Tag Archives: American music

RIP Bill Withers (1938 – 2020)

Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” (1972)

Bill Withers was an American singer-songwriter known for songs such as “Lean on Me”, “Use Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”.

I give you “Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” (1972) because it’s one of the best adultery songs ever with the unforgettable opening lines:

A man we passed just tried to stare me down
And when I looked at you
You looked at the ground

While researching this death, I came across a rather smart piece of music criticism by the American author Robert Christgau (born 1942):

“Withers sang for a black nouveau middle class that didn’t yet understand how precarious its status was. Warm, raunchy, secular, common, he never strove for Ashford & Simpson-style sophistication, which hardly rendered him immune to the temptations of sudden wealth—cross-class attraction is what gives ‘Use Me’ its kick. He didn’t accept that there had to be winners and losers, that fellowship was a luxury the newly successful couldn’t afford.

RIP Cristina (1959 – 2020)

“Disco Clone” (1978)

Another coronavictim.

 Cristina was an American singer who belongs to the entourage of August Darnell and ZE Records.

By extension she was part of the whole ‘artistic disco’ stable of Patrick Adams, Arthur Russell, Larry Levan and Bob Blank.

You might also call the field she was active in self-conscious or tongue-in-cheek disco or sarcastic disco.

Too many words, I stop here.

RIP Ruth White (1925 – 2013)

The Litanies of Satan

This has happened seven years ago but even Wikipedia only noticed it in 2018.

Personally, I only noticed it today.

Ruth White (1925 – 2013) was an American composer noted for her work in early electronic music.

Of interest to me is her 1969 Baudelaire album, on which she reads 10 poems from The Flowers of Evil. This is really bizarre and reading her liner notes makes the experience only weirder. “The Litanies of Satan” is one of the poems that got him in to trouble.

RIP Kenny Rogers (1938 – 2020)

Kenny Rogers was an American singer mainly known for his work in country music.

Since I have but a flimsy a connection with that genre, my lemma on Mr. Rogers is satisfyingly brief.

However, early in his career, Kenny put out two quirky and interesting records.

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” (1967)

The first is “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)“, a song that reflects the LSD experience and captures the short-lived psychedelic era of the late 1960s.

Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town

Then there is “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town“, a song about the male angst of a paralyzed Vietnam war veteran and his wife who goes to town to find a lover.

The “Ruby” song concludes with the darkly ominous words “If I could move I’d get my gun and put her in the ground.” Bit of nasty femicide threat there for ya.

RIP Michael de Benedictus (1951 – 2019)

Life Is Something Special (1983).

This happened on October 17, 2019, but I only found out yesterday.

Michael de Benedictus co-founded the Peech Boys who released several twelve inches and one album: Life Is Something Special (1983).

De Benedictus was part of the New York dance music scene which was centered around two discotheques: the Paradise Garage and the Loft. I leave out Studio 54 on purpose.

I believe I told this story before, but for many years I hunted Antwerp flea markets for vinyl. My prey were records played by DJ Larry Levan at the New York discotheque Paradise Garage.

I was assisted in my hunt by a internet list of records I had found in 1996. You can find that list of  1100+ records here. I printed it and tried to learn the names by heart and started hunting.

At the time, I was already a fan of house music. I listened to radio shows by Pierre Elitair and the guys behind Liaisons Dangereuses. But now, finally, I found the antecedents of that kind of hedonistic nightlife music.

I gradually delved deeper, learning which labels to buy (Salsoul, West End, Prelude), which producers to focus on (Patrick Adams) and which artists to follow (Arthur Russell).

Where had this fascination with dance music come from?

I don’t know.

I remember when I was in my early twenties, walking along the Meir, hearing “Rotation” by Herb Alperts, and being intrigued by this music which could not be heard on the radio.

This world continues to fascinate me.

Michael de Benedictus role in that world was short and modest but large enough for me to document his legacy during a couple of hours on a lost coronavirus afternoon.

RIP McCoy Tyner (1938 – 2020)

McCoy Tyner was an American jazz pianist.

What links McCoy Tyner to the Jahsonic 1000?

Let me tell you.

Among Tyner’s most critically acclaimed albums is Trident (1975).

On that Trident album there is a musical composition called “Impressions” which features a bassline by Ron Carter which was sampled throughout the “The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” (1991) by Black Sheep. The sample is well-known in hip hop midst because in fact it is the spine of that song. It is also in the Jahsonic 1000.

 Impressions  by John Coltrane interpreted by McCoy Tyner. In this song, the Black Sheep sample in at 3:03.

The song “Impressions” is an interpretation of Coltrane’s composition Impressions (1962).

The Choice Is Yours (Revisited)” (1991) by Black Sheep. The bassline if featured throughout.

RIP David Roback (1958 – 2020)

Fade into You” (1994)

David Roback was an American guitarist, best-known for co-writing “Fade into You” (1994). That was a song by Mazzy Star and it featured the vocals of Hope Sandoval.

Listening to this, I can’t help but think that Lana Del Rey has a very similar sound and voice. Not surprisingly, both Mazzy Star and Lana Del Rey are considered dream pop.