advertisement
FYI

Obituaries, Nov. 23, 2023: Al Rain and Mars Williams

This week we acknowledge the passing of a Canadian songwriter and producer and a prolific Chicago jazz musician.

Obituaries, Nov. 23, 2023: Al Rain and Mars Williams

Albert Gerald (Al) Rain, a Canadian songwriter, manager and producer, died on Nov. 14, at age 84.

His official obituary notes that “He was a creative soul, loving music and art. Music was his first passion, writing the iconic Tommy Hunter show theme song 'Travellin’ Man.’ His legacy will be carried on through his music and family.”


In the mid-60s, Rain put together the soul group The Tiaras, producing and writing their two singles. The group comprised Brenda Russell (later a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter), Jackie Richardson (later an acclaimed soul and blues solo artist), Colinna Phillips, and Arlene Trotman. Their 1968 single “Where Does All the Time Go" attracted the attention of Billboard but the group disbanded a year later.

advertisement

In a recent interview with FYI’s Bill King, Russell recalled that “Al Rain, our manager back then, passed away a few days ago. He discovered me out of high school standing back in the club where The Tiaras were playing in Hamilton. He said he needed a girl for the group, and I ended up joining. That one person asking if I sang changed my life.”

Rain also wrote for Toronto band Grant Smith & The Power, and during the ‘60s and ‘70s he had songs recorded by The Bachelors, Shirley Jackson, Pat Hervey, The Allen Sisters, The Peaches, Diane, The Hi-Tones, and many more. The theme to Tommy Hunter’s hit TV show would be his biggest hit.

Memorial donations may be made to Autism Ontario.

Sources: Discogs, Steeles Memorial Chapel, Brenda Russell

Tommy Hunter - Travellin Man


Mars Williams, a prolific Chicago-based jazz and rock saxophonist, died on Nov. 20, at age 68, of ampullary cancer.

Williams is best known for concurrent stints in The Waitresses and The Psychedelic Furs in the '80s, but he also toured and recorded with such diverse artists as Billy Idol, Power Station, Billy Squier, Massacre, Ministry, The Killers, Wayne Kramer, Bill Laswell, Charlie Hunter, Dirty Projectors, Our Daughter's Wedding, Mark Freeland's Electroman, and Die Warzau.

advertisement

On the jazz side, he worked with such notable experimental artists as the Peter Brötzmann Tentet, Hal Russell's NRG Ensemble, Extraordinary Popular Delusions. and the Vandermark 5, and he led such groups as the Grammy Award-nominated acid jazz combo Liquid Soul, Witches & Devils, Slam and XmarsX.

Famed jazz artist John Zorn once called Williams “one of the true saxophone players — someone who takes pleasure in the sheer act of blowing the horn. This tremendous enthusiasm is an essential part of his sound, and it comes through each note every time he plays. Whatever the situation, Mars plays exciting music."

Sources: Variety, Wikipedia, Williams' official website

WORLD'S ON A LEASH by LIQUID SOUL

advertisement
Beyoncé

Beyoncé

FYI

The Billboard Canada FYI Bulletin: Beyoncé Country Hit A Win For Canadian Songwriters

Also in this week's roundup of industry news: Kayla Diamond launches her own boutique imprint, SOCAN names an ombudsman, and time's running out for noms for this year's Rosalie Award honouring trailblazing women in broadcasting.

Beyoncé becomes the first Black woman to top Billboard’s Country Songs chart with “Texas Hold ‘Em” and it has gone to No. 1 on iTunes in 14 different countries and counting. There are some surprising connections. The song is co-written and co-produced by Ontario-born writer/producer Nathan Ferraro, whose previous collaborations include working with Lady Gaga, Carly Rae Jepsen, Bear Mountain, RALPH, Shawn Hook, Alyssa Reid, Jessie Reyez, Lowell and Tyler Shaw.

In fact, the song has deep Canadian origins. Two other Canadian songwriters participated in this runaway hit: Megan Bülow (who records and performs as bülow) as and Elizabeth "Lowell" Boland (a.k.a. Lowell), with Ferraro co-producing the track with Killah B and Beyoncé.

keep readingShow less
advertisement