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Demis Roussos died

Probably the world’s most famous Greek singer, Demis Roussos, has died at the age of 68.

He was born Artemios Ventouris Roussos in Alexandria in Egypt on June 15, 1946. His father was Greek and his mother was Egyptian of Italian origin and both his parents lost their possessions during the Suez Crisis and consequently decided to move to Greece.

After settling in Greece, he participated in a series of musical groups beginning with The Idols when he was 17, where he met Evangelos Papathanassiou (later known as Vangelis); in 1967 they formed Aphrodite’s Child, a tongue-in-cheek name which referred to the children of the Greek goddess of Love desire and procreation. They completed with the line up with Loukas Sideras on drums and guitarist Anargyros Koulouris. Their most successful collaboration was Race to the End, which was also sung in Spanish as Tu Libertad.

They split in 1972 and Demis began a solo career which began with the UK top five hit Happy to be On an Island in the Sun. Seven months later he achieved the first ever chart-topping EP in the singles chart with the lead track being Forever and Ever and in total sold over 60 million albums worldwide. His last UK hit was Kyrila in the summer of 1977.

Because he struggled with his weight, in June 1980 Demis, when he weighed 23 stone (147kg), began a diet where he succeeded in losing over seven stone in 10 months. A couple of years later he co-wrote the book A Question of Weight with his friend Veronique Skawinska, where he wrote openly about his struggle with obesity and later clinical depression.

In June of 1985 his name was in the paper again when he was one of the hostages during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome.

He returned to performing and became an orthodox follower of the Greek faith leading him to make personal appearances at various churches around the world. His last album was recorded in 2009.

He died on Saturday night, the 24th January at the Ygeia Hospital in Athens but the cause of death was not given at the time of writing.

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Joe Cocker dies

He was “Simply unique and it will be impossible to fill the space he leaves in our hearts, ” Barrie Marshall, the late Joe Cocker’s agent said following the announcement of his death on December 22nd.

Joe, who was born John Robert Cocker in Sheffield in 1944, was the gravelly-voiced journeyman singer who made his name in the sixties following his sensational performance of the Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends at the Woodstock music festival in 1969.

His appearance there, which was captured in the 1970 concert film Woodstock, established him as one of pop’s most powerful and irrepressible white soul vocalists. With his tie-dyed shirt and shaggy beard covered in sweat, Joe, then 25, pleadingly teased out the song’s verses — ‘What would you do if I sang out of tune would you stand up and walk out on me’ — and threw himself into repeated climaxes with his flailing arms and gesticulating in ways that seemed to imitate a demented baboon.

Following Woodstock he toured continuously widely and took his place as one of rock world’s most distinctive interpreter of others people’s songs — an art then going out of fashion with the rise of folk-inspired singer-songwriters and groups, like the Beatles, that wrote their own material.

In 1969 he had a top 10 hit with a cover of Leon Russell’s song Delta Lady which was written about Rita Coolidge. In the UK, his only number one was With a Little Help From My Friends and in the US his only chart topper was Up Where We Belong which he recorded as a duet with Jennifer Warnes. It featured in the film An Officer and a Gentleman and it won him his only Grammy Award.

From the early seventies he struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. “If I’d been stronger mentally, I could have turned away from temptation,” he revealed in an interview in 2013 with the Daily Mail, “But there was no rehab back in those days. Drugs were readily available, and I dived in head first. And once you get into that downward spiral, it’s hard to pull out of it. It took me years to get straight.”

Tributes were led by the two remaining member of the Beatles, Ringo Starr wrote on Twitter, “Goodbye and God bless to Joe Cocker from one of his friends.” In a statement, Paul McCartney said of ‘Friends’, “It was just mind-blowing, totally turned the song into a soul anthem, and I was forever grateful for him for having done that.”

In a recent interview with The Guardian he was asked about his mannerisms to which Joe replied, “It came with my frustration at having never played guitar or piano.” He added, “It’s just a way of trying to get feeling out. I get excited, and it all comes through my body.”

Joe released more than 20 studio albums, his most recent being 2012’s Fire It Up.

At a concert in September this year, Billy Joel called Joe, “A great singer who is not very well right now and I think he should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m amazed that he’s not yet, but I’m throwing in my vote for Joe Cocker.”

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Small Faces and Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan dies.

What a sad week for music especially for Rolling Stones fans because within a few hours both Bobby Keys, a session saxophonist who famously played on Brown Sugar and one-time Stones sideman as well as an original member of the Small Faces and the Faces, Ian McLagan have died.

Ian McLagan, who was born on 12 May 1945 in Hounslow and has always been referred to as Mac, got his break in the early sixties in a group called Boz people with future King Crimson member Boz Burrell. By 1965, he was a member of the Small Faces, who scored with songs like Itchycoo Park, Tin Soldier and their only UK number one, All or Nothing.

On Wednesday morning, there was a news alert that Mac had been involved in an accident near his home in Austin, Texas and well-wishers were tweeting furiously wishing him well, however there was little information about the accident. KXAN radio had reported that he had suffered a head injury which came from Tim Basham, a journalist for Paste magazine who was in the hospital at the time. Within a few hours he had passed away and the official Small Faces fan club website said that he had a massive stroke.

When Steve Marriott left the band in 1969, Rod Stewart and guitarist Ron Wood were both recruited to took his place, and the band renamed itself the Faces and recorded classics like Stay With Me, Cindy Incidentally and the longest title ever of a UK hit single, You Can Make Me Dance, Sing Or Anything (Even Take The Dog For A Walk, Mend A Fuse, Fold Away The Ironing Board Or Any Other Domestic Shortcomings) before breaking up in 1975.

That year, after Wood joined the Rolling Stones, McLagan became an auxiliary member of the band, joining them on tour and occasionally in the studio. His most memorable contribution is the distinctive electric piano that can be heard so prominently on their 1978 hit Miss You which went to number one in the US and number three in the UK.

McLagan had played with many rock luminaries over the years, including Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. He’s also performed with Izzy Stradlin, Paul Westerberg and was a member of Billy Bragg‘s band. He was most recently on tour with Nick Lowe.

He also fronted his own Bump Band, which are based in Austin, where McLagan lived and died. Since the late seventies, he’s released nearly a dozen solo albums, including his most recent, United States, which came out in June this year.

In 2000, McLagan published an autobiography, All the Rage: A Riotous Romp Through Rock & Roll History, which was updated in 2013 after his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the Small Faces and the Faces the previous year.

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Motown Legend Jimmy Ruffin dies

In 2008 I produced and co-presented a programme for London’s Capital Gold (now Gold) called The Top 100 Motown which was a countdown of the most successful Motown songs in the UK based on a complex points system devised by my co-author on the Complete Book of the British Chart, Neil Warwick, and the song that lead the way was Jimmy Ruffin’s 1966 hit What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted. Now that legend has died.

Jimmy, who was born in 1936, not 1939 as has been regularly published, had been in hospital since September after he developed pneumonia, further complications and the discovery off cancer saw him moved to intensive care in more recent times.

A Mississippi native and the older brother of the late Temptations singer David Ruffin, Jimmy began as a backing singer for Motown in the early sixties before being drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in Germany. Upon returning to Motown in 1964, he cut material with little success before striking it big in 1966 with Brokenhearted, which took him to number seven on Billboard chart and number eight in the UK, although it did reach number four when re-issued in 1974.

The two brothers collaborated on the 1970 album I Am My Brother’s Keeper, and while Jimmy Ruffin ultimately notched eight solo songs on Billboard’s R&B chart, his biggest success came in England, where he lived for a stretch and continued to perform frequently in later years.

His last big hit came in 1980 with the fantastic Robin Gibb written and produced track Hold On To My Love which reached number seven here and number 10 Stateside. In 1984 he collaborated with the Style Council for Soul Deep, a benefit song to raise money for striking coal miners.

“All of his songs were about love, so that spoke to the kind of spirited guy he was, and spiritual too,” said his daughter Philicia, “He came up in the church, and that’s where he started singing. Dad was living in the metro Detroit area as recently as 2010, but returned to his home in Las Vegas, where he was planning to begin performing again before taking ill,” she concluded.

“He had a good voice, kind of unique,” said former Motown A&R director, Mickey Stevenson, “And a great heart, a very sensitive guy. He wasn’t the hungry, demanding guy – he wasn’t that kind of artist. Everything was patience, everything was OK. It was never, ‘Look, man, I’ve gotta have my time in the studio right now!'”

While David Ruffin became an international success with the Temptations, Stevenson said he never witnessed the sort of jealousy or rivalry that often crops among artist siblings.

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy said he was a “phenomenal singer” and was truly underrated because we were also fortunate to have his brother, David, as the lead singer of The Temptations.

David died in 1991 of a drug overdose which prompted Jimmy to become an anti-drug campaigner.

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Bass legend Jack Bruce has died

Jack Bruce, the composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist, has died of liver disease, aged 71.

News broke on the afternoon of 25th October when his family posted this on Jack’s Facebook page: “It is with great sadness that we, Jack’s family, announce the passing of our beloved Jack: husband, father, granddad, and all round legend. The world of music will be a poorer place without him, but he lives on in his music and forever in our hearts.” He died at his home in Suffolk surrounded by his family.

Bruce was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland in 1943 and briefly attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music on a cello scholarship, but dropped out because the school wouldn’t let him play jazz. He was supposedly offered a touring spot with Marvin Gaye in the 1960s, but turned it down in favour of joining John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, where he replaced John McVie. That’s how he met Eric Clapton.

In 1966 he alongside guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker formed what became generally accepted as the world’s first supergroup, Cream. He wrote and sang most of their big hit songs, including I Feel Free, White Room, Badge and one of the world’s most performed guitar riff, on Sunshine of Your Love.

They sold 35 million albums in just over two years and were awarded a platinum disc for their album Wheels of Fire in 1968. They split later the same year and at the height of their popularity. Bruce felt that he had strayed too far from his ideals and wanted to re-discover his musical and social roots.

He released several solo albums over the years but only 1969s Songs for A Taylor made the UK chart where it reached number six. He appeared on other people’s hit including The Mersey’s hit Sorrow, The Scaffold’s Lily the Pink, Frank Zappa’s Apostrophe. He did appear on a number one when he briefly joined Manfred Mann in 1965 and featured on Pretty Flamingo.

In 1993, Cream were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They received a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 2006 and in 2005, they reunited for a tour.

In tribute, Roger Waters, Pink Floyds bassist wrote, “Jack Bruce is probably the most musically gifted bass player who’s ever been.”

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