Monday, 28 September 2020

Mahalia Jackson

 Mahalia Jackson (born Mahala Jackson; October 26, 1911 – January 27, 1972) was an American gospel singer. Possessing a contralto voice, she was referred to as "The Queen of Gospel". She became one of the most influential gospel singers in the world and was heralded internationally as a singer and civil rights activist. She was described by entertainer Harry Belafonte as "the single most powerful black woman in the United States". She recorded about 30 albums (mostly for Columbia Records) during her career, and her 45 rpm records included a dozen "golds" million-sellers.

Mahala Jackson was born on October 26, 1911, and nicknamed "Halie". She grew up in the Black Pearl section of the Carrollton neighborhood of uptown New Orleans. In 1931, at the age of 20, Jackson moved to Chicago, Illinois, in the midst of the Great Migration. After her first Sunday school service, where she gave an impromptu performance of her favorite song, "Hand Me Down My Silver Trumpet, Gabriel", she was invited to join the Greater Salem Baptist Church Choir. She began touring the city's churches and surrounding areas with the Johnson Gospel Singers, one of the earliest professional gospel groups. In Chicago, Jackson met the composer Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in 1939 they began a five-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey's songs in church programs and at conventions. His "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" became her signature song. At the age of 25, her second set of records was recorded on May 21, 1937, under the Decca Coral label, accompanied by Estelle Allen (piano), in order: "God's Gonna Separate The Wheat From The Tares", "My Lord", "Keep Me Everyday" and "God Shall Wipe All Tears Away". Financially, these were not successful, and Decca let her go.

In 1947, Jackson signed up with the Apollo label, and in 1948, recorded the William Herbert Brewster song "Move On Up a Little Higher", a recording so popular stores could not stock enough copies to meet demand, selling an astonishing eight million copies. The success of this record rocketed her to fame in the U.S., and soon after, in Europe. During this time she toured as a concert artist, appearing more frequently in concert halls and less often in churches. As a consequence of this change in her venues, her arrangements expanded from piano and organ to orchestral accompaniments. Other recordings received wide praise, including "Let the Power of the Holy Ghost Fall on Me" (1949), which won the French Academy's Grand Prix du Disque; and "Silent Night", which became one of the best-selling singles in the history of Norway. When Jackson sang "Silent Night" on Denmark's national radio, more than 20,000 requests for copies poured in. Other recordings on the Apollo label included "He Knows My Heart" (1946), "Amazing Grace" (1947), "Tired" (1947), "I Can Put My Trust in Jesus" (1949), "Walk with Me" (1949), "Let the Power of the Holy Ghost Fall on Me" (1949), "Go Tell It on the Mountain" (1950), "The Lord's Prayer" (1950), "How I Got Over" (1951), "His Eye Is on the Sparrow" (1951), "I Believe" (1953), "Didn't It Rain" (1953), "Hands of God" (1953) and "Nobody Knows" (1954).

In 1950, Jackson became the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall when Joe Bostic produced the Negro Gospel and Religious Music Festival. She started touring Europe in 1952 and was hailed by critics as the "world's greatest gospel singer". In Paris she was called the Angel of Peace, and throughout the continent she sang to capacity audiences. The tour, however, had to be cut short due to exhaustion. She began a radio series on CBS and signed to Columbia Records in 1954. Her debut album for Columbia was The World's Greatest Gospel Singer, recorded in 1954, followed by a Christmas album called Sweet Little Jesus Boy and Bless This House in 1956. She had many notable accomplishments during this period, including her performance of many songs in the 1958 film St. Louis Blues, singing "Trouble of the World" in 1959's Imitation of Life, and recording with Percy Faith. She was the main attraction in the first gospel music showcase at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957, which was organized by Joe Bostic and recorded by the Voice of America and performed again in 1958 (Newport 1958). At the March on Washington in 1963, Jackson sang in front of 250,000 people "How I Got Over" and "I Been 'Buked and I Been Scorned". Martin Luther King Jr. made his "I Have a Dream" speech there. She also sang "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" at his funeral after he was assassinated in 1968.

Jackson's last album was What The World Needs Now (1969). The next year, in 1970, she and Louis Armstrong performed "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and "When the Saints Go Marching In" together. She ended her career in 1971 with a concert in Germany, and when she returned to the U.S., made one of her final television appearances on The Flip Wilson Show. She devoted much of her time and energy to helping others. She established the Mahalia Jackson Scholarship Foundation for young people who wanted to attend college. For her efforts in helping international understanding, she received the Silver Dove Award. Chicago remained her home until the end of her life. Jackson died on January 27, 1972, at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois, of heart failure and diabetes complications.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Juliette Gréco

Juliette Gréco (7 February 1927 – 23 September 2020) was a French singer and actress. She sang tracks with lyrics written by French poets such as Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian and singers like Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. As an actress, Greco played roles in films by French directors such as Jean Cocteau and Jean-Pierre Melville.

Gréco became a devotee of the bohemian fashion of some intellectuals of post-war France. Duc sent her to attend acting classes given by Solange Sicard. She made her debut in the play Victor ou les Enfants au pouvoir in November 1946 and began to host a radio show dedicated to poetry. Her friend Jean-Paul Sartre installed her at the Hotel La Louisiane and commented Greco had "millions of poems in her voice". She was known to many of the writers and artists working in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, such as Albert Camus, Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian, thus gaining the nickname la Muse de l'existentialisme.

Gréco spent the post-Liberation years frequenting the Saint-Germain-des-Prés cafes, immersing herself in political and philosophical bohemian culture. As a regular at music and poetry venues like Le Tabou on Rue Dauphine, she was acquainted with Jean Cocteau, and was given a role in Cocteau's film Orphée (1950). In 1949, she also made her debut as a cabaret singer in the Parisian cabaret Le Bœuf sur le toit, performing the lyrics of a number of well-known French writers; Raymond Queneau's "Si tu t'imagines" was one of her earliest songs to become popular.

Her best known songs were "Jolie Môme", "Déshabillez-moi", and "La Javanaise". She sang tracks with lyrics written by French poets such as Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian and singers like Jacques Brel and Serge Gainsbourg. Her sixty-year career finished in 2015 when she began her last worldwide tour titled "Merci".

Gréco died on 23 September 2020 at the age of 93.

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Amália Rodrigues

Amália da Piedade Rebordão Rodrigues (July 23, 1920 – 6 October 1999), better known as Amália Rodrigues, was a Portuguese fadista (fado singer) and actress. Known as the 'Rainha do Fado' ("Queen of Fado"), Rodrigues was instrumental in popularising fado worldwide and travelled internationally throughout her career. Amália remains the best-selling Portuguese artist in history.

Rodrigues started singing around 1935. Her first professional engagement in a fado venue took place in 1939, and she was a guest in stage revues. Around that time she met Frederico Valério, a classically trained composer who recognised Amália's potential and composed numerous melodies especially designed for her- adding orchestral accompaniments. Such as 'Fado do Ciúme', 'Ai Mouraria', 'Que Deus Me Perdoe', and 'Não Sei Porque Te Foste Embora'.

By the early 1940s, Amália had become a famous singer in Portugal. Rodrigues began acting with a debut film in 1946 titled 'Capas Negras' followed by her best known movie, 'Fado' (1947). She gained popularity in Spain and Brazil (where, in 1945, she made her first recordings on Brazilian label Continental) where she spent some time and Paris (1949) where she resided. In 1950, while performing at the Marshall Plan international benefit shows, she introduced the song 'April in Portugal' to international audiences, under its original title "Coimbra". In the early 1950s, the involvement of Portuguese poet David Mourão-Ferreira marked a new phase in her career where leading poets were writing specifically for her.

Amalia Rodrigues travelled abroad for the first time in 1943, to perform at the Portuguese ambassador in Madrid Pedro Teotónio Pereira's gala party. She was accompanied by singer Júlio Proença and musicians Armandinho and Santos Moreira. She performed in Brazil in 1945 where she made her first recordings, in Berlin in 1950 and also performed in Mexico and France. She was the first Portuguese artist to appear on American TV on ABC in 1953. She sang at Hollywood's Mocambo club in 1954. In France during the 1950s–1960s she performed on television and became a well-known artist. Charles Aznavour wrote a fado in French especially for her 'Aie Mourir Pour Toi' and she created French versions of her own songs (e.g. Coimbra became Avril au Portugal. She performed at Olympia for 10 seasons between 1956 and 1992.

Her comeback album, 1962's Amália Rodrigues, was with French composer Alain Oulman (1929–1990), who was to become her main songwriter and musical producer. He wrote melodies for creating a Fado sub-genre known as 'Busto' (Bust). Rodrigues also began to sing her own poems ('Estranha Forma de Vida') on Amália Rodrigues, as well as poems written by other poets, such as Pedro Homem de Mello and David Mourão-Ferreira. This album also established her signature songs like 'Povo Que Lavas no Rio', 'Maria Lisboa' and 'Abandono'. Oulman, a left-wing intellectual, was arrested by Portugal's political police (known as PIDE) in 1966, and forced into exile, but he continued contributing for Amália. She resumed her stage-career singing in Israel, the UK, France, and returning to the US for Promenade Concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and New York City, accompanied by Andre Kostelanetz, in 1966 and 1968. She also sang in the ex-USSR and Romania.

From the 1970s Rodrigues enjoyed particularly marked success in Italy and Japan. She recorded an album of Italian traditional songs, A Una Terra Che Amo (1973), and made versions of her own songs in Italian. She recorded live performances in an album called Amália in Italia (1978). Her return to the recording studio with Portuguese material came in 1977 with Cantigas numa Língua Antiga. The 1980s and 1990s brought her enthronement as a living legend. Her last all-new studio recording, Lágrima, was released in 1983. It was followed by a series of previously lost or unreleased recordings and two greatest hits collections. On 6 October 1999, Rodrigues died at age 79, in her Lisbon home. 

Friday, 18 September 2020

Lizzy Mercier Descloux

Martine-Elisabeth "Lizzy" Mercier Descloux (16 December 1956 – 20 April 2004) was a French musician, singer-songwriter, composer, actress, writer and painter. She grew up in Lyon, France, but returned to her native Paris in her teens to attend art school. With  Michel Esteban, she helped establish the store Harry Cover, temple of the punk movement in France, and the new wave magazine Rock News. She struck up friendships with Patti Smith and Richard Hell when visiting New York in 1975, and both contributed material to her first book, Desiderata. She and Esteban moved to New York in 1977.









With guitarist D.J. Barnes (Didier Esteban), Mercier Descloux formed the performance art duo Rosa Yemen, and recorded an eponymous mini-album for ZE Records in 1978. The following year, ZE released her solo debut LP, Press Color. Self-taught as a guitarist, she expressed herself as a minimalist within the no wave genre, concentrating on single-note lines combined with wrong-note harmonies and funky rhythms. While the record had poor sales, she toured in the USA and Europe. Island Records boss Chris Blackwell bankrolled the sessions in Nassau, Bahamas for her second album, Mambo Nassau, with Compass Point All Stars engineer Steven Stanley and keyboardist Wally Badarou co-writing and producing. The album was influenced by African music as well as art rock, funk and soul. While the record was unsuccessful in the USA, it won her a contract with CBS Records in France.









Returning to France, she released two singles before travelling through Africa, drawing on the music of Soweto for the infectious "Mais où Sont Passées les Gazelles?" ('But where have the gazelles gone?'), a hit in France in 1984, and the award-winning album Zulu Rock, with producer Adam Kidron. Collaborating further with Kidron as a producer, she recorded the albums One for the Soul (1986) in Brazil with the jazz trumpeter Chet Baker, and later Suspense (1988) in London with the American musician Mark Cunningham of Mars. She also acted, composed film scores, and wrote poetry.  In the mid 1990s, she moved to Corsica and devoted herself to painting and to writing.



In 2003, she was diagnosed with ovarian and colon cancers, from which she died the following year.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Lindy Morrison

Belinda "Lindy" Morrison (born 2 November 1951) is an Australian musician originally from Brisbane, Queensland. She was the drummer in indie rock group The Go-Betweens from 1980 to 1989, appearing on all the band's releases from their first LP in 1981 until the band's first break up on 26 December 1989. Morrison has also performed in Silent Figures, Shrew, Xero, The Four Gods, Deep Blue Sea, Cleopatra Wong (with Amanda Brown ex-The Go-Betweens), and Tuff Monks. She played drums in The Rainy Season from 2007 until 2011. 








Morrison's first band, Shrew, performed in 1976 and 77. They were an all-girls acoustic band with members playing clarinet, saxophone, piano and guitar. Their repertoire consisted mainly of covers of 1940s pop songs. In 1978, Morrison's joined the band Xero. At the time, members included Irena Luckus, Nicki Nought and Deborah Thomas. The band started by performing Patti Smith and other punk covers before contributing their own material. Morrison said she left in 1981 because, "They wanted drum-machines and synthesisers."









The Go-Betweens formed in 1977 in Brisbane, Queensland with Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, the group had a succession of drummers and travelled to the United Kingdom in late 1979. They returned to Brisbane in 1980 and Morrison (ex-Xero) joined on drums and backing vocals. Their first single with Morrison, "Your Turn My Turn" appeared in September 1981 and was followed by "Hammer the Hammer" in March 1982. They recorded ten tracks as demos in Brisbane during 1981, which were released as Very Quick on the Eye by Man Made Records in 1982.










The band's first official album, Send Me a Lullaby, produced by The Go-Betweens and Tony Cohen, appeared in February on Missing Link in Australia. Morrison provided the album title, in preference to Two Wimps and a Witch, from a Zelda Fitzgerald novel Save Me the Waltz. Forster and McLennan wrote all the tracks, they alternated lead vocal duties, except "People Know" which had Morrison on vocals and James Freud (Models) guesting on saxophone. In 2002, UK label Circus released a 2× CD version of Send Me a Lullaby which included "After the Fireworks" recorded as a collaboration with The Birthday Party's Nick Cave on vocals, Mick Harvey on piano and Rowland S. Howard on guitar. It had been released as a single under the band name, Tuff Monks in 1982 on Au Go Go Records. 



The Go-Betweens returned to UK and recorded their second album, Before Hollywood (May 1983), with John Brand producing. It established them as cult favourites . In 2001, "Cattle and Cane" was selected by Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) as one of the Top 30 Australian songs of all time. Following album releases were, Spring Hill Fair (September 1984) and Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (March 1986). Amanda Brown joined later in that year.  Tallulah (June 1987), produced by The Go-Betweens for True Tone and Beggars Banquet. LO-MAX Records released a 2× CD version of Tallulah in 2004, one of the additional tracks, "Doo Wop in 'A' (Bam Boom)" was co-written by Morrison, Brown, McLennan and Forster. In November 1987, The Go-Betweens returned to Australia and John Willsteed (ex-Xero with Morrison) replaced Robert Vickers on bass. 



16 Lovers Lane (1988), was the group's most commercial offering, providing the alternative radio hit "Streets of Your Town" (1988), which became the band's biggest chart hit in both the UK and Australia peaking in the Top 100. The follow-up single "Was There Anything I Could Do?" was a No. 16 hit on US Modern Rock radio stations. Minimal commercial success were hardly the hoped-for breakthrough for the band, and after recording six albums, Forster and McLennan disbanded The Go-Betweens in December 1989. Brown and Morrison formed Cleopatra Wong in 1991.



Morrison is also the author of a short workbook entitled "Australian women in rock and pop music" and made an hour-long video to accompany it. Intended as student material it is housed in the Performing Arts Collection, the Arts Centre, Melbourne, and the National Library of Australia. She currently resides in Sydney and works in community music, for example, the Wataboshi Festival. One of her part-time jobs is as a community musician, in which she directs a group of intellectually disabled musicians known as The Junction House Band.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Spanky Wilson

Spanky Wilson (born c. 1947) is an American soul, funk and jazz vocalist, who has performed internationally and recorded several albums since the late 1960s. She was born in Philadelphia as Louella Wilson, and was raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, reputedly gaining the nickname "Spanky" as a result of the spankings she received from her father.










She started singing as a child and began performing in clubs aged 17 with Stanley Turrentine. She was soon recruited by Jimmy McGriff for a national tour, which ended in 1967 in Los Angeles, California. There, she sang in clubs and was introduced to H. B. Barnum, who invited her to record. She sang as a backing vocalist on records by Letta Mbulu, O. C. Smith, Lou Rawls and others, before releasing her first single, "The Last Day of Summer", produced by Barnum and released in early 1969.











This was followed by the album Spankin' Brand New (1969), on which all the songs were written by Howlett Smith. Wilson released several further singles on Mothers Records, a label set up in Hollywood by Jay Ward, and two more albums, Doin' It (1969) and Let It Be (1970). She also appeared on nationally networked TV shows, and made her international debut in 1970 at the Rio de Janeiro Song Festival in Brazil.











She has shared the stage with soul and jazz musicians such as Marvin Gaye, Sammy Davis Jr., organists Jimmy McGriff and Brother Jack McDuff, cornetist Nat Adderley, percussionist Willie Bobo, Lalo Schifrin and Jimmy Smith. In 1971 she moved to Detroit and sang in clubs before recording for Eastbound, a subsidiary of Westbound Records. The 1974 single "Home" was again co-written by Howlett Smith, and Westbound released the album Specialty of the House the following year. She returned to live in Los Angeles, and performed in clubs there for several years, before moving to France in 1985. During the late 1980s and 1990s, she performed mainly in France, Germany and other parts of Europe. In 2000, she released the album Things Are Getting Better with the Philippe Milanta Trio. About the same time, several compilations of her earlier recordings were released in Britain. In 2000, after she had returned to live in California, she was contacted by British DJ and record producer Will Holland of The Quantic Soul Orchestra, and they began working together. They recorded several singles, and released the album I'm Thankful in 2006.

Friday, 11 September 2020

Susan Springfield

Susan Marie Beschta (April 21, 1952 – May 2, 2019), who performed as Susan Springfield, was the founder and lead singer of Erasers, a band that headlined at CBGB in the 1970s.









Beschta was able to stay rent-free at the Fine Arts Building at 232 East 59th Street in return for looking after its photo gallery. She shared a loft with Jane Fire and they formed Erasers, a punk-rock band, in 1974, with Fire on drums and Beschta as the singer/songwriter and guitarist. Several musicians such as Richie Lure (Walter Lure's brother) and Anton Fig tried out with the band and the most lasting were Jody Beach on bass guitar and David Ebony, a classically-trained musician. The band practised in the basement of a deli near the Fine Arts Building and they played some impromptu gigs in the street there. They performed at venues including The Great Gildersleeve's and, most especially, CBGB. Their style was enthusiastic, feminist and non-commercial. They attracted some favourable reviews but did not sign with a record label.









Beschta was influential in the social scene of punk rock, starring in 1978 with Debbie Harry in Amos Poe's movie The Foreigner. After the Erasers, she performed in other bands and artistic projects including the Susan Springfield Band, Desire and Civilization and the Landscape of Discontent.



She died on May 2, 2019, at the age of 67 in hospice care in Manhattan, New York City, of brain cancer.