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
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.
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.
(September 8, 1939 - February 2, 2007)
Henderson was one of the
Spinners, and fondly remembered for his dancing and bright
Joe Hunter (November 19, 1927 - February 2,
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
Luther Ingram (November 30, 1937 - March 19,
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."
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
Max Roach (January 10, 1924 - August 16,
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)
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.
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.
(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.