WHAT A YEAR!
The SAG Awards Jan. 29 will have a memoriam segment, honoring those who died in 2016, as will the Oscars a month later. Both of them mix in entertainers not considered primarily actors, such as athletes or musicians, if they have appeared in films or TV. Some artists use their music fame as a stepping stone to screen careers (though it rarely works in the other direction), from Jolson to Bing, Frank and Dino, Dolly and Kris to Cher and Barbra, Mick and Jack Black to Ice-Cube and Ice-T, and now Janelle Monae.
David Bowie died Jan. 10, 2016 and was honored in last year’s broadcasts. Prince, Merle and Eagle’s Glenn Frey are there on the memorium lists for the film shows, but of course they and their fellows will really get their due at the Grammys, held in between the two remaining film galas, on Feb. 12. I contacted the Grammy office for their memoriam list but they did not respond at press time.
So I’ve assembled my own, of significant musicians who left us in 2016, and it is, alas, a long one. With so many of the legends of the ‘60s now reaching their 60s, and 70s (if they were sensible and lucky enough to avoid the many paths to early demise that come with the territory), these lists will only grow longer and more star-filled every year.
KEITH EMERSON, NEIGHBOR
But first, I want to make special mention of a truly legendary musician who lived in Santa Monica for decades and died here last March in his Ocean Park condo, very sadly of a self-inflicted gunshot, according to police.
Other local papers covered it nicely (one op-ed, with no name posted, was particularly well done), the LA Times, New York Times and many others worldwide ran the story but since I’m a music guy, and he lived just a few blocks from me, I do want to get it on the record in our paper, the passing of Keith Emerson. He was a British prog-rock legend of The Nice and Emerson, Lake and Palmer (ELP), who dove early into the Moog and other new keyboard electronics and made innovative, exciting, masterful sounds, incorporating jazz and classical and thrilling millions in packed stadiums around the world and in a series of best-selling albums.
Ben Ratliff wrote in the New York Times wrote: “(ELP’s) ‘Knife-Edge,’ from 1970, with its overdriven organ sound, [borrowed musically] from Janacek’s ‘Sinfonietta.’ Likewise, ‘The Barbarian’ borrowed from Bartok’s ‘Allegro Barbaro’ and ‘Toccata’ from Alberto Ginastera’s ‘Piano Concerto No. 1.’ ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ released in 1971, was an album-length arrangement of Mussorgsky’s suite of the same name.” Of course, most classical musicians hated what he did because he steamrollered classical and jazz to make them rock.
THE NICE, OH YEAH
Americans are not as familiar as Brits with his previous group, The Nice, which
combined psychedelic rock, jazz and symphonic music, interpolating Dvorak, Sibelius and Leonard Bernstein’s “America,” among other sources. But they were good enough to play the Isle of Wight festival and tour with Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Move, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and perform “America” with Zubin Mehta and the LA Phil.
ELP’s tours were legendary for 40 tons of equipment, used to set up a surround sound that was unforgettable. Yeah, I was there, UNM, 1974. Sure, Emerson at one point in the show was lifted into the air on wires and played while spinning around end over end with his keyboard, but what you remembered was that already wild synth playing of his careening around the four corners of an arena. Who needs drugs?
I sure wish I had known he lived so close. He apparently kept very much to
himself, kept “British musician hours,” one neighbor commented. But I do too and I might have “bumped into him” on a midnight stroll. God bless Santa
Monica and its hidden treasures.
HERE’S THE LIST
David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake (King Crimson founding member, 1/3 of ELP), Leonard Cohen, Neville Marriner (English violinist, “one of the world’s greatest conductors”), Dan Hicks (Hot Licks), George Michael, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, singer/fiddler Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention), Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner (died same day as Signe Toly Anderson, original JA singer, pre-Grace Slick),
Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell, local blues singer Candye
Kane, composer/conductor Pierre Boulez, Glenn Frey, Sharon Jones (and the Dap-Kings), John Berry (founding member of Beastie Boys, named them), Phife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest), Maurice White (founder, Earth, Wind & Fire), Mott the Hoople drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin, Red Army Choir (plane crash), Barrelhouse Chuck (Chicago blues), jazz drummer Alphonse Mouzon, jazz singer Mose Allison, Joan Marie Johnson (founder, Dixie Cups), singer/songwriter John D. Loudermilk, reggae royalty Prince Buster and Jimmy Riley, folkie Glenn Yarbrough (Limeliters), Latin heartthrob Juan Gabriel, harmonica whiz Toots Thielemans, jazz vibist Bobby Hutcherson, Preston Hubbard (Fabulous Thunderbirds), Dixieland king Pete Fountain, Alan Vega (duo Suicide), Wayne Jackson (Mar-Keys), Scotty Moore (Elvis), country singer Guy Clark, ‘50s crooner Julius La Rosa, soul man Billy Paul, Congolese “King of Rhumba Rock” Papa Wemba, guitar legend Lonnie Mack, multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn, Gib Guilbeau (Flying Burrito Brothers), Argentine smooth sax man Gato Barbieri, Steve Young (“7 Bridges Road”), “Southern Gentleman” Sonny James (“Young Love”), Indian flautist AV Prakash, Canadian folk singer Oscar Brand, Joe Ligon (founder-lead singer, gospel stars Mighty Clouds of Joy), and producer-songwriter Mentor Williams (“Drift[-ed] Away” in Taos, NM).
Legendary peripherals: Beatles producer Sir George Martin, Bob Krasnow (Elektra Records), Phil Chess (co-founder, legendary Chess Records), Giorgio Gomelsky (Stones, Yardbirds, Crawdaddy Club), Robert Stigwood (Cream, Bee Gees, “Hair,” “Grease,” “JC Superstar,” “Evita,” “Tommy”), local dj Bob Coburn (KLOS 36 years, “Rockline”), Bill Ham (ZZ Top). QUESTION OF THE WEEK: You try to tell me we have a slow-growth City Council, not controlled by developers, and yet how many are taking their money after approving their sweetheart deals? How absolutely wrong is that?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” — Paul McCartney
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.