singing in French and English. (77)
BUTCH TRUCKS was one of the two drummers for the Allman Brothers Band. He laid down the solid beat that the others could work against. He was one of the founders of the group and had known the Allmans since they were teenagers. (69)
It was a bad year for the band, as fellow founder of the group GREGG ALLMAN also died. The group was named after Gregg and his older brother Duane who died in a motor cycle accident a long time ago.
Gregg was the singer and piano player for the group. He also wrote some of their songs (the writing was shared around). He found time, at one stage, to marry Cher. Here, with his own song as a member of the band, he sings and plays piano on Wasted Words. (69)
ROBERT “P-NUT” JOHNSON was a singer for the Bootsy Collins Band as well as George Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic. (70)
DON HUNSTEIN was a photographer whose album covers you would all know. His most famous was "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan". (88)
SONNY BURGESS was an early pioneer of rockabilly and rock & roll music. He recorded at the legendary Sun Studios at the same time as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and others. (86)
BILLY BURNETTE was a country songwriter and producer, and also a performer in his own right. He was good friends with, but not related to, fifties' stars Johnny and Dorsey Burnette. (76)
DELLA REESE was discovered by gospel great Mahalia Jackson, but she sang mostly jazz and big band music early on. She made the charts several times in the fifties and early sixties and later made a number of well regarded albums, mostly closer to jazz in style.
Della was also an actress and appeared in many films and TV series. Della sings one of her hits, Someday, You'll Want Me to Want You. (86)
JOHN GEILS was the guitarist for the J. Geils Band who had hit albums in the seventies and eighties. (71)
CEDELL DAVIS was a blues guitarist and singer. He suffered from polio as a child so he was unable to fret the guitar properly so he developed a distinctive slide guitar style using a butter knife. (90)
BUDDY GRECO was a jazz and pop singer and pianist who sold many records. He later appeared in Las Vegas many times. (90)
JAMES COTTON was a blues harmonica player, singer and songwriter. He had a long time association with Muddy Waters where he alternated the harp role with Little Walter. He managed to secure the services of the great blues pianist Otis Spann as part of his own group.
Later he performed with the cream of musicians in his field – Michael Bloomfield, Delbert McClinton, Keb Mo, Gregg Allman and many more. Today, James informs us that he is a Cotton Mouth Man. (81)
MEL TILLIS was a country singer and songwriter who wrote many hits for others as well as for himself. He also appeared in several films and on TV. (85)
CHRIS CORNELL was the lead vocalist for Soundgarden and was a leading figure in the grunge movement. (52)
CASEY JONES was a drummer, singer and front man for several blues bands. He was also a long-time member of Albert Collins's band.(77)
JON HENDRICKS was the most important male jazz singer in history. He not only sang, he wrote lyrics that were interesting, unusual and often downright difficult. Never dull though.
He was erudite, funny and had a masterly way with words. He later held several academic posts. Jon was trained as a lawyer but didn't practise.
He got together with Dave Lambert and thought it would be a good idea to write words to some of Duke Ellington's more challenging works. Jon later wrote words to Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk compositions.
Jon and Dave got together with Annie Ross and formed Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the most important vocal group in jazz. Jon later collaborated with Kurt Elling, The Manhattan Transfer, Bobby McFerrin, and surprisingly to me, the Grateful Dead.
Here Jon sings In Walked Bud, a song about Bud Powell, accompanied by Thelonious Monk. (96)
Alas, this is only part 1. There will be more next week.