5 Musical Passings of 2013

Sadly as we age, our musical heroes age also and every year more and more of them pass on to the musical heavens, and we are left with their music and our memories of them. 2013 was not a great year for some of my favorite musical acts, and while some passing’s were highly written about, like Lou Reed, others passed quietly with little fanfare here in North America, and so I present to you my memorial for those who left us too early.

Some of these artists were well know such as Lou Reed, George Jones, Ray Manzarak and even Slim Whitman. Here in Canada we lost Stompin’ Tom and Rita McNeil. But there were a whole group of other musicians that passed away that were influences on myself and others, but less known and perhaps did not get the headlines that they so deserved.

Sammy Johns of Chevy Van Fame.

Reg Presley,he was the lead singer of the Troggs

Rick Huxley, he was the bassist for the Dave Clark Five

Stanley Knight, guitarist for Black Oak Arkansas

Trevor Bolder, he was a guitarist who played with Uriah Heep,Wishbone Ash and was a member of David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars.

And there are too many to list here, but I have left 4 passing’s of note off the previous list, and these 4 plus 1 other are the 5 deaths that touched me the most in 2013..

5. Alvin Lee was 68 when he died in March, and the world lost one of the great rock and roll guitarists of my generation. “The Fastest guitarist in the West” was the leader of TEN YEARS AFTER and their appearance at Woodstock gained them instant fame. Ten Years after had only one real top 40 song “I’d Love To Change the World”, but the Woodstock version of their ‘I’m Going home” is considered a classic. Alvin Lee had a long career even after he left Ten Years After, performing and recording with Artists such as Eric Clapton, George Harrison,Stevie Winwood and Peter Frampton.  Lee’s overall musical output includes more than twenty albums, his last album, Still on the Road to Freedom, was released in September 2012.

Alvin Lee died on March 6th in Spain. According to his website, he died from “unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure”. He was 68.

4. Richie Havens. Another artist who made his mark at Woodstock,As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours with his improvised song Freedom becoming one of the most memorable moments from the festival. He joined Folk,Soul and Rhythm and Blues with a unique guitar style.  He recorded 21 studio albums and ironically while known more for his live performances he only recorded two live albums, and only had one song hit the top 40 in North America and that was in 1971 when he did a version of George Harrison’s version of Here Comes the Sun,which I actually prefer to the original.

On April 22,  Havens died of a heart attack at home in New Jersey.

3. John Weldon Cale. If you listen to Classic Rock Radio you hear his music all over the place, After Midnight,Cocaine,Call Me The Breeze and Crazy Mama are just a sampling of what he wrote. Known professionally as J.J. Cale the list of artists who covered his tracks are legendary and while the covers tend to get more airplay than his versions, one listen to the originals and you hear a different sound and yet familiar at he same time as he played what he called the Tulsa Sound, which was a more laid back approach while Clapton tended to rock out his versions. As for his chart success, his biggest North American  hit single, “Crazy Mama”, peaked at #22 on the charts in 1972.

J.J.Cale died of heart failure in July at the age of 74,

2. Lou Reed. The most well know on this list, Lou was also perhaps the most influential as well. From his day’s with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground to his long solo career there is very few music fans that did not know the name Lou Reed if not his music.   ‘Walk On The Wild Side” was his biggest commercial success even though “Perfect day” has gained popularity over the last few years and who would have thought that a Lou Reed composition would be used regularly as background for TV Commercials. Lou Reed was known for his distinctive deadpan voice, poetic lyrics and his ability to create controversy which allowed him to connect with his fans.

Metal Machine Music, his 1975 double album is considered to be either a joke, a grudging fulfillment of a contractual obligation, . The album features no songs or even recognizably structured compositions, there is no melody or rhythm just feedback and guitar effects  mixed at varying speeds by Reed himself

New York released in 1989 is considered his finest album and is my favourite of his. The lyrics vent anger at many public figures in the news at the time. Reed mentions by name the Virgin Mary, the NRA, Rudy Giuliani, “the President”, the “Statue of Bigotry”, Buddha, Mike Tyson,Bernard Goetz, Mr. Waldheim, “the Pontiff”, Jesse Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Swaggart, and Morton Downey. It is one of those albums that should be listened to as a whole and not a bit at a time.

In May 2013, Reed underwent a liver transplant , afterwards he claimed on his website to be “bigger and stronger” than ever, but on October 27,  he died from liver disease at his home in  New York, at the age of 71.

1. Kevin Ayers.  Who is Kevin Ayers?  Kevin Ayers was an English singer-songwriter and a major influential force in the English Psychedelic sound of the late 60’s and 70’s. He was a founding member of Soft Machine, and he recorded a series of albums as a solo artist and over the years worked with Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, John Cale, Elton John,Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers and Mike Oldfield, among others.  As a solo artist he had 17 albums released and over 20 singles released mainly in Europe, with his  best known songs being  Oh Wot! A Dream, Shouting in a Bucket Blues, Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes and Don’t Let it Get you Down.

His albums were always full of engaging songs mixed with avant-garde instrumentals and a heavy dose of whimsy. For an unknown artist on this side of the pond, there are around 20 live and compilation recording available of his to go along with his 17 studio albums.

But why do I put him at #1 ahead of the other’s, well it’s hard to explain but his voice and his lyrics and the way he lays it all down on record just jumps out at me and I still listen to stranger In Blue Suede shoes and Don’t let it get you down on a regular basis and like Lou Reed, he is an acquired taste, but well worth the excursion of finding out.

Kevin Ayers died in his sleep on February 18th in Montolieu, France, aged 68

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