Category: In Memoriam 2023

Artists who we lost this year

In Memoriam: Floyd Newman (1931 – 2023)

Floyd Newman (August 17, 1931 – May 23, 2023) was an American saxophonist, session musician and bandleader. As a baritone sax player, he was long associated with Stax Records, and as a member of The Mar-Keys’ horn section and the Memphis Horns.

Born in Memphis, in the late 1940s he became a member of the B.B. King Review, with, among others, George Coleman and George Joyner. Newman later moved to Detroit and recorded with Jackie Brenston, and toured with Sam Cooke before returning to Memphis. Newman also led a band featuring Howard Grimes on drums, Joe Woods on guitar and Isaac Hayes on keyboards, and which performed at the Plantation Inn. This line-up also recorded a 45, “Frog Stomp”, co-written by Newman and Hayes. Newman and Hayes had previously coincided in Ben Branch’s house band at the Tropicana Club, with Hayes as a vocalist.

As a member of the House horn section at Stax, in 1965 he would go on to become a founding member of the Memphis Horns, with Wayne Jackson and Gene “Bowlegs” Miller on trumpets, Floyd Newman on baritone sax and Andrew Love on tenor.

Newman died on May 23, 2023, at the age of 91.

In Memoriam: Sheldon Reynolds (1959 – 2023)

Sheldon Maurice Reynolds (September 13, 1959 – May 23, 2023) was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He was a member of bands Sun, The Commodores and Earth, Wind & Fire.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Reynolds began playing the guitar when he was eight years old, and by the age of 12 was considered a prodigy. He went on to become an alumnus of The University of Cincinnati. Reynolds eventually embarked upon a professional musical career. At first he toured with singer Millie Jackson. Reynolds later joined R&B band Sun, with whom he recorded three albums. During 1983 he became a member of The Commodores. With the Commodores he sang on their 1985 LP Nightshift and then played on their 1986 album United. Altogether he featured with the band for four years.

Reynolds then joined Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) in the roles of lead guitarist and co-vocalist. He went on to play on EWF’s LPs Touch The World (1987), The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 2 (1988), Heritage (1990), Millennium (1993) and In The Name of Love (1997). With EWF he earned a Grammy nomination in 1994 in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the song “Sunday Morning”. As a member of the band, Reynolds was inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame.

Reynolds died at the age of 63.

In Memoriam: Bill Lee (1928 – 2023)

William James Edwards Lee (July 23, 1928 – May 24, 2023) was an American musician. He was the father of Spike Lee and Joie Lee. He composed original music for many of his son’s films, including She’s Gotta Have It (1986), School Daze (1988), Do the Right Thing (1989), and Mo’ Better Blues (1990). Lee was involved in many releases from the Strata-East jazz record label, including directing the 1980 album The New York Bass Violin Choir.

In Memoriam: Mark Adams (1958 – 2023)

Mark Adams (1958 – 2023), bassist with U.S. doom legends Saint Vitus, has died, aged 64. Saint Vitus guitarist Dave Chandler announced the news in a statement on Facebook earlier today.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. I found out last night,” he wrote. “I can’t say it out loud. I’m heartbroken to inform everyone that my best friend and co – founder of SAINT VITUS Mark Adams has passed away. The details are vague, as I haven’t actually spoken with the family yet. He left us May 23 2023 peacefully in his sleep. I’m trying to contact anyone in the family to find out more.

In Memoriam: Tina Turner (1939 – 2023)

Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock; November 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023) was an American-born and naturalized Swiss singer, dancer, actress and author. Widely referred to as the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, she rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before launching a successful career as a solo performer.

Turner began her career with Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in 1957. Under the name Little Ann, she appeared on her first record, “Boxtop”, in 1958. In 1960, she debuted as Tina Turner with the hit duet single “A Fool in Love”. The duo Ike & Tina Turner became “one of the most formidable live acts in history”. They released hits such as “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine”, “River Deep – Mountain High”, “Proud Mary”, and “Nutbush City Limits” before disbanding in 1976.

In the 1980s, Turner launched “one of the greatest comebacks in music history”. Her 1984 multi-platinum album Private Dancer contained the hit song “What’s Love Got to Do with It”, which won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and became her first and only number one song on the Billboard Hot 100. At age 44, she was the oldest female solo artist to top the Hot 100. Her chart success continued with “Better Be Good to Me”, “Private Dancer”, “We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)”, “Typical Male”, “The Best”, “I Don’t Wanna Fight”, and “GoldenEye”. During her Break Every Rule World Tour in 1988, she set a then-Guinness World Record for the largest paying audience (180,000) for a solo performer.

Turner also acted in the films Tommy (1975), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Last Action Hero (1993). In 1993, What’s Love Got to Do with It, a biographical film adapted from her autobiography I, Tina: My Life Story, was released. In 2009, Turner retired after completing her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour, which is the 15th highest-grossing tour of the 2000s. In 2018, she became the subject of the jukebox musical Tina.

Having sold over 100 million records worldwide, Turner is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. She has received 12 Grammy Awards, which include eight competitive awards, three Grammy Hall of Fame awards, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the first black artist and first woman to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone ranked her among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Turner has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the St. Louis Walk of Fame. She has twice been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with Ike Turner in 1991 and as a solo artist in 2021. She was also a 2005 recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and Women of the Year award. Tina died aged 83 after a long illness on May 24, 2023.

In Memoriam: Peter Brown (1940 – 2023)

Peter Ronald Brown (December 25, 1940 – May 19, 2023) was an English performance poet, lyricist, and singer best known for his collaborations with Cream and Jack Bruce. Brown formed the bands Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments and Pete Brown & Piblokto! and worked with Graham Bond and Phil Ryan. Brown also wrote film scripts and formed a film production company.

Brown was born in Ashtead, Surrey, England. Before his involvement with music, he was a poet, having his first poem published in the U.S. magazine Evergreen Review when he was 14 years old.

Brown became part of the poetry scene in Liverpool during the 1960s, and in 1964 was the first poet to perform at Morden Tower in Newcastle. He became a significant advocate of British Beat Poetry, and in partnership with Michael Horovitz wrote poetry which they recited together as part of the 1965 event at the Royal Albert Hall.

Combining his poetry with music, Brown began performing at live events with musicians including the “New Departures” group with Horovitz, and toured with folk guitarist Davey Graham. The First Real Poetry Band was formed by Brown with John McLaughlin (guitar), Binky McKenzie (bass), Laurie Allan (drums) and Pete Bailey (percussion).

In Memoriam: Andrew Rourke (1964 – 2023)

Andrew Michael Rourke (January 17, 1964 – May 19, 2023) was an English musician, best known as the bassist of the rock band the Smiths. He was known for his melodic approach to bass playing.

Rourke joined the Smiths after their first gig, having known guitarist Johnny Marr since school, and played on all four of their studio albums. After the group broke up in 1987, he performed on lead vocalist Morrissey’s solo releases. Rourke recorded with Sinéad O’Connor and the Pretenders in the early 1990s, and was a member of the supergroup Freebass and the band D.A.R.K.. He also organised the Versus Cancer concerts from 2006 to 2009.

On the morning of May 19, 2023, at the age of 59, Rourke died from pancreatic cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

In Memoriam: Jack Lewis (1944 – 2023)

Jack Rivers Lewis (June 4, 1944 – May 5, 2023) known professionally as Jack Wilkins, was an American jazz guitarist.

A native of New York City, Wilkins grew up listening to his parents’ music, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Billie Holiday. He started playing guitar when he was thirteen. He had an older cousin who played albums for him by Charlie Christian, Tal Farlow, Django Reinhardt, and Johnny Smith. He cited Smith’s Designed for You as one of the albums that meant the most to him, in addition to Sounds of Synanon by Joe Pass, Poll Winners by Barney Kessel, The Swinging Guitar of Tal Farlow, and Interpretations of Tal Farlow.

While still in his teens, he worked as a guitarist in bands led by Les Elgart, Larry Elgart, Warren Covington, and Sammy Kaye.

Wilkins worked with Dan Armstrong, Lew Soloff, Lew Tabackin, and Lloyd Wells. In his twenties, he worked as a vibraphonist. He formed the band The Jazz Partners and played vibes with pianist Barry Manilow, who admired the work of Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson, and Barney Kessel. Wilkins and Manilow arranged songs from Kessel’s albums for their group. A copy of his first solo album, Windows (Mainstream, 1973), found its way into the hands of Buddy Rich’s manager. Wilkins then became a member of the Buddy Rich septet.

Wilkins also worked with Kenny Barron, Frank Foster, Sonny Fortune, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Jimmy McGriff, Sal Nistico, Zoot Sims, Sonny Stitt, Jack DeJohnette, Phil Woods, and the Brecker Brothers.

Wilkins died on May 5, 2023, at the age of 78.

In Memoriam: Rob Laasko (1979 – 2023)

Rob Laakso (1979 – May 4, 2023) was an American musician, record producer and engineer, best known as the recording partner of indie rock musician Kurt Vile, and as a multi-instrumentalist in his backing band The Violators. Laakso was also a multi-instrumentalist who has played in the shoegaze band Swirlies, among others. Born in Massachusetts in 1979, Laakso was a graduate of Emerson College.

After contributing to Vile’s second and fourth studio albums, God Is Saying This to You… (2009) and Smoke Ring for My Halo (2011), Laakso became a full member of The Violators in 2011, following the departure of guitarist Adam Granduciel. Upon joining the band, Laakso contributed heavily to Vile’s subsequent studio albums, Wakin on a Pretty Daze (2013), b’lieve I’m goin down… (2015), Bottle It In (2018) and (watch my moves) (2022).

Laakso died on May 4, 2023, at the age of 44, after battling cholangiocarcinoma, a fairly rare and aggressive form of cancer of the bile duct. He is survived by his wife, Mamie-Claire, and their two children.

In Memoriam: Linda Lewis (1950 – 2023)

Linda Ann Fredericks (September 27, 1950 – May 3, 2023), better known as Linda Lewis, was an English vocalist, songwriter and guitarist. She is best known for the singles “Rock-a-Doodle-Doo” (1973), “Sideway Shuffle” (1973), and her version of Betty Everett’s “Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” (1975). Her discography includes solo albums, Lark (1972), Not a Little Girl Anymore (1975), Woman Overboard (1977), and the later Second Nature (1995), which became successful in countries such as Japan. Lewis also provided backing vocals for other artists, including David Bowie, Al Kooper, Cat Stevens, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Rick Wakeman, Rod Stewart, Peter Bardens, Hummingbird, Joan Armatrading and Jamiroquai.

She was the eldest of six children, three of whom also had singing careers. Lewis was a self-taught guitarist and keyboard player, influenced by Harry Nilsson, Billie Holiday and Smokey Robinson, also drawing inspiration from others such as Joni Mitchell. Her music blended folk, funk and soul.

Lewis had a five-octave vocal range. Charles Waring of Blues & Soul magazine described her vocal range, as heard on The Best of Linda Lewis (2003), as “powerful”. In her review of Lewis’s album Second Nature (1995) for Allmusic, Amy Hanson described Lewis’s voice as “remarkable and dynamic”. Of Lewis’s ability to sing in the whistle register, Hanson comments in her review of Lark (1972), “No longer a wild weapon that can soar from childlike lilt to screaming dog whistle without a moment’s notice, she channels her range to the emotions it demands.” Lewis’s voice has also been compared to that of Mariah Carey. Reviewer Melissa Weber commented that her voice had similarities to that of Minnie Riperton, and that Lewis had “a wider vocal range [than Riperton], with the ability to sing in a lower register.”

Lewis married fellow musician Jim Cregan in 1977, but after three years they divorced. Lewis later said: “We were apart too much – especially after Jim joined Rod Stewart’s band – and we were both unfaithful.” In 2004, she married music agent Neil Warnock, who survives her.

Lewis died, peacefully at home, on May 3, 2023, at the age of 72.

In Memoriam: Don Sebesky (1937 – 2023)

Don Sebesky (December 10, 1937 – April 29, 2023) was an American composer, arranger, conductor, and jazz trombonist/keyboardist.

Sebesky trained in trombone at the Manhattan School of Music; in his early career, he played with Kai Winding, Claude Thornhill, Tommy Dorsey, Warren Covington, Maynard Ferguson and Stan Kenton. In 1960 he began devoting himself primarily to arranging and conducting; one of his best-known arrangements was for Wes Montgomery’s 1965 album Bumpin’. Other credits include George Benson’s The Shape of Things to Come, Paul Desmond’s From the Hot Afternoon and Freddie Hubbard’s First Light. His song “Memphis Two-Step” was the title track of the Herbie Mann 1971 album of the same name. His 1973 release, Giant Box, hit #16 on the U.S. Billboard Jazz Albums chart.

He has worked with such orchestras as the London Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Pops, The New York Philharmonic, the Royal Philharmonic of London, and the Toronto Symphony.

Sebesky has arranged for hundreds of artists, including Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, John Pizzarelli, Michael Bublé, Liza Minnelli, Seal, and Prince.

In Memoriam: Helge Engelke (1961 – 2023)

Helge Engelke (September 24, 1961 – April 28, 2023) was a German guitar player, composer, and producer most celebrated for his guitar work in the hard rock bands Fair Warning and Dreamtide. He had also recorded as a studio musician, performing on various artists’ albums, such as vocals and guitar for Zeno Roth.

Engelke was born in Hanover, Germany. He started playing guitar at the age of 13 and soon became obsessed with the instrument and music in general. He wrote, “I listened to everything that was around. From Yes to Genesis, from T Rex to Mott the Hoople, from Deep Purple to Led Zeppelin. My favorite band was—and in some concerns still is—Rainbow. I really liked the mixture of heavy rock guitars with strong vocal melodies and powerful drums.” The young musician was a fan of both Uli Jon Roth (then Ulrich Roth) and Michael Schenker; his early guitar preferences were the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Flying V.

In 1996, Engelke was in a car accident and broke both arms. It took him approximately five months to recover and regain his playing skills, delaying the recording and mixing of Fair Warning’s “Live and More”.

Helge Engelke died from colon cancer at age 61, two days after a colon tumor was discovered.

In Memoriam: Tim Bachman (1951 – 2023)

Timothy Gregg Bachman (August 1, 1951 – April 28, 2023) was an Canadian guitarist and vocalist best known for his work with rock bands Brave Belt and Bachman–Turner Overdrive (BTO). Bachman was one of the four founding members of BTO, a group that have sold nearly 30 million albums worldwide and also featured his brothers Randy (guitar/vocals) and Robbie (drums), as well as Fred Turner (bass/vocals).

Bachman was the father of blues/rock guitarist Paxton Bachman and the uncle of musician Tal Bachman, who is Randy Bachman’s son.

At the time of his death Bachman resided in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, Canada, and has worked as a realtor in Abbotsford from 1991 on. He was a director of the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board from 2003 to 2008.

In 2008, he suffered a heart attack and subsequently underwent quadruple bypass surgery.

In Memoriam: William Robert Emerson (1925 – 2023)

William Robert Emerson (December 21, 1925 – April 2023), known during his recording career as Billy “The Kid” Emerson and more recently as Rev. William R. Emerson, was an American R&B and rock and roll singer and songwriter turned preacher, best known for his 1955 song, “Red Hot.”

Emerson began recording after joining Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm in the early 1950s. He recorded for various labels, including Sun, Chess, and Vee-Jay before forming his own, Tarpon Records, where he recorded Denise LaSalle and Matt “Guitar” Murphy. He has worked with blues musicians, such as Earl Hooker, Lonnie Brooks, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and Robert Knighthawk.

Emerson, who was a black singer was born in Tarpon Springs, Florida on December 21, 1925. He learned the piano in church, playing in various local bands. In 1943, he joined the United States Navy. After World War II he resumed playing around Tampa with acts such as Ivory Mitchell, the Billy Battle Band, and Alfonso Brown Band. Following a spell in one group where the members dressed as outlaws, he picked up the nickname “Billy The Kid”.

Emerson received an athletic scholarship to attend Florida A&M University, but left to join the United States Air Force during the Korean War in 1952. While stationed in Greenville, Mississippi, he met bandleader Ike Turner, who recruited him into his Kings of Rhythm. Turner, a talent scout for Sun Records, arranged a session for Emerson. His first single, “No Teasing Around” / “If Lovin’ Is Believing” was released in February 1954. He released another single backed by Turner on guitar before leaving his band and joining a group led by Phineas Newborn. He stayed with Sun as a songwriter, writing and recording “When It Rains, It Really Pours”, later recorded by Elvis Presley, and “Red Hot”, which later became a hit for both Billy Lee Riley and Bob Luman, and later for Robert Gordon and Link Wray, but was not a commercial success for Emerson himself.

In late 1955 he joined Vee-Jay Records in Chicago, making records such as “Every Woman I Know (Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles)”, released a year later but with little commercial success. The song was subsequently covered in 1965 by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs on their Wooly Bully album and by Ry Cooder on his 1980 album Borderline. Soon afterward Emerson joined Chess Records as the recording manager. On the Chess label he recorded “Holy Mackerel Baby” and a remake of “Woodchuck” which was an earlier Sun single. He also released a single with Willie Dixon’s band.

As a songwriter, Emerson wrote dozens of songs for artists such as Junior Wells, Willie Mabon, Wynonie Harris, and Buddy Guy.

After recording for several smaller labels, he formed his own Tarpon Records in 1966, releasing Denise LaSalle’s debut single as well as his own records. He also continued to play in clubs and on European blues tours.

In the late 1970s, Emerson decided to dedicate himself to his religion and compose gospel music. In 2005 he was reported as having a church in Oak Park, Illinois, as Rev. William R. Emerson.

In 2009, Bear Family Records released a 33-track compilation album of Emerson’s Sun recordings, Red Hot: The Sun Years, Plus. The plus includes his Vee Jay and Chess singles.

Emerson was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Emerson received the 2017 Florida Folk Heritage Award at the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum for his contributions as a songwriter, performer, and producer.

Emerson died in April 2023, at the age of 97.

In Memoriam: Isaac Wiley (1954 – 2023)

Isaac “Ike” Wiley (1954 – 2023), drummer and co-founder of the legendary funk group The Dazz Band, has passed away at the age of 69.

Through Facebook, “The Dazz Band is saddened to learn about the recent passing of our original amazing, talented and gifted drummer, Mr. Ike Wiley. Sending our love, prayers, and wishes for comfort to his family, as we hold each other up on this day. May he rest in paradise.”

The Dazz Band formed in Cleveland, Ohio, United States, in 1976 stemming from the jazz fusion band Bell Telefunk. Founded by Bobby Harris, the Dazz Band has performed since 1976 and continues to perform today. Original Kinsman Dazz/ Dazz Band members included Bobby Harris (saxophonist, vocalist), Kenny Pettus (lead vocalist, percussions), Isaac “Ike” Wiley, Jr. (drums), his brother Michael Wiley (bassist), and Michael Calhoun (songwriter/guitarist). The group was originally named Kinsman Dazz at the suggestion of Ray Calabrese, who later became its manager along with Sonny Jones, owner of The Kinsman Grill, located near the street Harris grew up on, and where the band worked as a house band.

Following departure from the group in 1985, Wiley continued to tour. According to SoulTracks, he backed legendary jazz artists like Najee, Stanley Clarke, and Bob James.

The cause of Wiley’s death is not known at this time.