Monday, February 22, 2016

Farewell Bomb

Whoa, barely two months into 2016 and the world has lost an incredible amount of musical talent. While you may not know of all these names, here are five more noteworthy artists who have recently passed away.

On January 28th, Jefferson Airplane's lead guitarist and songwriter, Paul Kantner, died at the age of 74 (pictured second from left with glasses). Jefferson Airplane's psychedelic sound and free-spirited mindset helped define the '60s counterculture in San Francisco. Kantner was a co-founder of the group in 1965 with Marty Balin and the guiding spirit of its successor, Jefferson Starship. With hits like "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" (both featured here), Jefferson Airplane wrote anthems for the hippie movement and the memorable Summer of Love in 1967. While vocalists Grace Slick and Balin were the public faces of Jefferson Airplane, Kantner was often the creative force of the band, bringing a freshness from his folk music scene background. From their historic album Surrealistic Pillow in 1967, listen for Kantner's vocal at 1:08 in "How Do You Feel?"

And what are the odds two members of Jefferson Airplane would pass away on the same day and at the same age? Also on January 28th, the band's original female vocalist, Signe Anderson, died at 74 (also pictured in the top photo). Initially a jazz and folk singer in Portland, OR, she joined Jefferson Airplane after a trip to San Francisco in 1965, and sang on their first album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Married to one of the Merry Pranksters, Jerry Anderson, and pregnant with her first child, Signe left the group in late 1966, and was replaced by rock 'n roll diva Grace Slick. Check out this footage of the band performing "It's No Secret" at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in 1966; look for Signe at the 1:34 mark.
 On January 16th, American singer and guitarist Gary Loizzo, best-known as the lead singer of The American Breed, passed away at the age of 70. From the greater Chicago area, The American Breed had several hit records, including the million-selling single "Bend Me, Shape Me" in 1967/'68. In the early '70s, Loizzo went on to start his own recording studio called 'Pumpkin Studios,' and became a two-time Grammy-nominated recording engineer. He worked with REO Speedwagon, Styx, Bad Company, Slash, Survivor, Liza Minnelli, Tenacious D, and many others. Since "Bend Me, Shape Me" was previously featured here, here's their first Top-40 hit in 1967, "Step Out of Your Mind" (gotta love that "trumpet-playing" drummer).
On February 6th, American singer-songwriter Dan Hicks passed away, also at the end of 74. Combining cowboy folk, jazz, country, swing, bluegrass, pop, and gypsy music in his sound, Hicks first became part of the San Francisco folk music scene in 1959, performing at local coffeehouses. Later, he joined the San Francisco band The Charlatans in 1965 as drummer, and in 1967, formed Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks, contemporaries of Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. From his first album released in 1969,  "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?" features Hick's humor, frequently infused into his tunes.
Finally, American musician, songwriter, screenwriter, and voice actor Bill Martin passed away on January 27th at the age of 64. A friend of Monkee Michael Nesmith, Martin's first contribution to The Monkees came in the form of "All of Your Toys," recorded during the very first studio sessions that featured the group supporting themselves instrumentally. Because of a publishing dispute with Screen Gems, the song never saw the light of day until it was released on the Missing Links compilation in 1987. He also composed "The Door Into Summer," which did see release on 1967's Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. album. Martin later collaborated with other artists, including Harry Nilsson ("Rainmaker," covered by Nesmith on his third solo effort, Nevada Fighter). Martin later co-starred with Nesmith in his Grammy-winning Elephant Parts in 1981, and in addition to screenwriting credits (1987's Harry and the Hendersons), his voice skills earned him roles in numerous animated series. Unfortunately, I could not find any photos of him! But these two songs are true gems and needed to be included. Here's the Bill Martin-penned could-have-been-a-hit Monkees' tune, "All of Your Toys," recorded in 1967.

From The Monkees' fourth studio album, here's "The Door Into Summer," officially written by Bill Martin and the Monkees' producer Chip Douglas (although Douglas denies any writing contribution). Another fantastic tune.

RIP and sincere farewell to all these talented legends.