In 2020, we lost Little Richard, Eddie Van Halen, Leslie West, Peter Green, Neil Peart, Kenny Rogers, Charlie Daniels, Bill Withers, Chad Stuart, Emitt Rhodes, John Prine, and sadly over 100 more.
On December 27, we lost a good friend of Goldmine, publicist Randy Alexander of Randex Communications. Randy was very involved with the Philadelphia music scene and connected us with music and artists with musical roots in Pennsylvania and New Jersey including Bobby Rydell, Labelle’s Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx, Ian McDonald from King Crimson, Foreigner and Honey West, the late producer Jerry Ross, songwriters Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Anita Ward, Gerald Alston of The Manhattans, Joe Grushecky of The Houserockers, Danielia Cotton, and many more. Randy was 62.
Hillard “Sweet Pea” Atkinson
In the late 1980s, the group Was (Not Was) had a pair of singles in the Top 20, “Spy in the House of Love” followed by “Walk the Dinosaur,” both co-written by Don Was and sung by a pair of vocalists Sir Harry Bowens and Sweet Pea Atkinson, who passed away on May 5 at the age of 74. Sweet Pea was also a backing vocalist on many songs that Don Was has produced for others over the years.
Quiet Riot’s drummer Frankie Banali passed away on August 20 at the age of 68. The California heavy metal quartet achieved their Top 40 debut in 1983 with their cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize,” a gold single which reached No. 5, followed by “Bang Your Head (Metal Health),” which peaked at No. 31, both from their No. 1 album Metal Health. Their Top 100 singles streak concluded the following year with another Slade cover, “Mama Weer All Crazee Now,” which peaked at No. 51. Its flip side was the powerful “Bad Boy,” with both sides of the single from their next platinum album Critical Condition.
At the end of the 1980s Frankie joined the group W.A.S.P. and then returned to Quiet Riot in 1993 and continued with the group through this year. While Frankie was battling pancreatic cancer, he continued to play drums. Fellow drummer Eric Singer told Goldmine, “I met Frankie back in 1986, when I first joined Black Sabbath. He was obviously a main staple on the Sunset Strip music scene. Quiet Riot broke down the doors with their Metal Health album in 1983. Their success seemed to create a tsunami of bands from Los Angeles to break big-time, both here in the U.S. and internationally. Frankie was known as a powerhouse drummer as he became the foundation for Quiet Riot. He was a very approachable and charismatic guy offstage. With a passion for vintage drums and collecting, he was always keen to chat at drum shows regarding anything drums. Frankie fought an incredible fight and he will be missed.”
When Len Barry was the lead singer in Philadelphia’s vocal group The Dovells in the early 1960s, they achieved two Top 10 dance hits, “Bristol Stomp,” which reached No. 2 in 1961 and “You Can’t Sit Down,” which peaked at No. 3 in 1963. After going solo, Len returned to the Top 10 for a final time with “1-2-3,” which reached No. 2 in 1965. Len passed away on November 5 at the age of 78.
Kool & The Gang’s saxophonist Ronald Bell, brother of the group’s bassist Robert “Kool” Bell, co-wrote the group’s No. 1 platinum hit single “Celebration.” Additionally, he co-wrote seven of the group’s Top 10 singles “Jungle Boogie,” “Hollywood Swinging,” “Ladies Night,” “Too Hot,” “Get Down on It,” “Joanna,” and “Cherish.” In addition to radio success, their songs have been featured in a variety of films. Ronald passed away on September 9 at the age of 68.
British producer Martin Birch worked on albums by Fleetwood Mac in their early years, Black Sabbath in their Ronnie James Dio era, Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, Wishbone Ash, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and Whitesnake. David Coverdale, from both of those latter two bands said, “Martin was a huge part of my life, helping me from the first time we met with Deep Purple’s Stormbringer album through Whitesnake’s Slide It In. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans.” Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra recorded and performed Deep Purple songs, originally produced by Martin Birch, on Whitesnake’s 2015 CD, The Purple Album. He told Goldmine, “Obviously Martin is responsible for so many of the records that shaped my musical life. While I didn’t know him personally, I’m grateful for his influence and am saddened by his passing.” On August 9, Martin passed away at the age of 71.
On the final weekend of the 1960s, Jimmy Cliff had his Top 40 debut with his reggae composition “Wonderful World, Beautiful People,” which included Hux Brown on guitar. Paul Simon’s Top 40 solo debut in 1972, “Mother and Child Reunion,” also featured Hux Brown on guitar. Later on he joined Jamaica’s Toots & The Maytals. Hux passed away on June 18 at the age of 75.
After the first album by The New Riders of the Sage, where Jerry Garcia played pedal steel guitar, the group decided to get a permanent pedal steel player and recruited Buddy Cage. He helped bring liveliness to their songs “Whiskey” and “Panama Red” and tenderness to the song “Gypsy Cowboy.” Buddy passed away on February 4 at the age of 73.
Steve Martin Caro
The Left Banke’s singer Steve Martin Caro passed away on January 14 at the age of 71. This New York City quintet was considered part of the 1960s baroque pop movement when their second hit single, “Pretty Ballerina,” became a Top 40 hit in 1967, following on the success of their Top 10 single from the prior year, “Walk Away Renee.” During the 1960s, that Left Banke Top 10 hit was covered by a wide range of performers including The Four Tops, a live performance recording by The Cowsills with Bob Cowsill on lead vocals, and it was given a soft semi-instrumental treatment with only the chorus used by the Boston band Orpheus. Bruce Arnold, the singer for Orpheus, told Goldmine, “It was not until many years after we covered ‘Walk Away Renee’ for our second album, Ascending, that I came to appreciate Steve’s unique voice and delivery. Everything about him was a perfect fit for that too short era of baroque pop.”
Pete Carr is known for the song “Falling” by the one-hit wonder duo LeBlanc & Carr, his Muscle Shoals session guitar work, being a member of Hour Glass with Duane and Gregg Allman, and working with Paul Simon and many others. The soft rock hit “Falling,” co-written by Lenny LeBlanc, gave LeBlanc & Carr their sole Top 40 hit in winter through spring of 1978, reaching No. 13.
Pete’s guitar work was heard on the 1970s singles “Kodachrome” by Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkel’s reunion hit “My Little Town,” Bob Seger’s “Mainstreet” and on Rod Stewart’s “Sailing.” The powerful flip sides “Watching the River Flow” by Joe Cocker and “Make it Like a Memory” by Barbra Streisand also featured his sought after musicianship. Pete passed away in Alabama on June 27 at the age of 70.
The band UFO included the guitarist Paul Chapman briefly in the mid-1970s and then he returned at the end of the decade after the departure of UFO’s lead guitarist Michael Schenker. Paul was featured on the early 1980s UFO albums No Place to Run, The Wild, The Willing and The Innocent, Mechanix, and Making Contact. On June 9, in Melbourne, Florida, Paul passed away on his 66th birthday.
The 1961 gold single “Runaway” spent four weeks at No. 1 for Del Shannon, which he co-wrote with keyboardist Max Crook. Max invented a pre-synthesizer keyboard called a musitron, which was featured on the song. Max passed away on July 1 at the age of 83.
Charlie Daniels, who passed away on July 6 at the age of 83, debuted in the Top 40 in 1973 with a novelty tale about being a hippie fighting off a bar of rednecks called “Uneasy Rider, which reached No. 9. Charlie’s first annual Volunteer Jam concert was held in Nashville featuring The Charlie Daniels Band joined by members of The Allman Brothers Band and The Marshall Tucker Band in 1974. His up-tempo dose of country rock, “The South’s Gonna Do It,” brought Charlie back to the Top 40 in 1975 and reached No. 29. His biggest hit arrived at the end of the decade with the fiddle driven platinum single “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which spent two weeks at No. 3 on the pop charts and became his sole country No. 1 single and the Country Music Association’s single of the year. The following year, the Grammy Award winning Charlie Daniels Band were featured in the film Urban Cowboy and on the double album soundtrack performing that big hit.
In the early 1980s, Charlie achieved three more Top 40 pop hits with “In America,” “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and “Still in Saigon.” That decade he embraced a new mother and daughter duo, The Judds, as his opening act. Wynonna said, “When Mom and I opened for Mr. Charlie, I was so young, so naive, and in awe of my heroes in country music. I spent most of my time trying to talk to, hang out with and learn everything I could from the artists we played shows with. Mr. Charlie was always so kind to me. He always made me feel so important. His heart, oh my, I adored him and loved him so much! He’d come over to me in a crowded room to hug me. He always made time for me and I respect him so much for the way he treated me and so many others in each room. During one of our moments, backstage before a show, I was talking to Mr. Charlie about how nervous I was being onstage. He told me, ‘Never look at the empty seats.’ I have not forgotten his advice. Charlie Daniels was a maverick with a heart bigger than most. He lived and he loved large!” Naomi added, “Every time I was around Charlie, I felt like I was standing next to pure country. He sang about faith, patriotism, family and having good, clean fun. I’m so grateful that I got to meet and know a truly great man."
Charlie Daniels was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2008 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016. He is survived by his wife Hazel, who he married in 1964, and their son Charlie Daniels, Jr.
Multi-instrumentalist Chris Darrow passed away on January 15 at the age of 75. His biggest success was, as a member of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, being part of the group for their 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy, which included their lone 1970s Top 40 single “Mr. Bojangles,” written by Jerry Jeff Walker and a pair of Top 100 singles, “House at Pooh Corner,” written by Kenny Loggins, and “Some of Shelley’s Blues,” written by Mike Nesmith.
In the late 1960s, Mac Davis reached the Top 100 five times as a songwriter for Elvis Presley, writing the platinum selling singles “In the Ghetto” and “Don’t Cry Daddy” and co-writing “A Little Less Conversation,” “Memories” and “Clean Up Your Own Back Yard.” In the early 1970s, Mac’s compositions reaching the Top 40 included “Something’s Burning” by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, “Watching Scotty Grow” for Bobby Goldboro, and Gallery’s version of Mac’s anthem “I Believe in Music.” Gallery’s Jim Gold told Goldmine, “When we were working on the first Gallery album, I suggested ‘I Believe in Music’ to our producers. Little did I know that it was going to be the follow up single for our first hit ‘Nice to Be with You.’ Then I really got nervous but fortunately it became a hit version of Mac’s song. I am proud of that and grateful to Mac.”
In 1972, Mac’s “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me” became his Top 40 pop debut, spending three weeks at No. 1. That gold single was followed in the Top 40 by “One Hell of a Woman,” “Stop and Smell the Roses” and “Rock N’ Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life),” all on the Columbia label.
In 1980, Mac switched to the Casablanca label for several country hit singles beginning with the humorous “It’s Hard to Be Humble” and his highest charting country hit, “Hooked on Music.”
Mac Davis continued to write songs in recent years, including being part of the team who composed Bruno Mars’ 2012 single “Young Girls.” On September 29, Mac passed away at the age of 78.
British guitarist Spencer Davis passed away on October 19 at the age of 81. The Spencer Davis Group first appeared in the U.S. Top 100 in 1966 with their song “Keep on Running,” later featured in the 1995 Mr. Holland’s Opus film and soundtrack. A pair of Steve Winwood’s compositions reached the Top 10 for the quartet in 1967, beginning with “Gimme Some Lovin’,” which returned to the Top 40 in 1980 by The Blues Brothers, and “I’m a Man,” which Chicago covered on their 1969 debut album.
In February 1989, Canada’s Sheriff reached No. 1 in the U.S. with the song “When I’m With You,” which was originally released almost six years prior in 1983, the same year that Sheriff disbanded. Their vocalist Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi formed the Canadian band Alias. They co-wrote the song “More Than Words Can Say,” which reached No. 2 in 1990. Steve’s brother Denny DeMarchi played keyboards and sang background vocals on this big hit ballad. He went on to play keyboards for The Cranberries on their tours and on two Dolores O’Riordan solo albums and her tour. Denny passed away on May 15 at the age of 57.
26 singles and one flip side by The Four Seasons with Tommy DeVito reached the Top 40 in the 1960s. In the fall of 1962, the New Jersey quartet achieved their pop Top 40 debut with a pair of gold singles, which spent five weeks each at No. 1, “Sherry” followed by “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” These songs also topped the R&B chart. The chart topping position was reached again early the following year with “Walk Like a Man” for Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Nick Massi, who died in 2000 at the age of 73, and Tommy DeVito, who passed away on September 21 at the age of 92 from COVID-19.
Not only did Tommy sing with the group, but he also played guitar. In his 2008 Goldmine interview, Frankie Valli stated, “Tommy played on some of the early records. He was talented in his own way. He was self-taught. There were things that Tommy could do, in my opinion, that came out of a natural ability that very few people could do.”
In addition to the quartet’s 26 Top 40 charting singles, “Marlena,” the flip side of their hit “Candy Girl,” also charted separately in the Top 40 in the summer of 1963. Big hits continued for the singing group throughout the decade, including “Dawn (Go Away),” “Ronnie,” “Rag Doll,” “Save it For Me,” “Big Man in Town,” “Bye, Bye, Baby (Baby Goodbye),” “Let’s Hang On!,” “Working My Way Back to You,” “Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘bout Me),” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Tell it to The Rain,” “Beggin’,” and “C’mon Marianne.”
The Four Seasons are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and are the subject of the Tony Award winning musical and film Jersey Boys.
In an interview in our May 2020 edition of Goldmine, Marty Stuart said, “There’s been different levels of mainstream pop-culture acceptance for country music at various points along the way but the 1990s were unprecedented.” Among that decade’s big country stars was Joe Diffie with 32 Top 100 country singles covering every year in the decade, multiple times in each year. 1990 began with his song “Home,” the first of five No. 1 hits in the 1990s for Joe, which included the love song “Bigger Than the Beatles,” also containing references to The Rolling Stones and The Eagles. As the decade concluded, one of his country hits crossed over to the Top 40 pop charts, “A Night to Remember” in 1999. Joe passed away on March 29 at the age of 61 of coronavirus.
Carl Dobkins, Jr.
Carl Dobkins, Jr. debuted in 1959 with the Top 10 hit “My Heart is an Open Book.” Carl passed away on April 8 at the age of 79. He reached the Top 40 one more time in 1960 with “Lucky Devil.”
Before Sandy Denny became the female vocalist for England’s folk rock group Fairport Convention, Judy Dyble was in that role from 1967 through part of 1968, playing autoharp, piano and recorder, and featured on their self-titled debut album. Judy passed away on July 12 at the age of 71.
In 1957, the rockabilly single “Sputnik (The Satellite Girl)” by Jerry Engler and The Ekkos debuted on the Brunswick label, the same label as The Crickets. Decades later Jerry rerecorded “Sputnik” as a flip side of a single, with the A side being a song he sung and had never before been released, “What Are You Gonna Do?” with Buddy Holly on lead guitar, recorded on Buddy’s 22nd birthday in 1958. Jerry passed away at the age of 84 on June 24.
Justin Townes Earle
Steve Earle’s son, Justin Townes Earle, passed away on August 20 at the age of 38. He was named for his father’s musical hero Townes Van Zandt and eventually toured with his father in The Dukes, after playing in bands in Nashville. In 2009, Justin won the Americana Music Honors & Awards’ New and Emerging Artist of the Year award. He released eight albums, most recently The Saint of Lost Causes in 2019.
One of the toughest jobs in country music is playing drums in Willie Nelson’s band, trying to keep the band in a reasonable tempo while Willie plays to his own beat. This position was held for over fifty years by Paul English, who passed away on February 12 at the age of 87. He is also the subject in Willie’s buddy tale “Me and Paul,” originally a 1971 flip side and re-recorded and released as the A side of a 1985 single, from the album of the same name. Willie sang, “We received our education, in cities across the nation, me and Paul.”
The piano instrumental “Alley Cat” reached No. 7 in the U.S. in 1962 for Denmark’s Bent Fabric, whose composition emulated a cat creeping along, on what would become a piano lesson exercise. This gold single was the only U.S. hit for this musician, television personality and head of Metronome records. Bent passed away on July 28 at the age of 95.
Pat Fairley of Scotland’s Marmalade, a one-hit wonder in the U.S. with “Reflections of My Life,” passed away August 11 at the age of 76. Pat was with the group from their 1961 beginnings, when the group was known as The Gaylords, through 1972, two years after their sole U.S. hit reached No. 10.
In 1968, on the Mainstream label, which also included the first album for Big Brother and The Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin, the Detroit group The Amboy Dukes achieved their sole Top 40 hit with “Journey to the Center of the Mind.” The guitar driven single was written by the sextet’s guitarists Ted Nugent and Steve Farmer. Steve passed away on April 7 at the age of 71.
In 1978, the same year as The Miracles’ final charting R&B single “Mean Machine,” Dave Finley joined the vocal group and remained with them until 2011 when the group stopped doing live performances. Dave passed away on June 25 at the age of 72.
The Left Banke’s first two singles, “Walk Away Renee” and “Pretty Ballerina” reached the Top 20 in the mid-1960s, with Tom Finn on bass. By the time the decade concluded, Tom took on more of an active role in the band, with their eighth and final single written and sung by Tom. The orchestrated “Nice to See You” was on the A side and “There’s Gonna Be a Storm” appeared on the flip side with a pre-Raspberries sound. Tom passed away on June 27 at the age of 71. A new album of rare Left Banke recordings is planned for the end of this year.
Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders’ “Game of Love” reached No. 1 in the U.S., as part of The British Invasion, in April 1965. Wayne sang, “The purpose of a man is to love a woman and the purpose of a woman is to love a man,” on their U.S. chart debut. “It’s Just a Little Bit Too Late” followed but peaked outside of the Top 40 at No. 45. That fall, Wayne left the Mindbenders for a solo career and the remaining trio reached No. 2 in the U.S. the following year with “Groovy Kind of Love.” Three months later, Wayne was back on the U.S. charts briefly with “Come on Home,” which peaked at No. 117. His biggest solo single globally was the beautiful “Pamela Pamela” in 1966. Wayne passed away in England on August 6 at the age of 74.
In 1982, when MTV was new, FM radio stations created new wave or new music hours, featuring songs that MTV played, which were not part of the Top 40 rotation. Among those songs was “I Love a Man in a Uniform” by Britain’s Gang of Four from their album Songs of the Free. The song was a catchy new wave dance number, with a pair of female background vocalists, and was driven by Andy Gill’s guitar. On February 1, Andy passed away at the age of 64.
The Buckinghams’ Carl Giammarese told Goldmine, “When our single ‘Kind of a Drag’ reached No. 1 in early 1967, we found ourselves in need of a keyboard player, as our original one, Dennis Miccolis, left the group to attend college. Marty Grebb joined the group and lifted The Buckinghams to a new musical level. He was a bit older and better than we were at our instruments, but he never made us feel inferior. We are all devasted by his passing.” Marty helped to lead the group musically through the next four Top 40 singles in 1967, “Don’t You Care,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” “Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song)” and “Susan.” In 1968, Marty wrote both sides of their final Top 100 single, “Back in Love Again” and “You Misunderstand Me,” both sung by Dennis Tufano.
In 1972, Marty returned to the Top 100 as a member of The Fabulous Rhinestones with the song “What a Wonderful Thing We Have.” He also returned to be with two members of The Buckinghams in 1975 as part of The Tufano & Giammarese Band, playing keyboards and tenor sax.
Marty spent many years playing with members of The Band, playing in Bonnie Raitt’s band, and appearing on recordings by several artists. On Joe Vitale’s 1981 album Plantation Harbor, Marty played alto sax on the song “Sailor Man.” Joe shared with Goldmine, “Marty was an incredible musician, the ‘go to guy.’ When we were recording the album, the producer Bill Szymczyk said, ‘I’d love a sax solo on this tune,’ and we all shouted, ‘Get Marty Grebb!’ Marty played a killer solo on ‘Sailor Man.’ What a loss as a friend and fellow musician. He will be so missed. May he rest in peace.” Marty Grebb passed away on New Year’s Day at the age of 74.
In 1967, the blues rock band Fleetwood Mac was formed in England with a nucleus of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie and Peter Green, all who had been members of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Jeremy Spencer joined on slide guitar and piano and then Danny Kirwan was added as a third guitarist.
Johnny Bee Badanjek, from Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels and The Rockets told Goldmine, “It's sad to hear about Peter Green's passing. He was an incredible guitar player and songwriter on early Fleetwood Mac songs including ‘Albatross,’ ‘Black Magic Woman,’ ‘Rattlesnake Shake,’ ‘The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)’ and ‘Oh Well’ which we did a cover of when I was in The Rockets on RSO Records and it ended up being a Top 40 hit for us in 1979, the same year that Peter started playing guitar again, after many years of absence, with the help of his brother Michael. B.B. King said that Peter Green had more talent in his little finger than he had in his whole body and that he was the only guitar player who gave him cold sweats. It was a shame that Peter left Fleetwood Mac in the early 1970s. They were a great high energy blues and rock and roll band. Listening to the early Fleetwood Mac recordings, it amazing how energetic the band played live on stage together.”
Fleetwood Mac’s first charting single in the U.S. happened in 1969 with “Black Magic Woman,” which peaked at No. 104 for the group, and was successfully covered by Santana the following year and reached No. 4. That same year, Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well – Pt. I” became their U.S. Top 100 debut single, peaking at No. 55. The A side of the single featured a call and response style with electric guitars being featured in the instrumental sections, followed by Peter’s a cappella vocal interludes. This style was repeated by Led Zeppelin the following year with their Top 40 hit single “Black Dog.” The flip side, “Oh Well – Pt. II,” was a gentle instrumental featuring Peter on a variety of instruments, and together the full nine minute version of “Oh Well” concluded side one of their 1969 Then Play On album.
Peter passed away on July 25 at the age of 73.
The U.S. songwriter Alex Harvey co-wrote “Reuben James,” a 1969 Top 40 hit for Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. In 1971, on another of his compositions, “Rings,” the Tennessee group Cymarron sang about “James Taylor on the stereo.” When Florida’s Lobo updated the song in 1974, he changed the line as a tribute to the biggest southern rock band of that era with “The Allman Brothers on the stereo.” Lobo told Goldmine, “I recorded ‘Rings’ because of my love for the song. It was always a fun song to sing onstage because of its upbeat message. It is sad about Alex. We lost another good one.” Tanya Tucker began her career at the young age of thirteen in 1972 with Alex’s composition “Delta Dawn,” the first of forty Top 10 country singles for her. Tanya said, “The song started everything off for me and has kept me going ever since. I find myself grateful and thankful knowing my life would have been so different without the iconic ‘Delta Dawn’ and her creator Alex Harvey. Thank you, Alex. He got his wings to that mansion in the sky.” Helen Reddy took the song to No. 1 on the pop charts the following year and that same year Bette Midler’s version was the flip side of her first Top 10 single “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” We lost Alex on April 4 at the age of 73.
British bassist and vocalist Gordon Haskell appeared on King Crimson’s second and third albums, In the Wake of Poseidon and Lizard. Gordon passed away in October at the age of 74.
In 1965, Three Rivers, Texas’ Roy Head debuted in the Top 40, with his biggest hit, “Treat Her Right,” which reached No. 2. His composition told the story in the verses and the chorus was comprised only of one repeated word, “Hey,” surrounded by brass.
Roy passed away on September 21 at the age of 79. His survivors include his son Sundance Head, a contestant on both American Idol and The Voice.
Just weeks after the passing of Uriah Heep’s drummer Lee Kerslake, the British quintet’s co-founding songwriter and keyboardist Ken Hensley passed away on November 4 at the age of 75. The group’s sole remaining original co-founder, guitarist Mick Box, told Goldmine, “I am in deep shock at the news that Ken has passed away, and my sincere condolences go to his family and wife Monica. Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people’s hearts forever. R.I.P. Ken.”
Ken Hensley was a friend of Goldmine, most recently quoted in our Goldmine December 2020 issue’s In Memoriam section, which began with our tribute to Lee Kerslake.
After his time in The Gods and Toe Fat, Ken was in Uriah Heep from 1969 through 1980. Ken wrote group’s debut album liner notes, describing every song, and that trend continued with subsequent albums.
In 1971, Ken co-wrote “July Morning” with the band’s lead singer David Byron, who left the group at the end of 1975. John Lawton, from the band Lucifer’s Friend, became the band’s new lead singer and performed this lengthy classic, not only live with Uriah Heep for years, but has performed Ken’s composition many times in Bulgaria, at the country’s annual July Morning festival. In recent years, Ken and John played with the Bulgarian band B.T.R. and Ken toured with Bulgaria’s Sunrize.
In 1972, Ken’s fast paced composition “Easy Livin,” with his swirling organ playing, gave Uriah Heep their U.S. Top 100 debut, peaking at No. 39, from their album Demons and Wizards, with the album’s cover artwork by Roger Dean. That creative look continued with the next album at the end of that year, The Magician’s Birthday, which began with Ken’s composition “Sunrise.”
In early 1973, both sides of Uriah Heep’s single from The Magician’s Birthday album reached the U.S. Top 100. “Sweet Lorraine” was on the A side and the flip side was “Blind Eye,” with Ken’s poetic lyrics starting the song, “Stranger than the sunrise, darker than the night, fiercer than a rainstorm, this is man’s delight.”
Later in 1973, Uriah Heep charted in the U.S. Top 100 for a final time with Ken’s “Stealin’,” which became another concert favorite. In the early 1980s, Ken became a member of the Jacksonville, Florida band Blackfoot for their albums Siogo and Vertical Smiles.
Fred “Toots” Hibbert
The Jamaican reggae trio Toots & The Maytals’ leader Fred “Toots” Hibbert passed away on September 11 at the age of 77. The group just released their album Got to Be Tough joined by the family of drummers, Ringo Starr and his son Zak Starkey, who was featured on The Who’s tour last year.
Dwayne “Bones” Hillman
“Beds are Burning” was the sole U.S. Top 40 hit for Australia’s Midnight Oil. The single reached No. 17 in 1988 with Dwayne “Bones” Hillman on bass, who passed away on November 7 at the age of 62.
Producer and songwriter Rupert Hine passed away on June 4 at the age of 72. His production credits include The Fixx’s biggest hit, “One Thing Leads to Another,” which reached No. 4 in 1983 and Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good to Me,” which peaked at No. 5 the following year. In the following decade, he produced Duncan Sheik, whose compostion “Barely Breathing” reached No. 16.
The first five albums of southern rock’s Molly Hatchet included guitarist Steve Holland, who was the last surviving member from their classic lineup. Florida DJ Dave Schulz told Goldmine, “I was a DJ at Orlando’s radio station ZETA7, WORJ 107.7 FM when the debut album from Molly Hatchet was released in the late 1970s. Their music filled the Jacksonville southern rock void left after the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. Fans were starved for this style of music, and Molly Hatchet’s songs went to the next level, with a pounding edge and great energy. David Sousa, program director at ZETA7, organized a concert held at The Bob Carr Auditorium in Orlando that would be Molly Hatchet’s first concert outside of a bar or a nightclub. They opened for Joe Cocker and were greeted with as much enthusiasm. Since this was a concert promoted by ZETA7, the radio station had all of the tickets, promoted the event for weeks, and played every song from the debut album on the air. “Gator Country” became a requested favorite along with “Dreams I’ll Never See,” “Bounty Hunter,” and “Cheatin’ Woman,” written solely by Steve. The band frequently visited the ZETA7 studios. They were friendly with the air staff and also the office staff, quickly becoming a favorite sight all around the radio station when they walked in. I am glad that I got to spend time with Steve and the guys.”
Molly Hatchet’s second album was their best seller, Flirtin’ with Disaster, which went double platinum. Steve left after their No Guts…No Glory album and then played in a variety of bands, Gator Country, Southern Rock Allstars and The Steve Holland Band. Steve passed away on August 2 at the age of 66. Molly Hatchet continues to perform with two members who joined the group in the mid-1980s, Bobby Ingram and John Galvin.
Early Strawbs guitarist, vocalist and co-founding member Tony Hooper appeared on the first five albums for the band, Strawbs, Dragonfly, Just a Collection of Antiques and Curios, From the Witchwood, and Grave New World. He returned to the group for a pair of albums in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Tony passed away on November 18 at the age of 81.
Bassist Dieter Horns, from Germany’s hard rock band Lucifer’s Friend, passed away on December 19 at the age of 74.
Bad Company achieved six Top 40 hits in the 1970s with Paul Rodgers as their lead singer. In the 1980s, Paul left the group, Brian Howe joined and accomplished his greatest success in the early 1990s, when Bad Company returned to the Top 40 three more times, with Brian singing the power ballad “If You Needed Somebody,” followed by a pair of steady rockers, “Walk Through Fire” and “How About That.” The group reached the Top 100 for a final time in late 1992 through early 1993 with the gentle “This Could Be the One.” Brian passed away on May 6 of a heart attack at his Florida home at the age of 66.
In the late 1970s, there were three soulful sister acts with Top 10 gold singles, The Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge, and the Hutchinson sisters, known as The Emotions, that included Pamela Hutchinson, who passed away on September 18 at the age of 61. The trio’s gold single was “Boogie Wonderland,” joined by Earth, Wind and Fire, and this was after achieving a platinum single with “Best of My Love,” which spent five weeks at No. 1 in 1977.
In his 1979 interview, Eric Carmen shared his songwriting process for his third solo album after The Raspberries ended, Change of Heart, “After being on the road so much, I was not in touch with what was happening in music, so I bought fifteen albums to give me a broad idea. The best record I heard was by The Emotions, produced by two Earth, Wind and Fire members and that is the reason for the R&B feel on my album.” The Emotions’ Rejoice album spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the soul charts. In addition to “Best of My Love,” the album also included the trio’s next Top 10 soul hit, the smooth “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” and its bouncy dance flip side “Love’s What’s Happenin’.” Their chart success continued through 1984.
In her 2018 Goldmine interview, Maureen McGovern said, “In November of 1972,
I recorded ‘The Morning After.’ The single didn’t hit initially. In the spring of 1973, it became an Oscar nominated song from the film The Poseidon Adventure. Then the requests built up and it finally became a big hit and won the Oscar. It spent two weeks at No. 1 late that summer and went gold. A few years later I recorded ‘We May Never Love Like This Again,’ from the same writers as ‘The Morning After,’ Al Kasha and Joel Hirshhorn, and this one I sang for the movie The Towering Inferno and it also won a best song Oscar.” Songwriter Al Kasha passed away on September 14 at the age of 83.
Uriah Heep’s “Easy Livin” brought drummer Lee Kerslake to the U.S. Top 40 in the 1970s and, as a member of Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard of Ozz band, he was heard on FM rock radio in the 1980s on “Crazy Train.”
In England, in the late 1960s, drummer Lee Kerslake joined the band called The Gods where he met keyboardist Ken Hensley. In the early 1970s, Lee joined Ken again in Uriah Heep, beginning with their album Demons and Wizards.
Uriah Heep received strong FM rock radio airplay and toured extensively in support of their albums. Lee remained with Uriah Heep through the late 1970s. Of all the songs on U.S. FM radio in the 1970s, the group’s sole Top 40 AM hit was the fast paced “Easy Livin,” from Demons and Wizards, which Ken Hensley wrote.
Ken told Goldmine, “Lee and I were friends for over fifty years, and we worked together for much of that time in The Gods and in Uriah Heep. Our relationship was rooted in our hearts and in our joint desire to achieve everything possible in our musical lives, and we did that. We traveled the world, selling millions of albums and concert tickets. We created music that will live far longer than any of us. All of our dreams came true and we re-lived a lot of them before Lee finally lost his battle with cancer on September 19th at the age of 73. I miss him now and I will miss him more with the passing of time, but we will have the joy he created in his songs and music for as long as we live.”
In the late 1970s, as Lee left Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne ended his tenure with Black Sabbath. As the new decade began, the group Blizzard of Ozz was formed with Ozzy and Lee, along with Randy Rhoads on guitar and Bob Daisley on bass. They achieved successful FM rock airplay especially with “Crazy Train,” from the album Blizzard of Ozz, and again with “Flying High Again” from their next album Diary of a Madman.
KISS’ drummer Eric Singer reflected on the life of Lee Kerslake with Goldmine, “Lee was a charming and sweet man, but his best work was behind the drum kit. He was a very powerful drummer and leaves a legacy of iconic drumming on the many Uriah Heep and especially the two Blizzard of Ozz albums that he performed on. He was like a wild man behind that kit when I saw him in 1975 at the World Series of Rock concert at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Wow! I felt honored to become friends with Lee over the years. It was always a pleasure to speak with him and be in his presence. I know for sure that he will be missed by many. All hail another drum god gone much too soon. R.I.P.”
Hal Ketchum had his country music debut in 1991 with “Small Town Saturday Night,” which reached No. 2. The following year he peaked at No. 2 again with “Past the Point of Rescue.” In 1993, he reached No. 2 for a third and final time with “Hearts Are Gonna Roll,” which he co-wrote. Of those three big hits, the hauntingly rolling “Past the Point of Rescue” is considered the biggest and most popular Hal Ketchum song. It was written by Ireland’s Mick Hanly who said, “Hal’s version is the best version out there. He had a beautiful voice. I’ll be forever grateful.” Hal passed away on November 23 at the age of 67.
In 1975, there was high anticipation of a full length rock album debut from poet Patti Smith. Side one began with a creative take on “Gloria” and ended with “Free Money,” with a driving rhythm and tempo changes anchored by the quintet’s bassist Ivan Kral. Three years later, The Patti Smith Group was in the Top 40 with a song she co-wrote with Bruce Springsteen, “Because the Night.” The following year, Ivan, who passed away on February 2 at the age of 71, co-wrote the catchy and moody “Dancing Barefoot” with Patti, an award winning song, popular with fans.
Guitarist Bob Kulick, known for his work with KISS, Meat Loaf and Balance passed away on May 28 at the age of 70. Bob was in the 1980s band Balance with Peppy Castro, who is best known as the vocalist for The Blues Magoos and co-writing their Top 5 1960s hit “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.” Peppy returned to the Top 40 in 1981 with his composition as a member of Balance, “Breaking Away,” and told Goldmine about his fellow Balance bandmate, “Bob’s inventive guitar playing was second to none. We had been friends for over fifty years. Thankfully, there is a body of work left for all to see and hear his excellence. It is a sad loss both personally and professionally. We were still looking forward to making more music together.”
Bob performed on Meat Loaf’s 1984 album Bad Attitude which included a pair of back to back Jim Steinman compositions “Nowhere Fast” and “Surf’s Up” and a song where Bob’s guitar playing was so powerful, “Sailor to a Siren.” He was also part of the Meat Loaf entourage to support the album on a concert tour.
Like his brother Bruce Kulick, Bob also played on a variety of KISS albums. Bruce said, “Bob’s love of music and his talent as a musician and producer should always be cherished.” Peppy concluded about a song on KISS’ Unmasked album, “Bob and I started the creation of the song ‘Naked City’ with a little demo of the music, just bass, guitar, and the world’s first basic drum machine. The recording did offer some melody ideas. We then passed it on to Gene Simmons, and Gene went to work and came up with the lyric concept and it turned out brilliantly.” Bob also played on Paul Stanley’s 1978 solo album. KISS drummer Eric Singer shared with Goldmine, “Bob was a great guitarist who I played with on Paul’s solo tour in 1989. He was a very talented guy with a storied career. I was very sorry to hear of his passing.”
Frank Dimino, lead singer for the band Angel, shared with Goldmine, “The passing of Derek Lawrence is a sad day in Angel history. When Derek’s name came up to produce the first Angel record, we already knew of him from his work with Deep Purple and Wishbone Ash. Derek also brought his new partner to the project, Big Jim Sullivan, with whom he would co-produce Angel. We were also familiar with Big Jim and his studio work on so many 1960s and 1970s British records. Both Derek and Jim really allowed us to grow in the studio and they would always let us try out our ideas and were great to work with. They both brought fun and a lot of work to the table while always getting things right. They also went on to produce the second Angel album Helluva Band. I still miss the laughs, the poker games and the great times we made music together. See you on the other side, Derek. R.I.P.” Derek, who passed away on May 13 at the age of 78, also produced two albums for the progressive rock band Flash and co-produced the first two albums for KISS.
Bobby Lewis appeared in the Top 10 twice in 1961 beginning with the No. 1 single “Tossin’ and Turnin.’” He co-wrote “One Track Mind,” which was reminiscent of Joe Jones’ “You Talk Too Much” from the prior year, and this single reached No. 9. Bobby passed away on April 28 at the age of 95.
The Outfield’s bassist and lead vocalist Tony Lewis was heard powerfully singing “I don’t want to lose your love tonight” in 1986 on the British trio’s Top 10 hit single “Your Love.” Four more singles followed in the Top 40 through the early 1990s. Tony passed away on October 19 at the age of 62.
On February 13, singer-songwriter Buzzy Linhart passed away. He toured extensively in the 1970s, playing small clubs, in support of his albums, while contributing to classic debut albums of others. On the solo debut album John B. Sebastian, Buzzy played vibraphone on the gentle “Magical Connection.” Carly Simon’s debut album ended tenderly with Buzzy’s composition “The Love’s Still Growing.” Buzzy is most known for co-writing the song “Friends,” the third Top 40 single from Bette Midler’s debut album The Divine Miss M, which has been a concert staple of hers for decades, with the audience singing along, “You got to have friends.” Buzzy was 76.
In early 1956, Pat Boone recorded two Little Richard songs which reached the Top 40 for Pat, “Tutti-Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally,” and this helped to propel Little Richard’s career with these two songs also becoming Richard’s first two Top 40 hit singles. Little Richard said, “Regarding ‘Tutti-Frutti,’ Pat Boone sold more records than we did because they wouldn’t play Little Richard records on the radio, including in my hometown of Macon, Georgia. On ‘Long Tall Sally,’ the follow up to ‘Tutti-Frutti,’ we upped the tempo and we got the words together so fast that Pat Boone couldn’t do it at that speed, but he did do good versions of the songs. You know ‘a-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-boom’ is not too easy to sing. Pat Boone doing my music brought me across the line. When I was in Macon, Georgia washing dishes at the bus station, I was glad to get out of there. A lot of people wanted to hear the originators. They wanted to hear the real thing, but by Pat recording my music, he brought me to a wider audience, and I was accepted instantly.”
Pat Boone told Goldmine, “Richard and I are brothers, musically and spiritually. I had million-selling records of his early R&B hits which weren’t known on pop radio, and I am so pleased that he credited me with helping him cross over to the larger market, but way more than that, we knew we were Christian brothers and we celebrated that. I look forward to seeing him again before too long.”
“Long Tall Sally” was a double-sided hit for Richard, with his composition “Slippin’ and Slidin’ (Peepin’ and Hidin’)” as the flip side, also reaching the Top 40 at No. 33. His next single also achieved double-sided success in the Top 100, with both sides written by Robert Blackwell and John Marascalco, an exciting pairing with “Rip It Up” on the A side and “Reddy Teddy” on the flip side.
Richard’s string of hits continued through 1958 including “The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Lucille,” “Keep A Knockin’” and a pair of songs re-popularized in the next decade by Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels, “Jenny, Jenny” and “Good Golly Miss Molly.”
Many other artists have covered Little Richard’s music over the years including The Beatles with “Long Tall Sally.” Paul McCartney credits Little Richard as one of his influences which is evident on The Beatles’ flip sides “I’m Down,” and “I Saw Her Standing There,” which Richard also released as a flip side in 1970, months after the Beatles disbanded.
Little Richard passed away on May 9 at the age of 87.
“If I Had a Hammer” reached No. 3 in 1963 and “Lemon Tree” peaked at No. 20 in 1965 for Trini Lopez, who got his start playing guitar in Latin clubs in Dallas as a teenager. After touring the U.S. for four years, he got his break while performing in Los Angeles, with record executive Don Costa in the audience, who brought him to Reprise. Trini passed away on August 11 at the age of 83 from coronavirus.
Producer Joel Diamond said, “I am deeply saddened that my long-time friend Benny Mardones has died.” In his 2018 Goldmine interview Joel shared, “In 1969 I was new at Mercury. Benny got off of the bus, came to my office and said ‘I want to sing for you.’ I knew right away that he had potential. I have enjoyed working with him throughout his career. At the end of the 1980s, DJ Scott Shannon had a nightly Where Are They Now? radio show on KZZP. Even though ‘Into the Night’ reached No. 11 in 1980, a lot of people still hadn’t heard it, maybe these were younger listeners who missed it at the beginning of the decade. When ‘Into the Night’ was played on that radio show, the switchboard lit up with requests and it became a hit for a second time in 1989. Now there is the new recording with a great arrangement by Ted Perlman.” This resulted in “Into the Night 2019,” which charted in Billboard for a third time, as a dance record. Joel updated, “Benny is a three-in-one-hit wonder, now memorialized in pop music history for having the same song, different recordings, different labels, different decades and different centuries chart three different times.”
Benny, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, was born in Cleveland, Ohio and died in his home in Menifee, California on June 29 at the age of 73, with his wife Jane by his side.
In the summer of 1962, Motown’s Supremes quartet debuted in the Top 100 with a Smokey Robinson composition “Your Heart Belongs to Me.” Its flip side, “(He’s) Seventeen,” featured two of The Supremes on lead vocals, Diana Ross in the upper range and Barbara Martin in a lower range. By the time the single entered the Top 100, Barbara, a new mother, had left the group to raise her family. Due to her departure, the group’s debut album, Meet the Supremes, had a cover photo of only the three remaining members, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard, who continued as a trio with several No. 1 hit singles throughout the 1960s. Barbara passed away on March 4 at the age of 76.
John “Moon” Martin
John Martin’s lyrics included the word “moon” so often that he was nicknamed Moon Martin. As the vocalist and guitarist for Oklahoma’s Southwind, his first chart success happened in 1969 and 1970 with a pair of singles on Tommy LiPuma’s Blue Thumb label. 1978 saw label debut albums for Moon on Capitol and Lisa Burns on MCA, both produced by Craig Leon. Lisa’s album included three of Moon’s compositions. Lisa told Goldmine in her 2018 40th anniversary interview, “I did a demo of Moon’s, ‘Victim of Romance,’ which I learned from the Michelle Phillips version on her 1977 album, and then we did a showcase for MCA, which led to the album, including that song. His ‘Love Gone Bad’ and ‘Cry When You’re Alone’ sit nicely in the middle of both sides of my debut album. My favorite is ‘Cry When You’re Alone,’ which Moon supposedly wrote specifically for me.” Lisa just added, “I am saddened by the loss of Moon. His songs had simple yearning melodies that interpretive singers hunger for. I hope people will honor his memory by going back and listening to his music.”
Craig Leon said, “John was an extremely talented singer-songwriter. I produced his albums in the 1970s. Although we had a couple of mid-chart hits with "Rolene" and “No Chance,” it’s “Bad Case of Loving You,” from his debut album that is arguably his best known song through Robert Palmer's note for note cover of John's original. R.I.P. John ‘Moon’ Martin.” Moon is also known for writing “Cadillac Walk,” performed by Willy DeVille.
John “Moon” Martin passed away on May 11 at the age of 69.
1968’s S.F. Sorrow album by the British band Pretty Things, considered by many to be the first rock opera, was co-written by the group’s lead vocalist Phil May, who passed away on May 15 at the age of 75 in England. Unfortunately, major success in the U.S. escaped the band. In 1974, Pretty Things’ song “Joey” (aka “Joey’s in a Dream”) from their album Silk Torpedo was briefly heard on American FM album oriented rock radio stations.
In 1985, the jazz fusion Pat Metheny Group created the soundtrack for the film The Falcon and The Snowman, starring Timothy Hutton and Sean Penn, where they sold U.S. secrets to the Soviets. Pat Metheny’s guitar and Lyle Mays’ keyboards flowed throughout the film. David Bowie wrote the lyrics and Pat and Lyle wrote the music for the album’s single, “This is Not America,” which spent a month in the Top 40, featuring Lyle’s layered keyboard work. Lyle passed away on February 10 at the age of 66.
In his 2020 Goldmine interview about his new Canadian band Storm Force, guitarist Greg Fraser looked back on his 1980s work with the band Brighton Rock. Their first Canadian hit single was “Can’t Wait for the Night.” Greg said, “Our original singer left to be with his family, and we ended up getting a new singer, Gerry McGhee. I knew he was a great heavy metal singer and we got him to come in to recut the vocal tracks. When he put his voice on the chorus, it took it to a whole new level. He re-wrote the verses too. They played the video all the time in Canada on Much Music, which is like a Canadian version of MTV.” Gerry passed away on August 25 at the age of 58. Greg just added, “The world lost a legend, but Gerry’s voice and songs will live on forever. It was an honor and a privilege to be his friend and bandmate. Gerry came to rock. Mission accomplished!”
In the 1950s, Ohio’s McGuire Sisters reached No. 1 twice with “Sincerely” and “Sugartime.” On December 29, the last surviving member of the vocal trio, Phyllis McGuire, passed away at the age of 89.
In 1975, as The Runaways were forming in the U.S. including Joan Jett, in the UK The Arrows released the song “I Love Rock ‘N Roll” co-written by the group’s Alan Merrill, who passed away March 29 at the age of 69 of coronavirus. Joan Jett and The Blackhearts’ cover version spent seven weeks at No. 1 in 1982.
In his seven months with The Bay City Rollers, Scottish rhythm guitarist Ian Mitchell achieved a tremendous amount of success. Ian, who passed away on September 1 at the age of 62, performed on the group’s 1976 Dedication album and supporting tour. The album included three U.S. Top 100 singles, beginning with one of the group’s biggest hits, their cover of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You,” followed by “Yesterday’s Hero,” and the album’s title song, “Dedication,” featuring Ian on lead vocals.
When discussing his instrumental composition “The Wild West” from his new Destinations album, Darryl Way told Goldmine in his June interview, “It was influenced by the film composer Ennio Morricone. I had these scenes in my mind from the film Once Upon a Time in the West. That was the template for the song as a homage to Ennio Morricone and the great spaghetti westerns.” In 1968, orchestra leader Hugo Montenegro took Ennio’s composition “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” from the film of the same name, to No. 2, Ennio’s biggest success in the U.S. On July 6, Ennio passed away at the age of 91.
The British Invasion band The Tremeloes are known mainly for their pair of 1967 Top 20 singles, “Here Comes My Baby,” written by Cat Stevens, followed by a former Four Seasons flip side, “Silence is Golden.” The group’s drummer, Dave Munden, passed away on October 15 at the age of 76.
Texas native Johnny Nash’s Top 40 debut happened in early 1958, with “A Very Special Love,” smoothly crooned in the era of Johnny Mathis. In the following decade, Johnny moved to Jamaica, started the label JAD with his manager, and had his first U.S. Top 10 single with his island flavored composition “Hold Me Tight.”
In 1972, Johnny’s optimistic composition “I Can See Clearly Now” became his sole gold single, spending a month in 1972 at No. 1. The following year he reached No. 12 with his version of his friend Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up.” Johnny passed away on October 6 at the age of 80.
In 1978, the managers of the Ohio region’s Peaches Records & Tapes stores gathered for a meeting, where they heard Bob Nave from store No. 26 on Colerain Avenue, in the Cincinnati area’s Colerain Township, tell tales of his days as the keyboardist for the Oxford, Ohio band The Lemon Pipers. Signed to Buddah, the quintet’s first single, “Turn Around and Take a Look,” written by their guitarist Bill Bartlett, lasted only one week on the national charts, peaking at No. 132. The label quickly stepped in and insisted that the group, who wanted to play their psychedelic music, record an outside composition called “Green Tambourine.” This gold single went all the way to No. 1 in February 1968 and helped to establish a genre known as bubblegum music, aimed at a young audience.
After the success of “Green Tambourine,” the same songwriting duo provided the band with their next two Top 100 singles in 1968, “Rice is Nice” and “Jelly Jungle.” The Lemon Pipers’ two albums were a mix of bubblegum and psychedelia. Bill went on to another Ohio band, Ram Jam, and achieved a Top 40 hit single with their rock cover of the blues song “Black Betty.” They had two albums on Epic, which Bob stocked at Peaches. Bob passed away on January 28 at the age of 75.
While performing at the 30A Songwriter Festival in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, the 71-year-old singer/songwriter David Olney passed away on January 18. Many artists recorded his compositions, including Linda Ronstadt with “Women Cross the River” from her Feels Like Home album, one we discussed with singer/songwriter Amilia K. Spicer in her recent Goldmine interview. Amilia was performing at the 30A Songwriter Festival when David passed away, and told Goldmine, “At 30A we were surrounded by friends, who are like family, and we lost an icon to me and to so many others. David was a champion of songwriting and artistry and was generous to songwriters he discovered, like me. He was so encouraging, and I am so sorry for those who were in David’s inner circle and the loss that they have experienced.”
Down the mountain from David Coverdale’s Lake Tahoe home, in the peacefully quaint town of Genoa, Nevada, lived the music producer and sound engineer Keith Olsen, who worked on the self-titled breakthrough album for Whitesnake, which included the singles “Still of the Night,” “Is This Love,” “Give Me All Your Love,” and their biggest hit, “Here I Go Again.” Keith was also the producer and engineer for another self-titled breakthrough album, Fleetwood Mac, in the mid-1970s and its preceding album for their two new members at the time, Buckingham Nicks.
In the 1980s, Keith helped to bring Rick Springfield a comeback No. 1 gold single with “Jessie’s Girl.” He was responsible for Sammy Hagar’s first and highest charting solo single “You’re Love is Driving Me Crazy,” and Eddie Money’s final Top 40 hit in the early 1990s “I’ll Get By.” Keith produced The Grateful Dead’s Terrapin Station, Foreigner’s Double Vision, and many more albums.
Keith began his musical career as the bassist for the Los Angeles band The Music Machine, which had a mid-1960s garage rock hit with “Talk Talk,” which reached No. 15. Keith passed away on March 9 at the age of 74 in Genoa.
Country music singer-songwriter K.T. Oslin passed away on December 21, at the age of 78. Her chart success began later in life than most, in her mid-40s, giving her a mature presence, becoming a role model for upcoming female artists from that era. K.T.’s Top 10 country singles debut was her Grammy and CMA award winning composition “80’s Ladies,” which reached No. 7 in 1987, followed by a pair of No. 1 singles “Do Ya’” and “I’ll Always Come Back.” K.T. Reached No. 1 again with another Grammy winning composition “Hold Me” in 1988. In 1990, she reached No. 1 for a final time with “Come Next Monday.”
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes with Sharon Paige achieved a No. 1 R&B single “Hope That We Can Be Together Soon” in 1975, which served as a duet with Sharon and Teddy Pendergrass, and one that they performed on Soul Train.
Legendary songwriters, producers, and Philadelphia International Records co-founders Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff reflected on their time with vocalist Sharon Paige, “Sharon possessed one of the most unique female vocals that blended perfectly with the smooth singing and vocal prowess of Harold Melvin and Teddy Pendergrass. We really enjoyed recording Sharon with the group and felt she was a great asset, both for the successful launch of the combined act and for being a great talent in her own right. She will always be remembered as ‘Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes featuring the lovely Ms. Sharon Paige.’”
In 1976 Sharon joined the group on “You Know How to Make Me Feel So Good,” the smooth and soulful flip side of the Blue Notes’ Top 10 R&B hit “Tell the World How I Feel About ‘Cha Baby.” Both songs were included on the album Wake Up Everybody, which concluded with Sharon’s beautiful lead vocal on “I’m Searching for a Love.”
On July 5, Sharon passed away at the age of 67.
New Orleans singer and saxophonist Robert Parker passed away on January 19 at the age of 89. Robert wrote all of his charting singles including the 1966 Top 10 dance hit “Barefootin’,” its flip side “Let’s Go Baby (Where the Action is),” and his final Top 100 dance single the following year, “Tip Toe.”
On January 7, we lost we lost Canadian drummer Neil Peart of Rush. When Rush’s self-titled debut album was released in 1974, the Canadian trio consisted of Geddy Lee on bass and vocals, Alex Lifeson on guitar and John Rutsey on drums, who left for health reasons after the recording of the first album which included the single “In the Mood” and popular album track “Working Man.” Neil Peart replaced John Rutsey and his influence could be heard immediately on the trio’s second album Fly by Night featuring the title song as its single.
KISS’ drummer Eric Singer told Goldmine, “Losing Neil is a sad and huge loss for the drum and music community. I remember the bombastic machine gun drum fills all over ‘Fly by Night’ and remember seeing them open for KISS at the Akron Civic Theatre in 1975 and in 1977 at the Cleveland Public Hall, on their All the World’s a Stage tour, with Derringer and Max Webster as the supporting bands that evening. I was in the front row for both shows and have incredible memories of this incredible drummer.”
Rush’s highest charting single in the 1970s was “Closer to the Heart,” released in late 1977, which reached No. 76. The trio’s run in the U.S. Top 100 chart in the next decade began in 1980 with “The Spirit of Radio” followed by a pair of singles in 1981 from their album Moving Pictures, of which the second single, “Tom Sawyer,” did the best, reaching No. 44, and included Neil’s lyrics about Space Invaders.
The first single from Moving Pictures was “Limelight,” where Neil wrote about the struggles of dealing with stardom. Its flip side was the progressive jazz rock instrumental “YYZ” which is the Toronto airport code, a place that felt like home to the band, coming back from extensive tours. Each member showcased their instrument on this composition, written by Geddy and Neil.
Rush’s sole U.S. Top 40 entry happened in October 1982 with “New World Man,” written by Geddy and Neil, from the album Signals. The single reached No. 21.
Among the bands who shared the stage with Rush over the years was Ambrosia, who started as a progressive rock band in the mid-1970s, as Rush was beginning to make records. Ambrosia’s drummer, Burleigh Drummond, shared with Goldmine, “We had an arsenal of percussion in the studio and for our live shows. Years later we were opening for Rush and Neil said, ‘Look at my drum kit. I got that from you!’ What an honor it was learning that I inspired Neil, who inspired so many others.”
Neil Peart was 67.
Phil Phillips debuted in 1959 with the Top 10 hit “Sea of Love.” Phil passed away on March 14 on his on his 94th birthday. His composition “Sea of Love” returned two more times in the 1980s, first by Del Shannon in 1981 as his final Top 40 hit and then in back in the Top 10 in 1984 by The Honeydrippers with Robert Plant on vocals.
The Pointer Sisters debuted in the Top 40 in the mid-1970s on Tommy LiPuma’s Blue Thumb label. The Oakland, California siblings Bonnie, Anita, Ruth and June, who passed away in 2006, debuted with “Yes, We Can Can,” written by Allen Toussaint, which reached No. 11. The quartet, at the time sporting an old-timey look, achieved two more Top 20 hits on Blue Thumb, “Fairytale” and “How Long (Betcha’ Got a Chick on the Side)” which both included Bonnie and Anita as co-writers. The sisters’ composition “Fairytale” also reached country music’s Top 40 for The Pointer Sisters and was covered by Elvis Presley on his 1975 album Today. In her 2019 interview with Goldmine Anita said, “I was planning on continuing to be a secretary in a law office, which I was doing when I heard Bonnie and June singing in the Northern California State Youth Choir, performing “Oh Happy Day,” with Edwin Hawkins and Dorothy Morrison and I just loved it, so I quit my job and said that I had to do this too.” Anita added about Bonnie’s passing, “Our family is devastated. The Pointer Sisters never would have happened had it not been for Bonnie.”
In the late 1970s, Bonnie left the group for a solo career on Motown, debuting in the Top 100 with the soulful “Free Me From My Freedom/Tie Me to a Tree (Handcuff Me),” which she co-wrote, followed by the Holland-Dozier-Holland disco composition “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” which reached No. 11 in 1979. Lamont Dozier told Goldmine, "Bonnie Pointer was a joy to know. I was most thrilled when she had the hit on ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’ which totally took me by surprise when it happened. Her talent was incredible." Bonnie performed the song on American Bandstand and was interviewed by Dick Clark, who asked what she did in her spare time and Bonnie smiled and replied proudly, “Babysitting my sister’s daughter Issa.” Issa, who is June’s daughter and has performed in recent years as a member of The Pointer Sisters, told Goldmine, “I loved my Auntie Bonnie. She will be missed.” Bonnie passed away on June 8 at the age of 69.
Francis “Rocco” Prestia
Oakland’s Tower of Power are known for their horn section plus a rhythm section, anchored by Rocco Prestia on bass, who passed away on September 29 at the age of 69. Rocco continued with the band until his passing, playing 1970s hits including “What is Hip?” and the group’s highest charting single, “So Very Hard to Go” from 1973, which reached No. 17.
On December 12, we lost Charley Pride at the age of 86 from COVID-19. The prior month, he performed and received the CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award at the 54th Annual Country Music Association Awards, hosted by Reba McEntire and Darius Rucker. Charley was a friend of Goldmine, participating in multiple interviews in recent years. In his 2014 Goldmine interview Charley said, “I love Darius Rucker. He is from Hootie and The Blowfish! Darius is a great songwriter. I remember a fun time when we were both sitting backstage at the Opry singing together, before a show.” Darius Rucker said that Charley Pride destroyed barriers, did things that no one had done and considered him one of the finest people he has known.
In the 1950s, Charley was a baseball pitcher for the Negro American League until he was drafted into military service. After his time in the Army, Charley returned to baseball and ultimately focused on music. In the mid-1960s, he debuted in the country Top 10 on RCA with “Just Between You and Me.”
Bill Anderson shared, “Like the rest of the world, I am shocked and saddened to learn about the death of Charley Pride. He and I went back to the early days of his career in 1966 when he made his first nationwide appearance as a guest on my syndicated television show. In later years, we toured together, shared music and argued baseball endlessly. I saw firsthand some of his early struggles as the first major black performer in country music. My admiration for the way he handled himself during those years knows no bounds. I've lost a hero and a friend."
By the end of the 1960s, after several consecutive Top 10 hit singles, Charley achieved his first of 29 No. 1 singles with “All I Have to Offer You (Is Me),” followed by “(I’m So) Afraid of Losing You Again.” Early 1970 began with his third No. 1 single “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” a big fan favorite. The flip side was an optimistic post break-up song with homespun lyrics called “Things are Looking Up.”
In 1971, Charley crossed over to the pop Top 40 with his sole gold single and Grammy song winner “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” written by Ben Peters. In his 2017 Goldmine interview Charley said, “Ben’s a great writer. I’ve recorded so many of his songs. I’m in the business of selling lyrics, feelings and emotions, with all the clarity I can give each line, along with the music.”
In 1983, Charley’s string of No. 1 hits for RCA concluded with “Night Games.” The following year began a string of fourteen No. 1 hits for the label by The Judds. Naomi Judd said, “Charley Pride was a true gentleman. I remember talking with him backstage about how proud he was standing up for his rights. He likened it to Rosa Parks refusing to go to the back of the bus."
Charley’s hit singles continued through 1989 with “Amy’s Eyes.” Over the years he continued performing, recording, and winning several awards and honors.
Charley is survived by his wife of 64 years, Rozene, their two sons, daughter and grandchildren.
The Sweet’s bassist Steve Priest passed away on June 4 at the age of 72. The British glam-rock band is best known for their four Top 10 hit singles “Little Willy,” “Ballroom Blitz,” “Fox on the Run,” “Love is Like Oxygen” and their Top 20 hit “Action.”
John Prine was featured on the cover of our July 2018 issue of Goldmine, listed as “America’s greatest living songwriter.” The article included a section called Top 10 John Prine lines, from ten of his songs, beginning with a Jesus Christ line from John’s composition “Sam Stone.” Al Kooper’s version included that line but Johnny Cash modified the lyrics on his version to remove that reference from the PTSD related song. John was known for dealing with a variety of issues, including domestic violence on the anthemic “Angel from Montgomery,” of which Bonnie Raitt’s version is considered to be the standard. John addressed loneliness that comes with aging on “Hello in There,” recorded by Bette Midler on her 1972 debut album The Divine Miss M with her musical director Barry Manilow on piano. John passed away on April 7 at the age of 73 of coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt Medical Center.
Classically trained and Grammy nominated pianist, Dr. William Pursell achieved his sole Top 40 pop hit in 1963 with the gentle piano instrumental “Our Winter Love,” which reached No. 9. The style of this song was on par with Henry Mancini’s recordings released in that that era. His next single, “Lover,” captured the powerful essence heard in Ferrante & Teicher’s work, and it peaked at No. 121, shortly after “Our Winter Love” left the Top 100 in 1963. Both songs appeared on Bill’s 1963 album Our Winter Love, which reached No. 15.
In the early 1960s, Bill’s extensive Nashville session work included a Patsy Cline flip side “Strange,” which his he and his daughter Laura Pursell released as part of their album The Very Last Dance Hall in L.A. In our Goldmine July 2016 issue, we conducted an interview with the father and daughter duo about the album.
Building on the positive reaction to The Very Last Dance Hall Left in L.A., on the Netcom Music label, the record company released Bill’s 2000-2001 fourteen song soothing collection Millennium. Laura was a guest vocalist on the record. Their version of “Walk on By” not only captured the essence of Dionne Warwick’s Top 10 hit from 1964, but the arrangement opened with a fluid electric guitar part, drawing on Isaac’s Hayes’ 1969 Top 40 cover. Bill also re-recorded an amazing replication of “Our Winter Love” as the CD’s opening track.
The Very Last Dance Hall Left in L.A. and Millenium were Bill’s most recent recordings in a career that spanned decades on record and in Tennessee classrooms as a music professor. After these two albums were released, Bill retired from Belmont University after 37 years. Since then, Bill and Laura were collaborating on songs for another album.
After spending a week in Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Bill passed away on September 3 at the age of 94 from COVID-19. Laura said, “My dad and I were so touched by our wonderful in-depth interview with Goldmine. Now, our hearts are saddened, and our lives are forever changed. He was so loved.”
In the late summer of 1994, the gentle 3/4 time song “Fade into You,” debuted in The Top 100 by the California alternative rock duo of Hope Sandoval on vocals and guitarist David Reback. The song, which they co-wrote, was the opening number from their second album So Tonight That I Might See. The cassette single had a long and slow climb on the charts peaking just below The Top 40 nationally at No. 44. Its flip side was the steady “Halah” from their prior album She Hangs Brightly. Two more albums and two more EPs followed. David passed away on February 25 at the age of 61. Hope continues to record and perform.
On the same day as Mac Davis, September 29, and at the same age, 78, Helen Reddy passed away. Her first Top 40 hit single was the 1971 cover of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” from Jesus Christ Superstar, with her version of Mac Davis’ “I Believe in Music” on the flip side. Helen and Mac toured together in the 1970s along with duetting on television.
Helen’s biggest hit was 1972’s anthem, which she co-wrote, “I Am Woman,” the first of three No. 1 gold singles for her, followed by “Delta Dawn” and “Angie Baby.” “Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)” also went gold and “You and Me Against the World” and “Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady” were also Top 10 smashes in the 1970s for the Australian native.
Producer Joel Diamond told Goldmine, "Helen Reddy's music will live on forever. Her voice was immediately identifiable and sincere, and as a person she was caring, warm, and had a great sense of humor. It will always stand out as one of the highlights of my career, having produced Helen's album Play Me Out which included her final charting single, the sophisticated "I Can't Say Goodbye to You." Then we did another goodbye song, "Never Say Goodbye," the theme from John Belushi's film Continental Divide."
Saxophonist Alto Reed, best known for his performance on “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band, passed away on December 30 at the age of 72. The Detroit native performed with Bob Seger for over forty years.
Linda Davis said, “So sad to learn of the passing of Harold Reid. The Statler Brothers were part of the soundtrack of my youth. In the beginning of my touring career, they took a chance on me and invited me to open up a whole bunch of shows, and I was also a regular on their TV show. R.I.P.” As the bass vocalist for The Statler Brothers, Harold’s distinctive voice was first heard by many in 1965 on their hit single “Flowers on the Wall,” blending country, bluegrass and pop. He wrote or co-wrote many of the Staunton, Virginia quartet’s songs, including “Bed of Rose’s,” the nostalgic pair “Do You Remember These” and “The Class of ’57,” and the first of their four No. 1 country singles, “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine.” The group’s final concert was in Virginia in 2002 at the 10,000 seat Salem Civic Center. Harold died at his home in Staunton on April 24 at the age of 80.
Al Rex joined Bill Haley and His Comets as their bassist in late 1955, replacing Marshall Lytle. He stayed with the group through 1958, performing on seven of their Top 40 hits including the Top 10 gold single “See You Later Alligator.” Al passed away on May 24 at the age of 91.
Emitt Rhodes of the 1960s California pop rock band The Merry-Go-Round wrote and sang “You’re a Very Lovely Woman” covered by Linda Ronstadt in the 1970s and “Live” covered by The Bangles in the 1980s. The Merry-Go-Round’s “Live” reached the Top 10 in The Bangles’ native Los Angeles in 1967, had been heard by members of the group growing up in the area, and they included their bouncy cover on their full length album debut All Over the Place. In her Goldmine September 2016 interview, The Bangles’ drummer Debbi Peterson said that she loved singing “Live” which includes Emitt’s lyrics, “You better live your life before you pass away. Don’t waste a day,” encouraging listeners to get outside, away from their rooms of “four walls.”
The following year, the single “Listen, Listen!” was released which was an electric guitar driven number, with a sound inspired by The Beatles’ song “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” By the end of the year, The Merry-Go-Round disbanded.
In 1971, Emitt’s sole charting solo single “Fresh as a Daisy,” from his self-titled debut album, reached No 54. In 2016, Emitt released his first album since the early 1970s, Rainbow Ends. On July 19, he passed away at the age of 70.
On December 25, bluegrass flat-picking guitarist Tony Rice passed away at the age of 69. In the 1970s, Tony was a member of J.D. Crowe and The New South with Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Douglas. Over the years, he played with Jerry Garcia, Dolly Parton and many others.
In 2008, R.E.M. achieved their 23RD and final Top 100 single “Supernatural Superserious,” from their album Accelerate, with Bill Rieflin on drums. Bill played with R.E.M. from 2003 through 2011 on their final four albums. In 2013, he joined King Crimson, playing on five live albums, and continued with them until his death on March 24 at the age of 59.
On March 20, we lost Kenny Rogers, who scored several top charting hits, gold and platinum singles and albums, crossing six decades in the Top 100.
When The First Edition formed in 1967 it featured four vocalists, formerly from The New Christy Minstrels, including Kenny Rogers. Their debut album contained the psychedelic rock Top 10 1968 hit single “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” with Kenny on lead vocals. After Kenny’s debut rock hit, all of his subsequent hit singles were in a country style, including “But You Know I Love You,” “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” written by Mel Tillis and becoming his first hit single on the country charts, “Reuben James,” “Something’s Burning,” written by Mac Davis, and “Tell it All Brother,” with the latter four singles credited as Kenny Rogers and The First Edition.
Solo success came to Kenny in 1977 with “Lucille” becoming his first gold single, reaching No. 5 on the pop charts and his first of 21 No. 1 country hits. “She Believes in Me” and “Coward of the County” also went gold in the late 1970s, and
“The Gambler” became a signature song for him.
In 1980, Kenny achieved his biggest hit with Lionel Richie’s Grammy Award winning composition “Lady.” This gold single spent six weeks at No. 1. In the early 1980s, Kenny had Top 10 duets with label-mates Kim Carnes and Sheena Easton. In 1983, he moved to RCA, the label that included Dolly Parton since 1967. For his debut RCA album Eyes That See in the Dark, Barry Gibb served as the producer and the songs were written by Barry with others, often his Bee Gees brothers Maurice and Robin. The album’s first single was The Bee Gees’ composition “Islands in the Stream” as a duet with Dolly and became a platinum selling No. 1 single that year.
As 1984 began, “This Woman” was released as the next single from the album, with “Buried Treasure” as its flip side, which country radio considered to be the A side and went to No. 3 on the country charts. In December of that year, Kenny and Dolly had a television Christmas special and accompanying album, Once Upon a Christmas, featuring the title tune and “With Bells On,” both written by Dolly.
The following year, Kenny and Dolly’s duet “Real Love” reached No. 1 on the country charts. 35 more Top 100 country singles followed for Kenny including “Make No Mistake She’s Mine” with Ronnie Milsap in 1987, his version of the Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know,” with Wynonna Judd in late 1996 through early 1997, “Buy Me a Rose,” with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean, crossing the century mark in late 1999 through early 2000, and his final charting single, “You Can’t Make Old Friends” with Dolly in 2013, after his induction in The Country Music Hall of Fame. Kenny was 81 when he passed away peacefully in his Georgia home.
After the Latin rock group Santana achieved success with their first three albums, in early 1972 Carlos Santana’s brother Jorge, who was also a guitarist, debuted as a member of the Latin Rock group Malo with their single “Suavecito,” which reached No. 18. In 1999, the gentle musical backdrop of “Suavecito” was included in Sugar Ray’s “Every Morning,” their only gold single, which reached No. 3. Jorge passed away on May 14 at the age of 68.
Garage rock staple “Pushin’ Too Hard” by The Seeds featured Jan Savage’s melodic guitar solo as a key part of the single, which reached No. 36 in 1967, their sole Top 40 hit. The Seeds’ current bassist and producer of the documentary The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard shared with Goldmine, “Jan, who had been with The Seeds since their inception in 1965, left the group in 1968. In 1989, there was a reunion by the original California quartet. I attended a show on the tour, and I admit to becoming fixated on Jan for almost the entire performance. There he stood beaming, rocking back and forth, all the while delivering note perfect renditions of those iconic guitar riffs from The Seeds’ heyday. Working on the documentary and various Seeds reissues for the Ace label, I got to know Jan and came to really enjoy the company of this extremely modest and humble individual. He seemed in odd denial of the influence that his guitar style has wielded over the years. He will always be a hero.” Jan passed away on August 5 at the age of 77.
Alec, Daryl Hooper, the original keyboardist and the last surviving member from The Seeds’ classic lineup, along with other current members of the group have released the song “Butterfly Child” online which will serve as the flip side of an upcoming vinyl 45 dedicated to Jan.
In 1975, Kraftwerk released their electronic music hit “Autobahn” as the last single from the band’s studio album of the same name. Co-written by Florian Schneider, it charted at No. 25. David Bowie was so inspired by their electronic sound that he named a song on his Heroes album “V-2 Schneider” after Florian, who passed away in Germany on April 30 at the age of 73.
Known more as a bassist in the early days of Britain’s Thompson Twins and for David Bowie and others, it is his Moog synthesizer work on Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science” which may be the most listened to work from Matthew Seligman, who passed away on April 17 at the age of 64.
The 2003 Top 40 hit “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne, with a fun video starring Rachel Hunter, was co-written by the group’s keyboardist and bassist Adam Schlesinger, who had previously written the 1996 single “That Thing You Do!” from the Tom Hanks film of the same name, which reached No. 41 for the fictional group The Wonders. Adam recently worked as a producer of The Monkees’ latest studio albums Good Times! and Christmas Party, which included Adam’s compositions “Our Own World” and “House of Broken Gingerbread,” respectively. Adam also co-wrote the songs for the Broadway musical Cry-Baby and many songs for television including years of work on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend where he was the executive music producer. Adam passed away on April 1 at the age of 52 of coronavirus.
In 1985, two singles before “Me and Paul,” Willie Nelson began the year with “Seven Spanish Angels,” as a duet with Ray Charles, reaching No. 1 on the country charts. This song was co-written by Ed Setser, who also co-wrote the light spiritual song “Let the Music Lift You Up” for Reba McEntire, a country No. 4 hit in 1987 and “But I Will,” an early country Top 40 single for Faith Hill. In rock circles Ed was known for co-writing Eric Clapton’s 1983 hit single “Rock & Roll Heart,” which reached No. 18. Ed was 77 when he passed away on January 27.
On January 26, the last surviving member of The Kingston Trio, singer, guitarist and banjo player Bob Shane passed away at the age of 85. Popular on college campuses, the San Francisco trio had a highly successful string of eight hit albums from 1958 through 1960 including five peaking at No. 1 and one reaching No. 2. Their eighth album was the dozen song holiday collection, The Last Month of the Year, filled with original compositions including a gentle song that Bob co-wrote called “White Snows of Winter.”
Bob, along with Dave Guard and Nick Reynolds had late 1950s hits including the No. 1 gold single “Tom Dooley” along with the lively “M.T.A.” and “A Worried Man.” The trio’s biggest hits of the early 1960s included their version of Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Greenback Dollar” and “Reverend Mr. Black.”
Billy Joe Shaver
Singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver reached the country Top 100 twice in the 1970s with “I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train” and “You Asked Me To.” He co-wrote the latter with Waylon Jennings, who took the song to No. 1 in 1973 as “You Ask Me To.” Elvis Presley covered “You Asked Me To” in 1975 as the finale on his Promised Land album and the song was released posthumously in 1981 as the flip side of his Top 10 country hit “Loving Arms.” Billy Joe passed away on October 28 at the age of 81.
Guitarist Jack Sherman played on The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ debut album and co-wrote songs for the California group’s second album, staying with them until the return of founding guitarist Hillel Slovak. He returned to sing background vocals for the first two songs on the group’s 1989 album Mother’s Milk, “Good Time Boys” and their popular cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.” Jack passed away on August 21 at the age of 64.
Grace Slick and her husband Jerry saw Jefferson Airplane perform in San Francisco in 1965 and were inspired to form a band. They enlisted Jerry’s brother Darby and formed the nucleus of The Great Society with Jerry on drums, Darby on guitar and Grace on vocals and guitar. Darby wrote the song “Someone to Love” and Grace wrote “White Rabbit,” and they recorded songs with Sly Stone as their producer but achieved little success with the release of “Someone to Love” as a single.
In the summer of 1966, Signe Anderson left Jefferson Airplane to start a family and Grace immediately quit The Great Society and joined Jefferson Airplane, taking “Someone to Love,” which became “Somebody to Love,” and “White Rabbit” with her, both reaching the Top 10 in 1967. The Great Society dissolved with Darby leaving for India and Jerry ultimately returning to filmmaking, as he did before the band. Jerry passed away on March 20 at the age of 80.
“My Boy Lollipop,” which reached No. 2 in 1964 by Millie Small, is considered the first ska hit in the U.S. and was the first of two Top 40 singles for Millie at the age of 18. In 2011, she received the honor Order of Distinction in the rank of Commander by the Jamaican government in recognition of her contribution to the development of the Jamaican music industry. Millie passed away on May 5 at the age of 73.
In 1975, when FM rock stations would play St. Louis area’s Head East on the radio without announcing the song or new artist, listeners would go to record stores, searching in vain, unless there was a very knowledgeable clerk, for “Save My Life I’m Going Down for the Last Time,” a song featuring a Rush-like vocal and Styx-like synthesizer. By the time fans of the song learned that it was really called “Never Been Any Reason,” taken from a line near the end of the verses, the single had been pulled and A&M released the next single “Love Me Tonight,” a catchy, steady tempo song, featuring acoustic guitar from Mike Sommerville, the song’s composer and the writer of its predecessor. While both singles peaked below No. 50 in the Top 100, Head East’s debut album Flat as a Pancake, which included those two songs, would ultimately go gold in 1978. Mike passed away on February 28 at the age of 67.
In 1966, the novel sounding “Winchester Cathedral” was No. 1 for three weeks for the studio group led by the British songwriter and singer Geoff Stephens, who passed away on December 24 at the age of 86. The following year, he achieved another gold single as a songwriter with the Top 10 hit “There’s a Kind of Hush” by Herman’s Hermits.
The British Invasion’s Chad & Jeremy debuted in the U.S. Top 40 in 1964 with “Yesterday’s Gone,” which reached No. 21, followed by their biggest hit, “A Summer Song,” a soft offering which reached No. 7. In our 2003 interview article, Chad told Goldmine about the hit he co-wrote, “’A Summer Song’ was never meant to be a single. After its success, the people at the record company said, ‘Gee whiz, we’ve got a goldmine here, so let’s start churning out those ballads, boys!” Soft Top 40 hits followed for the duo including “Willow Weep for Me,” “Before and After” and “Distant Shores.” Live versions of all five of these songs appeared on Chad & Jeremy’s final album, Reflection: Live in Concert, released in 2011 from a Florida concert with photos taken by Daniel Coston who said, quoting “A Summer Song,” “They say that all good things must end. Autumn leaves must fall. But don't you know, Chad, that it hurts me so to say goodbye to you. I wish you didn't have to go. Now Chad lives on through all of us, in our memories, in the music, and experiences that he left with all of us who knew him or heard one of his songs. And when the rain beats against my windowpane, I'll dream of summer days again, and dream of you.” Chad Stuart passed away on December 20 at the age of 79.
Bryan, Texas’ Doug Supernaw passed away on November 13 at the age of 60. In 1993, Doug topped the country music charts with the touching song “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” about a devoted little boy who is living with his mother and her new live in boyfriend during the week and looks forward to being with his father each weekend. Doug also had Top 10 country hits that decade with “Not Enough Hours in the Night” and “Reno,” with a video featuring scenes from “The World’s Biggest Little City.”
The Turtles’ mid-1960s guitarist Jim Tucker, during the time of their first three albums, It Ain’t Me Babe, You Baby, and Happy Together, passed away on November 12 at the age of 74. He co-wrote “I Need Someone,” which was included on You Baby. Jason Brewer of The Explorers Club told Goldmine, “’I Need Someone’ is an example of the first phase of The Turtles’ sound, that jangly 1960s rock with roots firmly planted in the folk cadence, with a touch of darkness hiding behind the surface.”
“My Favorite Things,” from the musical The Sound of Music, has a wide variety of versions. Among the most creative and perhaps the longest interpretation was released in 1961 as the thirteen minute title tune of jazz saxophonist John Coltrane’s album, with McCoy Tyner on piano. The following year, in addition to continuing to record as a member of John Coltrane’s group, McCoy began his long string of albums as a jazz band leader, lasting decades, along with recording with other jazz artists, including several albums with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. McCoy passed away on March 6 at the age of 81.
Eddie Van Halen
On October 6, at the age of 65, we lost guitarist, keyboardist and composer Eddie Van Halen after a long battle with cancer. In the early 1980s, the quartet Van Halen achieved their sole No. 1 gold single with “Jump” in the same era when Survivor reached No. 1 with “Eye of the Tiger,” co-written by guitarist Jim Peterik of The Ides of March and formerly with Survivor and .38 Special fame. Jim told Goldmine, “Eddie wrote the book on melodic lead guitar. Not content to be just a shredding, tapping machine, he wove in memorable melodic leads into every solo. He was always a musician first, a technician second, and he influenced countless students along the way. May you rock in peace!”
In 1978, the self-titled debut album Van Halen included the quartet’s debut Top 40 single, a cover of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” filled with power and sung by David Lee Roth. In addition to their original composition “Dance the Night Away” the following year, two more covers entered the Top 40 early the following decade, “(Oh) Pretty Woman” followed by “Dancing in the Street.” Eddie also had a prominent guest guitarist spot on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” which reached No. 1 in 1983.
After the success of Van Halen’s album 1984, which included the Top 40 hits “Jump,” “I’ll Wait” and “Panama,” David Lee Roth departed for a solo career and the remaining band members, Eddie along with his brother Alex on drums and bassist Michael Anthony, searched for a new lead singer. When rumors surfaced of Sammy Hagar being considered for Van Halen, it seemed like a merge and when confirmed, headlines read “Van Hagar.” In their first five hour session, the first song that Eddie, Sammy, Michael and Alex co-wrote was “Summer Nights” about “summer nights and my radio,” lyrics which popped into Sammy’s head when he heard Eddie’s guitar part. This initial recording reminded Sammy of his all-time favorite group Cream. He was thrilled and decided he would officially join the group.
When the new lineup’s 5150 album was released in 1986, it became Van Halen’s first No. 1 album. Its first single, “Why Can’t This Be Love,” with Eddie’s edgy lead guitar and Sammy’s vocals, sounded exactly like what one would expect.
The next two singles were a bit more mellow, both peaking at No. 22. First there was “Dreams,” with an inspirational sound, followed by “Love Walks In,” with Eddie’s keyboards similar to what he introduced on “Jump,” and the recording sounded a bit like Survivor. While Top 40 radio was playing “Love Walks In” during the summer of 1986, album rock radio was playing its rocking flip side “Summer Nights.”
In total, Van Halen achieved Top 100 singles 22 times, with David Lee Roth singing on the first eleven followed by Sammy Hagar on the next eleven, all on Warner Bros., and all led by the exciting guitar, and sometimes keyboards, of Eddie Van Halen.
Jerry Jeff Walker
Singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, who passed away on October 23 at the age of 78, reached the pop Top 100 twice. He debuted in 1968 with “Mr. Bojangles,” which The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band later took to No. 9 in 1971. Jerry Jeff‘s second and final appearance in the Top 100 was in 1973 with “L.A. Freeway.”
The energetic British bassist Pete Way was a member of UFO since its late 1960s beginnings through the early 1980s and then returned for six more albums beginning in the early 1990s. In the U.S., UFO’s highest charting album was Lights Out, which reached No. 23 in 1977 and opened with “Too Hot to Handle,” co-written by Pete with the band’s vocalist Phil Mogg. This song was also UFO’s only charting single in the U.S. and was released on red vinyl. That classic album also featured their orchestrated cover of Love’s “Alone Again Or,” which received heavy FM radio airplay.
After initially leaving UFO, Pete co-founded the bands Fastway and Waysted, along with playing bass on Ozzy Osbourne’s Diary of a Madman tour. Phil passed away on August 14 at the age of 69, just weeks after fellow UFO member Paul Chapman’s passing.
It is rare for an instrumental featuring a banjo to be a Top 10 hit single. In 1963 this happened with “Washington Square” by The Village Stompers, which reached No. 2. Ten years later, in 1973, also reaching No. 2, was “Dueling Banjos,” from the film Deliverance, performed by studio musicians Eric Weissberg on banjo Steve Mandell on guitar. Eric played on multiple albums by John Denver and Judy Collins and performed at many folk festivals. He passed away on March 20 at the age of 80.
Ten months before Mountain’s Top 40 debut with the powerful “Mississippi Queen,” the band performed “For Yasgur’s Farm” and eight more songs at Woodstock. In the 2009 Woodstock 40th anniversary interview article, guitarist and vocalist Leslie West told Goldmine, “We were performing at the Fillmore West and Winterland in California, heard about what was going on back east, and knew we were going to it. We had to rent our own helicopter, because there was no way we were getting upstate in New York with the freeway closed. I almost fell out of the helicopter when I saw all those people. All of a sudden, in the middle of nowhere, you saw a city. It was something else. I was really nervous. When I did my guitar solo, it sounded pretty loud.” In 2010, Leslie reflected on the 40th anniversary of “Mississippi Queen” with Goldmine, asked if this was the Mountain song that he was most fond of, “No. My favorite Mountain songs are ‘Theme for an Imaginary Western,’ which Jack Bruce wrote, and ‘Nantucket Sleighride.’” At the same time that Mountain had their sole Top 40 hit with “Mississippi Queen,” The Ides of March also had their sole Top 40 hit with “Vehicle,” written and sung by the group’s guitarist Jim Peterik, who told Goldmine, “Nobody could squeeze more tone and soul out of a Les Paul Jr. guitar than Leslie West. As a guitar player he made me realize that less is more in the right hands. Rock in peace my guitar hero.”
In early 1972, after three successful albums for the group, Mountain disbanded, and Leslie West and Corky Laing joined forces with Jack Bruce. West, Bruce and Laing released a pair of studio albums and a live album. In 1973, Mountain re-formed and released a live album, followed by a studio album the following year.
Leslie West passed away on December 23, at the age of 75, at his home in Daytona Beach, Florida. Corky Laing shared, “Rest in peace Leslie. There was nobody else who played and sang quite like you and I don’t think there will ever be. Your blue notes were bluer than blue, and they touch everyone who hears them. I feel blessed having had the luck to spend all that time with you in the studio and on the road. Your musicality was just sublime. My deepest condolences to your nearest and dearest. I will always miss you!”
From the 1960s’ British Invasion, Ian Whitcomb’s falsetto vocals were heard on the lively 1965 song “You Turn Me On (Turn on Song),” which reached No. 8. From the next decade through this decade, he wrote several music books. Ian passed away on April 19 at the age of 78.
In 1971, the pop and soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers debuted on the new Sussex label with the urban song “Harlem.” Disc jockeys flipped the single over and its orchestrated flip side, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” became the first of three Top 10 gold singles for Bill on the label, which included the urban sounding “Use Me” and his No. 1 soothing friendship anthem “Lean on Me,” which has been popular for decades, especially during challenging times. More singles continued through 1974 on the Sussex label including the Christmas song “The Gift of Giving.” When the Sussex label folded, Bill was picked up by Columbia and had a Top 40 hit with “Lovely Day,” the soul single “Don’t It Make It Better” and more. In 1981, Bill returned to the Top 10 for a final time singing “Just the Two of Us,” an edited version of a longer track from Grover Washington Jr.’s Winelight album with Bill as the featured vocalist and a co-writer of the song. In 1987, Club Nouveau’s cover of “Lean on Me” became a No. 1 gold single for a second time for Bill as its composer. Bill passed away on March 30 at the age of 81. On December 20, Jose Feliciano paid a year-end tribute to Bill in Jose’s Feliz Navidad 50th Anniversary online concert, playing a perfectly fitting version of “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
Miami’s Betty Wright debuted in the Top 40 with the soulful “Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do” in 1968 but it is her second Top 40 single that she is best known for, the 1971 gold single “Clean Up Woman” which reached No. 6. Betty duetted with Alice Cooper on “No Tricks,” a flip side of the 1978 Cooper single “How You Gonna See Me Now,” and was also the vocal arranger for Gloria Estefan’s post-bus accident powerful Top 40 comeback hit “Coming Out of the Dark,” which spent two weeks at No. 1 in 1991. Betty passed away in Miami on May 10 at the age of 66.
The trio Honey Cone had two back to back gold singles with “Want Ads” and “Stick-Up” in 1971 on Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax label.
After leaving Motown in the late 1960s, the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland founded a pair of record labels, Invictus and Hot Wax. The act with the most Top 40 hits on the Hot Wax label was Honey Cone, comprised of Shellie Clark, Carolyn Willis, and Edna Wright, who passed away on September 12 at the age of 76. Lamont Dozier told Goldmine, “It is with heavy heart that I say Edna was a bright star in my life and in the world. She had an amazing vocal gift and talent, but more than that she was a truly wonderful person.” Edna’s sister Darlene Love said, “I am in complete shock and so heartbroken. Please keep me and my family in your prayers during this very sad time for us.”
Edna Wright spoke then sang, “Wanted, young man single and free, experience in love preferred, but will accept a young trainee. Oh, I'm gonna put it in the want ads,” as the opening of Honey Cone’s debut Top 40 pop single, “Want Ads,” which went all the way to No. 1, and one that they performed on the television show Soul Train. As “Want Ads” was leaving the Top 100, their song “Stick-Up” debuted, a steady tempo broken-hearted loved song with lines including, “Stick-Up, highway robbery. Stole my love from me. It’s a case of grand larceny.” This single reached No. 11 on the pop chart and, like its predecessor, spent multiple weeks at No. 1 on the soul chart. The trio’s third hit single to debut in 1971 was the lively “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” with a fun Latin rhythm. The group’s Top 40 pop run concluded the following year with “The Day I Found Myself,” about freedom from a controlling relationship, with the chorus line, “The day that I lost you, that’s the day I found myself.”
After nine Top 40 soul hits for Honey Cone, the trio disbanded in 1973. Edna released a solo album in 1977. In 1988, like her sister Darlene’s background vocalist success, Edna returned to the Top 10 for a final time as the background vocalist on U2’s first gold single “Desire.”