No matter what type of music you like there have been several deaths in the last few days that will affect you. All of these people have created music that touched our lives:
~ I used to have to travel a bit and was in Washington DC a lot of the time. One place I went ot on my off hours was a place called the 9:30 Club. One night I was there hearing a band called the Ratchet Boys. The lead singer would throw doughnuts in the audience while playing their style of Ska music. Ska is the bouncy, horn-driven music that originated in Jamaica in the early 1960s and became an element of British punk and New Wave music of the ’70s and ’80s. The lead singer was Dan Hess who took his Final Taxi this week at age 30.
In the past 10 years, he had been the lead singer and irrepressible frontman of three bands: the Skanker Sores, the Ratchet Boys and the Ready Steady Go! His vocal style mixed ska with the energy of punk and the raspy resonance of the ’60s soul singers he especially loved. On stage or off, Hess was an unforgettable presence, with his shaved head, red sideburns, black-framed glasses and agile, 300-pound frame.
His music was great and I remember being made to do jumping jacks on the dance floor by Hess the night I saw them.
~ The last surviving member of the legendary music group “The Drifters” Bill Pinkney, 81, has died. Pinkney was born in the small town of Dalzell in 1925. The Drifters were an influential beach music group that used components of soul, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll music. Pinkney left the band in 1958 in a dispute over money. The Drifters produced several memorable tunes “Under the Boardwalk” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
In his lifetime, Pinkney was recognized by leaders such as Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela.
~ The guitarist George McCorkle wrote “Fire on the Mountain”, the gold-prospector-gone-wrong song which put the Marshall Tucker Band on the map in 1975. The band’s distinctive sound mixed country, blues, jazz and rock in about equal measures – “just American music, I always have refused to put a label on it,” said McCorkle, who also wrote two of their subsequent classics, “Last of the Singing Cowboys” (1979) and “Silverado” (1981).
McCorkle originally wrote “Fire on the Mountain” for his friend Charlie Daniels because the fiddle player was working on an album bearing that title. The evocative song remained unused and was recorded by the Marshall Tucker Band as the opening track for Searchin’ for a Rainbow (1975), their fourth album.
~ During the 1960s, the saxophonist Boots Randolph was one of the leading musicians in the Nashville studios and played on scores of hit records by such artists as Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers. He had his own success with the upbeat and spluttering tenor sax sound of “Yakety Sax” (1963), which became the theme music for The Benny Hill Show. He subsequently remarked that “Every saxophone player in the world has tried to play it.”
Randolph’s first successes came with the teenage singer Brenda Lee. She loved the interplay between her voice and his saxophone, which is especially apparent on “Sweet Nuthin’s”, “Let’s Jump the Broomstick”, “That’s All You Gotta Do” and “Dum Dum”. Many artists have covered Lee’s seasonal hit “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (1962) and they invariably copy Randolph’s contribution note for note.
He can also be heard on “Poetry in Motion” (1960) by Johnny Tillotson and “Vacation” (1962) by Connie Francis.
~ Will H. Schaefer, 78, a Kenosha-born composer who wrote background music for “I Dream of Jeannie “The Flintstones,” “The Flying Nun,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “The Jetsons” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.” He also composed and recorded music for more than 700 commercials, including for Ford, Chevrolet and Pillsbury.
~ I think I saw Beverly Sills the first time on a Merv Griffin when I was very young. My mother watched his show and I thought she had a beautiful voice back then. I had seen her on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show and she appeared on several Muppet Shows .
The soprano singer reigned as leading diva of the New York City Opera for nearly 25 years, and headed the company as general director for another decade after that.
~ Song composer Hy Zaret has also taken the Final Taxi.
In 1955, the composer Alex North was writing the music for a prison drama, Unchained, which starred Elroy Hirsch and Barbara Hale. At the last minute, the film’s producers decided they wanted a title song and so North visited his friend, Hy Zaret, and asked him to write lyrics for his melody. Zaret, who was painting his house, said that he was too busy. North persisted and Zaret finally agreed, but found that he could not incorporate the word “unchained” into the song as requested, although he did manage a story of devotion from somebody parted from his love – in this case, by a jail sentence.
Zaret wrote “Unchained Melody” on the top of his lyric sheet and it was sung by Todd Duncan for the film’s soundtrack. Although the film was quickly forgotten, the song was ominated for an Oscar and went on to become one of the most recorded songs of all time. It has topped the UK charts on four occasions – for Jimmy Young (1955), the Righteous Brothers (1990), Robson and Jerome (1995) and Gareth Gates 2002). It also made the charts for Al Hibbler, Les Baxter and his Orchestra, Liberace and Leo Sayer.
The Righteous Brothers version was revived for the pottery-in-motion scene in the movie Ghost in 1990. In one of the most erotic moments to be found in a mainstream film, Demi Moore’s pottery wheel collapses as she is distracted by Patrick Swayze, and many people rushed out to buy the music that accompanied it.
In the late 1950s, Zaret had collaborated on a series of educational “Singing Science” albums. One of them, “Why Does the Sun Shine”, was covered in 1994 by the band They Might Be Giants.