Every year in December, the New York Times runs a little feature called "The Music They Made" that reviews deaths in the music industry for the previous year. It comes out early in the month, and it's publication always seems to follow with a string of passings. Timing is everything, I guess. Someone asked me the other day why I didn't run it this year. Two reasons. First, the Times didn't make their annual list, and second, there were no notible music deaths in December....except 2 and I'll get to it later.
Alas, 2012 is not off to as good a start as 2011 ended. We'll start here, with Bobby Purify, who passed on December 29th of last year. Bobby was actually the cousin of his singing partner, and as James and Bobby Purify, they had a monster hit in 1965.
A terrific slow jam. They had a number of other hits, none scoring as high, but one of their claims to fame might me the re-introduction of The Five Du-Tones 1963 stomper that didn't make a big impact on the charts, but has become a bar-band staple courtesy of The Blues Brothers. Get your dancin' shoes on.
Definately NOT a slow jam. Bobby quit the music biz in 1972, and worked for the City of Tallahassee (Fla.) until his retirement. A great voice.
Add to the list Jimmy Castor, who died of heart falure January 16th at the age of 71. Castor was a songwriter/sax player/singer who got his start replacing Frankie Lymon in The Teenagers in 1958, then switched to playing sax professionally, backing up organist Dave "Baby" Cortez, among others. In 1972, he formed The Jimmy Castor Bunch, which greated the airways with this monster the same year.
"Bertha Butt" was his other big one, but he populated the R&B charts with funky groves like this one.
You may not remember his stuff, but he's been heavily sampled in hip-hop, including the sax part in "It's Just Begun" above.
Johnny Otis passed the day after Jimmy at the age of 90. Born Ioannis Alexandria Veliotes (of Greek parents), Otis was a bandleader, drummer, singer, talent scout, arranger and a chunk of other musical skills. He started playing drums with big bands in the early 40's, branching out on his own in the early 50's. He produced the original version of "Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton in 1953, wrote what turned out to be Gladys Knight and The Pip's first big single....
....and is credited with discovering Little Willie John, Jackie Wilson and Hank Ballard among others, and was the father of noted guitarist Shuggie Otis. You may remember his BIG 1958 Top Tener.
I think some guy named Clapton did it too. Otis is also credited with discovering....
.....Etta James, who passed Friday of leukemia just short of her 74th birthday. You've probably seen the mentions all over the news so I'm not going to go into the details of her career, sufice to say it was a long one. Probably my two favorite sides were from her 1968 "comeback", the first one becoming one of those bar band staples....
....the other being the flip side of the "Tell Mama" single that Rod Stewart made famous 4 years later.
A hard life puncuated by good music.
It's probably worth a mention that Howard Tate, who did a lot of recording work with the late Jerry Ragovoy.... (who died last July and is worth remembering in his own right)pas
.....passed early last December from complications of leukemia. He was 72. I wonder if it wasn't for Tate....
....would Janis have found the song?
Boy, this has not been a good month. Here's hoping February is a better month.