Now that the last Music Awards Show (Billboard) has past, it’s time to look back at the artists we lost in 2014. I recently went through all the Hot 100 singles and found I could clump them into 4 general categories (Hip/Hop, Country Rock, whiney female singers, and Irish sounding pub rock bands) It also made me wonder does every hit song these days have to be connected to Pitbull or feature him in a rap? I appreciate new music and look forward to each week’s releases but popular music seems a little stagnant these days. So if your just listening to the popular music stations, that’s what you’re in store for. I say branch out and spread your wings, because there is a lot of good new music out there to explore and the old stuff just waiting to be rediscovered.
JOE COCKER – SOMETHING TO SAY – A&M MUSIC
The original gravel voiced blues/rock soul singer, John (Joe) Cocker (12-22-14), was unique with his vocal delivery which set him far apart from others. Few have the ability to consistently reach into their whole being with every performance. This was a man who commanded the stage without special effects. This Woodstock legend himself was the special effect. Though his hits were sporadic throughout his 5 decades of recording, three numbers defined his artistry for all ages; his definitive interpretation of the Beatles “With A Little Help From My Friends,” the number one duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong” from the film Officer And A Gentleman, and the well covered “You Can Leave Your Hat On,” from the movie 9 1/2 Weeks. Listening to those three songs is just hint of his body of work and well worth seeking out more. His 1972 album “Something To Say” made an impressive Billboard Chart showing and laid the groundwork for his blues/rock style that became his signature.
JIMMY RUFFIN – THE GROOVE GOVERNOR – TAMALA MUSIC
Often mistaken as a member of the Temptations, Jimmy Ruffin (11-17-14), was never a member and lost out on the opportunity to his younger brother David. He recorded solo prior to that and continued to be solo artist in the Motown galaxy of stars through the Mid 70’s. His biggest hit in that period was the R&B/Pop Staple “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted,” hitting the top ten on both the Hot 100 and R&B single charts in 1966 He recorded a post disco hit “Hold On To My Love,” written with the Bee Gee’s Robin Gibb for RSO records in 1980. Reaching the top ten this would be his last US Chart appearance. Ruffin’s 1970 album The Groove Governor showcase’s his ability to embrace the Motown sound and carry it on to other pop hits of the time like R.B. Greaves “Take A Letter Maria.”
WAYNE STATIC – PIGHAMMER – DIRTHOUSE MUSIC
Wayne (Static) Wells (11-1-14) was the founder and the lead singer of the Industrial Metal based group Static-X. The band formed in California, but Static’s roots were in Michigan and Illinois. In his early years he was bandmates with Billy Corgan in the short lived Deep Blue Dream. Corgan when on to form the Smashing Pumpkins and Static developed his own professional namesake Static-X. The two directions couldn’t be anymore diverse. At the end of the 90’s Grunge Era, Industrial Music embraced properties of Dance and Heavy Metal. Too beat manifested for the typical club floor, but hard enough for Rock fans to take notice, groups like Ministry, KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, and White Zombie found their niche. Static did released one solo album (Pighammer) and it basically sounded like a Static-X group release. Static-X’s crowning achievement was their debut “Wisconsin Death Trap,” and where you will discover them at their rawest and most experimental. I’ve spotlighted Pighammer as the feature, due to the promise it showed this artist was capable of.
MARCIA STRASSMAN – THE FLOWER CHILDREN UNI MUSIC
Yes Mrs. Kotter made a record! Marcia Strassman (10-24-14) was a role model as the plain but cute girl next store of the 70’s and perfectly cast as Julie Kotter (Mr. Kotter’s tolerant wife), on TV’s “Welcome Back Kotter,” the launching pad for John Travolta. Strassman’s attempt at a music career was not meant to be. Her three single attempts in the late 60’s failed. Musically they were forgettable, but with the Kotter gig she became the sudo mom of the Sweathogs and found her place in Pop Culture History.
ALVIN STARDUST – THE PLATINUM COLLECTION – WARNER BROTHERS MUSIC
British Glam Rocker Alvin Stardust (Bernard Jewry) actually had two careers. In the 60’s he was known as Shane Fenton and in the 70’s Jewry became Alvin Stardust (10-23-14). The Fenton persona was a Frankie Avalon type of Teen Idol aimed at the Pop Country Markets while the Elvis inspired Stardust was in the vein of Gary Glitter with a falsetto. Neither of Jewry’s incarnations achieved much in the U.S. Markets, but as Alvin Stardust he had seven top ten singles in the U.K. including the #1 ‘My Coo Ca Choo,” from 1973-1984. The Warner Brothers Platinum Collection contains a wealth of selections but I recommend seeking out his individual vinyl releases for some hidden nuggets that you’ll never find on CD or as a Download.
PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS – SPECIAL EDITION – RAIDER AMERICA MUSIC
The “Name” and creator behind one of the 60’s most popular mod rock bands, Paul Revere Dick (10-4-14), was often mistaken as the lead singer of Paul Revere And The Raiders, due to his name heading the band. The credited lead singer prior to 1975 was Mark Lindsay. Revere started the band and their first top forty hit single was the instrumental, “Like Long Hair,” in 1961. Sometimes performing in “Early American Colonial Drag” they were thought of as comical and fire was added to that with Revere’s wild persona on stage. They were a serious group and earned respect with the continued hit singles, Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” and one of the 70’s best songs “Indian Reservation.” After their “hit” period, Lindsay left the band because he didn’t want a career on the oldies circuit. Paul Revere continued on but the band never again never came close to their heydays. The album, Special Edition, from 1982 featured mainly bad re-recordings of their hit singles, but the new material showed some promise of a revival with the New Wave sounds of the time. The instrument track of “Magazine” is very similar to the Police.
GEORGE HAMILTON IV – ON CAMPUS – ABC MUSIC
North Carolina’s George Hamilton IV (9-17-14) was another artist who had two success stories to tell. In the latter 50’s he started as a teen idol and scored two top ten ballad singles, “A Rose & A Baby Ruth” followed by “Why Don’t They Understand,” but he also enjoyed the rockabilly groove. Switching to a more country folk type of sound he achieved greater success on the Country Charts landing 36 singles from 1960-1973, which included 1963’s Number One “Abilene.” Hamilton’s voice was very smooth and natural, much like long time label-mate Eddy Arnold. My favorite George Hamilton IV album of his was his first from 1958. “On Campus” is gentle portrait of life in other era, perfect for a time capsule of that day.
JOE SAMPLE – RAINBOW SEEKER – BLUE THUMB MUSIC
Jazz Pianist Joe Sample (9-12-14) could best be described as “Breezy.” He could be touching as well as strong with melodies that gathered the attention of Steely Dan, George Benson, B.B. King, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner, and Eric Clapton with whom he collaborated with. His most solid performance was the formation of The Jazz Crusaders (later shortened to just The Crusaders) and added an R&B groove which broke through to the Dance & Top 40 Pop Market, adding vocalist Randy Crawford, on “Street Life.” In addition to the large output from the Crusaders, his 23 solo recordings have proven quite a catalog to draw from. His third release “Rainbow Seeker” from 1978 stood out for me because this album recorded right prior to the Crusaders Street Life, shows just how much his influence was part of that moment in their history.
JIMI JAMISON – EMPIRES – TOPNOTCH MUSIC
When you think of the band Survivor, naturally “Eye Of The Tiger” come to mind. Jimi Jamison (8-31-14) was one of the lead singers for that group, however his tenure began after that opus. Initially replacing Dave Bickler due to illness Jamison was caught up in the battle for the lead singer of Survivor, bowed out, and did solo work. His work with Survivor encompassed many Billboard top 20 singles (I Can’t Hold Back/High On You/The Search Is Over/Burning Heart/Is This Love) and his performances stood equal with the original band line up. Jamison a credited musician and vocalist released five solid solo albums and worked with other bands and artists (Cobra/Target/Krokus/Joe Walsh). Before his death he reunited with Survivor and with Bickler. The new band with two lead singers did tour, but plans for a new album were stalled due to Jamison’s passing. Jimi Jamison’s 1999 release Empires, which contains a wicked cover of Gary Wright’s Love Is Alive, is a spot on example of the anthem rock he was capable of as a solo artist.
ROBIN WILLIAMS – LIVE AT THE MET – COLUMBIA MUSIC
What can one possibly say about Robin Williams (8-11-14) that the world doesn’t already know or appreciate. His body of work in film in several genres is simply amazing. He dared to be different early on in his film career and not just repeat his original Mork From Ork popularity. Throughout his career he stayed loyal to stand up comedy and luckily we have been left with several archived performances. My favorite is “Live At The Met” recorded in 1986. I’d say it’s Williams at his “Prime,” but he never faded, so I’ll just say it’s Robin during one of his bests.
MICHAEL JOHNS – HOLD BACK MY HEART – TRP MUSIC
A promising contender on Season Seven of American Idol, Michael (Johns) Lee (8-1-14) had a music career prior to Idol. This is the only problem I have with American Idol. I think the contestants should all be fresh with no formal prior recording history. That being said, Michael Johns performances, though all cover tunes, gave depth and believability. He was one of the few artists on the show that I actually looked forward to hearing their Post-Idol release. The CD Hold Back My Heart gave a sampling of what was to come. Easily delivering his message through emotion and self expression he co-wrote six of the twelve tracks. Including one big cover tune, the Bee Gees “To Love Somebody,” the other songs showcase his natural ability to display his bluesy homegrown style.
JOHNNY WINTER – STILL ALIVE AND WELL – COLUMBIA MUSIC
Johnny Winter (7-16-14) and his brother Edgar were unmistakable due to their albinism, but both are legends when it comes to the blues guitar. Johnny the oldest was the first to form a band and Edgar joined in before embarking on a solo career in 1970. Johnny’s history includes playing Woodstock and with legends including Roy Head, Janis Joplin and Muddy Waters. Winter was a musician’s musician. Never racing up the charts or selling records in the multi-millions Johnny Winter gained a strong following that lasted decades. One of my favorite of his albums is 1973’s Still Alive And Well, which is basically a down and dirty, kick ass Guitar Blues Rock album, in it’s finest form. Listen to the opener Rock Me Baby, then then closer From A Buick Six, then savor everything in between.
BOBBY WOMACK – FACTS OF LIFE – UNITED ARTISTS MUSIC
Guitarist and R&B Singer Bobby Womack (6-27-14) had many ups and downs in his career, but when you have natural talent an artist keeps coming back for decades. Beginning in the 50’s as part of the Gospel Group The Womack Brothers, Sam Cooke nurtured their sound to a more pop audience and changed the groups name to The Valentinos. They scored with “It’s All Over Now,” which was co-written by Bobby, but that track saw a much wider audience when covered by The Rolling Stones. Womack while building his own Solo career in the 70’s worked with Ray Charles, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone and Aretha Franklin just to name a few. His biggest Solo recording was in 1974 with a re-recording of “Looking For A Love,” which originally made the Hot 100 Chart in 1962 when he was with The Valentinos. His solo version was his first and only Top Ten Single. Thereafter he still frequented and was successful on the R&B Charts with a duet with Patti Labelle in 1984, “Love has Finally Come At Last,” reaching #3 and overseas with Lulu on “I’m Back For More,” a Top 30 hit in 1993. Womack’s Facts Of Life release from 1973, demonstrates how he was able to personalize a song of his own making and covering in a unique way, Burt Bacharach’s Look of Love, Carole King’s Natural Woman (Man) and Jimi Hendrix’s All Along The Watchtower.
JERRY VALE – BE MY LOVE – COLUMBIA MUSIC
Aside from Tony Bennett they aren’t many old school crooners left from a decade that still has affection in many musical hearts, which was proven by Bennett’s release with Lady Gaga late last year. Genaro (Jerry Vale) Vitaliano (5-18-14) was one of the great Italian songsters in the US, right behind the legendary Dean Martin. One of my first music memories was hearing his version of the Star Spangled Banner at a baseball game as a child. Later in life I learned that his version was “the standard” decades before Whitney Houston’s well received recording. His most noteworthy Chart moment was reaching #14 on the Hot 100 Singles Chart with “You Don’t Know Me.” Originally first recorded by Eddy Arnold, Vale’s version was released as a single first. Arnold’s release failed to make the Pop Chart. “You Don’t Know Me” is now considered a standard and the phrase “they don’t write ’em like that anymore” certainly applies. Jerry Vale’s recording success paled in comparison to Frank Sinatra or Perry Como. I assure you that spending years in the used record business, a Jerry Vale album turns up in almost every box of anyone’s collection over the age of 60. Be My Love is the most common that I see, and it is a wonderful example of Vale’s catalog.
ROB BASE & DJ EZ ROCK (RODNEY BRYCE) – IT TAKES TWO – PROFILE MUSIC
Known on Vinyl as DJ E-Z Rock, Rodney Bryce (4-27-14) was half of the short lived Hip-Hop duo Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock. Though they only made two albums together (the later being a reunion project), the two singles they released in 1988 made quite an impact. “It Takes Two” is a staple in the Hip-Hop community and influenced a load of other copy songs and artists. The second “Joy And Pain,” plagued with rumors of copywrite infringements, brought a new younger audience to the works of Frankie Beverly & Maze. Both tracks are very responsible for the blending of Rap & House Music and taking that format to the mainstream. In a 1990 interview Bryce stated that he left the duo due to personal reasons, Bryce had also been plagued with Diabetes throughout his adult life and unfortunately didn’t appear to curve his lifestyle to accommodate those medical issues.
SHIRLEY TEMPLE – LOLLY POP – MCPS MUSIC
I’ve included Shirley Temple (2-10-14) in this list because of two recordings which hold historical content. “On The Good Ship Lollipop” from 1934’s Bright Eyes and “Animal Crackers In My Soup” from 1935’s Curly Top will forever be cherished by children as long as they are exposed to that audience. Better known as the child actress who has been captured forever as America’s Little Darling in film has had a cult following of collectables with her likeness that still thrives today. I have yet to see a child that has not been fascinated with her image and since adding color to the old black & white reels, it makes the connection even more relatable.
PETE SEEGER – I CAN SEE A NEW DAY – COLUMBIA MUSIC
When one thinks of Folk Music, Pete Seeger (1-27-14) and Woody Guthrie come to mind as the earliest solo performers that influenced any creditable songwriter from the 60s and forward. Seeger goes hand in hand with the idea of protest and song. Performing until months prior to his passing, this artist’s passion can hardly be compared. From the beginning of Music History, the genre of folk has been the base of everything and something that is hard to define. Basically to me it is the telling of a simple story or idea with the smallest amount of music accompaniment. Now that style has morphed into numerous directions which leads to the diversity in that category. One of Pete Seeger’s early employment ventures was working at the Washington DC Archive of American Folk Song of the Library of Congress where he would assist in the sorting and selection of recordings for national file. In the 50’s he helped form and was part of The Weavers which became one the nation’s most popular Folk Groups. Seeger then was drawn to political issues and ventured out solo beginning a life long journey of bringing attention to social events through song. Pete Seeger is responsible for many iconic songs such as Where Have All The Flowers Gone, If I Had A Hammer, and Turn Turn Turn. 1964’s “I Can See A New Day” album, recorded live, is how to best enjoy the intimate setting that emerged from his concerts.
PHIL EVERLY – STAR SPANGLED SPRINGER – RCA MUSIC
The Everly Brothers were the group that bridged the gap between Pop and Country music in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Discovered by Chet Atkins in the mid 50’s Don & Phil Everly (1-3-14) had previously performed with their parents as a family group on their father’s radio show. As a Duo, they achieved 27 (including B-Sides) Top 40 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart from 1956-1967. With the British Invasion they fell out of popularity and split due to personal differences and alcohol/drug related addictions, but continued to record with unsuccessful Solo careers throughout the 1970’s. Phil Everly did achieve some notoriety in 1983, with a self titled solo release that had moderate success in England. At this time, the brothers began talking again through their long time bass player and collaborator Terry Slater, and possibly due to Phil’s oversees comeback. The result was a mutual reunion concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London and Live Album release. They decided to record a new album, produced by Dave Edmunds (a long time fan), titled EB84. It was an Adult Contemporary Hit, and made it to #44 on the Billboard Albums Chart. Two more albums emerged over the next four years, but the long overdue comeback was quickly forgotten. Their last recording as a Duo was in 1998 for the song “Cold” as part of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Musical Whistle Down The Wind. Star Spangled Springer was Phil Everly’s first solo album released in 1973. With production from the great Duane Eddy and arrangements from Warren Zevon, it still had the feel of an Everly Brothers record and their sound was a decade behind the times, therefore it was unfortunately unnoticed.