Obituaries, Sept. 29, 2022
This week we acknowledge the passing of singers Gord Kirchin and Jesse Powell, and musicians Anton Fier, John Hartman and Pharoah Sanders.
By Kerry Doole
Gord “The Exalted Piledriver” Kirchin, frontman/vocalist of Canadian metal band Piledriver, died on Sept. 22, age 60, of lung cancer
Less than three weeks ago, Kirchin took to his social media to say that he had completed the "last round of chemo" following his diagnosis.
Blabbermouth reports that "Since its original release in 1984, Piledriver's debut album, Metal Inquisition, has found a legion of fans worldwide over successive generations and spanning all stripes of metal.
In an interview with Metallion in 2008, Kirchin spoke about how the idea for Piledriver came about. He said: "Leslie Howe, I played with him in a bar band at some point back in the '80s. It was called Mainstream and was just a cover band doing bar gigs. I eventually left that band to play in FIST with Ron Chenier, and then I went on to play with Brian Greenway. I was on the road and I got a phone call from Leslie, stating that he was working on a heavy metal recording project that would not have a band, but they needed a really heavy voice and he remembered me from being in the band and having the heavy vocals. I said, 'Yes, as soon as I am off this tour, I would be glad to do it.' I got home to Ottawa and in two days sang the vocals. It was just to go out there and make a little bit of money for Leslie and this record weasel. What happened was it got huge. They didn't expect it to get huge."
The music on Metal Inquisition was written by Howe (pseudonym: Bud Slaker) and Reny (pseudonym: Sal Gibson), both of whom would go on to work with a young Alanis Morissette.
In addition to handling lead vocals on the record, Kirchin became Piledriver, as depicted on the album's cover art. Discogs reports that "Piledriver wasn't a band when the first two albums were recorded - it was actually another metalploitation band made in the studio by Zoran Busic, the manager of the record company Cobra. Both albums were actually created by completely different musicians, while vocalist Gord Kirchin was the only constant in this project.
"After the release of Stay Ugly, Kirchin moved away from Cobra Records and made a band out of this project with a different name: Dogs With Jobs. In 2005, Kirchin reactivated a real band called The Exalted Piledriver, based on the Piledriver material. That group released the album Metal Manifesto in 2008, via Northern Storm Records.
On FB, Metallion editor/writer Drew Masters noted that "throughout the M.E.A.T magazine years I greatly supported Kirchin's other endeavour Dogs With Jobs. More recently, I was thrilled to see him resurrect Piledriver and do a handful of shows in Canada and Europe. I consider his work with Piledriver to be legendary Canadian metal, and he will never be forgotten."
Sources: Blabbermouth, Drew Masters, Discogs
Anton Fier, Golden Palominos founder and early Feelies and Lounge Lizards drummer, has died, at age 66.
News of Fier’s death was shared by Syd Straw, who performed with Fier in the Golden Palominos in the 1980s, playing live and contributing vocals to the 1985 album Visions of Excess and its follow-up, 1986’s Blast of Silence (Axed My Baby For a Nickel).
Pitchfork reported that "Fier’s bandmates in the Feelies confirmed the news, paying tribute to Fier in a statement: 'Last evening, we received the sad news of Anton’s passing. For far too short of time, throughout our own musical journey, we had the pleasure of playing with him. As a musician, Anton held himself to a very high bar, which in turn inspired those around him to be better. We all lost a wonderful musician, a truly great drummer. And peace has found him.'"
The drummer, composer, producer and bandleader collaborated with countless artists throughout his prolific career Outside of his band, the Golden Palominos, Fier performed on records with John Zorn, Pere Ubu, Herbie Hancock, Mick Jagger, Bob Mould, and more
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1956, Fier joined the Feelies in 1978 and, despite leaving the band a year earlier, played drums on their 1980 debut album Crazy Rhythms. Fier was also an early member of avant-garde jazz group the Lounge Lizards, playing on the group’s self-titled 1981 debut. He also performed in the Voidoids, and was briefly a member of Pere Ubu.
Fier formed the Golden Palominos in 1981, and served as its bandleader for decades, joined by a revolving cast of other musicians that consistently included bassist Bill Laswell and guitarist Nicky Skopelitis. Headed by Fier, the band shared its self-titled debut album in 1983 and released seven more albums up to 1996’s Dead Inside. In 2012, the group released a collaborative album with Kevin Kinney titled A Good Country Mile, which served as the Palominos’ first recorded output in roughly a decade and a half.
Among Fier’s many other collaborators throughout his life were Hüsker Dü and Sugar frontman Bob Mould, Bootsy Collins, avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn, Jack Bruce, John Greaves, Kenji Suzuki, Makino Kazu and more. His production work included the Kinney-fronted Drivin ‘n’ Cryin’s 1988 album Whisper Tames The Lion, 2009's The Great American Bubble Factory, and more.
“Anton Fier brought endless power, emotion, and intensity to all the music he created and touched,” Mould wrote on Twitter. Sources: NME, Pitchfork
John Hartman, the original drummer and co-founder of US rock hitmakers The Doobie Brothers, has died, at age 72. No cause of death has been given.
In a statement on social media, his former bandmates hailed him this way: “Today we are thinking of John Hartman, or Little John to us. John was a wild spirit, great drummer, and showman during his time in the Doobies. He was also a close friend for many years and an intricate part of the band's personality! We send our condolences to all his loved ones at this difficult time. Rest In Peace John.”
Hartman was with the group for its initial run of chart-topping hits, including signature songs like Listen to the Music, Long Train Runnin', and What a Fool Believes. He was one of two drummers the Doobies had on stage from 1971 until he first left the band in 1979. Ten years after departing, he returned for a reunion album in 1989 and continued on with the group through 1992.
He told Rolling Stone magazine in 2020 that the reason for his initial exit was that he felt “everything was falling apart” within the band, which was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the same year and sold more than 40 million records globally.
He tried to become a police officer after leaving the band and graduating from a reserve police academy. He was rejected by 20 police departments across California due to his famous past and history with drugs.
Hartman rejoined The Doobie Brothers at a reunion show for Vietnam veterans in 1987 and played on their comeback album Cycles in 1989. Sources: Canoe, Variety
Jesse Powell, an R&B singer best known for his hit single, You, died on Sept. 13, age 51. His cause of death is yet to be revealed. His sisters, recording artists Trina and Tamara Powell, said he “died peacefully” in his Los Angeles home.
Originally from Gary, Indiana, the Powell family would end up relocating to Los Angeles in the '90s to pursue their music careers. Jesse Powell released four albums between 1996 and 2003, with his second record, Bout It, certified gold by the RIAA in 1999.
His hit single, You, has nearly 13 million lifetime streams on Spotify. The song was initially released on Powell’s debut album in 1996, but it wasn’t until its inclusion on his 1998 album, Bout It, that the track would reach its peak. It rose to number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in March 1999. Source: Digital Music News
Pharoah Sanders, a revered spiritual jazz saxophonist known for his unique playing style and collaborations with John Coltrane, has died, at age 81.
The news was confirmed by Sanders’ label, Luaka Bop, on Twitter. “We are devastated to share that Pharoah Sanders has passed away,” the label’s statement read. “He died peacefully surrounded by loving family and friends in Los Angeles earlier this morning. Always and forever the most beautiful human being, may he rest in peace.”
Born Farrell Sanders in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1940, Sanders’ career began in Oakland, California. After moving to New York in the 1960s, he started collaborating with Sun Ra, who gave him the name Pharoah, before becoming a member of John Coltrane’s band; Sanders played with Coltrane until the latter’s death in 1967.
The Guardian notes that "along with Coltrane, Sanders was a key figure in the spiritual jazz scene. His 1969 album Karma, which incorporated influences from traditional African and south Asian music, is considered one of the major early documents of the form. Throughout the early 1970s, Sanders continued to release records as a bandleader, largely on the Impulse! label. In 1971, he performed on Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda, another milestone in modal and avant-garde jazz.
After leaving Impulse! in 1973, Sanders released albums on Arista and the avant-garde jazz label India Navigation, before releasing a run of records on the Theresa label in the 1980s.
Although his output began to slow in the 90s, Sanders continued to tour and collaborate throughout the 2000s. In the mid-2010s, Sanders heard a composition by the British electronic producer Sam Shepherd, AKA Floating Points, and asked to collaborate with him. The resulting album, 2021’s Promises, recorded in 2019 with the London Symphony Orchestra, was Sanders’ first new album in more than a decade and was widely acclaimed.
Paying tribute to Sanders on Instagram, Shepherd wrote: “My beautiful friend passed away this morning. I am so lucky to have known this man, and we are all blessed to have his art stay with us forever. Thank you, Pharoah.”
Others paying homage to Sanders included Canadian jazz star Laila Biali, who posted on FB that "I had the great privilege of opening for Pharoah Sanders at the Toronto Jazz Festival in 2006. His set was transcendent. Rest in Power, Master Sanders." Sources: JazzTimes, The Guardian