Teen idol Bobby Vee dies

In recent times Glen Campbell publically admitted he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and even wrote and sang the very moving and emotional song, I’m Not Gonna Miss You, about it, not too many people make it known and Bobby Vee was one of them. He’d been suffering with it for five years and lost his battle last Monday.

Bobby, who was born Robert Velline in Fargo, North Dakota in 1943, was only 15 when he got his big break albeit under tragic circumstances. He took to the stage in Moorhead, Minnesota to stand in for Buddy Holly following the February 3rd plane crash in Iowa that killed Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in 1959.

A call went out for any local acts who could step in to replace Holly at his scheduled show at the Moorhead National Guard Armory. Bobby and his band volunteered. They’d only been together for a couple of weeks and didn’t even have a name. The show’s host, Charlie Boone, turned to Bobby and asked him the name of his band. Vee turned around and saw the shadows of his bandmates on the floor and answered, “The Shadows.”

“I didn’t have any fear right then,” Bobby recalled in a 1999 interview with The Associated Press. “The fear didn’t hit me until the spotlight came on, and then I was just shattered by it. I didn’t think that I’d be able to sing. If I opened my mouth, I wasn’t sure anything would come out.” He later said that his debut was a milestone in his life, and “the start of a wonderful career.” As a tribute he recorded the album Bobby Vee Meets the Crickets with Holly’s backing group in 1962 and it reached number two in the UK album chart.

Bobby’s own career took off in 1960 with the US hit Devil or Angel which reached number six and followed that with the international hit Rubber Ball which made number four in the UK. He charted 10 UK hits but an astounding 45 Billboard singles in America including the top three singles Take Good Care of my Baby, Run To Him and The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.

Bobby married his wife Karen in December 1963 and they were married for over 50 years until her death of kidney failure in 2015 aged 71. The couple had four children, including two sons who, in later years, would perform with Bobby.

In the early sixties one of his touring entourage included a musician who called himself Elston Gunnn (with three ‘n’s), his real name was Robert Zimmerman a young man who later became known as Bob Dylan.

Bobby kept recording and touring right into the 2000s but he had trouble remembering lyrics during performances, and he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011. He performed his last show that year which was billed as his retirement, during an annual community fundraiser that his family hold near their home in Minnesota. He made a public announcement about his diagnosis the following year.

In a 2013 interview with The Associated Press, Vee said he knew his abilities were diminishing and he didn’t want to put his family through a public decline, “It’s not getting any better, I can tell you that, But I’m doing the best I can.”

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Rodney Temperton dies

In 1897 H. G. Wells published his science-fiction novel called The Invisible Man which was also serialised in a magazine called Pearson’s Weekly. In 1993 Universal made it into a movie where we saw (or didn’t more like) Claude Rains portraying Dr. Jack Griffin aka The Invisible Man. In the music world there was another man known as the invisible man and that man passed away at the beginning of October, his name was Rod Tempterton.

Rod was born in Cleethorps in 1949 and learned to play drums while playing truant from school and would play along to the test card on the television. He also taught himself to play the piano and then began his career as the keyboard player and songwriter with the disco band Heatwave in the 1970s. He played on all their hits up until the 1979 track Razzle Dazzle and solely wrote all their hits with the exception of Mind Blowing Decisions which was written by another band member, Johnnie Wilder.

It was their big disco songs like Boogie Nights, The Groove Line and the beautiful ballad Always and Forever that caught the ear of Quincy Jones who invited him to come and write songs for his artists. Rod jumped at the chance as he was publicity shy and hated being on stage, “he was never comfortable with it hence his nickname” his cousin told me. Rod recalled of their first meeting, “I’m from Cleethorpes and he’s from Seattle, where’s the meeting of minds there? But as soon as we met it was like I’d known him all my life. I love him to death.”

His first hit as a writer, outside of Heatwave was Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall and Rock With You which both featured on the album Off The Wall. Rock With You was originally offered to Karen Carpenter for her fist solo album but she turned it down. He had three further his in 1980; Stomp by The Brothers Johnson and George Benson took two of them into the top 10 in the shape of Give Me The Night and Love X Love. In 1982 he charted as the writer of Donna Summer’s Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger) and six months later was in the chart again with Baby, Come to Me courtesy of Patti Austin and James Ingram.

He didn’t only contribute music, when it came to writing Thriller, the title track for the world’s biggest selling album he came up with a multitude of suggestions, he originally wanted to call the song something else but felt it needed something more commercial. “I went back to the hotel,” he once recalled, “wrote two or three hundred titles and came up with Midnight Man. The next morning I woke up and I just said this word. Something in my head just said: ‘This is the title’. You could visualise it at the top of the Billboard charts. You could see the merchandising for this one word, how it jumped off the page as Thriller.” It was also Rod’s idea to have a classic voice doing the ‘rap’ and so he brought in Vincent Price and wrote Price’s lines in a taxi on the way to the studio.

Life after Thriller continued with him writing hits like Spice of Life for Manhattan Transfer, Yah Mo Be There for James Ingram and Michael McDonald and a solo hit for the latter in 1986 – Sweet Freedom. Later the same year he was nominated for the best original song Oscar for Miss Celie’s Blues, a song he co-wrote with Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie for the film The Color Purple.

Rod once said, “Songwriting was a very personal experience: You have to please yourself first. Once you feel the hairs stand up on the back of your hand – you can go for the world. Writing a song is the biggest moment of all. Yesterday it didn’t exist. Today it does.”

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John D. Loudermilk dies

Another unsung songwriter hero has passed away. Very much like Albert Hammond, he wrote many songs that became hits for other artists and only had one solitary UK hit in their own right. His hits for other include the top 10 hits, Angela Jones (Michael Cox), Ebony Eyes (Everly Brothers), Stayin’ In (Bobby Vee), Tobacco Road and Google Eye (Nashville Teens), This Little Bird (Marianna Faithful) and Indian Reservation (Don Fardon). His name is John D. Loudermilk and his only solo hit was Language of Love which reached number 13 in 1962.

He was born in March 1934 and was one of those singer/songwriters you couldn’t easily pigeonhole. He wrote folk, country and pop hits. His mother was a missionary, and his dad was a carpenter who was a key figure in the building of Duke University, as well as several tobacco factories, which is probably what inspired Tobacco Road. When he was seven years old, his mother taught him ukulele his father had made out of a cigar box. At the age of 13 he changed his name to Johnny Dee and began performing on local radio stations which is where he met the husband and wife songwriting duo Boudleaux and Felice Bryant who encouraged him to write songs.

Over the next 60 years his songs were covered by artists as diverse as Glen Campbell, James Brown, The Barron Knights, Tracy Ullman, Sandy Posey, Linda Ronstadt and 999.

He explained his writing in an interview with the Tennessean in magazine in 1961, “I’m looking for the most different thing I can find. Everybody’s writing ‘I love you truly.’ You’ve got to find something new. I talk to drunks at the bus station, browse through kiddie books at the public library (and) get phrases from college kids and our babysitter. You’ve got to be looking all the time.”

John was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976 and was also made a member of the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. In 1968, he won a Grammy Award for Best Album Notes for the liner notes he wrote in his 1967 album Suburban Attitudes in Country Verse.

One of his first successes was The Pale Faced Indian as originally recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959 – this song became a US number one hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971 and a UK number three for Don Fardon.

He changed his name to John D. Loudermilk, but, like Billy J Kramer, the middle initial didn’t stand for anything at all.

Loudermilk was also celebrated earlier in 2016 at the Franklin Theatre outside Nashville with a tribute show from Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell and his friend and fellow songwriter Bobby Braddock, the man who broke the news via Facebook. Loudermilk’s son, Mike, confirmed that the cause of death was a heart attack.

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Soul legend Billy Paul dies at 81.

One of the greatest soul voices of the Philly era has died, Mrs Jones says goodnight to Billy Paul?

Billy was born Paul Williams in Philadelphia in 1934 and grew up listening to jazz as his mother loved all the jazz singers of the day. He once recalled, “I always liked Nat King Cole. I always wanted to go my own way, but I always favoured other singers like Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. There are so many of them, Nina Simone was also one of my favourites.” He favoured those singers because he had a high range and could reach the notes they did.

Paul’s singing career began when he was just 11 years ago when he appeared on his local radio station, WPEN. His first recording came when he moved to New York in 1952 and recorded Why Am I.

He was drafted into the Germany Army when he was 22 and served on the same base as Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby’s son, Gary. Paul recalled in an interview with Blues & in 2015, “We said we’re going to start a band, so we didn’t have to do any hard work in the service. We tried to get Elvis to join but he wanted to be a Jeep driver, so me and Gary, we started it and called ourselves the Jazz Blues Symphony Band.”

During the 1960s, the Beatles’ sound inspired Paul to change his sound to be more R&B which he did successfully. His manager then suggested he change his name to Billy Paul so as not to get confused with his name sake who was the lead singer with the Temptations.

His first UK hit was, by far, his biggest and most enduring, when Me and Mrs Jones reached number 12 in the UK in 1973 and number one in the States. The song, which was written by the Philly songwriting and production duo Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, tells the story of an extramarital confession between him and Mrs Jones who meet at the same cafe at the same time – 6.30 – every day. The song is told by the people doing the cheating which itself is quite rare, and to enhance the song’s elicit nature, listen carefully to the saxophone part of the intro and you’ll hear the refrain of Doris Day’s 1954 hit Secret Love.

Kenny explained the origin of the song in an interview with National Public Radio in 2008, “I used to take trips to a little bar downstairs in the Schubert Building and one day this guy used to come into the bar every day – little guy that looked like a judge. We’re songwriters, so we’re always thinking about a song. The next day he came in again, and every day after he’d come in, this girl would come in 10-15 minutes after he’d get there, and they’d sit in the same booth, then go to the jukebox and play the same songs. We said, ‘That’s me and Mrs. Jones.’ Then, when they’d get ready to leave, he would go his way and she would go hers. It could have been his daughter, his niece, anybody, but we created a story that there was some kind of romantic connection between these people, so we went upstairs to our office and wrote the song.”

He had further UK hit with Thank For Saving My Life in 1974, His 1976 hit, Let’s Make A Baby was a modest hit here reaching number 30, but ran into trouble in the States where many criticised the content, and even the Rev. Jesse Jackson objected to its explicit nature. In 1977 he tried some cover versions, namely Elton John’s Your Song, Wings’ Let ‘Em In and Jerry Butler’s Only the Strong Survive and all made the top 40.

By the end of 1970s the hits dried up but continued to record some albums before announcing his retirement in 1989. Even during retirement, he couldn’t resisted playing some live shows.

In 2003 he learned that a lot of money he should have made hadn’t been received and so he sued Gamble and Huff and other personnel at the Philadelphia International label over unpaid royalties and was awarded $500,000 by a Los Angeles jury.

Billy was only recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but was still booking in live dates, ironically one of the most popular songs he does live is a cover of Prince’s Purple Rain.

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Prince dies on the Queen’s birthday

Within the music business, for years now people have often talked about ‘the 27 club’, as there had been so many music related deaths of people at the age of 27, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and, more recently, Amy Winehouse, to name just a few. Now people are beginning to talk about ‘The 2016 club.’

So, what a terrible year 2016 is turning out to be; Keith Emerson, Glenn Frey, George Martin, Ed Stewart, Terry Wogan, Maurice White, Emile Ford, Colin Vearncombe (Black), David Bowie and now Prince.

The same website that broke the news of Michael Jackson’s death in 2009 informed us of Prince. America’s TMZ is a bit like The Sun newspaper, full of inane gossip, but usually there with the hot news as it happens.

Prince was born Prince Rogers Nelson on 7th June 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  His parents, Mattie and John Lewis, were African-American and both musical, his dad was a pianist and songwriter and his mother, a jazz singer, so his grounding was perfect. His father used the pseudonym Prince Rogers and had his own group, the Prince Rogers Trio. He obviously wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and maybe naming his after his own pseudonym helped. In an interview on the American TV news programme A Current Affair in 1991 Prince’s father said, “I named my son Prince because I wanted him to do everything I wanted to do.”

In the late sixties, Prince and a neighbour, Andre Anderson, joined Prince’s cousin’s band called Grand Central. In 1975 one of Prince’s uncle’s formed a band called 94 East and Prince was invited to play guitar and ended up writing the occasional song. The following year Prince and the producer, Chris Moon, got a demo tape together of Prince’s material. It didn’t result in him getting a recording contract, but he did gain a manager by the name of Owen Husney who signed him up and got him into a better studio to create a better demo which eventually resulted in numerous record companies showing interest and subsequently was signed by Warner Brothers on the proviso Prince was given creative control for the first three albums.

He released his debut album, Dirty Mind, in 1980 and the American Music critic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, described it as, a ‘stunning, audacious amalgam of funk, new wave, R&B, and pop, fuelled by grinningly salacious sex and the desire to shock. It’s a breath-taking, visionary album, and its fusion of synthesizers, rock rhythms, and funk set the style for much of the urban soul and funk of the early ’80s.’ His debut single and the suggestively titled, Soft and Wet only reached number 92 on the Billboard chart, then came I Wanna Be Your Lover which peaked at number 11 over there and, as his first UK hit, peaked at number 41.

His big break came in 1982 when 1999 started receiving stacks of airplay, it only reached number 25 first time round on these shores, but number two when re-issued and coupled with the follow-up, Little Red Corvette a couple of years later. Over the next 24 years he racked up a further 48 hits including the anthemic Purple Rain and When Doves Cry. His tracks were radio friendly and songs like Raspberry Beret, Let’s Go Crazy, U Got the Look and Gett Off were rarely off the radio. In 1989 he scored a number two with Batdance from the Batman movie and it became his biggest hit to date. He had to wait until 1994 before scoring his only UK chart-topper with The Most Beautiful Girl in the World with his 39th hit and thus breaking Stevie Wonder’s record who had his first number one with his 35th hit. His then-wife, Mayte, recorded an answer version with a slight change to the title calling it The Most Beautiful Boy in the World and appeared on her 1995 album Child of the Sun.

Prince had several moniker’s over the years and included Jamie Starr, The Purple One, Christopher Alexander Nevermind and more successfully as T.A.F.K.A.P. – The Artist Formerly Known as Prince or Prince logo as we saw it.

He has written many songs for other artists including Chaka Khan’s 1984 international number one I Feel For You, a couple of years later Manic Monday, under the pseudonym Christopher which the Bangles took to number two and in 1990 his song Nothing Compares 2 U which he wrote for his protégé group The Family was covered and a number one for Sinead O’Connor. Kid Creole charted with Prince’s The Sex of It and Martika scored a top 20 hit with Martika’s Kitchen. Other artists who have successfully covered his songs are The Art of Noise and Tom Jones who took Kiss high into the chart, Simple Minds tackled Sign O the Times – all about a friend who died of A.I.D.S – on the Amsterdam EP and in 1997 Ginuwine made number 10 with a cover of When Doves Cry.

Over his 35-plus-year career, he released 39 solo studio albums and continually released new material. In September 2014, he put out four new full-length records with his latest band, 3rd Eye Girl.

The official press release stated: Prince was found dead at age 57 on Thursday morning, slumped unconscious in an elevator in his Paisley Park complex in Chanhassen, Minnesota. He was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. (11:07 EST), about 15 minutes after emergency personnel responded to a call for help. Medical personnel performed CPR on him, but could not revive the singer, who performed his final show at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on April 14. In a tweet to a fan after leaving the hospital, Prince said he was “still floating on a cloud of purple intoxication” after the previous night’s show.

In 1980, Prince met Denise Matthews-Smith and chose her to be the lead singer of his first protege group, a trio he named Vanity 6. In February this year Denise passed away from kidney failure also aged 57.

Like Terry Wogan and David Bowie, it may have come as a huge shock to us because they, like Prince, had kept their illnesses quiet, but Prince learned relatively recently of his condition in as much as sources close to Prince stated that he’d recently started writing his memoirs having been putting it off for years. Last Saturday he was rushed to hospital after a concert in what his reps called the flu. When he returned to his home he addressed a waiting crowd with, “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.”

He was upset that the news of his hospitalisation got out because he feared that people would think he’s already dead.

So on Thursday 21st April 2016, the day the Queen celebrated her 90th birthday, Prince’s purple reign was over.


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