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Obituaries, September 2010

Our condolences to the families and friends of recently deceased musicians, songwriters, and music celebrities/executives.

OLDWICK, N.J. (AP) — George David Weiss, 89, who helped write chart-topping pop hits including “Can’t Help Falling in Love” performed by Elvis Presley and “What a Wonderful World,” performed by Louis Armstrong, died Aug. 23, 2010, of natural causes.

Other notable compositions he wrote or co-wrote were “Surrender,” recorded by Perry Como, and “Oh! What It Seemed to Be” by Frank Sinatra. Many big-name artists recorded compositions written or co-written by Weiss, whose career choice greatly disappointed his mother. She wanted him to become a lawyer. A Juilliard School of Music graduate who played the violin, piano, saxophone and clarinet, Weiss was a military bandleader in World War II. He gained recognition as a songsmith with success over the next few decades.

Weiss had a role in creating the Tokens’ hit version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,’’ which was based on a 1939 song written by South African musician Solomon Linda. Weiss and two collaborators gave the song a reworked melody and new lyrics but kept the refrain — “Wimoweh, wimoweh” — that was popularized in a 1950s version of the song performed by The Weavers. The Tokens’ version became a million-selling hit in 1961.

Weiss also collaborated on several Broadway musicals, including “Mr. Wonderful” and “Maggie Flynn.”
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1984. He also was president of the Songwriters Guild of America from 1982 to 2000 and often testified before government agencies, mostly on copyright issues.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Richard “Scar” Lopez, an original member of the band Cannibal & the Headhunters, which scored a 1965 hit with “Land of 1,000 Dances,” has died. He was 65.

Gene Aguilera, the group’s manager during a comeback a decade ago, told the Los Angeles Times that Lopez died of lung cancer July 30, 2010, at a convalescent hospital in Garden Grove, Calif.

Lopez and three other East Los Angeles high school students — Frankie “Cannibal” Garcia, Robert “Rabbit” Jaramillo and Joe “Yo Yo” Jaramillo — formed the band in the 1960s, and it emerged on the national scene in 1965 with “Land of 1,000 Dances,” for which Garcia sang the iconic phrase “Naa-na-na-na-naa.” That song spent 14 weeks on Billboard’s Top 100, reaching No. 30.

In 1965, Cannibal & The Headhunters appeared on “American Bandstand,” “Hullabaloo,” “Shebang” and other TV shows. The band opened for The Rolling Stones, The Righteous Brothers and other acts, including The Beatles. Lopez did not participate in The Beatles’ concerts. The band continued as a trio after Lopez left and broke up in 1967.

Lopez was born May 16, 1945, in Los Angeles. Inspired in part by a doo-wop group, Lopez and Robert Jaramillo started a group, which Joe Jaramillo soon joined. The musicians went by the name Bobby and The Classics and practiced in a converted chicken coop in the Jaramillos’ back yard, according to information provided to Goldmine by Aguilera.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kenny Edwards, an original member of the Stone Poneys country-rock band and longtime collaborator with singer-songwriters Linda Ronstadt and Karla Bonoff, has died Aug. 18, 2010, in California at age 64.
The Los Angeles Times reports Edwards was hospitalized earlier in August in Denver after collapsing while on tour with Bonoff. He was airlifted to a hospital near his home in Santa Barbara where he died.

Edwards was born Feb. 10, 1946, in Santa Barbara, Calif., according to his biography at After the Stone Poneys disbanded after their 1967 breakthrough hit “Different Drum,” Edwards formed the folk-rock band Bryndle with singer-songwriter Wendy Waldman, Bonoff and Andrew Gold.

Edwards also was a supporting guitarist and singer for Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Brian Wilson, Art Garfunkel, Vince Gill and others. In addition to playing bass and guitar, Edwards also worked as a record producer, studio musician and vocalist, and he earned credits for writing and scoring films and teleplays, including “Miami Vice,” according to


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Ahmad Alaadeen, who played with jazz icons across the country, has died at the age of 76.

The Kansas City Star reported that Alaadeen died Aug. 15, 2010, at his Overland Park, Kan., home after suffering from bladder cancer.

Alaadeen, best known for his skill on the saxophone, played with such jazz icons as Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, the Count Basie Orchestra, T-Bone Walker, Claude “Fiddler” Williams and others.
He eventually returned to Kansas City to teach jazz.

Alaadeen received several awards, including a congressional award and Billboard songwriting competitions. Last spring, he accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Jazz Museum.


NEW YORK (AP) — Robert Wilson, 53, who as the bassist for the funk and R&B group the Gap Band had a string of hits including “You Dropped a Bomb On Me,” died Aug. 15, 2010.

He is believed to have died of a heart attack, said Karen Lee, publicist for his brother and Gap Band singer Charlie Wilson.

Wilson provided the bass backbone for the trio, which also included another brother, Ronnie. The group, originally from Tulsa, Okla., first hit the charts in 1979 with the songs “Shake” and “Open Your Mind (Wide).”

They had their biggest success in the 1980s, though, with hits like “Outstanding,” “You Dropped a Bomb On Me,” “Oops Upside Your Head” and “Yearning for Your Love,” among others.

“My brother Robert was a bad boy on the bass,’’ Charlie Wilson said in a statement. “We shared a bond as brothers, musicians and friends. I loved him, and losing him is difficult for both Ronnie and I. The music world has lost a very talented man.”

Robert Wilson had been touring for the few weeks preceding his death, including a stop in his hometown of Tulsa.


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jazz scene photographer Herman Leonard, 87, famous for his smoky, backlighted black-and-white photos of such greats as Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra, died Aug. 14, 2010, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, family spokeswoman Geraldine Baum said on his Web site. The cause of death wasn’t disclosed.

Leonard, who moved to Los Angeles after Hurricane Katrina flooded his New Orleans home and destroyed thousands of his prints, was considered one of the great mid-century jazz scene photographers.
He started in the late 1940s and left a rich chronicle of a musical era with photos taken in New York, Paris and London through the 1960s. The Smithsonian has more than 130 Leonard photographs in its permanent collection.
Leonard was studying photography at Ohio University when he was called to duty in the U.S. Army during World War II. He returned to college and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1947.

He moved to New York the following year, after an apprenticeship with famed portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh taking pictures of Albert Einstein, Martha Graham and other cultural icons. He then became immersed in the jazz scene, making deals with club owners to photograph rehearsals and giving them photos for their marquees.
Using a large 4-by-5 Speed Graphic camera, he shot Art Tatum, Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan and countless other jazz greats in the smoky haze of jazz clubs. In 1956, he was Marlon Brando’s personal photographer on a trip to the Far East.

While his prints were lost in the New Orleans hurricane, his 60,000 negatives were safe, having been sent before Katrina to the Ogden Museum. His return to New Orleans was chronicled in the 2006 BBC/Sundance documentary “Saving Jazz.”

In 2008, he was the first photographer to be granted a Grammy Foundation Grant for Preservation and Archiving, enabling him to digitize, catalog and preserve his collection of nearly 60,000 jazz negatives.
In 2009, Leonard served as the official photographer for the Montreal Jazz Festival, photographing legends such as Tony Bennett and Dave Brubeck.