Date of Birth: 3 February 1927, Waterford, Ireland
Birth Name: Michael Valentine Doonican
Nicknames: Val Doonican
Val Doonican's gentle style made him a popular feature on Saturday night television for more than two decades.
He became famous for his sweaters and the rocking chair in which he invariably sat to sing the final number of his show.
At a time when the 60s pop explosion was stalling the careers of so many crooners, Doonican bucked the trend with eight Top-20 hits.
And songs like Delaney's Donkey and Paddy McGinty's Goat allowed record-buyers to indulge themselves in a touch of Irish-flavoured whimsy.
Michael Valentine Doonican was born in the Irish city of Waterford on 3 February 1927, the youngest of eight children.
His father died of cancer when he was 14 and he was forced to leave school and work in a packaging factory to supplement the family income.
He wrote music from a very young age, and formed a singing group with his friends when he was just 10.
With his guitar, he later took part in the town's first ever television broadcast and, after his first paid engagement at the Waterford fete, left his factory job to tour the country in a caravan.
In 1951, Doonican was invited to join a group called the Four Ramblers.
The band toured England where Doonican was introduced to the joys of golf, and also to his future wife, the cabaret star Lynnette Rae.
Doonican later moved to London, where he continued his entertainment apprenticeship in radio, television, cabaret and music hall.
He recalled that "it took 17 years to become an overnight success", when his appearance on Sunday Night at the Palladium prompted the BBC to offer him his own series in 1964.
He was given an initial series of six half-hour programmes which were broadcast live from a BBC studio in an old chapel in Manchester.
The Val Doonican Music show saw him become a mainstay of Saturday night television.
But he was always grateful that his career gave him the opportunity to meet his idols such as Bing Crosby and Howard Keel.
"You can't imagine," he later recalled, "that you're going along in your young life, buying records of people that you think are fantastic and, in my case, I ended up singing duets with them on my show."
The comedian Dave Allen also got his big break by appearing on the show.
In the 1970s, his fame spread when the programme was transmitted overseas.
Two of Doonican's most enduring props were his collection of multi-coloured sweaters - which became known as "Val Doonican jumpers" and his ever-present rocking chair.
In fact, the star swapped his sweaters for jackets back in 1970, so remained bemused when people everywhere continued to ask him where his jumper was.
Doonican went on to record more than 50 albums, and he appeared several times on Top of the Pops.
At a time when the charts were dominated by pop groups he had a string of hits including Special Years, Walk Tall and What Would I Be?
The television shows came to an end after 24 years, but Doonican continued to tour, choosing mostly intimate regional theatres, in the UK and abroad.
He eschewed television appearances, preferring to share his time between Buckinghamshire and Spain, and to spend his semi-retirement playing golf.
"Golf is like an 18-year-old girl with big boobs," he once said. "You know it's wrong but you can't keep away from her."
His other great hobby was painting, and his work was exhibited around the country.
A lot of his art was inspired by his Irish homeland, where he remained revered for his modest charm and embrace of original Gaelic values.
Date of Birth: 12 November 1943, Kingston, Jamaica
Birth Name: Lester Errol Brown
Nicknames: Errol Brown
Errol Brown was the lead singer of Hot Chocolate, the British soul band best known for the 1975 disco anthem You Sexy Thing; the group’s funky and harmonious sound was defined by Brown’s seductive voice and charismatic stage presence.
Bald-headed and slinky-hipped, Brown was a master of the art of the come-hither look (and gently come-hither lyrics) but when he originally wrote You Sexy Thing it was intended to be a B-side for Hot Chocolate’s single Blue Night. The band’s producer, Mickie Most, remixed the song several months later and it became an instant hit, reaching No 2 in the British charts and No 3 in America. It was, Brown later recalled, “a joyous song. I remember when I thought of the title I had a shiver go through me. Because it was such a nice way of using sex in a title without it being crude.”
In 1997 the track underwent a renaissance when it featured in the film The Full Monty, which told the story of six unemployed steel-workers from Sheffield who decide to form a striptease act. The scene in which the actor Robert Carlyle grinds his hips to You Sexy Thing attracted a new generation of fans and gave Brown’s career a major boost.
“There’s no doubt about it,” he said, “it relaunched my career and took me back into the Top 10. Then at my first gig in Scotland shortly after its release I was rushed on stage by about a hundred screaming girls it was like the old days. I played more gigs the year after the film than I’d ever previously done over a 12-month period.”
In 2005, buoyed up by the renewed adulation, Brown released an album titled Still Sexy. The promotional video for the single, Still Sexy (Yes U Are), showed a still dapper Brown, impeccably dressed in a grey silk suit and grooving in the back of a limousine with two attractive young women, while You Sexy Thing played in the background.
“You Sexy Thing is a hook that’ll last for decades and decades,” he explained, “because it’s such a nice, pleasant thing to say to somebody.”
Lester Errol Brown was born on November 12 1943 in Kingston, Jamaica, where he spent his early childhood before his mother brought the family to London. When he was in his early teens his mother took him out of secondary modern school to attend a private school, where, as he later recalled, “everyone there was very wealthy and I came to appreciate good clothes and good food. You could say I was a teenage yuppy”.
At this stage, Brown showed very little interest in the music business, although he liked singing. He preferred the prospect of a proper job with a regular payslip and for a time did temporary clerical work at the Treasury, which he found unrewarding.
In his early twenties he met and became friends with Tony Wilson, a Trinidad-born musician, who suggested they should try writing music together. “Tony and I used to go out 10-pin bowling,” Brown recalled, “and while driving I’d start to sing. When asked what I was singing, I’d tell him it was just a tune I had in my head. This happened a few times and Tony suggested I try writing songs with him so we did and that’s how I got into songwriting.”
Brown could not play the guitar at this point, but he soon picked it up and within six months he and Wilson had cut a demo of John Lennon’s Give Peace a Chance, performed in a reggae rhythm. He sent the tape to the Beatles’ label, Apple, and Lennon signed the pair called The Hot Chocolate Band virtually on the spot.
Their recording of Give Peace a Chance failed to make any impact on the charts, but the next single, Love is Life, proved more fruitful. Brown’s verve, flair and musical imagination were essential to the band’s success. He refused to be pigeonholed as a black musician, preferring his music to reflect the multi-racial mixture of West Indian and British influences in his cultural background. To this end he included strings and a rock guitarist in the band.
“It was never my intention to make black music,” he said. “I just wanted to make music. You have to understand, the only reason I’ve survived so long is because I make music that’s true to me… I’m influenced by all the things I listened to growing up and that’s what comes out in my music.”
The Hot Chocolate Band was quickly taken over by the British record producer Mickie Most and his Rak Records label. Most, who had a sharp ear for a hit, had been responsible for acts including The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Lulu and Suzi Quatro. The first thing he did was to shorten the name of Brown’s group to the snappier “Hot Chocolate”. Under Most’s tutelage the band for most of its life a five-piece led by Brown, with his distinctive shiny shaved head became a regular fixture in the UK Top 40 through the disco era of the mid-1970s, with Brown and Wilson writing most of the songs.
Harvie Hinsley was taken on in 1970 and the principal other members were Tony Connor, Larry Ferguson and Patrick Olive. Love is Life reached No 6 in Britain in September 1970. You Could Have Been a Lady fared less well, then I Believe (in Love) entered the Top 10.
All in all Hot Chocolate recorded more than 20 hits at a rate of roughly one a year, among them Every One’s A Winner, It Started With A Kiss, No Doubt About It and So You Win Again, a soulful, funky ballad which was, in 1977, the band’s only No 1.
By the early 1980s Hot Chocolate had become a treasured part of British culture: as an indicator of their status, they were invited to perform at a reception in 1981 at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the imminent marriage of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. Three of their singles reached the charts in the mid-1980s: No Doubt About It, Are You Getting Enough Happiness? and Love Me to Sleep.
By now, however, there were worrying signs of friction between band members. “We took everything pretty lightly for 12 years,” Brown recalled, “but at the end of the day, the laughter turned into animosity.” In 1987 he went solo for WEA Records.
He continued touring in later life and enjoyed the fruits of his fame, claiming to have made £2 million from You Sexy Thing before The Full Monty and the same after it. He voted Conservative, took up golf he was a member of Loch Lomond Golf Club and owned National Hunt horses, including Gainsay, trained by Jenny Pitman.
Errol Brown was appointed MBE in 2003.
Date of Birth: 28 September 1938, North Carolina, US
Birth Name: Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson
Nicknames: Ben E King, Ben Nelson
Ben E King was one of the senior figures of soul music, having made his mark in the 1960s first as the lead singer of the Drifters and later with solo hits such as Spanish Harlem and, pre-eminently, Stand By Me.
The Drifters originally enjoyed considerable success in the mid-1950s when led by Clyde McPhatter, but after he left the band their fortunes declined and the remaining members fell out with their manager, George Treadwell, the former husband of Sarah Vaughan the jazz singer. In 1958, Treadwell, who owned the rights to the group’s name, abruptly sacked the entire line-up and replaced them with an up-and-coming outfit named the Five Crowns, one of whom was King.
The new Drifters toured for a year to a poor reception from audiences loyal to the earlier group, but their fortunes changed in mid-1959 when they recorded a song co-written and sung by King, There Goes My Baby. Produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, it was the first R&B track to feature orchestration, and reached No 2 in the Hot 100. Its sophisticated, Latin sound became the group’s signature and propelled them to renewed popularity.
Other hits quickly followed, notably Save The Last Dance For Me, but then in 1960 King quarrelled with Treadwell over an increase in pay his contract gave him only £64.19 a week, however many concerts the band did, and no share of record royalties. He, too, therefore, left the Drifters and was replaced by Rudy Lewis, who went on to sing on the group’s later hits, including Up On The Roof and On Broadway. (Lewis, however, choked to death on the morning that they were due to record perhaps their best-remembered song, Under the Boardwalk, and had to be replaced by former member Johnny Moore.)
Having gone it alone, King teamed up again with Leiber and Stoller and in one afternoon recorded both the songs that were to be the cornerstone of the remainder of his career. Spanish Harlem, co-produced by Phil Spector, reached No 10 in the British charts (which were always receptive to King’s clear baritone) in March 1961.
Three months later he released Stand By Me. “It’s a love song, it’s a friendship song, it’s a song where you promise anybody in need to do anything you can to help,” King said. It reached No 4 in America.
Both songs helped to steer R&B away from its blues roots towards a more pop sound, and served as a template for the later work of both Spector and Motown, whose stars were soon to replace King in the public’s fickle affections.
King was born Benjamin Earl Nelson in Henderson, North Carolina, on September 28 1938. His first exposure to music was in a church choir, but in 1947 his family moved to Harlem, where he soon began singing doo-wop on street corners with three friends from school. They called themselves the Four Bs for Ben, Billy, Billy and Bobby. King later married Betty, the sister of Billy and Bobby.
After he did well in a talent competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Ben Nelson (as he was called until he began his solo career) was offered a place in the Moonglows, a well-known group of the time, but he found the pressure too great and returned to working in his father’s restaurant. There he was spotted singing by the manager of the Five Crowns, and persuaded to return to the stage.
Following his heyday in the early Sixties, King’s star gradually declined, with Don’t Play That Song (1962) being his last substantial hit in America, although his two best-known numbers were revived with great success in the 1970s, first by Aretha Franklin, who took Spanish Harlem to No 2 in the US chart, and then by John Lennon, who covered Stand By Me in 1975.
By that time King had been reduced to playing the veterans circuit (and to appearing on the Genesis LP The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway), and it was while performing in a Miami hotel that he was spotted by Ahmet Ertegun, the head of Atlantic, his former record label. Ertegun was impressed once more by King’s voice, re-signed him, and helped him to score a Top 5 hit in the disco era with Supernatural Thing Part 1 (1975).This revival of King’s career proved to be short-lived, however, and he had to wait another decade until he once more returned to the limelight.
This came courtesy of the use of Stand By Me as the theme song to Rob Reiner’s 1986 film of the same name (based on a coming-of-age story by Stephen King). When the song was re-released that year, the single reached No 9 in the American charts, 25 years after its first placing there.
The track did even better in Britain the following year when it was used in a Levi’s television commercial, on the back of which it climbed to No 1 and exposed a generation of teenagers to classic American soul. Its success led to King recording a series of LPs in the 1990s, although there proved to be little demand for them.
Nevertheless, he continued to tour regularly, occasionally with various versions of the Drifters, finding a steady audience for his highly polished renditions of some of pop’s finest moments.
Date of Birth: 28 May 1959, Newbridge, Caerphilly, Wales
Birth Name: Steven John Harrington
Nicknames: Steve Strange
Steve Strange, was one of the most influential figures in the London club circuit that launched the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s, and a hit-making pop star with his own band, Visage. Although his early success gave way to periods of drug addiction and poverty, Strange had recently been enjoying a revival in his fortunes and had re-formed Visage for live shows and a new album.
Strange will be most vividly remembered as the outrageously flamboyant host of a string of nightclubs that powerfully influenced the London fashion and music scenes in the aftermath of punk. In 1978, he and Rusty Egan (then drummer with the Rich Kids) began holding David Bowie nights on Tuesdays at Billy’s club in Soho, a squalid bunker situated beneath a brothel. “We played Bowie, Roxy [Music] and electro,” said Strange. “It was where our friends could be themselves.” Billy’s could hold only 250 people but swiftly developed an outsize reputation, numbering among its garishly clad clientele such stars-to-be as George O’Dowd (the future Boy George), Siobhan Fahey, later of Bananarama, and Marilyn.
In 1979, Strange and Egan scaled up to the Blitz club in Covent Garden, and “the ball really started rolling”, as Strange put it. As scenesters dressed as ghouls, witches, vamps and Regency libertines battled to get through the doors, and Boy George acted as “the coat-check girl”, Strange (in leather jodhpurs and long overcoat) stood at the door and judged who would be allowed in. He enjoyed a huge publicity splash by denying admission to Mick Jagger. “Mick got annoyed and said, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ before storming off in search of nightlife elsewhere,” Strange wrote in his autobiography, Blitzed! (2002).
As well as being frequented by the filmmaker Derek Jarman, Siouxsie Sioux and Depeche Mode and fashion designers such as Antony Price and Zandra Rhodes, the Blitz was the launchpad for the career of Spandau Ballet, who played there on Thursday nights. “We are making the most contemporary statement in fashion and music,” said the band’s songwriter and guitarist Gary Kemp.
Meanwhile, Strange, who had already played in the bands the Moors Murderers and the Photons, had formed Visage with Egan, Midge Ure and several members of Magazine, and they released the unsuccessful single Tar in 1979. It was the intervention of Bowie that put them on the map. He recruited Strange and some Blitz regulars to appear in his video for Ashes to Ashes, which hugely boosted Strange’s profile when the song went to No 1. Visage signed a new deal with Polydor and in 1980 enjoyed international success with their debut album and their career-defining hit, Fade to Grey.
In 1981, Strange and Egan opened Club for Heroes in Baker Street, then moved to the Camden Palace the following year. The 2,000-capacity Palace became a mecca for international clubgoers, and established Strange as the pre-eminent name among the new clubland elite. Bisexual, he was now in a relationship with Francesca “Chessie” Thyssen (daughter of the German steel tycoon Baron Heini Thyssen) with whom he skied in Gstaad and “played elephant polo in India with Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach”. Prince Andrew and his then girlfriend, Koo Stark, were frequent visitors to Strange’s flat in Chelsea.
He was born Steven Harrington in Newbridge, Monmouthshire, son of John Harrington, who joined the army soon after his son’s birth, and his wife, Gillian (nee Price). The family later moved to Aldershot, Hampshire, where his father was posted, and then, when John left the army, to Rhyl, where his parents ran a guest house and several seafront cafes. His parents divorced, and Steven lived with his mother in a council house in Newbridge, where he attended the local grammar school.
At 13 he began stealing drugs from chemists’ shops, and at 14 was cautioned by police for possessing amphetamines. After seeing the Sex Pistols play in Newport in 1976, he left Wales for London, where he worked briefly for Malcolm McLaren and shared squats with the future stars Billy Idol (William Broad) and Sid Vicious (John Beverley). He worked in clothes shops and as a roadie for rock groups, before joining the Moors Murderers. They released the single Free Hindley before Strange left the band and was briefly a member of the Photons.
Following the huge success of his various clubs and Visage, Strange began to find the pop business awash with cocaine and developed a taste for it. Then, on a trip to Paris in 1982 to model clothes for Jean Paul Gaultier, he was given some heroin and rapidly became addicted to it. “The biggest mistake I ever made was heroin,” he said later. “You don’t ever dabble with it, you stay clear away.”
Friends including Spandau Ballet’s Martin Kemp and the singer Sade tried unsuccessfully to help Strange get treatment for his addiction. He began spending periods of time in Ibiza, where he became involved in the developing trance music scene, but whenever he returned to London found himself dragged back to the addict’s lifestyle. On one occasion he was convicted of theft and fined for stealing a chequebook, intending to buy drugs.
Then he spent nearly five years living in Ibiza, where he hosted the Double Bass club, before returning to London in the 90s. He began hosting club nights again, but then hit a low after the deaths of his close friends Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence. His house in east London was destroyed by fire and Strange found himself back in Wales, living with his sister Tanya and two lodgers in the house in Porthcawl he had bought for his mother a few years previously. He suffered a nervous breakdown and was prescribed Prozac, Valium and temazepam.
In 2000, he was arrested in Bridgend for shoplifting. He was given a three-month suspended prison sentence, and attended treatment to wean himself off Prozac. There were signs that he was making positive progress when he re-formed Visage in 2004, and recorded the song Diaries of a Madman.
In 2006, he co-wrote and performed on the track In the Dark for the electronic duo Punx Soundcheck, and in 2013 a new Visage album, Hearts and Knives, was released (their first collection of new material for 29 years). The band played dates in the UK and Europe, and last year recorded a new version of Fade to Grey.
Date of Birth: 15 June 1946, Alexandria, Egypt
Birth Name: Artemios Ventouris Roussos
Nicknames: Demis Roussos
Demis Roussos, the Greek singer who has died aged 68, became an unlikely heart throb in the 1970s when his album sales earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
He scored his biggest success in Britain in 1975 when he had five albums in the top 10 simultaneously and in 1976 when his annoyingly unforgettable romantic ballad Forever and Ever was No 1 in the single charts. Worldwide he sold more than 60 million albums. “My music came right on time,” Roussos told an interviewer in 2002. “It was romantic Mediterranean music addressed to all the people who wanted to go on holiday. My music was liked by the people ... other artists of the same era, Mediterranean, like Julio Iglesias and Nana Mouskouri, followed me.”
His publicity people described Roussos’s songs as a mixture of “Byzantine psalms and muezzin prayer calls”, and there was something otherworldly about his tremulous, near-falsetto delivery. But there was much that was strange about Roussos. Even if his voice had not compelled attention, his Falstaffian 23-stone girth, beard, long hair and penchant for billowing kaftans would have marked him out.
Incredibly to some, Roussos, who became known as “The Phenomenon”, became seen as a sex symbol. In Britain the mostly middle-aged female audiences at his sell-out concerts became every bit as hysterical about his wobbling chins and zithery ballads as their teenage counterparts had been for the Beatles. In later life he recalled that women in the front row would sometimes try to grab his kaftans to see if he was wearing anything underneath (the answer, he claimed, was no).
Critics, though, were less easily smitten. The Sun called him “The Big Squeak” and likened him to a cross between Mickey Mouse and Moby Dick. Others called him the “The Love Walrus” or “The Singing Tent”, while The Sunday Times said he sounded like a spaniel that had been kicked. And after two years of British hits, Roussos faded from view. The coup de grace, according to some, was administered by Mike Leigh in the scene in his Play For Today, Abigail’s Party (1977), in which the monstrous Bev (Alison Steadman) sways gormlessly to Forever and Ever, consigning Roussos to the ranks of the irredeemably unhip. His next two singles struggled to gain entry into the Top 40.
Roussos, however, felt that his inadvertent role in the film was proof that he had left an enduring impression on the 20th century: “Nobody can deny that my name left a mark into the century’s music,” he told The Guardian in 1999. “Even if I die tomorrow, Demis Roussos left a card, a trademark, something that cannot be forgotten.”
Artemios Ventouris Roussos was born to Greek parents on June 15 1946 in Alexandria, Egypt, where his father was working as an architect.
The family was forced to flee Egypt for Greece during the Suez crisis of 1956, leaving all of their possessions behind, and as soon as he was old enough young Demis, who sung in a Greek Byzantine church choir as a child and learned guitar, trumpet and piano in school, began work as a cabaret musician to to help his family make ends meet. His teenage years coincided with a boom in the Greek tourism industry and he began singing in tourist bars. By the mid-1960s he was performing covers of British and American pop hits, such as House of the Rising Sun and When a Man Loves a Woman, with a band called The Idols.
Towards the end of the decade he hooked up with the future film music composer Vangelis, with whom he formed Aphrodite’s Child, a prog-pop combo who fled to France after the Greek military coup of 1967 made them unwelcome in their homeland. In 1968 they released the song Rain And Tears (derived from Pachelbel’s Canon) during the student riots in Paris. Referring to the tear gas used on demonstrators, it sold more than a million copies in France and managed to scrape into the Top 40 in Britain.
After half a dozen albums in three years, Aphrodite’s Child broke up in 1971 and Roussos went solo, cutting his first album, On the Greek Side of My Mind, the same year. He was already well known on the continent but little known in Britain until 1974 when a BBC documentary, entitled The Roussos Phenomenon, turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
His first UK single to make the charts, Happy to be on an Island in the Sun, reached No 5 in 1975. Other hits included My Friend The Wind; Goodbye My Love, Goodbye; Quand je t’aime, Someday Somewhere and Lovely Lady Of Arcadia.
By the time his star began to wane in Britain Roussos was a wealthy man with a mansion outside Paris, a private jet, an estate in the south of France and all the other trappings of success. But he did not remain idle. In the early 1980s, while living in California, he went on a diet, shed more than six stone, then published A Question of Weight, which sold a million copies. He remained constantly popular in Europe, where he continued to tour, through his fluency in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Arabic, as well as Greek and English. In later years he found new fans in the Middle East, Russia and central Asia, developing what one critic described as “a new-age, ethnic kind of sound, influenced by Africa and the Balkans”.
In 1985 he made an unwitting comeback into the British national consciousness when he was held captive for a few days in Beirut after his flight from Athens to Rome was hijacked by Hizbollah militants. The press reported that he had sung to his captors (not true, said Roussos) and had a bit of fun at his expense, one correspondent rejoicing that his captors “did not go unpunished”. In 2002 he enjoyed a mini-comeback when his “Best Of” collection, Forever And Ever, reached number 20 in the album charts and he undertook a tour of Britain.
Demis Roussos was married and divorced three times.
Date of Birth: 20 May 1944, Sheffield, UK
Birth Name: John Robert Cocker
Nicknames: Joe Cocker
In a musical career lasting more than 50 years, Joe Cocker, who has died of lung cancer aged 70, bounced between the euphoria of chart-topping success and the misery of drug and alcohol abuse. In the latter part of his life, the singer had re-established himself as a soulful interpreter of material from a broad range of songwriters.
Cocker’s background and upbringing in Sheffield, where he was born, son of Harold and Marjorie, established his credentials as a ballsy, salt-of-the-earth performer cut from stalwart working-class stock. At first it seemed as if the young Joe was destined for an unglamorous future working as a fitter for the East Midlands Gas Board. As his mother commented: “When Joe left school at 16, I thought he was going to take up gas fitting as a career. I even got him a lot of books on the subject, and he was interested in gas for a time, but there was always the music. He told me he didn’t want a job where he worked for years and years and then got presented with a gold watch at the end.”
Cocker gained his first toehold in music with the aid of his brother, Victor. He sang with Victor’s band the Headliners at a local youth club, then later played drums in Victor’s skiffle group, the Cavaliers. By 1963, they were transformed into Vance Arnold & the Avengers. He took the opportunity to reinvent himself as the vocalist Cowboy Joe, as the Avengers played warm-up gigs for better known names such as the Hollies. He also made guest appearances with other local artists including Dave Berry and the Cruisers.
Cocker was already beginning to develop the intense, raucous vocal style which would make him an international name, and he was spotted by the record producer Mike Leander, who helped him to make a demo recording. This earned him a contract with Decca records in 1964, for whom he made his debut on disc with a version of the Beatles tune I’ll Cry Instead. Despite Cocker’s convincing performance, the single failed to chart and the Decca contract lapsed.
After touring as an opening act for Manfred Mann and the Hollies, Cocker reverted to his gas board job, persevering with music in his free time. He struck up a songwriting partnership with the bass player Chris Stainton and, in 1965, the pair put together the first incarnation of the Grease Band, which included the guitarists Henry McCullough and Alan Spenner. Two years of club and pub dates, mainly in northern England, earned the band a committed following.
In 1968, EMI’s Regal Zonophone label released the Stainton/Cocker composition Marjorine the performing credit read merely “Joe Cocker” and it reached No 48 on the UK singles chart. Much more spectacular was his version of the Lennon/McCartney song With a Little Help from My Friends Cocker’s friends on the recording session included the future Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page which topped the UK charts that November. An enthusiastic public endorsement from the Fab Four themselves did Cocker no harm at all, and the song would become his unofficial theme tune.
With the British public converted to his cause, Cocker set about wooing the American market. A string of concert dates and TV appearances climaxed with his appearance at the Woodstock festival in August 1969, where his extraordinary performance of With a Little Help from My Friends, complete with unearthly screams, hideous grimaces and apparently uncontrollable bodily gyrations, became one of the most unforgettable sequences from the ensuing movie of the event.
The following year was another momentous one for Cocker. His album Joe Cocker!, produced by Leon Russell and Denny Cordell, earned critical raves and raced up the American charts. It also gave Cocker another hit, with a Beatles cover, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window. Then the Grease Band split up after Cocker cancelled an American tour, but the singer was warned by the US Immigration Department that his failure to fulfil the dates could jeopardise his future ability to work in the US. Cocker duly assembled the 21-piece collective known as Mad Dogs and Englishmen and undertook a punishing 65-date campaign packed into only 57 days. It spawned a bestselling double live album and accompanying feature film, but the sprawling and chaotic project left Cocker exhausted and facing a crippling pile of bills.
He lapsed into a long period of hard drinking and heroin addiction, and it was not until 1972 that he returned to the stage as part of the 12-piece line up known as Joe Cocker and the Chris Stainton Band. However, he was having difficulty keeping control, and was drinking so heavily that often he was barely capable of performing. That October, he was fined $1,200 in Australia following his arrest for possession of marijuana, then had to make a rapid exit from the country to avoid a list of further charges, including assault.
Cocker stumbled through the rest of the 1970s as a shadow of his former self, still touring and knocking out uneven albums, including Jamaica Say You Will (1975), Stingray (1976) and Live in Los Angeles (1976). However, he did manage to notch up a big hit in 1975 with You Are So Beautiful (which enjoyed a renaissance when it featured prominently in Brian De Palma’s 1993 film, Carlito’s Way), while a switch to Asylum Records in 1978 spurred the singer to raise his game with Luxury You Can Afford. Better still was his 1982 release on Island records, Sheffield Steel, which featured powerful performances of songs by Jimmy Webb, Bob Dylan and Steve Winwood and remains arguably the definitive Joe Cocker album.
Cocker confirmed his resurgence with his duet with Jennifer Warnes on the schlocky power ballad Up Where We Belong, from the hit movie An Officer and a Gentleman (1982). The song won a Grammy and an Oscar.
Subsequently, his career saw him coasting along comfortably, enjoying respect from his peers and loyalty from a broad international audience, though somewhat lacking in further artistic landmarks. In his determination to stay on the wagon, he received unstinting support from his wife Pam, whom he married in 1987. As a diversion from the music industry, the couple joined the trend for celebs to get into the catering business by opening the Mad Dog Ranch café in Colorado.
Through the 80s and 90s, Cocker released a string of albums including Unchain My Heart (1987), One Night of Sin (1989) and Night Calls (1991), all of which sold respectably if unspectacularly. More convincing was Have a Little Faith (1994), which was well received internationally and generated a couple of minor UK hit singles with Take Me Home and Let the Healing Begin. A&M seized the moment to release a four-disc box set entitled The Long Voyage Home (1995), a thorough survey of his career, which helped to remind anybody who had not been listening closely of the breadth and longevity of Cocker’s catalogue.
Not that Cocker’s accomplishments had been overlooked by music industry insiders. He had become a regular guest at assorted big-ticket rockbiz shindigs such as the Prince’s Trust Rock Gala and Nelson Mandela’s 70th Birthday Tribute, both in 1988. In 1989 he appeared at an inauguration party for the new US president, George HW Bush. He popped up at Rock In Rio II in 1991 and at the Montreux jazz festival in 1992, and came full circle by joining the bill for Woodstock II in 1994.
In 2002, he joined Phil Collins on drums and the Queen guitarist Brian May to perform With a Little Help from My Friends at the Party at the Palace concert held for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. He was appointed OBE in 2007 and played concerts in London and Sheffield to mark the event.
In the same year, his 20th studio album Hymn for My Soul, a collection of songs by such greats as Stevie Wonder, Dylan, John Fogerty and the Beatles, took him back into the UK top 10. Hard Knocks (2010) topped Billboard’s independent albums chart.
In March 2011 Cocker performed at a benefit concert for the R&B guitarist Cornell Dupree, who had played with him live and on record, at BB King’s Blues Club in New York, and who died a few weeks later. During a concert at Madison Square Garden in September this year, Billy Joel paused to pay tribute to Cocker, surprising listeners by commenting that he was “not very well right now” and proposing him for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Cocker will be remembered as one of the most soulful white rock singers to have emerged from Britain the only homegrown performers comparable to him might be Free’s Paul Rodgers or Family’s Roger Chapman.
Perhaps more importantly, he showed enough character to fight his way back after being written off as another casualty of 70s rock’n’roll excess.
Date of Birth: 28 January 1928, Pensford, Somerset, UK
Birth Name: Bernard Stanley Bilk
Nicknames: Acker Bilk
Acker Bilk was a jazz clarinettist and bandleader who became a hugely popular figure in the wider world of entertainment; his recordings, in particular Stranger On The Shore, figured among the bestselling records of the 20th century.
Bilk’s popular appeal owed almost as much to his unaffected and avuncular manner as to the warm, sentimental sound of his clarinet. Similarly, his bowler-hatted figure was as instantly recognisable as his tone and style. Despite his great popularity, Bilk retained his commitment to jazz and led a series of excellent bands throughout his career.
Bernard Stanley Bilk was born on January 28 1929 in Pensford, Somerset, the son of a cabinet maker. His mother played the organ in the chapel where his father acted as a lay preacher. Bilk acquired the nickname “Acker”, a local word meaning “pal” or “mate”, as a boy.
His mother insisted on his taking formal piano lessons which, he claimed, almost killed his interest in music. His boyhood exploits around the village resulted in several injuries, including the loss of two front teeth and the top joint of a finger. He later claimed that these disabilities contributed to his individual style of playing.
Leaving school at 14, Bilk worked first at the Wills tobacco factory in Bristol, at a wage of £1 4s a week, and later as a builder’s labourer and blacksmith’s apprentice. He took up the clarinet in 1948, while on National Service in Egypt, and formed a semi-professional band in Bristol shortly after demobilisation.
Early in 1954 Bilk was invited to join the band of Ken Colyer, Britain’s leading New Orleans-style musician. He found life in London so disagreeable that he left after only a few months, returned home and took a variety of manual jobs. In 1956 he formed his Paramount Jazz Band.
Realising that the band’s only chance of establishing itself lay in having a London base, in 1957 Bilk braved the capital once more. Traditional, or “Trad”, jazz was now growing in popularity throughout Europe, and he secured a six-week engagement in Düsseldorf.
The long nightly sessions imparted a professional polish to the band and they returned home in perfect form to take advantage of the burgeoning Trad craze.
It was Bilk’s good fortune to have his advertising handled by the publicist Peter Leslie, who was later to play a role in promoting the Beatles’ early career. Leslie hit upon the idea of presenting Bilk and the band in the guise of Edwardian showmen or prizefighters.
They appeared dressed in waistcoats, shirtsleeves and bowler hats. Bilk himself was always billed as “Mr Acker Bilk”, while the band’s record albums, press advertisements and handbills came complete with yards of Leslie’s orotund, mock-Edwardian prose: “The notes flew out in that Style much favoured in the American City of New Orleans: so Spirited in its Execution, so Subtle and Melodious in Conception.”
Leslie’s strategy for creating a distinctive image worked well. Young Trad fans adopted the bowler hat as their identifying symbol and, somewhat to his alarm, Acker Bilk found himself a leader of pop fashion at the beginning of the Sixties. He played a prominent role in Dick Lester’s It’s Trad, Dad!, the archetypal youth film of the time.
In 1960 he recorded his composition Stranger On The Shore with a string orchestra, as the theme music to a BBC television play for children. The tune caught on and became the first-ever simultaneous hit in Britain and America, remaining in the Top 30 singles chart for 53 weeks, gaining an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
The tune which he habitually referred to as “my old-age pension,” was subsequently recorded by dozens of other artists, including Duke Ellington, and continues to sell in prodigious quantities.
Although the boom in Trad jazz came to an abrupt end in 1963, with the rise of the Beatles, Bilk continued to pursue his double-sided career with great success. The band, freed from the need to conform to the strict Trad format, blossomed into a fine, open-textured mainstream jazz sextet.
Meanwhile, a long series of attractive, easy-listening albums emerged to supply an apparently insatiable market. The ubiquitous sound of Acker with strings, still to be heard in shops, bars, hotel lobbies, lifts and aeroplanes around the world, brought him numerous awards. Particularly successful were the albums Sheer Magic and Evergreen, both of which gained gold discs.
Although he did not have to, Bilk continued to tour the world with his Paramount Jazz Band. The generation which had taken to him as teenagers continued to flock to his performances as adults, often bringing their children and grandchildren with them in later years.
Unlike some of his contemporaries, he took care not to allow his show to harden into an ossified routine, but it would always end in the same way. He would don the bowler hat, which had been lying prominently placed on the piano throughout. This simple action invariably brought storms of applause which died away to silence as he played the first notes of Stranger On The Shore.
In recent years, Bilk began to limit the number of his appearances. A keen amateur painter, he spent more time painting and relaxing at his home in Pensford than in his big house at Potters Bar, north London. In 2000 he was treated for throat cancer.
He was appointed MBE in 2001.
Date of Birth: 11 July 1947, Kingston, Jamaica
Birth Name: John Kenneth Holt
Nicknames: John Holt
John Holt was one of Jamaica’s best-loved singers. Though chiefly known for romantic ballads and reggae renditions of pop and soul tunes, Holt was also an exceptionally talented singer-songwriter. He scored dozens of hits during a career that lasted more than 50 years, becoming a leading reggae star, enjoying success in the British pop charts in addition to having countless hits at home.
John Kenneth Holt was born in Kingston on July 11 1947. His vocal talent was nurtured by his mother, who encouraged him to sing at weddings and parties from the age of seven . Later, at Calabar High School, his friends coaxed the reluctant youngster into performing at school concerts .
At the age of 16, Holt entered a talent contest held by the journalist Vere Johns at the nearby Majestic Theatre, winning first prize with a rendition of Solomon Burke’s Just Out of Reach. As a regular in the contests, he formed a rivalry with Jimmy Cliff and other young hopefuls, taking first prize on 29 occasions.
As word of Holt’s talent spread , the aspiring producer Leslie Kong brokered a deal with the singer’s mother to record him for an upfront payment of £30. His debut single, recorded with the leading show band the Vagabonds, featured the original compositions Forever I’ll Stay and I Cried a Tear, the latter co-written with Winston Samuels. Holt then left school to concentrate on music full-time.
In 1964 he formed a short-lived duo with Alton Ellis, recording the chart-topping ska hit Rum Bumpers for Vincent “Randy” Chin, and providing harmony on Moutha Massy Liza. He was then invited to join the Paragons vocal quartet by Tyrone Evans, as a replacement for Leroy Stamp, reaching the group just in time to contribute to their Studio One recording Love At Last, which stayed at the No 1 chart position for five weeks. After Bob Andy left the group, the Paragons remained a vocal trio, with Holt as lead singer and chief songwriter .
The group reached Duke Reid’s Treasure Isle stable just as the slower-paced rock-steady style became the rage in Jamaica, and hits such as Happy Go Lucky Girl, On the Beach, Only a Smile, Wear You to the Ball and The Tide Is High made them one of the defining reggae acts of the era.
Holt returned to solo work in 1968 (though he also continued with the Paragons until 1970), scoring an instant hit with the sensuous Tonight for Duke Reid. He began working for rising producers such as Rupie Edwards and Keith Hudson, but a more significant partnership was brokered with Bunny Lee in 1969, yielding the broken-hearted Sometimes and It’s a Jam in the Street.
After cutting the A Love I Can Feel album for Studio One, My Heart Is Gone and Strange Things were exquisite singles for producer Phil Pratt. Another breakthrough came with his successful cover of Shep and the Limelights’ doo-wop classic Stick By Me, recorded for Bunny Lee in 1972.
Greater international exposure came after the English producer Tony Ashfield began orchestrating Holt’s material, helping to break him into mainstream markets in Britain with the albums The Further You Look and 1000 Volts of Holt. Holt’s cover of Kris Kristofferson’s Help Me Make It Through the Night spent 11 weeks in the British pop charts in late 1974, peaking at No 6, and his orchestrated cut of Mr Bojangles was also popular. By contrast, the following year Holt’s rousing smash Up Park Camp, a song about a detention camp for gunmen in Kingston, proved he was still in touch with his Jamaican audience.
After the 2000 and 3000 Volts of Holt releases, and the tastefully orchestrated Time Is the Master set for Harry Mudie, during the late 1970s Holt released several extended-play showcase albums, including Holt Goes Disco, though none fared particularly well.
Then, at the start of the 1980s, as Holt began sporting dreadlocks and proclaiming a Rastafarian identity, Blondie’s hit cover of The Tide Is High sparked renewed interest, leading to a series of hit recordings for Henry “Junjo” Lawes with the Roots Radics band : first came the hard-hitting ballad Ghetto Queen, followed by the sensual love song Sweetie Come Brush Me, and then the massive Police In Helicopter, which described the potential acts of civil unrest that would greet a crackdown on Jamaica’s clandestine marijuana industry. Wild Fire, the duet Holt then cut with fellow star Dennis Brown for producer Tad Dawkins, was equally popular.
Though his output slowed during the late 1980s, Holt remained in constant demand for live performance work, whether with a standard backing band, or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Date of Birth: 24 December 1956, Battersea, London, UK
Birth Name: Maggie Boyle
Maggie Boyle was one of the hidden treasures of folk music. She was born and lived all her life in England, but her first and defining love was Irish traditional song and it served her well in a career of many highlights, including collaborations with the Chieftains, Ralph McTell, Bert Jansch and her former husband, Steve Tilston.
Maggie Boyle also appeared regularly with John Renbourn’s group Ship of Fools and the female vocal harmony group Grace Notes. Her recording career included three accomplished solo albums, Reaching Out (1987), Gweebarra (1998) and Won’t You Come Away (2012).
The apparent effortlessness of her graceful vocals and her instinctive musicianship on flute, whistle and bodhran not only endeared her to audiences but also made her a popular and influential figure among her fellow artists, with younger singers such as Fay Hield citing her as an important influence. At one point she collaborated with Van Morrison, setting a WB Yeats poem to music, although the track was never actually released.
She was steeped in Irish traditional music from birth. Her father, Paddy, was a singer and native Irish speaker from Co Donegal who did not learn English until he was 12; her mother was an Irish dancer from Co Longford. After relocating to London, both were active on the vibrant London Irish music scene, and their home became a stop-off point for a succession of passing Irish musicians .
One of four children, Maggie was born on Christmas Eve 1956. She learned her first song, My Lagan Love, from her father when she was nine, and went on to be tutored by the great Co Monaghan folk singer Oliver Mulligan, winning several competitions organised by Comhaltas Ceóltoirí Éireann, Ireland’s primary traditional music promotional body. At the time opportunities for Irish singers in Britain were scarce, and with little prospect of becoming a professional singer she joined the Civil Service, working in the social security office.
But after marrying the singer songwriter Steve Tilston in 1984 and moving to Bristol, her life took a different path when she was invited to sing and play the flute in Christopher Bruce’s folk ballet production of Sergeant Early’s Dream for the Rambert dance company. She ended up touring with the show on and off for several years, including to America, where she also toured with the Chieftains.
The biggest boost to her profile, however, came in 1992, when she was asked to sing the theme song (The Quiet Land Of Erin) for the Harrison Ford movie Patriot Games. The director, Phillip Noyce, originally wanted Clannad, but when they proved unavailable he turned to Maggie Boyle. After discovering that she was required to sing the track in Irish, she rang an aunt in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, for some speed coaching . Two years later she was singing and playing on the soundtrack of the Brad Pitt movie Legends Of The Fall .
Based at Keighley, West Yorkshire, Maggie Boyle played regularly in a duo with Tilston recording two fine albums with him and after their split in 1997 she remained an influential figure on the grass roots Yorkshire folk scene. Her 1998 album Gweebarra produced some of her best-loved tracks, among them Gweebarra Shore, Lady Margaret and Lord Gregory.
Always preferring to collaborate with other artists rather than perform solo, she embraced modern music alongside Irish traditional material, and experimented with different styles in the trio Sketch with the jazz guitarist Gary Boyle. She formed another group, the Expatriate Game, showcasing American music, with the guitarist Duck Baker and fiddle player Ben Paley, and toured with the singer/guitarist Paul Downes. She also appeared regularly with the female harmony vocal group Grace Notes, originally formed in 1993 with Lynda Hardcastle and Helen Hockenhull, and made five albums together with them.
Her final album, Won’t You Come Away (2012), was also her most personal. It was in part based on Kitchen Songs, an online project which evolved into a show on Radio Leeds involving informal chats and collaborations with songwriters and musicians from different fields. The result was an album that included guest appearances by, among others, Jon Boden, Paul Downes and Steve Tilston on a mix of traditional and contemporary songs. One track, Liza & Henry, was written by her son, Joe.
Date of Birth: 23 June 1921, Bronx, New York, US
Birth Name: Henry Stne
Henry Stone was a record label supremo who spent almost 70 years working as a record distributor, talent scout and label owner, helping to launch the careers of Ray Charles, James Brown, Timmy Thomas and of course KC and the Sunshine Band.
Stone’s heyday came with his TK Records Label in the 1970s, as he rode the fledgling disco boom. With the teenage singer Betty Wright he scored with Clean Up Women, a big 1972 hit. That same year he scored again with Timmy Thomas’s Why Can’t We Live Together (No 12 in the UK charts in 1973), and then in 1974 topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic with George McCrae’s Rock Your Baby. Two TK recordings appeared on the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever (1977).
The label’s signature style a light, Caribbean-flavoured dance music would come to be known as “the Miami sound”, the ultimate practitioners of which were KC and the Sunshine Band, a multiracial band led by Harry Wayne “KC” Casey and Richard Finch. Stone introduced the 21-year-old Casey to a teenaged Finch, already a skilled recording engineer with TK, in 1973, and together they wrote and produced Rock Your Baby for MacCrae. KC and the Sunshine Band went on to have 10 UK Top 40 hits, becoming the first band to have four No 1 pop singles in a 12-month period since the Beatles in 1964.
Henry Stone was born on June 23 1921 in the Bronx, New York City, and, aged eight, during the Great Depression, he was sent to a Jewish reform school upstate in Pleasantville for stealing some food from a street vendor. It was there that he learnt to play trumpet and developed a love for New Orleans jazz. While serving with the US Army in the Second World War he played in one of the military’s few mixed-race bands.
Settling in Miami in 1948, Stone began both distributing 78s with Modern Records and working with local blues and gospel musicians whom he signed to labels in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. By 1952 he had established his own Crystal Recording Company with a studio and two labels Rockin’ for rhythm and blues and Glory for gospel and in 1954 he had a No 1 R&B hit with Heart Of Stone, by Otis Williams & the Charms.
Even more notable was his signing of Ray Charles, then an unknown musician from the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, whose piano playing had caught Stone’s attention at a Miami hotel. Together they recorded various songs St Florida Blues, Walkin’ and Talkin’ and I’m Wondering and Wondering for Stone’s Rockin’ label, though none of them enjoyed much commercial success. “I gave him $200,” Stone recalled. “He took the money and immediately bought some heroin.”
In a 2013 interview Stone put his recording of so many celebrated black American musicians down to location and luck. “I was the only guy down here. And they’d come to play the clubs. I turned down a lot of talent it’s just the ones that I signed that make me seem like a genius.”
By the 1960s, as soul music was holding sway, Stone was recording a new generation of black musicians, his business acumen allowing him to pick up an array of talent from Deep City, a bankrupt Florida label. TK Records and his own distribution company, Tone Distributors, occupied an 18,000 sq ft warehouse and employed more than 100 people.
Stone possessed not just a fine ear for talent but also an ability to fleece that talent his reluctance to pay full royalties was well-known throughout the industry. It may have been Stone’s business shenanigans that helped lead to TK’s sudden collapse in 1980 though Stone himself was quick to blame the burgeoning “disco sucks” movement that, from the end of the previous decade, saw disco records burned and American students don badges reading “death to disco”.
Not that the decline of TK kept Stone down for long. He provided the seed money for Sugar Hill Records, the New Jersey label that first popularised rap music, and set up Hot Productions, which licensed European house and techno recordings for the United States. Hot’s biggest success came with the Dutch group 2 Unlimited’s record Get Ready For This, which would become one of the most recognisable anthems in modern American sport.
Even as his sight failed him in recent years, Stone remained heavily involved in the industry, running his labels out of a Miami penthouse with walls covered in gold and platinum albums. When asked what kept him going, he joked: “I never learnt to play golf.”
Date of Birth: 27 September 1942, East London, UK
Birth Name: Bernard William Jewry
Nicknames: Alvin Stardust
Alvin Stardust was a leather-clad glam rocker who found fame in the 1970s with My Coo Ca Choo and Jealous Mind and he was one of the more bizarre glam rock sensations of the 1970s.
As an extravagantly quiffed, leather-clad rocker with preposterous sideburns and chunky rings worn over tight-fitting leather gloves, he inspired a generation of children to strut their stuff and perform strange contortions with their fingers as they responded to the invitation in his signature hit My Coo Ca Choo to “groove on the mat”.
Stardust went on to have four Top 10 hits in quick succession in the early 1970s. The most famous were My Coo Ca Choo and Jealous Mind, although Red Dress and You You You were not far behind. Yet his career breakthrough, on Top of the Pops in November 1973, came about after a chapter of accidents in which he twice found fame by inheriting a name never intended for him.
One month before his TOTP appearance, an entirely different Alvin Stardust had made his television debut. To promote his new record label, Magnet Records, the songwriter and producer Peter Shelley had invented “Alvin Stardust” and composed, sung and recorded a one-off single, My Coo Ca Choo. When, to his alarm, the song won the imaginary Alvin a slot on a television pop show, he felt he had no option but to bluff it out. “I dressed the part a glitter-suited recluse who had been living in Spain and to my surprise it went on the charts the next week,” Shelley recalled.
But he had no wish to repeat the performance, so he began to look around for someone else to assume the character in time for a fast-approaching booking on Top of the Pops. After Marty Wilde turned him down, he approached a less well-known pop star called Shane Fenton (real name Bernard Jewry), who had enjoyed modest fame in the early 1960s as the frontman of Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
Fenton’s chiselled features and striking blond mane had won him a select female following, so for Alvin Stardust he felt he had to reinvent himself. Modelling himself on Jack Palance in Shane, he clad himself in head-to-toe black leather and, the night before his date with destiny, dyed his hair black in his bathroom sink. When he looked in the mirror, however, he saw black streaks down the side of his face and purple stains all over his hands, which he found impossible to scrub off. “There was no way I could go on TV looking like that,” he recalled.
The next morning found him at a theatrical wigmakers: “They had these long black sideburns, perfect for covering up the stains on my face, so they fitted them right then and there.” Across the road in a ladies’ outfitters, the new Alvin Stardust bought a pair of black leather gloves to cover his stained hands.
With Shelley’s imaginary pop star now reincarnated as the enigmatic man in black, My Coo Ca Choo rocketed to No 2 in Britain , turning the quirkily theatrical Stardust into an overnight pop sensation. By the time his follow-up, Jealous Mind, reached No 1 in March 1974, he had won a Music Week award as best male live act. For a 31-year old who had been playing working men’s clubs, it was a dream come true.
Stardust’s time at the top was brief, but it won him a loyal following of fans who responded to his passion for music and his refusal to take himself too seriously. As a result, in later years he was able to make a decent living on the nostalgia tour circuit.
He almost did not live to enjoy it. On one of his early outings as Stardust he went on stage in a leather catsuit that covered him from throat to ankle: “The only place for the heat to escape was from my face, so three-quarters of the way through ... I just collapsed. They had to cut off my catsuit in the ambulance. My manager was saying: 'Not the suit!’ Then I stopped breathing, so they fed a pipe down my throat. All my manager could say was: 'You know he’s got to sing tomorrow, don’t you?’ ”
An only child, he was born Bernard William Jewry in east London on September 27 1942 and grew up at Mansfield. He was educated as a boarder at Southwell Minster Grammar School, where he and a couple of friends formed the Jewry Rhythm Band. Meanwhile, he found work as a roadie for a group called Shane Fenton and the Beat Boys, which became Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
In the early 1960s the group recorded a demo tape and mailed it to the BBC, but while they were waiting for a reply the band’s 17-year-old singer, Shane Fenton, died from rheumatic fever. The rest of the band decided to break up, but when the BBC invited them to an audition, Fenton’s mother asked the band to stay together in honour of her son’s memory. Jewry was asked to become the new Shane Fenton.
In the early 1960s the group had a handful of hits in the UK singles chart: I’m a Moody Guy; Walk Away; It’s All Over Now; and Cindy’s Birthday, which reached the No 19 slot in 1962. At one point the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, approached “Shane” and offered to manage him. “He said he had a song called Do You Want To Know A Secret? which was ideal for me,” Stardust recalled. But he turned him down. A few weeks later the song launched Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas to the kind of stardom that eluded Shane Fenton and the Fentones.
Although Stardust’s successes in the 1970s tended to dwarf the rest of his career, he enjoyed a revival in the 1980s when he signed up to Stiff Records and found himself back in the Top 10 with Pretend, which peaked at No 4 in 1981. He went on to have three more consecutive hits for Chrysalis Records.
During the 1990s Stardust concentrated on acting, with television roles that included that of Greg Andersen in Hollyoaks. He later moved into musical theatre, starring as the Child Catcher in the West End hit Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
But the nostalgia rock circuit was his bread and butter. A review of an Alvin Stardust performance at Skegness in 2010 described him bursting on to the stage clad in black leather “in a roar of motorcycles” and doing “outrageously sensual things to Duffy’s Mercy and Johnny Kidd’s Shakin’ All Over”.
Stardust never lost his sense of humour. When asked recently by OK! magazine for his thoughts on Jimmy Savile, he replied: “If I’d known that Jimmy Savile was abusing children, I think I would have lynched him,” before adding: “[But] a lot of things were going on [at the time] that we didn’t know about. Nobody knew Gary Glitter was bald.”
Stardust was thrice married, first to Iris Caldwell; secondly to the actress Liza Goddard; and thirdly to the actress and choreographer Julie Paton.
Alvin Stardust, born September 27 1942, died October 23 2014
Date of Birth: 12 December 1941, Troy, New York, US
Birth Name: Timothy DuPron Hauser
Nicknames: Tim Hauser
Tim Hauser, was a founder-member of the vocal group the Manhattan Transfer, a four-part harmony ensemble which has survived for more than 40 years virtually without a break.
First formed in 1969 by Hauser (a one-time market researcher who worked on the Pepsodent toothpaste account) and three friends, Manhattan Transfer’s cool elegance and nostalgic aura enthused audiences in the 1970s, when they became one of New York’s most popular live acts.
Among the venues they played in those days was the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in the basement of the Ansonia hotel which included a disco, cabaret lounge, sauna rooms and swimming pool. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Continental Baths featured a host of famous entertainers, among them the Andrews Sisters, Tiny Tim and Bette Midler (known as “Bathhouse Betty”, and sometimes accompanied on the piano by Barry Manilow dressed only in a white towel). Manhattan Transfer went on to produce a string of hits and win 10 Grammies, and continued to record and tour into the new millennium.
Timothy DuPron Hauser was born on December 12 1941 in Troy, New York. When he was seven, his family moved to New Jersey, and he was educated at St Rose High School in Belmar. Music was his governing passion from childhood, and at the age of 15 he founded a doo-wop vocal quintet called the Criterions which recorded two singles for the Cecilia Label, I Remain Truly Yours and Don’t Say Goodbye. They also performed at many R&B revues and record hops around New York, appearing alongside Dion and the Belmonts, the Elegants and the Heartbeats. When he was only 17, Hauser produced Harlem Nocturne for the Viscounts, which reached No 3 on the Billboard chart in 1959.
At Villanova University, where he read Economics, Hauser sang in a folk group called the Troubadours Three, joined the Villanova Singers and also worked on the college radio station. After serving for a year (1964) with the US Air Force, he became a market research analyst with a New York advertising agency where his accounts included Pepsodent and Micrin mouthwash. From 1966 to 1968 he managed the market research department at Nabisco’s special products division, working mainly on cereals and pet foods.
Music, however, remained his true calling, and in 1969 he formed the first version of the Manhattan Transfer (named after John Dos Passos’s novel of 1925) with Gene Pistilli, Marty Nelson, Erin Dickins and Pat Rosalia; but after recording only one album, Jukin’, in the early 1970s they broke up after disagreements about future musical direction; Hauser wanted to take the group towards jazz and swing.
And there the story might have ended, as Hauser found himself working as a New York taxi driver. But one night in April 1972 he was flagged down by Laurel Massé, a waitress and would-be singer who admired the Manhattan Transfer having seen them perform at Fillmore East. They stopped for coffee and discussed music, and arranged to meet again. Shortly afterwards, again on his taxi-driving shift, Hauser picked up the conga player for the group Laurel Canyon, who invited him to a party at which he met Janis Siegel (a member of Laurel Canyon).
Hauser, Janis and Laurel Massé decided to re-form the Manhattan Transfer, and recruited as their fourth member Alan Paul, who was appearing in the Broadway production of Grease. The group was launched on October 1 1972.
Within two years Manhattan Transfer were performing regularly in New York City, at venues such as Trude Hellers, the Mercer Arts Center and Club 82, as well as the Continental Baths. In 1975 they were signed to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun, releasing an eponymous album in the same year; a single from the album, a remake of the Friendly Brothers’ gospel classic Operator, gave the group their first national hit. The group was soon invited by CBS to host a weekly show, on which Bob Marley and the Wailers would make their first US television appearance. Their next two albums, Coming Out and Pastiche, generated a string of Top 10 hits in Europe, and a No 1 in Britain and France with Chanson d’Amour.
In 1978 Cheryl Bentyne replaced Laurel Massé, who had been injured in a car accident and had decided to pursue a solo career. The first album featuring the new line-up, Extensions (1979), included Birdland, which was to become the group’s anthem. In 1981 Manhattan Transfer became the first group to win Grammy Awards in both the pop and jazz categories in the same year . The group has continued to record and tour, and in 2000 they released a tribute album to Louis Armstrong, The Spirit Of St Louis.
Hauser worked as a producer as well, and in 2007 he released a solo album, Love Stories.
Away from music, he enjoyed collecting and restoring classic cars; he also launched a brand of tomato sauce.
Date of Birth: 4 March 1944, Cleveland, Ohio, US
Birth Name: Bobby Womack
Bobby Womack, was a rhythm and blues guitarist and songwriter and, despite a life that was luridly eventful even by the grand guignol standards of the milieu, the last great surviving exponent of the “testifying” style of soul singing.
“Testifying”, rooted in gospel music, came to the fore in the 1960s through the impassioned performances of such singers as Otis Redding, James Brown and Wilson Pickett. Womack’s own voice ran the gamut from a smooth, beseeching baritone to an urgent, gravelly growl, often rising to a piercing, full-throated scream that vividly suggested a man in the grip of powerful emotions beyond his control.
His songs, punctuated by moralising soliloquies on the subject of love and betrayal, saw him cast in the figure of “The “Preacher” a role which had been his childhood ambition when performing on the gospel circuit, “because all the preachers had everything in the neighbourhood, they had all the money and the Cadillacs and they got the best part of the chicken”.
But Womack was not a preacher. Instead his life was laced with drug addiction, gunplay, financial exploitation and chaotic personal relationships. Nonetheless, he managed to outlive all his contemporaries, and as a result billed himself “the Soul Survivor”. As one song, Only Survivor, put it: “They call me a living legend/But I’m just a soldier who’s been left behind.”
Bobby Womack was born on born March 4 1944 in Cleveland, Ohio, the third of five sons of a steelworker, Friendly, and his wife Naomi. Friendly was also a sometime gospel singer, but channelled his musical ambitions into his sons, organising Bobby and his four brothers, Harry, Cecil, Friendly Jnr and Curtis, into a group, The Womack Brothers, which performed on the local gospel circuit.
It was there that Womack met the two men to whom he would later attribute his singing style: Sam Cooke, then the lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, and Archie Brownlee, from the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. From the former, Womack took a dulcet, seductive crooning; from the latter the “testifying” screeches and yelps. A child musical prodigy, Bobby got first hand experience of Brownlee’s style at the age of 13, playing guitar for him.
“I modelled my screams on Archie,” he once recalled, “but I never could get them as clear as he did, because he’d mellow it in gin. He’d lie down on stage to sing because the drink had eaten the lining of his stomach so much. They’d kneel down there and put a microphone up close. He always said he wanted to die right there, wailing his head off, and he did, singing Leave Me In The Hands Of The Lord.”
Womack would look back on his short period with the Blind Boys with great affection. “I would take them to their hotel rooms, dress them, take their clothes and get ’em cleaned, and they’d let me get a little nooky on the side when their girlfriends would go for it.”
At the same time The Womack Brothers were also spotted by Sam Cooke, who was shortly to abandon gospel for the more lucrative pastures of secular Rhythm and Blues. In 1962 he sent for the Womacks from Los Angeles and, encouraging them to follow his example, signed them to his SAR label, renaming them The Valentinos.
The group’s first single, Lookin’ For A Love (1963), sold a million copies, and provided an early lesson in music business practice. “We didn’t know that we were supposed to get paid,” Womack would later recall. “We was just honoured to be with Sam Cooke’s company, an’ we didn’t get no royalties. He said, 'Well, that car you bought was your royalties. You stayed in a hotel; you know what that cost me? We took care of you guys, paid for the session. You may be gettin’ screwed, but I’ll screw you with grease. James Brown, he’d screw you with sand.’”
Cooke provided a further lesson with the release of the group’s fourth single, a Womack composition entitled It’s All Over Now. Cooke – who had a piece of the song’s publishing – gave the song to The Rolling Stones, whose version went to the top of the British and American charts, eclipsing The Valentino’s original. “I was still screaming and hollering right up until I got my first royalty cheque from the song,” Womack recalled. “Man, the amount of money rolling in shut me right up.”
Cooke took Womack under his wing, employing him as a guitarist in his touring group and treating him as his protégé. It was a relationship that would come to a violent end with Cooke’s untimely death in 1964, shot dead by the manageress of a motel where he had been enjoying a tryst with a prostitute.
Womack’s efforts at comforting Cooke’s widow, Barbara, resulted in them marrying three months after the singer’s death, angering Cooke’s friends who felt that Womack was exploiting a grieving widow. Womack insisted that the match had started at her instigation, and it was Barbara who put up the money to pay for Womack’s first solo recordings for the Chess label. But the marriage was to end catastrophically when she discovered he was having an affair with her teenage daughter, Linda, obliging Womack to beat a hasty retreat from the family home at the end of the barrel of a gun. Linda, in turn, would go on to marry Womack’s younger brother, Cecil, thus leaving Womack in the possibly unique position of having been the same woman’s stepfather, lover, and brother-in-law in short order. Cecil and Linda would later enjoy success as Womack and Womack with the singles Love Wars and Teardrops.
With his early solo recordings having passed without notice, Bobby Womack concentrated on songwriting and session work. As a member of the house band at the famed American Sound Studio in Memphis he played on recordings by a host of artists including Joe Tex, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, who recorded no fewer than 17 Womack songs in three years.
In 1968 he resurrected his singing career with the R&B hit What Is This. More hits followed with judicious covers of such songs as Fly Me To The Moon, Sweet Caroline and California Dreaming, and Womack’s own, rootsier compositions. The albums Communication, Understanding, Facts of Life and Lookin’ For A Love Again, established him in the vanguard of soul music and provided a run of hit singles including A Woman’s Gotta Have It, Nobody Wants You When You’re Down And Out and the million-selling Harry Hippie, a song written by Jim Ford but which Womack adapted as a tribute to his younger brother.
Across 110th Street was a highly-lauded soundtrack album for one of the classic “blaxploitation” movies of the time (and later for the Quentin Tarantino movie, Jackie Brown). And Womack also recorded a country album, BW Goes C&W. (His record company balked at his original suggestion for the title, “Step Aside Charlie Pride And Give Another Nigger A Chance”. Womack was also obliged to withdraw his interpretation of Gene Autrey’s song I’m Back In The Saddle Again, which he had retitled “I’m Black In The Saddle Again”, after Autrey threatened a lawsuit.)
But by the mid-70s Womack’s albums were showing signs of creative fatigue from his increasingly erratic lifestyle. He had become close friends with Sly Stone, playing on Stone’s There’s A Riot Going On, and proving an enthusiastic participant in Stone’s infamous drug-binges. And he was further undermined by a series of family tragedies.
In 1974 his younger brother Harry was murdered by a jealous girlfriend while he was staying at Bobby Womack’s house. The girl, happening upon some women’s clothes in the closet of the room where Harry was sleeping, assumed he was carrying on an affair and stabbed him in the neck with a steak knife. The clothes belonged to a girlfriend of Bobby.
Four years later Womack’s first child by his second marriage, Truth, died at the age of four months after suffocating in bed. Another son, Vincent, by Barbara Cooke, committed suicide at the age of 21.
Enveloped in what he would later describe as “the paranoia years”, Womack himself had taken to carrying a gun. Lying in bed one day he saw the handle on the bedroom door slowly turn. He reached for his gun and emptied it into the door. The door swung open to reveal his son Bobby Truth, “not yet in long trousers” standing there. The bullets had gone over his head. But the boy did not escape such an upbringing entirely without cost. Following his father’s troubled path, Bobby Truth would later be sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for second-degree murder.
In 1981 Womack returned triumphantly to form with the album The Poet, which couched the titanic passion of his voice in elegant arrangements. The album restored Womack to the R&B charts, but he saw none of the royalties, leading to a protracted, and fruitless, court case. “I owed money to everybody,” he would later recall. “The only reason they couldn’t sell my house is because I wouldn’t move; and the only reason I wouldn’t move is because I didn’t have a Master Charge to pay the truck. Things were bad.” He would later admit that it was only the timely intervention of his wife that prevented him from shooting firstly the record-company boss who owed him money, and then himself.
However, a follow-up album in 1984, The Poet II, featuring a guest appearance by Patti LaBelle, restored his fortunes.
Over the next 20 years Womack continued to record and tour, but with diminishing returns, until yet another surprising resurrection in 2010, when he was invited to perform with Damon Albarn’s loose aggregate of musicians, Gorillaz, singing live with the band and on two albums, Plastic Beach and The Fall. In 2012, Albarn produced Womack’s album The Bravest Man in the Universe. A 28th album, entitled The Best is Yet to Come, is to be released posthumously.
Date of Birth: 9 April 1922, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Birth Name: Rae Woodland
Rae Woodland, was a much-loved opera and concert singer with a radiant tone and warm personality. At the age of 16 she had undergone an operation to treat a cleft lip, performed by pioneers in reconstructive surgery, and she went on to develop a career notably with Sadler's Wells theatre, north London, Glyndebourne and the English Opera Group. After her retirement from the opera stage in 1984 she taught singing at the Britten-Pears School for Advanced Musical Studies and the Royal Academy of Music.
It was in part because of her congenital condition that she was sent away to a convent primary school in Southam, Warwickshire, for children with disabilities though her parents, who were in the hotel business, were always on the move. The surgeons to whose clinic her mother took her for treatment were Sir Harold Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe, who asked her what sort of mouth she would like. She replied that she wanted to be a singer: by the time the scars had healed, it was evident that a transformation had been achieved.
Her first vocal successes were in local festivals and in a hotel in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, run by her parents. Sent to study in London with Roy Henderson, whose pupils had included Kathleen Ferrier, she was dismayed to be advised to visit Bond Street to observe how ladies walked, dressed and did their hair; "I think you're a little bit provincial," Henderson told her.
It was not until the mid-1950s, by which time Woodland was in her early 30s, that her career began to take off. First she understudied at Glyndebourne in 1956 and then sang for Lotte Lehmann in a masterclass at the Wigmore Hall. She then joined the National Opera School, and it was while there that she was invited to sing the Queen of Night in Mozart's Magic Flute at Sadler's Wells (1957). She had in fact gone to Henderson as a mezzo, but he extended her range, and indeed the Queen of Night, with its taxingly high tessitura, became one of her signature roles. A recording of her performance at the BBC Proms in 1966, which she once described as "the highlight of my career", demonstrates that she had the ideal voice for the part, using it, moreover, not simply as a vehicle for virtuosity but in a thrilling invocation of the powers of hell to wreak vengeance.
In an archive interview as part of the Oral History of Glyndebourne, made in 1994, she spoke of her happy years with two leading British opera companies: "Sadler's Wells made me; Glyndebourne was the icing on the cake." The family atmosphere, ample rehearsals and high artistic standards at the latter were particularly valued. The roles in which she excelled included Electra in Idomeneo, the Gentlewoman in Verdi's Macbeth and Mistress Ford in Falstaff, but she also essayed such roles as Venus in Tannhäuser and Mimi in La Bohème, and presented a formidable Lady Billows in Albert Herring.
The creation of the role of Lady Eugenie Jowler in Nicholas Maw's comic opera The Rising of the Moon (1970) was another landmark in her Glyndebourne career, but she also maintained a close relationship with the English Opera Group, touring Russia with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears and singing frequently at the Aldeburgh Festival. A memorable performance of Idomeneo, in which she was again Electra, took place at the latter festival in 1969, a few days after the catastrophic fire in the Maltings the performance was relocated to Blythburgh church.
Woodland was also known at home and abroad on the concert platform, appearing in Mahler's Second Symphony (1963), Bach's St John Passion (1967) and a Gilbert and Sullivan programme (1968) at the BBC Proms. In the latter part of her career she developed this lighter side of the repertoire and appeared regularly on BBC Radio 2's Friday Night is Music Night.
Date of Birth: 19 January 1939, Chicago, Illinois, US
Birth Name: Phillip Everly
Nicknames: Phil Everly
Phil Everly, was the younger half of The Everly Brothers, the duo which helped to transform pop music in the 1960s before being eclipsed by the very bands that they had influenced.
The Everlys sprang from the traditional country music with which they had grown up, but in the late 1950s they took up the themes of teenage love and disappointment that became the staple diet of the emerging pop stars of the period. They never fully embraced rock and roll, but their breezy harmonies influenced many of the stars who followed them, including The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Byrds groups whose popularity started to take off as that of the Everlys waned.
As they were overtaken by new musical fashions from the early 1960s onwards, The Everly Brothers continued to perform and record until 1973, when their relationship fractured publicly during a concert in California.
Phillip Everly was born in Chicago on January 19 1939, the son of Ike and Margaret Everly, who had a popular country singing act in the 1940s. He was almost exactly two years younger than his brother Don, but the boys’ parents brought them up as though they were twins. They shared birthday parties, and were dressed in the same clothes Don was not allowed to have a sports jacket until Phil was old enough to have one too.
Both boys attended high school at Shenandoah, Iowa, where their parents had a radio breakfast show, on which Don and Phil sang from childhood. After the family had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee, the brothers met the guitarist and producer Chet Atkins and other figures on the local music scene. They were briefly signed up to Columbia, for which they made their first record, Keep a-Lovin’ Me, which was released in February 1956 but made little impact.
It was when The Everly Brothers were taken up by the Cadence record label that their careers began to take off. In 1957 they recorded Felice and Boudleaux Bryant’s Bye Bye Love, on which Phil and Don played guitars alongside Chet Atkins and the Nashville session musician Ray Edenton. The song was an immediate hit, and established the brothers as the first successful pop act to come out of Nashville. Don and Phil bought a new Oldsmobile on the proceeds and embarked on a tour with Johnny Cash. They began sporting matching suits, and their growing army of fans had difficulty telling them apart (Don’s hair was darker, and his the deeper voice).
They followed this success in the same year with Wake Up Little Susie; This Little Girl of Mine; All I Have to Do Is Dream; and Claudette. Bird Dog and Devoted to You were released in 1958, and by now they were one of the most famous pop acts in the United States, as well known as Elvis Presley, Pat Boone and Ricky Nelson. They became close to Buddy Holly, who originally wrote his song Not Fade Away for The Everly Brothers they suggested that he record it himself.
After the release of Let It Be Me in 1959, the Everlys moved to Warner Bros Records. Cathy’s Clown, written by Don, remained at No 1 in America for five weeks in 1959 and topped the British charts for seven, selling more than eight million copies worldwide. On the back of its success Cadence delved into its archive to release When Will I Be Loved, which reached No 8 in the US and No 4 in Britain.
If the Everlys’ star burned bright, it also burned quickly, thanks to rapidly changing musical tastes in the Sixties. Indeed, by 1960 their best days were already behind them although in Britain that year they achieved three No 1s, with Walk Right Back, Ebony Eyes and Temptation.
In 1961 Phil and Don joined the Marines, serving for about six months, and then embarked on a European tour. It was while they were performing in London that Don’s addiction to amphetamines first began seriously to affect his career. Twice in 12 hours he was carted off to hospital, unconscious, and he was flown back to the United States, amid stories in the press that he had been struck down by food poisoning or a nervous breakdown. Phil had to finish the tour alone.
For three years the Everlys performed together only occasionally, although they continued to record, and their singles The Price of Love and Love Is Strange were successful in Britain. In 1968, with young music fans listening to bands such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and the West Coast acid rock fraternity, the Everlys came up with a concept album in which their own country music would be intercut with excerpts from old Everly Family radio shows from the early Fifties. The album, Roots, was a flop. Their deal with Warner Bros came to an end, and they signed with RCA, recording the albums Stories We Could Tell (1972) and Pass the Chicken and Listen (1973).
By now their relationship had become increasingly difficult, and on July 14 1973, when in concert at the John Wayne Theatre in Buena Park, California, Phil smashed his guitar and left the stage, leaving Don to announce the duo’s evident break-up. It was the start of a long estrangement. In 1981 Phil Everly said: “Although people looked at us like twins, we weren’t alike. Musically we were very closely educated, but we had different values. Everyone has the feeling that all you have to do is to achieve stardom and once you are there you can relax. It’s just the opposite. Once you get there, then the war really starts [and] the larger the odds are against you. We always had that feeling, will the next song be a success?”
At the same time he conceded that Don had been the more talented of the two: “His hands and ear for music are faster.”
For a decade they worked apart, making solo recordings. Phil released his first solo record, Star Spangled Banner, in 1973, to modest acclaim, and followed up with Phil’s Diner (1974) and Mystic Line (1975). He wrote Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me No More for the hit Clint Eastwood film Every Which Way But Loose (1978), performing it in duet with Eastwood’s co-star, Sondra Locke. He also wrote One Too Many Women In Your Life for the sequel, Any Which Way You Can (1980), in which he also made a cameo appearance.
In 1983 he released the solo album Phil Everly. The track She Means Nothing To Me, on which Cliff Richard was co-lead vocalist, reached the Top 10 in Britain. In June of the same year The Everly Brothers were reunited on stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London. They recorded for Mercury in Nashville, and continued to perform well into the new millennium. They were admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, and in 1997 received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. They were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Phil Everly was thrice married and had two sons, Jason and Chris, both singers and songwriters. He married his third wife, Patti Arnold, in 1999.
Date of Birth: 17 October 1960, Dublin, Ireland, UK
Birth Name: Bernadette Therese Nolan
Bernadette Nolan was the lead vocalist with The Nolans, a group of Irish singing sisters and one of the original girl bands; their 1979 hit “I’m In The Mood For Dancing” that became a classic in the disco boom of the early 1980s.
Renowned for their spangled flares, platform shoes, big hair and perky wholesomeness, The Nolans began performing together in 1974 and had a string of hits between 1978 and 1984. At the outset they formed a quintet comprising Anne, Linda, Denise, Maureen and Bernadette, but in 1980 they became a quartet when Anne and Denise stood down and their youngest sister, Coleen, joined the group.
Originally billed as The Nolan Sisters, they were rebranded The Nolans and sold 25 million records worldwide (12 million in Japan, where they outsold The Beatles) and earned more than 20 gold, silver and platinum discs with albums and singles including Gotta Pull Myself Together and Attention To Me.
They toured with Frank Sinatra in 1975 and performed with artists such as Tom Jones, Cliff Richard, Stevie Wonder and Andy Williams. But when Denise left and Anne took a two year break to have a family, the remaining four sisters were stricken with a series of misfortunes sickness, infidelities, bitter feuds and bereavements which played out in the tabloid press and several tell-all autobiographies. They toured for the last time in 1984, and although they continued to sing and perform they also pursued successful careers in television and on stage.
The rift endured, in one form or another, for more than three decades. Bernie, as she was always known, finally left the group in 1994 to launch an acting career following her success in the stage play The Devil Rides Out a year earlier.
“I am the nutter of the family,” she told an interviewer. “We’re all quite funny, but I’m loud and funny. I do everything the others do not I drink, I smoke (well, I’m trying to give up), I stay out late, I have sex. So what? Of course I don’t like the idea of one-night stands, but I’ve got no ties, so I can do what I like. I get really infuriated with the goody-goody Catholic girls image.”
She maintained that the group was not as wealthy as it should have been because they had signed a bad record deal. “It was very hard to accept our decline. We’ve done shows where they’ve said: 'Glad you came we couldn’t get the group we really wanted.’ I wish things were still the way they used to be.” To try to replicate their explosion on to the pop scene more than a quarter of a century earlier, she and her sisters Maureen, Linda and Coleen signed up in 2008 for a lucrative reunion tour.
The eldest sister, Anne, was excluded by the tour’s producers, prompting her to accuse her siblings of “stabbing me in the back”.
“They could have had five of us on stage. They have had in the past,” Anne complained. “And let’s face it, even Nolans fans don’t know what sister sang on what hit. No one has a clue.”
Relations between the sisters deteriorated still further in 2010 after Bernie Nolan was diagnosed with breast cancer. The disease returned in 2012 and she was told that it was incurable. In her autobiography, Now And Forever, published in May this year , she admitted that the rift between the sisters was deeper then ever. Although she claimed to have made her peace with all five of her sisters before her death, it was clear that Anne and Denise remained estranged from Coleen and Linda, with Maureen apparently caught in the middle.
Bernadette Therese Nolan, always known as Bernie, was born on October 17 1960 in Dublin. Her parents, Tommy and Maureen Nolan, a husband and wife singing duo, would have two sons and five other daughters Anne, Denise, Maureen, Linda and Coleen. “It got to the stage,” Bernie, the second youngest, once said, “where they didn’t talk about whether the new baby was going to be a boy or a girl but whether they could sing.”
The girls were still young when the family moved to Blackpool and they started singing together professionally as a family troupe, performing in pubs and clubs and on television. Their 1979 hit I’m In The Mood For Dancing epitomised their feel-good brand of music and brought them enormous chart success.
But beneath the upbeat image, the Nolan family was a troubled one. Although none of the other sisters knew it, throughout their early years their violent, drunken father had sexually abused Anne. When she was 16 he suggested they run away and live as man and wife.
Anne told the others only after Tommy Nolan’s death in 1998. She later recounted her experiences in a book, Anne’s Song (2008); but although Coleen had found her a publisher Anne maintained that apart from Denise her other sisters were not supportive. Bernie, in particular, did not approve of her sister’s decision to parade the family’s scandal. “I personally wouldn’t have made that public,” she argued, “I’d have kept it private.”
Anne’s marriage ended in 1997, and in the same year Coleen split from the EastEnders actor Shane Richie. Soon afterwards Anne was diagnosed with breast cancer. Having been cleaning and child-minding for Coleen to make ends meet, she believed her exclusion from the 2008 comeback tour was the result of a petty argument she had had with Coleen’s husband, Ray Fensome. In the resulting family meltdown, Bernie asserted that Anne would have retained more self-esteem had she kept her troubles to herself.
By then Bernie Nolan’s acting career was well under way. In 2000 She had joined the cast of the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside as Diane Murray, having starred to critical acclaim in a West End revival of Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers. Two years later she left Brookside to play Sgt Sheelagh Murphy in ITV’s police drama series The Bill. In 2005 she released her debut solo album of power ballads, All By Myself.
In 2006 she took part in Channel 4’s series The Games, returning to the live stage in 2009 to play the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella at the Manchester Opera House.
In 2007 three of the Nolans were included in the Guinness Book of Records for each playing the lead role in Blood Brothers (Bernie in 1999, Linda in 2000 and Denise in 2003, all at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh). Bernie also starred as Mama Morton in a touring version of the musical Chicago in 2012, and later that year announced the Nolans’ farewell tour.
Date of Birth: 17 July 1950, Baltimore, Maryland, US
Birth Name: Otis Robert Harris
Nicknames: Damon Harris
Damon Harris, was the silken-voiced lead singer with the Temptations, one of Motown’s most commercially-successful groups, and sang on their biggest hit single in the 1970s.
Originally formed in Detroit in 1962, the Temptations had mutated throughout the 1960s, with multiple changes in the line-up. Harris joined in 1971 shortly after the departure of Eddie Kendricks, one of the original lead singers. With the arrival of Harris and another new recruit, Richard Street, the group’s producer, Norman Whitfield, steered them away from ballads to a more upbeat style, while retaining the military precision of their choreography and finely-tuned harmonies.
Performing in the soaring falsetto register he had greatly admired in Kendricks, Harris took the lead on his third recording for the Temptations, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone, which topped the American pop charts in 1972 and went on to win three Grammy awards. Harris also led on Love Woke Me Up
This Morning, from their 1972 All Directions album, and featured on another, The Temptations Live in Japan (1975), now a collector’s item.
On Grammy award-winning hits such as Cloud Nine and Psychedelic Shack in the early 1970s, Harris proved such an effective replacement for Kendricks that many record-buyers did not realise that it was he taking the lead. Michael Jackson called him simply “The Voice”.
His four-year tenure with the group ended abruptly in 1975. According to Otis Williams, the group’s founder, Harris was fired for making inappropriate statements that affected the public’s perception of the group.
Otis Robert Harris was born on July 17 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland. As a teenager he was a fan of the Temptations, and in particular Kendricks.
Modelling himself on his hero, Harris and three high school friends formed a Temptations tribute band called The Young Tempts, but were obliged to change the name to The Young Vandals when Motown Records objected to the obvious reference to their own stars.
Harris later chose to go to college rather than pursue a career in the music business. But in April 1971 he was persuaded by a friend to audition for the genuine Temptations, who were appearing in nearby Washington, DC. The group had just replaced Kendricks with Ricky Owens, from The Vibrations, but the newcomer was proving uneven and they were again looking for a replacement.
The group’s leader, Otis Williams, hesitated before taking on Harris, who at 20 was nearly a decade younger than the others. But Harris made his stage debut with them a few weeks later as first tenor and falsetto . On joining the band, he changed his name to Damon Harris because “the group already had an Otis”.
On his departure in 1975, Harris re-formed The Young Vandals, renaming the group Impact. They made several minor soul and disco hits, including Happy Man and Give a Broken Heart a Break, which climbed to No 5 in the US disco charts.
When their album Impact flopped in 1976 the group signed with Fantasy Records and released a second album, The Pac is Back, which also sold slowly. The group disbanded and Harris moved to Reno, Nevada, to complete his college education, recording a few solo singles, including It’s Music (1978) and the album Silk. He re-released the album in 1995.
He returned to music in the 1990s and began touring, sometimes billing himself as “The Temptations Review starring Damon Harris”. Occasionally he would appear with another ex-Temptation, Richard Street, until Street formed his own Temptations tribute band. Harris also briefly toured with three other former Temptations, David Ruffin, Kendricks and Dennis Edwards, before Ruffin and Kendricks died.
Harris, who had been suffering from prostate cancer , started the Damon Harris Cancer Foundation dedicated to promoting awareness, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease.
Date of Birth: 25 September 1947, Cleveland, Ohio, US
Birth Name: Cecil Womack
Cecil Womack was the brother of Bobby Womack and a celebrated soul songwriter and singer in his own right. With his wife, Linda, he formed Womack & Womack, scoring seven UK hit singles between 1984 and 1994, among them Love Wars, Teardrops and Celebrate the World.
Born on September 25 1947 in Cleveland, Ohio, Cecil Womack was the son of a steelworker who also sang and played guitar in a gospel group. Cecil and his older brothers Curtis, Harry, Friendly and Bobby formed The Womack Brothers in imitation of their father’s group, and as a child Cecil quickly proved proficient on guitar and piano.
Impressed by The Womack Brothers, their father abandoned his own group to sing with his sons, and the six Womacks were soon singing in churches across the Mid-West. In 1953 they opened for The Soul Stirrers, which featured the rising star Sam Cooke. Once established as a solo star, Cooke would sign The Womack Brothers (without their father) to his label, changing their name to The Valentinos and insisting that they sing secular music.
The Valentinos began releasing boisterous R&B singles that exhibited their excellent harmonies, instrumental prowess and songwriting. In 1964 they had an R&B hit in the United States with It’s All Over Now, which was quickly covered (even more successfully) by The Rolling Stones, giving the British band its first UK No 1 and first hit in America. The song had been written by Bobby Womack, who later recalled: “I was still screaming and hollering right up until I got my first royalty cheque. Man, the amount of money rolling in shut me right up.”
Cooke was shot dead in late 1964, and without his support The Valentinos disbanded soon afterwards. Bobby Womack who had been working as Cooke’s guitarist married his widow, Barbara, and developed a very successful career as songwriter, session guitarist and, eventually, solo artist. In 1966 Cecil married the Motown singer Mary Wells, for whom he wrote and produced several songs; they went on to have three children together.
Meanwhile, Bobby’s marriage to Barbara had ended disastrously when she discovered that he was having an affair with her daughter Linda, who was still a teenager; Bobby had to flee the family home at the end of a gun barrel.
In 1976 Cecil and Mary Wells divorced, and the next year he married Linda Cooke. Together the couple penned hits for The O’Jays, Patti LaBelle, George Benson and Teddy Pendergrass, for whom they wrote one of his biggest hits, Love TKO. In 1983, as Womack & Womack, they secured a recording contract with Elektra. The duo’s 1983 debut album, Love Wars, won wide critical acclaim, while the title track was a hit in both America and Britain.
In 1987 Womack & Womack moved to Island Records, and their 1988 album Conscience turned out to be the most successful of their career, with the single Teardrops reaching number 3 in the UK charts and proving a huge hit worldwide.
Womack & Womack’s songs combined musical intelligence with fine harmony vocals and supple instrumentation. Yet the couple never managed to capitalise fully on Teardrops’ success, and their 1991 album Family Spirit failed to chart. Not long afterwards, following a visit to Nigeria, Cecil and Linda claimed to have discovered ancestral ties to the Zekkariyas tribe, and they adopted the names Zeriiya (Linda) and Zekuumba (Cecil) Zekkariyas; in 1993 under the name House of Zekkariyas aka Womack & Womack they released an album called Transformation to the House of Zekkariyas, which featured their final UK Top 50 hit, Secret Star.
They settled with their four children in Africa, seemingly content with a lifestyle far removed from the conventional music industry. In 2007 they released the album Circular Motion, and although they occasionally performed in Europe, for the most part they avoided the public eye.
Covers of their songs by artists such as Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, The Beautiful South and Joss Stone brought them lucrative royalties.
Date of Birth: 16 February 1918, Anglesey, Minnesota, US
Birth Name: Patricia Marie Andrews
Nicknames: Patty Andrews
Patty Andrews was the lead singer and soloist with the Andrews Sisters. The swinging American trio, comprising Patty and her older siblings, LaVerne and Maxene, achieved their greatest success in the 1940s, contributing to the war effort with catchy songs including Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me) and, with Bing Crosby, Don't Fence Me In.
The Andrews Sisters performed at military bases and raised money for war bonds; their hits were sung by the troops and by women working in factories. Patty, LaVerne and Maxene accompanied the most popular singers and big bands of the day; enjoyed success not just on radio but also in musical comedy films; and spawned a host of other sister acts not all of whom were real siblings.
Patricia Marie Andrews was born in Minnesota, the third daughter of a Greek immigrant, Peter (who had anglicised his surname), and his Norwegian wife, Olga. The parents ran a restaurant. Inspired by the success of the Boswell Sisters, the pretty, blonde Patty and her siblings began in vaudeville in the early 1930s. "There were just three girls in the family," she recalled. "LaVerne had a very low voice. Maxene's was kind of high, and I was between. It was like God had given us voices to fit our parts." The sisters toured America with the Larry Rich band and before long were starring at the Hotel Edison in New York with Leon Belasco.
The Andrews family relocated to New York in 1937 and the sisters were offered a recording contract by Decca. Things took a momentous turn when they recorded Bei Mir Bist Du Schön, Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin's revamped version of an old Yiddish standard. It reached No 1 in the US in 1938, establishing Cahn and Chaplin as ace songwriters and making the Andrews Sisters the hottest name in the record business. The song has now come to be emblematic of the age often used when a film or TV drama deals with the era of jitterbugs and evacuation, to say nothing of Land Girls, who sang it as they stacked the hay.
Further hits followed for the trio including Beer Barrel Polka and Hold Tight, Hold Tight (both 1939) and in 1940 they were signed by Universal Pictures and appeared in the film Argentine Nights with the Ritz Brothers. They then made two wartime comedies starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Buck Privates and In the Navy (both 1941), and also appeared in Private Buckaroo (1942), which followed new recruits doing their basic training and included the sisters' patriotic We've Got a Job to Do. The sisters appeared as themselves in the all-star film Hollywood Canteen (1944), about the ever-open cafe for American servicemen, founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield, and where Hollywood celebrities volunteered during the war. The sisters' voices were also featured in the Disney cartoon Make Mine Music in 1946.
After the success of the uptempo Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar and the sentimental ballad (I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time, the sisters accompanied Crosby on a No 1 hit, Don't Fence Me In, in 1944. It was one of several successful collaborations with the crooner, including Pistol Packin' Mama, Jingle Bells, Is You Is Or Is You Ain't (Ma Baby) and Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. The sisters also appeared with him and Bob Hope in Road to Rio (1947). Danny Kaye partnered them on, among others, The Woody Woodpecker; and with Carmen Miranda, the trio sang Cuanto Le Gusta. By themselves, the sisters had number one hits with I Can Dream, Can't I? and I Wanna Be Loved.
In many ways Patty was the most successful member of the group. Certainly, her solos made her the most prominent sister. In the mid 1950s she broke away from the group, but people still wanted more of the Andrews Sisters and they were soon back together.
It was the death of LaVerne in 1967 that eventually broke up the group. In the early 70s Bette Midler had success with her recording of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and people once more went looking for the original, which had a renewed success. In 1974 Maxene and Patty were back in business, starring in a Broadway musical, Over Here!, about the group's wartime success. The show featured a third "borrowed" sister and ran for almost a year, closing after the sisters had an argument. Patty, who had solo success in Las Vegas and performed on cruise ships, continued to work after Maxene's death in 1995.
Date of Birth: 3 July 1940, St. Louis, Missouri, US
Birth Name: Fontella Bass
Rescue Me has been described as the best record Aretha Franklin never made. This is a somewhat backhanded compliment to Fontella Bass, whose insistent gospel-tinged vocals graced the 1965 single. As none of her other records emulated Rescue Me's commercial success, Bass, who has died of complications from a heart attack aged 72, was sometimes regarded as a one-hit wonder. However, she embraced a wide range of music during her career, including sacred songs and the politically and artistically radical free jazz of the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
She was born in St Louis, Missouri, into a highly musical family. Both her mother, Martha, and her grandmother were professional gospel singers. From an early age, Fontella sang in public and learned piano and organ. She toured with Martha who was a featured soloist with the Clara Ward Singers, one of the most respected groups on the gospel music circuit.
As a teenager, Bass felt the pull of the secular sounds of jazz and R&B. After graduating from Soldan high school in St Louis, she took her first professional jobs with the bands of Little Milton and Oliver Sain. Among her colleagues was the trumpeter Lester Bowie, whom Bass married in 1969.
A duet that she recorded with Bobby McClure, Don't Mess Up a Good Thing, led to a solo recording session for Chess Records in Chicago. The final song of the session was Rescue Me. The arrangement was improvised on the spot by the producer Billy Davis and the musicians. The bass guitar player Louis Satterfield came up with the hypnotic figure that opens the track, while Davis created the memorable ending in which each instrumentalist drops out in turn, leaving Bass to complete the song a capella.
Rescue Me rose quickly to No 4 in the American charts. In the UK, an appearance by Bass on ‘Ready Steady Go!’ helped the record reach No 11 in 1965. Another single, Recovery, also sold well the following year, but only made No 32 in the UK. Bass became embroiled in an argument about money with the record company and unsuccessfully sought to be recognised as the co-writer of Rescue Me. In the early 1990s, she had more luck in challenging the use of the recording without her permission in an American Express commercial.
In 1969, Bowie and what would become known as the Art Ensemble of Chicago decided to move to Paris to seek a European audience. Bass joined them, adding piano and vocals to the group's performance art approach to collective improvisation. She is featured on two albums made by the ensemble in France in 1970.
When they returned to St Louis the following year, Bass made further soul records before devoting herself to raising her four children. She later returned to the stage, playing gospel shows and R&B events. She recorded occasionally with Bowie and in 1980 released an album of religious music, From the Root to the Source, recorded with her mother and her younger brother, the soul and gospel singer David Peaston. Her 1995 album No Ways Tired was nominated for a Grammy.
Bass remained popular in Europe, where she toured occasionally, and she made a memorable appearance at the Womad festival in the UK in 2001. She was also sought out by young producers such as Jason Swinscoe of the electro-jazz group Cinematic Orchestra. When Swinscoe travelled to St Louis in 2007 to record vocals by Bass, he found her in poor health, having suffered a series of strokes.
Date of Birth: 9 June 1941, Leicester, Leicestershire, England, UK
Birth Name: Jon Douglas Lord
Nickname: Lord of the Hammond
Jon Lord, who has died aged 71, founded, and was the innovative keyboard player for, Deep Purple, widely regarded one of the world’s most influential rock bands.
With his long straggly hair, droopy moustache and garish stage costumes, Lord looked every inch the archetypal 1970s rock star. But his popular success, with hits such as Smoke On The Water, was built on a fusion of progressive rock with classical influences; he went on to compose some highly regarded classical works, such as Durham Concerto. On his first solo album, Gemini Suite, he worked with the London Symphony Orchestra.
As such he was a passionate advocate for rock music as a much underrated art form, and ruffled a few feathers in 1973 by claiming that Deep Purple’s music was “as valid as anything by Beethoven”.
Jonathan Douglas Lord was born in Leicester on June 9 1941 and studied classical piano from an early age. He was educated at Wyggeston Grammar School and subsequently became a solicitor’s clerk.
Lord was captivated by blues, jazz and rock and roll, notably the piano showman Jerry Lee Lewis and in the early 1960s moved to London, ostensibly to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama. In the capital he displayed a particular penchant for the Hammond organ sounds that he heard on American R&B records, and spent most of his evenings playing keyboards with various groups in pubs.
He served an important apprenticeship with the Bill Ashton Combo, graduating to electric organ with Red Bludd’s Bluesicians before making his first recordings with The Artwoods, fronted by Art Wood, brother of the future Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. Lord was also involved in one of Ronnie Wood’s early bands, Santa Barbara Machine Head, and played keyboards as a session musician on the 1964 Kinks hit You Really Got Me.
His first taste of pop stardom, however, came backing The Flowerpot Men, who had a major hit in 1967 with the flower power era cash in Let’s Go To San Francisco.