Tag Archives: obituary

Broadcast’s Trish Keenan Passes Away from Pneumonia

Pitchfork has reported that Broadcast’s Trish Keenan has passed away from apparently H1N1-related pneumonia.

Like so much other wonderful music, I got hipped to Broadcast by Thom Yorke, in a best of 2000 roundup he did for SPIN. Although I have enjoyed all three Broadcast LP and the various EPs, the brilliance of The Noise Made by People still stands out. Whenever I struggle to describe music that is icy but warm, familiar but distant, Noise comes to mind. Trish Keenan’s vocals always overwhelmed me, somehow alluding categorization and comfort. A blast of beauteous ice rocketed from the 1960’s into the future. And now, sadly, heard no more.

If you think nothing is yours
And if I claim everything belongs to me
How wrong I’ll be
None of us have anything
There’s a place I have never explored
Another world we have yet to conquer
And until then, none of us have anything

Broadcast, “Until Then”

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“But this one’s a great jazz musician”*: RIP James Moody

Jazz saxophonist/flautist James Moody died on Thursday after a months-long battle with pancreatic cancer.  He was 85 years old.

Earlier this month he received a grammy nomination for Moody 4B [Buy], an album recorded in 2008 but released this year.

Bill Cosby and Nancy Wilson (playing Denise’s mother-in-law) sang a duet of Moody’s most famous song, “Moody’s Mood for Love,” in an episode of The Cosby Show.  The youtube clip is unembeddable so you’ll have to follow this link.

NYT on “Moody’s Mood for Love”:

The song he sang most often had a memorable name and an unusual history. Based on the harmonic structure of “I’m in the Mood for Love,” it began life as an instrumental when Mr. Moody recorded it in Stockholm in 1949, improvising an entirely new melody on a borrowed alto saxophone. Released as “I’m in the Mood for Love” (and credited to that song’s writers) even though his rendition bore only the faintest resemblance to the original tune, it was a modest hit for Mr. Moody in 1951. It became a much bigger hit shortly afterward when the singer Eddie Jefferson wrote lyrics to Mr. Moody’s improvisation and another singer, King Pleasure, recorded it as “Moody’s Mood for Love.”

James Moody, “Rest Sweetly, Brother Dove” [Buy The Teachers/Heritage Hum]

*A reference to Simpson’s episode 2F32, “Round Springfield,” in which we are introduced to Bleedin’ Gums Murphy, previously referenced on Noise Narcs here.

Cosby: Hey, kids!  Meet Grampa Murphy.
Child: We have three grampas already!
Cosby: This one's a great jazz musician.
Child: Oh, they _all_ are.
Cosby: Oh, oh: you see, the kids, they listen to the rap music which
       gives them the brain damage.  With their hippin', and the
       hoppin', and the bippin', and the boppin', so they don't know
       what the jazz...is all about!  You see, jazz is like the Jello
       Pudding Pop -- no, actually, it's more like Kodak film -- no,
       actually, jazz is like the New Coke: it'll be around forever, heh
       heh heh.
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In Memoriam: Gregory Isaacs, 1951-2010

Gregory IsaacsHello, Noise Narcs massive! The passing this week of one of my all-time favorite singers, reggae legend Gregory Isaacs, is a sad but appropriate subject for my long-overdue first Noise Narcs post.

My first introduction to Gregory Isaacs was back in 2002 when I discovered that the Penn State library had a trove of Heartbeat Records reggae reissues and compilations ripe for ripping. Rip I did, and pretty quickly I realized that the Gregory Isaacs stuff was among the best in the Heartbeat catalog (matched, in my mind, only by Dennis Brown). Known as the Cool Ruler, Gregory is most closely associated with the romantic “lovers rock” style — soulful lyrics of love and longing backed by lilting beats. This was the first Gregory song I remember hearing; I loved it immediately:

Gregory Isaacs, “My Number One” (version feat. DJ Trinity)

His voice, ever-so-slightly nasal, was gentle, clean, crisp, and intimate, and he was a master at conveying romantic longing or aching heartbreak with just a few syllables.

Gregory Isaacs - Cool RulerGregory Isaacs, “Party in the Slum”

Recorded at Channel One with that studio’s matchless house band, the Revolutionaries (anchored by Sly & Robbie), Gregory’s 1978 album Cool Ruler features some slightly harder-edged themes backed by the band’s signature aggressive, driving “rockers” style. Turn up the bass!

Gregory Isaacs - Slum in DubGregory Isaacs, “Slum”

Sound engineer Prince Jammy remixed the tracks on Cool Ruler, producing Slum in Dub, one of my favorite dub records.

Gregory Isaacs, “Night Nurse”

Gregory Isaacs - Night NurseReleased on Island Records, 1982’s Night Nurse, with the Roots Radics Band, introduced the singer to a wider audience. Gregory was heavily into cocaine and crack around the time of the album’s release and subsequent success, and a veteran Jamaican musician once told me that Gregory’s “night nurse” was, in fact, his crack pipe. Regardless, the entire album is great. The synths are used tastefully, making the album sound less dated than a lot of ’80s reggae (see below). Other highlights include “Cool Down the Pace,” “Material Man,” and “Stranger in Town.” Also, note that he weaves his own name into the lyrics. Which brings us to…

Gregory Isaacs, “Red Rose for Gregory”

Last Sunday morning, as news of Gregory’s deteriorating condition spread, DJ Jeff Sarge of WFMU dedicated a portion of his weekly three-hour reggae show to the singer. One tune he played was “Red Rose For Gregory,” a late-’80s number that I wasn’t familiar with. Beyond the trappings of ’80s reggae production — cheesy synth leads, orchestra hits, synth bass, synth drums… synth everything really — it’s a really sweet song about a secret admirer, and features Gregory in his best and most familiar role — the aching lover. Plus, I love that his name is in the title. Try to imagine writing a song in which you refer to yourself by your proper name.

I wrote a little reggae tune this summer (shameless plug). It was my first songwriting attempt, and it’s a pretty blatant Gregory Isaacs rip-off, down to the bass line, which is somewhere between “My Number One” and “Native Woman.” But now that he’s gone, I’m especially proud of that fact — my own tribute to one of my favorite singers.

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(Sorta) Sunday Church Music: RIP Solomon Burke (1940-2010)

The news has been all over the internet today.  We lost Patrick Swayze not much more than a year ago, and today we lost Solomon Burke, whose “Cry to Me” provided the soundtrack to some unforgettable (and un-embeddable) dirty dancing.  On the bright side, it looks like Baby’s still got it on Dancing with the Stars.  I dare say she will make it to the top three.

Burke was born in West Philadelphia and is survived by 21 children, 90 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren.  He died of natural causes in an Amsterdam airport this morning.  His most recent album, Hold on Tight, which was produced with De Dijk, was released in Europe October 1.

I’m going to share two tracks with you.  The second is from that most recent album and is a fun track with strong horns, but the first, “Flesh and Blood,” will knock you for a bit of a loop.  It’s from the highly, highly recommended Don’t Give Up on Me (2002), the album that jump started his career for a new century and made this last decade of his life perhaps his most prolific one.

Solomon Burke, “Flesh and Blood” [Buy Don’t Give Up On Me]

Solomon Burke & De Dijk, “Text Me”

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Eddie Fisher, 8/10/1928 – 9/22/2010

Eddie Fisher, native Philadelphian, graduate of South Philadelphia High, scandalous ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor, and most of all golden-throated ’50s crooner died on Wednesday.

In June, Noise Narc’s Material Lives posted about her father, a Philadelphian himself, and their musical taste: “I’ve also developed a taste for most of his favorite things: 50s cinema, black licorice, food, dancing, and 50s music (although I prefer Dean Martin, Peggy Lee, and Elvis, and while he likes them a lot, he prefers Eddie Fisher, Joni James, Tony Bennett, and Sinatra).”

Given that the only sacred remnant of the newspaper in this digital age is the obituary (barely), Fisher’s “Get Your Paper (The Newspaper Song)” seems to hit the right, sad, passing note.

Eddie Fisher, “Get Your Paper (The Newspaper Song)” [Buy Greatest Hits]

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Mike Edwards (5/31/1948 – 9/3/2010)

Police in southwestern England say a former member of the Electric Light Orchestra was killed in a freak collision with a huge hay bale that rolled down a steep hill.

The victim was identified on Monday as 62-year-old Mike Edwards, who played cello in the British rock band between 1972 and 1975. (AP)

Electric Light Orchestra, “Mr Blue Sky” (Buy Out of the Blue, 1977)

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Herman Leonard (3/6/1923 – 8/14/2010)

Herman Leonard, originally from Allentown, PA, was one of those photographers who helped make jazz “the epitome of cool.”  He shot this awesome photo of Billie Holiday cooking a steak for her dog.

Check out some of his other photographs at The Morning Call and Time [update: and Slate].

Billie Holiday, “Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good To You”

[Buy The Complete Billie Holiday On Verve, 1945-1959 Box Set]

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Sergio Vega "El Shaka" (September 12, 1969 – June 26, 2010)

The bullet-ridden body of Sergio Vega, aka “El Shaka,” was laid to rest yesterday.  Vega is only the latest in a growing list of narcocorrido singers to fall to drug war related violence in the northern states of Mexico.

Narcocorridos are songs that often glorify the exploits of those in the drug trade (think Outlaw country or Gangsta rap but with polka).

The life of a narcocorrido singer can be highly lucrative, since rich gangsters – who make profits estimated at 3,000 per cent on drugs smuggled from Central and South America, where they are produced, to the USA where they are largely consumed – are prepared to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be immortalised in specially- commissioned songs.

It isn’t exactly a safe line of business to be in, though. A singer who writes catchy songs honouring the criminal activities of one gang immediately puts himself somewhere near the top of the hit-list of rival syndicates, who dislike seeing praise publicly heaped upon their enemies. Vega was no exception. A translation of the chorus of one of his recent hits reads: “I’m going to ask you a favour/Shaka told his people/I want to have some coca paste processed/Because that’s what the customer wants/At the end if it rains and I get wet/You will get wet as well.”

In gangster argot, “making it rain” means to shower bullets on a victim. (The Independent)

The following is the video for one of Vega’s recent hits, “Cuando el Sol Salga al Reves” (When the Sun Rises in Reverse):

“Nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced.  It is an open secret that the dangerous increase of crime in this country is closely connected with this.” -Albert Einstein (on alcohol prohibition)

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Senator Robert Byrd (November 20, 1917 – June 28, 2010)

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Herb Ellis (8/4/1921 – 3/28/2010)

NYT obit

While probably best known for his work with the Oscar Peterson Trio, he was also the last living member of the jazz guitar trio, Great Guitars, which included Charlie Byrd (1925-1999) and Barney Kessel (1923-2004).

Great Guitars, “When The Saints Go Marching In”

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