Obituaries, July 20, 2023
Bill Lawrence, a familiar Hamilton TV personality for decades as host “Uncle Bill” on the children’s show Tiny Talent Time, has died at 91.
By Kerry Doole
Bill Lawrence, a familiar Hamilton TV personality for decades as host “Uncle Bill” on the children’s show Tiny Talent Time, has died at 91. CHCH News, the website affiliated with his former employer, reported that he died from a heart attack in hospital on July 14.
Lawrence was credited as a TV pioneer for creating children’s programs even before Sesame Street. He hosted and co-produced Tiny Talent Time for 35 years at CHCH-TV in Hamilton. The popular variety show originally aired from 1957 to 1992, featuring children showing off their performing arts talents. It was the second longest-running Canadian TV show and was often more popular than NFL games, according to a profile of him on the website of his alma mater Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU).
“He created children’s programs described as precursors to Sesame Street with puppets and strong educational content, including Interesting Room, Special Place, and Albert J. Steed,” according to the Toronto Metropolitan University’s website.
Lawrence was a broadcasting professor at Toronto Metropolitan University’s RTA (radio and television arts) School of Media from 1980 to 1996. He had graduated from the school, then known as Ryerson Polytechnic University, in 1954. Shortly after graduation, he got a job at CHCH-TV in Hamilton, where he initially worked as a technician. He moved on to directing, producing, writing and announcing, eventually becoming a popular on-air personality.
He later worked at the CBC, presenting weather and news for 28 years for the public broadcaster. He also worked on documentaries, game shows, specials and programs including It’s Your Choice, Juliette and Friends, VIP and Such Is Life, according to TMU. “Bill Lawrence was an integral part of broadcasting’s evolution throughout a five-decade career,” the TMU said.
Jane Mallory Birkin, an English-French singer and actress, died on July 16, at age 76.
She gained international fame and notability for her controversial 1969 hit single with Serge Gainsbourg, Je t'aime moi non plus, and became something of a fashion and style icon. She also sang on Gainsbourg's influential concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson. Even after Birkin and Gainsbourg separated in 1980, he continued to write for her, and she went on performing his songs for the rest of her life. Birkin and Gainsbourg's daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, has also found fame as a singer and actress. Birkin was married to Oscar-winning composer John Barry from 1965 to 1968.
She became a prolific and acclaimed actress, working in films directed by such notables as Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda, Michelangelo Antonioni (Blow-Up), Bertrand Tavernier, and Jean-Luc Godard. In 2006 Birkin made her directorial debut with the autobiographical family drama Boxes. In 2020 she published Munkey Diaries 1957-1982, containing diary entries addressed to her favourite cuddly toy from childhood.
Toronto concert promoter Gary Topp paid homage to Birkin in a Facebook post. He recalled that "I presented her in Toronto in 2008. Despite her stature, she was one of the most down-to-earth artistes I have ever met. We got on fabulously from the moment I picked her up at the airport. She was such a delight; she was uninhibited, so natural. She was forever glamorous. Elegant is a better word."
Rufus Wainwright, a fan and then a friend of Birkin, posted a Facebook tribute that reads, in part: "Jane was the first of the truly statuesque goddesses of popular culture to step out of the magazine page and grace me with their electrifying presence. But with Jane, and this can't be said about a lot of “living legends”, what was most fascinating was how impervious she was regarding her success and unparalleled beauty. Her genuine personality was far more disarming than her beauty, but then on occasion, you’d be hit with a flash of her particular elegance, and the fait was accomplished. Au revoir, darling."
Jerry Owen Bradley, a US music producer, label executive, and Country Music Hall of Fame member, died on July 17, at age 83.
Billboard reports that "Bradley was part of the illustrious Bradley family, who played an indelible role in creating and shaping Nashville’s music industry and Music Row area. Bradley’s father was music producer Owen Bradley while his uncle was studio musician Harold Bradley, who together shaped Nashville’s Music Row as a music business town and architected the “Nashville Sound.'"
After working in publishing, Jerry Bradley began engineering and producing records at the Bradley’s Barn studio, which he and his father owned in Mt. Juliet; Bradley’s clients as an engineer included Loretta Lynn, Roy Clark, Gordon Lightfoot, The Who, and more.
He approached Chet Atkins for a job at RCA, where he served as a staff producer from 1970 to 1973. Atkins later handpicked Bradley to succeed him as vp of Nashville operations — a role he held from 1973 to 1983. There he worked with artists and on albums that shaped the fabric of country music, including so-called outlaw artists. He oversaw the hugely successful Wanted! The Outlaws album.
At RCA, Bradley also signed hitmakers, including Alabama, Ronnie Milsap, Steve Wariner, Earl Thomas Conlee and Gary Stewart. Additionally, he produced No. 1 singles and albums for RCA artist Charley Pride, including the album Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs, as well as hits for Dave and Sugar, Dottie West and Jimmy Dean.
After Bradley left RCA in 1983, he became vp of Opryland USA and GM of the Opryland Music Group, which owned the Acuff-Rose publishing catalogues. During his more than five decades in music, Bradley served as president of the Country Music Association (1974-1975). Bradley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2019, making him the third Bradley to be bestowed with that honour after his father, Owen and his uncle Harold.
Read more in Billboard and Rolling Stone.
Sam Cutler (born Brendan Lawrence Lyons), an English tour manager for The Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, and other acts, died on July 11, at age 80, of cancer.
Cutler began his career as a stage manager and more with Blackhill Enterprises in the late ‘60, working with acts like Pink Floyd, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones. Notably, he was the master of ceremonies during The Rolling Stones free concert at Hyde Park in London on July 5, 1969. After that, he accompanied the band on their 1969 Tour of America, which culminated in the blighted Altamont Speedway Free Concert. Cutler was commonly credited with first uttering The Rolling Stones' famous intro line, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World...The Rolling Stones!"
Cutler was subsequently hired by the Grateful Dead. He went on to become a co-manager of the band (with Jon McIntire and David Parker) and their agent and tour manager. Cutler is credited with organizing the Grateful Dead’s 1970 Festival Express tour of Canada, The Super Jam at Watkins Glen, and the fabled 1972 European Tour, which resulted in the band’s triple live LP, Europe ‘72. He also worked alongside The Band, The Allman Brothers, The New Riders of the Purple Sage, Mike Bloomfield, and others.
Sources: Relix, Wikipedia
Coco Lee, a Hong Kong-born singer and songwriter who had a highly successful career in Asia, died by suicide, her siblings said on July 5. She was 48.
AP reports that "the star had depression for several years, Lee’s elder sisters Carol and Nancy Lee said in a statement posted on Facebook and Instagram, with her condition deteriorating drastically over recent months."
The singer was known for voicing Mulan in the Mandarin version and becoming the first Chinese American to perform at the Oscars when she sang the Oscar-nominated Crouching Tiger,Hidden Dragon song A Love Before Time at the 2001 Academy Awards. Sources: AP, The Guardian, Rolling Stone