Category Archives: Obituaries

Tejano Music Singer Emilio Navaira III Dies at 53

Tejano and country music singer-songwriter and musician Emilio Navaira III passed away May 16, 2016 in New Braunfels, Texas. Emilio was also one of the few Tejano artists to have considerable success in both the United States and Mexico.

Emilio Navaira III was born August 23, 1962 in San Antonio, Texas to Mexican-American parents.

Possessing one of the greatest voices in the history of Tejano music, Emilio Navaira was an icon in the genre. Both a GRAMMY and a Latin GRAMMY Award winner, he showcased his strong Texas roots in everything he did,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “From his relentless touring schedule to his impressive lyrics and signature sound, Emilio was beloved by many, and helped to shape an entire genre of music. Our creative community has lost a uniquely gifted talent, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all those who had the privilege and honor of working with him. He will be missed.”

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Country and folk musician and songwriter Guy Clark Dies at 74

American country and folk music singer-songwriter and musician Guy Clark passed away May 17, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Guy Clark was born November 6, 1941 in Monahans, Texas. He moved to Nashville in 1971 and was one of the creators of progressive country and outlaw country.

Guy Clark was truly gifted, both as a songwriter and folk musician. Having penned classics like “Desperados Waiting For A Train” and “L.A. Freeway,” Guy became one of the most admired figures in Nashville, and served as a songwriting mentor to many other talented musicians,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “Guy’s songs were recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, and Ricky Skaggs, with many reaching the upper echelon of the country songs chart. And his much-acclaimed album, My Favorite Picture Of You, earned him a GRAMMY Award for Best Folk Album for 2013. We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to Guy’s family, friends, and collaborators.”

In 2004, Guy Clark was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and in 2013, he received the Academy of Country Music’s Poet’s Award, along with Hank Williams.

Clark was a mentor to artists such as Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell and his songs have been covered by a multitude of artists, including Johnny Cash, Brad Paisley, David Allen Coe, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffet, Asleep At The Wheel and many others.

Photo credit: Guy Clark photo by Nashvilleportraits.com

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Former Canyon Records Recording Engineer Jack Miller Dies

Recording engineer Jack Miller
Recording engineer Jack Miller

Canyon Records announced that recording engineer Jack Miller has passed away. Mr. Miller was a well-known sound engineer in Arizona, who recorded numerous American Indian music productions for Canyon Records. Additional details concerning his passing are not yet known.

Jack Miller was born in Chicago and settled with his family on the west side of Phoenix, Arizona, in 1953 when Jack was 19 years old. Miller first worked in the music business starting a record section in the variety store his family owned. He later went to work for Dawson Music, which was a combination music store, record label and recording studio in Phoenix until he got a job at Ramsey’s Recording studio right after “The Fool” by Sanford Clark became a big Hit and brought national attention to Phoenix, Arizona.

Ramsey’s became Audio Recorders and in 1958, Miller made music history by recording the “Twang” Heard Around The World,” on the single “Rebel Rouser” by Duane Eddy which sold over a million copies. According to Mr. Miller, “the sound was in producer Lee Hazlewood’s head. He knew what he wanted to hear and we figured out how to make it happen.” Hazlewood and Ramsey found a 2500-gallon (9463 liters) water tank and Jack positioned a speaker at one end and a microphone at the other to create that famous echo chamber that created a gut-vibrating thrum that turned Duane Eddy into a homegrown superstar.

In the early 1960s, Miller left Phoenix to work at the RCA studios in Los Angeles. He recorded Henry Mancini, The Rolling Stones, The Limelighters and The Monkees. Jack wasn’t happy in Los Angeles so he moved back to Arizona and returned to Audio Recorders. In 1978, Miller left the studio and started Jack Miller Productions.

Since the early 1980s Canyon Records worked closely with Jack Miller. The engineer was influential in creating the “Nakai” Native American flute sound that fascinated millions of listeners and brrought cutting edge audio production to Canyon Records.

Through the years Jack recorded over 4,000 albums, embodying every musical style imaginable.

Jack was awarded a Grammy for engineering Canyon Records’ “Bless the People” which was best Native American Music Album. He also received two Gold Records (500,000 units sold in the U.S.) for Canyon Records’ albums Earth Spirit by R. Carlos Nakai and Canyon Trilogy. In 2013 he was inducted into the Arizona Broadcasters Association’s Hall of Fame.

Jack Miller retired in 2012.

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Congolese Music Star Papa Wemba Dies at 66

Popular Congolese singer Papa Wemba died April 24, 2016 after collapsing on stage during a performance in Ivory Coast.

Papa Wemba was born Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba in Kazai, in the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic Congo). From humble village beginnings in the interior of his vast, Central African homeland, Shungu Wembadio moved to the capital city of Kinshasa when he was still a boy. There, the fledgling singer rose quickly to stardom in a series of ground breaking bands.

Famous for his flamboyant sense of style and emotional Lingala vocals, Papa Wemba was the ambassador of a truly global African music. Originally part of the adventurous Kinshasa music scene, Wemba departed for Paris in 1986, starting an international chapter in his career.

In 1996, Wemba joined Youssou N’Dour and other leading African musicians on an epic consciousness-raising journey through war-torn Africa, sponsored by the International Red Cross, and released the single “So Why?” to raise profits for the war victims.

Papa Wemba released 3 albums for Peter Gabriel’s Real World label: ‘Le Voyageur‘ (1992), ‘Emotion‘ (1995) and ‘Molokai‘ (1998), a live studio recording of classic hits and new songs. Also he appeared on the compilations ‘Voices of the Real World’ and ‘Spirit of Africa’ as well as the ‘Big Blue Ball‘ album project.

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Influential Salsa Vocalist and Composer Ismael Quintana Dies at 78

Puerto Rican salsa singer and composer Ismael Quintana passed away on April 16, 2016 in Colorado. Ismael Quintana was the lead singer of Eddie Palmieri’s famed band called conjunto “La Perfecta.”

Quintana was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. His family moved to The Bronx borough of New York City when he was only two weeks old. In New York he went to school and while he was still in high school he formed a band with his neighborhood friends.

In 1961, pianist and composer Eddie Palmieri invited Quintana to join “La Perfecta” as lead singer. During the 1960s, Quintana co-wrote some of Palmieri’s major hit songs.

In 1971, Quintana left Palmieri’s band and started a solo career. Between 1974 and 1983, he recorded five albums as a solo artist and a hit song titled “Mi Debilidad” (My Weakness). His solo albums include “Punto y Aparte” (1971); “Dos Imágenes” (1972); “Ismael Quintana” (1974); “Lo Que Estoy Viviendo” (1976); and “Amor, Vida y Sentimiento” (1977).

In addition to “Mi Debilidad”, some of quintana’s most popular songs include “Adoración”, “Muñeca”, “Maestro de rumbero”, and “Puerto Rico.”

Throughout the past decades, Quintana performed and recorded with salsa super band Fania All Stars.

Quintana partially retired from the music world because of health reasons.

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Country Music Star Merle Haggard Dies at 79

Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard

Acclaimed country music singer-songwriter, guitarist and fiddler Merle Haggard passed away April 6, 2016. The Recording Academy’s CEO, Neil Portnow, released the following statement: “Two-time GRAMMY Award winner and 2006 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Merle Haggard was an uncommon hero in country music. An exceptional multi-talented singer-songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler, Merle’s massive success was rooted in his masterful ability to celebrate the outlaws and the underdogs.

Merle’s extraordinary talent resulted in more than 30 No. 1 country hits and his remarkable performances will forever live on and inspire music creators worldwide. We have lost an innovative member of the music community and our sincerest condolences go out to Merle’s family, friends, collaborators and all who have been impacted by his incredible work. He will truly be missed.”

Today, upon learning of the death of the renowned Merle Haggard, many country music stars have reacted expressing their love and admiration for one of the genre’s greatest artists:

When we lost George Jones, I said, ‘Years ago someone asked Coach Bum Phillips if Earl Campbell was in a class by himself. Bum replied, ‘Well if he ain’t, it sure don’t take long to check roll.’ The same applies for the great Merle Haggard. I will miss my friend.”
-Larry Gatlin

Now in the presence of the One his sweet Mama told him about. We will miss you, but you won’t be missing us!
-Ricky Skaggs

We’ve lost a unique voice and writer of great country songs. God Bless you Merle…I just wish you’d ‘made it through December’ a few more times.”
-Ray Stevens

Merle Haggard has been a huge influence in my life, to my music and my career. Thank you very much Hag and God bless you.”
-Sammy Kershaw

I don’t think it’s a hyperbole to say Merle Haggard was a national treasure. He was. Haggard is as American as apple pie and baseball. He was the poet laureate of country music. Try to find one songwriter in Nashville who didn’t idolize Hag. You can’t. It’s impossible.”
-Pam Tillis

I was fortunate enough to get to play several shows with Merle and he always had great advice to give me. We have lost an icon and a legend.”
-Aaron Tippin

After meeting and being around Country legends such as Merle Haggard, it increased my respect and my desire of getting to know him, which I accomplished. His loss will be deeply mourned by everyone in Country music as well as by those of other music genres. May he rest in peace.”
-Doug Gray on behalf of The Marshall Tucker Band

I am dumbfounded by this news. Merle Haggard was probably my greatest musical influence and my hero. I never shook his hand, but the music he made shook my soul to the core. It hurts to think about no more Haggard but honestly, we all know, that he made enough music to last us a lifetime. I just hope his passing might call attention to some of the stuff that made country music a mainstay. Maybe this generation will go back and listen to what shaped and molded the genre. I guess it’s okay to veer off in a different direction but the end product needs to have the same impact. The question is, how does today’s country music stack up when compared to one of the masters like Merle Haggard? Give it some thought. You don’t need my help with that one. I feel confident, you’ll figure it out. Thanks, Merle, for all the great songs and all the great music. It’ll never be the same.”
-Darryl Worley

Merle Haggard was a ‘must see’ artist, a cornerstone of country. Eloquent as a poet and singer, he was completely authentic…imitated but never equaled. Timeless music at its best. Restless Heart and all other bands owe him a great debt.”
-Dave Innis on behalf of Restless Heart

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Influential Brazilian Percussionist Nana Vasconcelos Dies at 71

Nana Vasconcelos
Nana Vasconcelos

Admired Brazilian percussionist Nana Vasconcelos passed away on March 9, 2016.

Juvenal de Holanda Vasconcelos, better known as Nana Vasconcelos, was born in Recife. He learned to play a wide range of percussion instruments. He became one of the finest percussionists in the world.

Throughout his career, Nana Vasconcelos played alongside some of the most significant jazz, world music and Brazilian popular music acts, including Geraldo Vandre, Art Blakey, Miles Davis, Jon Hassel, Don Cherry, Egberto Gismonti and Pat Metheny.

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Fiddler Trevor Stuart Dies at 47

American fiddler Trevor Stuart passed away suddenly at his home on March 2, 2016 at the age of forty-seven. Trevor Stuart was a member of the celebrated Stuart Brothers, performers of traditional Appalachian fiddle and banjo music.

Trevor Stuart was born and raised in Bethel, a rural farming community in Haywood County, in western North Carolina.

Trevor ad his brother Travis toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad, performing at major festivals and teaching workshops and master classes at music camps.

For over ten years, the Stuart Brothers led the Haywood County JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) an after-school program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Stuart brothers released two albums: Pretty Little Widow, (Yodel-Ay-Hee), and Mountaineer (Old 97 Wrecords) and appeared on numerous recordings.

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Cuban Musician Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, Rey Caney, Dies at 89

Cuban vocalist, songwriter and tres player Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, better known as Rey Caney, died on Tuesday, February 23rd in Havana. Rey Caney was a highly influential figure in Cuban music.

Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, was born December 30, 1926 in Santiago de Cuba. In 1930 Rey Caney founded the seminal Cuban band Cuarteto Patria along with his cousin Francisco (Pancho) Cobas, Emilia Gracia and Rigoberto “Maduro” Echevarría. They performed traditional trova, boleros and música guajira (Cuban country music).

In 1952, Rey Caney formed the popular duo Los Compadres together with his brother Lorenzo. They accompanied celebrated singer-songwriter María Teresa Vera and Compay Segundo throughout the world.

He later joined Conjunto Caney, led by Benitico Yánes. Rey later joined other groups like Brisas de Nipe, Melodías del Sur and Orquesta de Lino Borbolla. In 1960 he traveled to New York with Miguelito Cuni and debuted with Arsenio Rodriguez.

During the 1960s, Rey Caney recorded with Sonora Matancera, sharing lead vocals with Celia Cruz and Celio González. He later joined the Sonora as a permanent member.

In 1994, Rey Caney co-founded the Vieja Trova Santiaguera with the intention of recording just one album. But the success of the ensemble was such, thanks to the support of Spanish record label Nubenegra, that they ended up recording more albums. This international success led to a renewed interest in traditional Cuban music and preceded the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon.

 

 

 

In 1999, Rey Caney recorded a solo album for Virgin Records titled “Enamorado de la vida” (Love of Life).

In 2003, Rey Caney retired after releasing “El balcón del adiós” with Vieja Trova Santiaguera.

 

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Veteran Trinidadian Bandleader ‘Pal’ Joey Lewis Dies

Joey Lewis
Joey Lewis
Joey Lewis, who, for 6 decades, led the longest -running, and last of Trinidad’s popular dance orchestras, died in the early hours of February 8, at 78. Diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011, he effectively stopped playing with the band (originally called the Teenagers) in 2012, weakened by the effects of chemotherapy.

Born on October 26th, 1937, in Gonzales, east Port of Spain, into a family of musicians (his father played guitar, and his mom sang), he began in the bands of elder brothers, Randolph, and Sonny.

Able to play any instrument, he first took to the piano – his electric keyboard riffs on an instrumental version of 1974’s “You’ll Always Be A Friend” by British group, Hot Chocolate, stand out- but the guitar made him popular.

In 1955, the Teenagers became the Joey Lewis Orchestra; its sound distinctly Trinidadian/calypso, but with strong Latin and jazz influences and elements.
He and the orchestra added the nickname ‘Pal’, after (seeing) the 1957 American film, ‘Pal Joey’, starring Frank Sinatra and Rita Haywood.

His 1960 hit, “Joey’s Saga”, in support of the ‘Saga Ting’ dance craze, introduced his unique guitar-strumming style, and saw them as the 1st to play on local television (as resident for the ‘Dance Party’ series).

In the golden era of dance bands (late 1940s to late 1970s), the Pal Joey Lewis Orchestra, with loyal members(, including, for 52 years, until his death in 2009, saxman, George Boucaud), took its place at the top, alongside those led by ‘Sir’ Sel Duncan, Clarence Curvan, the Dutchy (deVlugt) Brothers, and Fitz Vaughn Bryan.

It produced music for and to accompany the costumed masquerade bands on carnival parade days, and worked and recorded with established calypsonians such as the Mighty Sparrow, the Mighty Terror, the Mighty Duke, and soca (or party calypso) pioneer, Lord(later Ras) Shorty, as well as Barbados-born Singing Francine.
And, at a time when radio restricted the airplay of calypsos after carnival (especially in Lent), Joey Lewis’ instrumental versions helped maintain the genre’s profile, and, in the dances, popularity.

He toured North America(, meeting Harry Belafonte and jazz legend, Dizzie Gillespie, in 1964, briefly setting up base in Canada, in the early 1970s), the Caribbean and Europe, won the ‘Brass-o-Rama’ contest(, in which bands rendered instrumental arrangements of calypsos) in the carnival of 1979, and, in 2002, as Trinidad andTobago celebrated 40 years of independence, received a national award (the Humming Bird Medal) for his ‘services in the field of music’.

In all, the Joey Lewis Orchestra issued 83 albums, 142 singles and 12 CDs, (some, early on, for the RCA label) of originals like “ Pint of Wine”, “Bound To Dance” and “Debbie”, and covers (Kris Kristofferson’s “Why My Lord” and the Cuban classic, “Peanut Vendor”, among them), vocalists engaged sparingly; and continued entertaining sold-out audiences and lovers of ballroom dancing across the country all year ‘round to the present.

Clarence Curvan met Joey Lewis in brother, Sonny’s, band, before both went off to form their own. The two teamed up, a few years later, to create JoVan records. Now based in, and working out of New York City, USA, he remembers Joey ” …recommending that promoters hire me, even before I had a record. That…says a lot about his character. We maintained our relationship to the end“.

Another long-standing musician, saxophonist, Roy Cape, leader, from the late 1970s, of the All Stars, that backed calypsonians in the tents, and fetes (parties) but records mostly soca tunes, started with Curvan, after failing a 1961 audition with Lewis. He described him as “…a Rock of Gibraltar…with a huge influence on local music“.

‘Pal’ Joey Lewis ( October 26, 1937- February 8, 2016) leaves to mourn his wife of 52 years, Julia, children, Gerry (part of the orchestra since the 1980s, eventually assuming leadership), Joanne, Charmaine, Debra (about whom “Debbie” was written), Benedict, Judy and Gail, 8 grandchildren, 4 great grandchildren, and sister, Jean.

from Sean Edwards, Power102FM, Port of Spain, Trinidad

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