At the end of each month Goldmine pays tribute to our music heroes in memoriam.
Michael Nesmith The Monkees debuted on television and on record in the fall of 1966. Their self-titled album included the country sounding song “Papa Gene’s Blues” written by the group’s guitarist Mike Nesmith, who passed away December 10 at age 78, less than a month after concluding the tour known as The Mike and Micky Show, a Monkees farewell tour with the surviving two Monkees, Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz.
A few of Nesmith’s popular compositions with The Monkees include “Mary, Mary,” the flip side “The Girl I Knew Somewhere,” and the single “Listen to the Band,” which was the last song he sang lead on in his final concert.
As a composer, Nesmith’s highest charting flip side with The Monkees was “Tapioca Tundra,” which he sang lead on, and served as the flip side of “Valleri,” their sixth and final gold single, released a month ahead of their fifth and final album as a quartet in the 1960s, The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees. In his 2013 interview with Goldmine Nesmith said, “The song itself is about the moment when the performer realizes that the songs he or she sings belong to the people, the fans and the crowds who love the songs, and the performer is only there in service to that relationship. ‘It cannot be a part of me, for now it’s part of you.’"
After leaving The Monkees, Nesmith returned to the Top 40 for a final time in 1970 with his country-rock single “Joanne” by Michael Nesmith & The First National Band. The following year, his composition “Some of Shelly’s Blues” was in the Top 100 by The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Both “Joanne” and “Some of Shelly’s Blues” were included on Nesmith’s 1978 album Live at The Palais where he was joined by steel guitarist Al Perkins, who told Goldmine, “Not only was Michael a pioneer in the field of video music, with his Pop Clips innovation, but also one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet!
I had the pleasure to tour with him in Australia, during which the Live at The Palais was recorded, but also played on his Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma album. In addition, he asked me to produce a steel guitar album featuring several other West Coast players called Pacific Steel Co. He loved music greatly and will be missed by many!”
In 1980, Nesmith’s mother, who invented the correction fluid called Liquid Paper, passed away, leaving him with a sizeable inheritance which allowed him to invest more money in Pop Clips which evolved into MTV. Nesmith was offered the chance to be MTV’s production head, but he turned it down.
Nesmith reunited with the other Monkees in 1996 for their 30th anniversary album Justus, again in 2016 for their 50th anniversary album Good Times! and in 2018 for Christmas Party. In 2020, a 25 song live album was released from 2019 concert recordings called The Monkees Live: The Mike & Micky Show. In 2021, Micky Dolenz released the album Dolenz sings Nesmith, comprised of Nesmith’s compositions including “Different Drum,” which was Linda Ronstadt’s breakthrough hit, entering the Top 40 in late 1967 when The Monkees were on the charts with “Daydream Believer.” Micky Dolenz said, “I’m heartbroken. I’ve lost a dear friend and partner. I’m so grateful that we could spend the last couple of months together doing what we loved best, singing, laughing, and doing shtick. I’ll miss it all so much, especially the shtick.”
Wanda Young The Marvelettes’ Wanda Young sang lead on three mid-1960s Top 20 hits written by Smokey Robinson beginning with the gold single “Don’t Mess With Bill” followed by “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game” and “My Baby Must Be a Magician” on Motown’s Tamla label. Young passed away December 16 at age 78. The Marvelettes’ were the first Motown act to reach No. 1, which they did with their 1961 gold single “Please Mr. Postman,” the first of their ten Top 40 hits in the 1960s.
Stonewall Jackson Country music legend Stonewall Jackson passed away December 4 at age 89. In 1959, after Jackson’s breakthrough single “Life to Go” reached No. 2 on Billboard’s country chart, his next single, the bouncy country/folk song “Waterloo” reached No. 4 on Billboard’s pop chart and went all the way to No. 1 on the country chart, where it remained for five weeks, becoming his signature song. Jackson’s final Top 10 country hit came in 1971 with his cover “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo,” originally recorded and written by Lobo, who told Goldmine, “I always appreciated Stonewall Jackson’s loyalty to pure country music and was proud to be a small part of his wonderful career. His version of ‘Me and You and a Dog Named Boo’ was always one of my favorites.”
Gil Bridges Rare Earth had one member who was with them from their 1960s beginnings through this year, saxophonist and flautist Gil Bridges, who passed away December 8 at age 80. From 1970 through 1972 the Detroit band was in the Top 20 on Motown’s Rare Earth label five times, beginning with a pair of Temptations’ covers “Get Ready” and “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” which both reached the Top 10 in 1970. 1971 began with “Born to Wander,” featuring Bridges on flute. In the summer, the group was back in the Top 10 with “I Just Want to Celebrate” and they ended the year with “Hey Big Brother.”
Ralph Tavares Tavares debuted in the Top 40 in 1973 with brothers Antone “Chubby,” Feliciano “Butch,” Arthur “Pooch,” Perry Lee “Tiny” and Ralph Tavares, who passed away December 8 at age 79. The R&B-disco vocal quintet reached the pop Top 20 twice in the mid-1970s beginning with their highest charting pop hit “It Only Takes a Minute” followed by their gold single “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel.” They were also included on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack performing The Bee Gees’ composition “More Than a Woman,” which appeared in the pop Top 40 in the spring of 1978.
Joe Simon Soul singer Joe Simon, who passed away on December 13 at age 85, debuted in Billboard’s pop Top 40 in 1968 with “(You Keep Me) Hangin’ On” (not to be confused with the Holland-Dozier-Holland composition) from his No Sad Songs album. The following year he achieved his first gold single “The Chokin’ Kind.” Two more gold singles followed in the 1970s, “Drowning in the Sea of Love” and “Power of Love.” His highest charting pop hit happened in 1975 with “Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor).”
Les Emmerson Canada’s Five Man Electrical Band were in Billboard’s U.S. Top 100 five times in the 1970s with all of the songs written by the group’s singer and guitarist Les Emmerson, who passed away December 10 at age 77. Their 1971 gold single “Signs” was their biggest hit and was covered for its 20th anniversary by the hard rock band Tesla, who brought it back to the Top 10 in 1991. One of Emmerson’s solo singles also appeared in the U.S. Top 100 in the 1970s, “Control of Me.” Canadian DJ Ted Yates told Goldmine, “Les Emmerson was a great talent who not only wrote the hits but sang lead on all of them. I had the pleasure of introducing Les on stage at a concert. He was a very friendly and humble individual who gave us some of the best Canadian hits.”
Terry Uttley The British quartet Smokie debuted on Billboard’s Top 100 singles chart in the mid-1970s with the Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman composition “If You Think You Know How To Love Me” and reached the Top 40 next with another Chinnichap composition “Living Next Door to Alice.” The member of the group who had been with them the longest, from the 1960s through this year, was bassist Terry Uttley, who passed away December 16 at age 70.
Paul Mitchell The Detroit R&B quartet The Floaters reached No. 2 on Billboard’s pop chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1977 with their smooth gold single “Float On,” sung by Paul Mitchell, who passed away on December 20. Its flip side, “Everything Happens for a Reason” was a lively dance number. Two more Top 40 R&B hits followed for the group, their cover of Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” and “I Just Want to Be with You,” through the following year.
Ken Kragen Music manager and producer Ken Kragen passed away December 14 at age 85. He was the manager for Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, and others and is known as the organizer for the 1985 “We Are the World” humanitarian fundraiser, which led to the Grammy winning platinum No. 1 single by the star filled entourage known as USA For Africa.
John Miles In the U.S., 1977’s “Slowdown” was the sole Top 40 hit for England’s John Miles who passed away December 5 at age 62. In 1976, Miles debuted with the album Rebel, produced by Alan Parsons, containing the singles “Highfly” and “Music.” He was also a guest vocalist for The Alan Parsons Project. Parsons stated, “I am hugely saddened by the news that my good friend and musical genius John has passed. I am so very proud to have worked with him on some of the greatest vocal performances ever recorded, including of course ‘Music,’ which as well as being a big hit internationally, became an anthem for the hugely popular Night of the Proms concerts. Whenever I invited John to sing on The Alan Parsons Project albums, he always delivered magical and sensitive renditions. He will be greatly missed not only by his many friends and associates but also by the millions of fans who recognize his amazing talent.”
Rosalie Trombley Influential music director Rosalie Trombley passed away November 23 at age 82. From 1968 through 1984 she was the music director at CKLW AM radio in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, a 50,000 watt station in the Detroit/Windsor market with a strong eastern reach beyond Cleveland, Ohio to the Western Pennsylvania border, and heard throughout Ontario, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Trombley was known for being able to pick the hits including U.S. breakthroughs for Canadian acts, The Guess Who with “These Eyes,” written by Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings, The Poppy Family with “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” written by Terry Jacks and sung by Susan Jacks, and David Foster’s Top 40 debut with “Wildflower” by the band Skylark. Additionally, she helped promote the music of U.S. singles written by Canadians including The Carpenters’ version of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft.”
Trombley was also instrumental in the breakthrough successes for Alice Cooper with “Eighteen” and The Main Ingredient’s “Everybody Plays the Fool.” Detroit’s Bob Seger wrote the song “Rosalie” about her, “She’s got the power. She’s got the tower,” referring her 50,000 watt legendary reach.
Frank Little Jr. The O’Jays 1960s singer, songwriter and guitarist Frank “Frankie” Little Jr. was last seen in the 1970s and his remains were finally identified on December 14. Little co-wrote the Northeast Ohio group’s 1966 flip side “Pretty Words” with lead vocalist Eddie Levert and was heard playing a soulful guitar on the single. By the end of the decade Little left the group, not wanting to tour, but wishing to stay close to Cleveland, where he was born in 1943. He also served in the U.S. Army, being deployed to Vietnam, and was a father of two children. In 1982, partial human remains were discovered in the Cleveland suburb of Twinsburg. The DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit entity that uses genetic genealogy, recently became involved with this this case and provided authorities with the names of potential living relatives. After relatives said that the remains could be Little’s, a close relative provided a DNA sample, Little’s identity was confirmed and his death was determined to be a homicide. A representative for The O’Jays stated, “We wish his family and friends closure to what appears to be a very sad story.” The O’Jays were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Downtown Cleveland in 2005.
Marilyn McLeod Motown songwriter Marilyn McLeod passed away November 24 at age 82. Her biggest success as a composer was co-writing “Love Hangover” with Pam Sawyer, which reached No. 1 for Diana Ross in 1976.
Phil Chen Bassist Phil Chen, heard on Rod Stewart’s hits “Hot Legs,” “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks” passed away December 14 at age 80. Prior to his time with Stewart, he was a member of the post-Doors’ Butts Band with guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore and was heard on Jeff Beck’s classic album Blow by Blow.
Robin Le Mesurier British guitarist Robin Le Mesurier, heard on Rod Stewart’s mid-1980s singles “Baby Jane,” “What Am I Gonna Do (I’m So in Love with You)” and “Love Touch,” passed away December 22 at age 68.
Melvin Parker James Brown’s drummer Melvin Parker passed away December 3 at age 77. His drumming was key on Brown’s 1965 Top 10 pop hits “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good),” along with the 1976 Top 10 R&B hit “Get Up Offa That Thing.”
David Lasley Songwriter and background vocalist David Lasley passed away December 9 at age 74. His compositions include co-writing “Lead Me On” for Maxine Nightingale in the 1970s and “Jojo” for Boz Scaggs in the following decade. He was a background vocalist on many of James Taylor’s albums beginning in 1979, and multiple albums from Bonnie Raitt, Luther Vandross, Bette Midler, Melissa Manchester, Garland Jeffreys, Timothy B. Schmit and Ringo Starr.
Leonard Hubbard The Roots’ bassist Leonard “Hub” Hubbard passed away December 16 at age 62. Hubbard played on The Roots’ first seven albums through 2007, including the late 1990s Top 40 hits “What They Do” and “You Got Me.”
Steve Bronski The British techno-pop trio reached the upper half of Billboard’s U.S. Top 100 in the mid-1980s with “Smalltown Boy,” co-written by synthesizer player Steve Bronski, who passed away December 7 at age 61.
Carlos Marin Il Divo’s baritone vocalist Carlos Marin passed away December 19 at age 53. The multi-national quartet reached the U.S. Adult Contemporary Top 40 in 2005 with “Regresa a Mi,” a Spanish language version of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” and in 2006 with “I Believe in You (Je Crois en Toi)” joined by Celine Dion.