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Obituaries: Blues Musician Denis Parker, Jazz Artist Jim Heineman & More

This week we also acknowledge the passing of Mojo Nixon, Damo Suzuki, Seiji Ozawa and Donald Kinsey.

Denis Parker

Denis Parker

Alick Tsui

Jim Heineman, a veteran Toronto jazz saxophonist, composer and bandleader, died on Feb. 6, at age 80.

Heineman was born and bred in New York City, and he immersed himself in jazz at that city’s club venues. He moved to Toronto in 1963, earning a liberal arts degree at the University of Toronto and presenting jazz concerts at Convocation Hall by such greats as Sonny Rollins and Keith Jarrett.


After further studies at Harvard and Berklee College of Music, Heineman managed his own jazz club, The Strawberry Patch, in Yorkville during its ‘60s heyday.

In the decades following, he played regularly in such Toronto clubs as The El Mocambo, The Cotton Club, El Mocambo, George’s Spaghetti House, Basin Street, The Blue Note and the Top of the Senator. He and bandmate John T. Davis, performing as the Jim Heineman/John T. Davis Quartet (with Mark Hundevad and Steve Briggs), are credited with turning The Rex Hotel into a jazz hub, via an 80-week run as its first house band.

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The pair were the subject of a documentary film, Brothers In Music, one shown at international jazz festivals, and featured on CBC’s Adrienne Clarkson Presents in 1996. Heineman was also the featured actor and instrumentalist in an award-winning 1988 short film entitledStealing Images.

He performed at such festivals as the Jacksonville International Jazz Festival, the Pirate Jazz Festival in the Cayman Islands (with the Kingsley Etienne Quartet), and Toronto’s Luminato and TD Jazz Festivals.

Over his career, Heineman played with such jazz stars as Roland Kirk, Sonny Stitt, Lenny Breau, Hilario Duran, Diane Brooks, and Mary Lou Williams. A versatile musician, he also played in notable Latin jazz, world music, R&B, avant-garde, and blues bands. In 1999 he played on on Madagascar Slim’s debut (and Juno-winning) album, Omnisource.

In 2011, Mark Hundevad and Lucya Almeida produced a live recording featuring Heineman’s compositions called Rh Positive, and its title track was nominated for an International Independent Music Award. Another live CD recording, Nature Is Our Mother, followed in 2014.

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Along with John T. Davis and some others, Heineman helped launch the Cabbagetown Community Arts Centre. Bringing opportunities for the arts to underprivileged children in Toronto, this centre still flourishes today, and Heineman taught there regularly.

Of note: Jim Heineman's son Max Malone (formerly Heineman) is an acclaimed bluegrass musician (Foggy Hometown Boys, Lonesome Ace Stringband).

Read more on Jim Heineman's life and career here.

A celebration of life will be announced at a future date.

Denis Parker, a notable blues musician who spent more than 50 years writing and performing music in Newfoundland and Labrador, has died, at age 78.

A CBC News obituary states that “Parker is remembered by fellow musicians as a trailblazer and a leading force in the St. John's blues scene. He also spent years as the head of MusicNL, where he supported other musicians.”

Born in England, Parker began his music career there, prior to moving to St. John's in 1971. One of his early groups, Panama Limited Jug Band was signed to the prestigious independent label Harvest and released a couple of blues-accented albums.

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CBC recalls a 2019 interview with the St. John's Morning Show, in which "Parker remembered the exact date and time he came to the province — Nov. 4, 1971 at 1:30 p.m.

"He said he came to the province after meeting Newfoundland musicians in London who were playing with the group, Lukey's Boat. He said he "wasn't doing a hell of a lot" at the time, so when he was invited to Newfoundland and Labrador to start a band, he jumped at the chance.

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"That band was Mantis, the first group he performed with in the province. Parker is remembered as someone who was always playing the blues on his guitar in the city's local pubs and bars."

News of his passing elicited many glowing tributes on social media. Here are some:

Adam Lewis (Planetary Group): "So sorry to hear that my friend Denis Parker has passed. He believed in Planetary early. 20+ years ago bringing Newfoundland artists to Boston on a trade mission that we put together. Having me up to NF to speak to the artists multiple times.

"He also was signed to Harvest Records back in the late '60s. He had lots of Pink Floyd etc stories to tell. I watched the first Tom Brady Super Bowl win with him in Newfoundland. A great friend to The Planetary Group. Loved him dearly. The world is a little dimmer without him."

Raoul Bhaneja (Toronto blues musician): "My old show Raoul's Blues that was on Jazzcast featured an episode in St. John's three years ago, and it features songs, fave tunes, interviews and even a jam with the great Denis Parker. He shares some incredible stories and insights about his life in music and his experience in Newfoundland. Later on that trip I got to record tracks for his Country Blue album which was a real honour.

"Last night we dedicated a song to him at The Blues Summit in Toronto and there were all kinds of signs, coincidences in the offing left, right and centre, mojo, whatever you want to call it and he and his memory were very present."

Rob Oakie (Music PEI): "We lost one of the very good ones on the weekend. Denis Parker was a legend. He loved playing the blues but I first knew him as a champion of Newfoundland/Labrador music and musicians. Denis was one of the first Executive Directors of Music NL which was one of the first provincial music industry associations in Canada.

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"Denis was one of my mentors and taught me what it meant to be a fierce advocate for our artists. Sitting around the table with him was always an education and I learned a lot from him. He was generous and of course a whole lot of fun to be around. I loved it when he regaled us with some amazing stories from his early life in England. Denis was a one of a kind, my deepest condolences go out to his family, his Music NL family and of course the legion of friends he collected along the way. Play on friend."

Mark Critch (actor, author): "Another great has left us. Denis Parker’s music turned my brother on to the Blues. We loved him and would sneak into gigs underage. When we were creating our bedrooms for Son Of A Critch, there HAD to be Denis Parker tapes and posters.

"What a life! He recorded at Abbey Road, led Music NL for years and wrote incredible music that will live on for generations. I’ll treasure every moment we spent together. I last saw him this summer for a football match at the Duke. I’ll remember him that way, with that 1000 Watt smile. Cheers, mate. Once around the harbour."

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International

Donald Kinsey, an American guitarist and singer, best known as a member of Peter Tosh’s backing band, died on Feb. 6, at age 70. A cause of death has not been reported.

Donald Kinsey was one of three sons of Chicago blues performer, Big Daddy Kinsey.

As well as work with reggae legend Tosh, Kinsey toured and recorded with Albert King, Bob Marley and the Wailers, and Roy Buchanan. He was actually present at Marley’s house in Kingston, Jamaica, when assassins sought to kill Marley in 1976.

In 1984, Kinsey and his brothers Ralph and Kenneth formed blues band The Kinsey Report, a group that became known internationally. Donald Kinsey also toured extensively with The Wailers Band, comprising musicians who had played with Marley in the ‘70s.

In 2020, Kinsey was featured on The Wailers Band album, One World, nominated for a Best Reggae Album Award at The Grammys.

Other artists featuring Kinsey on their albums included Burning Spear, Betty Wright, Morgan Heritage andBig Daddy Kinsey.

Mojo Nixon (Neill Kirby McMillan Jr.), an American rock 'n roll singer and songwriter and radio host, died on Feb. 7, at age 66, of a heart attack while he was on an Outlaw Country Cruise at which he performed.

His social media platforms reported the news this way: "Mojo Nixon: How you live is how you should die. Mojo Nixon was full-tilt, wide-open, rock hard, root hog, corner on two wheels + on fire… Passing after a blazing show, a raging night, closing the bar, taking no prisoners + a good breakfast with bandmates and friends. A cardiac event on the Outlaw Country Cruise is about right… & that’s just how he did it.

"Mojo has left the building. Since Elvis is everywhere, we know he was waiting for him in the alley out back. Heaven help us all."

A Billboard obituary noted that "the North Carolina-born Nixon made his way to California in the early ’80s and teamed up with musician Skid Roper, with whom he released six albums between 1985 and 1990. Roper played washboard while Nixon played guitar and sang his own lyrics. Their 1987 project Bo-Day-Shus!!!, which included “Elvis Is Everywhere,” peaked at No. 187 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

"Nixon also hit the Billboard charts with “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child,” a No. 16 Alternative Airplay hit from his Root Hog or Die album with Skid Roper (No. 151 on the Billboard 200 in 1989), as well as “Don Henley Must Die” — from Mojo’s 1990 solo album Otis — which was a No. 20 hit on Alternative Airplay."

He also played with the Toadliquors, Pleasure Barons, and with Jello Biafra.

Nixon also found work as an actor, appearing in the 1989 Jerry Lee Lewis biopic Great Balls of Fire! and starring as Toad in the 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie.

He was also a highly-regarded satellite radio host on the SiriusXM show Loon in the Afternoon on Steven Van Zandt’s Outlaw Country channel.

A documentary about Nixon, The Mojo Manifesto: The Life and Times of Mojo Nixon, debuted at the 2022 South by Southwest film festival and was released digitally in March of last year.

Nixon befriended many Canadian industry types and bands over his career, and some of them took to social media to offer condolences.

Industry veteran Mark Smith worked with Nixon while with Cattle Prod in Vancouver, and then at Enigma Records Canada, developing a close friendship. On Facebook, Smith offered these thoughts: "The magic was Mojo was entertaining himself and we all happened to be in the room to watch

"You can see that in interviews, something would come out of his mouth that had never been said before and he would laugh. Not his Foghorn Leghorn laugh, but a quick glance to the side and a chuckle. Not just in interviews, it would happen in the van, or when eating pancakes at the elbow room. A few hours later it would be in a show.

"The fact that you and Scott Reilly reciprocated with such kindness to my parents who gave you a bed to sleep in and PIES, when passing through Edmonton speaks volumes. Your Canadian Mom And Dad loved you, even had bowling shirts [pre-shrunk and pre-stunk] made that said 'Mojo's Mom' and 'Mojo's Dad.'

"We met by chance when the promoter in Vancouver did not want to pop for a hotel room and paid us $10 to let you sleep on the floor at Cattle Prod. Best $10 I ever earned. Go rip satan a new one..."

Smith explains to Billboard Canada that "I worked with Mojo well before Enigma. In fact, Mojo called Enigma Canada to say they had to hire me or he was walking. I knew him at CattleProd with Jay Scott, and then Enigma was 4 years I think. but we remained friends, I talked to him a few weeks ago about Jay."

Slaight Music head Derrick Ross was heading Enigma Canada when the label was distributing Mojo Nixon albums in the late '80's. He tells Billboard Canada that "I remember when we were promoting 'Elvis Is Everywhere,' and Mark [Smith] dressed up as Elvis and I was Colonel Tom. We pick up the programmers in a limo and played them the video etc, and then we drove up and down Yonge Street with Mark waving through the sun roof as we handed out flyers for the new record's availability at retail!! FUN DAY. We loved working with Mojo and his team. Just a great artist and lots of fun!!"

Canadian record label head/artist manager Brian Hetherman posted this tribute on Facebook: "Very sad news about the legend that was Mojo Nixon, who passed away yesterday. His SiriusXM show was always entertaining and his parties during SXSW at the Continental Club were unsurpassed, and how can you beat songs like ' Elvis is Everywhere' and 'Don Henley Must Die.'

"The first time I met Mojo was at the Saxon Pub in Austin. He was in full Mojo mode, but he let me hang out and talk with him because I was from Canada and I knew Mark Smith and Derrick Ross, whom he loved from their days working together. I’d say Rest in Peace Mojo, but I know that’s not what you would want, so Rage in Peace!!."

Seiji Ozawa, a world-renowned and Grammy-winning conductor died on Feb. 6, of heart failure, at age 88.

The AP obituary notes that "the acclaimed Japanese maestro led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 to 2002, longer than any other conductor in the orchestra’s 128-year history. From 2002 to 2010, he was music director of the Vienna State Opera."

While with the BSO, Ozawa lured such classical stars as Yo-Yo Ma to perform. Television work with the orchestra earned Ozawa two Emmy awards.

Canada also played an important role in Ozawa's career. In its obituary, CBC noted that "in 1965, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra scored a coup when it tapped Ozawa to succeed Walter Susskind as the fourth music director in its history. Ozawa was fresh off a second stint as assistant conductor with the New York Philharmonic under lifelong mentor Leonard Bernstein.

"In addition to performances at its home at the time, Massey Hall, Ozawa's TSO would play the grand opening of City Hall in 1967. "A better orchestra is important, not only for musical but for social reasons," he told the Globe and Mail in 1967. 'Toronto people feel [the] orchestra is important, like a hockey or baseball team.'" Ozawa was TSO director from 1965 to 1969

He was also the artistic director and founder of the Saito Kinen Festival, a Japanese music and opera festival. Ozawa won Best Opera Recording at the 58th Grammy Awards in 2016 for Ravel: L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, recorded at the 2013 Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto, in which he conducted the Saito Kinen Orchestra.

The same year, he was named an honorary member of the Berlin Philharmonic and an honorary citizen of Tokyo.

Read more in the Billboard Japan obituary here.

Damo (Kenji) Suzuki, an adventurous Japanese musician best known as the former lead singer of German prog rock band Can, died on Feb. 9, at age 74. A cause of death has not been announced, but Suzuki had been diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014.

Born in Kobe, Japan, Suzuki moved to Germany in the late 1960s. He replaced the original Can vocalist, Michael Mooney, in 1970, after being discovered by that group's Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit busking in Munich.

The group’s first full album with Suzuki was 1971’s Tago Mago, and he remained with Can for their seminal albums1972’s Ege Bamyasi, and 1973's Future Days.

A Guardian obituary noted that"Suzuki's improvisational singing style – mixing words in English, Japanese and his own made-up languages – became key to Can’s sound.

"Between 1970 and 1973 he led the band through its unquestionable peak, including a trio of albums as bold and revolutionary as any in the 20th-century rock canon: Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Future Days. Musicians such as David Bowie, Radiohead and Talking Heads have all cited the German group as an influence."

In 1973, Suzuki left the group and dropped out of music for a decade after becoming a Jehovah's Witness. Upon his return, he toured internationally, using local musicians and performing as Damo Suzuki’s Network. He performed at Toronto's Wavelength Festival in 2003, at Hamilton's This Ain't Hollywood, and at other Canadian venues and festivals. He recorded numerous Network and solo releases over the ensuing decades.

A memoir, I Am Damo Suzuki (co-written with Paul Woods), was published in 2019, and Suzuki was profiled in director Michelle Heighway’s 2022 documentary Energy.

Read more in this Billboard obituary.

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AP Dhillon smashing his guitar at Coachella
Instagram/Coachella

AP Dhillon smashing his guitar at Coachella

Music

AP Dhillon Drops Off Coachella's Second Weekend

The Punjabi-Canadian star has faced backlash in Indian media and on social media for his guitar smash on weekend one, but the festival says he's cancelling due to scheduling conflicts.

AP Dhillon is leaving the California desert behind. Coachella announced that the Punjabi-Canadian star will not appear at the festival's second weekend as planned, citing scheduling conflicts. The festival announced it in a follow up tweet to one announcing that rapper Kid Cudi has been added.

While Dhillon's first-weekend performance was well-received by the Coachella crowd and many of his supporters, he's also had some backlash due to how he closed his set, which has been widely covered by media in India.

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