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Queen of Soul is dead

In 2010, the Queen of Soul was diagnosed with cancer but she was determined to keep going. She became more select about the performances she made with her last being in November 2017 at the Elton John AIDS Foundation in New York. Earlier in the year she said, “I must tell you, I am retiring this year, I feel very enriched and satisfied with respect to where my career came from, and where it is now.”

Aretha Louise Franklin was born in March 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee. When she was two the family relocated to New York and then three years later settle in Detroit, Michigan where, like so many of the black soul singers of that era, she began her career in Church as a gospel singer where her father, C. L. Franklin, was the minister.

In 1960, she began her recording career after she’d signed to Columbia records but she only got a mediocre reception in the states. Between 1961 and 1966 she scored 17 Billboard Hot 100 singles but only one, Rock-A-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody made the top 40, it was when she signed to Atlantic in 1967 that her career really took off. Her first hit that that label was I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You) reached number nine but it was the follow-up, Respect topped the chart and put her firmly on the map. Within a few years she’d earned the moniker Queen of Soul.

She charted 88 Billboard Hot 100 singles and 97 R &B Hit singles. She is the most charted female in US history. In the UK, she had charted 29 hit single including duets with George Benson, Elton John and the Eurythmics. Her only UK number one was the 1987 duet with George Michael, I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me). Because Aretha was scared of flying it was rumoured for many years that the video for that single were recorded in separate countries and was spliced together, but it actual fact George Flew to the States and it was recorded together. More of that story can be read in my Single of the Week from April 2015.

Aretha is an 18-time Grammy winner. She performed Precious Lord at Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral in 1968 and America My Country Tis Of Thee at Barack Obama’s Inauguration in 2009. In 1987 became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was inducted to the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005 and seven years later inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame. She was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2005.

After her father was shot in 1979, she tried her hand at acting and is best remembered for playing the part of Mrs Murphy in 1980 film The Blues Brothers alongside other legends Ray Charles, Cab Calloway and James Brown.

She continued recording throughout the nineties and had a top five hit in 1994 with A Deeper Love. Her last UK top 30 hit was A Rose Is Still a Rose in 1998 which was written and produced by Lauryn Hill.

Aretha never wanted to make her illness public and on a couple of occasions had to cancel concerts on doctor’s orders. She made a couple of appearances in 2017 and because she had lost a lot of weight rumours began to circulate about her health. She was disappointed last year about missing a show, in a statement to Rolling Stone magazine her management said, “She is extremely disappointed she cannot perform at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as she had expected and hoped to.”

In the early seventies Paul McCartney had written Let It Be for her, but she turned it down and the same year Paul Simon wrote Bridge Over Troubled Water for her and she turned that down too. It 1968 she was offered Son-Of-A Preacher Man and declined that as well. It was then offered to Dusty Springfield and upon hearing Dusty’s version she decided to record it. She also recorded Let It Be and Bridge over Troubled Water later in the seventies.

She has influence so many female singers over the years including Mariah Carey, Paula Abdul, Beyonce and Missy Elliott who, on hearing the news of her impending death Tweeted “Must Celebrate the Living Legends while they are here to see it. So many have given us decades of Timeless music.”

Many people would have said many prayers, but Aretha died on 16th August 2018 aged 76, exacly 41 years to the day after The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and on the birthday of the Queen of Pop. Boy, what a day!

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Comic veteran Ken Dodd dies at 90

So often when an older legend dies, they say, “he/she was the last of the greats,” but this time I think it really is as we say goodbye to the comic hero Ken Dodd.

Ken was born in the Liverpool suburb of Knotty Ash and spent his entire life in the same house. At the age of 14 he left school and he, and his brother, went to work is father’s business where they carried Arley cobbles around fir six years. In his spare time he began developing comedy routines and became testing them out at the local working men’s clubs and came up with the odd moniker of Professor Yaffle Chuckabutty, operatic tenor and sausage knotter, an expression he used right to the end.

His comedy delivery was fast and furious and, like Bob Monkhouse, had a one-line answer for everything. He was famous for his buckteeth, wild hair, tickling stick, the Diddymen and classic nonsense words like tattifilarious and plumptiousness. He even gave the radio and television presenter David Hamilton the nickname Diddy.

He made his professional debut in 1956 when he topped the bill in Blackpool and like many old time entertainers of the day, they often had a musical interlude to their shows and where people like Les Dawson and Bruce Forsyth would play the piano brilliantly, or in Les Dawson’s case badly brilliantly, Ken would singer and he was a classical trained singer with a brilliant voice. He charted 18 UK top 40 hits, the first being Love Is Like a Violin in 1960 which reached number eight. In October 1965 he topped the chart with Tears a song first recorded by Sam Ash in 1919. It went on to be the biggest-selling single of 1965 and the second best-selling single of the sixties after the Beatles’ She Loves You. His 1964 hit Happiness became synonymous with Ken and most night closed his show with that song. That song was written and first recorded by the country singer Bill Anderson who I am interviewing next week for a Single of the Week.

His live shows were legendary for their length, often saying he want to give his audience as much as possible. One of his standard routines included a member of the venue’s staff coming on halfway through and throwing Ken a set of keys saying, “Lock up and switch the lights off when you leave.” When I saw Ken in Lewisham in March 2001, I came away with an aching belly and it was nearly midnight.

He had numerous BBC shows including The Ken Dodd Show and Ken Dodd’s Laughter Show, and, in 1965, had the longest-ever run at the London Palladium at 42 weeks. He also entered the Guinness Book of Records for the longest joke-telling session ever – 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours until it was superseded by Tim Vine.

Ken had never married and had always guarded his private life, but in 1989 he had to endure five weeks at Liverpool Crown Court for tax fraud of which he was eventually acquitted. He told court, “I am not mean, but I am nervous of money, nervous of having it, nervous of not having it,” and explained how money was a measure of success. “It’s important to me only because I have nothing else”. Since the nineties he often joked about the ordeal and regularly opened his shows with the words, “Good evening, my name is Kenneth Arthur Dodd; singer, photographic playboy and failed accountant.”

He was awarded an OBE in 1982 and in 2017 the comic was made a knight by Prince William in honour of his decades-long showbiz career and charity work. In January 2018 he was admitted to hospital with a chest infection and released at the beginning of March. Ken’s publicist, Robert Holmes, said, “Ken asked Anne Jones, his partner of 40 years if she wanted to marry. They got the registrar and were married in the house on Friday.” But Ken died two days later on Mother’s Day at the age of 90. Lady Anne Dodd said, “I’ve lost the most wonderful husband and it’s been a privilege to work and live with him for the past 40 years. The world has lost a life-enhancing and brilliant comedian with an operatically trained voice who just wanted to make people happy.”

Ken Dodd’s philosophy was simple, he once said, “Laughter is the greatest music in the world and audiences come to my shows to escape the cares of life. They don’t want to be embarrassed or insulted. They want to laugh and so do I – which is probably why it works.”

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70s hearthrob, David Cassidy is dead

Every decade had its share of friendly rivalry, in the sixties it was the Beatles and Stones, in the eighties it was Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran and in the nineties it was Oasis and Blur, but in the seventies it was either David or Donny. One or the other adorned many a young girl’s bedroom wall and now the former has gone.

Sadly in the era of fake news, he became the latest in a line of people whose deaths have been announced prematurely. He became the heartthrob of the seventies TV show the Partridge Family in his role of Keith Partridge, the son of Shirley Partridge who was portrayed by his real stepmother Shirley Jones.

Cassidy was born in Manhattan, New York in April 1950 and both hit parents were actors, his mother was Evelyn Ward and his father, who was also a singer, was Jack Cassidy. Because his parents who often on the road filming or singing David was raised much of the time by his grandparents. When he was six he found out that his parents had divorced some two years earlier but he wasn’t informed of this. His father then married the actress Shirley Jones.

In early 1969, he made is acting debut in The Fig Leaves Are Falling on Broadway, but closed after just four shows. Fortunately for David, in that four days a TV casting director saw him, auditioned him and offered him some TV work. For this he had to move to Los Angeles and then appeared in the programmes, Ironside and Bonanza. The following year he was offered the role in the Partridge Family.

David was blessed with good looks and it was a fairly safe bet that if was given songs to sing he would made the chart. The first was I Think I Love You which was credited as The Partridge Family Starring Shirley Jones – featuring David Cassidy which made number 18 in the UK. The song’s writer, Tony Romeo, was asked to write another and came up with It’s One Of Those Nights (Yes Love) which fared better by peaking at number 11. David then began having hits under how own name as well as with the Partridge Family; Could it Be Forever coupled with Cherish made number two and that was followed by a cover of Neil Sedaka’s Breaking up Is Hard to Do. He finally hit the top spot in 1972 with How Can I Be Sure and again the following year with Daydreamer backed with The Puppy Song. David also turned his hand to production as his next four hits, If I Didn’t Care, Please Please Me, I Write The Songs and Darlin’ were all co-produced by him.

In 1974, an incident at a concert at London’s White City Stadium haunted David for the rest of his life. There was a stampede and over 800 people were crushed at the front of the stage and a 14 year-old girl died a few days later as a result of a heart attack. It transpired that she did have an existing heart condition. It was at this point David decided to give up touring and acting to concentrate on a recording career. He returned to small acting part three years later.

All went quiet for about four years and David announced he was broke. In 1985 his recording career got a new lease of life when he signed to Arista records and released the song The Last Kiss which featured George Michael on backing vocals and reached number six in the UK.

In 2000, David wrote and performed in the Las Vegas show At the Copa alongside Sheena Easton. By the mid-2000s he’d turned to alcohol and made is public in 2008. He was arrested a number of times for drink-driving related offences and was briefly jailed at one point too. His mother had suffered with Alzheimer’s disease and in 2011 David recorded a public service announcement. In 2017 he announced that he was suffering with dementia and eventually gave up live performing when it became more evident when he kept forgetting lyrics.

On 18th November he was rushed to hospital with liver and kidney failure and was placed in a medically-induced coma. He came out of the coma a couple of days later and was awaiting a liver transplant, but doctors didn’t think his body, at that stage, would cope with the operation. He died three days later.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer, Fats Domino dies at 89.

Whenever anyone talks about the giants of rock ‘n’ roll, they always mention Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley and, of course, Elvis Presley, but blasphemously, Fats Domino doesn’t get mentioned anywhere near as much. He was a pioneer and there before all of the aforementioned.

Domino was one of the first artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and, according to Rolling Stone magazine, he was reportedly only second to Presley in record sales in the fifties thanks due to a string of 11 top 10 hits between 1955 and 1960. He became a massive influence on many rock acts including John Lennon, Cheap Trick and Led Zeppelin.

He was born Antoine Domino in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1928 and learned piano from an early age. By the time he got to his teens he was already performing in a number of New Orleans bars. He dropped out of school but, like many budding musicians of that time, needed some extra money, so he got a job in a bed-spring factory. In 1947, at the age of

19, he was spotted by a local bandleader called Billy Diamond who invited Antoine to join his band. It was Diamond who nicknamed him ‘Fats’ as a homage to the 20s and 30s jazz pianist Fats Waller. Diamond also announced to a crown one night, “I call him ‘Fats,’ ‘cause if he keeps eating, he’s going to be just as big!”

In 1949, he signed to Imperial records and his first recording was a song called The Fat Man, a happy celebration of his size, which eventually sold over a million copies. He recorded a number of songs, very much in a piano-based rock ‘n’ roll style and then, in early fifties he teamed up with producer and songwriter Dave Bartholomew and the pair formed a long-term partnership. In 1955, he crossed over into mainstream pop with his first US hit being Ain’t That a Shame which reached number 10. In the UK it was his third hit but stalled at number 23. We clearly weren’t ready for him yet. His first UK hit was I’m In Love Again. He will probably always be best remember for his second UK hit, Blueberry Hill which originally peaked at  number 26 here, then on re-entry made number six, however, it made number two in the States and was originally recorded by the Sammy Kaye Orchestra in 1940. Numerous people have recorded it including Glenn Miller, Gene Autry, Louis Armstrong, Little Richard, Pat Boone, The Beach Boys and Elton John.

In 1959 a singer called Ernest Evans came on the scene and one night was performing a Fats Domino impression, when he finished Dick Clark’s wife asked him what his name was and he replied, “My friends call me ‘Chubby'” to which she asked, “As in Checker?” Their thinking was that chubby meant fat, and checkers was like dominoes and so from then on he was known as Chubby Checker.

Fats scored a staggering 77 hits on Billboard top 100 singles chart between 1955 and 1968, his last being a cover of Lady Madonna which peaked at number 100. In the UK he managed 22 hits.

After the hits he continued to tour and made cameo appearance in various films but by 1980 he’d had enough touring and moving around the world and decided to stay in his birth State explaining he couldn’t get the food he liked most anywhere other than at home. He occasionally ventured out for a few live shows his last being a three-week tour of Europe in 1995. In 1987 he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and in 1998, he received the National Medal of Arts which was presented to him by President Bill Clinton.

In August 2005 in was announced in the US press that Fats had died because his home was flooded and damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Fats refused to move because of his wife’s failing health. No one had heard from him for a while and someone decided to spray ‘RIP Fats. You will be missed’ on the wall of his house which the press believed. The truth only came out after CNN announced that a coast guard had rescued the Domino family and taken them to a shelter in Baton Rouge. The disaster gave Fats a new lease of life and he recorded a new album called Alive and Kickin’. He lost most of his possessions but a number were replaced. His record company replaced all his gold records and President George W. Bush personally presented his with another National Medal of Arts.

His wanted his house to be rebuilt as he loved his home, but in the meantime, returned to performing in 2007, the same year he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and also the year a 30-track all-star Domino tribute album called Goin’ Home was released and featured Blueberry Hill (Elton John), I’m Walkin’ (Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers), Ain’t That A Shame (John Lennon) and I Hear you Knocking (Willie Nelson). Virtually every song on there was written by Fats and Dave Bartholomew.

Fats died of natural causes on 24th October aged 89, Dave Bartholomew said of him, “He is just like the cornerstone — you build a new church and you lay the cornerstone, and if the church burns down the cornerstone is still there.” Dave Bartholomew was born 10 years before Fats and will be (hopefully) celebrating his 99th birthday on Christmas Eve.

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Tom Petty is dead at 66

 

Today, Tom Petty’s backing band’s name became very apt when we heard the news that Tom Petty had died aged just 66. He had been in good health because just two weeks ago Tom and the Heartbreakers had completed a 40th anniversary tour concluding with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.

Tom was born Thomas Earl Petty in Gainesville, Florida on October 20 1950 and his interest in music began in 1960 when he was fortunate enough to meet Elvis Presley. He dropped out of High School to join the band Mudcrutch. He said in a 2006 interview with Fresh Air, “The minute I saw the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show — and it’s true of thousands of guys — there was the way out. There was the way to do it. You get your friends and you’re a self-contained unit. And you make the music. And it looked like so much fun. It was something I identified with. I had never been hugely into sports. I had been a big fan of Elvis. But I really saw in the Beatles that here’s something I could do. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t long before there were groups springing up in garages all over the place.”

He decided to learn guitar and one of his early teachers was former Eagle Don Felder. In 1976 he formed a band that called The Epics which later evolved into the Heartbreakers, the band included his long-term keyboard player Benmont Tench and guitarist Mike Campbell to whom Tom once said “You’re gonna be in my band forever” after he saw him perform a version of Johnny B. Goode. The other two members in the original line-up were Ron Blair on bass and Stan Lynch on drums. In a 2017 interview in Rolling Stone, Campbell said, “We grew up together and we love playing together more than playing with anybody else. We’ve been through so much together. I don’t want to name names, but a lot of bands go out together and they just don’t like each other. They’re making a lot of money and just clocking in. We’ve never been like that, and we have a chemistry and a telepathy between us that is really rare.”

He first hit the US came in November 1977 with Breakdown but had to wait two years for his first top 10 hit which was Don’t Do Me Like That. He charted 28 American hit singles, the biggest being Free Fallin’ which reached number seven in 1989. In the UK his chart career was less successful first appearing in 1977 with Anything That’s Rock ‘N’ Roll which got to 36, but his biggest UK hit was I Won’t Back Down which peaked at number 28 in 1989 and featured George Harrison on backing vocals. Clearly 1989 was his best year.

In addition to his career with and without the Heartbreakers, he was, in 1988, invited to join the Traveling Wilbury’s, a supergroup that included Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison, George Harrison and Bob Dylan. Their debut single, Handle With Care, was co-written by all members and originally intended as a b side to a George Harrison single, but the record company decided it was too good to be tucked away on the flip, so decided to release it as an a side and it went to number 21. The track was produced by Otis & Nelson Wilbury who were Jeff Lynne and George Harrison respectively. Roy was known as Lefty, Dylan as Lucky or Boo and Tom was Charlie T. Jr. or Muddy Wilbury. Their follow-up, End of the Line nearly was because, bizarrely, it stalled at number 52.

In 2002 he released the brilliant album The Last DJ, which fairly criticised the music industry of being greedy and belittling its worth by using half dressed women in video’s to sell music. The title track was very much in the vein of Harry Chapin’s W.O.L.D and Mark Germino’s Rex Bob Lowenstein which both had a fair swipe at radio for becoming bland and boring and playing almost non-stop pop songs as well as losing the personality DJ.

In 2007 he was one of a number of artists who recorded a tribute album to Fats Domino who lost his home in Hurricane Katrina. Tom recorded I’m Walkin’ and all money raised helped to pay for new musical instruments a various schools in New Orleans.

In 2014, Tom charted his 18th UK album with Hypnotic Eye which gave him his second highest charting album and his first top 10 studio album since 1991’s Into the Great Wide Open. The American TV station TMZ were, as usual, the first to break the news and reported that Tom had suffered a full cardiac arrest and was found unconscious and not breathing in his Malibu home Sunday night. He was on a life-support machine but he was taken off it when he was showing no sign of brain activity.

Towards the end of the recent tour he gave an interview to Rolling Stone saying, “It’s very likely we’ll keep playing, but will we take on 50 shows in one tour? I don’t think so. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was thinking this might be the last big one. We’re all on the backside of our sixties. I have a granddaughter now I’d like to see as much as I can. I don’t want to spend my life on the road. This tour will take me away for four months. With a little kid, that’s a lot of time.”

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