Here are current stories about Oldies Artists in the News:
Billy Joel married his longtime girlfriend, Alexis Roderick, Saturday (July 4) in Long Island. He's 66. She's 33. It's his fourth marriage. They've been together since 2009 and are expecting a child this summer.
A British judge ruled Wednesday (July 1) that the proposed film, "The Beatles: The Lost Concert," "reproduced in its entirety" the Fab Four's first concert in the US in 1964 and violated Sony Music's copyright to their tunes in both countries. The movie was therefore blocked from release.
The 2016 honorees on the Hollywood Walk of Fame were announced June 22 and include a posthumous star for "Mama" Cass Elliot. Others to be honored include Cyndi Lauper, LL Cool J, Gospel great Shirley Caesar and actors Michael Keaton, Barbara Bain and Kurt Russell.
Joe Bennett, leader of the Spartanburg, South Carolina rockabilly band, Joe Bennett & the Sparkletones, died Saturday (June 27) at the age of 75. The quartet (including Howard Childress, Wayne Arthur and Jimmy Denton) formed at Cowpens High School in Spartanburg in 1956. They were spotted by a CBS talent scout who was impressed enough to leave his job and becomes their manager, signing them with ABC-Paramount Records. Their first recording, written by Joe and Jimmy, was "Black Slacks" (#17-1957). It was recorded in the same studio and right after label-mate Paul Anka's "Diana" (Paul stuck around to watch them and joined in on background vocals). The follow-up, "Penny Loafers And Bobby Socks" only made it to #42 that year and, when four subsequent singles failed to chart, the Sparkletones were dropped by ABC. Moving to Paris Records, they did manage to "bubble under" the charts with "Boys Do Cry" (#105-1959) but three other songs sizzled and the group disbanded. Joe went on to work in music publishing and and as an air traffic controller and was a much sought-after music teacher. "Black Slacks" was used in the 1990 animated film, "The Rescuers Down Under."
Chris Squire, founding member and bassist of Yes (the only member to appear on all 21 studio albums), died Saturday (June 27) of leukemia in Phoenix, Arizona. He was 67. Formed in London in 1968, they quickly obtained a recording contract and released their first album that year. But it wasn't until the release of "The Yes Album" (and its #40 single co-written by Chris, "Your Move") in 1971 and particularly the follow-up, "Fragile" (including the #13 hit, "Roundabout") the following year, that they achieved superstar status. The lineup of the group changed considerably over the years with Chris being one constant. They even disbanded in 1980. But Chris was with them when they re-formed and even co-wrote their 1984 "comeback" hit, "Owner Of A Lonely Heart." He was forced to let Yes tour without him for the first time this summer when he was diagnosed with the disease. Chris is also remembered for his 1975 solo album, "Fish Out Of Water."
Sirius/XM satellite radio agreed Friday (June 26) to pay $210 million to the major record labels to settle a lawsuit over non-payment of royalties for playing songs recorded before 1972. Artists for at least one of those labels will be paid through SoundExchange, the organization that handles Internet royalties. Still to come will be lawsuits by artists who did not record for a major label.
Harold Battiste, owner of New Orleans-based AFO (All For One) Records, died Friday at the age of 83. His label recorded hits by artists like Barbara George and Lee Dorsey and arranged tunes by Sam Cooke. Harole was the musical director of Sonny & Cher's '70s TV program and played saxophone on their #1 hit, "I Got You Babe" (1965).
England's Queen Elizabeth announced her annual list of birthdays honors Friday (June 12) and they include a knighthood for Belfast-born Van Morrison. In addition, the Queen announced an honorary knighthood for American actor Kevin Spacey for his work with London's Old Vic Theatre.
Jack Carlson, first tenor and falsetto singer with the Room(m)ates died Friday (June 12). The group was formed at Sage Junior High in Queens, New York and recorded for the Valmore label, owned by their managers. Their first hit recording was actualy as a backup to Cathy Jean Giordano (who they never met until the song was released) on her recording of "Please Love Me Forever" (#12-1961), but they then charted on their own with "Glory Of Love" (#49-1061). However, subsequent recordings both wih and without Cathy Jean failed to chart and the quartet disbanded in 1965. Jack later moved to Littleton, Colorado.
Vito Balsamo, lead singer of Vito & the Saltuations, was hospitalized Saturday (June 13) with undisclosed heart problems. The group is best remembered for their version of "Unchained Melody" (#66) in 1963.
Country singer Jim Ed Brown, best-known as the lead singer of the Browns with sisters Maxine and Bonnie, died of cancer Thursday (June 11) in a Franklin, Tennessee hospital at the age of 81. Born in Sparkman, Arkansas, Jim and Maxine originally joined Ernest Tubb's radio show as a duo. Their "Looking Back To See" was a #8 country hit in 1954, the year before Bonnie joined to make them a trio. From 1954 to 1968, they charted with 21 country tunes, 13 of which crossed over to the pop charts, including "The Three Bells" (#1 pop and country-1959), "Scarlet Ribbons" (#13 pop, #7 country-1959) and "The Old Lamplighter" (#5 pop, #20 country-1960). Jim began a solo career in 1965 and the trio split up two years later. As a solo singer, his biggest hit was "Pop A Top" (#3 country-1967), but he scored even bigger hits as a duo with Helen Cornelius, including "I Don't Want To Have To Marry You" (#1 country-1976) and "Lying In Love With You" (#2 country-1979). They were voted the Country Music Association's duo of the year in 1977. Jim was the host of the Nashville Network's TV show, "You Can Be A Star!" from 1983 to 1989 and co-hosted the syndicated "Nashville On The Road" TV show. The Browns were elected this year to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Jim was presented with his induction medal in his hospital room five months early.
James Last, whose "The Seduction (Love Theme)" from the movie, "American Gigolo" was a #28 hit in 1980, died Tuesday (June 9) at his Florida home. The Bremen, Germany-born composer was 86. As a composer, he is perhaps better-known for the song "Happy Heart," which Andy Williams took to #22 in 1969. He also composed the Elvis Presley song, "Fool" (#17 as the B-side of "Steamroller Blues" in 1973) and Eddie Fisher's "Games That Lovers Play" (#45-1966). In the UK, he charted with 52 albums between 1967 and 1986, second only to Elvis.
Ronnie Gilbert, contralto singer with the influential Weavers folk quartet, died of natural causes Saturday (June 6) at a retirement home in Mill Valley, California. She was 88. The group-- including Pete Seeger, Lee Hays (who had performed together earlier in the Almanac Singers) and Fred Hellerman-- formed in 1948 in Greenwich Village, New York where they appeared at the Village Vanguard club. Their name came from an 1892 play about the uprising by Eastern European weavers nearly 50 years earlier. They were quickly signed to Decca Records where they succeeded with traditional American folk tunes like "Goodnight Irene" (#1-1950), "So Long It's Been Good To Know You" (#4-1951) and "On Top Of Old Smoky" (#2-1951)-- the latter with Terry Gilkyson. When Pete and Lee were identified as members of the Communist Party and called to testify before the House Committee on Unamerican Activities in 1955 (Lee pleaded the Fifth Amendment, Pete refused to answer on First Amendment grounds though he had left the party in 1949 and was indicted for contempt of Congress), the group's success was over. Decca had already dropped their contract in 1952, they were blacklisted from radio and television and the group eventually split up. Ronnie went on to tour solo but with little commercial success. However, the Weavers' influence in the folk boom of the late '50s and early '60s on such groups as the Kingston Trio; Peter, Paul and Mary and Bob Dylan was undeniable. The group reunited in 1980 for a documentary film, "The Weavers: Wasn't That A Time," which was released two years later. They were given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2006 and inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.
Will Holt, composer of the folk standard "Lemon Tree" (#35 for Peter, Paul & Mary in 1962 and #20 for Trini Lopez in 1965) died Sunday (June 7) in Los Angeles, at the age of 86. Though he started in folk music, Will graduated to Broadway musicals later, most notably the lyrics for "The Me Nobody Knows" in 1970, from which the Fifth Dimension recorded "Light Sings" (#44) the following year.
And Larry Kolber, co-writer of "I Love How You Love Me" (#5-1961 for the Paris Sisters and #9-1968 for Bobby Vinton) died after a short illness at the age of 84. Larry, an original Brill Building composer, also wrote "Patches" (#6-1962 by Dickey Lee) and "Forget Me Not" (#12 in 1958 by the Kalin Twins).
The US Postal Service will issue another commemorative Elvis Presley stamp-- this one goes on sale August 12 at Graceland in Memphis. It's part of the "Musical Icon" series. The 1993 Elvis stamp is still the best-seller in Postal Service history.
The New York state senate approved a bill at the end of May to rename a section of Route 107 in the Town of Oyster Bay "Billy Joel Boulevard". The bill is now in the state assembly transportation committee. Billy grew up in the area and owns a motorcycle shop there.
Louis Johnson, bass player and one-half of the Brothers Johnson (with his sibling George), died Thursday (May 21) at the age of 60. In addition to the group's hits like "I'll Be Good To You" (#3-1976), "Strawberry Letter 23" (#5-1977) and "Stomp!" (#7-1980), Louis also played bass on Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and "Off The Wall" albums, Herb Alpert's "Rise" and George Benson's "Give Me The Night." The Los Angeles native started out in the Johnson Three Plus One (with George, their brother Tommy and their cousin Alex Weir). George and Louis played in Billy Preston's band before creating their duo. Their nicknames, Thunder Thumbs (Louis) and Lightnin' Licks (George), became the title of a song they wrote for the movie, "Mother, Jugs & Speed." The brothers split up in 1982 and Louis later formed a bass academy. The did reunite for a tour in 2002.
Bluesman Riley "B.B." King died Thursday (May 14) at his home in Las Vegas. He was 89. B.B. apparently suffered a minor heart attack and was taken to a hospital two weeks ago but was released to home hospice care. Born to sharecroppers in Itta Bena, Mississippi in 1925, he moved to Memphis in 1946, where he was called the "Beale Street Blues Boy" (hence the initials B.B.). He had his own program on all-black WDIA radio there in 1949 and started recording, first for Bullet Records, then for RPM, where his first charted record, "3 O'Clock Blues," made #1 on the R&B charts. It was the first of 76 R&B hits, 24 of which made the top ten. Starting in 1957, B.B.'s music crossed over to the pop charts as well, including blues classics like "The Thrill Is Gone" (#15 Pop, #3 R&B-1970), "I Like To Live The Love" (#28 Pop, #6 R&B-1974) and "Rock Me Baby" (#34 Pop, #12 R&B-1964). All told, B.B. appeared 47 times on the pop charts, as well. He was well-known for his guitar, which he named "Lucille" (actually, he owned many Gibson guitars-- all given that name) after the woman who was the cause of a fight between two men that eventually led to a fire in a club he was playing in Twist, Arkansas. B.B. had been forced to re-enter the burning club to save his precious guitar. Though married three times (twice to the same woman), he once said he fathered 15 children with 15 different women. He was given the National Medal of the Arts in 1990 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received honorary degrees from both Yale and Brown Universities. Sweden awarded him their annual Polar Prize for popular music in 2004.
Danny Seraphine, drummer and co-founder of the group Chicago, was saluted with an honorary street named after him at Cornelia and Normandy Avenues on the Northwest side of his home town Saturday (May 9).
Lenny Cocco, lead singer of the Chimes, passed away Friday (May 8) at his home in Holbrook, New York. He was 78. The Brooklyn quintet was convinced by Lenny to create a doo-wop version of the standard "Once In Awhile" in 1960. The engineer at their self-financed session was impressed enough to contact a friend at Tag Records, who released the recording. It peaked at #11 the following year. The follow-up, "I'm In The Mood For Love," made it to #38 that same year. While subsequent standards failed to chart, the group kept going, eventually becoming oldies concert stalwarts.
Errol Brown, lead singer of Hot Chocolate, the London-based quintet that gave us "You Sexy Thing" (#3-1976), "Emma" (#8-1975) and "Every 1's A Winner" (#6-1979), died of liver cancer at his home in the Bahamas Wednesday (May 6). He was 71. Errol was born in Jamaica but moved to England when he was 6. Though the group split in 1986, Errol continued with a solo career that culminated in a farewell tour in 2009. The Queen made him a Member of the Order of the British Empire for his musical success in 2003.
A judge in Los Angeles granted permission to Joni Mitchell's close friend, Lesley Morris, to become the singer's conservator Monday (May 4). Joni is still in a hospital there after being found unconcious in her home March 31. Lesley, her friend for more than 40 years, says she undertook the effort because Joni has no close family to take care of her. Joni's web site said last week she comprehends, is alert and she has her full senses. Her new conservator says Joni may leave the hospital next week but still has given no reason for the hospitalization.
Meat Loaf has cancelled his entire Summer tour due to unspecified health concerns, it was announced Monday (May 4).
Former Drifter and solo star Ben E. King died Thursday (April 30) of apparently natural causes at the age of 76. Ben was born in Henderson, North Carolina, but moved to Harlem at the age of 9. While still in high school he sang briefly with the Moonglows before joining the Five Crowns in 1957. When the manager of the already-successful Drifters decided to fire the entire group the next year in a contract dispute, he replaced them with the Five Crowns, including Ben. Ben co-wrote and sang lead on the Crown/Drifters first hit, "There Goes My Baby" (#2-1959). Ben also sang lead on "Save The Last Dance For Me" (#1-1960), "I Count The Tears" (#17-1961) and "This Magic Moment" (#16-1960), but only cut 13 songs with the group before leaving in a his own dispute for a solo career in 1960. His first session for Atco Records yielded "Spanish Harlem" (#10-1961) and "Stand By Me" (#4-1961 and again #9 when it was re-released thanks to the movie with the same name in 1986). Other hits included "Amor" (#18-1961), "Don't Play That Song" (#11-1962) and "I (Who Have Nothing" (#29-1963). While his career ebbed in the late '60s, it was revived with "Supernatural Thing" (#5) in 1975. Ben was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
B.B. King apparently suffered a minor heart attack and was taken to a Las Vegas hospital Thursday (April 30) after his daughter says her father's manager refused to get him needed treatment. He was later released and is in home hospice care. Patty King filed a police report last November charging elder abuse and burglary against the manager-- who has power of attorney for B.B.-- saying she has stolen as much as $30 million dollars and denied the 89 year-old bluesman of his needed medications. Police investigated but filed no charges.
Pattie "Layla" Boyd, ex-wife of both George Harrison and Eric Clapton, married for the third time Wednesday (April 29) in London. The 71 year-old, the inspiration for George's "Something" and Eric's "Layla" and 'Wonderful Tonight," wed a property developer whom she originally met in the '80s.
The National Transportation and Safety Board said Wednesday (April 29) that they will not re-open the investigation into the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. In a response to a 24-page request by pilot and musician L.J. Coon, the agency said no new evidence was presented and "[t]herefore, we have determined that your letter does not meet the requirements of a petition for reconsideration and no further action is planned."
Jack Ely, founder and guitarist with the Kingsmen and lead singer on their #2 hit, "Louie Louie" (1963), died Monday (April 27) at his home in Redmond, Oregon after what as termed a "long illness." He was 71. Born in Portland, Jack started out as a jazz pianist but switched to guitar after seeing Elvis Presley perform on television. While attending Portland State University, he helped form the Kingsmen, who became the house band for a club owned by a local DJ. They went in to a local studio and, for $50, cut a version of "Louie"-- their crowd-pleasing favorite with mystifying lyrics-- in one take. Before the record had peaked though, Jack got into an argument with drummer Lynn Easton over who would front the band. Since Lynn owned the name, Jack quit and formed his own Kingsmen group. The ensuing legal battle ended with Jack receiving vocal credit and $6,000 in royalties but he was forced to change the name of his own group to the Courtmen. His career essentially ended when he was drafted in 1967. He later became a horse trainer.
Actress Suzanne Crough, who played the youngest member of TV's "Partridge Family" (though she didn't play or sing on the recordings) died "suddenly" Monday (April 27) at her Nevada home. She was 52. She eventually gave up acting and worked as a manager of an office supply company. She leaves behind a husband and two children.
Ann Wilson of Heart was married Saturday (April 25) in her manager's back yard in Topanga, California. The groom "works on multi-generational communities" and has know Ann since the '80s. Both are 64. Ann has two children from a previous relationship.
Songwriter Sid Tepper, best-known for "The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane" (#3-1954 for the Ames Brothers), "Kiss Of Fire" (#1-1952 for Georgia Gibbs) and "Red Roses For A Blue Lady" (#10-1965 for Vic Dana)-- usually with Roy Bennett-- died Friday (April 24) at his home near Miami Beach, Florida. The Brooklyn native was 96. He wrote 45 tunes for Elvis Presley, including "G.I. Blues," "Puppet On A String" and "The Lady Loves Me."
Patti Labelle was voted off of ABC-TV's "Dancing With The Stars" competition Monday night (April 20)-- mostly because one of her high heeled shoes did not come off at the proper moment and she finished her quickstep with one shoe on. The 70 year-old did make it to week six.
Wally Lester, original tenor singer with the Skyliners, died Monday (April 20) of pancreatic cancer in Southport, North Carolina. He was 73. Wally joined with fellow high school students Jimmy Beaumont, Janet Vogel, Joe VerScharen and Jackie Taylor in forming the doo wop group in Pittsburgh in 1958. They travelled to New York to audition for and were signed by Calico Records, where "Since I Don't Have You" topped out at #12 on the Pop charts-- #3 R&B-- the following year. Other hits included "Pennies From Heaven" (#24-1960), "This I Swear" (#26-1959) and "It Happened Today" (#59-1959). The group disbanded in 1963 and Wally became a sales manager and later vice-president with Clairol, though he did re-unite with surviving members from 1970 to 1975 and for anniversary concerts. The Skyliners were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002.
Mike "Mootsie" Mincieli, original first tenor with the Capris died March 15 in Largo, Florida. The group had the distinction of having already broken up when their only real hit record charted. The Queens, New York group originally released "There's A Moon Out Tonight" in 1959 to little success and subsequently disbanded. The song was re-released in 1960 and got to #3 the following year, prompting their getting back together. Unfortunately three follow-ups failed to reach the top 70 and by 1963 they dispersed once again. But in 1982 they re-re-formed with Mootsie for the regional hit, "Morse Code Of Love." While it didn't chart (except later by the Manhattan Transfer) it became an enduring late doo-wop classic. Mootsie and the Capris were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2007.
Percy Sledge, best remembered for the romantic classic, "When A Man Loves A Woman" (#1 Pop, #1 R&B-1966) but who charted thirteen other times on the Pop charts alone in nine years, died of liver cancer Tuesday (April 14) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the age of 73. Born in Leighton, Alabama, he started out singing with the local Esquires Combo while working as a hospital orderly. Percy and two of the Esquires (not to be confused with the later R&B group) wrote "When A Man Loves A Woman," but he gave the credit to the others. Recording the song at a Muscle Shoals, Alabama studio, it was picked up by Atlantic Records, who made him a solo star. Other tunes included "Take Time To Know Her" (#11 Pop, #6 R&B-1968), "Warm And Tender Love" (#17 Pop, #5 R&B-1966) and "It Tears Me Up" (#20 Pop #7 R&B-1966). Michael Bolton took "When A Man Loves A Woman" back to the top of the Pop charts in 1991. Percy was inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 and given the Rhythm and Blues Pioneer Award in 1989. He was also inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, the Carolina Beach Music Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
At age 65, Billy Joel is about to be a father again. Billy and his 33 year-old girlfriend are expecting a daughter. Billy already has a 29 year-old daughter with model/actress Christie Brinkley.
Keith McCormack, founding member of the String-A-Longs of "Wheels" fame (#3-1961) and co-writer (along with his aunt) of the Fireballs' hits "Sugar Shack" (#1-1963) and Daisy Petal Pickin'" (#15-1964), died Friday (April 10) of a stroke in Springfield, Missouri, near his home in Walnut Grove. The Plainview, Texas native was 74. Keith eventually replaced Jimmy Gilmer as vocalist in the Fireballs in 1968 and stayed with them for six years.
Darlene Love will receive an honorary Doctorate in Music and give the commencement address at Providence (Rhode Island) College May 15.
Darlene, Aretha Franklin, Emmylou Harris and Lyle Lovett are among those who will perform at the White House for President Obama Tuesday (April 14) as part of its "In Performance" series. "The Gospel Tradition: In Performance at the White House" will be broadcast on PBS stations June 26.
Satirist Stan Freberg passed away Tuesday morning (April 7) in a Santa Monica, California hospital at the age of 88. The Pasadena native got off a bus right out of high school and walked in to a Hollywood talent agency and a job at Warner Brothers. As a voice-over actor, he was heard in many WB and Disney cartoons, but was probably best-known for his work in "Time For Beany", the children's TV show featuring the title character and Cecil, the sea-sick serpent. In radio, Stan hosted the medium's last original comedy program when his self-titled summer replacement show for Jack Benny aired in 1957. By then, Stan was known for his biting satire (often at the expense of the advertising community) which kept him from getting the sponsorship to continue the show after the short run. Ironically, Stan became known for inventive and creative TV and radio commercials in the '60s-- including Jeno's Pizza Rolls (with the Lone Ranger), Contadina Tomato Paste ("Who put 8 great tomatoes in that little bitty can?") and Sunsweet Prunes ("Today the pits-- tomorrow the wrinkles"). Of course he will always be remembered for his recordings, including parodies of "Sh-Boom" (#14-1954), "The Banana Boat Song" (#25-1957) and "Heartbreak Hotel" (#79-1956). His original take-offs on radio's popular "Dragnet" series ("St. George And The Dragonet"-- #1-1953-- and "Christmas Dragnet"-- #13-1953) led Jack Webb himself to lend him the 4-note opening to the real drama. Stan's irreverent Christmas comedy recording, "Green Chri$tma$" was a #44 hit in 1958 despite being banned by many radio stations for its "anti-commercialization of Christmas" subject matter. His classic album, "Stan Freberg Presents The United States of America" in 1961 led to an eventual sequel in 1996. He continued to appear in television roles, including shots on "The Monkees" and a recurring role in "Roseanne." He was elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame in 1995. His autobiography, "It Only Hurts When I Laugh," was published in 1988.
Ray Charles, leader of the Ray Charles Singers and orchestra leader for Perry Como's television show in the '50s, died Monday (April 6) at his home in Beverly Hills, California. He was 96. He should not be confused with the rhythm-and-blues singer of the same name. This Ray Charles was born Charles Raymond Offenberg in Chicago in 1918, also worked on "The Muppet Show" and was the male voice on the "Three's Company" TV theme ("Come and knock on our door..."). He served as orchestra leader for the "Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour" and the syndicated "Sha Na Na" TV show. But he is best remembered for charting ten times with his "Singers"-- most notably with "Love Me With Al Your Heart" (#3-1964) and "Al Di La" (#29-1964). Ray won two Emmys for his television work and was nominated five other times.
The Songwriters Hall of fame announced Wednesday (April 8) that they will bestow the Johnny Mercer Award (their highest honor) to Van Morrison at their 46th annual Induction And Awards Dinner June 18 in New York City.
B.B. King was hospitalized briefly in Las Vegas over the weekend for dehydration brought on by diabetes, but was released Tuesday (April 7). In a brief statement, the 89 year-old said, "I want to thank everyone for their concern and good wishes. I'm feeling much better..."
The original lyrics for Don McLean's "American Pie" (including rejected and edited lines) fetched $1.2 million at a New York auction Tuesday (April 7). The buyer remains anonymous. As for the meaning to the song, Don said in the auction catalog, "Basically, in 'American Pie' things are heading in the wrong direction. [Life] is becoming less idyllic. I don't know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song, in a sense. I thought it would be interesting as I reach age 70 to release this, so that anyone who might be interested will learn that this song was not a parlor game It was an indescribable photograph of America that I tried to capture in words and music, and then was fortunate enough through the help of others to make a successful recording." The catalog did say it was "fair to surmise" that "The King" was Elvis, "The Jester" was Bob Dylan and "Helter Skelter" refers to the Charles Manson murders.
Bob Burns, founding drummer with Lynyrd Skynyrd, died Friday (April 3) in a single-car accident in Cartersville, Georgia. He was 64. His playing can be heard on such tunes as "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps" and "Free Bird." He left the group in 1975 due to bipolar disorder and thus was not a part of its ill-fated plane crash two years later. Bob and Lynyrd Skynyrd were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
Joni Mitchell is in intensive care in a Los Angeles hospital after paramedics were called to her Bel Air home Tuesday afternoon (March 31). It appears the 71 year-old was found unconscious but, according to a statement, "regained consciousness on the ambulance ride to an LA area hospital". Joni suffers from Morgellons Disease, a controversial and possibly psychological condition which she says prevents her from performing anymore.
Billy Butler, younger brother of Jerry Butler and a hit recording artist in his own right, died Tuesday (March 31) at the age of 69. Born in Chicago in 1945, he followed in the footsteps of his brother, "the Iceman", by forming his own group, Billy Butler and the Four Enchanters, while still in high school. Signed to Okeh Records, the group (later to be re-named the Enchanters and still later, the Chanters-- and even later Infinity), bubbled under the pop charts in 1963 with "Found True Love" (#134) before scoring R&B hits with "Gotta Get Away" (#38-R&B, #101-Pop-1963), "I Can't Work No Longer" (#6-R&B, #60-Pop-1965, written by Curtis Mayfeld) and "Right Track" (#24-R&B-1966 as a solo artist). All told, Billy appeared six times on both the R&B and Pop charts in eleven years. He also co-wrote his brother's hit, "I Stand Accused" (#61 Pop, #3-R&B-1964) as well as tunes for Major Lance, LaVern Baker and Gene Chandler. In later years, he served as the guitarist in his brother's band.
John Lennon's first wife, Cynthia died Wednesday (April 1) of cancer in Mallorca, Spain. She was 75. Their son, Julian was by her side. The two were married from 1962 to 1968.
Preston Ritter, drummer with the Electric Prunes on their first album and first two singles-- "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" (#11-1967) and "Get Me To The World On Time" (#27-1967), died Monday (March 30) at the age of 64. No cause was given, but he had undergone two kidney transplants, having suffered total kidney failure in 1983. Preston was a Christian missionary in Korea and wrote several books on drumming-- and theology.
Norman Greenbaum of "Spirit In The Sky" (#3-1970) fame was critically injured in a car crash Saturday afternoon (March 28) west of Santa Rosa, California. The 72 year-old was a passenger in a car that turned in front of an oncoming motorcycle. The cyclist was killed in the accident. The cyclist's passenger was also hospitalized in critical condition. The driver of the car was not seriously hurt. Alcohol was not believed to be a factor in the accident. Norman also wrote and performed "The Eggplant That Ate Chicago" as part of Dr. West's Medicine Show and Junk Band in 1966 (#52).
Don Robertson, whose instrumental tune "The Happy Whistler," reached #6 on the charts in 1956 and who wrote dozens of other hit songs (14 recorded by Elvis Presley alone), died March 16 near Santa Monica, California. He was 92. Born in Beijing, China, he was raised in Chicago, where he dropped out of the University of Chicago to become musical arranger at WGN Radio there. After serving in World War II he moved to Los Angeles, where he married one of the singing Dinning Sisters. As a composer, he wrote such classics as "I Really Don't Want To Know" (a hit for Les Paul & Mary Ford, Eddy Arnold, Elvis and Tommy Edwards), "Ringo" (#1-1964 for Lorne Greene), "Please Help Me, I'm Falling" (#8-1960 for Hank Locklin), "I Love You More And More Every Day" (#9-1964 for Al Martino) and "Anything That's Part Of You" (a #31 tune for Elvis in 1962). He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.
The Library of Congress released its annual list of 25 more treasures added to the National Recording Registry (bringing to 425 the number of culturally-significant ones to be preserved) Wednesday (March 25). Included among this year's selections are "Sixteen Tons" from "Tennessee" Ernie Ford, "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King, the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," the first albums by Joan Baez and the Doors, Sly & the Family Stone's "Stand" album and Steve Martin's "A Wild And Crazy Guy" album.
Jørgen Ingmann, the Danish guitarist who gave us the instrumental classic, "Apache" (#2-1961), died Saturday (March 21) at the age of 89. Born Jørgen Ingmann Pedersen in Copenhagen in 1925, he won the Eurovision song competition for Denmark with his wife Grethe with the song "Dansevise" in 1963. His only other American chart tune was "Anna" (#54), another instrumental, in 1961.
The Broadway show, "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" will be adapted into a film, it was announced Sunday (March 22). Tom Hanks will produce and Sony pictures will distribute the film.
David Crosby, one-time member of the Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash, struck a jogger on a highway near Santa Ynez, California Sunday (March 22). David was doing the legal 55 MPH at the time but admitted being blinded by the sun. Police say neither drugs nor alcohol appear to have played a part in the accident. The jogger was airlifted to a nearby hospital but his injuries are not considered life-threatening.
British singer/songwriter Jackie Trent, who along with Tony Hatch wrote such tunes as "I Couldn't Live Without Your Love" (#9-1966) "Don't Sleep In The Subway" (#5-1967) and "Color My World" (#16-1967) for Petula Clark, died after what was termed a "long illness" Saturday (March 21) in a hospital in Minorca, Spain, where she lived. She was 76. As a singer, her only American appearance was "If You Love Me, Really Love Me" (#106-1964) but she reached #1 on the UK charts with "Where Are You Now (My Love)," used in the British TV series "It's Dark Outside" in 1965. Born Yvonne Burgess in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, England in 1940, she started as a child star. Signed by Pye Records, she began collaborating with one it's producers, Tony Hatch, both in-and-out-of the recording studio. Their affair led to the dissolutions of both marriages and their own nuptials in 1967 (they were divorced in 2002). They are best remembered in Australia for writing the theme for the television program "Neighbours."
Michael Brown (nee Michael Lookofsky), keyboardist with the Left Banke and Stories, died Thursday (March 19) of unknown causes. He was 65. Michael's father, a session violinist, owned a recording studio in New York and produced, published and managed the baroque-oriented Left Banke when they formed in 1965. Michael wrote their two hits-- "Walk Away Renee" (#5-1966) and "Pretty Ballerina" (#15-1967), but when he recorded another-- "Ivy Ivy" (#119-1967) using studio musicians, the resulting friction caused the group to disband (though they later reformed without Michael and without any more hits). He went on to play with Montage before joining Stories, having been introduced to Ian Lloyd by their fathers. He stayed with the group for their first album and first three singles, including "I'm Coming Home" (#42-1972) and "Brother Louie" (#1-1973-- which initially was missing from the album). After forming the unsuccessful group, the Beckies in 1976, he eventually gave up music.
The second Pittsburgh Rock 'n' Roll Legends Awards will be given to Lou Christie, Donnie Iris (a member of the Jaggerz and Wild Cherry before his solo success) and the late DJ Porky Chedwick April 23 at the Hard Rock in the steel city. The awards benefit the city's Cancer Caring Center.
Andy Fraser, bassist with Free on "All Right Now" (#4-1970) and "Stealer" (#49-1971) died Monday (March 16) at his home in Temeculah, California. The London-born musician was 62 and had been diagnosed with AIDS and Kaposi's Sarcoma cancer, though no cause of death was given. A classically trained pianist, he switched to guitar at 13 and at 15 worked briefly with John Mayall's Blues Breakers, which led to a job as bassist with Free, where he co-wrote and co-produced both of the group's chart hits. After Free split up he worked in a variety of other British groups, including his own Andy Fraser Band, which released two albums. Besides "All Right Now" and "Stealer", he wrote "Every Kinda People," (#16) a 1978 hit for Robert Palmer that was re-recorded as a soft hit again in 1992.
Mike Porcaro, bassist with Toto after their "Toto IV" album in 1982 died from ALS Sunday (March 15). He was 59. His brothers Steve and the late Jeff Porcaro were original members in the group. Mike retired from the group because of his disease in 2007. He played on such singles as "Stranger In Town" (#30-1984) and "I'll Be Over You" (#11-1986).
Ringo Starr postponed concerts Thursday (March 12) in Santa Ynez, California and Friday in San Francisco because of his unspecified illness. The tour resumed for its last two dates on Saturday. The postponed concerts should be made up this fall.
Jimmy Sacca, lead singer with the Hilltoppers, died March 7 at a Lexington, Kentucky hospital. The Lockport, New York native was 85. A football player at Western Kentucky University (nicknamed the Hilltoppers), Jimmy joined with two other students there as well as pianist Billy Vaughn (who would later leave to solo fame) to form the group in 1952. A local DJ got them a recording contract with Dot Records and the group responded with nine top ten tunes from 1952 to 1957, including "Marianne" (#3-1957), "Only You" (#8-1955) and "P.S. I Love You" (#4-1953), despite his being drafted into the Army for two years starting in 1953. After their chart success faded, Jimmy went to work for his label as a record distributor and as a talent agent while continuing to sing from time to time in various incarnations of his old group. The Hilltoppers were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of fame in 2005 and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame in 2013. Jimmy was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and given their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.
Jimmy Greenspoon, keyboardist with Three Dog Night, lost his battle to brain cancer Wednesday (March 11) at his home in Montgomery County, Maryland. He was 67. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Beverly Hills, Jimmy attended the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and played in several groups on Sunset Strip before hooking up with Danny Hutton and helping to form the 7-member group. He played on eleven top ten records, including the #1 hits "Mama Told Me (Not To Come)" in 1970, "Joy To The World" (1971) and "Black & White" (1972) before the group disbanded in 1976. They re-formed in 1981 but Jimmy was forced into drug rehab four years later. His autobiography chronicling his downfall, "One Is The Loneliest Number," was published in 1991. He was given a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars in 2000.
An 8-member jury in Los Angeles Tuesday (March 10) voted unanimously that singer Robin Thicke, rapper T.I. and producer Pharrell Williams copied the late Marvin Gaye's tune "Got To Give It Up" in composing Robin's hit, "Blurred Lines." The jury awarded $7.3 million to Marvin's family. A spokesman for Pherrell said, "We are reviewing the decision, considering our options and you will hear more from us soon about this matter."
Randall Miller, director of the ill-fated Gregg Allman biographical movie, "Midnight Rider," pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass in a Georgia courtroom Monday (March 9) in connection with the death of an assistant camera operator who was struck by a train during filming of the movie over a year ago. Miller will spend up to two years in prison, was fined $20,000 and will be on probation for eight years. The plea was designed to save his wife and business partner from prosecution. The executive producer of the film, Jay Sedrish, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and received probation. A fourth defendant has cooperated with authorities and is expected to receive a plea deal, as well.
Trumpeter Lew Soloff, member of Blood, Sweat & Tears from 1968 to 1973, died Sunday (March 8) after suffering a heart attack at the age of 71. The Brooklyn-born musician played on five BS&T albums, including such hits as "You've Made Me So Very Happy" (#2-1969), "Spinning Wheel" (#2-1969) and "And When I Die" (#2-1969).
Brian Carman, rhythm guitarist with the Chantays ("Chantay's" on some labels) and co-writer of their instrumental hit, "Pipeline," died Sunday (March 1) at his home in Santa Ana, California. He was 69. He had been suffering from Crohn's Disease and an ulcerated colon. The surf classic (originally called "Liberty's Whip" after Lee Marvin's character in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" but renamed after the curl of a surfer's wave) reached #4 in 1963. While it only "bubbled under" at #106 nationally when re-released in 1966, it was a major hit again in cities like Chicago. As British music replaced surf tunes, the band changed names to the Ill Winds and Leaping Frogs before returning as the Chantays to play the oldies circuit. Brian continued to play until health problems forced his retirement two years ago. The street in front of their alma mater, Santa Ana High School, was even named "Chantays Way" They were inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk in 1996.
Cheap Trick and former drummer Bun E Carlos have apparently settled their legal differences. Bun E left the group in 2010 but filed a lawsuit in 2013 against them, claiming he was not being paid his promised shares of royalties. Frontman Robin Zander now says that "Bun E's a member of the band, but he's not touring and he's not recording. We've had our differences but we're all settled up now. Hopefully we can forget about that era. The decisions that Cheap Trick makes, Bun E is part of."
Documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, whose works included the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter" movie surrounding their infamous 1969 Altamont, California concert, died Thursday (March 5) at his Manhattan home at the age of 88. Albert and his late brother, David also filmed the 1964 documentary, "What Happening! The Beatles In The U.S.A."
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission approved 22 new historical markers Thursday (March 5), including one at the site of the now-defunct Sigma Sound studios in Philadelphia, where tunes like "When Will I See You Again," "Disco Inferno" and "Macho Man" were recorded. The state has over 2,300 such markers.
Gary Glitter (whose real name is Paul Gadd) was sentenced to 16 years in prison by a London Judge Friday (February 27) for six sexual offenses committed between 1975 and 1980 with girls between the ages of 12 and 14. He had been found guilty February 5 of one count of attempted rape, four counts of indecent assault and one of having sex with a girl under the age of 13.
Willie C. Jackson, the last original member of the Spaniels, died February 18. He was 79. The Gary, Indiana native had been receiving kidney dialysis treatments but performed regularly until a few months ago. The group, formed at Roosevelt High School in Gary in 1952, is best remembered for the classic "Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite" (#5 R&B-1954).
A tree dedicated to the memory of George Harrison will be re-planted Wednesday (February 25) in Los Angeles' Griffith Park. It replaces one ironically destroyed last year by-- beetles. The date was mistakenly chosen to co-incide with the Beatle's 72nd birthday which, according to George's own discovery shortly before he died, is actually Tuesday.
The 20th "season" of "Dancing With The Stars" on ABC-TV was announced Tuesday (February 24). 70 year-old Patti Labelle will join ten other celebrities, including Suzanne Somers, Rumer Willis, Redfoo, Riker Lynch and football player Michael Sam in the competition.
Marlene Judy Barrow-Tate of Motown's Andantes died Monday (February 23) of undisclosed causes at the age of 73. The girls-- including Louvain Demps and Jacqueline Hicks-- formed as children at Detroit's Hartford Avenue Baptist Church. They not only sang backup on many of the label's hits (they, not the other Supremes, were the singers with Diana Ross on "Someday We'll Be Together" and sang on Mary Wells' "My Guy," Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" and "Reach Out, I'll Be There" by the Four Tops, just to name a few), they even backed-up non-Motown tunes like Jackie Wilson's "Higher And Higher" and the Dell's re-recording of "Stay In My Corner." The trio was inducted this year into the R&B Hall of Fame. Their biography, "Motown from The Background, The Andantes Biography" by Vickie Wright, was published in 2007.
Protofeminist singer/songwriter Lesley Gore died Monday (February 16) of cancer in a Manhattan, New York hospital. She was 68. Born in Manhattan and raised in Tenafly, New Jersey, Lesley was reportedly discovered in 1963 at the age of 16 while singing at an event at a New York hotel by Mercury Records Music Director Quincy Jones, who signed her to the label and produced her personally. Her first record, "It's My Party" that year, topped the national charts for two weeks (rushed into release to beat a Phil Spector-produced version by the Crystals). In turn it was followed by "Judy's Turn To Cry" (#5-1963), "She's A Fool" (#5-1964) "You Don't Own Me" (#2-1964, "Maybe I Know" (#14-1964), "That's The Way Boys Are" (#12-1964) and "Sunshine, Lollipops & Rainbows" (#13-1965). She sang the latter in the movie "Ski Party." Lesley also sang "California Nights" (#16-1967) as Catwoman's sidekick, Pussycat, on an episode of ABC-TV's "Batman" (her uncle was a producer of the show). Moving on to Sarah Lawrence College put her career on the back burner, but she wrote the song "Out Here On My Own" with her brother, Michael for the movie "Fame" in 1980. It became a #19 hit for Irene Cara. An acknowledged lesbian, she hosted the PBS series "In the Life" which dealt with LGBT issues in 1992. Lesley was working on a stage musical surrounding her life when she died.