Category Archives: Sounds

Gone in threes, 2022

They go in threes. They always go in threes. 2022 was no different.

Adventurers: Joseph Kittinger Jr. (set world record for parachute jump from edge of space), Lance Mackey (won Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race four times), Hilaree Nelson (first woman to summit Everest and Lhotse in a 24-hour period)

AFL mad bombers: Len Dawson, John Hadl, Daryle Lamonica

A league of their own: Maxine Kline, Katie Vonderau (pitcher and catcher, both All-American Girls Professional Baseball League stars), Roz Wyman (Los Angeles City Council member influential in bringing the Dodgers west)

All that jazz: Ramsey Lewis (piano), Pharoah Sanders (sax), Creed Taylor (producer)

Animated: Jules Bass (Rankin/Bass TV specials and films), Paul Coker Jr. (MAD magazine artist, Rankin/Bass character designer), Gerald Potterton (directed “Heavy Metal,” designed “Yellow Submarine” Liverpool sequence)

The Aristocrats: Gilbert Gottfried, Bob Saget, Larry Storch

Author, author: Jack Higgins, David McCullough, P.J. O’Rourke

Ball coaches: Vince Dooley (Georgia), Gary Gaines (the real “Friday Night Lights” coach from Odessa, Texas), Mike Leach (Mississippi State)

Baseball Hall of Famers: Gaylord Perry (spitballer), Vin Scully (broadcaster), Bruce Sutter (reliever)

Baseball writers: Roger Angell (“The Summer Game,” “Five Seasons,” “Late Innings”), Joe Donnelly (Newsday), Ron Rabinovitz (Jackie Robinson’s young pen pal from Sheboygan)

Beatlemania: Ken Mansfield (Apple Records manager in the U.S., was at 1969 rooftop gig), Ed Rudy (covered Beatles’ first U.S. trip), Geoff Wonfor (directed “Anthology” documentary series)

Blaxploited in ‘The Mack’: Max Julien (also “Cleopatra Jones”), Roger E. Mosley (also “Sweet Jesus, Preacherman”), Carol Speed (also “Black Samson” and “Abby”)

Bluesmen: Danny Kalb (Blues Project guitarist), Sam Lay (Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield Blues Band drummer), Jim Schwall (Siegel-Schwall Band guitarist)

Brewers, briefly: Chuck Carr (told to take a 2-0 pitch in the eighth inning against the Angels on May 16, 1997, he swung and popped out, then famously said: “That ain’t Chuckie’s game. Chuckie hacks on 2-0,” after which he was immediately released after refusing to be sent to the minors), Dick Ellsworth, Dick Schofield (both ended long MLB careers with the Brewers, 1971),

Buddy’s buddies: Jerry Allison (Crickets drummer, co-wrote “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue”), Larry Holley (one of Buddy Holly’s older brothers), Sonny West (co-wrote “Oh, Boy!” and “Rave On”)

By the time we got to Woodstock: Kal David (guitarist who left Poco, moved to Woodstock, formed the Fabulous Rhinestones), Michael Lang (festival co-creator), Arnold Skolnick (created 1969 poster)

Can’t keep us out: Authorine Lucy Foster (first Black student at University of Alabama), Jane Gross (first woman sportswriter to enter a pro basketball locker room), Robin Herman (one of first two women sportswriters to enter a pro sports locker room)

Cartoon voices: Pat Carroll (Ursula in “The Little Mermaid”), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown)

Celtics legends: Bill Fitch, Bill Russell, Paul Silas

Check the label: Mo Ostin (Verve, Reprise, Warner Bros.), Art Rupe (Specialty), Jim Stewart (Stax)

Child actors: Dwayne Hickman (many roles before Dobie Gillis), Jimmy Lydon (“Henry Aldrich” films), Mickey Kuhn (Beau Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind”)

Civil rights fighters: Rev. Calvin O. Butts (Harlem), Charles Sherrod (the Albany Movement), Daniel Smith (one of the last surviving children of a former American Black slave)

Citius, altius, fortius: James Forbes (one of the 1972 U.S. basketball players who never accepted silver medal), Luke Jackson (1964 U.S. basketball gold medalist), Jim Redmond (helped injured son Derek finish 400-meter race in 1992 Summer Olympics)

Comic book creators: Neal Adams (reimagined Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow), Kevin O’Neill (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), Kazuki Takahashi (“Yu-Gi-Oh!”)

Cover stories: James Bama (Aurora monster model boxes, Doc Savage book covers, pulp art), George Lois (Esquire, most memorably Sonny Liston as Santa Claus), Roland Young (LP covers)

Curtain calls: Robert Clary (last surviving “Hogan’s Heroes” cast member), Virginia Patton (last surviving “It’s a Wonderful Life” adult cast member), Betty Rowland (last surviving performer from the Golden Age of Burlesque)

Directors, American films: Peter Bogdanovich, Bob Rafelson, Ivan Reitman

Directors, foreign films: Jean-Luc Godard, Mike Hodges, Wolfgang Peterson

Doo woppers: Bobby Hendricks (Drifters), Fred Johnson (Marcels), Fred Parris (Five Satins)

Envisioning the future: Colin Cantwell (created Death Star and X-Wing fighters for “Star Wars”), William Stoney Jr. (NASA engineer developed early rockets), Douglas Trumbull (visual effects for “2001,” “Close Encounters,” first “Star Trek” film, “Blade Runner”)

Eye for art: Margaret Keane (big-eyed paintings), Claes Oldenburg (pop art), Philip Pearlstein (nudes)

Fashionistas: Manfred Thierry Mugler, Andre Leon Talley, Ivana Trump

Folkies: Judith Durham (Seekers), Judy Henske, Bob Neuwirth (Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin)

Foodies: Ali Ahmed Aslam (created chicken tikka masala in Scotland), Gael Greene (critic), Sylvia Wu (introduced Los Angeles to authentic Chinese food)

Formidable feminists: Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Pitman Hughes, Esther Cooper Jackson

Funny guys: Louie Anderson, Johnny Brown (“Laugh-In,” “Good Times”), Freddie Roman

Funny ladies: Kirstie Alley, Maureen Arthur, Judy Tenuta

Gear heads: Clayton Jacobson II (Jet Ski), Mark Littell (former baseball reliever invented Nutty Buddy, a better cup), Peter Moore (designed first Air Jordan shoe and Jumpman logo)

Gone, country: Bill Fries (C.W. McCall), Mickey Gilley, Patrick Haggerty (Lavender Country, first gay-themed country record, 1973)

Goodbye KISS: John Harte (bodyguard), Michael James Jackson (produced their ’80s albums), Ken Kelly (“Destroyer” and “Love Gun” cover designer)

Goodfellas: Ray Liotta, Tony Sirico, Paul Sorvino

Half the group: Inez Foxx (Inez and Charlie Foxx), Jim Seals (Seals and Crofts), Ian Tyson (Ian & Sylvia)

Hollywood heavies: Bo Hopkins, L.Q. Jones, Henry Silva

Hollywood royalty: Alan Ladd Jr., Angela Lansbury, Sidney Poitier

The icemen cometh: Mike Bossy, Guy Lafleur, Borje Salming

Ingenues: Irene Cara, Diane McBain, Yvette Mimieux

Inventive: Raymond Damadian (first MRI scanner), Nick Holonyak Jr., (LED lighting), Stephen Willhite (GIFs)

It’s complicated: Joseph Hazelwood (Exxon Valdez captain), Kenneth Starr (Bill Clinton investigator, Baylor chancellor), Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

John Wayne’s co-stars: James Caan (“El Dorado”), Clu Gulager (“McQ”), Nehemiah Persoff (“The Comancheros”)

Kid stuff: Emilio Delgado, Bob McGrath (both “Sesame Street”), George Newall (“Schoolhouse Rock” co-creator)

Last man standing: Bradford Freeman (last surviving member of World War II “Band of Brothers”), George “Johnny” Johnson (last surviving WWII “Dambuster”), Hershel “Woody” Williams (last surviving WWII Medal of Honor recipient)

LPGA legends: Joan Joyce (great all-around athlete best known as softball pitcher who struck out Ted Williams), Shirley Spork (Tour co-founder), Kathy Whitworth

Mad men (and women): Ann Turner Cook (original Gerber Baby), Don West (late-night TV pitchman), Dan Wieden (created “Just do it” tagline for Nike)

Milwaukee basketball legends: Bob Lanier (Bucks), George Thompson, Bernard Toone (both Marquette)

Motown songwriters: Lamont Dozier, Ivy Jo Hunter, R. Dean Taylor

Musical curtain calls: Robert Morse (“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”), James Rado (“Hair” co-creator), Bobby Rydell (“Bye Bye Birdie”)

Music as art: Cynthia Plaster Caster (created plaster casts of musicians’ erect penises), Pamela Ann “Jordan” Rooke, Vivienne Westwood (both English punk and fashion icons)

Musically inventive: Herbert Deutsch (Moog synthesizer), Klaus Schulze (electronic music), Dave Smith (MIDI)

Music’s first ladies: Naomi Judd, Loretta Lynn, Christine McVie

Nashville cats: Peter Cooper (journalist), Ralph Emery (DJ, radio/TV host), Paul Kwami (Fisk Jubilee Singers director)

Nashville’s A-Team, session stars: Ray Edenton (guitar), Anita Kerr (singer, arranger), Hargus “Pig” Robbins (keyboards)

Native voices: Clyde Bellecourt (American Indian Movement co-founder), Tim Giago (Indian Country Today journalist), Kevin Locke (Native American flute player, hoop dancer)

The New Yorkers: Jean-Jacques Sempe (cover illustrator), Lee Lorenz (editor and cartoonist), George Booth (cartoonist)

New York, New York: Thomas Carney (bartender at Elaine’s), Mark Fleischman (Studio 44 owner), Regine Zylberberg (Regine’s owner, created discos in the ’50s)

Not dead yet: Tony Dow, Anne Heche (both reported as dead before they died), Paul Vance (songwriter reported as dead 16 years before he died)

Notorious: Sonny Barger (Hell’s Angels), Sacheen Littlefeather (declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar for him, questionable claim of Indigenous ancestry), Kitten Natividad (actress and exotic dancer)

One and done (one career MLB game): Cal Browning, Cardinals, June 12, 1960 (faced eight  batters in 0.2 innings, allowed three runs, five hits vs. Pirates, was sent down four days later, Bob Gibson called up for good), John Sanders, Kansas City Athletics, April 13, 1965 (pinch runner for Wayne Causey in seventh inning vs. Tigers, stranded at first); Stefan Wever, Yankees, Sept. 17, 1982 (started vs. Brewers, tore rotator cuff, lasted 2.2 innings, gave up eight runs)

Oscar winners: Louise Fletcher, William Hurt, Julia Reichert (documentaries)

Packers: Gary Knafelc (player turned longtime Lambeau Field PA announcer), Alden Roche (’70s defensive star), Veryl Switzer (their first Black No. 1 draft pick, 1954)

Photographers: Ron Galella (paparazzo), William Klein (Vogue, street photography), Tim Page (Vietnam War, then Rolling Stone)

Hallway sign at Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Pittsburgh legends: Gene Clines (Pirates center fielder in first all-Black MLB lineup, batting second vs. Phillies, Sept. 1, 1971), Franco Harris (Steelers, the Immaculate Reception), Jerry Weber (Jerry’s Records)

Power of the press: Nikki Finke (Hollywood journalist), Walter R. Mears (AP political writer, one of “The Boys on the Bus”), Grant Wahl (soccer writer)

Radio, radio: Jim Bohannon (late-night talk shows), Larry Josephson (New York FM free-form pioneer), Art Laboe (Los Angeles DJ)

Record diggers: Bob Keller a/k/a Red Kelly (soul/R&B music blogger, researcher and champion), Joel Whitburn (record chart researcher and author), Jim Young (above, from whom I bought many used records)

Remember the Holocaust: Greta Ferusic (only person to survive Auschwitz and the siege of Sarajevo), Mimi Reinhardt (secretary who typed Oskar Schindler’s list of Jewish workers), Jozef Walaszczyk (sheltered and supported Polish Jews)

Research breakthroughs: Samuel Katz (measles vaccine), Arthur Riggs (synthetic insulin), Luc Montagnier (HIV)

The Resistance: Anne Beaumanoir (French, aided Jews fleeing Nazi occupation), Andree Geulen (Belgian, rescued more than 1,000 Jewish children), Monique Hanotte (Belgian, rescued 135 downed Allied airmen)

The right stuff: James McDivitt (Gemini 4, Apollo 9 astronaut), Eugene Parker (physicist theorized existence of solar wind, NASA Parker Solar Probe named for him), Fred Ward (astronaut Gus Grissom in “The Right Stuff”)

Reggae royalty: Tyrone Downie (Bob Marley and The Wailers keyboards), Donald “Tabby” Shaw, Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson (both the Mighty Diamonds)

Rockabillies: Robert Gordon, Ronnie Hawkins, Jerry Lee Lewis

Royalty: Queen Elizabeth II, Abigail Kawananakoa (last surviving Hawaiian princess), Pele

Session men: Howard Grimes (Hi Rhythm Section drummer), Joe Messina (Funk Brothers guitarist), Bill Pitman (Wrecking Crew guitarist)

Sidekicks: Howard Hesseman (“WKRP in Cincinnati”), Leslie Jordan (“Will & Grace”), Stuart Margolin (“The Rockford Files”)

Signing off ‘Seinfeld’: Philip Baker Hall (Mr. Bookman), Estelle Harris (George’s mom), Liz Sheridan (Jerry’s mom)

Singers turned actors turned singers: Coolio, Meat Loaf, Olivia Newton-John

Sister acts: Deborah McCrary (McCrary Sisters gospel group), Anita Pointer (Pointer Sisters), Lucy Simon (Simon Sisters with Carly Simon)

Six degrees of Hank Aaron: Ike Delock (gave up Aaron’s first home run in a major-league uniform, spring training 1954), Don Dillard (played in same Milwaukee Braves outfield, 1963), Wayland Moore (designed Atlanta Braves’ classic 1972-74 uniform)

Sky pilots: John Billings (flew Allied spies behind enemy lines for OSS), Gail Halvorson (showered kids with candy during Berlin Airlift), Charles McGee (Tuskegee Airman who fought in three wars)

Solitary men: Joseph Kromelis (Chicago’s homeless Walking Man for decades), Mehran Karimi Nasseri (lived in departure lounge of Paris airport terminal for 18 years), Albert Woodfox (Angola 3 prison activist in solitary confinement in Louisiana for 42 years)

Songwriters: Marilyn Bergman (films), Bettye Crutcher (Stax), Beverly Ross (Brill Building)

Soul brothers: Sam Gooden (Impressions), Syl Johnson, Timmy Thomas

Soul sisters: Betty Davis, Mable John, Ronnie Spector

The sound of Philadelphia: Thom Bell, William “Poogie” Hart (Delfonics), Joe Tarsia (Sigma Sound Studios)

Star Trekkers: Sally Kellerman (Dr. Elizabeth Dehner, first season), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Nyota Uhura), Maggie Thrett (Ruth, one of Mudd’s women, first season)

Styling: Jule Campbell (founded Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue), Willie Lee Morrow (invented Afro pick, pioneered Jheri Curl style), Rommy Hunt Revson (popularized hair scrunch)

There’s a theme here: Angelo Badalamenti (“Twin Peaks”), Monty Norman (James Bond films), Vangelis (“Chariots of Fire”)

This was CNN: Drew Griffin, Fred Hickman, Bernard Shaw

Trailblazers: Marlin Briscoe (first Black starting quarterback in pro football), Johnny Grier (first Black NFL referee), Adam Wade (first Black game show host, “Musical Chairs”)

TV news legends: Bill Plante (CBS), Al Primo (created Eyewitness News concept, 1965), Barbara Walters (NBC, ABC)

Twin Peakers: Julee Cruise, Lenny Von Dohlen, David Warner

Underground comix: Justin Green, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Diane Noomin

Unsung women: Joyce Bryant (’50s singer known as “The Bronze Blond Bombshell” and “The Black Marilyn Monroe”), Janis Gaye (singer who was Marvin Gaye’s second wife and muse), Louise Tobin (singer who discovered Frank Sinatra in 1939),

Vietnam’s truths: William Hammond (Army historian dispelled notion that media coverage eroded support), George Herring (historian wrote four books on Vietnam), Don Luce (activist exposed prison horrors)

War’s children: Vera Gissing (rescued from Czechoslovakia on eve of World War II), Dr. Randall McNally (Chicago plastic surgeon who treated Phan Thi Kim Phuc, the “Napalm Girl,” in Saigon), Hannah Pick-Goslar (Anne Frank’s close friend)

Watching Watergate: Alfred Baldwin (burglars’ lookout), Earl Silbert (first prosecutor), Barry Sussman (supervised Washington Post coverage)

Wisconsin ballplayers: Bill Burbach (Dickeyville), Ken Frailing (Marion), Fred Lasher (Janesville/Merrillan/Altoona)

Women’s basketball stars: Lusia Harris (’70s pioneer, only woman drafted by an NBA team), Tiffany Jackson (WNBA), Billie Moore (UCLA, U.S. Olympic coach)

World leaders: Madeleine Albright, Mikhail Gorbachev, Jiang Zemin

World music: Gal Costa (Brazilian tropicalia), Francisco Gonzalez (Mexican and Chicano music, Los Lobos founding member, left before debut LP), Elza Soares (Brazilian samba)

World stage: Robbie Coltrane, Irene Papas, Monica Vitti

Gone in Threes, the band

Front men: Terry Hall (The Specials), Dan McCafferty (Nazareth), Jimy Sohns (Shadows of Knight)

Guitar: Manny Charlton (Nazareth), Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown), Don Wilson (Ventures)

Bass: Rick Anderson (Tubes), Gregg Philbin (REO Speedwagon), Alec John Such (Bon Jovi)

Drums: Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Sandy Nelson (solo instrumentals) Alan White (Yes, Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon)

Keyboards: Gary Brooker (Procol Harum), Andy Fletcher (Depeche Mode), Sidney Kirk (Isaac Hayes Movement)

Winds: Dick Halligan (Blood, Sweat & Tears trombone), Ian McDonald (King Crimson, Foreigner sax, flute), Andrew Woolfolk (Earth, Wind & Fire sax)

Backup singers, the fellas: David Tyson (Manhattans), Calvin Simon (Parliament, Funkadelic), Charles McCormick (Bloodstone)

Backup singers, the ladies: Rosa Lee Hawkins (Dixie Cups), Susan Jacks (Poppy Family), Rachel Nagy (Detroit Cobras)

The last word

Some memorable farewells, all from Wisconsin. That’s how we roll.

Harold L. Anderson, 93: “I AM DEAD! Reports of my death are not greatly exaggerated. They are not exaggerated at all. So, please get on with your life but know this about me …”

Jim Krummel, 80: “James Frank Krummel (aka Jim, Sir) died … in the house that he built, fulfilling his lifelong wish of having someone haul his dead body out of the house. … He was married to the woman who put up with his curmudgeonly personality (who according to him ‘didn’t sweat much for a fat woman’) for 42 years.”

Ted Kaminski, 75: Saving the best for last. One of the all-time great obits.

“Ted enjoyed hunting, fishing, playing cards, Polka music and coffee, but most of all he loved talking with people and bullshitting. … He always had some sort of BS that could get you either questioning your own logic or be laughing so hard you had to walk away. Not only was he a member of the Hatley Chapter of the Bullshitters Club, he was also President. … Upon his quest for spreading BS, He ventured east to Elderon where he thought BS lacked, that is until he met Steve and the Falstad Boys, whom ultimately would prove that not only they had the attributes for being good bullshitters but also being great friends. … Ted was so lucky to be able to spend his last few hours surrounded by family and friends laughing, joking, and bullshitting to the very end.”

The stunners

There always is one death that takes your breath away. But in 2022, they came in waves, all hitting home.

The new year was just four days old when our sister-in-law Debbie died unexpectedly in Arkansas. Then, not unexpected at all, one of my best friends lost his wife Jayma in July. Then, not a month after we all went to a late-summer ballgame together, my best friend of 50 years unexpectedly lost his wife Donna.

Then, in a span of just four days in the week leading up to Christmas, a friend lost an unforgettable acquaintance he’d just been with at a Memphis music festival (“Earth suddenly isn’t as cool as it was,” he said), a co-worker unexpectedly lost his 14-year-old daughter and still another friend lost his mother.

Sigh.

Noteworthy

This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who died in 2022. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.

The credits

Each year, I use these sources for this list.

We start with Wikipedia’s month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. Then we check with our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each month. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended. Then we go through a year of Mojo magazines, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful. Other solid sources include my friend Len O’Kelly’s year-end post at his 45 Ruminations Per Megabyte blog, News from ME (the blog by comics and animation writer Mark Evanier) and the Washington Post.

Previous “Gone in threes” entries

20212020 * 2019 * 2018 * 2017 * 2016 

2015 * 2014 * 2013 * 2012 * 2011 * 2010

Plus similar year-end posts in 2008 and 2009.

(If you wonder why this always lags the new year by a few days, it’s because some deaths aren’t announced immediately. But I can’t wait too long. For example, this new year is but 23 days old and already we’re going forward without David Crosby, Gina Lollabrigida, Lisa Marie Presley and Jeff Beck.)

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Filed under January 2023, Sounds

Peace, someday, if you want it

The first Christmas wish

Christmas bells, those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

“Snoopy’s Christmas,” the Royal Guardsmen, from “Snoopy and His Friends,” 1967.

In 1965, Charles Schulz started drawing Snoopy as a World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron. But “it reached a point where war just didn’t seem funny,” he told biographer Rheta Grimsley Johnson. Even so, Snoopy and the Red Baron inspired this novelty Christmas song with explosions, gunfire and a message of hope that came as the Vietnam War escalated.

The second Christmas wish

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

"Someday at Christmas" LP by Stevie Wonder, 1967.

“Someday at Christmas,” Stevie Wonder, from “Someday at Christmas,” 1967.

My friend Derek reminded me of this one on Christmas Eve morning a couple of years ago. When Stevie sings of “men” throughout this one, songwriter Ron Miller clearly means everyone, of any age.

I have this cut on “A Motown Christmas” from 1973, a comp I’ve had since I was in college in the late ’70s.

The third Christmas wish

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy new year
Let’s hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the Plastic Ono Band and the Harlem Community Choir, released as a single, 1971.

War is over, if you want it

Merry Christmas, mein friends!

Enjoy your holidays, everyone!

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2022, Sounds

O, ’twas a night for Satchmo and Irma

Please enjoy our traditional Christmas Eve post.

On a winter day now more than 50 years ago, Louis Armstrong went to work in the den at his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

That day — Friday, Feb. 26, 1971 — he recorded this:

“The Night Before Christmas (A Poem),” Louis Armstrong, 1971, from “The Stash Christmas Album,” 1985. That LP is long out of print, but the original 7-inch single (Continental CR 1001) seems to be fairly common.

(This is the sleeve for that 45. You could have bought it for 25 cents if you also bought a carton of Kent, True, Newport or Old Gold cigarettes.)

There’s no music. Just “Louis Satchmo Armstrong talkin’ to all the kids … from all over the world … at Christmas time,” reading Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem in a warm, gravelly voice.

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

It was the last thing he ever recorded. Satchmo, who was 69 at the time, died a little over four months later, in July 1971. Satchmo, gone 51 years now.

And now, fulfilling a Christmas wish.

Fifteen years ago, when this blog was not even a year old, our new friend Rob in Pennsylvania declared Irma Thomas’ rendition of “O Holy Night” to be “goosebump-inducing stuff.” It still is, and Rob has long since become an old friend, so we cue up this one for Rob every Christmas Eve.

“O Holy Night,” Irma Thomas, from “A Creole Christmas,” 1990. It’s out of print. It’s also on “MOJO’s Festive Fifteen,” a Christmas comp CD that came with the January 2011 issue of MOJO magazine.

Enjoy your holidays, everyone.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2022, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 45

Long ago, during the first three years of this blog’s existence — I may have been writing it on stone tablets — there was a long series of Christmas music posts when each December rolled around.

There was so much Christmas music in my collection that I posted it here three songs at a time. “Three under the tree” was the name of that 44-part series, which started in 2007 and ended in 2009.

Thirteen years on from the last installment, here’s another.

New to me this year

One of my regular Saturday afternoon stops is “Chris Carter’s British Invasion” on the Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM.

Heard this a couple of weeks ago. Couldn’t believe I’d never heard this Beatles cut. Turns out it’s the not the Beatles. It’s the Fab Four, a Beatles tribute band out of California. Enjoyed it nonetheless.

“Blue Christmas,” from “Hark! (Classic Christmas Songs Performed in a Beatles Style),” 2008. Apparently released only on CD.

On a related note: My friend Joe hosted a program featuring Beatles Christmas music last Sunday morning on 103.3 Asheville FM. Joe (a retired librarian who is Joey Books on air) and his co-host played “From Then To You,” the 1970 comp of Beatles Christmas messages, along with cuts from the new expanded reissue of “Revolver.” To listen, search the station’s archives for “The Sandbox Hour,” which aired from 8 to 9 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2022.

New to me last year

Did you know Art Carney invented rap in 1954? Neither did I, but listen to the evidence. Heard this on another of the Sirius XM music channels last year.

“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” Art Carney, Columbia 7-inch, 1954. It’s the B side of the single, “Santa and the Doodle-Li-Bop.”

Perhaps new to me, but I think I knew it existed

Came across this today. The Big Lead sports/pop culture blog offered a feature titled “Here Are The Two Worst Christmas Songs You Probably Don’t Know Exist.”

Randy Bachman reworked BTO’s “Takin’ Care of Business” as “Takin’ Care of Christmas.” It’s not that bad. I enjoyed this, too.

“Takin’ Care of Christmas,” Randy Bachman with singer Beverley Mahood, a fellow Canadian. This was the last cut on “Song Book,” a 1998 comp, and the title cut on Bachman’s Christmas album of the same name, released in 2008.

Can’t say I enjoyed the other song, though. Kylie Minogue and Iggy Pop cover “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses. Proceed at your own risk.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2022, Sounds

Digging that holiday soul!

Holiday Soul radio channel

As this holiday season arrived, I just couldn’t bring myself to listen to Christmas music. I used to collect it. I’ve heard so much of it. The most popular, most familiar, most mainstream Christmas songs … yeesh.

Then, after Thanksgiving, Sirius XM hijacked Soul Town and dropped Holiday Soul on Channel 49. For the first few days, nope, nope, nope, I’d flip one channel up to The Groove for the ’80s and ’90s R&B played there.

Eventually, though, I’d heard enough drum machines, took a deep breath and flipped it back to Holiday Soul. I stayed with it and found it to be a bit like being in the coolest, classiest Black nightclub, the kind that no longer exists.

Sirius XM describes the Holiday Soul channel this way:

“Classic soul and Motown holiday music from the ’60s and ’70s, along with R&B holiday music from the ’80s and early ’90s, including Aretha Franklin, Temptations, James Brown, Lou Rawls, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, The Jackson 5, The Four Tops, The Supremes, John Legend, Boyz II Men & many more!”

That is true, but there’s more to it. Motown and Stax are the backbone, of course, but the vibe is jazz and gospel. Because the playlist consists of almost entirely Black artists — many of whom were and are steeped in the gospel tradition — the music seems richer than more mainstream Christmas music.

“This Christmas,” the Donny Hathaway single released in 1970, remains THE Black Christmas standard. As I write this a week out from Christmas Eve, covers of it by Gladys Knight and The Pips, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, Stephanie Mills, The Whispers, Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin and Johnny Mathis have been played 475 times in the past 30 days, along with Hathaway’s original 79 times.

Back at that nightclub, the one that oozes cool, there’s Nancy Wilson singing “That’s What I Want For Christmas.” There’s Lou Rawls singing “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “Winter Wonderland.” There are the Coles, Nat singing “The Christmas Song,” Natalie singing “My Grown-Up Christmas List.” All no longer with us, a time and a sense of elegance lost.

Pleasant surprises include some cuts from “My Gift To You,” the 1988 LP from R&B singer Alexander O’Neal that’s long been one of my favorites and one I’ve long thought to be underrated and/or underappreciated. Also some cuts from “Christmas is 4 Ever,” the 2006 LP from Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins, one as funky and quirky as you’d expect, and another of my favorites.

But if there’s one song that’s been a highlight, it’s this one:

Lou Rawls, Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho! record cover, 1967

“Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Lou Rawls, from “Merry Christmas Ho! Ho! Ho!,” 1967. Complete with swinging and impeccably classy production by David Axelrod.

Outta sight, indeed.

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Filed under Christmas music, December 2022, Sounds