Don Wilson The last surviving member of the classic lineup of The Ventures, rhythm guitarist Don Wilson, was looking forward to speaking with Goldmine next month about the special vinyl reissue of The Ventures’ NASA 25th Anniversary album but sadly passed away January 22 at age 88. Renaissance Records is planning a February 21 deluxe 180-gram vinyl package release available through RenaissanceRecordsUS.com with space related songs including “Theme from ‘Return of the Jedi,’” “Close Encounters,” “Star Trek,” “Telstar,” “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” “Star Wars” and more.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group is the best-selling instrumental band of all-time, with many aspiring electric guitarists buying and studying their albums. In the 1960s, the influential guitar driven quartet reached the Top 10 three times beginning in 1960 with “Walk-Don’t Run,” again in 1964 with an updated, surf-rock sounding “Walk-Don’t Run ‘64” and at the end of the decade with “Hawaii Five-O,” the theme from the television series in 1969. The Ventures’ 1965 version of “Sleigh Ride” sampled “Walk-Don’t Run” and continues to receive airplay each holiday season.
Meat Loaf Marvin Lee Aday, who later changed his first name to Michael, known professionally as Meat Loaf, passed away January 20 at age 74. Meat Loaf debuted on Billboard’s Top 100 singles chart in 1971 as a duo with Detroit female singer Shaun Murphy as Stoney & Meatloaf with the edgy duet “What You See Is What You Get” on Motown’s Rare Earth label. It would take years of auditions and rejections until Meat Loaf and his musical partner, songwriter Jim Steinman auditioned for Steve Popovich’s new label Cleveland International Records and Popovich enthusiastically signed the duo for the first album for the new label, Bat Out of Hell, which has become one of the biggest selling rock albums of all-time. Three singles from the classic album reached the Top 40 in 1978, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” “Paradise by The Dashboard Light,” featuring Ellen Foley and “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth.” During the summer tour supporting the success of the album, Meat Loaf was presented with a platinum album for Bat Out of Hell on stage, after performing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” with Karla DeVito, at Blossom Music Center, south of Cleveland.
It would be four more years until the next Meat Loaf album on Cleveland International Records was released, Dead Ringer, with all songs again written by Jim Steinman. The single “I’m Gonna Love Her for Both of Us” had a sound in line with songs from Bat Out of Hell and its flip side was the exciting opening number “Peel Out,” both featuring Davey Johnstone, from Elton John’s band, on guitar. “Read ‘em and Weep,” covered two years later by Barry Manilow, was released as the next single from the album, the first with Eric Troyer as a background vocalist, who went to Electric Light Orchestra Part II, now known as simply The Orchestra. Troyer told Goldmine, “Meat Loaf was a bigger than life presence on stage and in the studio. After touring with him in the U.S. and Europe for many years, singing on multiple albums with him, he was always a trip, unexpected, spontaneous and full of life. The music of Jim Steinman with Meat Loaf up front will always have its place in rock.”
The third and final Meat Loaf album on Cleveland International Records was Midnight at the Lost and Found, with the opening number “Razor’s Edge” released as a single in 1983. During this period Meat Loaf was residing in Connecticut as featured in the pair of books by Tony Renzoni, 2017’s Connecticut Rock ‘n’ Roll and the new 2022 release Historic Connecticut Music Venues.
In 1993, as classic rock radio stations were emerging and playing songs from Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf had a tremendous comeback with the Grammy award winning platinum single “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” joined by Lorraine Crosby, which spent five weeks at No. 1, from the Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman comeback album Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell… Kasim Sulton sang background vocals on the album and told Goldmine, “It is heartbreaking news to learn of the death of my dear friend Meat Loaf. I’m forever grateful for the years spent working with him on stage and in the recording studio. His ability to capture and entertain an audience was a gift. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Three more Meat Loaf singles reached the Top 40 in the mid-1990s, “Rock and Roll Dreams Come Through,” “Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are” and the gold single “I’d Lie For You and That’s the Truth,” joined by Patti Russo.
In 2016, Meat Loaf released what would become his final album Braver Than We Are, with all the songs once again written by Jim Steinman. The album’s longest song, “Going All the Way” had six movements. In his final interview with Goldmine, Meat Loaf said, “’Going All the Way’ is over eleven minutes long. Both of the ‘Paradise’ singers, Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito are on it. It includes what I think is Jim’s most brilliant stanza, ‘There are secrets I never can tell. There are shadows of darkness in heaven. There are so many suburbs of hell, and their hours are 24/7.’”
Ellen Foley and Karla DeVito reunited on the song “I’m Just Happy to Be Here” from Foley’s album Fighting Words in 2021, the same year that Jim Steinman passed away. Steve Popovich passed away a decade prior and since then Steve Popovich Jr. has become the leader of Cleveland International Records. Popovich shared with Goldmine, “We are deeply saddened to hear of Meat’s passing. I’m still reeling in the tremendous loss of another Cleveland International Records alum, Ronnie Spector who passed away a little over a week ago. Back in 2019, Meat and I had talked about releasing one final album and putting it out on Cleveland International Records. The album’s title was going to be The Last at Bat. Meat was a musical giant whose legacy will forever be engrained in the city of Cleveland and in the hearts of its people, who championed him before any other city in the world at the time. The album, Bat Out of Hell, released on my father’s label, has gone on to be one of the top selling albums in the history of the music business, having sold over fifty million copies worldwide. It all started here and a big reason why Cleveland is the Rock and Roll capital of the world. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and fans all over the world. Heaven just gained another incredible talent to its choir. Rest easy.” Then Popovich concluded by reciting five lines from Bat Out of Hell’s tender song “Heaven Can Wait.”
Heaven can wait
And all I got is time until the end of time
Well I won't look back
I won't look back
Let the altar shine
Ronnie Spector Veronica Bennett, her sister Estelle Bennett Vann and their cousin Nedra Talley Ross debuted in Billboard’s Top 40 in 1963 with their biggest hit “Be My Baby,” on Phil Spector’s Philles label. Four more Top 40 hits followed through the end of the following year, “Baby, I Love You,” “(The Best Part Of) Breakin’ Up,” “Do I Love You?” and “Walking in the Rain.”
In 1968, Veronica Bennett, nicknamed Ronnie, married Phil Spector. In 1971, while Phil Spector was working with Apple Records, Ronnie Spector recorded the Apple single “Try Some, By Some,” written by George Harrison, a song left over from his All Things Must Pass triple album, and eventually included on his 1973 Living in the Material World album. In 1974, the Spectors divorced.
In the middle of the decade, Ronnie Spector recorded a version of Billy Joel’s composition “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” on Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International Records label. In his 2020 Goldmine interview, Steve Popovich Jr. said, “That was the first Cleveland International single. My dad and Steven Van Zandt were best friends for forty something years. Before the single came out, Steven called my dad and told him that the E Street Band were having some financial difficulties, going through some legal issues at that time and wanted to know if there was something that he could do. The next day my dad called Steven and said, ‘I’ve got this song written by Billy Joel with a Phil Spector girl group sound that would be perfect for a combination of Ronnie Spector and The E Street Band.’ Steven had already produced Ronnie as a guest on Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes’ first album. My dad gave the band double or triple scale, which at the time was like a month or two’s salary which kept them going in a very important and crucial time in their career. The flip side, ‘Baby Please Don’t Go,’ which Steven wrote, is absolutely beautiful. We are very proud of the Cleveland Rocks compilation, which begins with Ronnie Spector and The E Street Band, and we have now reissued it on vinyl.”
In the middle of the following decade, Ronnie Spector was heard on Eddie Money’s highest charting single, “Take Me Home Tonight,” which reached No. 4. In his 2018 Goldmine interview, Eddie Money said, “Ronnie wasn’t easy to track down in the 1980s. The Ronettes disbanded. She and Phil Spector were divorced and then she remarried. She and her husband Jonathan live in Connecticut. Ronnie answered the phone and I told her my name and asked if she knew who I was. She said ‘yes’ and that she loved my music, so that was good. I told her about ‘Take Me Home Tonight’ and the line, ‘Just like Ronnie sang, ‘Be my little baby,’’ and then I heard the clanging of glasses. I asked her what that was. She was doing the dishes. She had given up music, but fortunately she agreed to sing the line on the song, got the music bug back, and has been recording and touring ever since.”
At the end of the decade, “Be My Baby” experienced resurgence through its placement in the film Dirty Dancing and its soundtrack. In her 2011 Goldmine interview Spector was asked if she ever tired of singing that song. She replied, “Never! I never get tired of it. And that is amazing, because a lot of performers I’ve spoken with, they go, ‘Oh, I’m so tired of singing my hit song.’ And I say, ‘Hey, you should be happy you have that song to sing and that it was a hit!’ I’m the type of person, I have to sing my hits. When I’ve gone to see other performers that don’t sing their hits, ooh, I’m devastated, you know? So, I’ve learned my lesson by seeing other people. I’ve always sung my hits.”
In 1963, in addition to “Be My Baby” being in the Top 40, that holiday season the album A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records was released, which included The Ronettes’ versions of “Frosty the Snowman,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and a song that brought the trio back to the Billboard chart this past holiday season for the first time in over fifty years, “Sleigh Ride.” Spector’s most recent recording was her 2016 British Invasion tribute album English Heart. Ronnie Spector passed away January 12 at age 78.
Michael Lang The co-founder of the iconic 1969 Woodstock festival, Michael Lang, passed away January 8 at age 77. Lang was seen in the award winning 1970 documentary of the festival, along with a sample of the diverse acts, new and established, who performed over the three-day period in Upstate New York, from Sha Na Na to Jimi Hendrix. Sha Na Na’s Jocko told Goldmine, “Jimi Hendrix brought Michael Lang to see us in a New York nightclub. Michael booked us that night to play Woodstock! We are forever indebted to Michael and Jimi for supporting an unknown band. Travel well my friend.”
Dick Halligan Blood, Sweat & Tears opened their ten song Woodstock set with the flip side “More and More,” with Richard “Dick” Halligan on organ, who passed away January 18 at age 78. Halligan was with the band through 1971, playing on their classic debut album with Al Kooper and their six Top 40 singles from the second through fourth albums, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” “Spinning Wheel,” “And When I Die,” “Hi-De-Ho,” “Lucretia Mac Evil” and “Go Down Gamblin’.” Halligan was an arranger and multi-instrumentalist for the Grammy Award winning jazz-rock group. On their third album, Halligan’s list of instruments were stated as “organ, piano, electric piano, harpsichord, celeste, trombone, flute, alto flute, baritone horn, and kitchen sink.”
R. Dean Taylor Canada’s Richard Dean Taylor first gained notoriety as a composer with Motown, co-writing a pair of late 1960s Top 10 hits for The Supremes, “Love Child,” which reached No. 1 in 1968 and “I’m Living in Shame,” which reached No. 10 the following year. As the new decade began, Taylor returned to the Top 10, not only as a songwriter but as the singer of his sole American Top 40 hit, “Indiana Wants Me,” which reached No. 5 on Motown’s Rare Earth label, followed by four more U.S. charting Rare Earth singles through 1972, “Ain’t it a Sad Thing,” “Gotta See Jane,” “Candy Apple Red” and “Taos New Mexico,” with a similar run in with the law theme as “Indiana Wants Me.” R. Dean Taylor passed away January 7 at age 82.
Rosa Lee Hawkins The first single on Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Red Bird label went all the way to No. 1 in 1964, “Chapel of Love” by the New Orleans girl group The Dixie Cups including Rosa Lee Hawkins who passed away January 11 at age 76. Their Top 40 success continued through the following year with “People Say,” “You Should Have Seen the Way He Looks at Me,” and their version of “Iko Iko.”
Fred Parris Connecticut vocalist Fred Parris passed away January 13 at age 85. As the lead vocalist of The Five Satins, the quintet who brought “In the Still of the Nite” and “To the Aisle” to the Top 40 in the late 1950s. Surprisingly, “In the Still of the Nite” peaked nationally at No. 24 in 1956, but since then it has been used in many soundtracks, including Dirty Dancing, listed as “In the Still of the Night.”
Marilyn Bergman The husband and wife team of Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote lyrics for movie, television and pop music hits including the Top 40 singles “The Windmills of Your Mind” from the film The Thomas Crown Affair, performed by Dusty Springfield in 1969, and a pair of platinum No. 1 singles for Barbra Streisand, “The Way We Were” from the film of the same name and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” the duet she performed with Neil Diamond, who wrote the music. Marilyn Bergman passed away January 8 at age 93.
Calvin Simon Parliament – Funkadelic vocalist Calvin Simon passed away January 6 at age 79. Simon was first heard on The Parliaments’ pop Top 40 debut single in 1967, “(I Wanna) Testify” and in the next decade on the pop Top 40 gold single “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)” by Parliament, along with several R&B Top 40 hits by both Parliament and Funkadelic. Tim Sylvester from the Ohio duo LizaSly told Goldmine, “Rest in peace Calvin. Your music still inspires the music that I create. Thank you Calvin and all the Parliament-Funkadelic members, for showing us the way!”
Sonny Turner In the mid-1960s, Sonny Turner, who passed away January 13 at age 83, sang lead on The Platters’ beach music/northern soul classics “I Love You 1000 Times,” “With This Ring” and “Washed Ashore (On a Lonely Island in the Sea)” on the Musicor label.
Greg Webster Ohio Players’ co-founder and drummer from 1964 through 1974 Greg Webster passed away January 14 at age 84. During his decade with the Dayton, Ohio group the gold single “Funky Worm” was their biggest hit.
Jessie Daniels The R&B vocal group Force M.D.’s reached the pop Top 10 in 1986 with “Tender Love” from the movie Krush Groove starring Sheila E. The quintet included Jessie Daniels who passed away January 4 at age 57.
Dallas Frazier Songwriter Dallas Frazier, who passed away on January 14 at age 82, achieved pop hits with the No. 1 “Alley-Oop” by The Hollywood Argyles, “Johnny One Time” by Brenda Lee, “The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp” by O.C. Smith, and “Elvira” by The Oak Ridge Boys, along with many country music hits.
James Mtume The Philadelphia funk quintet Mtume debuted in the pop Top 100 with their gold single “Juicy Fruit” in 1983. The group was named after its male vocalist and drummer James Mtume who passed away January 9 at age 76.
Jerry Crutchfield Country and pop record producer, songwriter, and musician Jerry Crutchfield passed away January 11 at age 87. His productions include “Please Come to Boston” by Dave Loggins, albums by Tanya Tucker, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, Lee Greenwood and many others. As a songwriter, his compositions were placed with Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Brenda Lee, Charley Pride and many more.
Ralph Emery Iconic country music DJ and host of TNN’s Nashville Now television show, Ralph Emery, passed away January 15 at age 88.
Burke Shelley Budgie vocalist and bassist Burke Shelley, who passed away January 10 at age 74, was often compared to Rush’s Geddy Lee. Metallica are fans of Budgie, covered a pair of Budgie songs, and hired Burke as a guitar technician for a road tour.