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Ellie Greenwich 1940 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, August 28, 2009 11:20am | Post a Comment
Ellie Greenwich
Ellie Greenwich
, who penned dozens of classic songs in collaboration with producer Phil Spector and Jeff Barry for acts like The Ronettes, The Crystals, The Shangri-Las, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, The Jelly Beans and The Dixie Cups -- the “girl group” sound, died this week of a heart attack in New York’s St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital; she had been admitted for pneumonia a few days earlier. She was 68.
 
In her 50-year career, Greenwich, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, was awarded some 25 gold and platinum discs. BMI Publishing lists more than 200 songs Greenwich wrote or co-wrote, including such classics as “Leader Of The Pack,” “Chapel of Love,” “River Deep, Mountain High,” “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Look of Love,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “I Can Hear Music,” and "Hanky Panky.”
 
Born Eleanor Louise Greenwich on Oct. 23, 1940 in Brooklyn, N.Y., she was 11 when she began studying accordion before switching to piano. As a teen she started her own group called The Jivettes. She got her first break as a songwriter working for Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had written dozens of classic 1950’s rock tunes. Her first chart success was "This Is It" with the Jay and the Americans, which she co-wrote with Doc Pomus and Tony Powers.

Greenwich became part of the mythical Brill Building stable of songwriters where she teamed up with her husband Jeff Barry. Other Brill writers included Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil plus the likes of Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon.
 
Greenwich and Barry also recorded a few sides as The Raindrops; their biggest hit was “The Kind of Boy You Can't Forget.” In 1964 alone, the two song writers were responsible for some 17 different singles reaching the Billboard Hot 100 chart. However the following year, 1965, she and Barry divorced, and Greenwich suffered a nervous breakdown.
 
She went on to produce songs for artists like Frank Sinatra, Dusty Springfield, The Definitive Rock Choral and Ella Fitzgerald, but she really hit her stride working with Neil Diamond, producing his early hits “Cherry Cherry,” “Solitary Man” and “Kentucky Woman.”  In 1968, Greenwich released her first solo album, Ellie Greenwich Composes, Produces and Sings, and included two charting singles, "Niki Hoeky" (a #1 hit in Japan) and "I Want You To Be My Baby."
 
In the 1980s she created a musical based on her life entitled Leader of the Pack, from the song co-written with her former husband Barry. The Broadway musical included many of her hits and told the story of her rise and fall. It scored several Tony and Grammy Award nominations.

This past week the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson was quoted by the L.A.Times, saying, “She was the greatest melody writer of all time.”

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James Luther Dickinson 1941 – 2009

Posted by Whitmore, August 19, 2009 05:02pm | Post a Comment

The legendary Memphis musician, producer, and raconteur James Luther Dickinson died this past Saturday in a Memphis hospital after complications following triple bypass heart surgery; he was 67. Dickinson played with the likes of Aretha Franklin, Ry Cooder and The Rolling Stones and helped shape what would be called the Memphis Sound, a gritty blend of gospel, country and southern blues. Though never exactly a household name, Dickinson is one those great cult figures in musical history whose life and stories were bigger than the times themselves.
 
Jim Dickinson was born November 15, 1941 in Little Rock, Arkansas. His family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1949. He signed his first recording contract right out of high school with Rubin Cherry's Home of the Blues. Later Dickinson recorded for Sam Phillips' Sun label; he sang lead vocals on the last record ever released on Sun, "Cadillac Man" by The Jesters. Starting in about 1965 he began working as a session player in the Memphis studios, joining Charley Freeman, Tommy McClure, and Sammy Creason in the rhythm section that would become know as the Dixie Flyers. They went on to be the house band at Atlantic Records' Criteria Recording Studio in Miami, Florida in the early '70s, backing artists like Aretha Franklin, Sam & Dave, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ronnie James Luther Dickinson, Dixie FriedMilsap, Kris Kristofferson, Carmen McCrae and Maria Muldaur.
 
He played piano on the Rolling Stones' classic "Wild Horses" and even appeared in the documentary film of the Stones, Gimme Shelter. Dickinson also played piano on The Flamin' Groovies masterpiece Teenage Head. He went on to be Ry Cooder's sidekick; touring, playing keyboards and co-producing some of Cooder’s soundtracks such as Paris, Texas, The Long Riders, and Crossroads. Dickinson's career as a producer got kick started working with Big Star, the pioneering Memphis power pop band, producing one of the most influential albums from the 1970s, Third/Sister Lovers (NME magazine ranked it #1 as the most heartbreaking album ever recorded). His production work with Big Star led to other gigs, sometimes under the moniker East Memphis Slim. In the 1970’s and 80’s Dickinson produced the likes of The Replacements (Dickinson always said he learned more from them than they learned from him), Jason & the Scorchers, Green on Red, The Radiators, Mojo Nixon, Chris Stamey, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Mudhoney, Alex Chilton, Toots Hibbert (of the Maytals), The Texas Tornados, Steve Forbert, G. Love & Special Sauce, Joe "King" Carrasco, Flat Duo Jets, Tav Falco, and many others. As a session musician, he's worked with Los Lobos, Primal Scream, Poi Dog Pondering, Arlo Guthrie, Willy DeVille, Esther Phillips, Delaney and Bonnie, Petula Clark, Rocket From the Crypt, and Bob Dylan (Dylan acknowledged him as a “brother” while accepting the Grammy award for 1997’s Time Out of Mind, and once said, "If you've got Dickinson, you don't need anybody else.").
 
One of my all-time favorite records is Dickinson's first solo album, released in 1972 on Atlantic and entitled Dixie Fried. This soulful yet wonderfully cockeyed, twisted and loopy album has become a cult classic. He dubbed the genre “world boogie.” Dixie Fried was one of those records that disappeared without a trace upon initial release, only to be rediscovered years later. Originally recorded in 1970, the out there in left-field amalgamation of country, R&B, soul, and rock finds Dickinson mostly covering other artist’s material, but everything he touches shimmers with that cool and greasy Memphis groove -- probably why Atlantic Records saw it unfit for public consumption for a couple of years. By the time it came out, Dickinson was off touring with Ry Cooder and had no time nor desire to promote the album. Dickinson said that by mid 70’s he was seriously hated over at Atlantic records. They tried pushing him out the door, giving him what was referred to as "the Jesse Ed Davis treatment," or to quote Jerry Wexler, "right down the old pipe, baby." For years Dixie Fried circulated around the underground, developing a extraordinary following. But as far as Atlantic was concerned, the album’s notoriety was surely due to some bizarre bayou voodoo; the label kept its distance. Finally in 2002 it was re-released on CD by Sepia Tone Records.
 
Last month, Jim Dickinson was relocated to a rehabilitation facility; doctors had hoped for an eventual recovery. His death comes only a week after a benefit concert and tribute was held in Memphis at The Peabody Skyway to raise money for escalating medical bills. Performers at the benefit included John Hiatt, Jimmy Davis and the Grammy-nominated North Mississippi Allstars, whose members include Dickinson's sons Luther and Cody. Dickinson always understood the enduring power of music and that is mirrored in his epitaph he wrote himself: “I’m just dead, I’m not gone.”
 
James Luther Dickinson is survived by his wife Mary and his two sons.

Heinz Edelmann 1934 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, July 21, 2009 01:11pm | Post a Comment

Graphic designer Heinz Edelmann, best known for his work as the art director of the classic animated Beatles film Yellow Submarine, has died; he was 75. Edelmann died in a Stuttgart, Germany hospital not far from Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts where he taught design for many years. No cause of death was announced.
 
Heinz Edelmann was born in 1934 in Aussig, Czechoslovakia. He studied at the Duesseldorf Art Academy and upon graduation became a freelance graphic designer. In 1961 Heinz Edelmann began teaching design, illustration and animation design at various art schools in Holland and Germany. As a graphic designer, Edelmann is mostly known for his advertising and poster work, especially for the broadcasting station Westdeutscher Rundfunk and his innovative book cover designs for the publishing house Klett-Cotta, which includes the first German edition of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings in 1971. Edelmann in 1989 won the competition to design the mascot of Seville's Expo '92 World Fair, beating out two dozen other entries with his illustration of a pudgy bird with a rainbow plume and conical beak named Curro.
 
But his greatest fame stems from his art direction for the 1968 film Yellow Submarine; he also received co-credit for the script. Edelmann was originally hired for only eight weeks to create the design for the film, but wound up working for almost an entire year. Because of the lack of direction, an incomplete screenplay, and the enormous deadline pressure -- the producers reserved the July 17, 1968 date for the debut at The London Pavillion before the production was even finished -- Edelmann took on the long ordeal personally. Sleeping only four hours most every night, he led some 200-plus artists to create a visionary work that would be worthy of the most famous band in the world. Edelmann’s health took a major nosedive; he said it took almost two years to recover from the project. Needless to say, Yellow Submarine left a somewhat sour taste in his mouth. On top of that, Yellow Submarine has sometimes been inaccurately attributed to one of the most famous artist of the era, Peter Max. However Edelmann, along with another of his contemporaries, Milton Glaser, is thought to have pioneered the 1960’s psychedelic style for which Max would later become famous. According to Edelmann and film producer Al Brodax, Max had nothing to do with the production. But other notable illustrators did work on the film including Paul Driessen, Tony Cuthbert, Ron Campbell, and the film’s overall director George Dunning (he also worked on the Beatles cartoon series), who created the "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sequence.

Bob Mitchell 1912 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, July 12, 2009 02:36pm | Post a Comment

Bob Mitchell


The original ballpark organist for Dodger Stadium and the last surviving working keyboard accompanist from the silent-film era, Bob Mitchell, has died. He was 96.

The native Angelino, born in Sierra Madre in 1912, died this past week from congestive heart failure at Hancock Park Rehabilitation Center in Los Angeles.
 
From the first Dodger game played at the Chavez Ravine Stadium in 1962 until 1966, Mitchell was the keyboardist on the Wurlitzer double-keyboard organ with a 25-note bass pedal board. Up until that time he was best known as founder of the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir and its director for over 60 years. They appeared in more than 100 motion pictures, starting with 1936’s That Girl from Paris. Other films included the classics Going My Way starring Bing Crosby from 1944 where they sang “Ave Maria” and 1947’s The Bishop’s Wife. The choir was also documented in the 1941 Academy Award nominated short Forty Boys and a Song. Over the years more than 600 kids between the ages of about 8 and 16 performed in the Mitchell choir. Alumni include members of the Modernaires, the Lettermen, and the Sandpipers.

In 1924 at the age of 12, Mitchell began playing organ at the old Strand Theater in Pasadena, improvising soundtracks to silent movies. But with the advent of talkies and The Jazz Singer in 1927, Mitchell's first career as a silent-film accompanist was about over by the time he was 16. 65 years later, in 1992, he once again sat at the organ accompanying films at LA’s Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax Avenue. His last public performance was this past May when he opened the Last Remaining Seats film series at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown LA.
 
Bob Mitchell began taking piano lessons at four years of age. He attended the New York College of Music before returning to Los Angeles in 1934; eventually he graduated from what is now Cal State L.A. and Trinity College in London. During the Second World War Mitchell served in the Navy and played keyboards for the Armed Forces Radio Orchestra under the direction of Meredith Willson, who later wrote The Music Man.

Michael Jackson 1958 - 2009

Posted by Whitmore, June 25, 2009 03:13pm | Post a Comment


Pop icon Michael Jackson was rushed to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center this afternoon by Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics. Paramedics responded to a call at Jackson's home at 12:26 p.m. He was not breathing when they arrived. The paramedics performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and took him to the UCLA Medical Center.

Paramedics were called to a home in the 100 block of Carolwood Drive off Sunset Boulevard in the Bel-Aire area of Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Times  and CNN  posted early this afternoon Jackson died of a probable cardiac arrest . His talent and ambition made him the biggest international pop star of the 1980's and 90's. His 1982 album Thriller remains the biggest-selling album of all time, selling somewhere in the range of 65 million copies world wide, powered by seven Top 10 singles and eight Grammy Awards. Michael Jackson was 50 years old.

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