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Obituaries: Canadian Photographer Ron Boudreau, Cajun/Country Artist Jo-El Sonnier & More

This week we also acknowledge the passing of a groundbreaking British DJ Annie Nightingale, prolific drummer James Kottak, and more.

 Ron Boudreau

Ron Boudreau

Courtesy Photo

Ron Boudreau, a highly respected Canadian music photographer, died on Jan. 3, of natural causes, at age 59.

Boudreau shot both live and in studio for such Canadian media outlets as Exclaim!, MEAT, and Peace Magazine throughout the '90s and early 2000s. His work also appeared on the cover and in the book The Real Eminem: Revelations of an American Original,


He shot such legendary American artists as James Brown, Eminem, Marilyn Manson and Ozzy Osbourne, as well as many Canadian stars.

His close friend, music publicist Paula Danylevich, tells Billboard Canada that for the past 15 years he's also worked in film and television in catering/craft service on such shows as Suits and Chucky. On Facebook, she posted this tribute: "My dearest Ron Boudreau, you were like a brother to me. I can’t believe you are gone. My heart is broken in a million pieces. The world just lost a shining light. Rest in peace my friend."

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International

Jo-El Sonnier, a Grammy-winning Cajun/country singer/songwriter, died on Jan. 13, after suffering a heart attack following a performance in Llano, Texas. He was 77 years old.

The Louisiana-born Sonnier recorded several country albums and placed ten singles on the Billboard Country Charts, most notably the 1988 Top 10 hit, "Tear Stained Letter."

Sonnier began to play the accordion, and he started recording at age 11, releasing several albums independently as a teen. Billboard reports in its obituary that "In the 1970s, he signed as a country artist with Mercury Nashville, but made the shift to independent label Rounder Records when he began recording Cajun music. He returned to country in the 1980s, signing with RCA, and charted with singles including 1988’s “No More One More Time” and “Tear Stained Letter,” a track originally recorded by Richard Thompson.

"Sonnier moved to Capitol Records in the 1990s before making the return to Cajun music at Rounder Records. He won a Grammy Award for best regional roots album, for The Legacy, in 2015. It was his first Grammy win, but fifth time being nominated."

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Canadian country music authority Larry Delaney reminded Billboard Canada that Sonnier recorded his "Live in Canada" album August 13, 1995, at the Edmonton Folk Festival. He was backed onstage by an all-star Canadian lineup featuring Amos Garrett, Keith Glass (Prairie Oyster) Kit Johnson, Bohdan Hluszko, Ron Casat, and Tony Michael, and the album was released on the Edmonton-based Stony Plain Records label.

On Facebook, renowned Toronto drummer Hluszko (now Michelle Josef) recalled working with Sonnier: "Playing (and recording) with Jo-El was a delight. He had a thick Cajun accent. He pronounced zydeco as Zy-Deeco. He would play these wild accordion intros to his songs that wouldn’t really give you any idea of a 'count-in' to the song. I would watch his leg, slowly rising while he played and when he quickly dropped his foot, I knew the downbeat was when his foot hit the ground."

Tony (Anthony Michael) Clarkin, the guitarist and songwriter for the English rock band Magnum, died on Jan. 7, at age 77, of a rare spinal condition.

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Clarkin was the sole songwriter throughout Magnum's history, writing the material on the 22 studio albums by the group and on two studio albums by Magnum spin-off band Hard Rain.

Magnum began as the house band at Birmingham's Rum Runner night club (later the home of Duran Duran) in 1972. The group's most notable early success during these early years was the 1982 album, Chase The Dragon, which reached No. 17 in the U.K. Albums Chart.

A breakthrough album came in 1985 with On a Storyteller's Night which featured the single "Just Like an Arrow." Queen drummer Roger Taylor produced Vigilante in 1986, and the top 5 album Wings of Heaven in 1988, while 1990's Goodnight L.A. reached number 9 in the UK Albums Chart..

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Magnum broke up in 1995, and Clarkin's next band, Hard Rain, operated until 2001, releasing the albums Hard Rain and When The Good Times Come.

Clarkin and Bob Catley re-launched Magnum with the 2002 album Breath of Life in 2002 followed by Brand New Morning in 2004. The 2007 full-length Princess Alice and the Broken Arrow was a moderate hit in the UK and Germany.

Larry (Lawrence) Collins, an American guitarist, best known for being a part of The Collins Kids duo with his sister Lorrie, died on Jan. 5, at age 79.

The Collins Kids score such hits in the '50s as "Hop, Skip and Jump," "Beetle Bug Bop," and "Hoy Hoy." Regular performers on Town Hall Party and Tex Ritter's Ranch Party, they also appeared on the Grand Ole Opry.

Collins and his mentor, country star Joe Maphis, recorded together on 1957 album Fire on the Strings. The Collins siblings stopped working together in 1961, and Larry Collins continued to perform as a solo artist, and most notably co-wrote the 1972 hit "Delta Dawn." The pair then reunited for a rockabilly revival concert in England in 1993, and performed together until Lorrie's death in 2018.

James Kottak, an American drummer, best known for his work with the German hard rock band Scorpions, died on Jan. 9, at age 61. A cause of death has not been confirmed.

He joined The Scorpions in 1996, and when he was fired from the band in 2016 for his alcoholism, he was their longest-serving drummer.

Kottak was also an original member of Kingdom Come, working with them from 1987 to 1989 and again from 2018 to his death. Other groups he drummed in include Montrose, Warrant, Wild Horses, the McAuley Schenker Group, Dio and Buster Brown.

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He had his own band Kottak, formerly known as KrunK.

Annie (Anne Avril) Nightingale, a renowned English radio and television broadcaster, died on Jan. 11, at the age of 83.

In a statement reported in The Guardian, her family described her as a “pioneer, trailblazer and inspiration to many. Her impulse to share that enthusiasm with audiences remained undimmed after six decades of broadcasting on BBC TV and radio globally."

She was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1 in 1970 and the first female presenter for BBC Television's The Old Grey Whistle Test where she stayed for eleven years.

Known for championing new and underground music, Nightingale also encouraged other women to become DJs and broadcasters. She was BBC Radio 1's longest serving broadcaster and held the Guinness World Record for the longest career as a female radio presenter.

Early in her career, she was the first pop music columnist for the Brighton Evening Argus, then began hosting different music TV shows fan specials for Associated-Rediffusion. She also became a well-known fashion model at the time.

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BBC Radio 1 launched in September 1967, and Nightingale was signed as the first female DJ on Radio 1 in 1970. She later worked for the influential BBC TV music show, The Old Grey Whistle Test.

In 1981, she published her first memoir, Chase the Fade, featuring images from Nightingale's photo archive. A second memoir, Wicked Speed, was published in 1999, and a third, Hey Hi Hello, was an Amazon bestseller in 2020.

As an in-demand DJ, she also appeared at numerous major international festivals.

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Jay-Z and Alicia Keys perform onstage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 13, 2009 in New York City.
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys perform onstage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on Sept. 13, 2009 in New York City.

Awards

Alicia Keys and Jay-Z to Perform ‘Empire State of Mind’ on 2024 Tony Awards

The song always packs a special jolt of excitement when performed in New York City.

It was too perfect an opportunity to pass up: Alicia Keys and Jay-Z will perform “Empire State of Mind” during the 77th Annual Tony Awards on Sunday, June 16. The show is set to air live on both coasts from the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City (8:00-11:00 p.m. ET/5:00-8:00 p.m. live PT) on CBS, and to stream on Paramount+ in the U.S.

“Empire State of Mind” is featured in Hell’s Kitchen, the musical based on Keys’ early life and music which is nominated for 13 Tony Awards. That put it in a tie with the play Stereophonic as this year’s most-nominated production.

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