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In memoriam

Cefalu 1

Manu Dibango. Cristina. Wallace Roney. Ellis Marsalis. Bucky Pizzarelli. Adam Schlesinger. Bill Withers*. Hal Willner. John Prine. The list will lengthen in the coming days, and one or two people have inquired very kindly about the possibility of Blue Moment tributes to some of these victims of the Covid-19 virus. At the moment I feel disinclined to deal with it in that way. I don’t want to turn this site into a parade of obituaries. I do, however, want to think about them.

Take John Prine. To be honest, I never followed his career closely, but he did provide me with one electrifying moment. It’s on Bonnie Raitt’s live recording of his great “Angel from Montgomery”. Raitt has set the scene when the guy who wrote the song comes in to sing the second verse. His voice is a dried-out husk. “When I was a young girl, I had me a cowboy / Weren’t much to look at, just a free ramblin’ man / But that was a long time, and no matter how I try / The years just flow by, like a broken-down dam.” Does something to me, anyway. Every time. You might feel the same.

* I should add that Bill Withers didn’t die of the coronavirus. But it seemed wrong to omit him.

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. Gordon #

    As you so rightly say Richard, the poignancy of that sung verse just cuts me up too,…..every time.

    April 8, 2020
  2. Charlie Seaward #

    Thank you for this piece. I gave my vinyl collection to our eldest for his 18th. Of the hundreds of albums he sifted through, his personal choice was Bill Withers – Live At Carnegie Hall. Joe now makes his living as a drummer and the drummer he most admires is James Gadson. It does matter that what these artists have left us is passed from generation to generation. We remember.

    April 8, 2020
  3. Andrew Linden #

    Amen. ‘Angel…’ always reaches me.

    Vale, John Prine.

    April 9, 2020
  4. Yes. It is the best song on his wonderful debut album.

    April 9, 2020
  5. Paul Tickell #

    I got into John Prine about 20 years ago after a friend gave me a CD. I do like the duets particularly ‘In Spite Of Ourselves’ with Iris De Ment – it’s both heartfelt and funny.

    Although I’d seen King Sunny Ade, the Bhundu Boys and other acts, it wasn’t until the mid-1980s when I heard Manu Dibango that I really got into African music in all its variety – I was also prompted in that direction by Charlie Gillett). In the late ’80s it was a joy to see Dibango live in London.

    I think, Richard, that you are right to mention the passing of artists who are victims of the virus without necessarily turning your blog into a series of obituaries.

    April 9, 2020
  6. Patrick Humohries #

    RIP John Prine – First LP worth seeking out if only for Sam Stone “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes… and love songs don’t mean a lot on broken radios”. Hard to believe he, Bruce, LWIII, Kristofferson, Steve Goodman were all “new Dylans”. Loudon Wainwright once joked we “new Dylans get together at Bruce’s house because it’s the biggest!”

    April 9, 2020
  7. GuitarSlinger #

    … and the list grows ever on . As I said previously …. we’re going to end up losing a whole lot of incredible talent to this disease … young and old … primarily because Professional musicians are so susceptible to diseases such as this

    I look with trepidation each and every day lately to see who else we’ve lost

    Suffice it to say … 2020 will end up being worse in regards to music talent deaths than any given year in the 60’s 70’s

    Sigh …. what a sad year this is becoming

    As for John Prine . Never cared much for his albums …. but loved his songs . And what an influence he was on a whole host of singer / songwriters

    April 10, 2020
  8. Did all of the musicians you mention die from COVID-19, Richard? I’ve seen no mention of it in connection to Bill Withers. Happy to be corrected if I’ve missed something.

    April 10, 2020
    • You’re right, VR. I add a footnote.

      April 10, 2020
    • GuitarSlinger #

      ” Heart complications ” ( NYTimes etc ) is the official cause . But in light of the abysmal lack of COVID-19 testing here in the US especially among the African American community .. famous or not … the true cause may never be known

      April 11, 2020

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