Obituaries for July 2012

LONDON (AP) — British rocker Jon Lord, the keyboardist whose powerful, driving tones helped turn Deep Purple and Whitesnake into two of the most popular hard rock acts in a generation, died July 16, 2012. He was 71.

Jon Lord Deep Purple publicity photoA statement on Lord’s official website says the Leicester, England-born musician suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism in London after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Jon passed from Darkness to Light,” the statement said.

Lord co-wrote some of Deep Purple’s most famous tunes, including “Smoke on the Water,” and later had a successful solo career following his retirement from the band in 2002. The statement posted on Lord’s website said he died “surrounded by his loving family.”

Emily Freeman of The Agency Group, which represented Lord for all his live concert work, confirmed the news in an email.

Tributes to Lord flooded Twitter, with artists such as Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello and Toto’s Steve Lukather expressing sadness over his death and praising his musical contributions.

Earlier this month, Lord canceled a performance of his Durham Concerto in Germany for what his website said was a continuation of treatment. He had told fans last year that he was fighting cancer.

Lord got his musical start playing piano, first taking classical music lessons before shifting to rock and roll.

After moving to London to attend drama school, he joined blues band the Artwoods in 1964 and later toured with The Flowerpot Men — known for their hit “Let’s Go To San Francisco” — before joining Deep Purple in 1968.

Deep Purple — which featured Lord along with singer Ian Gillan, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, drummer Ian Paice and bassist Roger Glover — was one of the top hard rock bands of the ‘70s. Influenced by classical music, blues and jazz, Lord took his Hammond organ and distorted its sound to powerful effect on songs including “Hush,” ‘’Highway Star,” ‘’Lazy” and “Child in Time.”

The group went on to sell more than 100 million albums before splitting in 1976.
Lord went on to play with hard rock group Whitesnake in the late 1970s and early 1980s and later, a re-formed Deep Purple.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Kitty Wells, country music’s first female superstar, she died July 16, 2012, after complications from a stroke. She was 92.

Kitty Wells publicity photoDubbed “The Queen of Country Music” decades ago, Wells was THE pioneer, the first female singer with enough spunk and fire to get noticed in the male-dominated world of country music. She had been a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame since 1976 and could look back on a career that spanned more than six decades after her retirement.
Wells was largely a forgotten figure in the 21st century, even as so many strong female personalities populate country’s landscape.

Wells scored the first country No. 1 hit by a solo female artist with “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” Her success dashed the notion that women couldn’t be headliners. Billboard magazine had been charting country singles for about eight years at that time.

She recorded approximately 50 albums, had 25 Top 10 country hits and went around the world several times. From 1953 to 1968, various polls listed Wells as the No. 1 female country singer until Wynette finally dethroned her.

It was Well’s true-to-life songs that were modern in perspective and heartfelt in delivery that defined her career. Her 1955 hit “Making Believe” was on the movie soundtrack of “Mississippi Burning” that was released 33 years later. Among her other hits were “The Things I Might Have Been,” ‘’Release Me,” ‘’Amigo’s Guitar,” ‘’Heartbreak USA,” ‘’Left to Right” and a version of “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”

Each offered something identifiable to the listener, making connections for women in the genre that had not been there before. Wells, though, was coy about her place in the country music world. “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” gave the woman’s point of view about the wild side of life.

The song was written by J.D. Miller as a retort to Hank Thompson’s 1952 hit, “The Wild Side of Life.” The song opened the way for women to present their view of life and love in country music. It also encouraged Nashville songwriters to begin writing from a woman’s perspective.

The song was controversial enough that the Grand Ole Opry asked Wells not to perform it, and some radio stations were reluctant to play it.

Her solo recording career lasted from 1952 to the late 1970s, and she made concert tours from the late 1930s until 2000. That year, she announced she was quitting the road, although she performed occasionally in Nashville and elsewhere afterward.

After her induction into the Hall of Fame, she also received the Pioneer Award from the Academy of Country Music and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in 1991.

Born Ellen Muriel Deason in Nashville, the daughter of a railroad brakeman, Wells was known as a gracious, elegant and family-oriented person.

She began playing the guitar at age 14 and soon was performing at dances in the Nashville area.

Wells married Johnny Wright, half of a duo called Johnny and Jack, in 1938 when she was not yet 20, and soon began touring with the duo. She took her stage name from an old folk song, “Sweet Kitty Wells.” Johnny Wright died Sept. 27, 2011.

By the late ’40s they were appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. He performed with her throughout her career and their long marriage.

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DETROIT (AP) — Prominent Motown studio musician and Funk Brothers member Bob Babbitt, 74, whose bass playing pounded through the Temptations hit “Ball of Confusion” and Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” died July 16, 2012, of complications from brain cancer.

Well-known for decades among musicians, Babbitt laid down bass lines on Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” along with “The Tears of a Clown” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, “Inner City Blues” by Marvin Gaye, and Edwin Starr’s “War.”
“Bob was a teddy bear of a guy,” former Motown engineer Ed Wolfrum told the Detroit Free Press. “And he was an extraordinary musician — a player’s player.”

After leaving Motown, he recorded with Bette Midler, Jim Croce, Bonnie Raitt and Frank Sinatra.

In all, he played on more than 200 top 40 hits, including “Midnight Train to Georgia,” by Gladys Knight and the Pips and “Ready to Take a Chance Again” by Barry Manilow.
Babbitt gained wider public recognition through the 2002 film about the Funk Brothers, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”

Babbitt was born Robert Kreinar on Nov. 26, 1937, in Pittsburgh. He got his first music work freelancing around Detroit in the mid-1960s and joined Stevie Wonder’s touring band in 1966. The next year he became part of Motown’s house band, known as the Funk Brothers.

Babbitt had lived in Nashville for 26 years but he told The Tennessean in 2003 that he toured so much that he got little work as a sessions player in the city’s recording studios. “I couldn’t get producers on the phone,” he said.

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