Category Archives: Dead Musicians
I’m writing this with a slight hangover. Last night was BayFM’s trivia fundraiser on the theme of The Dead Musicians Club. Great night had by all. I loved the theme so much that I organised this week’s show around the same topic. And, let’s face it, a little bit of outrageous promotion for the event didn’t hurt either. And if you are wondering, I teamed up with the lovely Andy and we dressed as Sid Vicious & Nancy Spungeon.
Trying to fit all my favourite musicians into the two hour slot was, of course, impossible. But I had a good go at it. First up it was Curtis Mayfield & the Impressions with PEOPLE GET READY. Mayfield died in 1999 after 10 years of ill health due to being paralysed after an onstage accident. His music continues to be part of hip-hop’s DNA. Rappers like Jay-Z and Snoop Dog have sampled his lyrics and its reported that his estate receives five sample requests a month, with each one fetching up to $350,000. So Curtis, or at least his estate, isn’t doing too badly.
In order to fit as many of the artists that I could into the line-up it was necessary to occasionally play a duet. And, I ask you, is there any better than Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong? Ella died in 1996 and is widely considered one of the supreme interpreters of the Great American Songbook. Louis Armstrong passed away in 1971. His influence extends way beyond jazz music. By the end of his career in the 1960’s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general.The duet I chose was DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME.
Both Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline died in plane crashes and both were very young at the time of their passing. They continue to influence country, rock and pop music to this day. We played LEAVIN’ ON YOUR MIND from Patsy Cline and CRYIN’ WAITIN’ HOPIN’ from Buddy Holly. Oldies, but goodies.
Wilson Pickett was known for his influence on R&B, rock n roll and soul. Is there a better dance floor filler than his rendition of DEVIL WITH THE BLUE DRESS ON? No way.
Two artists who found the fame game just a bit too difficult are Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and singer/songwriter Nick Drake. Both committed suicide while still very young. At the time of Cobain’s death in 1994 he was worth less than $1 million but future royalties have been valued at over $100 million. Drake failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, however his work has gradually achieved wider notice and recognition. He now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years. He died in 1974. We played Drake’s FRUIT TREE, a request from Anthony, and Nirvana’s COME AS YOU ARE. Here’s a clip of Nirvana performing unplugged in New York in the early 90’s:
Naturally I couldn’t do a show about dead musicians without including Michael Jackson. We chose ROCK WITH YOU from the Off the Wall album. After his death in 2009 Jackson became the best-selling artist of the year, selling over 31 million albums worldwide. He named James Brown “his greatest inspiration”. So it was fitting that we played I FEEL GOOD from Brown as well. He died on Xmas Day 2006 due to complications from pneumonia.
It’s a myth, you know, that Mama Cass Elliott died chocking on a peanut butter sandwich. The real story is that she died of a heart attack after performing back-to-back concerts in London in 1974. She died in the same flat in Mayfair, (on loan from Harry Nilsson), that the Who’s drummer Keith Moon would die in, a little over four years later. I played Elliot’s great version of the Buddy Holly classic, WORDS OF LOVE and followed with a song for Rolling Stones founder, and multi-instrumentalist, Brian Jones. It’s one that showcased Jones’ skill on the side guitar: LITTLE RED ROOSTER.
Lynard Skynard came to worldwide recognition in 1973 before three members and one road crew member died in a plane crash in 1977. Keyboardist Billy Powell died in 2009, aged 56, from a heart attack. Of its original members, only Gary Rossington remains as part of the present line-up. We followed with another good ol’ Southern boy you may have heard of: cultural icon Elvis Presley with BURNING LOVE.
Bob Marley, who passed away in 1981, had to wait for death to make him a U.S. superstar. The week he was diagnosed with cancer he played Madison Square Garden — opening for the Commodores. Fellow Wailer, Peter Tosh, was on the brink of a successful solo career when he was murdered in 1987. I played the Wailers version of GET UP, STAND UP, with both Peter Tosh and Bob Marley on the track.
We said goodbye to both Malcolm McLaren and Sid Vicious with the Sex Pistols’ anthem GOD SAVE THE QUEEN. Here’s what all the fuss was about, way back then:
While punk rock stirred things up, for a while, R&B never went away. Marvin Gaye’s career spanned the entire history of Rhythm & Blues from 50’s doo wop to 80’s contemporary soul. He was murdered by his own father after an argument in 1984. Otis Redding died in plane crash a month before his biggest hit was released. He was only 26. We listened to Marvin Gaye’s sublime WHAT’S GOIN’ ON followed by the song that would make Otis Redding’s estate worth more money than he ever saw when he was alive – SITTIN ON THE DOCK OF THE BAY.
If we’re talking punk, however, I have to say that my favourite band is The Clash. Lead singer and lyricist for the group, Joe Strummer, died suddenly in 2002 from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Highly intelligent and politically pro-active, he was the first artist to make the recording, pressing and distribution of his records carbon neutral. Onya Joe. Check out this clip of LONDON CALLING:
Two great artists who died of cancer are 60’s icon, Dusty Springfield, and the incredible Ray Charles. For Dusty we played the power ballad, YOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME, and for Ray Charles, the very appropriate, HARD TIMES.
I’ve played Johnny Cash’s amazing cover of the Nine Inch Nails track, HURT, before but it couldn’t be left out of a show like this. He recorded it in 2002 and it was one of Cash’s final releases before his death in 2003. The video for the song is regarded as his epitaph.
One of my sentimental favourites is Freddy Mercury who died of pneumonia resulting from AIDS in 1991. As lead singer of rock group Queen he also composed many of their hits. He had a successful solo career too and I chose one of those recordings for this week’s show: THERE MUST BE MORE TO LIFE THAN THIS.
Another of my favourites is Tim Buckley and one of my favourite albums is his Greetings from LA. Buckley died at 28 from a drug overdose with nothing more than a guitar, amplifier and a lot of debt to his name. His legacy of 11 albums has rectified that somewhat, I hope. Hard to pick one track but we went with MOVE WITH ME.
Another victim of drug addiction was the pioneering Janis Joplin. She died at 27 from a heroin overdose and one of the last songs she recorded was a birthday greeting for John Lennon. The founder of the Beatles was assassinated in 1980, aged 40. So we started the set with Joplin’s CRY BABY and followed with Lennon’s HOW? from the Imagine album.
And finally, my favourite artist, dead or alive – Roy Orbison with his signature tune, PRETTY WOMAN. This clip is from the Black & White Night DVD, a great video featuring Orbison and friends including Jackson Browne, T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, k.d. lang, Bonnie Rait, J.D. Souther, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits and Jennifer Warnes. Heaven. And for all things ‘Roy’ go to the website at: http://www.royorbison.com/
We wrapped the show up with a great artist who passed away only a couple of days ago, at the ripe old age of 92. Lena Horne helped break down barriers for generations of performers. We played her signature tune, STORMY WEATHER from the 1943 film of the same name. It’s a sizzling performance. I want that movie for my collection!
And we still had time to fit in the very charismatic Jim Morrison and The Doors with RIDERS ON A STORM. Whew. Now I know that there are some glaring omissions. But it’s only a two hour show folks!
Next week I’ve been inspired by some postings on Facebook to create a show on SONGS WITH MEANINGLESS WORDS. Like Na-Na-Hey-Hey and Doo-Ron-Ron. That kind of thing. Love to hear your suggestions.
Here’s this week’s complete playlist:
People Get Ready – The Anthology 1961-1977, Curtis Mayﬁeld & The Impressions
Dream A Little Dream Of Me – Easy Listening, Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
Leavin’ On Your Mind – The Patsy Cline Story, Patsy Cline
Cryin’ Waitin’ Hopin’ – Buddy Holly
Devil With The Blue Dress On – Wilson Pickett
Come As You Are – Nirvana, Nirvana
Fruit Tree – Twentyfourseven Soundtrack, Nick Drake
I Feel Good – James Brown
Rock With You (Single Version) – Off the Wall, Michael Jackson
Words of Love – Mama’s Big Ones, Mama Cass Elliot
Little Red Rooster – Rolling Stones
Summertime – Charlie Parker & Chet Baker
Sweet Home Alabama – Forrest Gump Soundtrack, Lynard Skynard
Burning Love – Elvis Presley
Get Up Stand Up – Back To Zion, Bob Marley & The Wailers
God Save The Queen – Never Mind The Bollocks, The Sex Pistols
What’s Going On – The Big Chill soundtrack, Marvin Gaye
Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay – Otis Redding
London Calling – The Clash
You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me – The British Beat: Best Of The ’60s, Dusty Springﬁeld
Hard Times – Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues, Ray Charles
Hurt – American IV: The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash
There Must Be More To Life Than This – The Very Best of Freddie Mercury, Freddie Mercury
Fever – Verve Remixed 3, Adam Freeland & Sarah Vaughan
Move With Me – Greetings From L.A., Tim Buckley
Purple Haze – Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix
Cry Baby – Cry Baby (The Ultimate Collection), Janis Joplin
How? – Lennon, John Lennon
Oh, Pretty Woman – Roy Orbison
Stormy Weather – Hollywood Musicals, Lena Horne
Riders on the storm – The Doors soundtrack, The Doors
Next week: SONGS WITH MEANINGLESS WORDS