'What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others'. Pericles (495 - 429 b.c.)
b. Robert Dwayne Womack, 4th March 1944, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
d. 27th June 2014, Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
The singer, songwriter and musician, Bobby Womack, has died. Bobby was 70.
Bobby's death appears to have been caused by a combination of factors, including diabetes, prostate cancer, heart trouble, colon cancer and pneumonia.
According to Bobby's sister, Bobby passed away in his sleep, at home in Sherman Oaks in Los Angeles, California.
Bobby was scheduled to perform at the Womad festival in Malmesbury, in the U.K. next month.
His contribution to Black music over the last half a century has been immeasurable.
Despite his health isssues, compounded by many personal issues with songwriting partnerships, and personal relationships, Bobby's musical output (and hectic touring schedule) cannot be denied.
His two 'Poet' album releases, of the early Eighties, provided artistic benchmarks for the latest generation of singer, songwriters, emerging in the new millennium.
He recently released the album 'The Bravest Man in the Universe' (a set produced by Damon Albarn and Richard Russell) in 2012.
The passing of Bobby Womack has to be seen by the industry as a whole, as the passing of, not just a hugely important singer, songwriter, but the end of an era in mainstream music as a whole.
Bobby's funeral was held on the 10th of July 2014, at the City Of Refuge Church, Gardena, Los Angeles County, California.
mabon 'teenie' hodges
b. Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges, 3rd June 1946, Germantown, Tennessee, U.S.A.
d. 22nd June 2014, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.
The singer, songwriter and guitarist, Mabon ‘Teenie’ Hodges. has died. He was 68.
Mabon died from complications relating to emphysema.
At Hi Records, Mabon co-penned many of Al Green's R&B hits including ‘Here I Am’, ‘Full of Fire’, ‘Take Me to the River’ and ‘Love and Happiness’.
Born in Tennessee, he was one of 12 children.
Mabon was nicknamed ‘Teenie’ due to his small stature
He began playing guitar in various groups by the age of 12.
Mabon joined Willie Mitchell’s Hi Rhythm imprint in 1965 and played on numerous recordings for the Hi Records soul label throughout the 1960’s and 70’s.
He collaborated with the likes of Syl Johnson, performing on the Ann Peebles’ evergreen ‘I Can’t Stand The Rain’.
In recent years Mabon has worked with the likes of Sam Moore, Boz Scaggs, Mark Ronson, and Drake.
b. Gerald Goffin, 11th February 1939, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
d. 19th June 2014, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
The lyricist and songwriter, Gerry Goffin has died. He was 75.
Gerry died from natural causes at his Los Angeles home.
The ex-husband of the singer and songwriter, Carole King, penned many of pop musics classics throughout his lifetime.
These included ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’, ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and ‘Natural Woman’.
Gerry grew up in Queens with his mother and grandfather.
He met Carole King when both were students at Queens College.
They married in August 1959, when he was 20 and she was just 17.
Carole, largely, composed most of the music and Gerry penned most of the lyrics.
Gerry also worked as a chemist, whilst Carole was employed as a secretary.
Their first hit, ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’, became a number 1 in 1961 for the Shirelles.
Gerry and Carole became one of the many writing teams at New York's Brill Building in the early 1960s.
The couple also penned further hits, including songs for the Cookies (‘Chains’), the Chiffons (‘One Fine Day’), Little Eva (‘The Locomotion’), ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’ for Bobby Vee, ‘Every Breath You Take’ for Gene Pitney, ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ for the Monkees, ‘Crying in the Rain’ for the Everly Brothers, ‘Up On the Roof’ for the Drifters and ‘You've Got a Friend’ for James Taylor.
Gerry and Carole divorced in 1968, though they continued to collaborate at times.
He later penned the Whitney Houston hit ‘Saving All My Love For You’ and Diana Ross's ‘Theme From Mahoghany’, with Michael Masser.
Gerry and Carole were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
He is survived by his wife and five children.
b. Horace Ward Martin Tavares Silva, 2nd September 1928, Norwalk, Connecticut, U.S.A.
d. 18th June 2014, New Rochelle, New York, U.S.A.
The musician, bandleader and composer, Horace Silver has died.
Horace died from natural causes in New Rochelle, New York, on the 18th of June 2014. He was 85.
He is best remembered for his composition ‘Song For My Father’, which was later to form the backbone of the Steely Dan evergreen, ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That number’.
Born in 1928 in Norwalk, Connecticut, Horace’s father originated from the island of Maio in Cape Verde.
His mother was from New Canaan, Connecticut.
Setting out as a tenor saxophonist, Horace later became proficient on the keyboards.
He became part of the saxophonist Stan Getz, who gave Horace his start in the business.
Later, in New York, he formed the Jazz Messengers with Art Blakey.
He was also a member of the Miles Davis All Stars.
From 1956, Horace recorded exclusively for Blue Note Records.
At Blue Note, Horace collaborated with many artists, including the saxophonists Junior Cook and Hank Mobley, trumpeter Blue Mitchell, and drummer Louis Hayes.
In 1963 Silver created a new group featuring Joe Henderson, who recorded the album ‘Song for My Father’.
When he left Blue Note he continued to record.
Horace was one of the first pioneers of the style known as hard bop.
In 2005, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded him its President's Merit Award.
b. James Victor ‘Jimmy’ Scott , 17th July 1925, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
d. 12th June 2014, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A.
‘Little’ Jimmy Scott, the jazz vocalist, died on the 12th of June 2014.
Jimmy died in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas, from a cardiac arrest. He was 88.
Famous for his high contralto voice, (a result of Kallmann's syndrome), Jimmy eventually grew to a height of five feet seven inches.
The condition resulted in him never reaching puberty.
Jimmy was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and sang at an early age in the church choir.
Orphaned at 13 years old, he became ‘Little Jimmy Scott’ in the Lionel Hampton Band.
In 1963, Jimmy signed to Ray Charles' Tangerine Records label, releasing ‘Falling in Love is Wonderful’.
At the close of the Sixties, Jimmy returned to Cleveland to work as a hospital orderly, shipping clerk and as an elevator operator in a hotel.
Jimmy went through something of a renaissance in 1991 when he sang at the funeral of his friend Doc Pomus.
Lou Reed utilised Jimmy on his song ‘Power and Glory’ from his 1992 album ‘Magic and Loss’.
Jimmy also featured in the David Lynch television series ‘Twin Peaks’.
In 1998 Jimmy released the album ‘Holding Back The Years’, which featured cover versions of the songs ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, ‘Jealous Guy’, ‘Almost Blue’ and ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word’.
In 2012, he joined the 11th annual Independent Music Awards judging panel to assist independent musicians' careers.
During his long career, Jimmy performed with Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Lester Young, Lionel Hampton, Charles Mingus, Fats Navarro, Quincy Jones, Bud Powell, Ray Charles, Wynton Marsalis, David Byrne, Lou Reed, Flea, Michael Stipe, and Antony & The Johnsons.
In 2007, Jimmy received the 2007 NEA Jazz Master Award.
In 2013, at Cleveland State University in his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, he was inducted into inaugural class of the R&B Music Hall of Fame.
with johnnie taylor
b. Donald Davis, 25th October 1938, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
d. 5th June 2014, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
The Grammy Award-winning writer and record producer, Don Davis, has died. Don was 75.
Don was also a financial banker.
He was, originally, a session musician at Motown Records.
As a songwriter, Don’s greatest success arrived in 1968 with Johnnie Taylor’s hit ‘Who's Making Love’.
The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and number five on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1971, Don bought the United Sound Recording Studio.
In 1976 he penned and produced Johnnie Taylor's hit ‘Disco Lady’.
The song spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and six weeks on the Billboard R&B chart.
A year later Don produced ‘You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)’ for Billy Davis, Jr. and Marilyn McCoo.
He also produced the blue eyed singer Larry Santos for Casablanca Records in 1976 (who recorded ‘We Can’t Hide It Anymore’.
In 1975, he started and headed the RCA distributed label, Tortoise International.
Don was also a Stax producer and was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
Don is survived by his wife, Kiko, and three children.
b. Ralph Pruitt, 4th May 1940, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
d. 3rd June 2014, Sinai Grace Hospital, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
The last original member of the Detroit R&B group The Fantastic Four, Ralph Pruitt, has died.
Ralph passed away at the Sinai Grace Hospital in the city.
He was 74 and passed away from natural causes.
The Fantastic Four (named after the Marvel Comics heroes) recorded for the Ric-Tic, Westbound, Epic and Motown Records imprints.
The Fantastic Four are probably, best remembered for their 1967 hit, ‘The Whole World is a Stage’.
The song reached number 6 on Billboard’s R&B charts.
The group charted again, later, with ‘I Love You Madly’.
The Fantastic Four recorded for Westbound, releasing several successful sides, including ‘I Got to Have Your Love’ and ‘Bring Your Own Funk’ (produced by Dennis Coffey).
Ralph left the group for a period, later rejoining their ranks, under the name The New Fantastic Four’, for a short time in 2013.
He is survived by four daughters and one son, and 14 grandchildren.
Ralph’s ex-wife was Nedra Denny.
b. Marguerite Ann Johnson, 4th April 1928, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.
d. 28th May 2014, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, U.S.A.
The American author and poet, Maya Angelou, has died. Maya was 86.
She was found by her caretaker and had reportedly been in bad health.
Maya had canceled recent scheduled appearances.
The first of her autobiographies ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’, was published in 1969.
The title of the book became a song, narrated by Maya (herself), on a debut album by the group Buckshot LeFonque in 1994.
Maya published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry.
She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.
In 1993, Maya recited her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ at President Bill Clinton's inauguration.
She was a hugely respected orator regarding the rights of the Black person, and women in general.
Maya’s books address issues such as racism, identity and family.
She was a fine orator and messenger of positivity, articulating her messages with clarity and wisdom.
b. Cubie Edwin Burke, 8th November 1964, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
d. 14th May 2014, Smyrna, Georgia, U.S.A.
Cubie Edwin Burke, who sang with his family group, the Stairsteps, for a short while in the late 1960's, has died. He was 49.
Cubie suffered from a brain injury a few years ago. He passed away in his sleep, and his passing was not related to an A.I.D.S. condition as reported in some circles.
The Five Stairsteps & Cubie released hit records from 1968 to 1969 on both Curtom and Buddha Records.
Cubie was the youngest member of the Burke family.
As an adult he became a professional dancer.
Cubie performed with The Dance Theater of Harlem, The Atlanta Ballet, Alvin Ailey, various Las Vegas theatrical shows, at the Olympics, along with performing with Prince amongst others.
Cubie was the only Black American male lead dancer of the Atlanta Ballet.
He performed in two Olympic closing ceremonies in Barcelona and Los Angeles.
b. Joseph Benjamin Wilder, 22nd February 1922, Colwyn, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
d. 9th May 2014, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
The jazz trumpeter, bandleader, and composer, Joseph Benjamin Wilder has died. He was 92 and passed away from congestive heart failure.
Born in Philadelphia, in the 40's and 50's, he played in the orchestras of Jimmie Lunceford, Herbie Fields, Sam Donahue, Lucky Millinder, Noble Sissle, Dizzy Gillespie, and the Count Basie Orchestra.
Joe also played for Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Johnny Mathis, Harry Belafonte, Eileen Farrell and Tony Bennett.
He was one of the first thousand African Americans to serve in the Marines during World War II.
Joe played the trumpet in the Malcolm X Orchestra in the Spike Lee film biography, ‘Malcolm X’ in 1992.
The National Endowment for the Arts honored him with its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award for 2008.
jessica cleaves (friends of distinction)
b. Jessica Marguerite Cleaves, 10th December 1948, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
d. 2nd May 2014, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Jessica Cleaves was lead singer for the R&B group, The Friends of Distinction in the Sixties.
Jessica was the daughter of Mary Gladys Cleaves and Lane C. Cleaves II.
Her mother was a librarian, her father a Postal worker.
The Friends of Distinction was formed by Harry Elston and Floyd Butler.
The group featured Jessica and Barbara Jean Love.
Charlene Gibson replaced Barbara during her pregnancy.
In the Seventies, Jessica sang with other R&B groups, including Earth, Wind & Fire, George Clinton, Parliament, and Funkadelic.
The film maker, Armand Araujo, is filming her life story.
The film is titled ‘Jessica Cleaves, My Friends of Distinction’.
dj e-z rock
b. Rodney 'Skip' Bryce, Harlem, New York U.S.A.
d. 27th April, 2014, Harlem, New York U.S.A.
Hip-hop star DJ E-Z Rock has been found dead age 46.
The producer, real name Rodney Bryce, passed away on the 27th of April. The cause of death has yet to be confirmed.
On the 27th of April 2014, Biz Markie announced on Twitter that DJ E-Z Rock had died.
b. Deon Jackson, 26th January 1946, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.
d. 19th April 2014, Wheeling, illinois, U.S.A.
The R&B singer, Deon Jackson, has died. He was 68.
Deon passed away in his sleep at home.
Born in Ann Arbor, in 1946, Deon was part of several bands whilst he attended Ann Arbor High School.
Deon was signed by the producer Ollie McLaughlin whilst he was still at the School.
Ollie took Deon to the Atlantic Records imprint in 1964, releasing ‘Hush, Little Baby’ b/w ‘You Said You Loved Me’ as his debut release.
Deon released one further 45, called ‘Come Back Baby’ b/w ‘Nursery Rhymes’ in the same year.
A final Atlantic single entitled ‘Someday The Sun Will Shine’ was never released.
Both Deon’s Atlantic sides were local hits in Michigan.
He then switched labels to the Carla Records imprint, releasing ‘Love Makes The World Go 'Round’ b/w ‘Hello Stranger’ in 1964.
This release was supported by a heavy tour schedule that year.
‘Love Makes the World Go Round’ became a pop hit (number 11), and was followed by several other Carla singles, running up until 1968.
The song also reached number 3 on the R&B singles chart.
An album, entitled ‘Love Makes the World Go Round’ was released as part of the Carla Records series, on the ATCO imprint.
In 1972, Deon released one single for the Shout label, entitled ‘I'll Always Love You’ b/w ‘Life Can Be That Way’, after which Deon’s recording career came to an end.
He was still living and performing in the Chicago area long after his Sixties career finished.
Deon later became a teacher and counselor in the Wheaton, Illinois, school district.
little joe cook
b. Joe Cook, 29th December 1922, South Philadelphia, Pennsylania, U.S.A.
d. 15th April 2014, Framingham, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
The R&B singer, Little Joe Cook has died. He was 91.
Little Joe was famous for his 1957 song ‘Peanuts’, which reached number 22 on the Billboard Top 100.
Born in South Philadelphia, Little Joe sang in his local church, where his mother was a preacher.
When he was 12, he and his cousins had formed a gospel vocal quartet called the Evening Stars.
The group performed on the radio in Philadelphia.
Little Joe made his first recording in 1949.
Two years later, his group recorded ‘Say A Prayer for the Boys In Korea’ for the Apex imprint.
Little Joe also participated in other lines of work, including shipbuilding for the US Navy.
He also worked as a delivery driver.
At the tun of the Fifties, Little Joe looked to further his career in the R&B industry.
He was asked to join The Soul Stirrers when Sam Cooke left, but declined.
Joe put together a doo-wop vocal group called the Thrillers.
little joe and the thrillers
The Thrillers featured Farrie Hill, Richard Frazier, Donald Burnett and Henry Pascal.
Signing to OKeh Records in 1956, the group released their first single, entitled ‘Do the Slop’.
The song was a hit in Philadelphia and New York, which lead to an appearance at Harlem’s Apollo Theater.
A follow up song entitled ‘Peanuts’, was penned by Joe, and released in 1957.
The success of the song (which reached number 22 on the national pop chart) realised an appearance on the show ‘American Bandstand’.
Joe’s style of singing was influential to the likes of Frankie Valli, who recorded his own version of ‘Peanuts’ with The Four Seasons.
The Thrillers continued to release singles on OKeh up until 1961.
The group then disbanded, with Joe going solo, touring with the likes of B. B. King and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland.
Little Joe formed the group The Sherrys, with his daughters, Delthine and Dinell Cook, along with Charlotte Butler and Delores ‘Honey’ Wylie.
The group released ‘Pop Pop Pie-Pie’ in 1962.
Joe relocated to Boston in the late 1960s, later taking a residency at a club in Massachusetts, from 1980.
He retired in 2007.
b. Gilbert Alexander Askey, 9th March 1925, Austin, Texas, U.S.A.
d. 9th April 2014, Melbourne, Australia.
The musician, composer, producer, and musical director, Gil Askey has died. He was 89.
Gil Askey is very much an unsung genius in the Soul Music genre.
Born in Austin, Texas in 1925, Gil grew up in East Austin, and attended the L.C. Anderson High School.
At the school he developed a lifelong association with musicians in the school’s Yellow Jackets marching band.
As a child, Gil saw Louis Armstrong when he was 8 years old, which encouraged a young Gil to pick up and learn the trumpet.
When he was 17, he left Texas and relocated to Chicago.
During his time at University, Gil completed a medical scholarship, with a view to becoming a doctor.
During the Sixties, Gil was considered to be one of the producers who were responsible for the Motown Sound.
With Diana Ross, Gil is best known for his work on ‘Lady Sings the Blues’ (in 1972), ‘Diana Ross Live! The Lady Sings... Jazz & Blues: Stolen Moments’ (in 1992) and ‘Mahogany’ (in 1975).
As a musician, his chosen instrument was the trumpet, performing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie.
As a musical director he collaborated with numerous musicians, including Diana Ross and The Supremes, the Four Tops, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, and Gladys Knight.
His production credits include arrangements for The Four Tops, Diana Ross, Curtis Mayfield, The Jones Girls, The Impressions, Jermaine Jackson, Linda Clifford, Keni Burke, Mavis Staples, Leroy Hutson, The Temptations, The Dazz Band, Hi Inergy, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight & the Pips and Jazmine Sullivan, many of whom he also performed for on their albums.
In 1980 he was married to a woman called Hellen, whom he first met in 1973, and the couple had a child.
The couple then relocated to Melbourne in Australia.
Gil said ‘ I came to Australia in 1973. As y'all might know the story, I was musical director for Diana Ross. And some ladies... We were caught in the rain, and this voice, ‘Hey, you want a ride?’ We're trying to get back to the Southern Cross Hotel from Festival Hall. And six musicians and five singers went and jumped in this van, and seven years later I married the lady that was driving that van.’
Gil returned to performing in 1993.
He continued to perform right up to his death in Melbourne on the 9th of April 2014, working and educating younger musicians.
Although Gil left Austin in 1942, he returned to the town frequently to visit family and friends, stated his cousin, state Rep. Dawnna Dukes.
b. Wayne Maurice Henderson, 24th September 1939, Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
d. 5th April 2014, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
The trombonist and composer, Wayne Henderson, has died. Wayne was 74.
Wayne passed away in Los Angeles on the 5th of April 2014.
In 1961, Wayne co-founded the jazz group, The Jazz Crusaders.
He left the group in 1975 to pursue a career in producing, setting up his own company At Home Productions.
At Home produced a prolific portfolio of Soul and Fusion based material by the likes of Ronnie Laws, The L.A. Boppers, Bobby Lyle, Pleasure, Side Effect, David Oliver, The McCrary's, Gabor Szabo, Allspice, Narada Michael Walden, Chico Hamilton, Hilary, Smoke, Michael White and Arthur Adams, amongst others.
He also recorded two successful duet albums with the vibraphonist Roy Ayers.
Wayne revived The Jazz Crusaders in 1995.
In 2007, he took a position with the California College of Music in Pasadena, California.
b. Frankie Warren Knuckles, Jr., 18th January 1955, Bronx, New York city, New York, U.S.A.)
d. 31st March 2014, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
The highly regarded DJ and Record Producer, Frankie Knuckles, has died. He was 59.
Frankie died in Chicago from complications related to diabetes.
Sometimes known as ‘The Godfather of House Music’, Frankie Knuckles was born in the Bronx.
He studied, originally in textile design, before beginning a career in deejaying.
Frankie began his musical career at The Continental Baths with another deejay, Larry Levan.
He later relocated from New York City to Chicago.
In 1977, Frankie was asked to deejay, on a regular basis at the Warehouse Club in the city.
He remained at the venue up until 1982, when he set up the Power Plant venue.
Frankie purchased a drum machine, and, along with fellow musician, Jamie Principle, worked on releasing vinyl copies of the reel to reel taped songs entitled, ‘Your Love’ and ‘Baby Wants to Ride’.
The Chicago producer Chip E. began working with Frankie, releasing Frankie’s first recording, ‘You Can't Hide’, (with vocal sessions performed by Ricky Dillard)
After the Power Plant closed in 1987, Frankie deejayed in the UK.
With the growing interest in Chicago’s House Music scene, Frankie production skills became very much in demand.
He began a series of his own Def Classic Mixes, partnering David Morales on Def Mix Productions.
Frankie’s debut album ‘Beyond the Mix’, released on Virgin Records, featured his biggest hit, ‘The Whistle Song’.
His ‘Classic’ mixes continued, with Frankie remixing tracks by the likers of Donna Gardier, Innocence, David Peaston, Miles Jaye, Lisa Stansfield, First Choice, Electribe 101, Will Downing, Womack & Womack, Adeva, Inner City, Mica Paris, Richard Rogers, Melba Moore, Sydney Youngblood, Lalah Hathaway, Kenny Thomas, En Vogue, Kym Mazelle, Sounds Of Blackness, Alexander O’Neal, Ray Simpson, Chic, Was (Not Was), Swing Out Sister, Loose Ends, Lulu, Janet Jackson, Luther Vandross, Chante Moore and Alison Limerick amongst others.
His own song ‘It’s Hard Sometimes’ was very well received on U.K. radio.
Into the Nineties, Frankie’s talents were utilised by many major artists, including, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, Eternal and Toni Braxton.
In 1995, he released his second album entitled ‘Welcome to the Real World’.
In 2004, he a third solo album entitled ‘A New Reality’.
In 2005, Frankie was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame.
b. Anthony Neil Wedgwood Benn, 3rd April 1925, Marylebone, London, United Kingdom.
d. 14th March 2014, West London, United Kingdom.
The Rt Hon Tony Benn, a Labour MP for half a century, has died. Tony was 88.
As with the obituary regarding Lucy Vodden (Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds) here, I have been thinking for a while now, as to whether to post a piece, following the passing of Tony Benn, on this page, or on the Opinion page here. I knew Lucy well, and I had met with Tony several times over the years.
Politicians and Soul Music? Odd aquaintances, although, if I mentioned 'What's Going On' and Marvin Gaye, or 'Back To The World' and Curtis Mayfield, well perhaps not so. Different era's, but Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield and Tony Benn? Perhaps the songsheets they all sang from, aren't so far apart.
Today, no musician is brave enough to write a political concept album, in the way Marvin and Curtis once did. It would be the equivalent of Beyonce or Alicia Keys writing an album regarding the suffering of the troops coming back from the continuing wars across the globe. There is no record company executive who would entertain running with such an album, in the way Berry Gordy once did. Politically and musically, we have all lost our bite.
The photo above (top) was taken back in 1981. I had already shaken hands with Tony (and recorded our conversation) at the Marx Memorial Library earlier that year.
I really admired Tony Benn. He fought for his country during the second World War, was well educated, and explained all of his arguments on a personal level concisely and clearly. A politician that made sense, in a parliament, filled wall to wall, by those who spoke in forked tongues.
At the time we began to start crossing paths, he represented a part of the Labour party which wished to remain true to it's roots.
Back in the day, there were those who were laying the foundations of today's Labour Party, who, later in 2014, have about as much to do with Socialism as the National Socialists did in Germany prior to the outbreak of war in 1939. Socialism by name, but not much else. Certainly, Blair and Millipede are no fascists, however they, if the hard truths be told, they were and are politically right leaning liberals.
The U.K. is undoubtedly a conservative country. Notice I used no capital in the word 'conservative'. Most folks think we have too many immigrants, the death penalty should be brought back, we should have national service, and we should be out of the EEC. Nothing to do with any 'liberalism', but highly useful if you want to, perhaps, get your Conservative party into power. You have the media at your disposal.
Tony once told me that he once picked up a copy of one of the tabloids, to see a picture of himself sunning himself on a West Indian beach, reading all about how Tony Benn was wasting taxpayers money on long hot holidays, only to discover that the person concerned was in fact his brother. The papers seldom say they are sorry, unless they are dragged kicking and screaming into the High Courts, so if he was in the West Indies, he was in the West Indies, probably chatting to Lord Lucan!
at radio london in the very early eighties
At the tail end of the Seventies, and mainly due to the brilliant Saturday Robbie Vincent show on Radio London, many of us who followed Soul music very avidly, set up group's such as the Brixton Front Line, who attended all dayers, and represented like minded groups of friends in their localities. The, London based, Beat Route punters did not have a group as such, which gave me the idea of setting up a group of left wing, like minded, political Soul people.
The Tony Benn Funk Force was very much a tongue-in-cheek ensemble of Soul fans, who attended some of the very late night clubs in Central London. The, aforementioned, Beat Route, the Wag Club etc. Deejays, such as the like of Steve Lewis at the Beat Route, picked up on the cause, and so the group became popular over a five year period, covering the time that Mrs Thatcher came to power, up until the Miners Strike. At the time, another group, called Red Wedge, were voicing their musical political support for the left in the politics of the U.K. Junior Giscombe, Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and the Communards were some who voiced their 'Rock and Roll beliefs'. On the left, it was the very much smaller TBFF.
the shirt I am wearing reads 'left wing soul boy'
Tony Benn heard of our group. He became very interested, as did a few other politicians of the left. I stopped the group at the point that I became contacted by one of the larger national newspapers, who were reprensenting the centre of the political scene. Not wishing for Tony to become the subject of the satirists, I thought the group had run it's course. At that time, anything that could be used as a political tool to undermine and ridicule Tony Benn, was let off the Fleet Street leash. He was even the subject of media ridule, as a result of him contracting Parkinson's disease.
In all of the contacts I had with Tony, he was the one of the most polite and considerate people I had ever met. He would make time for anyone, and would, more importantly, simply listen.
Tony Benn was very much the man who would follow the peaceful political path's laid down by Ghandhi and Martin Luther King. Articulate, peaceful protest was his way.
Simply put, Tony Benn was the only politician, who ever made any political sense to me. I asked him in 1981 'Why are the government messing around with the Health Service so much'? His response was 'Because the Health Service represents pure socialism in action'. He was absolutely right. Mrs Thatcher did her damnest to bring it to it's knees by flooding the place with middle management, however, she misjudged how much people love the institution (warts and all). The alternative doesn't bear thinking about.
My deepest condolences go to Caroline and Tony's children, Stephen, Hilary, Melissa and Joshua, along with all of the grandchildren. They are very lucky people to have had shared their lives with a very good and decent man. I feel the world is a poorer place without him being around in some corner, arguing the cause.
b. Rev. Charles Dee Love Jnr., 18th April 1945, Salina, Kansas, U.S.A.
d. 6th March 2014, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.
The co-founder, and lead singer of the group Bloodstone, Charles Love, has died. He was 68.
The news was posted on the group’s Facebook page.
According to close family friend and manager Lewis Garrett, Charles died from complications of pneumonia and had been battling emphysema for several years.
Charles was the son of the late Charles D. Love, Sr. and Loretta C. Love.
Bloodstone hailed from Kansas City, and were formed in 1962.
When the band were at high school, they formed a doo-wop group called The Sinceres.
The Sinceres performed live, accompanied by a local group known as the Smokin’ Emeralds.
By the end of the decade, the Sinceres comprised of Melvin Webb, Roger Durham, Charles Love, Charles McCormick, Harry Williams and Willis Draffen.
The group relocated to Los Angeles where they teamed up with the management duo George Braunstein and Ron Hamady.
Melvin Webb was replaced by Eddie Summers, and the group decided to change their name to Bloodstone.
Bloodstone began touring Europe and laned a deal in the U.K. with the Decca Records imprint.
The groups line-up, at this time, comprised of Charles McCormick, Willis Draffen, Jr., Charles Love, Harry Williams, Roger Durham and Eddie Summers.
Bloodstones first album was a self titled project, which featured the songs ‘That's The Way We Make Our Music’, and ‘Girl (You Look So Fine)’.
Their second album, entitled ‘Natural High’ realised instant success.
The title track from the album reached the U.S. R&B Top 10, and number 10 on the National Pop charts.
The success of the single and album saw a quick succession of album releases, including ‘Unreal’ (in 1973), ‘I Need Time’ (in 1974), ‘Riddle Of The Sphinx (in 1974, and featuring ‘My Little Lady’), ‘Train Ride To Hollywood’ (in 1975, a soundtrack in which the group featured), ‘Do You Wanna Do A Thing’ (in 1976) and ‘Lullaby Of Broadway’ (also in 1976).
Bloodstone achieved some chart success with the singles, ‘Never Let You Go’, ‘Outside Woman’ and ‘My Little Lady’.
The group continued to tour, performing with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Elton John, and The Impressions.
The album ‘Natural High’ sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in July 1973.
In 1982, the band realised a surprising renaissance with their album ‘We Go A Long Way Back’ on CBS Records.
The album featured the ballad title track, along with the club favourite ‘My Love Grows Stronger’.
Bloodstone continued to perform throughout the Eighties and Nineties, releasing further albums, including ‘Party’ in 1984.
The group performed up until recently, with the original members Charles McCormick, Charles Love, Harry Williams and Donald Brown.
Founding member Willis Draffen died on the 8th of February 2002 at the age of 56.
b. Frank Kevin Reed, 16th September 1954, Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A.
d. 26th February 2014, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
The recent lead vocalist for the group, the Chi-Lites, Frank Reed, has died. He was 59.
His death was announced on Facebook by his brother Myles Reed, Jr. on the 26th of February 2014.
Frank joined the Chi-Lites in 1988.
He was brought in to succeed the late Eugene Record in the group.
Frank joined Marshall Thompson, Robert "Squirrel" Lester, and Anthony Watson Tto continue the classic group’s legacy.
Anthony Thompson had previously replaced Frank in the past.
Frank sang lead on the album ‘Help Wanted (Heroes Are In Short Supply)’ in 1998.
Previously, Frank had sung lead vocals in the local Chicago based group Michigan Avenue.
Michigan Avenue also featured the group member, Clarence Johnson.
The group disbanded and Frank auditioned for a departing Eugene Record in the Chi-Lites (with whom Frank had performed on stage in the past).
Frank was the older brother of the actor, Darryl Alan Reed, and the first cousin of the singer Laurnea.
At the time of his passing, news was reported that Marshall Thompson of the group, had suffered a stroke.
b. Floyd Singletary, 25th January 1954, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
d. 20th February 2014, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Floyd Taylor, the son of the Soul singer Johnnie Taylor, has died at the age of sixty.
The news was passed on by a family friend.
Floyd had recently been touring, and was due to play in Merrillville, Indiana next month.
He was one of four brothers and two sisters, and also had a family of his own (consisting of two boys and two girls).
Born in Chicago in 1954 to Mildred Singletary, Floyd was once a member of a rock group called the Peace Band in 1973.
The group remained together until 1976, after which he toured with his fathers group.
During the 80’s Floyd submitted some of his own songs to various record companies.
Some of the companies turned him down, as he sounded too much like the singer, Johnnie Taylor!
After he landed a deal with Malaco Records, Floyd, subsequently toured with many major artists including Natalie Cole, Tavares' The O'Jays, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Johnnie Guitar Watson, Bobby Womack, Bobby Bland, Tyrone Davis, Marvin Sease, Buddy Guy, Otis Clay, and Bobby Rush.
Floyd released 4 albums during his career, two for Malaco, one for CDS Records, along with his final album for Artia Records, entitled ’Shut Um Down’.
The latter album featuring Floyd’s own take on his fathers evergreen song ‘What About My Love?’.
Floyd Taylor was voted the 1998 Entertainer of the Year by the Chicago Blues Society.
anna ruby gordy gaye
b. Anna Ruby Gordy, 12th December 1921, Anna Ruby Gordy, Milledgeville, Georgia, U.S.A.
d. 31st January 2014, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
The songwriter and businesswoman, Anna Gordy Gaye, has died. Anna was 92.
She is, probably, best remembered as the ex-wife of the late Marvin Gaye.
Divorced from Marvin during the Seventies, Marvin penned his 1978 album ‘Here My Dear’ as a focal point relating to financial disputes between the pair during their painful seperation.
Lesser known, are Anna’s songwriting skills, showcased by Marvin’s evergreen ‘What’s Going On’ benchmark release, with Anna contributing to some of the songs on the classic album.
She also penned material (with Marvin) on the Originals (‘Baby, I’m For Real’), and also set up her own Anna Records imprint during the latter half of the 1950’s.
Born in Milledgeville, Georgia, Anna was one of eight children.
Her father relocated to Detroit, and the family followed shortly afterwards.
Anna set-up Anna Records with Gwen and Billy Davis in 1958, prior to her brothers creation of the legendary Motown records imprint.
Anna distributed Tamla's first hit record, ‘Money (That's What I Want)’ for the singer Barrett Strong.
Anna Records artist roster included, David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye and Joe Tex.
The label ceased operations in 1961, with Anna Records artists merging into the Tamla Records label.
When Anna joined her brothers label, she instigated theArtist Development class (later becoming it’s president).
She developed her songwriting skills, and became a staff writer at Motown.
She and, her then husband, Marvin Gaye, penned The Originals songs ‘Baby, I'm For Real’ and ‘The Bells’.
Anna also co penned Marvin’s own songs for the ‘What’s Going On’ album, namely ‘Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)’ and ‘God Is Love’.
Anna had originally met Marvin in 1960.
She was several years older than the singer, and after a couple of years dating, they were married in the summer of 1963.
She helped pen songs for Marvin’s solo album ‘The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye’.
Marvin wrote his song ‘Pride and Joy’ as an autobiographical reference to their happy marriage.
The marriage was not without controversy, with the couple adopting a child in 1966, originally stated to have been the couple’s song, however the child was allegedly reported to have been the actress, Denise Gordy.
The couple relocated to Hollywood, however, by 1973, their marriage had failed.
Marvin left home, and Anna settled with a female partner called Janis Hunter.
A very messy divorce began which lasted for a year and a half, becoming finalised in late 1977.
To meet the divorce settlement, Marvin agreed to give all the proceeds for his next album to Anna.
The album ‘Here My Dear’ realised 4 sides of anger, imparted at Anna from the singer.
Ironically, in the midst of the disputes, ‘Here My Dear’ is, today, seen as one of Marvin Gaye’s finest works.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Marvin and Anna had put their disputes behind them, and she began attending release launches of Marvin’s subsequent works.
The couple remained friends up until the death of Marvin Gaye in 1984.
Anna, and Marvin's three children, spread Marvin’s ashes near the Pacific Ocean following his cremation.
Anna Gordy made her last public appearance, with her brother Berry Gordy, in 2008.
the mighty hannibal
b. James Timothy Shaw, 9th August 1939, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
d. 30th January 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
James Timothy Shaw, a.k.a. The Mighty Hannibal, has died. He was 74.
James was a singer, producer and songwriter, often known for his flamboyant clothing.
His songs often carried themes covering various political themes.
Born in Atlanta, James was originally a doo-wop singer.
In 1954, he sand with a group called The Overalls (whose line-up also featured Robert Butts, Edward Patten and Merald ‘Bubba’ Knight, later to become part of Gladys Knight and the Pips).
In 1958 James relocated to Los Angeles where he became Jimmy Shaw.
He also performed as a singer with Johnny Otis.
I’n 1959, he changed his stage name to ‘Hannibal'.
James released sides for several imprints including Pan World label and King Records.
In the early Sixties, Hannibal also worked as a pimp in Los Angeles, which costed him his recording contracts at the time.
He relocated back to Atlanta, where he signed for the Shurfine imprint.
James became interested in the situation in Vietnam and penned the song ‘Hymn No. 5’ with his wife.
The song later became his best known recording, charting at no. 21 on the Billboard R&B chart.
His troubles continued when he became addicted to heroin, later spending eighteen months in prison for failing to pay a tax bill.
James overcame his personal problems and began the 1970s under the name of King Hannibal.
Various albums followed, including ‘Truth’, (in 1973), along with several sides for the Aware imprint.
He recorded Gospel material, and took on acting roles.
By the late Nineties, he had moved out of the limelight, but returned to recording releasing ‘Who Told You That’ (in 1998) and ‘Hannibalism’ (in 2001).
He lost his eyesight in 2002 as a result of glaucoma, but later contributed the Elton John and Leon Russell's album ‘The Union’, penning ‘There's No Tomorrow’” on the album.
b. Johnny Allen, 20th September 1917, Uchee, Russell County, Alabama, U.S.A.
d. 29th January 2014, Henry Ford Hospital , Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
The arranger and pianist, Johnny Allen, has died. Johnny was 96. He passed away from complications relating to pneumonia.
Johnny arranged for numerous Black artists, including Isaac Hayes, the Dramatics, the Staples Singers, the Temptations, the Originals, Luther Ingram, Stevie Wonder and the Supremes.
He was awarded a Grammy Award, along with Isaac Hayes, for his arrangement of the ‘Theme from Shaft’.
Born in Uchee, Alabama, Johnny grew up in Chicago before relocating to Detroit in 1936.
Teaching himself piano, from the early 1940s, he worked as musical director at the Club Congo.
The club was located in the basement of the Norwood Hotel, where Johnny led a 12-piece band that accompanied visiting acts such as Billie Holiday and the Mills Brothers.
Johnny began working for Motown in 1959, writing arrangements for the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and the Supremes amongst others.
He was later to work for the Stax imprint.
At Stax he worked with the Staple Singers, the Dramatics and Isaac Hayes.
Johnny worked on the arrangements for Isaac Hayes’ album ‘Hot Buttered Soul’, later, working with Isaac on the soundtrack to the film ‘Shaft’.
At the 14th Annual Grammy Awards in 1972, Johnny and Isaac jointly won the award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for the ‘Theme From Shaft’.
Johnny was a regular performer with various jazz groups in Detroit, right up until he was in his nineties.
He passed away at the Henry Ford Hospital as a result of complications from pneumonia.
Johnny Allen is survived by his children Angela Allen, John Jr. Allen, David Allen, Brian Allen, Carol Allen and Quincy Allen.
b. Joseph Stephen Woods Jr., 2nd July 1951, Chatham, Virginia, U.S.A.
d. 28th January 2014, U.S.A.
The R&B singer, Stevie Woods has died. Stevie was 62.
Stevie was a popular Soul singer, for a short period in the early Eighties, releasing 4 albums, three of which were recorded between 1981 - 1983.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s Stevie was married to the Hollywood actress Cheri (Lewis) Woods.
He was also a former Marine and a graduate of Austin Community College.
In 1981, he signed with the Ariola Records imprint, releasing his debut album, ‘Take Me To Your Heaven’, which reached number 153 on the Billboard 200 and number 44 on Billboard’s R&B Albums chart.
A single, ‘Steal the Night’, from the album, became Stevie’s biggest song to date, reaching number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 36 on Billboard’s R&B Singles chart.
He released two further singles from the album (‘Fly Away’ and ‘Just Can’t Win ‘Em’) with varying degrees of success.
In 1982, Stevie released the album, ‘The Woman in My Life’.
The following year, Stevie released the Cotillion Records album ‘Attitude’, which fared less well, after which he relocated to Germany.
Stevie released the singles ‘Rock Me Baby’, ‘The One That You Love’ and ‘Everybody Sunshine’.
At thios time, Stevie starred in a lead role in the musical ‘Starlight Express’.
In 2010, all of Stevie’s albums were re-issued on CD on the Wounded Bird Records label.
In 2011, he released his last album ‘Quiet Storm’ for the Nite Train Music imprint.
Incidentally, Stevie Woods was a cousin of American actor Philip Michael Thomas.
b. Joseph James Evans, 7th October 1916, Bonifay, Florida, U.S.A.
d. 17th January 2014, Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A.
The Jazz saxophonist and record producer, Joe Evans has died. He was 97.
Joe passed away in Richmond, Virginia.
Between 1939 and 1965, Joe performed with some of America's greatest bands and musicians, including Cab Calloway, Ivory Joe Hunter, Fats Waller, LaVerne Baker, the Nat King Cole Trio, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Mahalia Jackson, the Mills Brothers, the Jubilaires, the Platters, the Impressions, Jackie Wilson, Fats Domino, Sam Cooke, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown, Sarah Vaughan, Mary Wells, Joe Williams and Harry Belafonte.
In the early 1960s, he toured with the Motown Revue performing with Stevie Wonder, the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas.
Joe Evans created the Carnival Records imprint, in New Jersey, in the early 1960’s.
During it’s time, Carnival released some 60 45’s and two albums, which were mainly based around the R&B genre.
Artists signed to Carnival included, The Manhattans, The Pretenders, Lee Williams & The Cymbals, Little Royal, The Lovettes, Kenneth Ruffin, Phil Terrell, Jimmy Jules, Barbara Brown, Dolores Johnson, Rene Bailey, Harry Caldwell, The Turner Brothers, Norma Jenkins, Maurice Simon & The Pie Men, Wilbur Bascomb & The Blue Zodiact, Harold & Connie, The Tren-Teens, Leon & The Metronomes, The Symphonies, Leon & The Metronomes, The Metrics and The Topics.
Carnival released material from the early Sixties up until the early Eighties.
The labels biggest successes were achieved with the Manhattans between 1965 and 1968, where the group released some 15 singles for the label.
These included ‘For The Very First Time’ b/w ‘I've Got Everything But You’ (in 1964), ‘I Wanna Be (Your Everything)’ b/w 'What's It Gonna Be' (in 1965), ‘Baby I Need You' b/w 'Teach Me The Philly Dog’ (in 1966 and ‘'Til You Come Back To Me' b/w 'Call Somebody Please’ (in 1968).
Joe played the flute on some of these sides.
Joe Evans is survived by one son, Thomas James Evans, two great grandchildren, several nieces, nephews and cousins.
b. Ronald Laurence Albert Simpson, 29th November 1962, London, England.
d. 13th January 2014, United Kingdom
The fusion guitarist, Ronny Jordan has died. Ronny was 51.
Details are scarce at this point in time regarding causes. Ronny’s brother announced the guitarists passing on his Facebook page.
Born in London, Ronny Jordan’s 1992 debut album featured his updating of the Miles Davis evergreen ’So What’, along with ‘The Antidote’, which was hugely popular on daytime Soul radio.
Ronny was a mainstay of the acid jazz movement describing his music as ‘urban jazz’.
Following his debut release, Ronny featured on Guru's ‘Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1’. and was featured on the compilation album ‘Stolen Moments: Red Hot + Cool’.
He was given many awards, including The MOBO Best Jazz Act Award and Gibson Guitar Best Jazz Guitarist Award.
His 2000 album, ‘A Brighter Day’, was heavily rotated on daytime radio, later being nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Contemporary Jazz Album category.
Ronny’s song ‘The Jackal’ was featured on the television series ‘The West Wing’.
He released 8 studio albums, between 1992 and 2004, for the Island, Blue Note, 4th and Broadway and N-Coded imprints.
bernard 'beloyd' taylor
b. Bernard Beloyd Taylor, 7th September 1952, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
d. 13th January 2014, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
The guitarist and vocalist, Bernard Beloyd Taylor, has died. Bernard was 61.
He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
Beloyd's career took off when he joined the group S.O.U.L. (Sounds Of Unity And Love) as the guitarist in the band.
The group recorded two albums and several singles during the early to mid Seventies.
Beloyd, actually, joined the group as a replacement for the parting member Walter Winston in 1972.
In 1976, he penned the track 'Getaway', which was picked up by Earth, Wind And Fire, a song written whilst he was still in the ranks of S.O.U.L.
Earth, Wind and Fire had a sizeable hit with the tune and Beloyd bacme an in-demand songwriter in his own right.
Beloyd appeared on various artists albums, including Donald Byrd's album 'Caricatures' and the Gary Bartz album 'Love Affair'.
He then turned solo the following year, signing to the 20th Century label for the song 'Get Into Your Life' b / w 'Today All Day'.
The song was to later receive the recognition it deserved with soul punters, however, at the time the song had little success and Beloyd returned to performing sessions.
Beloyd worked on two further Earth Wind And Fire albums ('Powerlight' & 'Raise'), along with sessions for the groups Afterbach (a co-production) and Hiroshima.
He also contributed songs for the Jim Henson movie vehicle 'Muppets From Space'.
Bernard was performing in Japan in the early Nineties on an album entitled 'Tokyo Faces'.