Death List update
The Grim Reaper has been busy while I've been away in the sun and sadly the 2010 Death List has got quite a bit longer.
The most recent death to come to my attention is that of white Motown singer Teena Marie who died on December 26 at the young age of 54. She came to prominence in the late 70s in partnership with her mentor Rick James with the album Wild and Peaceful and followed it up with more successful albums on Motown and then Epic, including Lady T, Irons In the Fire, It Must Be Magic and Robbery, among others.
Another female singer to pass away is Myrna Smith of the Sweet Inspirations. Formed in the early 60s by Cissy Houston the vocal group also included Doris Troy and Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick among its members in the early years before Myrna joined to replace Dee Dee Warwick in 1965. They backed a host of big names including Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison before releasing their own excellent records on Atlantic, including Why (Am I Treated So Bad), Sweet Inspiration and Sweets for My Sweet. They regularly backed Elvis both as back up singers and as a warm up act and this association ensured they got plenty of work in the years that followed. My photo shows Myrna with me at the Porretta Soul Festival in 2001.
Another female singer to have died is Dorothy Jones, one of the original members of The Cookies when the group was formed in 1954, who died on Christmas Day aged 76. During the 50s they did back up for Atlantic stars such as Lavern Baker, Ruth Brown and Ray Charles (with Margie Hendrix leaving to form The Raelettes), but had their greatest success in the early sixties including back up for Little Eva on The Loco-Motion and a string of great girl group hits on Dimension including Chains, Don't Say Nothing Bad About My Baby and Girls Grow Up Faster Than Boys.
Just as I left for my holiday news came in of the death of Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) at the age of 69. A friend of Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart made a series of acclaimed albums with The Magic Band including Safe as Milk, Trout Mask Replica and Clear Spot. Beefheart was hugely influential and his fans included John Peel, who said: "If there has ever been such a thing as a genius in the history of popular music, it's Beefheart... I heard echoes of his music in some of the records I listened to last week and I'll hear more echoes in records that I listen to this week."
A final word too for Clay Cole, TV show host, DJ and performer, who had a hit during the twist era with Twist Around The Clock (also a film starring Clay, Chubby Checker and Dion). Also Bob Demmon, a member of The Astronauts, a mainly instrumental surf group who had a minor hit with Baja in 1963.