Obituaries, Aug. 11, 2022
This week we acknowledge the passing of scenester Keith Correa, guitarist Gord Lewis, songwriter/producer Lamont Dozier, and chart-topping singers Judith Durham and Olivia Newton-John.
By Kerry Doole
Keith James Correa (aka The Original Kid Rock), a Toronto music fan, promoter, DJ, and scenester, died on Aug. 8. His age has not been disclosed.
On Facebook, his family reported that "we are heartbroken at the sudden loss. Cause of death is undetermined. We will be having a private family-only service. A Celebration of life will follow at a later date, and everyone is invited to this."
For the past three decades, Correa was a regular fixture at countless numbers of Toronto concerts and industry events. A colourful character, he adopted the Kid Rock moniker before the Detroit rocker of that name. He befriended many local musicians and industry types, and they were quick to post their respects on social media.
Kevin Shea noted that his longtime friend “loved concerts like no one I’ve ever met, loved the Maple Leafs and most importantly, loved his family and friends.”
Posting on FB, Ralph Alfonso wrote that "We maintained a friendship from the '80s onwards. He was a shameless rock fan and hypester, Kid was EVERYWHERE, taking pictures, slipping you pictures of himself with semi-clad super hot women (usually with a magnetic backing, for your fridge). A real positive force who made everyone feel good."
Gord Lewis, guitarist and songwriter in legendary Hamilton punk band Teenage Head, has died, at age 65.
His body was discovered by police in a Hamilton apartment on Aug. 7, and his son, Jonathan Lewis, has been charged with second-degree murder.
In a statement on social media, Teenage Head posted this: "We are heartbroken and still trying to process the loss of our friend, bandmate and brother Gord Lewis Our hearts are with his family and all that knew and loved him. Gord was a force and an inspiration to many. You were taken from us far too soon."
Teenage Head was formed in 1975 by students at Westdale High School in Hamilton. Lewis and singer Frankie Venom were original members, and after a few personnel changes, bassist Steve Mahon and drummer Nick Stipanitz consolidated the lineup. They were in the vanguard of the first wave of Canadian punk bands, and Lewis' muscular guitar playing was at the core of the band's sound.
The group's first gig was on October 17, 1975, in the Westdale Secondary School cafeteria, and more local gigs followed. A debut single, Picture My Face, came out in May 1978 on Epic Records, and a self-titled album the following year went gold. Similar success followed with a second album, Frantic City, released on Attic Records in 1980 and certified platinum in 1983.
In his eloquent Globe and Mail tribute, Brad Wheeler accurately noted that "Beginning with its chugging debut single Picture My Face in 1978, the Head rocked lean and hard and bopped with cocksure esprit. Its live-wire shows were the stuff of lore – riot starters, literally. New York had its Dolls; Canada had theirs. In a punk world full of Johnnys – Thunders and Ramone – Canada rolled with a Gordon."
After making a real splash in Canada with early singles and albums and even inciting a legendary riot at Toronto's Ontario Place in 1980, bad luck and unfortunate timing prevented Teenage Head from breaking through beyond our borders. Showcases in New York designed to attract US label interest fell through after the band's van crashed on an Ontario rural road. Lewis ended up in a hospital intensive care ward with a broken back and a lengthy recovery derailed the group's momentum. Poor management has also been cited as a reason the band didn't become bigger.
Teenage Head recorded seven LPs and EPs between 1979 and 1996, some with Hamilton rocker Dave Rave, who replaced Venom from 1986-88. After Frankie Venom's death in 2008, the band continued, with Rave back as frontman.
In recent years, Warner Music Canada reissued some of Teenage Head's earlier material, with a positive response. Former WMC head Steve Kane posted on FB that "being able to get to know Gord and work with Teenage Head to shine a light on their contribution was a highlight of my career. Gord was a man that provided such joy, and along with his band mates reignited the passion for rock n roll that so many of us had lost for a time. This news is so incredibly sad. Such a tragic and senseless end for a man who had endured so much."
Teenage Head's final performance was at the Ticat-Argonaut Labour Day classic CFL game at Tim Horton's Field in 2019. That same year Lewis had been hospitalized for five months with depression. His mental health challenges were explored candidly and in-depth in the 2020 feature-length documentary portrait of the band, Picture My Face - The Story Of Teenage Head.
In between Teenage Head shows, Lewis often guested with Hamilton bands and visiting artists and was always supportive of local artists. He was a member of Tongue Fu, a garage band fronted by his close friend Lou Molinaro, former co-owner of the This Ain't Hollywood club, a popular Lewis haunt. That venue at one stage hosted a regular Gord Lewis songbook series.
Molinaro told The Hamilton Spectator that "Gord always wanted to be a rock star and he was. He was one of the best. “He is going to be so missed. He was such a great soul, such a great person.”
Lewis's death has shocked the close-knit Hamilton music community, with members recalling him fondly as a soft-spoken man with a gentle disposition. Peers from Toronto and beyond also paid tribute to Lewis on social media, noting the major impact he had on Canadian rock 'n roll.
Hamilton comrade and peer Tom Wilson posted "Gord Lewis was a friend, a gentle man with a wild desire who burned up the air with a Les Paul Jr. and a Marshall stack. He was a pioneer who took us where we'd never been. Thanks for showing us the way Gord."
Paul Robinson of Toronto punk band The Diodes offered this tribute: "Dear Gord, thank you for 45 years of friendship. You were blessed with talent. Steeltown's homegrown boy! You will be so missed! Thanks for guesting with The Diodes and being an integral part of Canada's core first wave Punk scene. We played CBGBs together in the Summer of 77, helping to put Canada on the map as an innovative contender for new original music. I'm sad it had to end like this, devastated."
Fellow Diodes member John Catto recalled Teenage Head's first ever show in Toronto, at the Colonial Underground in March 1977. The two bands would go on to share bills, and Catto now recalls that "when everyone finally saw them, Teenage Head totally changed the face of Toronto punk. They were together and they had the power so everyone else had to fuck off and woodshed and get it together. They had the Marshalls too, so happy as we previously were with our moderately small amps, my Yamahas, Freddy's Peavey Vintage, no Toronto '77 punk band would ever again be seen without "big iron". This didn't really happen in the UK, nor LA, nor, for all of the Ramones and Dead Boys efforts, did it happen in New York. But it happened in Toronto and it happened because of Teenage Head and Gordie in particular." High praise indeed.
Moe Berg (The Pursuit Of Happiness) opened for Teenage Head early in his career in Edmonton. On Facebook, he noted that "the band were all cool but no one more than Gord. He was the type of guy that, when you were talking to him, you were the only person in the room. He was never looking around to see if there was anyone more important and he'd talk to you until you were finished talking to him. I haven't met many people in the music business since that I could say the same thing about. Teenage Head was one of the best live acts I've ever seen and Gord, obviously, was the musical engine of that sound. Sad news, a really lovely guy gone too soon."
Brad Germain (Marble Index, Golden Feather) posted this homage on Facebook: "Tributes are pouring in for a reason. I’ve never heard a person say a bad word about you Gordie Lewis Loved playing music with you - loved waiting for you to be ready to start - loved talking to you always. You were always so supportive of me as I learned and grew. Loved watching you play - effortless style and grace, and pure volume. You meant so much to our whole community, and all of us are heartbroken to lose you."
As someone who has enjoyed a few chats about music over patio pints with Lewis, this scribe, a longtime fan of Teenage Head, can testify to his sweet personality. Rest in Powerchords, Gord.
Lamont Dozier, a legendary Motown songwriter-producer, died on Aug. 10, age 81. The cause of death was not immediately determined
Dozier was part of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team that wrote and produced You Can’t Hurry Love, Heat Wave, and dozens of other hits that helped make Motown an essential record company of the 1960s and beyond.
In an interview with AP, Duke Fakir, a close friend and the last surviving member of the original Four Tops, called Dozier a “beautiful, talented guy” with an uncanny sense of what material worked best for a given group. “I like to call Holland-Dozier-Holland `tailors of music,”' he said. “They could take any artist, call them into their office, talk to them, listen to them and write them a top 10 song.”
AP notes that "over a four-year period, 1963-67, Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland crafted more than 25 top 10 songs and mastered the blend of pop and rhythm and blues that allowed the Detroit label, and founder Berry Gordy, to defy boundaries between Black and white music and rival the Beatles on the airwaves."
The team's hit songs lived on through countless soundtracks, samplings and radio airings, in cover versions by the Rolling Stones, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, and many others and in generations of songwriters and musicians influenced by the Motown sound.
Brian Wilson, Ronnie Wood and Mick Hucknall were among the many musicians offering tributes Tuesday. Carole King, who with then-husband Gerry Goffin was another leading hitmaker of the ‘60s, tweeted that “striving to keep up with them made us better songwriters.”
The team wrote ten No. 1 songs for Motown’s signature act Diana Ross and The Supremes, including Where Did Our Love Go, Stop! In the Name of Love, and You Can’t Hurry Love.
“All the songs started out as slow ballads, but when we were in the studio we’d pick up the tempo,” Dozier told the Guardian in 2001. “The songs had to be fast because they were for teenagers – otherwise it would have been more like something for your parents. The emotion was still there, it was just under cover of the optimism that you got from the up-tempo beat.”
Holland-Dozier-Holland were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1988 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later. On his own, Dozier had a top 20 hit with Trying to Hold on to My Woman, helped produce Aretha Franklin’s Sweet Passion album and collaborated with Eric Clapton and Simply Red's Mick Hucknall among others. His biggest success was co-writing Phil Collins’ chart-topping Two Hearts, from the 1988 movie Buster, a tune that won a Grammy and Golden Globe and received an Oscar nomination.
The Detroit-born Dozier started out in a Baptist church choir, and by the late 1950s, he was a professional singer. He then signed with Motown, where he first worked with Brian Holland, and then Eddie Holland, who wrote most of the lyrics. Sources: AP, The Guardian
Judith Durham (born Judith Mavis Cock), vocalist with the Seekers, the Australian pop quartet whose hits in the 1960s included I’ll Never Find Another You and Georgy Girl, died on Aug. 5, age 79, of bronchiectasis.
The Guardian noted that "her soprano voice helped to make the group one of the most popular of the 1960s. The Seekers were both the first major Australian band to achieve international success and the first to top the UK and US charts."
"Their TV specials The Seekers Down Under (1967), The World of the Seekers and Farewell the Seekers (both 1968) all scored huge Australian and UK TV audiences. It is estimated that the group sold more than 50m singles and LPs during the height of their popularity yet, while London-based during their chart career, they were never considered part of 'swinging London'"
Durham sat in with folk trio the Seekers at a Melbourne coffee house in 1963, and soon joined. In March 1964, sang their passage to Britain on a cruise ship, and broke big the next year with the hit single I’ll Never Find Another You. It reached No 1 in the UK and Australia, and No 4 in the US. Follow-up singles A World of Our Own, The Carnival Is Over, Morningtown Ride, and Georgy Girl (1967) were all major hits too. The Best of the Seekers LP spent six weeks at No 1 in the UK charts in 1969, dislodging the Beatles’ White Album from top position and spending 125 weeks on the charts.
Durham then split from the band, but solo albums did not have the same success. She rejoined the Seekers in 1993 for their silver anniversary and subsequent lengthy tours of Australia and the UK. Durham and the other Seekers are members of the Order of Australia. Read more in The Guardian obit here.
Olivia Newton-John, Grease star and pop music chart-topper with hits in the '70s and '80s, died on Aug. 9, age 73, of cancer.
The death of the British-born, Australian-raised performer was announced on her Instagram account, saying she “passed away peacefully” at her ranch home “surrounded by family and friends.”
Newton-John, a four-time Grammy winner, had disclosed several years ago that breast cancer had metastasized and spread to her back, forcing her to cancel performances. Twenty-five years earlier Newton-John had undergone a partial mastectomy and gone on to establish a cancer treatment-research facility in Australia.
The entertainer began performing as a child and became a global superstar after moving to the United States. She had her first hit in 1971 with If Not for You, a Bob Dylan song that also had been recorded by George Harrison.
It would be followed in the next few years by Let Me Be There, which won her a Grammy for best female country vocal performance, If You Love Me (Let Me Know), and two No. 1 songs, Have You Never Been Mellow, and I Honestly Love You. The latter song won Grammys for best female pop performance and record of the year.
Newton-John also beat out country stars Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton to win the Country Music Association’s female singer of the year award in 1974. The unlikely success of an Australian in American country music bothered many Nashville purists.
In 1978, Newton-John starred in the musical film Grease, whose soundtrack remains one of the world's best-selling albums of all time. It features two major hit duets with co-star John Travolta; You're the One That I Want – which ranks as one of the best-selling singles of all time – and Summer Nights.
Eleven of her singles (including two Platinum) and 14 of her albums (including two Platinum and four 2× Platinum) have been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). With global sales of more than 100 million records, Newton-John is one of the best-selling music artists from the second half of the 20th century to the present
Noted Toronto singer/songwriter Amy Sky, a longtime friend of Newton-John, paid tribute on social media, referencing "36 years of memories with my friend, my mentor and my soul sister Olivia. We first wrote together in 1986. Two songs for her album The Rumour: We remained friends, but didn’t collaborate again until 2004. She came to Toronto to perform. After the show she told me she was looking for empowering songs for women, to record for her Stronger than before“album for Hallmark to raise funds and awareness about breast cancer.
"We decided to do a recording with seven women whose lives have been impacted by cancer, including Patti Labelle and Dihann Caroll. We wrote Under the skin and I wrote the song Serenity for her with Stephan Moccio. I asked her if I could produce the songs for her and she said yes - giving me my first gig as a producer for somebody other than myself.
"Olivia loved what we did together so much that she asked me if we could collaborate on a meditation record which had long been on her wish list. So we wrote all the songs for Grace andGratitude “at her home in California in five days. She came to Toronto in June 2006 to record it."
Further collaborations followed, with Sky later teaming up with Newton-John and Beth Nielsen Chapman for the Liv On project in 2016, releasing the collaborative Liv On album that year.