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In memoriam

Music for Screens: Winter 2012

Death claimed many great musical talents in 2011; their achievements can be heard on a variety of compilations, many of them only recently issued.

Charlie Louvin
Age 83, died Jan. 26
Significance: With his brother Ira, Louvin performed in the Louvin Brothers, last of the great close harmony country duos, who had a marked impact on rock ‘n’ roll’s Everly Brothers.
What to hear: Light in the Attic Records reissued the Louvins’ album of traditional ballads “Tragic Songs of Life” and gospel set “Satan is Real” last year.

* * *

Gladys Horton
Age 66, died Jan. 26
Significance: Horton was the original lead vocalist for the Marvelettes, first of the great Motown Records girl groups, whose “Please Mr. Postman” became the label’s first No. 1 pop hit in 1961.
What to hear: “Forever More: The Complete Motown Albums Vol. 2,” Hip-O Select’s 2011 multi-disc set, collects the Marvelettes’ later recordings, including Horton’s last with the group.

* * *

Hazel Dickens
Age 75, died April 22
Significance: A trailblazing female bluegrass singer, Dickens fronted a prominent duo with Alice Gerrard; her music was featured in Barbara Kopple’s Oscar-winning documentary “Harlan County U.S.A.”
What to hear: Dickens’ classic 1980 collection “Hard Hitting Songs For Hard Hit People” was reissued by Rounder Records, her long-time label, in 2009.

* * *

Clarence Clemons
Age 69, died June 18
Significance: The “Big Man” of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Clemons was the saxophone voice and the star’s onstage foil in that great rock ‘n’ roll unit.
What to hear: Clemons’ epic solo on “Jungleland,” from 1975’s “Born to Run,” is a perfect place to start. Hopefully a memorial collection focusing on his E Street sax work is in the offing.

* * *

Manuel Galban
Age 80, died July 27
Significance: One of Cuba’s most inventive guitarists, Galban starred with ’60s doo-wop group Los Zafiros, and later recorded and toured with Ry Cooder’s Buena Vista Social Club.
What to hear: “Mambo Sinuendo,” Galban’s all-instrumental 2003 collection of duets with Cooder, won a Grammy Award.

* * *

Jerry Ragovoy
Age 76, died July 13
Significance: As a Significance: songwriter, producer and (with Loma Records) label exec, Ragovoy was an important figure in ’60s R&B who helmed classic recordings by Garnet Mimms, Lorraine Ellison, Howard Tate and many others.
What to hear: The 2008 Ace Records compilation “The Jerry Ragovoy Story: Time is On My Side” pulls together many of the hits.

* * *

Amy Winehouse
Age 27, died July 23
Significance: Arguably the greatest neo-soul singer-songwriter of her generation, Winehouse collected five Grammys — including best new artist and record and song of the year — for her album “Back to Black” in 2008.
What to hear: “Lioness: Hidden Treasures,” a set of unreleased material by Winehouse, became a top five hit in late 2011.

* * *

Frank Foster
Age 82, died July 26
Significance: Multi-instrumentalist Foster was a linchpin of Count Basie’s ’50s big bands as writer and arranger; he went on to pen charts for the likes of Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughan.
What to hear: Basie’s 1955 album “April in Paris,” which features Foster and his composition “Shiny Stockings,” received an expanded 2009 reissue in Europe.

* * *

Marshall Grant
Age 83, died Aug. 7
Significance: With guitarist Luther Perkins, bassist Grant backed Johnny Cash as a charter member of the Tennessee Two. He played with Cash and worked as his road manager until 1980.
What to hear: Some stellar performances with Cash — including a 1970 appearance at the White House — can be heard on Columbia/Legacy’s two-CD 2011 set “Bootleg Vol. III: Live Around the World.”

* * *

Jerry Leiber
Age 78, died Aug. 22
Significance: One of rock ‘n’ roll’s most important songwriters and producers, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Leiber crafted hits for Elvis Presley, the Coasters, the Drifters and others with partner Mike Stoller.
What to hear: Ace Records in England has surveyed Leiber & Stoller’s accomplishments in a series of three smartly curated single-disc compilations.

* * *

Sylvia Robinson
Age 75, died Sept. 29
Significance: After success as a singer with “Love is Strange” and “Pillow Talk,” Robinson ran Sugar Hill Records, the first important rap label.
What to hear: Rhino Records’ 1997 boxed set “The Sugar Hill Records Story.”

* * *

Paul Motian
Age 80, died Nov. 22
Significance: A key player with pianists Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett before fronting his own groups, Motian freed up the drums from their time-keeping, rhythm-section moorings to become an equal compositional force and lead player.
What to hear: The classic trio recording with Evans on Riverside, such as “Moonbeams” and “Sunday at the Village Vanguard,” or the Impulse releases with Jarrett.

* * *

Hubert Sumlin
Age 80, died Dec. 4
Significance: Guitarist Sumlin backed blues singer Howlin’ Wolf on his classic recordings for Chess Records.
What to hear: Hip-O Select’s 2011 release “Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1951-1960.”

Return to MUSIC FOR SCREENS: WINTER 2012

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