Tag: In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Betty Wright (1953 – 2020)

Bessie Regina Norris (December 21, 1953 – May 10, 2020), better known by her stage name Betty Wright, was an American soul and R&B singer, songwriter and background vocalist, who rose to fame in the 1970s with hits such as “Clean Up Woman” and “Tonight Is the Night”. She was also prominent in regard to the use of whistle register.

Born in Miami, Florida as Bessie Regina Norris on December 21, 1953, Wright was the youngest of seven children of Rosa Akins Braddy-Wright and her second husband, McArthur Norris. Wright began her professional career at the age of two when her siblings formed the Echoes of Joy, a gospel group. Wright contributed to vocals on the group’s first album, released in 1956. Wright and her siblings performed together until 1965, when she was 11 years old.

Following the group’s break-up, Wright, who was already using the name Betty Wright, decided to switch musical styles from gospel to rhythm and blues, singing in local talent shows until being spotted by a local Miami record label owner, who signed her to her first label (Deep City Records) in 1966 at 12. She released the singles “Thank You Baby” and “Paralyzed”, which found Wright local fame in Miami.

In 1967, the teen was responsible for discovering other local talents such as George and Gwen McCrae, helping them sign with the Alston Records label TK Records, part of Henry Stone’s recording and distribution company. Her first album, My First Time Around, was released when she was age 14. Her first hit single was “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do”. In 1970, while still in high school, she released “Pure Love” at the age of 16.

Wright died on May 10, 2020, from cancer at her home in Miami. She was 66, and news of her death was first announced by her niece. Just two days earlier, fellow singer Chaka Khan had made a plea on Twitter saying “Calling all my #PrayWarriors. My beloved sister, Betty Wright @MsBettyWright, is now in need of all your prayers.

In Memoriam: Florian Schneider-Esleben (April 7, 1947 – May 6, 2020) 7pm ET: Feature Artist – Kraftwerk

(Photo by Ellen Poppinga – K & K/Redferns)

Florian Schneider-Esleben (April 7, 1947 – May 6, 2020) was a German musician best known as one of the founding members of the electronic band Kraftwerk, performing his role with the band until his departure in November 2008.

Florian Schneider-Esleben founded Kraftwerk with Ralf Hütter in 1970. They met in 1968 while studying at the Academy of Arts in Remscheid, then at the Robert Schumann Hochschule in Düsseldorf, playing improvisational music together in the ensemble Organisation. Before meeting Hütter, Schneider had played with Eberhard Kranemann in the group Pissoff from 1967 to 1968. From 1968 to 1969, Schneider played flute, with Hütter on Hammond organ, Kranemann on bass and Paul Lovens on drums.

Originally, Schneider’s main instrument was the flute, which he would treat using electronic effects, including tape echo, ring modulation, pitch-to-voltage converters, fuzz and wah-wah, allowing him to use his flute as a bass instrument. He also played violin (similarly treated), electric guitar (including slide guitar), and made use of synthesizers (both as a melodic instrument and as a sound processor). Later, he also created his own electronic flute instrument. After the release of Kraftwerk’s 1974 album, Autobahn, his use of acoustic instruments diminished.

David Bowie titled his “Heroes” instrumental track “V-2 Schneider” after Schneider, and was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk’s sound during his “Berlin period” in the late 1970s.

Schneider, speaking in 1991, said: “I had studied seriously up to a certain level, then I found it boring; I looked for other things, I found that the flute was too limiting… Soon I bought a microphone, then loudspeakers, then an echo, then a synthesizer. Much later I threw the flute away; it was a sort of process.” Although he had limited keyboard technique, he apparently preferred to trigger the synth sounds through a keyboard (later, developments in sequencing limited the need for hands-on playing).

On May 6, 2020, it was reported that Schneider had died a few days after his 73rd birthday from cancer, having suffered from the illness for a short time.

We feature the music of Kraftwerk, 7pm ET on RadioMaxMusic May 6, 2020

In Memoriam: Millie Small (1946 – 2020)

Millicent Dolly May Small CD (October 6, 1946 – May 5, 2020) was a Jamaican singer and songwriter, best known for her 1964 recording of “My Boy Lollipop”, which reached number two in both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100. On her UK records, she was usually credited mononymously as Millie.

She had a brief relationship with Peter Asher of the 1960s duo Peter & Gordon. In her August 2016 interview with U.S. journalist Tom Graves she said the relationship had been platonic.

She lived in Singapore from 1971 to 1973 before returning to the United Kingdom where she lived for the remainder of her life. She had a daughter, Jaelee, born in 1984, who studied art and the music industry and is a singer-songwriter.

Millie Small died on May 5, 2020 in England, reportedly from a stroke. News of her death was first announced to the Jamaica Observer by Chris Blackwell, who last met Small some 12 years before her death. He remembered her as “a sweet person” with a “great sense of humor”. Blackwell also credited her for popularizing ska on an international level “because it was her first hit record”.

In Memoriam: John Prine (1946 – 2020)

(Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for Americana Music Association 2018)

John Prine (October 10, 1946 – April 7, 2020) was an American country folk singer-songwriter. He was active as a composer, recording artist, and live performer since the early 1970s until his death, and was known for an often humorous style of country music that has elements of protest and social commentary.

Born and raised in Maywood, Illinois, Prine learned to play the guitar at the age of 14. He attended classes at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. After serving in West Germany with the U.S. armed forces, he moved to Chicago in the late 1960s, where he worked as a mailman, writing and singing songs as a hobby.

A member of Chicago’s folk revival, he was discovered by Kris Kristofferson, resulting in the production of Prine’s self-titled debut album with Atlantic Records in 1971. After receiving critical acclaim, Prine focused on his musical career, recording three more albums for Atlantic. He then signed to Asylum Records, where he recorded an additional three albums. In 1984 he co-founded Oh Boy Records, an independent record label with which he would release most of his subsequent albums. After his battle with squamous cell cancer in 1998, Prine’s vocals deepened into a gravelly voice.

Widely cited as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, Prine is known for humorous lyrics about love, life, and current events, as well as serious songs with social commentary, or which recollect melancholy tales from his life.

Fiona Whelan Prine revealed on March 19, 2020 that she had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and had been quarantined in her home apart from Prine. On March 29, 2020, Prine’s family announced that he had been hospitalized on March 26 after suddenly experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19. He was intubated on the evening of March 28, and was in critical condition. On March 30, Whelan Prine tweeted that she had recovered and that her husband was now in stable condition, though she cautioned that this does not mean he is improving. On April 3, 2020, Whelan Prine gave another update on her husband’s condition saying that he was currently in his eighth day in ICU and that he is still on a ventilator and needs quite a bit of help with his breathing. He has pneumonia in both lungs and he has also developed some peripheral issues that are being treated with medications including antibiotics. She said that her husband is still very ill but she remains hopeful that he can continue to fight this and come home where his family can care for him.

Prine died on April 7, 2020 due to complications related to COVID-19 during the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic.

In Memoriam: Bill Withers (1938 – 2020)

William Harrison Withers Jr. (born July 4, 1938, died March 30, 2020) was an American former singer-songwriter and musician who performed and recorded from 1970 until 1985. He recorded several major hits, including “Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Use Me”, “Just the Two of Us”, “Lovely Day”, and “Grandma’s Hands”. Withers won three Grammy Awards and was nominated for four more. His life was the subject of the 2009 documentary film Still Bill. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Withers, the youngest of six children, was born in the small coal-mining town of Slab Fork, West Virginia. He was born with a stutter and has said he had a hard time fitting in. Raised in nearby Beckley, he was 13 years old when his father died. Withers enlisted with the United States Navy at the age of 18 and served for nine years, during which time he overcame his stutter and became interested in singing and writing songs.

He left the Navy in 1965. Using the $250 he received from selling his furniture to IBM co-worker Ron Sierra, he relocated to Los Angeles in 1967 to start a musical career. Withers worked as an assembler for several different companies, including Douglas Aircraft Corporation, while recording demo tapes with his own money, shopping them around and performing in clubs at night. When he debuted with the song “Ain’t No Sunshine”, he refused to resign from his job because he believed the music business was a fickle industry.

Withers married actress Denise Nicholas in 1973, during her stint on the sitcom Room 222. The couple divorced in 1974. In 1976, Withers married Marcia Johnson, and they had two children, Todd and Kori. Marcia eventually assumed the direct management of his Beverly Hills–based publishing companies, in which his children also became involved as they became adults.

Withers died from heart complications on March 30, 2020 his family said in a statement to The Associated Press. He was 81.

We will feature the music of Bill Withers today at 12pm ET

In Memoriam: Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr. (1934 – 2020)

Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr. (November 14, 1934 – April 1, 2020) was an American jazz pianist and educator. Active since the late 1940s, Marsalis came to greater attention in the 1980s and 1990s as the patriarch of a musical family, with sons Branford Marsalis and Wynton Marsalis rising to international acclaim.

As a leading educator at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana, Ellis influenced the careers of countless musicians, including Terence Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton; as well as his four musician sons: Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo and Jason. In May, 2007, Marsalis received an honorary doctorate from Tulane University for his contributions to jazz and musical education.

On December 7, 2008, Ellis Marsalis was inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

The Ellis Marsalis Center for Music at Musicians’ Village in New Orleans is named in his honor. In 2010, The Marsalis Family released a live album titled Music Redeems which was recorded at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC as part of the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. All proceeds from the sale of the album go directly to the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.

Marsalis and his sons were group recipients of the 2011 NEA Jazz Masters Award.

Marsalis was a Brother of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity, initiated into Delta Epsilon Chapter (University of Louisiana-Lafayette) in 1965. In 2015 Phi My Alpha Sinfonia announced that Marsalis has been named Sinfonia’s 24th Man of Music, the highest honor given by the fraternity to a member, for advancing the cause of music in America through performance, composition or any other musical activity.

On April 1, 2020, Marsalis passed away after being hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms. He was 85.

In Memoriam: Wallace Roney (1960 – 2020)

(Photo by Ernesto Ruscio/FilmMagic)

Wallace Roney (May 25, 1960 – March 31, 2020) was an American jazz (hard bop and post-bop) trumpeter.

Roney took lessons from Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie and studied with Miles Davis from 1985 until the latter’s death in 1991. Wallace credited Davis as having helped to challenge and shape his creative approach to life as well as being his music instructor, mentor, and friend; he was the only trumpet player Davis personally mentored.

Wallace Roney was the son of Wallace Roney, U.S. Marshal and President of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 102, grandson of Philadelphia musician Roosevelt Sherman, and older brother of tenor and soprano saxophonist Antoine Roney. In 1995, Roney married pianist Geri Allen, with whom he had two daughters and a son. The marriage ended prior to Allen’s death in 2017. The two artists collaborated on records on many occasions during the 1990s and 2000s, on records released under each artist’s name.

Earlier in his life, Roney had been a resident of Montclair, New Jersey.

Wallace Roney died at the age of 59 on March 31, 2020, at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, New Jersey. The cause was complications arising from COVID-19.