Obituaries, July 28, 2022
This week we acknowledge the passing of musicians and singers Brian Cram, Tony Malone, Philip Drucker, Mike Henderson, and Shonka Dukureh, and film director Bob Rafelson.
By Kerry Doole
Brian Cram, a Toronto trumpeter and composer, died on July 18, of complications from cancer, age 61.
Best known for his work in instrumental rock combo GUH and Do Make Say Think, Cram also worked with Gesundheit and guested on the Rheostatics album Introducing Happiness.
Wavelength founder Jonny Dovercourt called Cram a "one-of-a-kind human with a huge heart and even grander sense of humour." In Dovercourt's book Any Night of the Week, he termed Cram "something of a guru to Kevin Drew, and part of the very first BSS [Broken Social Scene] gig."
GUH posted a tribute to Cram, calling him a "friend and mentor."
Messages of loss and support were shared by musical peers including Shotgun Jimmie, Michael Feuerstack, KASHKA and more. Sources: Exclaim!, Facebook
Tony Malone (Tony Seeley), a Toronto singer/songwriter, keyboardist and producer best known for The Dishes and Drastic Measures, has died. His sister, Cathie Gryfe-Seeley, posted news of his passing on social media earlier this week. Age and cause of death have yet to be reported.
Malone was a key member of Toronto's late '70s and '80s new-wave scene. He started The Dishes in 1975 and then led Drastic Measures from 1977. The latter band received local airplay, especially for their cover of Teddy Bears Picnic, and released a self-titled album on CBS in 1979. The group persevered through personnel changes until 1992, and a compilation album, Drastic Measures 1979-92, came out later.
Malone continued to write and record, both as Tony Malone and in such ventures as Basketcase and Beefheart Toronto Project. Basketcase released one album, You People Are Sick, in 1995, and in 2019, Malone released the album Flowers For Armageddon under his own name.
With news of his death, many of Malone's peers and fans on the Toronto music scene posted tributes and anecdotes. Here are a few of those spied on Facebook.
Gary Topp (Toronto music promoter): "I’ve always contended that Tony Malone was one of the brightest, most inventive, concise, most well-rounded, non-conforming and plain-old wonderful musicians/arrangers/composers this city has ever known/unknown. He had so many plans unfulfilled, so much potential sunk. We hadn’t spoken in a while and I know he appreciated my motives. Nevertheless, my respect for him as an artist never wavered. I was in awe of his talent from the beginning and he was one of Gary Cormier’s and my favourite bookings. We went to bat for Tony and his great bands and incarnations."
James Paul (studio owner): " F##k. Tony Malone, we weren’t nearly done with each other and, dammit, I’m going to miss every bit of you. Yes, even the parts that you know drove me nuts. I will always count you as one of my greatest mentors and dearest friends. Rest, love, and peace to you."
Steven Leckie (The Viletones): "He was always wonderful with me for all the many years I knew him, yes, his music was very magnificent and magical. (Rest In Peace). Viva Tony Malone."
Richard Citroen (The Diodes): "A lot of people didn’t 'get' Tony Malone, but I did. He was an accomplished pianist who stood head and shoulders above everyone else in the skills department. I’ll never forget him snarkily baiting the audience while supporting Siouxsie & The Banshees at The Music Hall. The Goth crowd was in no mood to hear Teddy Bears Picnic that night, and I suppose his campy introduction of “Hello! I’m Siouxsie…and theeeese are my Banshees!” whilst wearing matching (beige!) outfits didn’t help, but getting the audience to boo on command was a genius move." Simply put, Tony Malone was a f**king genius with 10 times the talent of most of his peers, and should have been revered in this town the way Carole Pope is."
Sources: AllMusic, Facebook
Philip Drucker, a founding member of 'the 80s-era Southern California post-punk group Savage Republic (credited as Jackson Del Rey in the group), died on July 16 at age 63. A cause of death has not been reported.
The news came via Independent Project Records, the label run by Savage Republic's Bruce Licher, who wrote, "Thank you, Phil, for being one of the main catalysts for what became Savage Republic all those years ago, and for sharing your creativity with the rest of us. I wish you well on your journey.”
Here's more from IPR: "Bruce Licher and Philip Drucker met as young art students at UCLA in the late 70s. Phil joined Bruce and two other students, Hilda Daniel and Caroline Collins, to form Them Rhythm Ants. Bruce, Mark Erskine, Phil, and Jeff Long then started Savage Republic, originally named Africa Corps. The result of the original line-up of Savage Republic was the seminal album Tragic Figures (1982), released on IPR and re-issued in expanded form recently on Real Gone Music for the album’s 40th Anniversary.
"The band split in two in 1983, with Phil going on to 17 Pygmies before he rejoined Savage Republic in ’87 (contributing to LPs Jamahiriya Democratique and Customs, the latter recorded on tour in Greece). “It was great to reconnect with him for Savage Republic’s Africa Corps Live At The Whisky A Go-Go, 30th December 1981,” says Licher. The live archival album is set for release in the fall on IPR. Sources: Brooklyn Vegan, IPR, LastFM
Shonka Dukureh, a singer and actress who recently portrayed blues legend Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, died on July 21, age 44. A cause of death has not yet been identified but no foul play is suspected by police.
Dukureh attended Fisk University in Nashville, where she studied theatre. She was a self-taught singer who opened for Jamie Liddell and the Royal Pharaohs and worked with artists like Nick Cave, Pete Rock, and Smoke Dza.
She drew acclaim for her performance as Thornton in Elvis, released earlier this summer. In the film, she performed the singer’s version of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s Hound Dog, which the real-life Thornton recorded in 1952. Her rendition appears on the film’s soundtrack.
Luhrmann wrote this on Instagram: “From the moment she came into our world, Shonka brought joy, spirit and of course her voice and her music. Whenever she was on set, on stage or even just in the room, everyone always felt uplifted. Shonka was just starting to find a larger audience for her tremendous talent, and I got to see her uplift whole crowds of people at Coachella and beyond.”
Dukureh appeared in the music video for Doja Cat’s contribution to the Elvis soundtrack, Vegas, which interpolates a sample of Thornton’s Hound Dog recording. Dukureh also appeared onstage with Doja Cat during her set at Coachella to perform the song.Sources: Rolling Stone
Michael Earl Henderson, an American bass guitarist and vocalist known for his work with Miles Davis in the early 1970s, died from cancer on July 19, aged 71.
Henderson was born in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and in the 1960s he moved to Detroit, playing as a session musician. Before working with Davis, Henderson had been touring with Stevie Wonder, whom he met at the Regal Theater in Chicago while warming up for a gig. Davis saw the young Henderson performing at the Copacabana in New York City in early 1970 and reportedly said to Wonder simply 'I'm taking your fucking bassist.'
Henderson was one of the first notable bass guitarists of the fusion era as well as an influential jazz and soul musician. In addition to Davis and work on Jack Johnson, Live-Evil, and Agha, he played and recorded with Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, the Dramatics, among many others.
He had a series of his own R&B/soul hits and others featuring him on vocals, particularly the Norman Connors-produced hit You Are My Starship in 1976 and other songs in the mid to late-1970s
After almost seven years with Davis, Henderson focused on songwriting and singing in a solo career that produced many hit songs and albums for Buddah Records until his retirement in 1986. Although known primarily for ballads, he was an influential funk player whose riffs and songs have been widely covered. Source: Wikipedia
Bob Rafelson, the director, producer and writer who co-created The Monkees TV show and directed Five Easy Pieces in 1970, died July 23, at age 89, of lung cancer.
The Guardian writes that "Alongside the so-called “movie brats” – Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg – who rode the crest of the American new wave in the late 1960s and early 70s, were other figures less readily assimilated into the mainstream. Of these, few were as influential as Bob Rafelson, the writer-producer-director.
"Rafelson was characterised by a counter-cultural sensibility and an eye for fruitful collaborations, notably with the actor-writer-director Jack Nicholson and the producer Bert Schneider. He also co-created the Monkees (both the pop group and the hit TV series) and co-founded the influential independent production company and creative collective BBS, which brought together actors and directors including Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich and Dennis Hopper."
Prior to the formation of BBS, Rafelson and Schneider’s producing credits under the banner of their previous outfit, Raybert Productions, included Easy Rider (1969). Later movies Rafelson directed included The King Of Marvin Gardens, Black Widow, Stay Hungry, and The Postman Always Rings Twice.