With the advent of April 2017 came yet another classic hits artist taken from us, as John “J.” Geils was found dead in his home at age 71 of what has been reported to be natural causes. J. Geils, of course, was the namesake of what was called the J. Geils Blues Band before simply becoming the J. Geils Band in 1969. (I suppose it was a catchier name for a band than its original name, Snoopy and the Sopwith Camels.)
On March 10, we lost yet another pop singer, as Joni Sledge, the second oldest Sledge sister, passed away at the age of 60 from causes that are, as of two weeks ago, unknown. While it was youngest sister Kathy who sang lead on most of the Sister Sledge songs that people remember, Joni sang lead on a few as well.
One of the lesser-publicized deaths of 2016 was that of Jean-Baptiste Frédéric Isidore “Toots” Thielemans, who passed away at the age of 94. (In fact, his death was so little publicized that it was at least a month afterward before I ever heard of it.) Though he had been well-known for his harmonica skills, I found myself unsure of where I had heard them until recently. As it turns out, I had heard what is probably his most often heard piece a lot during my life.
2016 took far too many of our favorite artists from us. 2017 continued that trend, unfortunately, with the death of Al Jarreau last month at the age of 76. The Washington Post’s obituary fondly remembered him as the “acrobat of scat”, a man who had a wide following but who never quite made it in the way so many of his contemporaries did.
2016 has not been a good year, if you judge years based on how many pop superstars died. The last week of December brought the news that George Michael died on Christmas Day. Though it has been a while since Mr. Michael hit the charts, his music still gets a fair amount of airplay, continuing to introduce him to a whole new generation and thereby making it that much more of a shock for so many when they heard of his death.
Three weeks after Prince’s death, the news cycle is still abuzz with stories about it. (Aside: 2016 has been really bad for music legends, and we’re still only about one-third through the year.) Even though his impact lessened quite a bit in recent years from its peak, there’s not denying that he was a major influence in popular music.
Let’s face it: 2016 has been a lousy year for classic hits. First we lost David Bowie, and then soon afterward, we lost Glenn Frey.
Of course, just as with Mr. Bowie, Glenn Frey had too long and successful of a career for me to try to do it justice in one paragraph, so I won’t. The levels of success he enjoyed are obvious based on the number of Eagles songs still receiving airplay on both classic hits and classic rock stations, and a few classic hits stations still play one or two of his solo hits (mostly #2 hits “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City”, I would imagine).
Like many of my readers, I am guessing, I was shocked to hear of the passing of David Bowie earlier this month. I had had no idea he was even battling cancer.
It seems like an unlikely start for a band, but Quarterflash got its start when a couple of teaching students met and fell in love. Marv and Rindy Ross were a good foundation for the bands in which they played; Marv played guitar, and Rindy sang and, for good measure, also played saxophone. And so they formed a band and gave it a name few people would forget: Seafood Mama.
Those of my readers who have a good memory of the early 80s may remember a group called Saga. Originally called Pockets, this Canadian progressive rock band had several charting songs in their native country. The song for which they are probably most remembered, though, never charted in Canada.