Dorothy Dorow, Vocal Interpreter of “Fiendish Works”

Des Hafis Liebeslider Op. 24, No. 5 “Der verliebte Ostwind” – Listen on YouTube

As her obituary in The Telegraph points out, Dorothy Dorow took on the most challenging works that “avant-garde composers could throw at her; awkward intervals, high notes, squeaks and squawks.”

Dorow had perfect pitch and a vocal range that could stretch four octaves, from coloratura to mezzo soprano. She performed works by Berg, Schoenberg and Webern and is thought to be the only singer to record three of Schoenberg’s most challenging works.

As if that weren’t enough, she learned to speak six languages and could sing in 13.

Dorothy Dorow, August 22, 1930 – April 15, 2017

“La lune solitaire” on Spotify

Allan Holdsworth, “The Man Who Changed Guitar Forever”

“Hazard Profile” with Soft Machine (1974)–Watch on YouTube

A reluctant guitarist (he wanted to play saxophone but his grandparents couldn’t afford one), Allan Holdsworth didn’t even start playing the instrument until he was 17. He learned quickly.

While he never achieved mass acclaim, he earned the respect of other musicians – Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa and John McClaughlin, to name a few. His fleet-fingered solos and original chord progressions amazed audiences and defied imitators.

Holdsworth moved around a lot, pursuing his own muses from group to group. A partial list includes Soft Machine, U.K., The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Tempest and Gong. The latter’s Gazeuse (Expresso in U.S.)  is listed as one of the 1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die in the book by Tom Moon.

Allan Holdsworth, August 6, 1946-April 16, 2017

“The Sixteen Men of Tain” on Spotify

 

Gervase de Peyer, Considered “World’s Greatest Clarinetist”

French Music for Clarinet and Piano, Gervase de Peyer and Gwenneth Pryor–Listen on YouTube

When he was performing Gervase de Peyer (April 11, 1926-February 4, 2017) was considered “the greatest living clarinetist” by many critics. He had a long association as Principal Clarinetist for the London Symphony Orchestra (1956-1973). He performed as a soloist and touring performer with many internationally acclaimed maestri, including Sir Thomas Beecham, Herbert von Karajan and Otto Klemperer. Composers Paul Hindemith and Aaron Copland preferred him as a soloist, and he premiered a number of clarinet concerti, including works by Alun Hoddinott, Arnold Cook and Berthold Goldschmidt.

De Peyer was a founding member of the Melos Ensemble of London (1950), which later, due to its international reputation, was shortened to Melos Ensemble. The group was a variable ensemble that included a string quartet, wind quartet, harpist and pianist. Their mission was to perform larger chamber works, such as Schubert and Mendelssohn quartets.

While in the U.S., de Peyer formed the Melos Sinfonia of Washington and was a founding member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. He also befriended Benny Goodman, who, like de Peyer frequented Oscar, a seafood restaurant in the Upper East Side.

“Clarinet Sonata in E-Flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2: Allegro amabile” by Johannes Brahms–Listen on Spotify

John Wetton, Bassist for King Crimson and Asia

“Easy Money” King Crimson Live at Wollman Memorial Rink (1973)–Watch on YouTube

Sadly, I’ve written a lot of posts in the past 12 months for progressive rockers. Greg Lake and Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Chris Squire of Yes. Now, add to the list John Wetton of King Crimson. He joined the band in 1972 and contributed to the albums Larks’ Tongues in Aspic (great title!), Starless and Bible Black and Red. 

When founder Robert Fripp* pulled the plug on the band in 1974, Wetton played with British rockers Wishbone Ash, Brian Eno, Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry, Uriah Heep and U.K. He formed the supergroup Asia with  EL&Per Carl Palmer. While King Crimson never quite hit its stride commercially, Asia came out of the gates strong with its self-titled debut. Powered by the hit “Heat of the Moment,” the album stayed on top of the charts for nine weeks. But it was slowly downhill from there as ensuing albums failed to keep pace.

Wetton (June 12, 1949-January 31, 2017) pursued solo work in the 90s, but reunited with Asia in 2006. He had planned to tour with the group as late as last fall until illness forced him to cancel his plans.

*Robert Fripp was mentioned in a post on Maggie Roche last week, but, alas, the post was lost in a switch to a new web hosting company. Fripp helped the Roches go with their organic, authentic style, which would define their sound for the duration of their career.

“Heat of the Moment”–Watch on YouTube

Larry Steinbachek, Keyboardist for Bronski Beat

“Smalltown Boy”–Watch on YouTube

It doesn’t seem that long ago (although I guess it’s been about 30 years!), but when the video for Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy” came out, it was still unfamiliar to see honest depictions of gay life in popular entertainment. This video, purportedly based on experiences from lead singer Jimmy Somerville’s life, was brave enough to show men admiring other men and the homophobia and family strife that came along with it.

Larry Steinbachek joined Somerville and Steve Bronski in forming Bronski Beat in 1983. Their career got a boost when they opened for Tina Turner and were signed by the London label. Their debut album, Age of Consent, which included “Smalltown Boy,” featured a pink triangle on its cover. The inner sleeve of the album listed the age of consent for gay men in various European countries.

Somerville left the band for the Communards and another incarnation of Bronski Beat with John Jon as singer lasted only a few years before disbanding. They did manage to get an album in the UK Top 20 with 1986’s Truthdare Doubledare.

Since the mid-90s, Steinbachek lived in Amsterdam, where he continued to pursue music and contributed to various stage acts.

“Hit That Perfect Beat” on Spotify

Rick Parfitt, Guitarist For Britain’s Status Quo

“Pictures of Matchstick Men”–Watch on YouTube

When I first saw the obit for Rick Parfitt, guitarist for Status Quo, I have to admit that I didn’t recall either his name or that of his band. But then I learned that Status Quo was behind psychedelic hit “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”

The 1968 single was their only hit in the U.S., reaching #12 on the Top 100. But they were very popular in Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and have toured extensively for 50 years. Spotify listens of several of their tracks number over 10 million.

Parfitt (October 12, 1948-December 24, 2016) joined The Spectres, an earlier version of the band in 1965. In recent years, he and Status Quo founder Francis Rossi performed as an acoustic duo, which they called Aquostic.

“Pictures of Matchstick Men” from Aquostic: Stripped Bare on Spotify

Greg Lake of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer

“Lucky Man” – Watch on YouTube

Greg Lake was a founding member of two influential progressive rock bands of the 60s and 70s. First he was a bassist and vocalist for King Crimson with guitarist friend Robert Fripp. But after seeing the band through its debut album, In The Court of the Crimson King, he broke off to join The Nice keyboardist Keith Emerson, whom he had met while the two bands toured together.

Lake (November 10, 1947-December 7, 2016) did not like the “progressive” label. He sought to create a distinctive rock music that traced its roots to European music traditions as opposed to American blues. ELP’s grandiose stage shows and baroque arrangements were hits with fans, but not always with critics. Village Voice writer Robert Christgau dismissed them as “as stupid as their most pretentious fans.”

For ELP, Lake played guitar and sang. His autobiography, Lucky Man, is named after the group’s popular song of the same name, which Lake wrote when he was only 12. Rolling Stone lists it as one of the “10 Essential Songs”of ELP.

“Karn Evil 9 1st Impression” on Spotify

Bap Kennedy, Singer-Songwriter from Belfast

“Long Time Coming” Live from The Empire Belfast–Watch on YouTube

Bap Kennedy was a critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter who never achieved commercial fame despite the help of some very influential friends. Steve Earle produced his first solo album, Domestic Blues, which he recorded in Nashville in 1998. Van Morrison, a long-time fan and supporter, recorded Kennedy’s The Big Picture at his home studio and co-wrote the song “Milky Way.” And Mark Knopfler, with whom Kennedy toured, produced The Sailor’s Revenge.

One of Kennedy’s songs, “Moonlight Kiss,” made it onto the soundtrack of the John Cusack/Kate Beckinsale romantic comedy Serendipity.

Before going solo, Kennedy was part of the Irish bands 10 Past 7 and Energy Orchard, a band he formed in London.

“Moonlight Kiss” on Spotify

Angus R. Grant, Scottish Fiddler for Shooglenifty

“Da Eye Wifey”–Watch on YouTube

Angus R. Grant (February 14, 1967-October 9, 2016) was the leader and fiddler of the Scottish band Shooglenifty, a band that defies easy description. It has been variously categorized as Scottish traditional, folk rock, “acid croft,” Celtic fusion,  techno ceilidh and hypnofolkadelia, with influences from alternative rock, electronica. The term “acid croft” was coined by Shooglenifty to describe a blend of traditional and modern music.

As for the band’s unusual name, Grant’s explanation appears in his obituary in The Telegraph: Shooglenifty is “just two nonsense Scottish words thrown together–’Nifty’ is obviously just nifty and ‘shoogle’ is to shake something. It’s saying you can have a good dance to it or have good sex to it.”

Grant learned to play fiddle from his father, a well-known traditional Scottish musician. The young Grant decided to move in new directions and became part of the band Swamptrash. Some of its members would eventually form Shooglenifty. The band has toured internationally, including a performance before Nelson Mandela.

“Two Fifty to Vigo” on Spotify

Pete Burns, Lead Vocalist for New Wave Band Dead or Alive

“You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)”–Watch on YouTube

Pete Burns (August 5, 1959-October 23, 2016) was the frontman for British New Wave band Dead or Alive. Their most-popular single, “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),”  has received over 44 million views on YouTube and over 36 million streams on Spotify. Not bad for a record that was released 20 years before either service began.

The single reached #1 on the UK charts and #11 in the US. It was produced by the hit-making team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman, known collectively as S/A/W. It was an example of a New Wave subgenre known as Hi-NRG, a post-disco dance style characterized, according to Billboardby “clattering percussion, octave-skipping basslines, uptempo BPMs, and sexually charged lyrics.”

Burns’ androgynous style fit well in an MTV era with artists like Boy George of Culture Club and Annie Lennox of the Eurythmics. But according to Burns, getting a video produced was not a given. Epic, DoA’s label, hated “Spin” so much that the band had to pay for the video themselves. It appears to have been a good investment.

“Brand New Lover” on Spotify