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.
It seems to me that increasingly, each year is a bad one for musicians dying. I suppose it’s probably these are the ones with whom we grew up.
JESSYE NORMAN was one of the two or three finest singers of the 20th century; I would put her at number one.
She took piano lessons from an early age, but once exposed to opera music she was an instant convert and devoured the recordings of Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price (and Nat King Cole). She proved to be a talented singer from an early age.
Later she studied at a couple of universities and gained a Masters degree in music from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor).
Jessye went to Europe to establish herself and made her debut in Wagner's “Tannhäuser” in Berlin. There was no holding her back.
From a song cycle called Les Nuits D'Été (Summer Nights) by Hector Berlioz, Jessye sings Villanelle. (She was 74)
MICHEL LEGRAND was a French pianist, conductor, arranger and most especially, a composer. He composed music for both French and American films, winning a couple of Oscars along the way. He was also a fine jazz pianist and made a couple of dozen albums. (86)
PETER TORK came to prominence as a member of the Monkees. He was the bass player in the group that first became TV stars and then a real rock group in their own right. (77)
PAUL BADURA-SKODA was a classical pianist who was noted for his Mozart and especially Schubert piano works. He also played Beethoven and Chopin exquisitely. He and his wife wrote books on the interpretation of Mozart and Bach. (91)
DICK DALE pretty mush invented “surf music”. He was an excellent guitarist and had custom made amplifiers and speakers that wouldn’t distort when he turned up the volume (unless he wanted them to). (81)
ART NEVILLE was a keyboard player and singer. He cofounded The Meters and the Neville Brothers, probably the two most important bands to come out of New Orleans.
He joined The Hawketts when he was still a teenager and later formed his own group that consisted of several musicians who would later become The Meters, as well as two of his brothers. The Meters became the house band for record producer Allen Toussaint and can be heard on many records from New Orleans from that time.
Later he joined his brothers and he kept both groups going for decades. From very early in his career, Art sings the Mardi Gras Mambo. (81)
STEPHEN CLEOBURY was an organist and musical director most notably for the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge. He held that post for 37 years until his death. (70)
TONY GLOVER was a folk, blues and rock harmonica player. He was mostly associated with the sixties group Koerner, Ray and Glover, but also toured with the Doors and the Rolling Stones. He was later a music writer of note. (79)
JACK SCOTT was a singer and songwriter who had several big hits in the cusp of the fifties and sixties. He performed rock & roll, gospel, country and just about anything else he set his mind to. (83)
PAUL BARRERE was the guitarist for the rock band Little Feat. He also performed with Taj Mahal, Jack Bruce, Carly Simon and others. He wrote songs that Little Feat and others performed. (71)
FRANK BUSSERI was a founding member and singer for the harmony group The Four Lads. They had several hits in the fifties and sixties. (86)
ANDRÉ PREVIN won four Oscars and ten Grammies for his music as a composer, arranger, adapter, conductor, pianist, and music director. He was a classical pianist and conductor, a jazz pianist and composer and adaptor of stage musicals for the big screen.
He wrote musical scores for films, not just musical ones, but dramas as well. He composed chamber music, orchestral works, solo piano and operas. He was just about as complete a musician as we’ll see in our lifetime.
Here is André playing piano, with a little jazz, along with Herb Ellis, Shelly Manne and Ray Brown. The tune is Don't Sing Along. (89)
DARYL DRAGON was “The Captain” in the group Captain and Tennille. He came from a musical family (both parents and two brothers were professional musicians) and he was originally a studio piano player. Along with his wife Toni Tennille they had a number of pop hits in the seventies. (76)
CHUCK BARKSDALE was a founding member and bass singer for the doowop (and later soul) group The Dells; one of the finest and longest lived such groups. (84)
MIKE WILHELM was the guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of the influential sixties rock group The Charlatans. He was later in another band, The Flamin’ Groovies. (77)
Although American, IRVING BURGIE was best known as a songwriter using the Caribbean as a theme. Harry Belafonte in particular recorded many of his songs, including Jamaica Farewell and Banana Boat Song. He also set up a publishing company and a magazine. (95)
JACQUES LOUSSIER was a French keyboard player who became very successful with jazz interpretations of the music of J.S. Bach. (84)
GREEDY (ANDREW) SMITH was songwriter, singer and keyboard player for the Australian band Mental as Anything. As can be judged from their name, the Mentals didn’t take themselves too seriously. They were popular from the late seventies until the end of the nineties.
The members of the group met at art school and they are/were all accomplished artists in their own right. Although all members of the group sang, Greedy was the unofficial front man when it came to giving interviews and the like. He was inducted into the Australian songwriters’ hall of fame a month before his death.
Here is Greedy singing He’s Just No Good for You. (63)
GARY DUNCAN was a guitarist and singer for the rock group Quicksilver Messenger Service. The complex interplay between him and fellow guitarist John Cipollina did much to define the San Francisco sound of the sixties. (72)
MICHAEL JAFFEE was an expert on medieval and Renaissance music, and played several early instruments. He cofounded the Chamber Music America and the Early Music America associations. He and his wife (and others) toured with the early music group the Waverly Consort. (81)
ROBERT HUNTER was a songwriter, guitarist and occasional singer. He was best known for collaborating with Jerry Garcia to produce some of the Grateful Dead’s best known tunes. (78)
JOHNNY CLEGG was a British born white South African singer, songwriter and guitarist who was a fierce opponent of the appalling Apartheid regime in that country. He played with, and encouraged black musicians and toured extensively. (66)
DICK BOCCELLI was the drummer in Bill Hailey and his Comets. He played on most of their big hits, including Rock Around the Clock. He was also a stage and TV actor. (95)
Born in Cyprus, LEON REDBONE first came to general notice in Canada when Bob Dylan caught his act and spread the word about him. Leon specialised in songs from the early years of the 20th century, and he performed them as they were originally written, often with introductions that most of us hadn’t realised they had.
He was a quirky, entertaining and talented singer and guitarist and he is sadly missed by those who managed to catch his performances (including me). Leon’s song is Are You Lonesome Tonight. (127, or so he claimed; probably 69)
JIM GLASER and CHUCK GLASER were both members of the Glaser Brothers, a country music singing group, whose best known member was Tompall. Both also had solo careers. They died within a month of each other. (81 & 83)
J.R. COBB was the guitarist for The Atlanta Rhythm Section, one of the finest groups composed of session musicians. He also wrote songs and played guitar on many hit singles. (75)
RAYMOND LEPPARD was an English conductor, harpsichord player and composer who specialised in Baroque music. He was instrumental in getting Baroque operas on to the world’s stages. (92)
PHIL MCCORMACK was the singer for the hard rock band Molly Hatchet. (58)
GUY WEBSTER was a photographer whose pictures adorned the album covers of The Doors, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, the Mamas and the Papas, The Rolling Stones and many others. (79)
DORIS DAY started as a singer in the late thirties and became a big hit in the forties and continued her success for several more decades. She was also one of the biggest film stars of her generation, often in rather fluffy films, but she made a number of interesting gritty ones as well.
Her wholesome persona on screen was quite at odds with her personal life, but we won’t go there. Today, Doris is singing Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps. (97)
HEATHER HARPER was a soprano best known for performing the works of Benjamin Britten, but was equally at home with the standard operatic and concert repertoire. (88)
KENT HARRIS was a Soul and Rhythm and blues songwriter who wrote hits for The Coasters, Bo Diddley, The Platters and others. (88)
JOE TERRY and DAVID WHITE were both founding members of the doowop, rock and roll group Danny and the Juniors who had several hits in the fifties. David wrote or co-wrote many of their hits. They died within weeks of each other. (78 & 79)
REGGIE YOUNG was one of the finest session guitarists who ever picked a note. He has appeared on records of blues, country, soul, rock & roll, you name it. Anyone with more than a record or two will have him playing somewhere. (82)
ETHEL ENNIS was a jazz singer who sang with Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Wynton Marsalis and many others. (86)
DAVE BARTHOLOMEW was one of the (many) towering figures in New Orleans music. He was a producer, composer, trumpeter, arranger, and songwriter, who wrote many hits for others, especially Fats Domino.
He was a trumpeter in several bands before he started producing and writing music. Besides Fats, he also produced T-Bone Walker, Smiley Lewis, Chris Kenner and many others. Dave performs one of his own songs, later a big hit for Fats, Four Winds. (100)
LES REED was an English songwriter who wrote hits for Tom Jones, Herman’s Hermits, Engelbert Humperdick and many others. (83)
GEOFF HARVEY was an Australian jazz pianist and saxophonist who went on to be a mainstay in television as a musical director for decades. (83)
GEORGE CHAMBERS was one of the four original Chambers Brothers who started out as a soul/gospel group and later added other members to become a full tilt rock band. (88)
Although American, SCOTT WALKER found fame in Britain as a member of the Walker Brothers (none of whom were named Walker, including Scott). He later veered into experimentalism, producing music that few wanted to hear. (76)
HAL BLAINE was a session drummer, one of the famous “Wrecking Crew” who were responsible for many hits in Los Angeles, notably under the direction of Phil Spector, and occasionally Brian Wilson. (90)
CHRIS WILSON was an Australian blues musician who was most famous for playing harmonica and singing, however, he also played guitar and saxophone.
For 20 years he was a school teacher until he decided to give music a try. From then on he was one of Australia’s most respected musicians. He was featured, usually playing harmonica, on the albums of many performers. From his album “Live At The Continental” here is Face In The Mirror. (62)
FRED FOSTER was a music producer who founded his own record company that was home to several later well-know country artists. He launched the careers of Roy Orbison and Dolly Parton, and co-wrote Me and Bobby McGee with Kris Kristofferson. (87)
JOHN STARLING was the guitarist and co-founder of The Seldom Scene, one of the most influential bluegrass bands around. (79)
KOFI BURBRIDGE was the keyboard player for the Tedeschi Trucks Band. He was also a noted flute and organ player, as well as any other instrument he could pick up. (57)
VINNIE BELL was a session guitarist who worked with Simon and Garfunkel, The Four Seasons and others. He was also noted for his technical innovations and invented the first electric 12 string guitar and an electric sitar. (87)
IAIN SUTHERLAND was the singer, guitarist and songwriter for the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver who were quite successful in the seventies. He also wrote songs for others, most notably Rod Stewart. (71)
RUSSELL SMITH was the singer and main songwriter for the fine southern rock group The Amazing Rhythm Aces. He also had a solo career. Quite a few of his songs have been covered by other performers, but his were generally the definitive versions.
This is Russell out in front of the Aces with one of his most popular songs, Third Rate Romance. (70)
GERALD ENGLISH was a British tenor who spent much of his career in Australia. He specialised in modern works – Britten, Stravinsky, Berg, Janácek and others. He also recorded early music successfully. (93)
RIC OCASEK was a co-founder, lead singer and guitarist for the late seventies and eighties new wave rock band The Cars. They had more than a dozen charting songs. (75)
JOHN COHEN was a guitarist, photographer and film maker amongst other things. He was a founding member of the influential acoustic group The New Lost City Ramblers. (87)
DONNIE FRITTS was a songwriter and session musician as well as a performer in his own right. He also played keyboards for Kris Kristofferson for more than 40 years. (76)
JOÃO GILBERTO was a Brazilian singer, guitarist, and songwriter who, pretty much single handedly, brought Bossa Nova to the outside world.
Besides making dozens of records in Brazil, he also performed with several famous jazz and pop musicians, most notably Frank Sinatra and Stan Getz. It’s the albums he made with Stan that brought him to worldwide notice.
From the first of these (“Getz/Gilberto”) we have probably his most famous song, The Girl from Ipanema. João sings and plays guitar and is later joined by his then wife Astrud Gilberto singing the second part. Also along for the ride is Antônio Carlos Jobim playing piano, and of course, Stan on tenor sax. (88)
LARRY TAYLOR was the original bass player for Canned Heat. He also worked with Tom Waits, John Mayall and the Monkees. (77)
D.A. PENNEBAKER was a documentary film maker who filmed some of the best moments of music from the sixties and seventies. These include “Monterey Pop”, “Don’t Look Back” (about Bob Dylan’s tour of Britain; the last gasp of his acoustic period), a Jimi Hendrix concert, some John Lennon, David Bowie, Little Richard and others.
He was also involved in the filming of the Woodstock Festival. (94)JIM PIKE was the cofounder and lead singer of The Lettermen a vocal group who were successful in the sixties. (82)
GINGER BAKER was the drummer for rock’s first supergroup Cream. He admired great jazz drummers and he brought elements of that style to what was ostensibly a blues/rock genre. (80)
It’s been a bad year for New Orleans musicians, and DR JOHN, born Malcolm Rebennack, is the latest. Mac, as he was universally known to his fellow musos, started out as a guitarist but switched to piano when he had a finger shot off during an altercation.
Besides his own concerts and records, he was greatly in demand as a session piano player. His music was darker and moodier than most, and a lot more interesting.
The good doctor plays with the guitarist Johnny Winter, in a jam session they had together, the song You Lie Too Much. (77)
There were considerably more, but I had to draw the line somewhere.