Rock & Roll Heaven

Richie Havens Gone at 72

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Submitted Don Graham
Photo: Richie Havens @ Hugh's Room 2006

Richie Havens, singer/songwriter/guitarist and folk icon passed away on April 22, 2013 in New Jersey at the age of 72.

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1941, Richie Havens headed to  Greenwich Village in the early sixties to get involved in the burgeoning folk music scene. Havens soon got a reputation as a solo performer in the Village folk circle and after cutting a couple of records with a small label, was signed by Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, who then signed him to Verve Forecast, a big folk label at the time. His debut album “Mixed Bag” was released in 1967 and contained the anti -war anthem ‘Handsome Johnny’ which Havens had written with the then unknown Louis Gosset Jr. Also on that album were Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘I Can’t Make It Anymore’, Dylan’s ‘Just Like A Woman’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and a beautiful version of ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’.

By 1969 Havens had released five more albums, two of which were “exploitation” albums from Douglas Records who he was signed to before Verve. Also in 1969 Havens was the first act to perform at the historic Woodstock Festival. His set was a three hour marathon, partly because a lot of the acts were caught in the traffic jam leading to the Festival. Acts were being helicoptered into the event to get around the traffic. The Woodstock performance was a huge turning point in Havens’ career and the subsequent release of the movie would help him reach a worldwide audience.

Rita MacNeil Now Flying on Her Own

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

The voice of the Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil has been stilled at the age 68, with the cause of death has listed as complications from surgery. Born in Big Pond, Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island, MacNeil was one of eight children. At the tender age of 17, MacNeil moved to Toronto, where she wrote her first song and began singing in folk clubs. She would then move to Ottawa, where she recorded three albums, but eventually returned home to Big Pond, the place she truly called home.

MacNeil was famously shy, but said her parents helped her overcome that trait by constantly reminding her to believe in herself. "You can be shy," she said. "You can work through all kinds of struggle. But somewhere deep down, you have to have belief or nothing's going to happen for you."

Cape Breton's first lady of song made her mark during a six-week run at Expo ’86 in Vancouver. As well in 1986, she opened Rita’s Tea Room in her hometown of Big Pond, where she also gave performances as well as providing a venue for other Maritime talent.  In 1987 she earned a Juno award as most promising female artist, at age 42. She also hosted a CBC-TV variety program, Rita and Friends, which ran from 1994 to 1997 and drew regular audiences of one million viewers.

Annette Funicello - Now’s The Time To Say Goodbye

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Submitted Cashbox Canada

M-I-C-K-E-Y - Why? Because we LOVED her. Annette was one of the original Mousketeers. Walt Disney’s group of kids assembled to entertain other kids on The Mickey Mouse Club television show. In 1955, the 12-year-old was discovered by Walt Disney when she performed as the Swan Queen in Swan Lake at a dance recital at the Starlight Bowl in Burbank, California. Disney cast her as one of the original "Mouseketeers". She was the last to be selected, and one of the few cast-members to be personally selected by Walt Disney himself. She proved to be very popular and by the end of the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club, she was receiving 6,000 letters a month, according to her Disney Legends biography.

In an Annette serial, she performed a song that would launch her singing career. The Disney studio received so much mail about "How Will I Know My Love" that Walt Disney decided to put  it out as a single, and gave Annette a recording contract.

Andy Johns Engineer/Producer Gone at 61

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Recording icon Andy Johns has passed away at the age of 61. Cause of death was not disclosed but Johns did enter the hospital with a liver ailment.

When I was a young man, or as John Sebastian would say, “ a  musical proverbial knee-high, I would read every word and credit on the back of an album. After reading the song content I would go the songwriters, producers and, yes, engineers.

The name Glyn Johns stood out for his work on the Eagles first three albums and  of course The Band, The Who, The Beatles, Rod Stewart, Humble Pie and on and on. I then started seeing another Johns on the back of LP jackets. Andy Johns, Glyn’s younger brother started to have his name appear on some huge projects. Before his nineteenth birthday, he was working as Eddie Kramer's second engineer on recordings by Jimi Hendrix and many others. In a career spanning more than forty years, he engineered or produced records by artists ranging from Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones to Van Halen and Rod Stewart. Total sales for these various artists reached in excess of 160 million units.

Andy Johns was born in Surrey, England and had started as a bass player before following his brother Glyn into the studio end of the business..  As a tape operator at Olympic Studios in London, he contributed to sessions for Axis Bold As Love by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Phil Ramone The Soundtrack of Our Lives

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Submitted by Don Graham

There are a handful of record producers that have earned the “iconic” label. Phil Spector, David Foster, George Martin and Quincy Jones come to mind.  If I left out any obvious choices, I apologize for the omission.  Phil Ramone is a must to include on that list.

Phil Ramone was behind the board for such musical giants as Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Chicago and many, many more. Billy Joel's “52nd Street” album was picked as album of the year in 1979.  In 1982 “52nd Street” became the first pop CD ever released; and in the year for which he won Producer of the Year, 1980, his productions had also included Chicago, Paul Simon and Billy Joel.

Phillip Ramone was born in South Africa and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and in 1958 co-founded A & R Recording, Inc., a recording studio at 112 West 48th Street, New York, above what was then the world famous Manny's Music. The success of that studio caused it to grow into several studios as well as a record producing company.

As a recording  engineer, Ramone was behind the board for such iconic albums as Bob Dylan's “Blood on the Tracks,” The Band's “Rock of Ages,” and Paul Simon's first two solo albums. By the end of the 70’s Ramone was producing commercial hits by Chicago, Billy Joel, Kenny Loggins, Barbra Streisand and Phoebe Snow.

Bobbie Smith of The Spinners Passes On

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Bobbie Smith, the original lead singer of soul group The Spinners, has died at the age of 76 in Orlando, Florida. The group's management said in a statement on Monday that Smith died on Saturday due to complications from pneumonia and influenza. The statement added that Smith had been diagnosed with lung cancer in November.

Smith was the voice behind the band's first hit, “That's What Girls Are Made For”. The band was originally  known as the Detroit Spinners.

Their biggest hits came in the 1970s, including  “I'll Be Around”, “Could It Be I'm Falling in Love” and “Games People Play”. They all featured the voice of Smith, although fellow lead singer Philippe Wynne had by then also joined the band. The quintet began in 1955 as a high school doo-wop group called the Domingoes and they were signed by Harvey Fuqua to Detroit record company Tri-Phi Records.

Berry Gordy's Motown label took over Tri-Phi in 1965, but the group struggled to make a big impact on the charts. It was not until 1972, when tenor Wynne came on board and the group signed to Atlantic, that the hits began coming. Wynne left the group in 1977 and new lead vocalist John Edwards came on board but the band's producer Thom Bell left shortly afterwards. The band has continued in various guises since then, the most recent version consisting of Smith and fellow original member Henry Fambrough, along with newer members Charleton Washington, Jessie Peck and Marvin Taylor.

Stompin’ Tom Connors Dies at the Age of 77

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Canada lost one of its' true musical icons with the passing of Stompin’ Tom Connors O.C.,LL.D.,Litt.D. Connors died on March 6 , 2013 of natural causes at his home in Ontario. He was 77 years of age.

Stompin’ Tom literally put Canada on the map with such songs as “The Hockey Song”, “Sudbury Saturday Night”, “Bud The Spud”, “Tillsonburg”, "Big Joe Mufferaw" and countless others.

Born Thomas Charles Connors in Saint John New Brunswick on February 9th 1936, he was separated from his mother at a young age and raised by foster parents in Skinners Pond, P.E.I. until he was 13 years old. His life of poverty, orphanages, hitchhiking and playing bars would eventually turn into a life of hit songs, national concert tours and fame in spite of a constant uphill battle to be recognized by the music industry in Canada. In 1979 in a fit of frustration and disappointment he returned all 6 of his Juno awards as a statement of personal protest against the Americanization of the Canadian Music Industry, a sentiment he continued to express to this day. In 1989 Tom signed with EMI Music Canada, teamed up with talent promoter Brian Edwards and returned to the stage where fans young and old embraced his music once again as he quickly became one of the biggest concert draws and sought after performers in the country.

Ten Years After's Alvin Lee dies at 68

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

A statement posted on his official website read: "With great sadness we have to announce that Alvin unexpectedly passed away early this morning after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure. We have lost a wonderful and much loved father and companion, the world has lost a truly great and gifted musician."

Ten Years After is an English blues-rock band, most popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Between 1968 and 1973, Ten Years After scored eight Top 40 albums on the UK Albums Chart. In addition they have had twelve albums enter the US Cashbox Charts, and are best known for their tracks "I'm Going Home", "Hear Me Calling", "I'd Love to Change the World" and "Love Like a Man".

Lee, whose musical career began in the early sixties, was launched to international stardom after an incendiary performance at Woodstock, which showcased his mastery of blues-rock guitar and turned his sticker-plastered "Big Red" Gibson ES-335 into an icon of the festival.

Bobby Rogers of The Miracles Dead at 73

Pictured left to right, Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore of the Miracles, on the Tamla Recording label..jpg

Submitted by Cashbox Canada

There are categories we all know in the music world: rock, pop, country and then the word Motown that stands out on its own. As a vocalist, songwriter and choreographer, The Miracles’ Bobby Rogers was the Motown spirit. Rogers was preceded in death by founding Miracle Ronnie White, who died in 1995.

Rogers was a well-decorated figure with the group: inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, honoured with a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, memorialized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as living through many incarnations of the back-up band of Smokey Robinson.

“He had the sparkling personality that was loved by everyone,” said the Miracles’ Claudette Robinson, a first cousin of Rogers. “People always commented on the tall one with the glasses. He was personable, approachable and he loved talking to the women, loved talking to the guys, loved to dance, loved to sing, loved to perform. That was the joy of his life. That upbeat spirit is captured among the array of voices on Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” with Rogers heard early on uttering, “It's just a groovy party, man, I can dig it.”

“If people want to remember him, they should put that record on and listen to Bobby,” said the Supremes’ Mary Wilson. “That’s who he was. When he walked out on stage, he walked out with a zest, even though he had his walker,” she recalled. “He walked out in time (to the music), and he was just great. He still loved what he did.”

Mindy McCready Goes Home To Her Ten Thousand Angels

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Submitted by Don Graham

Troubled country singer Mindy McCready has died of an apparent suicide at her home in Heber Falls, Arkansas at the age of 37.  McCready hit the top of the charts in 1996 with her sassy anti chauvinist song ‘Guys Do It All The Time’. She also had a hit with ‘Ten Thousand Angels’ that same year and the album of the same name sold a whopping 2 million copies. In 2004 she was charged with obtaining the pain Oxycontin fraudulently, a charge which she pled guilty to and received three years probation.  In May 2005 she violated that probation when she was arrested for drunken driving. Then came an attempted suicide in July, 2005, overdosed in September of that year and slit her wrists in December 2008.That was also the year she was charged in Arizona with hindering prosecution and unlawful use of transportation. Those charges stemmed from an alleged attempt in June 2005 to purchase two
high performance boats, but she claimed she was trying to stop a con man. She also made several trips to rehab and appeared on the VH1 reality show "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" in 2010. As a side note she is the fifth celeb to die after appearing on that show. There was Joey Kovar who died of an overdose in 2012, as did former Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr in 2011. Also Taxi’s Jeff Conaway and Rodney King.

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