Co-founder of one of the most influential bands of all time.
By Fred Mills
In a year uncommonly beset by music world passings—the latter third of 2016 has been particularly brutal—it is saddening, indeed, to have to keep reporting our losses. The latest: Greg Lake, on Dec. 7, from cancer. Lake, of course, was a key early member of King Crimson and went on to co-found synth/Prog legends Emerson, Lake & Palmer (the latter outfit’s Keith Emerson committed suicide this past March, so the only surviving member now is drummer Carl Palmer). Lake was 69.
As the BBC is reporting, “Lake’s manager Stewart Young wrote on Facebook: ‘Yesterday, December 7th, I lost my best friend to a long and stubborn battle with cancer. Greg Lake will stay in my heart forever, as he has always been.’”
The influence of ELP upon the rock universe cannot be understated. The trio helped pioneer long-form, complex, compositions heavily influenced by classical music, essentially birthing an entire genre – Progressive rock – while also notching enough hits (notably, the Lake-penned ballad “Lucky Man,” still a staple of underground and oldies radio alike, what with its rich acoustic guitar melody and Lake’s vocal line contrasting with Emerson’s iconic closing synth solo) to be a commercial juggernaut.
On a personal note: I was fortunate enough to see ELP multiple times during their ‘70s heyday – yes, I also saw Emerson on his spinning-upside-down-grand-piano—at both festivals and standalone arena shows, and the memories remain vivid. Below, let’s review some of those memories…
She gave the people what we wanted and a whole lot more. R.I.P.
BY FRED MILLS
The music world awoke this morning to the sad news that we’ve lost Sharon Jones following her well-documented battle with cancer. Knowing that she’s now in the proverbial better place is small solace, of course, because anyone who ever saw her perform with the Dap-Kings knows what a monumental, dynamic performer she truly was. The loss is immense. As Pitchfork noted today, her passing has clearly not gone unremarked—and from all points on the musical spectrum—among her peers:
Sharon Jones. Thank you for everything. — St. Vincent (@st_vincent) November 19, 2016
So sad to hear about the passing of my friend and the soulful, dynamic singer I loved performing with, Sharon Jones — John Legend (@johnlegend) November 19, 2016
Sharon Jones had one of the most magnificent, gut-wrenching voices of anyone in recent times. She’ll be so missed. Too sad x — Mark Ronson (@MarkRonson) November 19, 2016
My heart is broken. This year is so sad. Sharon Jones, thx for inspiring me for so long. Your voice/energy will echo in my heart forever. https://t.co/LEPSqAN2yu — hayley from Paramore (@yelyahwilliams) November 19, 2016
So very sad to hear of Sharon Jones’ passing. An incredibly strong person and a magical performer. Heartbreaking. — Jason Isbell (@JasonIsbell) November 19, 2016
One of favourite artists and her music introduced us to a scene of funk/soul that has changed our lives. r.i.p. Sharon Jones. https://t.co/2Td9g1kHmE — badbadnotgood IV 😉 (@badbadnotgood) November 19, 2016
Sharon Jones was one of the nicest musicians I ever met and an awe-inspiring talent. Rest In Peace. — Okkervil River (@okkervilriver) November 19, 2016
We’ve still got our memories and plenty of musical documentation, from the band’s numerous records (here’s a review of the album I Learned the Hard Way we published several years ago) to sundry live recordings (such as this one from 2010) and live videos (such as this complete concert from the Olympia in Paris).
And back in 2013, shortly before the world learned of Jones’ cancer diagnosis, she and the band were part of the Daptone Records’ Super Soul Revue at the Moody Theater in Austin during SXSW – the BLURT crew was definitely on hand to catch that performance, as the photos below, by Susan Moll and Tony Landa, testify:
I was fortunate enough to see her at the Moody show, and in my notes from the evening I observed that whether in a small club or a big theater, Jones would the stage, grabs the audience from the get-go, and not let loose for the duration. Here’s a European concert featuring the Super Soul Revue, which included Charles Bradley, Antibalas and the Sugarman 3, with Jones’ set starting at the 43 minute mark. Whew – an absolute dynamo.
I also got to see her perform early on, around the time of 2005’s Naturally, at a small club in Asheville, NC, and I my review I noted that it was “easily one of the most memorable club shows I’ve ever witnessed. When she strutted out onto the stage, the band vamping behind her, the electricity level in the club immediately skyrocketed, and she proceeded to own the audience for the entire set. There was no doubt among audience members that this tiny woman could kick every single ass in the room.”
By way of digression, check out the group’s Tiny Desk Concert at NPR from last year – it’s a special Christmastime performance that I’ve heard Jones was especially proud of. The confines may have been cramped, but that voice was as big as the heavens. After that is another broadcast from earlier this year via Austin’s KEXP.
Now I think back to early 2014 when Give the People What They Want was finally released, it having been delayed by the cancer diagnosis. After receiving treatment, though, Jones appeared to be in remission, and the band was able to get the record out and tour behind it. In my review of the album I wrote the following:
She and the band can now concentrate on gettin’ on with the gettin’ on via 10-song set of soulful sonic manna. From the Holland/Dozier/Holland-isms of opening cut “Retreat!” and the stiletto-heeled, girl-group vibe of “We Get Along” to the sinewy swamp-funk of “Long Time, “Wrong Time” and the gorgeous torch-song jazz of “Slow Down Love,” there’s nary a moment missed by the band to demonstrate that Sharon Jones is one of the greatest female vocalist currently operating.
Well, the only thing that changes for me now is having to make that last sentence past tense, because Sharon Jones was one of a kind. She was not only a proud heiress to a classic tradition, she was also a trailblazer in her own classy way – a “short, fat black woman” (her self-deprecating term, by the way) who suddenly got “discovered” by the music world when she was already in her 40s. Well, guess what? She proceeded to make up for lost time, and never failed to set us all up and knock us down over and over again.
Below, watch the Paris show in its entirety, which was filmed on the Give the People tour. Talk about kicking out the jams – Jones is dancing harder than other performers half her age. And pay close attention to Jones at about the 47 minute mark when she refers directly to her cancer, commanding it to get out of her body and stay out. Which I guess it did, at least for a little while, allowing Jones to complete her mission and go out on top.
Miss Sharon Jones definitely gave the people what we wanted, and a whole lot more. R.I.P., young lady. You earned it.
Forget those “neo-soul” or “revivalist” tags – the lady was pure soul.
By Fred Mills
Sharon Jones, diminutive dynamo frontwoman for Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, has passed away at the age of 60, following a long battle with cancer. Initially diagnosed in 2013, the cancer had been in remission but then returned late last year. According to Rolling Stone, Jones had “announced that the cancer had returned at the premiere of Miss Sharon Jones!, a documentary detailing Jones’ life and career. The cancer would be elevated to stage four, with tumors spreading to her lung, liver and lymph nodes.”
Jones’ publicist issued the following brief statement announcing Jones’ death late yesterday (Nov. 18):
“We are deeply saddened to announce that Sharon Jones has passed away after a heroic battle against pancreatic cancer. She was surrounded by her loved ones, including the Dap-Kings.”
Jones Jones, of course, had come to fame and acclaim relatively late in life, as the Dap-Kings and the Daptone label didn’t take off until the early ’00s. Prior to that she’d worked as everything from a wedding singer to a corrections officer. Then the Dap-Kings, comprising members of the Soul Providers and the Sugarman 3, helped her put together her debut album in 2002, and the rest has essentially been history, Jones’ gradual but steady rise ultimately chronicled in the above-mentioned documentary.
On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to see her perform early on, around the time of 2005’s Naturally, at a small club in Asheville, NC – easily one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever witnessed. When she strutted out onto the stage, the band vamping behind her, the electricity level in the club immediately skyrocketed, and she proceeded to own the audience for the entire set. There was no doubt among audience members that this tiny woman could kick every single ass in the room. A number of years later I was in Austin for SXSW and caught the Daptone Super Soul Review at the considerably larger Moody Theater, and once again Jones and her Dap-Kings were in total command.
Go HERE for our tribute to Jones, which includes some of our exclusive photos and links to previous coverage, and go HERE to download a particularly hot show from 2010.
“Allison, an NEA Jazz Master, was 89, and had celebrated his birthday on Nov. 11. His death was confirmed for JazzTimes by his music attorney. Allison is survived by his wife of 65 years, Audre; his daughters Alissa, Amy and Janine Allison; his son, John Allison; and two grandchildren.”
Tributes to Allison has been coming out for the last several hours, including a heartfelt and revealing one at NPR that correctly noted the rock world’s embrace of Allison early on: “Allison’s witty and often-acerbic lyrics — delivered with a distinctive Southern drawl — were favorites of jazz fans and the British rockers who covered his songs — from The Who to The Clash to Van Morrison.”
Below check out some “Mose” tunes and then the “other folks” versions….
“Leon Russell died on Nov. 13, 2016 in Nashville at the age of 74. His wife said that he passed away in his sleep. The Master Of Space And Time was a legendary musician and songwriter originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma who performed his gospel-infused southern boogie piano rock, blues, and country music for over 50 years.
“Leon was inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
“Leon led the famous Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen’ tour and performed with George Harrison and Friends at the Concert For Bangladesh. Leon has also toured with Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, Edgar Winter, The New Grass Revival, Willie Nelson, and Sir Elton John.
“Leon’s songwriting credits include ‘A Song For You’, ‘Delta Lady’, ‘Hummingbird’, ‘Lady Blue’, ‘Back To The Island’, ‘Tight Rope’, and ‘This Masquerade’.
Russell apparently had ongoing health problems, including surgery for brain fluid leaking in 2010, pneumonia that same year, and a heart attack this past July.
UPDATE 11/14: The New York Times confirms details of Miller’s passing, and notes, “Billy Miller, a rock ’n’ roll archivist and collector whose record label, Norton, gave new life to forgotten rockabilly artists and garage bands of yesteryear, died on Sunday at his home in Brooklyn. He was 62. The cause was complications of multiple myeloma, kidney failure and diabetes, his wife and business partner, Miriam Linna, said.”
Kicks just keep getting harder to find….
By Fred Mills
This news has yet to be completely confirmed by the record label, but reports are coming in that Billy Miller, mover and shaker behind mighty indie roots/soul label Norton (not to mention the late great Kicks fanzine, and rockin’ outfits the Zantees and the A-Bones), has passed away. According to a post at the Steve Hoffman music forums, “Miriam Linna, his wife and co owner with him of the great Norton Records label/mail order company has just announced this terrible news. Way too young.” There’s also word about his death posted on his Facebook timeline as well as a brief note by Linna at her Facebook page. I presume an official announcement will be made shortly.
Miller had been in poor health. According to a post from Linna about a year ago, “Billy has been dealing with complications from Multiple Myeloma, including kidney failure. He has been in and out of the hospital several times during the past year, and has been on chemotherapy and dialysis.”
Needless to say, this is very sad news for everyone in the music world, and particularly in the record business. Norton is one of the greats, with Billy and Miriam founding it many years ago and going on to help usher in a new era of appreciation for vintage rockabily, rock, and soul. I’ve heard Billy described as “Lux Interior’s little brother,” with Miriam being “Ivy’s little sister”. Kindred spirits indeed – Miriam was the original drummer for the Cramps, and later she and Billy would assemble the A-Bones.
On a personal note, I had met Billy several times over the years and he was a warm, genuine guy who knew what he liked and did his level best to make sure the rest of us got a chance to like it as well. R.I.P., sir, and our condolences to Miriam, Billy’s family, and the entire extended Norton family.
IUPDATE 11/13: We’ve now posted our Cohen tribute which collects a number of our best Cohen-related content from over the years.
It’s not a hallelujah…
By Blurt Staff
Leonard Cohen has died at the age of 82. On the singer’s Facebook page we get the sudden news:
“It is with profound sorrow we report that legendary poet, songwriter and artist, Leonard Cohen has passed away, We have lost one of music’s most revered and prolific visionaries. A memorial will take place in Los Angeles at a later date. The family requests privacy during their time of grief.”
Electronic music pioneer was an early Moog adherent and virtuoso.
By Uncle Blurt
The progressive music world emitted a collective sigh today when word arrived of the passing of Jean-Jacques Perrey, a Robert Moog associate who, along with Gershon Kingsley (as Perrey-Kingsley – required listening: The In Sound From Way Out!, from 1966, a key influence on everyone from Stereolab to the Beastie Boys), created some of electronica’s earliest and most groundbreaking recordings. He passed away yesterday (Nov. 4) in Switzerland at the age of 87, from lung cancer.
Rolling Stone reports that Oglio Records owner Carl Caprioglio (the label issued Perrey”s 2006 album The Happy Electropop Music Machine), released a statement, saying, “As the owner of indie label Oglio Records, I have had the pleasure of encountering hundreds of artists but I rarely have the opportunity to work with legends. Jean-Jacques Perrey is a legend and I am thankful I had the chance to help share his beautiful and uplifting music with the world. My heart goes out to his daughter Patricia, his recent musical collaborator Dana Countryman and to all of his many fans worldwide.”
Read more about Perrey’s long, influential life HERE.
Don Buchla, who along with Robert Moog was one of the great electronic music grandfathers, passed away on Sept. 14 at the age of 79. According to the Guardian, the modular synth inventor “was considered a true iconoclast with an uncompromising vision of what synthesizers could be. His impact on electronic music was vast; Buchla independently invented the first modern synthesizer, at the same time as Robert Moog, in 1963. Although Moog is often credited with having invented the first modular synthesizer, Moog even admitted during his lifetime that Buchla was the first to have a full concept of how to put all the modules together to add up to an instrument.
“He invented a whole new paradigm for how you interface with electronics – much more human, and a whole new thing,” says Buchla’s close friend Morton Subotnick.
“He was a genius and an adventurer – an adventurer in the real sense of the word,” says his friend, musician Bob Ostertag. “Almost everything he made was unprecedented.”
Read more about Buchla at the Guardian story and at the Buchla Wikipedia page. Below, hear some music. After that you can check out an interview with the inventor.
Prince Buster, born Cecil Bustamente Campbell, has passed away (Sept. 8) at the age of 78, reports the Jamaican Observer, according to Campbell’s so, possibly due to a heart attack or stroke (he’d recently suffered several strokes). Known as The King of Ska, Prince Buster was a key player on Jamaica’s early reggae scene, being one of the acknowledged masters of ska and rocksteady.
He came to prominence in the ’60s working with sound system wizard Coxsone Dodd, ultimately become a sound system purveyor himself and operator of record store Buster’s Shack. Later he would be embraced in the ’70s by the British ska movement – Madness named themselves after one of his songs. He also received the Order of Distinction in Jamaica in 2001for all his groundbreaking efforts in the country’s music industry.
Blurt Video Exclusive: Twinkle Star "Wasting Life Together"/"Release Yourself"
A Blurt Video Boot Exclusive: Vieux Farka Toure - live in Beijing 1/15/17)
Blurt Exclusive: James Johnston "Heart and Soul" (live)