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FYI

Obituaries, Dec. 22, 2022

Gregory Ralph Brown, a singer and keyboardist in the popular ‘70s Canadian rock band Ocean, died on Dec. 12, at age 75. A cause of death has not been reported.

Obituaries, Dec. 22, 2022

By Kerry Doole

Gregory Ralph Brown, a singer and keyboardist in the popular ‘70s Canadian rock band Ocean, died on Dec. 12, at age 75. A cause of death has not been reported.


Ocean is best known for its 1971 single Put Your Hand in the Hand, released on Bill Gilliland’s Yorkville imprint and penned by Jeff Jones and Gene MacLellan. The single sold over one million copies in the US and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 4 on Billboard's AC chart. The song was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.

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Ocean consisted of Greg Brown (vocals, keyboard), Jeff Jones (bass, vocals), Janice Morgan (guitar, vocals), Dave Tamblyn (guitar), and Chuck Slater (drums).

They recorded their debut album, Put Your Handin the Hand, in Toronto in 1970. The album, originally released domestically on the Yorkville label, contained eight songs written by such notables as Robbie Robertson and Gene MacLellan. The album was picked up in the US by the Kama Sutra label, which also released the band's second album, Give Tomorrow's Children One More Chance, in both the U.S. and Canada.

Ocean managed additional hits in Canada with the songs We've Got a Dream and One More Chance, both written by the British songwriting team of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, but they failed to make any further impact in the U.S., and the group disbanded in 1975 after having released two albums.

A Celebration of Greg Brown's life will take place in the spring.  Online condolences may be expressed here. Sources: Legacy.com, Wikipedia

Shirley Eikhard, writer of the Grammy-Award winning Something To Talk About and a two-time Juno winner, died on Dec. 15, at age 67, of cancer.

Born in Sackville, NB, she became a solo performer and recording artist, and had her songs covered by Bonnie Raitt, Ginette Reno, Cher, Anne Murray, Emmylou Harris, Rita Coolidge, and many more. Eikhard had reportedly written well over 500 songs.

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Bonnie Raitt’s recording of Eikhard’s composition Something to Talk About was the songwriter's biggest commercial success. The single, off Raitt’s Luck of the Draw album, peaked on Billboard’s Hot 100 and adult contemporary charts at #5 in October 1991, and at No. 8 on Cashbox. It placed even higher in Canada, at #3 on the RPM Top 100 chart and #4 adult contemporary and made the top 20 on RPM’s 1991 year-end chart.

In Canada, Something to Talk About also earned Eikhard a Juno nomination as songwriter of the year, and later SOCAN Classics and BMI awards for its status as a radio favourite heard still to this day.

Eikhard was a skilled multi-instrumentalist, playing guitar, piano, bass, drums, percussion, chromatic harmonica and sax. Over the past decade, she added dobro, banjo, and mandolin to the mix. Her last nine CDs, including her most recent On My Way To You from 2021, were completely performed and sung by Eikhard in her home studio.

Born into a musical family, she was residing in Oshawa, ON, by the time of her debut 1969 appearance at the renowned Mariposa Folk Festival, just barely into her teens.

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At age 15, she penned It Takes Time, a No. 1 adult contemporary hit on the Canadian charts for Anne Murray in 1971. That resulted in television appearances on the Anne Murray Special and Tommy Hunter Show on CBC.

By 1972, Eikhard was telling a newspaper reporter of her shift from earlier folk material to "country pop." Releasing a self-titled debut album that year, she won Junos for best female country artist in 1973 and 1974. The debut album mixed originals and covers, including a version of Sylvia Tyson's Smiling Wine, which garnered Canadian radio airplay. Eikhard's cover of Fleetwood Mac's Say You Love Me, from 1976's Let Me Down Easy, also fared well.

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Commercial success then came from one of a number of songs she crafted in the mid-1980s while staying in Nashville. That song, Something to Talk About, recorded by Bonnie Raitt for 1991's Luck of the Draw, enabled the American singer-guitarist to cement a commercial comeback that had begun two years earlier, with Nick of Time.

Something to Talk About was nominated for Record of the Year at the 1992 Grammys, with Raitt earning the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance for the song. In 2020, the song was inducted into The Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Eikhard continued with her recording career, via 1995's If I Had My Way, and three years later, she was recording for the legendary Blue Note jazz label. Her most recent album was 2021's On My Way to You.  Her songs have appeared in numerous international films and television shows and she sung the theme songs for two movies, The Domino Principle and The Passion Of Ayn Rand 

As news of her passing spread, her peers offered tributes on social media. Veteran Canadian music journalist Martin Melhuish wrote, in part, that "Shirley Eikhard was an anomaly in the world of show business - she liked neither the spotlight or the machinations involved in what Joni Mitchell referred to as 'stoking the star maker machinery behind the popular song.' Nonetheless, she had an impactful songwriting career."

In an eloquent Facebook post, fellow hit songwriter Ian Thomas called Eikhard "humble, humorous and wonderfully musical. She played a number of instruments, all pieces of her creative journey, as she sought self-expression through music and song. Our paths crossed many times over the years. Every time we bumped into each other we would pick up right where we left off. She was warm, funny and exuded a sense of camaraderie that was a result of us both investing so much of our lives in the discovery of song.

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"It was as though our songs were genetic strings that connected us somehow. Shirley’s was a joyous soul, sometimes fraught with great anxiety over performing. I think her anxiety came from her humility. Maybe that’s in part why I loved and respected her. Her humility was genuine, not some cheap show business pose. Shirley Eikhard, a Canadian woman of great talent … a beautiful soul who left us too far too soon."

Noted vocal coach Elaine Overholt reminisced that "Shirley sang at my wedding. We did some sessions together. The sweetest, kindest and most gifted person. One of the greatest songwriters and singers in Canada and beyond." Sources: CP, Eric Alper, CSHF

International

Dino Danelli, the Rascals drummer who played on hits such as Good Lovin’, Groovin’, I’ve Been Lonely Too Long and People Got to Be Free, died on Dec. 15, at the age of 78.

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Joe Russo, a close friend and the band’s historian, confirmed the death, at a rehabilitation center. He said Danelli had been in declining health for several years.

“It is with a broken heart that I must tell you of the passing of Dino Danelli,” Rascals co-founder Gene Cornish wrote on his own Facebook page. “He was my brother and the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen. I am devastated at this moment. Rest In Peace Dino I love you brother.”

Born and raised in Jersey City, Danelli formed The Rascals (originally known as The Young Rascals) in 1964 with Cornish, singer-keyboardist Felix Cavaliere and singer Eddie Brigati. They debuted at The Choo Choo Club in Garfield.

They had a minor hit, I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore, in 1965, and their first No. 1 smash, Good Lovin’, in 1966. Their sound was sometimes described as blue-eyed soul.

Danelli remained in the group until they broke up in 1972, and later played with Steven Van Zandt’s Disciples of Soul. He took part in the Rascals reunion shows of 2012 and 2013 that included a Broadway run with a show titled The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream. Van Zandt co-directed and co-produced the show.

NJ Arts writes that "When he inducted The Rascals into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, Van Zandt said, 'Some people may not realize it, but The Rascals were the first rock band in the world. In the ’50s, you know, we had vocal groups and solo people. And then, in the ’60s, on the West Coast, you had The Beach Boys, but they really were a vocal group and they became a band later. We also had The Byrds, but (Roger) McGuinn really did that first record by himself, and then they became a band later. And OK, over there in England, some guys were making some noise. But in the real world — in the center of the universe, New Jersey — The Rascals were the first band!'"

In the speech, Van Zandt also called Danelli “the greatest rock drummer ever," and he repeated that claim upon learning of Danelli's death.  Sources: NJ Arts, New York Times

Terry Hall, the frontman of socially conscious English ska band The Specials, died on Dec. 18, at the age of 63, after a short illness. His bandmate Sir Horace Gentleman revealed the cause as pancreatic cancer.

BBC observed that "Hall was known for his dour image and sharp wit, and he found fame in the 1970s and 80s with hits like Ghost Town, Gangsters and Too Much Too Young.

He left The Specials in 1981 to form Fun Boy Three with fellow-bandmates Neville Staple and Lynval Golding, scoring another run of hits.

The Specials said in a statement, "Terry was a wonderful husband and father and one of the kindest, funniest, and most genuine of souls. His music and his performances encapsulated the very essence of life… the joy, the pain, the humour, the fight for justice, but mostly the love. He will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved him and leaves behind the gift of his remarkable music and profound humanity."

Tributes to the singer quickly poured in. Jane Wiedlin, co-founder of band The Go Gos who co-wrote the band's hit Our Lips Are Sealed with Hall, said he was a "lovely, sensitive, talented and unique person. Our extremely brief romance resulted in the song Our Lips Are Sealed, which will forever tie us together in music history."

Elvis Costello described Hall's voice as "the perfect instrument for the true and necessary songs on The Specials. That honesty is heard in so many of his songs in joy and sorrow," he said. Costello produced The Specials' self-titled 1979 debut album.

Billy Bragg recalled: "The Specials were a celebration of how British culture was invigorated by Caribbean immigration but the onstage demeanour of their lead singer was a reminder that they were in the serious business of challenging our perception of who we were in the late 1970s."

Hall's friend and biographer Paul Willo told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the singer "was the instantly recognisable voice of a generation. And he was a forthright character who stood up for what he believed in. Together with the band, he was very vocal about racism and injustice in general. There was so much turmoil going on in the country at that time… With the right material and the reasons to be angry, it made them more of a force and him more vocal, I suppose."

Hall was born in 1959 and raised in Coventry, where most of his family worked in the city's then-booming car industry. But his life took a dark turn when, at the age of 12, he was kidnapped by a teacher. "I was abducted, taken to France and sexually abused for four days," he told The Spectator in 2019. "And then punched in the face and left on the roadside."

Hall said the incident left him with lifelong depression and caused him to drop out of education at the age of 14, after becoming addicted to the Valium he had been prescribed.

Music was some form of solace; and Hall joined a local punk band called Squad, receiving his first writing credit on their single Red Alert.

He was spotted by The Specials' Jerry Dammers, who recruited him as a frontman by deploying a terrible pun. "He worked in a stamp shop" the musician told Mojo magazine. "I told him, Philately will get you nowhere'".

After gaining a fearsome live reputation at home, the band rose to national prominence after Radio 1's John Peel played their debut single, Gangsters, on his show. The song - a tribute to Prince Buster's ska classic Al Capone - established the band and their record label 2-Tone as a major force in British music.

They were a multi-racial group, documenting the turbulent Thatcher years by playing songs directly indebted to Jamaican ska - a pre-reggae style that remained popular in Britain's West Indian communities.

But Hall said the band's success was almost an accidental by-product of the punk movement. "When I saw the Pistols and The Clash I realised it didn't seem that difficult," he told The Big Issue. "They didn't seem like they could play very well either, so the thing was to form a band then work it out. We didn't even know who was going to play what - we passed around all the instruments until we found what we were comfortable with. I wasn't comfortable with any of them so I became the singer."

Nonetheless, the band rode an extraordinary wave of popularity, scoring seven consecutive top 10 singles between 1979 and 1981. That period culminated with 1981's Ghost Town, a song that seemed to predict and then soundtrack that summer's riots on the streets of London, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham - a response to the police's use of stop-and-search tactics. Ghost Town spent three weeks at number one, and is widely regarded as one of the all-time great British pop songs.

Hall then left the band to start Fun Boy Three with Golding and Staple, abandoning ska for a more experimental, skeletal pop sound.

Their debut single, The Lunatics (Have Taken Over The Asylum), made a splash, but the band found more commercial success by teaming up with the era's biggest girl groups, Bananarama, on Really Saying Something and a cover of the jazz standard It Ain't What You Do.

Hall also teamed up with Wiedlin of The Go Gos to write Our Lips Are Sealed, a song that both bands recorded and took into the charts separately.

After Fun Boy Three, Hall formed numerous other bands, including The Colourfield; Terry, Blair, and Anouchka; and Vegas, a collaboration with Eurythmics star Dave Stewart.

He launched a solo career in 1994 with the critically acclaimed Home. He went on to record with trip-hop artist Tricky and Albarn's hip-hop side project Gorillaz, before reuniting with The Specials for a tour in 2008, and performed at the 2012 London Olympics closing concert.

In 2019, the band released a new album, Encore, which gave them their first ever number one; and spawned gigs up and down the UK, before Covid put their comeback to an unexpected halt. The solution, he later decided, was to record an album of covers, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. Released in Oct. 2021, and simply called Protest Songs, it charted at number two, marking Hall's final appearance in the charts.

Read more tributes to Hall in this BBC feature. Sources: The Guardian, BBC

Kim (Maiden) Simmonds, guitarist and co-founder of veteran British blues-rock band Savoy Brown, died on Dec. 13 at age 75, of colon cancr. Dies at 75

“Kim Simmonds passed away peacefully in the evening of Dec. 13 — may he rest in peace,” the group shared on social media. “Please note one of Kim’s last requests was to thank the fans of Savoy Brown — your support was and shall always be immensely appreciated.”

The Welsh-born Simmonds initially formed The Savoy Brown Blues Band in 1965 with singer Brice Portius, bassist Ray Chappell, drummer Leo Mannings, keys player Trevor Jeavons and harmonica player John O’Leary, and he remained the sole constant member of the band throughout nearly six decades of lineup changes. Throughout their career, the band released more than 40 studio albums with the two most recent — Ain’t Done Yet and Taking the Blues Back Home: Live in America — arriving in 2020.

The band began playing gigs in London in 1966, performing with Cream and accompanying John Lee Hooker, then signing with Decca. But it was 1969 before its classic line-up gelled around Simmonds, rhythm guitarist Lonesome Dave Peverett, and the monocle and bowler hat-wearing vocalist Chris Youlden. That year's Blue Matter and A Step Further included songs that became SB classics. 

After scoring a US hit with I'm Tired, the band would find a greater following in America than in its native England throughout its career.

 In the early '70s, Peverett, bassist Tony Stevens and drummer Roger Earl left to form the successful but decidedly rock band Foghat. Simmonds soldiered on, and the albums Street Corner Talking (1971) and Hellbound Train (1972) launched favourites in Tell Mama and the two title tracks.

In 1997, Simmonds released his first solo acoustic album, entitled Solitaire. He toured worldwide with various configurations of Savoy Brown. The 2004 live set You Should Have Been There, was recorded in early 2003 in Vancouver with Simmonds handling lead vocals. He also performed as a solo acoustic act.

In 2017, his album with Savoy Brown, Witchy Feeling, reached number one on the Billboard blues charts. Sources: Billboard, New York Times, Wikipedia

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