Tag: In Memoriam

In Memoriam: DMX (1970 – 2021)

DMX (Earl Simmons)

Earl Simmons (December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021), known by his stage name DMX (“Dark Man X”), was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. He began rapping in the early 1990s and released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998, to both critical acclaim and commercial success, selling 251,000 copies within its first week of release. He released his best-selling album, … And Then There Was X, in 1999, which included the hit single “Party Up (Up in Here)”. His 2008 single “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” was one of his most popular.

DMX was featured in films such as Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave and Last Hour. In 2006, he starred in the reality television series DMX: Soul of a Man, which was primarily aired on the BET cable television network. In 2003, he published a book of his memoirs entitled, E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.

On April 2, 2021, at approximately 11:00 pm, Simmons was rushed to a hospital in White Plains, New York, where he was reported to be in critical condition following a heart attack at his home possibly resulting from an overdose.

On April 3, his attorney, Murray Richman, confirmed Simmons was on life support. Later that day, Richman stated he was off life support and breathing on his own, but he clarified that evening that Simmons remained on life support and he had “been given wrong information”. That same night, tabloid journalism outlet TMZ, who first reported on the hospitalization, stated that Simmons had suffered oxygen deprivation to his brain as paramedics attempted to resuscitate him for 30 minutes. On April 4, Simmons’ former manager, Nakia Walker, stated he was in a “vegetative state” with “lung and brain failure and no current brain activity”. On April 7, his manager, Steve Rifkind, stated Simmons was comatose and that he was set to undergo tests to determine his brain’s functionality which would allow his family to, “determine what’s best from there”.

Simmons was pronounced dead at age 50 on April 9, 2021, according to a statement released by his family.

In Memoriam: Sophie Xeon (1986 – 2021) DJ


Sophie Xeon (September 17, 1986 – January 30 2021), better known mononymously as Sophie (stylized in all caps), was a Scottish musician, record producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ. Known for a brash and “hyperkinetic” take on pop music, Sophie worked closely with artists from the PC Music label, including A.G. Cook and GFOTY, and produced for acts such as Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, and Namie Amuro.

Sophie, who initially remained anonymous and later came out as a trans woman, came to prominence with singles such as “Bipp” (2013) and “Lemonade” (2014), which were collected on the 2015 compilation Product. Sophie’s debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides followed in 2018, earning a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. After Sophie’s accidental death in 2021, Pitchfork called Sophie “the influential British producer who molded electronic music into bracingly original avant-garde pop”.

Sophie was described as a reclusive figure, and remained anonymous for some time, concealing Sophie’s identity in interviews by masking Sophie’s voice or covering parts of Sophie’s body. Early in Sophie’s career, Sophie’s real-life identity was the subject of press speculation. Prior to coming out as a trans woman, some commentators accused Sophie of “feminine appropriation”, on the assumption that Sophie was a man using a female stage name. In a 2013 Pitchfork e-mail interview, when asked about the choice of Sophie as a stage name, Sophie responded: “It tastes good and it’s like moisturizer.”[ At one Boiler Room show, drag performer Ben Woozy was recruited to mime a DJ set while Sophie pretended to be a bodyguard.

The music video for “It’s Okay to Cry”, released in October 2017, was the first time Sophie’s voice and image were used in a release, with Sophie appearing nude from the bust up against a backdrop of clouds. This was widely interpreted as a coming out announcement as a trans woman. Sophie confirmed a trans identity in subsequent interviews, also speaking of feeling boxed-in by labels and describing music as Sophie’s “chosen method of communication” and self-expression. Representatives informed Pitchfork that Sophie preferred not to use gendered or nonbinary pronouns.

Sophie died at around 4 AM local time aged 34, at home in Athens, Greece. Sophie’s death was reportedly caused by slipping and falling from a balcony after climbing up to watch the full moon.

In Memoriam: Hilton Valentine (1943 – 2021) Guitarist


Hilton Stewart Paterson Valentine (May 21, 1943 – January 29, 2021) was an English musician, who was the original guitarist in the Animals.

Valentine was born in North Shields, Northumberland, England, and was influenced by the 1950s skiffle craze. His mother bought him his first guitar in 1956 when he was 13, he taught himself some chords from a book called “Teach Yourself a Thousand Chords”. He continued to develop his musical talent at John Spence Community High School and formed his own skiffle group called the Heppers. They played local gigs and a newspaper described them at the time as, “A young but promising skiffle group”. The Heppers eventually evolved into a rock and roll band, the Wildcats in c. 1959. During this period Valentine played a Futurama III solid guitar, this was the UK brandname of importer Selmer, his next guitar was a Burns Vibra-Artiste which he bought in 1960–61. The Wildcats was a popular band in the Tyneside area getting a lot of bookings for dance halls, working men’s clubs, church halls etc., and it was during this period that they decided to record a 10″ acetate LP titled Sounds of the Wild Cats.

In 1963, the Animals were starting to form and Chas Chandler heard about Hilton Valentine’s wild guitar playing and asked him to join what was then the Alan Price Combo. Eric Burdon was already a member and John Steel joined immediately following Valentine’s arrival. Within a few months, this group changed their name to the Animals.

While the Animals are often remembered most for Burdon’s vocals and Price’s organ, Valentine is credited with the electric guitar arpeggio introduction to the Animals’ 1964 signature song “The House of the Rising Sun”, which inspired countless beginning guitarists. It was played on his Gretsch Tennessean guitar which he bought in Newcastle in early 1962 while he was still with the Wildcats, and a Selmer amplifier. Later, in 1964, Rickenbacker gave him a 1964 Rose Morris guitar to use along with a 12-string model.

Valentine continued to play and record with the Animals, until the first incarnation of the band dissolved in September 1966.

Along with Eric Burdon, Chas Chandler, Alan Price and John Steel, Valentine was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Along with the other Animals, Hilton was inducted into Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame in May 2001. He released a new album, It’s Folk ‘n’ Skiffle, Mate! in 2004.

From that release until October 2009 he played throughout New England, New York and South Carolina, with his Skiffledog solo project. As well, from February 2007 to November 2008 Valentine toured with Eric Burdon. In early 2009 he released two basement demo recordings on his MySpace page.

In 2011, Valentine released a new album titled Skiffledog on Coburg Street and a Christmas album with Big Boy Pete Miller ex-Peter Jay and the Jaywalkers titled Merry Skifflemas!.

In his later years, Valentine resided in Connecticut. He died there on at the age of 77.

In Memoriam: Chris Murphy (1954 – 2021) INXS Manager / Entrepreneur

Christopher Mark “CM” Murphy (November 9, 1954 – January 16, 2021) was an Australian music and multimedia entrepreneur. He was the band manager for INXS (late 1979 to June 1995, December 2008 to November 2012) and Models (from late 1984 to mid-1987). He died on 16 January 2021, aged 66.

Murphy continued as a booking agent until late in 1979 when he met with Gary Morris then-manager of Australian rock groups Midnight Oil and INXS. Morris wanted to focus on Midnight Oil and asked Murphy to look after INXS, Murphy recalled: The night Morris offered them to me, I told him I’d take them midway through their third song. I stood there thinking, “This is pretty funky’. This kid up front is pretty weird. This band plays really, really well … What Morris didn’t realise was that I only intended to take them on as their booking agent. I didn’t want to be their manager.

Nevertheless, by 1980 Murphy had “dissolved his rock agency and became manager of the band”. He subsequently hired Gary Grant as the group’s touring manager and by 1982 Grant was his business partner at MMA Management. In July that year Murphy had brokered a deal with Atco Records for INXS after “[he] had made numerous overseas trips setting up contacts”. Grant declared that the “direct signing to a US label was one of the crucial elements in INXS’s success”. In 1983 MMA set up an office in New York and during the next three years either Murphy or Grant spent “10, 11 months of each year there”.

In late 1984 Melbourne-based alternative rock group, Models, were considering breaking up, their label Mushroom Records tempted them with an offer of recording with US producer Reggie Lucas. INXS encouraged Murphy to sign the group to MMA: under his influence Models pursued a more commercial sound to a radio-friendly format. Models relocated to Sydney and long-term member, Andrew Duffield, was forced out of the group by Murphy under “controversial circumstances”.

According to The Canberra Times’ Tony Sarno “in the industry [Grant] and his partner [Murphy] are seen as good operators”. By April 1986 INXS were “selling records overseas. Lots of them. [Grant] delights in telling how INXS, no, MMA Management as well have calculated success in America. He talks quickly, with an authority bordering on aggression”.

Jenny Morris (ex-The Crocodiles, QED) told Stuart Coupe of The Canberra Times that back in 1985 Murphy “rang up and said, ‘Why don’t you come on the road with INXS for a couple of weeks and fill in a bit of time’ … I thought I might as well, and that turned into a two years thing that meant I did two world tours with the band”. Morris had supplied backing vocals on their April 1984 album, The Swing, she performed a duet with INXS’ lead singer, Michael Hutchence on their cover version of “Jackson” (also in April on Dekadance), and toured with them from 1985.

Under the management of Murphy and Grant, INXS went from a Sydney pub band to playing international venues including headlining a show at Wembley Stadium in July 1991 with 74,000 in attendance. INXS sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. Murphy also assisted in the commercial success of Models, which achieved two hits on the Kent Music Report Singles Chart in 1985, “Barbados” (March, No. 2) and “Out of Mind, Out of Sight” (July, No. 1).

During October 1986 Murphy and Grant teamed with fellow managers Jeremy Fabinyi (Mental as Anything), Mark Pope (Jimmy Barnes, Divinyls), and Ken West (I’m Talking) to stage the Australian Made series of concerts. The tour performance order was Mental as Anything, I’m Talking, The Triffids, The Saints, Divinyls, Models, Barnes and INXS. It began in Hobart in December and visited all state capitals ending in Sydney in late January the following year. Although the tour had been announced with claims of Australian mateship and cooperation, arguments ensued between various band managers over the proposed concert series film. Some bands felt they had been coerced into unfavourable tour contracts. The tour ended in a fracas when Murphy and Fabinyi argued backstage in Sydney and came to blows.

In the 1980s Murphy invested in digital broadcasting and music sales but also organic farming. He created a large-scale free range/organic chicken operation and ran a business for daily delivery of organic lamb to restaurants around the world. In 1987 Murphy was rated by BRW magazine as Australian Entrepreneur of the Year In 1988 he established an independent record label, rooART, initially distributed by PolyGram.

Murphy signed Australian acts to rooArt including Crash Politics, The Hummingbirds, Ratcat and You Am I. In June 1991 Ratcat had simultaneous number-one single, “Don’t Go Now”, and album, Blind Love, on the ARIA charts. In 1992 Murphy signed a deal with Time Warner Inc. for international distribution. In February 1995 You Am I had a number-one album with Hi Fi Way.Later rooArt acts included Wendy Matthews (ex-Models) and The Screaming Jets which also helped the label become more commercially popular in Australia. In the 1990s, he sold his publishing company, MMA Music, to PolyGram Music Publishing.

“It is with great sadness that Caroline Murphy and family confirm that Christopher (CM) Mark Murphy, Chairman of Murphy Petrol Group, has today passed away peacefully at his beloved Ballina property ‘Sugar Beach Ranch’ surrounded by his family,” Murphy Petrol Group wrote in a statement obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

While no cause of death was provided, the statement noted that Murphy battled Mantle Cell lymphoma.

In Memoriam: Jason Cope (1979 – 2021) Guitarist


Jason Cope, the guitar player for the Southern rock band the Steel Woods and a collaborator with artists like Jamey Johnson and Brent Cobb, has died. He was 42. The group’s publicist confirmed Cope’s death to Rolling Stone.

Cope was an in-demand session guitarist, playing on albums by Lindi Ortega and the Secret Sisters, but he first became visible to country music fans by performing onstage with Johnson for nearly a decade. Nicknamed “Rowdy,” the North Carolina native also played on Johnson’s albums That Lonesome Song and The Guitar Song and co-wrote The Guitar Song track “Can’t Cash My Checks.”

In 2016, Cope founded the Steel Woods with singer Wes Bayliss in Nashville. The group released their debut album, Straw in the Wind, in 2017, and followed it up with 2019’s Old News. Both albums mixed elements of outlaw country and Southern rock with a blast of hard rock — the group covered Black Sabbath’s “Hole in the Sky” on Straw in the Wind and “Changes” on Old News. (Rolling Stone)

The Steel Woods are an American country music group from Nashville, Tennessee, exploring a variety of genres – stringing together lyrically strong songs, a big sound and well-put together harmonies, they have created a new sound that is being dubbed “Smart Southern Rock.” A quartet of Southern rock traditionalists from Nashville, The Steel Woods lay claim to the sound pioneered by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Like Skynyrd, The Steel Woods balance heavy blues-rock with Southern poetry, and they add a bit of plainspoken outlaw country to the mix, as evidenced on their 2017 debut, Straw in the Wind.

Though their style is unapologetically Southern Rock and Rock, just pull back the layers to find lyrics that feature passionate storytelling and messages that resonate. At first glance, Nashville four-piece The Steel Woods may seem like a chip off the ol’ Skynyrd block. But you’re just as likely to hear hints of Ricky Skaggs in the outfits’ rollicking bluegrass rock as Southern rock heroes like Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers Band.

Lead singer Wes Bayliss’ Southern fried vocal certainly fits among the long list of long-haired rebel rockers, but there’s a certain subtlety to The Steel Woods you just don’t hear in modern Southern rock. Much of that comes from the band’s affinity for old country tunes. “I grew up on Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Led Zeppelin,” says co-founder and guitarist Jason “Rowdy” Cope.

The themes reflected in their music range from perseverance and unity to hope and resilience. Inspired by conversations they had with people they met on the road, The Steel Woods strive to find common ground through shared life experiences and a musical connection.

Over the last few years, the band has built a loyal and passionate fan base through their road warrior touring mentality and extraordinary live shows. Whether headlining or supporting artists such as Dwight Yoakam, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jamey Johnson, Cody Jinks, Miranda Lambert and Blackberry Smoke, among others, The Steel Woods consistently convert audiences with each performance.

The band sounds like “drinking a bottle of bourbon and having inebriated hallucinations of Gregg Allman and Lucinda Williams standing hand in hand in powder-blue choir robes, as ‘Melissa’ plays in the background,” the staff of Rolling Stone wrote in a May 2017 “10 New Country Artists to Know” list.

With a pair of critically acclaimed Woods Music/Thirty Tigers releases under their belts in Straw in the Wind (2017) and Old News (2019), Nashville-based The Steel Woods have lived up to their name as a hybrid musical force both in the studio and live.

Founding member and guitarist Jason “Rowdy” Cope died on January 16, 2021.

 

In Memoriam: Phil Spector (1939 – 2021)


Harvey Phillip Spector (December 26, 1939 – January 16, 2021) was an American record producer, musician, and songwriter who developed the Wall of Sound, a music production formula he described as a Wagnerian approach to rock and roll. Spector is regarded to be among the most influential figures in pop music history and as the first auteur of the music industry for the unprecedented control he had over every phase of the recording process. After spending three decades in semi-retirement, in 2009, he was convicted for the 2003 murder of the actress Lana Clarkson. At the time of his death, he was serving a prison sentence of 19 years to life.

Born in the Bronx, Spector began his career in 1958 as co-founder, guitarist, and vocalist of the Teddy Bears, penning their US number-one single “To Know Him Is to Love Him”. In 1960, he co-founded Philles Records, and at the age of 21, became the youngest ever US label owner to that point.[6] Throughout the 1960s, he wrote, co-wrote, or produced records for acts such as the Ronettes, the Crystals, and Ike & Tina Turner. He typically collaborated with arranger Jack Nitzsche, engineer Larry Levine, and a de facto house band that later became known as “the Wrecking Crew”. Spector initially retired from the music industry in 1966.

In 1969, Spector returned to his career and subsequently produced the Beatles’ album Let It Be (1970), as well as several solo records by the band’s John Lennon and George Harrison. By the mid-1970s, Spector had produced eighteen US Top 10 singles for various artists, but following work with Leonard Cohen, Dion DiMucci, and the Ramones, he remained largely inactive and affected by personal struggles. His chart-toppers included “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (co-written and produced for the Righteous Brothers, 1964), “The Long and Winding Road” (produced for the Beatles, 1970), and “My Sweet Lord” (produced for Harrison, 1970). According to BMI, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” is the song that received the most US airplay in the 20th century.

Dubbed the “First Tycoon of Teen”,Spector’s records helped engender the role of the studio as an instrument, the integration of pop art aesthetics into music (art pop), and the art rock genre. His multi-artist compilation album A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records (1963) is widely considered to be the finest Christmas record of all time. Spector’s honors include the 1973 Grammy Award for Album of the Year for co-producing Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh (1971), a 1989 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a 1997 induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Spector number 63 on their list of the greatest artists in history.

Spector died in prison on January 16, 2021 due to complications from COVID-19.

In Memoriam: John Voorhis “Tim” Bogert III (1944 – 2021) Guitarist


John Voorhis “Tim” Bogert III (August 27, 1944 – January 13, 2021) was an American musician. He graduated from Ridgefield Memorial High School in his hometown of Ridgefield, New Jersey in 1963. As a bass guitarist and vocalist he was best known for his powerful vocal ability and his fast runs, fluid agility and ground-breaking sound on his Fender Precision bass. He was one of the pioneers of using distortion with his bass to help it cut through the mix with the low-powered amps of his time which also imparted a very sharp-edged sound to it. He was a frequent collaborator with drummer Carmine Appice; the duo performed in such bands as Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and the power trio Beck, Bogert & Appice.

Tim had one son, his only child, John Voorhis Bogert IV known as Freddy, who lives in Honolulu with his wife Kerri and daughter, Lylah.

In 2010, Bogert “reluctantly” retired from touring due to a motorcycle accident. He died on January 13, 2021 from cancer

In Memoriam: Sylvain Sylvain (1951 – 2021) Guitarist


Sylvain Mizrahi (February 14, 1951 — January 13, 2021), known professionally as Sylvain Sylvain, was an American rock guitarist, most notable for being a member of the New York Dolls.

Before joining the New York Dolls in 1971, Sylvain was a member of the band Actress, which also featured Arthur Kane, Johnny Thunders and former fashion partner, Billy Murcia. He played rhythm guitar for the Dolls from 1971 until the group’s final dissolution in 1977. Sylvain and singer David Johansen were the last remaining members at the time the group broke up. After the dissolution of the Dolls, he frequently played with Johansen on some of his solo records. He started his own band, The Criminals, with another ex-Doll, Tony Machine, and continued to play the New York club scene. He landed a solo recording contract with RCA, and released one album with Lee Crystal (drums; later of Joan Jett’s Blackhearts) and Johnny Ráo (guitar).

He moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s and recorded one record, Sleep Baby Doll for Fishhead Records. His band mates on this record were: Brian Keats, drums, John Carlucci, bass, and Olivier LeBaron’ on lead guitar, with guest appearances by Frank Infante of Blondie and Derwood Andrews of Generation X. In the late 90s he teamed up with the LA punk band The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs for some touring and they recorded a live radio broadcast on KXLU that remains unreleased. The tour ended with an Atlanta show at the Navarre annual conference co-headlining with John Entwistle. In 2004 he reunited with the surviving members of the New York Dolls, along with Steve Conte, Brian Koonin and Brian Delaney. Arthur Kane, who died in 2004, was replaced by Sami Yaffa. They released three records: One Day It Will Please Us To Remember Even This, Cause I Sez So, and Dancing Backward in High Heels. The reunion was filmed as part of a documentary on former band member Kane that was released in 2005 as New York Doll.

On March 18, 2010, at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, Sylvain and Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys and Rocket from the Tombs debuted their new band, The Batusis. Their EP is on Smog Veil Records.

In November 2012, Sylvain posted a video for his new single, “Leaving New York,” on the Internet, and available on iTunes on December 2, 2012.

In 2013 and 2014 Sylvain joined with Glen Matlock as the Sex Doll Tour.

In 2015, Sylvain emerged with a new band called Sylvain Sylvain and the Sylvains from Austin, Texas, consisting of Chris Alaniz (drums), Jason “Ginchy” Kottwitz (guitar), and Gabriel Von Asher (bass). In March 2016, they performed at South by Southwest.

In 2018, Sylvain joined forces with Steve Conte, Sami Yaffa, and Robert Eriksson for two one-off dates in Tokyo as “The Dolls.” They played at Shinjuku Marz on February 11, and Shimokitazawa Garden on February 12.

After living in Atlanta for several years, Sylvain moved to Nashville in 2015. He struggled with drug addiction and overdosed in 1972. On April 27, 2019, Sylvain announced that he had cancer. He set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help pay for treatment. On January 13, 2021, Sylvain died of cancer.

Monday 1/11/2021 4pm ET: Across The Tracks – In Memoriam 2020


In this edition of Across The Tracks we salute the music artists that passed away in 2020.

Featured in the program:  Uriah Heep, Hal Ketchum, McGuire Sisters, Mountain, KT Oslin, Charlie Pride, Van Halen, Spencer Davis Group, Rance Allen, Billy Joe Shaver, Johnny Nash, Outfield, Helen Reddy, Mac Davis, Four Seasons, Kool & The Gang, Bay City Rollers, Sweet, Wayne Fontana, Fleetwood Mac, Charlie Daniels Band, Bobby Lewis, Millie Small, Bonnie Pointer, John Prine, Fountains of Wayne, Kingston Trio, Robert Parker and Rush.

In Memoriam: Ed Bruce (1939 – 2021)

William Edwin Bruce Jr. (December 29, 1939 – January 8, 2021) was an American country music songwriter, singer, and actor. He was known for writing the 1975 song “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and recording the 1982 country number one hit “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had”. He also co-starred in the television series Bret Maverick with James Garner during the 1981-1982 season.

Bruce was born in Keiser, Arkansas, United States, and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1957, at the age of 17, he went to see Jack Clement, a recording engineer for Sun Records. Bruce caught the attention of Sun owner Sam Phillips, for whom he wrote and recorded “Rock Boppin’ Baby” (as “Edwin Bruce”).

Bruce died of natural causes in Clarksville, Tennessee, on January 8, 2021, at age 81.

In Memoriam: Gerard Marsden (1942 – 2021) (Gerry and The Pacemakers)


Gerard Marsden MBE (September 24, 1942 – January 3, 2021) was an English singer-songwriter, musician and television personality, best known for being leader of the Merseybeat band Gerry and the Pacemakers. He was the younger brother of fellow band member Freddie Marsden.

Gerry and the Pacemakers were the second most successful group from Liverpool, after The Beatles, to have hits on the United States pop charts. Their 1965 musical film Ferry Cross the Mersey was co-written by Coronation Street creator and writer Tony Warren.

Marsden had an older brother, Freddie, who co-founded and played drums in Gerry and the Pacemakers.

In 1965 Marsden married Pauline Behan, and they had two daughters, Yvette and Victoria.

In September 2003 Marsden had triple bypass heart surgery at Broad Green Hospital in Liverpool. He had a second heart operation in 2016, and announced his retirement in November 2018.

Marsden died on January 3, 2021 at Arrowe Park Hospital in Merseyside, after being diagnosed with a blood infection in his heart. He was 78 years old.

In Memoriam: Tony Rice (1951 – 2020)


David Anthony Rice (June 8, 1951 – December 25, 2020) was an American guitarist and bluegrass musician. He was an influential acoustic guitar player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass and flattop acoustic jazz. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Rice’s music spans the range of acoustic from traditional bluegrass to jazz-influenced New Acoustic music to songwriter-oriented folk. Over the course of his career, he played alongside J. D. Crowe and the New South, David Grisman (during the formation of “Dawg Music”) and Jerry Garcia, led his own Tony Rice Unit, collaborated with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron, and Larry, and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band. He recorded with drums, piano, soprano sax, as well as with traditional bluegrass instrumentation.

Tony Rice died at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina on December 25, 2020. He died while making his coffee, according to a statement from longtime friend and collaborator Ricky Skaggs.

In Memoriam: Leslie West (1945 – 2020)


Leslie West, an iconic guitarist-vocalist who was behind several ’70s rock anthems including “Mississippi Queen” with the popular band Mountain, has died. He was 75.

West was born in New York City to Jewish parents, but grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, and in East Meadow, New York, Forest Hills, New York, and Lawrence, New York. After his parents divorced, he changed his surname to West. His musical career began with the Vagrants, an R&B/blue-eyed soul-rock band influenced by the likes of the Rascals that was one of the few teenage garage rock acts to come out of the New York metropolitan area itself (as opposed to the Bohemian Greenwich Village scene of artists, poets, and affiliates of the Beat Generation, which produced bands like The Fugs and The Velvet Underground). The Vagrants had two minor hits in the Eastern United States; 1966’s “I Can’t Make a Friend” and a cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” the following year.

Some of the Vagrants’ recordings were produced by Felix Pappalardi, who was also working with Cream on their album Disraeli Gears. In 1969, West and Pappalardi formed the pioneering hard rock act Mountain, which was also the title of West’s debut solo album. Rolling Stone identified the band as a “louder version of Cream”.[4] With Steve Knight on keyboards and original drummer N. D. Smart, the band appeared on the second day of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969 starting an 11-song set at 9 pm.

The band’s original incarnation saw West and Pappalardi sharing vocal duties and playing guitar and bass, respectively. New drummer Corky Laing joined the band shortly after Woodstock. They had success with “Mississippi Queen”, which reached No. 21 on the Billboard charts and No. 4 in Canada. It was followed by “Theme For an Imaginary Western”, written by Cream bassist Jack Bruce. Mountain is one of the bands considered to be forerunners of heavy metal.

After Pappalardi left Mountain to concentrate on various production projects, West and Laing produced two studio albums and a live release with Jack Bruce under the name West, Bruce and Laing. West, along with keyboard player Al Kooper of Blood, Sweat & Tears, recorded with The Who during the March 1971 Who’s Next New York sessions. Tracks included a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Baby Don’t You Do It,” and early versions of “Love Ain’t For Keepin'” and The Who’s signature track “Won’t Get Fooled Again”. Though the tracks were not originally included on the album (recording restarted in England a few months later without West or Kooper), they appear as bonus tracks on the 1995 and 2003 reissues of Who’s Next and on the 1998 reissue of Odds & Sods.

West suffered a heart attack in his home near Daytona, Florida on December 20, 2020 and was rushed to a hospital in nearby Palm Coast where he never regained consciousness. After being contacted by Rolling Stone, West’s brother Larry West confirmed that Leslie West had died. A report by Variety based on social media posts made by Larry West states that Leslie West died on Tuesday, December 22, 2020.

In Memoriam: Charlie Pride (1934 – 2020)

Charley Frank Pride (March 18, 1934 – December 12, 2020) was an American singer, musician, guitarist, business owner, and professional baseball player. His greatest musical success came in the early to mid-1970s, when he became the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley. During the peak years of his recording career (1966–87), he garnered 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one. He also won the Entertainer of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971.

Pride was one of only three African-Americans to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry (the others are DeFord Bailey and Darius Rucker). He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Pride met his wife Rozene while playing baseball in Memphis. They married in 1956 while Pride was on Christmas leave from Army basic training, and had two sons, Kraig and Dion, and a daughter, Angela. They resided in Dallas, Texas. Kraig now goes by the name Carlton and has somewhat followed in his father’s footsteps as a performing artist. His band, Carlton Pride and Zion, started in San Marcos, Texas, in 1995 and they perform a variety of reggae, funk, and soul music throughout the United States.

Dion Pride played lead guitar for his father, and entertained troops on USO tours in Panama, Honduras, Guantánamo Bay, and the island of Antigua. Dion Pride cowrote a song on Charley Pride’s 2010 album Choices titled “I Miss My Home”.

In 1994, Pride co-wrote (with Jim Henderson) his autobiography, Pride: The Charley Pride Story. In this book, he reveals that he has struggled for years with manic depression.

Pride had a tumor removed from his right vocal cord in 1997 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He returned to the site in February 2009 for a routine checkup and surprised the Arkansas Senate with an unplanned performance of five songs. He was joined by Governor Mike Beebe during the show.

Pride was an avid fan and part owner of the Texas Rangers. He sang the national anthem before game five of the 2010 World Series, played between the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants. He sang the national anthem before game two of the 2011 ALCS between the Detroit Tigers and the Rangers. He also sang the national anthem and “America the Beautiful” prior to Super Bowl VIII.

On January 20, 2014, he sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and performed at halftime for the Memphis Grizzlies, which hosted their 12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He also was interviewed during a break in the game that was televised nationally on NBA TV and SportSouth.

Pride died in Dallas, Texas, of complications from COVID-19 on December 12, 2020. He was 86 years old.

In Memoriam: Hal Ketchum (1953 – 2020)


Hal Michael Ketchum (April 9, 1953 – November 23, 2020) was an American country music artist. He released eleven studio albums since 1986, including nine for divisions of Curb Records. Ketchum’s 1991 album Past the Point of Rescue is his most commercially successful, having been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Between 1991 and 2006 Ketchum had seventeen entries on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including three that reached the number two position: his debut single “Small Town Saturday Night”, “Past the Point of Rescue”, and “Hearts Are Gonna Roll”. Ketchum’s music is defined by his songwriting and folk music influences. Ketchum retired from the music business in 2019 following a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Ketchum was born in Greenwich, New York. At the age of 15, he began performing in clubs as a drummer with a rhythm and blues trio. In 1981, Ketchum moved to Austin, Texas, where he began to visit Gruene Hall, a small dance hall near his home. This influenced him to try his hand at singing and songwriting, and by 1985 he was playing at small Texas clubs. In 1986, Ketchum recorded 11 of his self-penned songs under his full name Hal Michael Ketchum. This album, Threadbare Alibis, was released in 1988 on the Watermelon Records label.

Ketchum then moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and signed a record deal with Curb Records. In 1991, Ketchum released his Curb debut album Past the Point of Rescue. Four singles were released from the album: “Small Town Saturday Night” was first, achieving a peak of number two on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.[2] After it came Ketchum’s own composition “I Know Where Love Lives”, which charted at number thirteen. Also peaking at number two was the title track, written by Irish musician Mick Hanly and originally a hit single in Ireland for Mary Black in 1988. The last single from the album was a rendition of The Vogues’ “Five O’Clock World”, which Ketchum took into top 20 of Hot Country Songs in 1992. Allen Reynolds, a producer best known for his work with Garth Brooks and Kathy Mattea, produced the album with Jim Rooney. Among the musicians contributing to the album were Mattea, Gary Burr, and Richard Bennett, as well as Bruce Bouton, Chris Leuzinger, and Milton Sledge of Brooks’ studio band The G-Men. Alanna Nash of Entertainment Weekly rated the album “A-“, stating that “Literate and tuneful, Past the Point of Rescue balances poetic love songs with a squint-eyed look at teenage rebellion, romance, and psychological intrigue, all delivered with a tenor that throbs with passion and conviction.” Past the Point of Rescue was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for U.S. shipments of 500,000 copies.

He released the album Sure Love in 1993. The album’s title track charted at number three on Hot Country Songs, followed by “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” also at number two and “Mama Knows the Highway” at number eight, while the last single “Someplace Far Away (Careful What You’re Dreaming)” was less successful on the charts.

In 1994, Ketchum released the album Every Little Word. Five singles were issued from the album. Ketchum wrote the first two singles, “(Tonight We Just Might) Fall in Love Again” and “That’s What I Get for Losin’ You”, with former NRBQ member Al Anderson. These peaked at numbers 20 and 22 on Hot Country Songs in 1994, respectively. After it came Ketchum’s last top-ten hit “Stay Forever”, which he wrote with Benmont Tench; the title track and its B-side, “Trail of Tears”, both fell short of the top 40. Ketchum was also inducted as the 71st Member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1994.

Two years later came a greatest-hits package entitled The Hits. This album included the non-charting single “Hang In There Superman.” Ketchum did not appear on the charts again until 1998, when he reached number 36 with a cover of Todd Rundgren’s “I Saw the Light”, from his next album, also entitled I Saw the Light. Awaiting Redemption followed in 1999 without a charting single.

He covered “If I Never Knew You” with Shelby Lynne for The Best of Country Sing the Best of Disney. In 2001, Ketchum released Lucky Man. This album included only one charting single in the number 40 “She Is”. King of Love followed in 2004 with only the number 60 “My Love Will Not Change” to its credit. One More Midnight, released only in the United Kingdom, produced a number 47 country hit in the United States with “Just This Side of Heaven (Hal-Lelujah)”, although the album itself never was released in the U.S. His most recent US releases are Father Time in 2008, and I’m the Troubadour in 2014.

In June 1998, Ketchum was diagnosed with a neurological disorder called acute transverse myelitis, an ailment of the spinal column, which left Ketchum without the use of the left side of his body.[10] He had to relearn basic tasks, including how to walk and play the guitar.

Ketchum was also a painter and his work has been shown in Santa Fe, New Mexico’s Pena Gallery, where he had an art-show opening in 2002. He was also a master carpenter and enjoyed making toys.

On April 14, 2019, Ketchum’s wife, Andrea, announced on his Facebook page that he had been suffering from early-onset senile dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) throughout much of his most recent tour, and that it had progressed to the point that he could no longer perform. Ketchum died from the disease on November 23, 2020 at the age of 67.