Aretha Franklin R.I.P | August 16, 2018

Cologne Recording (1968) Aretha Franklin in rehearsals at a Cologne studio for a European TV show.  DPA/MEDIAPUNCH

Cologne Recording (1968)
Aretha Franklin in rehearsals at a Cologne studio for a European TV show.


Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, Dies at 76

Chris Morris, Music Reporter

“Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin, the eruptive singer who reigned atop the pop and R&B charts in the late ’60s and early ’70s with a succession of albums and singles of unparalleled power and emotional depth, has died. She was 76.

Franklin was suffering from pancreatic cancer, and had earlier undergone surgery in December 2010. Her longtime publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reported Franklin died Thursday morning at her home in Detroit.

“In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart,” Quinn said in a statement. “We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”

She was the most lionized and lauded female R&B vocalist of her era. Winner of 18 Grammy Awards, and a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement honoree in 1994, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. She was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Bearing a prodigious talent born in the church, Franklin was still a child when she was tapped for stardom. She attracted awed attention in the gospel world before entering the pop sphere at the age of 18 under producer and label exec John Hammond’s wing at Columbia Records. The expressive, uncommonly forceful voice was there, but the hits were scarce.

It was at Atlantic Records that “Lady Soul” truly arrived. In 1967, Franklin’s profound debut single for the label, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” a No. 10 pop hit, was succeeded by her scorching, career-defining No. 1 cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect.”

Those songs and succeeding hits melded a deep gospel feel with R&B instrumentation and worldly themes, elaborating on the groundbreaking work of pioneering soul men Ray Charles, James Brown and Franklin’s friend and idol Sam Cooke, who had similarly crossed over from sacred music to secular stardom.

Franklin’s 12-year stint at Atlantic yielded a dozen top-10 pop singles — the biggest hits of her half-century career, which encompassed 80 pop chart singles — and 20 No. 1 R&B singles. They established her as the nonpareil female soul singer of her generation, often imitated but never equaled.

As “The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll” put it succinctly, “From 1967 to 1970 she was the preeminent black musician in pop music.” Already a legend, she moved to Arista Records for a run of lesser hits from 1980-2003. Her last chart single, “Put You Up on Game” (a duet with “American Idol” champ Fantasia), was released in 2007.

Grammys (1972) Aretha Franklin holds her Grammy Award trophy for Best Rhythm and Blues performance of the song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”  AP PHOTO/DAVE PICKOFF

Grammys (1972)
Aretha Franklin holds her Grammy Award trophy for Best Rhythm and Blues performance of the song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.”


Born in Memphis, Franklin was the third of four children; her sisters Erma (who originated Janis Joplin’s signature hit “Piece of My Heart”) and Carolyn (who often backed and sometimes wrote for her sibling) would also enjoy R&B careers. She was the daughter of C.L. Franklin, who served as pastor of a prominent Detroit ministry, the New Bethel Baptist Church, from the late ’40s.

As a youngster, Aretha accompanied her father on his evangelical tours, and came to gospel singing through such family friends as Clara Ward (with whom her father had a long-term romantic relationship), Mahalia Jackson and Marion Williams. These gospel elders became important maternal figures for Franklin after her parents split when she was 6 years old, and early musical role models as well.

A primarily self-taught and gifted pianist, Franklin was already a well-traveled veteran of the gospel road at 14 when she issued her first album, “Songs of Faith,” on Chess Records’ JVB subsidiary, which also released her father’s sermons on LPs.

As a vulnerable teen, she was preyed upon by men, some much older, resulting in two pregnancies, the first at age 12 and again at age 15. As David Remnick noted in a 2016 New Yorker profile, Franklin “saw a great deal of life, including the libertine atmosphere surrounding the gospel-music scene. By the time she recorded [her] first songs, she was pregnant with her second child. She left school and went on the road for, more or less, the rest of her life.”

Seeing possibilities for Franklin as a commercial pop artist, Cooke urged her to sign with RCA Records, which released his post-gospel R&B hits. However, in 1960 she inked a deal with Columbia. Hammond — who had discovered Billie Holiday and Count Basie — primarily envisioned her as a jazz-styled vocalist.

Franklin’s five years at Columbia were frustrating ones, marked by unfocused production work and repertoire unsuited to her gospel-based style. She recorded her 1961 debut album with jazz pianist Ray Bryant’s combo. Her first top-40 single — her only one for the label — was a version of Al Jolson’s 1918 hit “Rock-a-Bye Your Baby With a Dixie Melody.” She essayed soupy ballads and Tin Pan Alley antiquities, and covered songs by Holiday, Dinah Washington and Dionne Warwick. Nothing clicked.

In late 1966, Franklin was signed to Atlantic by Jerry Wexler, producer of many of the label’s R&B smashes, who divined her potential as a straight-up soul singer. In the late exec’s words, “I took her to church, sat her down at the piano and let her be herself.”

Academy Awards (1975) Aretha Franklin performs “Wherever Love Takes Me” from “Gold” during the 47th Academy Awards.  AP PHOTO/REED SAXON

Academy Awards (1975)
Aretha Franklin performs “Wherever Love Takes Me” from “Gold” during the 47th Academy Awards.


An abortive session at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., produced the breakthrough single “I Never Loved a Man.” A subsequent New York date with saxophonist King Curtis resulted in “Respect.” Both topped the national R&B charts and broke through on the pop side; the latter number garnered Franklin her first two Grammys. Her fame was almost instantly assured: In June 1968, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine, a rare feat for a pop music performer of any race or gender.

One incandescent hit followed another through the early ’70s: “Baby I Love You” (No. 4 pop), “Chain of Fools” (No. 2), “Since You’ve Been Gone” (No. 4), “Think” (No. 7), “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (No. 6), “Spanish Harlem” (No. 2), “Day Dreaming” (No. 5), “Until You Come Back to Me” (No. 3). All of them made the apex of the R&B chart.

These were accompanied by a string of top-five albums produced by Wexler and Arif Mardin: “I Never Loved a Man” (1967), “Aretha Arrives” (1967), “Lady Soul” (1968), “Aretha Now” (1968). Though less popular, “Spirit in the Dark” (1970) and “Young Gifted and Black” (1972), on which Franklin took a growing hand in the writing, were uncommonly ambitious, probing works.

A pair of concert LPs that both reached No. 7 nationally reflected two sides of Franklin’s musical personality in white-hot form. “Aretha Live at Fillmore West” (1971) was a puissant soul recital cut at the titular San Francisco venue with King Curtis’ band. “Amazing Grace” (1972) was a two-LP set recorded in a Los Angeles church with a choir led by Rev. James Cleveland that potently revealed the singer’s gospel roots anew. (A feature documentary film of the latter performance, shot by the late director Sydney Pollack, remains unreleased.)

Her highest-charting latter-day Atlantic album was “Sparkle” (No. 18, 1976), a film soundtrack set that paired her with Curtis Mayfield, then still riding high in the aftermath of another movie-driven hit, “Superfly.” Written and produced by Mayfield, “Sparkle” spawned the No. 1 R&B hit “Something He Can Feel.” She collaborated again with Mayfield on the less successful “Almighty Fire” (1979). Franklin ended her Atlantic epoch with the flop disco album “La Diva” in 1979.

‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) Franklin co-starred with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the 1980 classic film “The Blues Brothers.”  UNIVERSAL/KOBAL/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980)
Franklin co-starred with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in the 1980 classic film “The Blues Brothers.”


In 1980, Franklin reprised “Think” in the Dan Aykroyd-John Belushi musical comedy vehicle “The Blues Brothers,” in which Ray Charles and James Brown also took on-screen roles.” That year, she signed a contract with Clive Davis’ Arista, where she would spend the next 23 years.

Though she dutifully attempted to adapt to latter-day R&B styles, Franklin scored just a handful of pop hits at Arista: the Narada Michael Walden-produced “Freeway of Love” (No. 3, 1985), “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” (No. 7, 1985) and the George Michael duet “I Know You Were Waiting (For Me),” which became her final No. 1 pop single in 1987.

“Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves,” a memorable duet with Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox, reached the top 20 in ’85. Some will fondly recall her 1986 remake of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” cut for a Whoopi Goldberg picture with Keith Richards producing and playing guitar.

The mid ’80s were marked by personal unhappiness and tragedy. Franklin’s second marriage, to actor Glynn Turman, dissolved in 1984. (She had divorced first husband Ted White, who also served as her manager, in 1969 after marrying him at 19.) The same year, her father died: C.L. Franklin had spent five years in a coma after being shot during a robbery in Detroit.

Years of indifferent releases on Arista culminated with the ironically titled label swan song “So Damn Happy” in 2003. The seasonal “This Christmas, Aretha” was issued through the Borders chain in 2008.

Despite an ongoing struggle with her weight and an intense fear of flying, Franklin continued to perform live. In January 2009, she sang at President Obama’s inaugural ceremony. Her health crisis in late 2010 forced her to cancel six months of concert dates.

After recovering from surgery for cancer, Franklin resumed touring (intermittently, and some times discontinuously due to illness) and issued records again, on her own Aretha’s imprint. “Aretha: A Woman Falling Out of Love” (2011) compiled tracks cut during sessions in 2006, and made little impression on the charts.

However, 2014’s “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics” became the singer’s most popular album in nearly 30 years. The collection, which offered her interpretations of earlier hits by Etta James, Barbra Streisand, Alicia Keys, Dinah Washington and others, matched the peaks of her 1985 “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” long player, topping out at No. 13 pop and No. 3 R&B.

She last performed in November at the Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala in New York. At that performance — where John introduced her as “the greatest singer of all time” — Franklin appeared very slim but in fine voice as she delivered a nine-song set including “Say a Little Prayer,” “I Knew You Were Waiting” and “Freeway.” She was also honored at the Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala in New York in January. Franklin did not perform, but Jennifer Hudson — who had been personally selected by the singer to play her in a forthcoming biopic — performed several of her hits.

In 2017 the singer said she’d planned to retire from touring in the coming months, and announced that she was working with longtime friends and collaborators Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie and Elton John on a new album.

She is survived by four sons: Clarence and Edward Franklin, Ted White Jr. (a regular member of her touring band) and Kecalf Cunningham.


Gregg Allman R.I.P | May 27, 2017

Gregg Allman, a singer, musician and songwriter who played an essential role in the invention of Southern rock, has died at the age of 69. Photofest

Gregg Allman, a singer, musician and songwriter who played an essential role in the invention of Southern rock, has died at the age of 69. Photofest


Chris Morris, Music Reporter

Gregg Allman, whose hard-jamming, bluesy sextet the Allman Brothers Band was the pioneering unit in the Southern rock explosion of the ‘70s, died Saturday due to complications from liver cancer, his longtime manager, Michael Lehman, confirmed to Variety. He was 69.

As recently as April 24, reports surfaced claiming Allman was in hospice, although Lehman denied those reports, which Allman then substantiated in a Facebook post. However, he had suffered a number of ailments in recent years — including an irregular heartbeat, a respiratory infection, a hernia and a liver transplant — and cancelled many scheduled tour dates in recent months for health reasons. Lehman said that Allman’s liver cancer recurred around five years ago, but the singer chose to keep the news private.

Allman completed a solo album, “Southern Blood,” that is set for release late this year. Lehman said they received some final mixes for the album on Friday, and Allman listened to them the night before his death. He added that Allman passed away with his family nearby, and was “at peace.”

For his work with the Allman Brothers, the legendary band he cofounded with his late brother Duane, and as a solo artist, Allman is one of the leading lights of Southern Rock. While the group’s greatest work was done before and shortly after Duane’s death in 1971, they stayed together, off and on, over 45 years and remain a singular influence on Southern rock and jam-band musicians. They were a top-drawing touring outfit until October 2014, when the group finally closed the book on their career with a series of dates at their longtime favorite venue, New York’s Beacon Theatre.

Music video by The Allman Brothers Band performing Midnight Rider (Live at Great Woods). (C) 2013 Columbia Records, a division of Sony Music Entertainment

Allman’s solo career always played second to that of the band, but he enjoyed solo success with 1973’s “Laid Back” and 1987’s “I’m No Angel,” both of which were certified gold. In 2011 he released an unexpectedly strong album entitled “Low Country Blues” that was produced by T Bone Burnett (Alison Krauss/Robert Plant, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, “O Brother Where Art Thou?”), who, along with instrumentalists like pianist Dr. John and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, brought Allman back to his gutsy roots with stellar results.

With his older sibling, guitarist Duane Allman, the singer-keyboardist-guitarist-songwriter led one of the most popular concert attractions of the rock ballroom era; the group’s 1971 set “At Fillmore East,” recorded at Bill Graham’s New York hall, was a commercial breakthrough that showed off the band’s prodigious songcraft and instrumental strengths.

After Duane Allman’s death in a motorcycle accident weeks after the live album’s release, his younger brother led the band through four more stormy decades of playing and recording. The Allman Brothers Band’s latter-day history proved tumultuous, with other fatalities, disbandings, regroupings and very public battles with drugs and alcohol on the part of its surviving namesake.

Though Gregg Allman’s highly publicized addictions, his tabloid-ready marriage to pop vocalist Cher, and his equally public disputes with co-founding guitarist Dickey Betts came under harsh and sometimes mocking scrutiny over the years, Allman prevailed as the linchpin of an act that maintained popularity over four decades and opened the commercial door for such other Southern acts as Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band.

As a member of the Allman Brothers Band, Allman was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

He was born Gregory LeNoir Allman on Dec. 8, 1947, in Nashville; brother Duane was born 13 months earlier in the same hospital. In 1949, his father was shot to death by a man he offered a ride to in a bar. As their mother was studying accounting to support the family, the brothers were sent to a Tennessee military school at an early age.

The Allmans became attracted to music after seeing a 1960 concert by R&B singer Jackie Wilson in Daytona Beach, FL, where the family had moved the year before. Using money from a paper route (augmented by his mother), Gregg bought a guitar, and taught Duane his first chords. Both played guitar in the bands they founded after returning to the military academy in their teens.

Allman Brothers circa 1970. GAB Photo/Getty

Allman Brothers circa 1970. GAB Photo/Getty

Their pro bands the Escorts and the Allman Joys, which favored R&B, blues and rock covers, found work on the Florida club circuit in the mid-‘60s; Gregg began playing keyboards in the latter unit. The Allman Joys were playing without success in St. Louis when Bill McEuen, manager of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, met them and offered to set them up in Los Angeles.

Renamed Hour Glass, the L.A.-based group cut two unsuccessful pop-oriented albums for Liberty Records in 1967-68. Duane chafed at the direction being forced on the combo and fled for Alabama, where he became a prominent session guitarist at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL. Gregg remained in L.A. to fulfill obligations to Liberty, but was summoned to Jacksonville, FL, in 1969 by his brother, who envisioned a new blues-based band with two guitarist and two drummers, featuring members of another local combo, the 31st of February.

Calling themselves the Allman Brothers Band, the new unit – the Allmans, guitarist Betts, bassist Berry Oakley and drummers Butch Trucks and Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson – was signed by Otis Redding’s former manager Phil Walden for management and as an act on his Macon, GA-based label Capricorn Records. The group moved to Macon, which became its base for the duration.

Neither of the ABB’s first two albums was an enormous success: Its self-titled bow peaked at No. 188 in 1969, while sophomore set “Idlewild South” topped out at No. 38 in 1970. But they established Gregg Allman as a vocal, instrumental and songwriting power: His compositions included such future staples of the band’s live set as “Not My Cross to Bear,” “Dreams,” “Whipping Post” and “Midnight Rider.”

Though problems with hard drug abuse were already surfacing in the band, the Allmans became a huge concert attraction in the South; the enthusiastic sponsorship of promoter Graham led to high-profile gigs at New York’s Filllmore East (where the band attained a rabid following) and San Francisco’s Fillmore.

The Allmans made their commercial mark with “At Fillmore East”: The expansive, Tom Dowd-produced two-record set, recorded during two nights at the venue, shot to No.13 ultimately sold more than 1 million copies and became one of the defining concert recordings of its day. However, Duane Allman’s tragic death at 24 on a Macon street on Oct. 29, 1971, cast a shadow over its success.

The band completed a follow-up two-LP set, “Eat a Peach,” as a quintet, with live numbers featuring Duane filling out the contents. The 1972 package rose to No. 4 nationally and went platinum, but disaster again struck: In a mishap eerily similar to Duane Allman’s fatal crash, hard-drinking bassist Oakley died after driving his bike into the side of a truck that November.

Shaken by the deaths of his brother and Oakley and increasingly incapacitated by heroin, cocaine and alcohol, Gregg Allman ceded much of the band’s songwriting and front man duties to Betts; as he noted in “My Cross to Bear,” his 2012 memoir, “Up until then, we’d never really had a front man; Dickey took it upon himself to create that role.”

The ABB released its only No. 1 album, “Brothers and Sisters,” in 1973; the record was powered to the top by the Betts-penned No. 2 single “Ramblin’ Man,” the group’s only top-10 45.

Allman retreated from the group to cut his solo debut “Laid Back” in 1973; rising to No. 13, it would be his most popular work away from the band for nearly 40 years, and it spawned his only top-20 solo single, a down-tempo remake of “Midnight Rider.”

On the heels of the lugubrious but popular “Win, Lose or Draw” (No. 5, 1975), the group set out on its biggest, and costliest, tour to date. The ABB flew to its dates on a lavishly appointed private jet previously used by the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin; in his book, Allman recalls, “The first time we walked onto the plane, ‘Welcome Allman Brothers’ was spelled out in cocaine on the bar.”

The ABB returned from the 41-date tour with a mere $100,000 in hand, owing to over-the-top spending. This financial catastrophe was compounded by the indictment of the group’s security man (and Allman’s drug bag man) Scooter Herring on cocaine distribution charges; Allman testified against Herring before a grand jury and at his trial, which netted a 75-year prison sentence.

Addicted to heroin and embroiled in inter-band conflict with Betts, Allman began spending more time in Los Angeles with Cher, whom he had wed in June 1975. The incongruous couple was followed avidly by gossip columnists. In the wake of an unsuccessful 1977 solo album, “Playin’ Up a Storm” (No. 42), Allman and Cher released their only duo album, “Two the Hard Way”; embarrassingly credited to “Allman and Woman,” the set failed to chart, and its accompanying tour witnessed scuffles between hostile camps of fans in the audiences. Allman and Cher divorced in 1978.

Membership in the ABB rotated repeatedly for the remainder of the group’s career, which saw ever-diminishing contributions from writer Allman. He authored just one song for the group’s final Capricorn album, “Enlightened Rogues” (No. 27, 1979); the financially unstable imprint crashed within a year of its release. Allman was also a minor contributor to a pair of slick, poorly received albums for Arista Records in 1980-81.

During the band’s protracted hiatus of the ‘80s, Allman issued a pair of solo sets; the more popular of the two, 1987’s “I’m No Angel” (No. 30, 1987), spawned the titular radio hit.

Encouraged by airplay on the burgeoning “classic rock” radio format, the ABB reconvened for a 1989 tour. In 1990, the group recorded “Seven Turns” (No. 53) with “Fillmore East” producer Tom Dowd; the group also began multi-night residencies at New York’s Beacon Theatre, which became an annual tradition. They issued four commercially unrewarding albums – two studio sets and two concert releases – between 1991 and 1995.

Following a drunken appearance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in New York in January 1995, onetime junkie Allman, after 11 stints in rehab, finally stopped drinking on his own, under the 24-hour watch of two nurses.

Following the exit of longtime guitarist Warren Haynes and bassist Allen Woody and the recruitment of Butch Trucks’ young nephew Derek Trucks on guitar, the ABB cut the live “Peakin’ at the Beacon” in 2000. Tension within the band had reached the breaking point, and, following a severely worded fax to Betts from the other members and subsequent legal arbitration, the Allman Brothers Band’s other founding guitarist made his exit.

The front line of Allman, Haynes and Derek Trucks and the group’s founding drummers were heard on the Allman Brothers Band’s studio collection “Hittin’ the Note” (No. 37, 2003) and the live “One Way Out” (No. 190, 2004). After 45 years in business, the band was formally dissolved after an October 2014 show at the Beacon.

Allman’s old habits caught up with him in the ‘00s. Diagnosed with hepatitis C – a disease common to intravenous drug users – in 2007, he learned that he was suffering from liver cancer in 2008. He underwent successful liver transplant surgery at the Mayo Clinic in 2010.

Before his surgery, Allman entered the studio to record his first solo album in 13 years. “Low Country Blues,” a striking and powerful recital of old blues songs, augmented by one Allman-Haynes original and produced by T Bone Burnett (Alison Krauss/Robert Plant, Los Lobos, Elvis Costello, “O Brother Where Art Thou?”), garnered the best reviews of his career, collected a Grammy Award nomination and became his highest-charting solo release, reaching No. 5 in early 2011.

However, health problems and catastrophe continued to dog him. He cut short a 2011 European tour because of respiratory issues, which ultimately mandated lung surgery. He faced a drug relapse spurred by painkillers, and did a stint in rehab. In 2014, a film based on his 2012 memoir, “Midnight Rider,” ceased production after a camera assistant on director Randall Miller’s feature was killed by a freight train on the first day of shooting.

Allman’s last concert took place on October 29, 2016 in Atlanta, a headlining set at his own Laid Back Festival.

Married and divorced six times, Allman is survived by three sons and two daughters, all by different mothers. Four of the children are professional musicians.

Allman will be buried at Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, Georgia, next to Duane and former Allmans bassist Berry Oakley (who died a year after Duane), Lehman said. Their mother’s ashes, currently in Gregg’s home, will be buried there as well.



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Prince R.I.P | April 21, 2016

Prince performing in the Netherlands, 1995. Paul Bergen/Redferns

Prince performing in the Netherlands, 1995.
Paul Bergen/Redferns

Prince Dies at 57: Iconic Musical Genius Found Dead in Paisley Park

4/21/2016 by Dan Rys

Prince died earlier today (April 21) at age 57 at his Paisley Park home and studio in Minneapolis, his publicist confirmed to the Associated Press. TMZ first reported the news.

According to a press release sent from the Carver County Sheriff's Department this afternoon, deputies arrived at Paisley Park at 9:43 a.m. and found Prince unresponsive in the elevator. After CPR attempts were unsuccessful, he was pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. The cause of death has not yet been determined, and Carver County with assistance from Hennepin County Sheriffs and the Midwest Medical Examiner's Office are investigating.

Gone But Not Forgotten: In Memoriam 2016

Prince was hospitalized last week after his plane for was forced to make an emergency landing in Moline, Ill. Released a few hours later, a rep told TMZ that he had been battling a bad case of the flu.

One of the most iconic musicians in music history, Prince's extensive career grew out of the music scene of his native Minneapolis, where he lived his entire life. His 1978 debut album For You and self-titled second LP, released in October 1979, kicked off an incredibly prolific run of albums that included 1999, Purple Rain, Around The World In A Day, Sign O The Times and Batman, among others, throughout the 1980s at a clip of nearly one per year, evolving with each release.

R.I.P. Prince: 11 Deep Cuts From the Purple One's Vast Catalog

It was 1984's Purple Rain -- his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 -- released in conjunction with the film of the same name, that cemented him as one of the greatest artists of his generation, earning him two Grammys, and Oscar and a victory over Michael Jackson's Thriller for Favorite Pop/Rock Album at the 1985 American Music Awards. In total he would receive seven Grammy Awards from 32 nominations between 1984 and 2010. Along the way, he worked with several bands under a series of pseudonyms, including The Time, the New Power Generation and The Revolution, as both frontman and producer.

Prince was also known for his eponymous Love Symbol, created in protest against his longtime record label Warner Bros., under which he released an album in 1992. His 18th and final album for the label, 1996's Chaos and Disorder, finally released him from his contract.

As a recording artist, Prince was legendary for his prolific and perfectionist nature which allowed him to release a steady slew of material as he experimented in the studio; as a result, unreleased b-sides and bootlegs have become highly sought-after collectibles for die-hard fans, and his infamous "vault" of recordings has become the stuff of legend. Yet he was also truly transcendent as a performer, regularly stretching his shows beyond the three-hour mark and showcasing his stunning guitar work, which became an underrated part of his legacy, often overshadowed by his iconic singing voice and abilities as a songwriter and bandleader.

Over his 35-plus-year career, he released 39 solo studio albums and never stopped releasing new material; since September 2014, he put out four new full-length records with his latest band, 3rd Eye Girl, continuously experimenting with psychedelic rock and intergalactic funk.

Prince's legacy as a musician, a singer, a style icon and an endlessly creative mind is nearly unparalleled, and his influence stretches from pop to R&B to funk to hip-hop and everywhere in between. Purple Rain was the first of four No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200; an additional 12 LPs peaked in the top 10 in four different decades. The first single from his self-titled LP, "I Wanna Be Your Lover," topped the Billboard R&B chart and he would go on to land 19 top 10 hits on the Hot 100, including No. 1s "When Doves Cry," "Let's Go Crazy," "Kiss," "Batdance" and "Cream."


Dan Hicks R.I.P | February 6, 2016

Dan Hicks, of the Hot Licks, Dies at 74; Countered the ’60s Sound

Dan Hicks, a singer, songwriter and bandleader who attracted a devoted following with music that was defiantly unfashionable, proudly eccentric and foot-tappingly catchy, died on Saturday at his home in Mill Valley, Calif. He was 74.

The cause was liver cancer, said his wife, Clare.

The 1971 album “Where’s the Money?” by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks

The 1971 album “Where’s the Money?” by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks

Mr. Hicks began performing with his band, Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, in the late 1960s in San Francisco, where psychedelic rock bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead dominated the music scene. The Hot Licks’ sound could not have been more different.

At a time when rock was getting louder and more aggressive, Mr. Hicks’s instrumentation — two guitars (Mr. Hicks played rhythm), violin and stand-up bass, with two women providing harmony and backup vocals — offered a laid-back, all-acoustic alternative that was a throwback to a simpler time, while his lyrics gave the music a modern, slightly askew edge.

He came to call his music “folk swing,” but that only hinted at the range of influences he synthesized. He drew from the American folk tradition but also from the Gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt, the Western swing of Bob Wills, the harmony vocals of the Andrews Sisters, the raucous humor of Fats Waller and numerous other sources.

The 1972 album “Striking It Rich” by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.
“It starts out with kind of a folk music sound,” Mr. Hicks explained in a 2007 interview, “and we add a jazz beat and solos and singing. We have the two girls that sing, and jazz violin, and all that, so it’s kind of light in nature, it’s not loud. And it’s sort of, in a way, kind of carefree.”

The 1972 album “Striking It Rich” by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks

The 1972 album “Striking It Rich” by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks

Songs like “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?,” “Milk-Shakin’ Mama” (“I saw the girl who keeps the ice cream/And now it’s I who scream for her”) and “Hell, I’d Go,” about a man whose fondest wish is to be abducted by aliens, displayed his dry and often absurd wit, as did his gently self-mocking stage presence. But he had his serious side, too: “I Scare Myself,” a longtime staple of his repertoire, was a brooding, hypnotic minor-key ballad about being afraid to love.

Mr. Hicks’s records never sold in the millions, but at the height of his popularity in the early 1970s, he and his band appeared on network television and headlined at Carnegie Hall, and he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Fellow musicians were among his biggest fans: Guest artists on “Beatin’ the Heat” (2000), the first Hot Licks album after a long hiatus, included Bette Midler, Elvis Costello and Tom Waits, while Willie Nelson and Jimmy Buffett joined him in the studio four years later for “Selected Shorts.”

Daniel Ivan Hicks was born on Dec. 9, 1941, in Little Rock, Ark., the son of Ivan Hicks, a career military man, and the former Evelyn Kehl. His family moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., near San Francisco, when he was a child.

Dan Hicks in 2012. Credit Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal, via Associated Press

Dan Hicks in 2012. Credit Alan Dep/Marin Independent Journal, via Associated Press

He took up drums in sixth grade and guitar as a teenager. After graduating from San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) with a degree in broadcasting, he performed in local folk clubs while also playing drums with dance bands.

From 1965 to 1968, Mr. Hicks was the drummer and occasional vocalist with the Charlatans, widely regarded as the first San Francisco psychedelic band, although he himself remembered it as less a band than “just kind of some loose guys.” While still with the Charlatans, he formed the first version of the Hot Licks.

The group’s 1969 album, “Original Recordings,” sold poorly, but three subsequent albums for the independent Blue Thumb label established it as a successful touring act.

Mr. Hicks nonetheless disbanded the group in 1973, at the height of its popularity. “It was getting old,” he explained in 1997. “We became less compatible as friends. I was pretty disillusioned, had some money, and didn’t want to do it any more.”

His career stalled after that, but he returned in the 1980s with a new group, the Acoustic Warriors, which duplicated the Hot Licks instrumentation without the female singers. In the late 1990s, he added two singers and brought back the Hot Licks name.

The band, with frequent changes in personnel, toured regularly and continued to perform occasionally in recent years when Mr. Hicks’s health allowed, most recently in December in Napa, Calif.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Hicks is survived by a stepdaughter, Sara Wasserman.

“I will always be humble to my dying day,” Mr. Hicks, tongue in cheek as usual, said when interviewed in 2013 by Roberta Donnay of the Hot Licks. “On my dying day I will explain to the world how lucky they have been to be alive the same time as me.”


Maurice White R.I.P. | February 4, 2016

Earth, Wind & Fire's Maurice White Has Died
He was 74

By Zoe Camp on February 4, 2016 at 5:50 p.m. EST

Maurice White, co-founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, has died. TMZ reports that White died in his sleep Thursday morning following a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 74.

Photo via Facebook

Photo via Facebook

Born in Tennessee, White moved to Chicago in his teens and got his start drumming for the Ramsey Lewis Trio (he appeared on nine of the band's records). In 1969, he founded the Salty Peppers with Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead. They subsequently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, signed to Warner Bros., and changed their name to Earth, Wind & Fire. They released their self-titled debut in 1971.

White played a key role over the course of EWF's decades-long career, writing and producing such successful albums as 1975's That's the Way of the World, 1977's All 'N All, 1980's Faces, and more. Several years after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in the late '80s, White stopped touring with the band, but remained active as a composer and producer for not only EWF, but also Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand, the Urban Knights, and many more.

In addition to his work with EWF and as a producer, White released one solo album: 1985's Maurice White.


Paul Kantner R.I.P | January 28, 2016

Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane Co-Founder & Guitarist, Dies at 74

by Colin Stutz

Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner in June 1973 Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner in June 1973
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jefferson Airplane guitarist, vocalist and founding member Paul Kantner has died. He was 74.

Kantner passed away on Thursday (Jan. 28) of multiple organ failure, following a heart attack earlier in the week.

From 1965-1972, Jefferson Airplane was a pioneer in the Bay Area counterculture psychedelic rock scene, first defining what became known as the "San Francisco sound."

Kantner and guitarist and vocalist Marty Balin formed the band in a bar called the Drinking Gourd, intending the group to be a folk-rock group. Amidst the city's drug experimentation, they developed something far more interesting.

"Jefferson Airplane had the fortune or misfortune of discovering Fender Twin Reverb amps and LSD in the same week while in college. That’s a great step forward," Kantner told author and music historian Harvey Kubernik. "We went into it our normal selves.... The point is if you find something that makes you joyful take note of it. Amplify it if you can. Tell other people about it. That's what San Francisco was about. Both musically, idealistically and metaphorically and every other way. That's what we did here."

As more and more flower children moved to San Francisco, Jefferson Airplane's local following grew and it became the first of the city's psych-rock bands to sign to a major label, releasing its debut Jefferson Airplane Takes Off in 1966. That same year, they became the first band to headline concert promoter Bill Graham's now legendary Fillmore Auditorium.

By the following year, the band's second album, Surrealistic Pillow, became a soundtrack to the Summer of Love. It hit No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with the help of singles "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," as the rest of the country began following in San Francisco's hippy footsteps.

"On our first U.S. tour we were in cities where all the kids came in prom gowns and tuxedos. Then we came back to Iowa a year later and they were having nude mud love-ins and everybody had their faces painted," Kantner told Kubernik.

Jefferson Airplane performed at the three most famous American rock festivals of the 1960s'  -- Monterey in 1967 and Woodstock and Altamont in 1969. In 1996, Kantner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his work with the band.

Kantner is the first of Jefferson Airplane's founding members to have passed away. He was also a founding member of the group's spinoff band, Jefferson Starship. which took off in 1974.

Kantner is survived by three children: sons Gareth and Alexander and daughter China. Funeral arrangements are pending.

*Kubernik's interviews with Kantner will appear in his upcoming book called 1967 - The Complete Rock History of the Summer of Love, due in 2017.


Glenn Frey R.I.P | January 18, 2016

Another sad loss. In the last months we have lost some great rockstars, like Lemmy from Motorhead, David Bowie and now, Eagle's guitar player Glenn Frey.

Message from the Eagles

It Is With The Heaviest of Hearts That We Announce…


It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of husband, best friend, father, comrade, and Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016.

Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.

The Frey family would like to thank everyone who joined Glenn to fight this fight and hoped and prayed for his recovery.

Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us, his family, the music community & millions of fans worldwide.

Cindy Frey | Taylor Frey | Deacon Frey | Otis Frey|
Don Henley | Joe Walsh | Timothy B. Schmit | Bernie Leadon | Irving Azoff

“It's Your World Now”
Written by Glenn Frey and Jack Tempchin
From the Eagles’ Long Road Out of Eden album

A perfect day, the sun is sinkin' low
As evening falls, the gentle breezes blow
The time we shared went by so fast
Just like a dream, we knew it couldn't last
But I'd do it all again
If I could, somehow
But I must be leavin' soon
It's your world now

It's your world now
My race is run
I'm moving on
Like the setting sun
No sad goodbyes
No tears allowed
You'll be alright
It's your world now

Even when we are apart
You'll always be in my heart
When dark clouds appear in the sky
Remember true love never dies

But first a kiss, one glass of wine
Just one more dance while there's still time
My one last wish: someday, you'll see
How hard I tried and how much you meant to me

It's your world now
Use well your time
Be part of something good
Leave something good behind
The curtain falls
I take my bow
That's how it's meant to be
It's your world now
It's your world now
It's your world now