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In Memoriam: Olivia Newton-John, Lamont Dozier, Mo Ostin and others

We remember Olivia Newton-John, Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier, Warner Bros. Records president Mo Ostin, members of The Seekers, The Crickets, The Impressions and others
1978 double album

1978 double album

Olivia Newton-John Born in England and raised in Australia, Olivia Newton-John debuted in the U.S. Top 40 in 1971 with her country version of Bob Dylan’s “If Not for You,” a song which was included on Dylan’s New Morning and George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass albums late in the prior year. Newton-John’s country sound continued with her first two Top 10 gold singles “Let Me Be There” and “If You Love Me (Let Me Know).” Her next single in 1974 broke from her country beginnings and became her first of five No. 1 hits, “I Honestly Love You,” which won a Grammy for Record of the Year. 

A pair of gold singles followed in 1975, “Have You Never Been Mellow” and “Please Mr. Please.” In 1978, Olivia Newton-John achieved huge film success as Sandy in the motion picture version of the musical Grease. John Farrar, her producer who wrote “Have You Never Been Mellow,” composed a pair of new songs for the movie and soundtrack including her first platinum single, “You’re the One That I Want,” a duet with her film co-star John Travolta, and the gold single “Hopelessly Devoted to You.” “Summer Nights” from the movie was her next gold single, joined by Travolta and other cast members, all younger than 29-year-old Newton-John. Her age was more in line with the band featured in the film, Sha Na Na as Johnny Casino and The Gamblers. In fact, she was the same age as Sha Na Na’s pianist Screamin’ Scott Simon, who told Goldmine, “Olivia was a ray of light who emanated positivity.”

After a successful summer of Grease, Newton-John’s Totally Hot album followed that fall, containing her next gold single “A Little More Love.” Two more charting singles from the album followed, beginning with “Deeper Than the Night” and the album’s title tune “Totally Hot.” Its beautifully melodic flip side “Dancin’ ‘Round and ‘Round,” also from the Totally Hot album, was written by Adam Mitchell who told Goldmine, “Olivia cutting this song was a big deal for me. Although other artists had recorded my songs before, Olivia was the first bonafide Top 10 pop star to do so. John Farrar had heard me sing the song at a party. When I learned that he planned to cut it with Olivia, I was thrilled. What a shame it is that she is gone. She was a lovely person.”

1979 45 picture sleeve

1979 45 picture sleeve

In 1980, Olivia Newton-John was in the movie Xanadu and from the film, “Magic,” written by John Farrar, was her next gold single. The following year she achieved her biggest hit with the platinum single “Physical” spending 10 weeks at No. 1 and becoming the top single of 1981.

In 1983, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta were back together in the film Two of a Kind, featuring the up-tempo hit “Twist of Fate.” Newton-John was joined by Travolta on the flip side for the gentle duet “Take a Chance,” which she co-wrote with David Foster and Toto’s guitarist Steve Lukather. This was her final Top 10 single. 

After battling cancer for many years, Newton-John passed away August 8 at age 73.

   

Lamont Dozier 2018 photo by Lisa Margolis, courtesy Lamont Dozier

Lamont Dozier 2018 photo by Lisa Margolis, courtesy Lamont Dozier

Lamont Dozier Legendary songwriter and friend of Goldmine, Lamont Dozier passed away August 8 at age 81. Best known as a member of Detroit’s Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, the trio composed many of the label’s big hits of the 1960s. 

In his 2018 Goldmine interview Dozier shared, “The Four Tops were my favorite group to work with. It was always an album party doing a product with them. We enjoyed ourselves, often working until 3 or 4 a.m., rushing to get an album out, because they toured a lot, so getting them in town was hard.” Five of their compositions reached the Top 10 for the quartet, the chart-toppers “I Can’t Help Myself” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” plus “It’s the Same Old Song,” “Standing in the Shadows of Love” and “Bernadette.” Dozier revealed, “There were three real life Bernadettes. My first love was Bernadette when I was 11 years old. She was in my class in elementary school and was like a muse to me. Later I learned that both Holland brothers each had Bernadette girlfriends, too.”

The songwriting trio’s biggest success at Motown was The Supremes with 10 No. 1 singles including “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” also covered that decade in a slow, psychedelic style by Vanilla Fudge and by Kim Wilde in the following decade. Dozier said, “Vanilla Fudge’s version was very clever. Kim Wilde turned it into a fun dance number.”

Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown at the end of the decade and formed a pair of record labels. Hot Wax had The Honey Cone with “Want Ads” and The Flaming Ember with “Mind, Body and Soul.” Invictus had Freda Payne with “Band of Gold” and Chairmen of the Board with “Give Me Just a Little More Time.” Chairmen of the Board’s lead vocalist General Johnson credited Dozier with strengthening his songwriting. Ken Knox from the group told Goldmine, “When I hear Lamont Dozier’s music, it is classy, gritty and symphonic, which is a great combination. His passing is a sad loss.”

As a performer in the 1970s, Dozier’s biggest chart hit was “Trying to Hold on To My Woman.” Additionally, he still receives extensive beach music play with “Cool Me Out.” In the 1980s, he co-wrote with Phil Collins the No. 1 hit “Two Hearts” from the film Buster and won a Grammy, Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination.

In 2018, Dozier released the CD Reimagination, offering gentle deliveries of some of his biggest hits. In recent years the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee was a reliable resource for our In Memoriam series as Motown and other musicians passed, always offering insightful quotes for Goldmine. Dozier’s wife Barbara passed away in 2021 and he is survived by their sons, songwriter and record producer Beau Dozier and composer Paris Ray Dozier.

   

Mo Ostin, Warner Bros. publicity photo

Mo Ostin, Warner Bros. publicity photo

Mo Ostin Legendary Warner Bros. executive Mo Ostin passed away July 31 at age 95. Ostin began his music career at Verve Records in the 1950s and was recruited by Frank Sinatra to run his Reprise Records label in 1960. Three years later, Warner Bros. Records bought Reprise and Ostin became part of a bigger company. He brought The Kinks, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to Reprise. He also secured John Sebastian from an unsuccessful MGM contract. 

Sebastian told Goldmine, “It’s no wonder Mo got all the cool acts in those amazing years. He appealed to us all. Mo was an ex-accountant who actually understood the numbers as well as the people. He rescued me personally by buying me out of a contract that would have taken years to outlive. Thank you, Mo. Frank Sinatra sure picked the right one. I am indebted to Mo Ostin.” 

Ostin became the president of Warner Bros. Records in 1970, presiding over the Warner Bros. and Reprise labels until he retired as Chairman and CEO in 1994. During his tenure some of the artists added were James Taylor, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, The Doobie Brothers, Seals & Crofts, Fleetwood Mac, Uriah Heep, Van Halen, The B-52’s, Prince, ZZ Top, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, Green Day and Donna Fargo who told Goldmine, “Mo Ostin played a major role not only in my musical journey but also in the careers of so many other artists. I was told that he was the reason that Warner Bros. wanted me to be on their label and that he said, ‘Get me that girl that sings ‘Superman.’ He will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Mr. Mo Ostin. I will always remember him as one of the good guys. In fact, I included his picture in my video for my new single, ‘One of the Good Guys.’”

After retiring from Warner Bros., Ostin became an executive at the music division of DreamWorks SKG from 1996 through 2004, during a period of successful releases by George Michael, Papa Roach, Lifehouse and The Isley Brothers. Ostin was a 2003 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

   

Aug 2022 Judith

Judith Durham The Seekers’ vocalist Judith Durham passed away August 5 at age 79. The Australia pop-folk quartet The Seekers debuted in the U.S. in 1965 with “I’ll Never Find Another You” which reached No. 4.

That summer, The Seekers returned to the Top 40 with “A World of Our Own.” Their biggest U.S. single entered the Top 40 on the final day of 1966, the title song from the film Georgy Girl, which reached No. 2 early in 1967 and became the group’s sole gold single.

Their next single, “Morningtown Ride,” just missed the Top 40, peaking at No. 44. The following year Judith Durham left the group for a solo career, which led to the group disbanding. Guitarist Keith Potger formed The New Seekers in the following decade. Durham’s final album was 2018’s compilation of previously unreleased songs called So Much More including tracks co-written by Potger who told Goldmine, “I spoke with Judith on the phone a few hours before she died. We spoke of our love for one another, and I told her that I wanted to see her as soon as possible. Sadly, I did not see her before she died. She was my ‘little sister,’ and I will treasure every moment we spent together. What a road we traveled and in so many ways that road will go on forever.”

   

Tom Springfield The British folk trio The Springfields were comprised of Tim Feild, Dusty Springfield and her brother Tom Springfield, who passed away July 27 at age 88. The trio reached No. 20 in the U.S. with “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” After The Springfields disbanded, Tom Springfield wrote The Seekers’ biggest hits “I’ll Never Find Another You,” “A World of Our Own” and co-wrote “Georgy Girl,” along with producing their records.

   

Jerry Allison The Crickets’ drummer Jerry Allison passed away August 22 at age 82. Allison co-wrote the 1957 No. 1 gold single “That’ll Be the Day” with Buddy Holly, which they performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, and “Peggy Sue,” which also reached the Top 10 that year. 

Allison also co-wrote “Well…All Right,” the flip side of “Heartbeat,” which was the final charting single for Buddy Holly before Holly’s accidental death in early February 1959. The song was later covered by Blind Faith and then Santana and charted as a Top 100 single for the Latin-rock group in 1978.

  

Creed Taylor Jazz producer Creed Taylor passed away August 22 at age 93. Taylor had a knack for crossover music success. He helped to popularize the bossa nova sound and oversaw the 1964 recording of “The Girl from Ipanema” by Stan Getz with vocals by Astrud Gilberto, which reached No. 5 in the U.S. 

Taylor founded jazz labels Impulse and CTI, which included George Benson’s 1970 album The Other Side of Abbey Road, with jazz interpretations of songs from The Beatles’ 1969 album, and the instrumental single “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” by keyboardist Eumir Deodato, five minutes in length, edited from the nine-minute album version, and interpreted from a Richard Strauss classical piece. This theme from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey reached No. 2 in 1973.

   

Sam Gooden The Impressions’ bass vocalist and co-founder Sam Gooden passed away August 4 at age 87. After the 1958 chart success of “For Your Precious Love,” Jerry Butler left the Chicago vocal group for a solo career. For most of the 1960s, The Impressions were a trio comprised of songwriter Curtis Mayfield on lead tenor vocals with baritone vocalist Fred Cash and Gooden. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group achieved 21 Top 10 R&B hits including “Gypsy Woman,” “People Get Ready” and their biggest hit “It’s All Right.”

   

Bill Pitman The Wrecking Crew’s guitarist Bill Pitman passed away August 11 at age 102. His session guitarwork was heard on the 1963 No. 2 Ronettes debut single “Be My Baby” and the No. 1 hits “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds in 1965 and “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys in 1966. He was featured on ukulele in 1969 on the No. 1 Oscar winning song “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas from the film Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid

   

Frederick Waite Jr. Musical youth’s drummer Frederick Waite Jr., aka Junior Waite, passed away July 20 at age 55. The British pop-reggae group is best known for “Pass the Dutchie,” which reached the U.S. Top 10 in early 1983.

  

Kal David Vocalist and guitarist Kal David passed away August 16 at age 79. In the 1960s he was a member of The Rovin’ Kind which evolved into Illinois Speed Press. David’s next group, The Fabulous Rhinestones, included Harvey Brooks, from The Electric Flag on bass and Marty Grebb from The Buckinghams on keyboards, along with saxophone on their most popular song, “What a Wonderful Thing We Have.” This Top 100 single began side two of their 1972 album self-titled album on Michael Lang’s Just Sunshine label. In recent years, the Chicago native was a popular blues guitarist in the Palm Springs, California area, sharing the stage with his wife Lauri Bono. 

The Buckinghams’ Carl Giammarese told Goldmine, “Kal was cut from the same cloth as some of the other great guitarists I respected playing clubs around Chicago back in the day which included Terry Kath, Jim Vincent, Al DeCarlo and Harvey Mandel. I was amazed at Kal’s guitar playing. The last time I heard him play was at his and Lauri’s club in Palm Springs. You could close your eyes and think you were hearing Eric Clapton.”

   

Darryl Hunt The Pogues’ bassist Darryl Hunt passed away August 8 at age 72. The Celtic folk-rock group from England have influenced a variety of bands, including Canada’s Great Big Sea as stated by Alan Doyle in his 2020 Goldmine interview. The Pogues’ biggest global hit is “Fairytale of New York.” Hunt was known best for his beautiful Pogues composition “Love You ‘Till the End,” placed in the films Mystery, Alaska and P.S. I Love You.

  

Butch Thompson Pianist and clarinetist Butch Thompson passed away August 14 at age 78. Thompson was the pianist for many years on Garrison Keillor’s radio series A Prairie Home Companion, joined by an entourage of performers including Robin and Linda Williams who told Goldmine, “Over the years we spent hundreds of hours with Butch, off stage and on stage where he never ran into trouble, not only drawing from his ragtime and New Orleans music styles but also could adapt to play with anybody. His playing was always just right, never too little, or even better, never too much. We used to love to watch his left hand. Butch was always easy going, welcoming and willing. He never made us feel as if we were in the presence of greatness, even though we were.”

  

Mable John R&B singer Mable John passed away August 25 at age 91. John was the first female singer signed to Motown and after a series of non-charting singles she left the label. In 1966 on the Stax label, John achieved her biggest success when her version of the Isaac Hayes and David Porter composition “Your Good Thing (Is About to End)” reached No. 6 on the R&B chart. John was also one of Ray Charles’ Raelettes for many years, providing backing vocals.

  

Carlo Nuccio Drummer and producer Carlo Nuccio passed away August 24 at age 61. Nuccio was a co-founder of the group Continental Drifters, which includes Susan Cowsill of The Cowsills and Vicki Peterson Cowsill of The Bangles. He worked with Tori Amos, Emmylou Harris, Dr. John, Marianne Faithfull, Buckwheat Zydeco and many others.

  

Gord Lewis Guitarist Gord Lewis for Canada’s Teenage Head passed away August 7 at age 65. The Hamilton, Ontario quartet’s singles were prominent on Toronto’s CHUM Top 40 charts in the early 1980s, beginning with the catchy pop “Something on My Mind” followed by “Some Kinda Fun” and “Tornado.”

  

Helen Grayco Singer Helen Grayco, known for her television work on The Spike Jones Show, passed away August 20 at age 97. Her recorded work includes the albums After Midnight in 1957, Lady in Red in 1958, plus narration on the track “None but the Lonely Heart” which appeared on the RCA compilation The Best of Spike Jones and his City Slickers. Grayco married the music satirist Jones in 1949 and became widowed in 1965, when Jones passed away at age 53. She remarried in 1968.