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Published on Sunday, January 27, 2007
Soul Heaven : Remembering 2007
 
 

It's always sad to lose a musical giant, and even more than last year, in 2007 we lost plenty of contributors to great black music.

Bobby Byrd (August 15, 1934 - September 12, 2007)
James Brown's right hand man, Byrd provided unforgettable contributions to "Sex Machine," "Soul Power," "Licking Stick-Licking Stick," and other funk classics.  He also had solo success with "Hot Pants - I'm Coming, Coming, I'm Coming," "I Know You Got Soul," and "I Need Help." Byrd is often cited as the individual who provided Brown with stability following his time in jail in the 1950s, including a spot in the Famous Flames.

Mel Cheren  (January 21, 1933 - December 7, 2007) 
Righftully nicknamed the Godfather Of Disco, Cheren was involved in every step of the music's development.  As an executive at Scepter Records, he championed the emerging dancefloor scene and was responsible for the Disco Gold series, which were the among the first disco compilations on the market.  In 1976, he established one of the genre's most successful labels, West End, where he launched hits by Taana Gardner, Karen Young, Stone, Loose Joints, and Michelle. He was also something of a sugar daddy of the Paradise Garage, having lent the seed money for the club to former lover Michael Brody, in addition to being a constant source of support for Larry Levan.  A longtime campaigner for gay rights and AIDS activism, Cheren was instrumental in forming the LifeBeat organization.  His autobiography Keep On Dancin' is essential reading for anyone interested in the glorious history of dance music.

Richard "Kush" Griffith (August 8, 1948 - June 18, 2007)
Griffith was one of only a handful of men who could claim to have worked with two of the most influential artists of the past 50 years -- James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic.  The trumpter debuted with Brown in the late 60s and was present for his classic sides "Say It Loud I'm Black And I'm Proud," "Funky Drummer," "Mother Popcorn" and "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose."  After leaving Brown, he formed the band Bottom and Company, whose records are very sought after.  Finally, he was a member of the Horny Horns, the brass ensemble that performed with Bootsy's Rubber Band and Parliament.  You can see him in action on Marvin Gaye's Live in Montreux 1980 concert video.  

Billy Henderson (September 8, 1939 - February 2, 2007)
Henderson was one of the Spinners, and fondly remembered for his dancing and bright personality. 

Joe Hunter (November 19, 1927 - February 2, 2007)
A fixture of the Funk Brothers, Hunter's piano graced hundreds of recordings and he was the first musician hired at Motown.  He received a higher profile with the release of Standing In The Shadows of Motown in 2002, which brought him the recognition he had long deserved.

Luther Ingram (November 30, 1937 - March 19, 2007)
Soul-blues singer Ingram will forever be known for the timeless "If Loving You Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right" from 1972. He was also a co-writer of the Staples Singers' anthem "Respect Yourself."

Jon Lucien (January 8, 1942 - August 18, 2007)
A great jazz vocalist, Lucien's most fertile period was the early-to-mid 70s, when his albums I Am Now, Rashida, Premonition, Mind's Eye, and Song For My Lady showcased his mellow and romantic style at its very best.  Among his classic tunes are "Dindi,""Lady Love," and "Rashida."  

Max Roach (January 10, 1924 - August 16, 2007)
This intense musician was one of the most respected drummers in jazz history, having helped create bop with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie and its polar opposite, cool jazz, by being one of the players on Miles Davis' Birth of the Cool.  He also led a highly influential quintet with Clifford Brown that was limited only by Brown's death in 1956.  Roach's 1960s recordings for Impulse are legendary for their strident tackling of social issues, such as We Insist! Freedom Now Suite and Speak, Brother, Speak!  He also formed the percussion-only ensemble M'Boom and continued to perform throughout the 90s.

Tony Thompson (September 2, 1975 - June 1, 2007)
Thompson was the leader of 90s group Hi-Five, who had hits with "Quality Time," "I Like The Way (The Kissing Game)," and "I Can't Wait Another Minute." He was reportedly working on a comeback recording when he was found dead of a drug overdose.

Willie Turbington (February 6, 1944 - September 11, 2007)
The keyboardist known as Willie Tee was a fixture on the New Orleans scene, with a recording career that began in the early 60s.  He's best remembered for producing the Gaturs, a funk band that has been repeatedly sampled, and his involvement with the Wild Magnolias.  He also recorded the well-regarded album Anticipation for United Artists in 1976.  

Ike Turner (November 4, 1931 - December 13, 2007)
A notorious character in the music industry due to his abusive treatment of Tina Turner during their marriage, Turner also happened to be one of the most inventive guitarists of the 20th century.  A student of the blues, in his youth Turner worked as a talent scout for Sun Records, where he helped Howlin' Wolf and Elmore James obtain recording deals.  In 1951 his group the Kings Of Rhythm cut what some consider the first rock song, "Rocket 88," although the number was credited to Jackie Brenston.  By the end of that decade, he had met Tina Turner and was soon hitting the charts with "A Fool In Love" while developing a well-earned reputation as one of the fiercest live acts in the industry.  He reconvened the Kings Of Rhythm name for a couple of late 60s/early 70s albums, A Black Man's Soul and His Woman, Her Man.

Eldee Young (January 7, 1936 - February 12, 2007)
Young was a co-founder and bassist of Young-Holt Unlimited. 

Joe Zawinul (July 7, 1932 - September 11, 2007)
Zawinul was a key innovator in the use of keyboards in jazz.  A veteran of Cannonball Adderley's band in the 60s, Zawinul composed Cannonball's biggest hit "Mercy Mercy Mercy" before joining Miles Davis in time to cut In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew.  With the founding of Weather Report, he led what is still considered the premier fusion group of its time. Following their breakup, Zawinul continued recording in a variety of contexts, from solo settings to his Zawinul Syndicate.   

 

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