Obituaries, April 6, 2023
Philip Balsam, a Toronto-based artist, musician, composer, and songwriter, died on March 31, at age 79, after struggling with Giant Cell Arteritis for two years.
By Kerry Doole
Philip Balsam, a Toronto-based artist, musician, composer, and songwriter, died on March 31, at age 79, after struggling with Giant Cell Arteritis for two years.
Balsam came to Canada from Europe as a young child and attended the Ontario College of Art. As an adult, he achieved international recognition as a renowned songwriter. Among his many accomplishments, he was awarded, along with his co-writers Jim Betts and Dennis Lee, the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Musical for the production of Mordecai Richler’s Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang.
He wrote music and songs for many adult and children’s television programs, such as Groundling Marsh, Dog City, and others, but his key achievement was being selected, with his songwriting partner, Dennis Lee, to compose all the songs for the international children’s show, Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock.
The pair wrote about 190 songs for Fraggle Rock, and some of them were released as an album, Fraggle Rock: Music and Magic, in 1993.
A second album, Jim Henson's Muppets Present Fraggle Rock, released in 1984, was produced by Balsam and Don Gillis. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award, which it won jointly with Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends. The show's theme song, written by Balsam and Lee, appeared on the Top 40 chart in the United Kingdom.
Fraggle Rock was aired around the world, and in 1989 was the first North American television show to be broadcast in the Soviet Union. Balsam performed the voice of the character Phil Fraggle on the show.
Balsam and Lee also wrote the songs for the Jim Henson television special The Tale of the Bunny Picnic and the film Dog City. They wrote songs for the musical theatre version of both Mordecai Richler's Jacob Two-Two and the Hooded Fang and Jacob Two-Two and the Dinosaur.
A funeral service has been held, and a recording of it is posted here. Memorial donations may be made to the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA), or to the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Survivors.
Sources: Steeles Memorial Chapel, Wikipedia
Care Failure (born Caroline Kawa), lead singer of Toronto hard rock band Die Mannequin, has died at age 36. A cause of death has not been reported.
An obituary on Legacy.com reads, in part: "Beloved daughter of Ben and Susan. Spirited, spunky and fierce; sister, niece, cousin, granddaughter and friend to many. She consistently sought to see the best of the human spirit in all she came across. May we continue to see the best in each other in her memory. May her spirit now soar free of pain."
Springing from Failure's first four-piece band, The Bloody Mannequins, Die Mannequin started in the spring of 2006 when Failure recorded her first EP, How to Kill. Death from Above 1979's Jesse F. Keeler took care of the drum duties as well as production. The EP was produced by Keeler and partner Al-P from MSTRKRFT.
The group signed to EMI Publishing in 2006 and began their own record label, How To Kill Music, distributed by Warner Music Canada.
Die Mannequin's second EP, Slaughter Daughter, was released in 2007, and the track Do it or Die (produced by Ian D'Sa of Billy Talent) earned airplay on Much Music and Much Loud.
The band's full-length debut, FINO + BLEED, came out in 2009, and an associated hour-long documentary, The Rawside of…Die Mannequin was nominated for two Gemini Awards.
The group went on to release a series of EPs plus a second full-length, 2014's Neon Zero. Die Mannequin toured nationally, opening for such bands as Marilyn Manson, Buckcherry, and Guns N' Roses.
Kawa starred in the 2010 Canadian film Hard Core Logo 2, in which she played herself. Die Mannequin performed several songs on the soundtrack.
Her colleagues and bandmates posted affectionate tributes on social media. Kevvy, leader of the band Fake Shark and onetime bassist in Die Mannequin, posted this on Instagram: "I'll miss you so much. You're the biggest badass, squaroline. I looked up to you as a performer and how you treated everybody with respect regardless of who they were or what they did for a living. Thank you for the millions of laughs and all the kindness and love."
Former EMI Publishing exec Barbara Sedun paid tribute on Facebook: "One of my favourite [artists] was a young woman we started working with when she was a teenager. Dark and tough and angry on the outside, full of love and compassion and brightness and magic. I had some amazing conversations with her, and onstage she was the consummate rockstar. She had that star quality that you just can’t buy or fake. Some of her songs are still among my all-time favourite songs. I found out today that Care has left us and it breaks my heart."
Toronto music scene veteran Yvonne Matsell posted that Care Failure "always left a wonderful impression on you - her incredible smile, her bright red lipstick, her charisma was huge! She really was the sweetest thing. Her EMI publishing family loved & helped her. My most memorable image of her, from when I booked the band for a NXNE showcase at SXSW in Austin, was of her raw & rocking on stage then suddenly leaping off the stage and running out of the club, the audience following while she was still singing her heart out, into the street, stopping the traffic & jumping onto the hood of a cab! Mesmerizing!! She was a real rockstar. RIP Care Failure."
Visitation was held on April 2. Donations may be made in Caroline Kawa's name to MusiCares at musicares.org.
Jocelyn Morlock, a Vancouver-based Juno Award-winning composer has died at age 53. No cause of death has been reported.
Her death was acknowledged by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the UBC School of Music, where she taught, and the Canadian Music Centre on March 28.
Morlock was the composer-in-residence at the VSO from 2014-2019. The CBC reports that "Morlock was known for her complex compositions that were inspired by birds and nature. One of her most notable works was a piece based on the Port Coquitlam, B.C., teen Amanda Todd, who took her own life in 2012. The work, titled My Name is Amanda Todd, won the 2018 Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year.
Morlock was born in Winnipeg and studied music at Brandon University, where she met T. Patrick Carrabré, who was the school's music dean, in 1992. "Jocelyn came and knocked on my door and said she thought that she might be a composer," said Carrabré. The pair worked together while she studied for her Bachelor of music.
That direction led to the UBC School of Music, where she would earn a master's degree and a doctorate of musical arts. Morlock left her mark in Vancouver after completing her studies. She was the inaugural composer-in-residence for Music on Main from 2012 to 2014 before taking on the same role at the VSO from 2014 to 2019.
Carrabré describes her as an intricate yet natural composer who wrote beautiful melodic lines. He said artists who played her compositions found they were able to express themselves.
In 2016, she earned the Mayor’s Arts Award for Music in Vancouver. In 2018 she earned SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek Award, the org's annual prize for new classical music. Her compositions have been performed by, among others, the Vancouver Cantata Singers; the Pacific Baroque Orchestra; the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; the Saskatoon Symphony; and the Niagara Symphony.
Sources: Words & Music, CBC News
Ryuichi Sakamoto, a Japanese electronic music maestro known for his work in Yellow Magic Orchestra and as a composer for film, died on March 28, at age 71. Sakamoto had been diagnosed with cancer for a second time in 2021.
He won awards - including an Oscar, a Grammy and Bafta - for his work as a solo artist and as a member of the Yellow Magic Orchestra, a group he co-founded in 1978 that is hailed as a pioneer of electronica.
His film score for The Last Emperor, in 1987, won him an Oscar, a Grammy and a Golden Globe. He also acted in the movie, an epic about the life of Puyi, the last emperor of China.
He starred in the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence with David Bowie in 1983.
Sakamoto's later collaborations included work with David Sylvian, Brian Eno, Alva Noto and cellist Jaques Morelenbaum.
Peter Shelley, a British pop singer who had hits in the 1970s, died on March 23 at the age of 80.
His song Gee Baby reached no 4 in the UK and no 3 in Australia in 1974. In 1975 Love Me Love My Dog reached no 3 in the UK. Shelley also wrote the Alvin Stardust hits My Coo Ca Choo (No 2 UK, 1974), Jealous Mind (no 1 UK, 1973) and You You You (no 6 UK, 1974).
Shelley won the Ivor Novello in 1975 for songwriting.
Shelley died in Canada where he had lived since the 1980s. One of his children, John Southworth, is an acclaimed Canadian singer/songwriter.
Veteran Canadian music publisher Frank Davies worked with Shelley, and sent FYI these reflections: " Not long after Peter first came to Canada in the early 1980s he and I met up, following which we worked together for a few years on a truly original and wonderful group of animated characters Peter had created for children, and beyond - Robotman & Friends.
"Given Peter's UK background as a hit songwriter, Robotman also started life with a collection of clever, catchy, hook-laden songs written for each main character and the situations that unfolded for them from his stories. Unlike many of the run-of-the-mill network animated children's series that were then airing, Robotman was never cloying or corny, bombastic or patronising. It was heartfelt and smart in a low-key, embracing and unpretentious way. All the characters were equally endearing, whether through their qualities, faults or problems faced.
"When all the pieces were finally in place on the project we both thought the show would become a smash with children and parents alike and that it would run perfectly alongside groundbreaking live children's shows like Sesame Street and others. Peter put everything into it and ended up with a U.S network animated series, a daily cartoon syndicated in many American papers, a merchandising agreement with one of the toy giants, and a record deal for the music.
"Everything was set - but as I recall it ran for just the one season and when the network didn't pick up the option the other elements built around it started to fade. Frankly, I believed then, as I believe now, it was just too good to be an instant success. Like a fine artist or songwriter, it needed time to develop and grow and to create a loyal and dedicated fan-base in order to compete with the loud, basic, hyper, neon-bright animation of its competitors.
"On a personal note all of my children fell in love with the characters and music and could today, some 40 years later, sing any number of the songs he created for the characters and shows. Indeed we have passed on the original toy characters to our grandchildren. I have been out of touch with Peter all the years since, which I regret. He was a multi-talented and driven man and it came as no surprise to me to see a few years later his son John making his own unique mark in the music world. My thoughts are with him and with Peter's family."
Sources: Noise11, Frank Davies
Raymond Shulman, Gentle Giant bassist, multi-instrumentalist and composer, died on March 30.
Best Classic Bands reported that "his death was announced by his bandmate and brother, Derek Shulman.. Ray Shulman had been battling a long illness, though the specific cause of death wasn’t disclosed.
Born in 1949, Ray was the youngest of the Shulman brothers and, along with siblings Derek and Phil, was a founder member of Simon Dupree And The Big Sound. In 1970, the brothers formed Gentle Giant along with guitarist Gary Green, keyboard player Kerry Minnear and drummer Martin Smith. They released their self-titled debut album, produced by Tony Visconti, that same year.
Throughout the 1970s, the prolific band released 11 studio albums for a variety of labels. Though they never achieved any significant commercial success, they became a popular opening act for many other bands, most notably Jethro Tull and Yes. Their highest charting album was their seventh, 1975’s Free Hand, which became their only one to reach the Top 50 on the Billboard chart." Gentle Giant disbanded in 1980.
Ray was one of the band's main composers, contributing to all their albums from their 1970 self-titled debut and 1975 US hit Free Hand through to their final studio release in 1980, Civilian. In addition to his work with Gentle Giant, he was also a record producer whose credits included Björk's former band The Sugarcubes, Ian McCulloch, The Sundays, and Trash Can Sinatras, and composed music for computer games. He played an active role in Gentle Giant's reissues campaign and, in 2020, made a special appearance in the "reunion" fan video for Proclamation.
Read more at Best Classic Bands and LouderSound
Seymour Stein (born Seymour Steinbigle), a US record industry mogul whose Sire Records launched Madonna’s career and signed such early punk and new wave icons as the Ramones and Talking Heads, has died at age 80. Variety reported his death on April 2, noting that "The cause was not immediately clear, although he had been in unsteady health for many years."
Continued Variety: "Though Stein’s imprint, which he co-founded in New York in 1966, enjoyed major-label distribution, he approached the record business with an independent’s zeal, and took a multitude of risks on unproven, often underground talent that paid off on the charts. Depeche Mode, Seal, Ice-T, Lou Reed, the Pretenders, the Smiths, the Cure, the Replacements, Aphex Twin and many more artists released music on Sire, whether via a direct signing or a licensing deal. A well-curated mixtape of Sire releases from the ‘80s and ‘90s is like the soundtrack to an era.
Viewed as one of the greatest A&R executives in modern music history, Stein was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
Sire made its first mark in the late ’60s and early ’70s by releasing early work by the blues-rock incarnation of Fleetwood Mac and the Dutch art-rock band Focus. But Stein plunged wholeheartedly into the punk scene in the late ’70s, signing many of the genre’s top acts from New York, the U.K. and Australia. Sire enjoyed similar success with post-punk and new-wave acts like the Pretenders, the Cure and Depeche Mode, among many others.
His most lucrative discovery was Madonna, though he is also credited with launching the careers of seminal rock acts The Ramones and Talking Heads.
A true internationalist, Stein signed many Canadian artists, including kd lang, The Barenaked Ladies, Rheostatics, Corey Hart, Great Big Sea, Acid Test, and more. He also befriended many Canadian music industry figures.
Former Warner Music Canada President Steve Kane forged a close bond with Stein. He told FYI that "I’d be hard-pressed to think of another American exec who spent as much time seeking out and supporting Canadian artists. In fact, Seymour didn’t care where an artist came from … the music moved him. He’d have been so pleased to see the international attention Punjabi and other Indian music are receiving. I know he had a special place in his heart for k.d.lang. Considered her one of the greatest voices of her generation and had a very special bond with Corey Hart."
In a lengthier Facebook post, Kane wrote (in part) that "my dear friend Seymour changed my life long before I ever met him; the artists he signed and the records he made set me on a path. Over the years we shared many gigs, dinners, gossip, music discussions and mutual eye rolls (our B.S. detectors were tuned to similar frequencies). When I was inducted into the Canadian Music And Broadcast Industry Hall Of Fame in 2015, I was so honoured that Seymour joined me at the table and chose to say kind things at the party, including calling me a ‘True Record Man’ the greatest compliment goofs like me could ever hope for. I loved the man. I’ve listened to The Ramones and Wilf Carter while typing this."
Longtime Warner Canada publicist Steve Waxman posted that "For the many years I worked at Warner I had the good fortune to have several conversations with Seymour Stein. I first met him when he came to Toronto to officially sign Barenaked Ladies. He was always on the lookout for diamonds in the rough mined from around the world. Whether you knew Seymour or not he was always kind and willing and able to share stories from throughout his remarkable life in music. He was a mensch."
Veteran Toronto artist manager and label head Jeff Rogers offered this tribute on FB: "Seymour was a heck of a fun guy. I was lucky to spend some time with him over the years. He always took time to meet with people like me who hoped he would sign their band. My fondest memory of him was not that he changed music and led all of my taste (The Smiths, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Madonna and so many more - you could literally only have bought records on Sire and you would have the coolest taste!) but that he loved to sing show tunes and the songs of Wilf Carter who he called Montana Slim over dinner. This usually happened at dessert time. He was as charming a human that ever lived. Gentle and kind to all around him.."
Toronto band Acid Test signed to Sire in 1993, and its guitarist Steve Fall (now with the group ON) loved his interactions with Stein. On Facebook, he reminisced that "Seymour signed Acid Test many moons ago and he was a great friend to us long after. His recent cheers for us putting ON out there this year kept us hopeful. He was our rock n roll Dad." To FYI, Fall added that "Seymour was a character and on point with his ears. We trusted his ears."
Sources: Variety, New York Times, The Guardian