Tag Archives: American music

RIP Onaje Allan Gumbs (1949 – 2020)

Onaje Allan Gumbs was an American pianist, best-known for having played with the fine fleur of American jazz.

 Genesis (1974)


As I prefer all roads to lead to Rome, and Rome is my book, the death of Onaje Allan Gumbs must inevitably lead to Strata-East Records, more specifically to Charles Sullivan’s album Genesis (1974) on which mister Gumbs played piano.

RIP Hal Willner (1956 – 2020)

Hal Willner was an American music producer and facilitator.

In my book Willner is primarily noted for his album Dead City Radio (1990), a spoken word album of William S. Burroughs recitations.

 Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road (2007) the interview with Willner on the making of Dead City Radio is at 1:07:40 and the recording of of a “Thanksgiving Prayer” is at 1:11:23.

I cannot remember if it was Gus Van Sant’s video “A Thanksgiving Prayer” (1991) or his film Drugstore Cowboy (1989) which visually introduced me to Burroughs.

Today, I learn that “A Thanksgiving Prayer” was a promotional video to Dead City Radio.

In the documentary Words of Advice: William S. Burroughs on the Road (2007) there is an interview with Willner on the making of Dead City Radio at 1:07:40 and the recording of of a “Thanksgiving Prayer” is at 1:11:23, sadly without the Gus Van Sant footage.

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.