Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Hugh Masakela and so many others RIP

This year has begun with a stream of music deaths which is rapidly turning into a torrent. The latest is South African jazz trumpeter Hugh Masakela at the age of 78. His 1987 anti apartheid song Bring Him Back Home, calling for the release of Nelson Mandela, became the anthem of the anti apartheid movement. He was a member of the Jazz Epistles, the first African jazz group to record an album in 1959 and the group attracted huge crowds. However, following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and the clampdown by the South African government he left for the UK and then to the US to study music. Big hits followed with Up Up and Away and Grazing In The Grass and he appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. He played with various jazz ensembles and helped organise the Zaire 74 music festival in Kinshaha. In the '80s he teamed up with African musicians and formed the Botswana International School of Music in 1985. He also toured with Paul Simon to promote the Graceland album. As well as Bring Him Back Home, he wrote another anti apartheid song Soweto Blues, sung by his ex wife Miriam Makeba.
Another death this week is that of soul and blues artist Preston Shannon at the age of 70. He played
regularly at B B King's club in Beale Street, Memphis, and was an excellent guitarist as well as the possessor of a soulful voice. He released his first Bullseye album Break The Ice in 1994 and followed up with Willie Mitchell produced records such as Midnight in Memphis and All In Time. His latest album was Dust My Broom in 2014. I saw him a couple of times at B B King's, the most recent occasion being in 2014 (pictured).
Edwin Hawkins, who died last week, was a gospel musician best known for Oh Happy Day, which became a huge hit in 1969, reaching number two in the UK charts.Originally from
Oakland, California, he recorded over 30 gospel albums from the late sixties to the nineties. He had a second top ten hit with the Melanie single Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) in 1970.
Another soul man with a gospel background who has died is Terry Evans at the age of 80. Born in Vicksburg, Ms, he had a long association with Ry Cooder and found success as one half of a soul duo with Bobby King, recording for Rounder with involvement from Ry Cooder. Prior to that he had written songs recorded by Pops Staples and Louis Jordan. Later solo albums included Blues For Thought, again produced by Ry Cooder. Come To The River and Mississippi Magic.
Other music deaths this year who I haven't mentioned on the blog include flautist and singer Ray Thomas, who was a member of the Moody Blues as well as recording solo. Also guitarist 'Fast' Eddie Clarke, the last remaining member of Motorhead's classic line up; bassist Jim Rodford, a founder member of Argent who later played with the Kinks; Dolores O'Riordan, singer with the Cranberries, and jazz guitarist Wilbert Longmire. A final word too for one of the TV acting names of my youth, that of Peter Wyngarde, who played the flamboyant author cum sleuth Jason King in 
Department S before graduating to his own series and whose career was badly damaged by a sexual liaison at Gloucester Bus Station in 1975. Let's not forget two footballers either - the trailblazing black player Cyrille Regis and Mr Blackpool, Jimmy Armfield. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all.

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