Acclaimed blues harmonica player James Cotton died on March 16, 2017. He was a legendary musician who had performed with some of blues’ greatest musicians along with rock stars.
James Cotton (called Cotton by his friends) was born on the first day of July, 1935, in Tunica, Mississippi. He was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in the cotton fields working together with their mother, Hattie, and their father, Mose. On Sundays, Mose was the preacher in the area’s Baptist church.
Cotton’s earliest memories included his mother playing chicken and train sounds on her harmonica and for a few years he thought those were the only two sounds the small instrument made. His Christmas present one year was a harmonica; it cost 15 cents, and it wasn’t long before he mastered the sounds of the chicken and the train.
King Biscuit Time, a 15-minute radio show, began broadcasting live on KFFA, a radio station just across the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas. The star of the show was the harmonica legend, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). The young Cotton listened closely to the old radio speaker. He recognized the harmonica sound and discovered something – the harmonica did more! Realizing this, a profound change came over him, and since that moment, Cotton and his harmonica became inseparable. Soon after, he was able to play Sonny Boy’s theme song from the radio show and, as he grew so did his repertoire of Sonny Boy’s other songs.
Mississippi summers are unbearably hot and James was too young to actually work in the cotton fields, so little Cotton would bring water to those who did. When it was time for him to take a break from his job, he would sit in the shadow of the plantation foreman’s horse and played his harmonica. His music became a source of joy for his first audience.
By his ninth year, both of his parents had died, and Cotton was taken to Sonny Boy Williamson by his uncle. When they met, the young kid wasted no time – he began playing Sonny Boy’s theme song on his treasured harmonica. Cotton remembered that first meeting well and said, “I walked up and played it for him. And I played it note for note. And he looked at that. He had to pay attention.” The two harmonica players were like father and son from then on. “I just watched the things he’d do, because I wanted to be just like him. Anything he played, I played it,” he remembered.
James Cotton embarked on a long musical career. He joined Muddy Waters’ band, formed his own blues outfit called James Cotton Blues Band in the late 1960s and collaborated with rock artists such as Johnny Winter, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
“James Cotton’s talent as a blues harmonica player was unmatched. While the Mississippi native was best known for his collaborations with Muddy Waters, he was also an accomplished singer-songwriter and fronted his own group called the James Cotton Blues Band. A 10-time GRAMMY nominee, he earned the Best Traditional Blues Album GRAMMY for 1996 for his album Deep in the Blues. He was later inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2006. Our deepest condolences go out to James’ family, friends, and creative collaborators,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.
Puerto-Rican American Latin jazz flutist Dave Valentin passed away today, March 8, 2017 in New York City.
Valentin was born in The Bronx neighborhood in New York City to Puerto-Rican parents. At 12 he started playing the flute and received music lessons from Hubert Laws.
Throughout the 1970s, Valentin played jazz and Latin jazz in various well-known bands. He also released numerous solo albums for the GRP and Highnote labels.
“Dave Valentin was a dedicated flutist and innovator of crossover jazz. Under the mentorship of Hubert Laws, the New York native developed a signature sound by combining the influences of R&B, pop, and Brazilian music to create a specialized form of Latin jazz,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “After his recording debut with Ricardo Marrero’s group, he went on to collaborate and perform with Tito Puente, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Bill O’Connell, and Dave Samuels, among others. In 2002 he teamed with Samuels for the Caribbean Jazz Project album The Gathering, which won a GRAMMY® for Best Latin Jazz Album. His 2005 album World On A String and 2011 album Pure Imagination each received Latin GRAMMY nominations for Best Latin Jazz Album. Our thoughts go out to Dave’s family, friends, and fellow colleagues.”
In March of 2012 Valentin suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to perform.
Mali’s musical landscape is a fair bit dimmer with the death of Issa Bagayogo. The singer and musician passed away after a long illness on October 10, 2016. Mr. Bagayogo was 55.
Born in to a poor family in the small village of Korin in a section of the Bougouni Cercle, a part of the Sikasso region of Mali, Mr. Bagayogo found his way to music as a young boy by way of the daro, an iron bell struck to set the rhythm of field workers in Mali, before picking up and learning to play the kamele n’goni, a six-stringed instrument similar to an oud or guitar found in West Africa. He garnered local attention with his playing and singing local songs before heading off to Bamako in 1991 to record his first cassette that didn’t seem to catch on with music fans. Soon, another cassette followed in 1993, again without much success.
Dispirited and working as a bus driver, Mr. Bagayogo sunk into depression and addiction, losing his wife and the bus driving job as a result. This low point would take him back to his home village and essentially disappear from the music scene. By the late 1990s, Mr. Bagayogo would finally put his life back on track by quitting the drugs, travel back to Bamako and fashion his own sound out of the musical traditions of his home region with those of rock, funk, electronica and dub styles.
Earning the nickname “Techno Issa” by way of his mix of Mali’s musical roots and western dance, Mr. Bagayogo earned a name not only through his singing and playing, but also by way of his music that tacked such issues as cultural pride, drug use, AIDS and other social issues. Throughout his career, Mr. Bagayogo worked with keyboardist and producer Yves Wernert and bandmates and guitarists Karamoukou Diabate and Mama Sissoko. Mr. Bagayogo would go on to record Sya, Timbuktu, Tassoumakan and Mali Koura, all on the Six Degrees Records label.
In a statement, Six Degrees Records said, “All of us at Six Degrees Records are greatly saddened to learn that our friend and artist, Issa Bagayogo has passed away after a lengthy illness. He was a kind and gentle soul, whose music touched many people around the world & moved many a dance-floor.”
Mr. Bagayogo will be returned to his home village in Korin Bougouni for burial.
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural passed away on September 24 at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. He was 68 years old. Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural was the leader of one of the greatest Zydeco bands, Buckwheat Zydeco.
Buckwheat Zydeco’s powerful live shows were legendary for the fun and abandon they inspired. It was the first Zydeco band to land a major record label deal, the first to perform on a national television show, the first to have its music featured in major motion pictures, TV shows and national TV commercials, the first to record with top rock musicians and the first to introduce Zydeco to the music mainstream.
“Buckwheat Zydeco embodied a genre and represented a community with his signature playing style that brought distinctly creole zydeco music to fans across the globe. Buckwheat played both for and with legends, performing at both Clinton inaugurations, touring with Eric Clapton, and collaborating with a seemingly endless list of artists over his 40-plus year career. He won an Emmy for his work in TV and a GRAMMY in the genre he helped define. The world lost a music heavyweight today. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.
Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. was born in 1947 in Lafayette, Louisiana, a close-knit community where many black people express their Creole heritage by speaking French, and by playing and dancing to Zydeco. This hybrid genre blends Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and blues, with soul, rock, country and the French-rooted Cajun music of the Creoles’ white neighbors.
As the son of a Zydeco accordionist, Buckwheat grew up steeped in this culture, and also absorbed Lafayette’s ample outpouring of blues and Gulf Coast “swamp pop.” He began his professional career as an R&B sideman, playing keyboards for artists such as Joe Tex, Barbara Lynn and Clarence Gatemouth Brown.
In 1971, Dural began leading his own R&B and funk band, Buckwheat and the Hitchhikers, playing the contemporary sounds of popular bands like Parliament Funkadelic and Earth, Wind &Fire. The group achieved a regional hit with “It’s Hard to Get.”
By the mid-1970s, South Louisiana began to experience a grass-roots cultural renaissance as Zydeco and Cajun music, once scorned as overly ethnic, gained appreciation as treasured cultural resources. As the demand grew for Zydeco bands, Dural was offered a gig playing organ for the “King of Zydeco,” the late Clifton Chenier. Buck (as he was also known) worked hard and learned all that he could. After three years of touring, recording and accordion apprenticeship, he left in 1979 to lead his own group, Buckwheat Zydeco and the ils Sont Partis Band. Like Chenier, Buckwheat continued to blend traditional Creole Zydeco with the latest black-contemporary styles, drawing on all of his rich and varied musical experience.
Recording prolifically for various independent labels, Dural attracted the attention of music journalist Ted Fox, who became his manager and co-producer. In 1987, Fox arranged Buckwheat’s signing with Island Records, and he became the first Zydeco artist to appear on a major label. This resulted in the band’s fourth Grammy nomination.
During the years of critical acclaim that has ensued, Buckwheat Zydeco toured constantly, headlining at major venues as well as sharing stages with the likes of U2 and Eric Clapton, and even The Boston Pops. Clapton also recorded as a special guest with Buckwheat Zydeco – as did Willie Nelson, Mavis Staples, Dwight Yoakam and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos – on some of his numerous projects that followed.
The band performed at both of President Clinton’s inaugurals, and Buck was featured on the Closing Ceremonies of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta before a worldwide television audience of three billion.
Another first project for Buckwheat Zydeco was the release of the band’s lively children’s album, Choo Choo Boogaloo, on the Music For Little People label which won numerous awards and rave reviews. It features zydeco originals as well as classics such as “Iko, Iko,””Cotton Fields,””Little Red Caboose,” and “Skip To My Lou.” In the spirit of creating a genuine family feeling people of all ages contributed to the music, including a talented young people’s gospel choir from Baton Rouge.
Buckwheat Zydeco celebrated its 20th anniversary by releasing a retrospective album. The Buckwheat Zydeco Story – A 20-Year Party, a compilation of the band’s best recordings, was released on Buckwheat’s own Tomorrow Recordings label on July 6, 1999. It features 74 minutes of music on one disc as well as comprehensive liner notes in a 16-page booklet in a slipcased package.
The album’s cover features an unforgettable image of Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr. in front of the tiny boyhood home he shared with eleven brothers and sisters in Lafayette, Louisiana. It is both a tribute to his roots and a statement of how far he and the Creole music he loves have come. The album’s colorful original art was created by award-winning Jackson, MS artist H.C. Porter whose work is exhibited in shows and museums around the United States.
The studio recording, Trouble, was released on Tomorrow Recordings on January 12, 1999. Buck felt strongly that this was his best album in a dozen years. Perhaps more aptly titled than Buck even knew, Trouble was originally released in May of 1997 by Mesa/Atlantic just as Mesa was undergoing a shake-up. Unsatisfied with the results of the original release – and unwilling to give up on what they felt was one of the band’s key albums – Dural and Ted Fox, convinced Atlantic to revert the album to them.
On Trouble, Buckwheat decided to concentrate on the skilled players within his band, and revisit the live-on-the-bandstand feel of the Zydeco and R&B dance halls where he first learned his craft.
One For The Road (Blues Unlimited Records, 1979)
Take It Easy, Baby (Blues Unlimited Records, 1980)
Peoples Choice (Blues Unlimited Records, 1982) 100% Fortified Zydeco (Black Top Records, 1983)
Turning Point (Rounder Records, 1983)
Ils Sont Partis (Blues Unlimited Records, 1984)
Waitin’ For My Ya Ya (Rounder Records, 1985)
On a Night Like This (Island Records, 1987)
Taking It Home (Island Records, 1988) Where Theres Smoke Theres Fire (MCA Records|MCA Special Products, 1990)
Buckwheats Zydeco Party (Rounder Records, 1992)
On Track (Atlantic Records, 1992)
Menagerie: The Essential Zydeco Collection (Mango Records, 1993) Choo Choo Boogaloo (Music For Little People, 1994)
Five Card Stud (Island Records, 1994)
The Best Of Louisiana Zydeco (Avi Entertainment, 1996)
Trouble (Tomorrow Recordings, 1997)
Buckwheat Zydeco Story: A 20 Year Party (Tomorrow Recordings, 1999) The Ultimate Collection (Hip-O Records, 2000)
Down Home Live (Tomorrow Recordings, 2001) Classics (Rounder Records, 2003) Jackpot! (Tomorrow Recordings, 2005)
The Best of Buckwheat Zydeco: Millennium Collection (Island Records, 2006) Lay Your Burden Down (Alligator Records, 2009)
Let The Good Times Roll: Essential Recordings (Rounder Records, 2009)
Pádraig Duggan, Irish musician, songwriter, and co-founder of much-admired contemporary folk music band Clannad, died in Dublin on August 9, 2016 at the age of 67. He passed away in Blanchardstown Hospital from a recurrent illness.
Pádraig Ó Dúgáin (Duggan) was born on January 23, 1949 in Gweedore, County Donegal in the Northwest of Ireland. Pádraig and his twin brother, Noel played music from early childhood. Padraig player guitar and mandolin.
After playing in dancehall bands in their youth, Pádraig and Noel, joined their niece and nephews, Moya, Ciaran, and Pol Brennan, to form Clannad in the early 1970s. Clannad became one of the most famous contemporary Irish folk music bands of all time, combining Celtic folk music, ethereal vocals and pop.
In the 1990s, Pádraig and Noel toured widely with Pan-European Celtic band Norland Wind.
Pádraig and Noel released a recording of traditional songs and ballads in the Irish language together with self-penned songs in English titled Rubicon in 2005. The album included Moya Brennan, Finbar Furey, Orla Fallon (Celtic Woman), and Norland Wind’s Thomas Loefke and Kerstin Blodig.
“Padraig Duggan was a truly gifted musician, with extraordinary skills on both the guitar and mandolin. As a founding member of the Irish folk group Clannad, Padraig beautifully blended the traditional sounds of Ireland’s musical past with contemporary pop music, helping to push the Celtic sound into the mainstream. Not just bandmates, Clannad were also family members, and their deep Gaelic roots and ethereal stylings shined on more than 15 full-length albums, including the much-celebrated Landmarks, for which they won the GRAMMY for Best New Age Album for 1998. We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to Padraig’s family, friends, and collaborators,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy.
José Menese, one of Spain’s finest flamenco singers passed away Friday, July 29, 2016 at his home in La Puebla de Cazalla (Sevilla).
José Menese Scott was born in La Puebla de Cazalla (Sevilla), but it was in Madrid where he started his professional career as a flamenco artist. After going through some difficulties, he debuted at Tablao Zambra, the most prestigious flamenco nightclub in Madrid. There, he performed every night for more than three years, and had the opportunity to meet artists such as Perico el del Lunar, Rafael Romero, Pericón de Cádiz, Juan Varea, Rosa Durán, among others, all of them great professionals.
José Menese’s first record was released in 1963, in collaboration with the incomparable guitarist Melchor de Marchena.
Two years later, in 1965, he reached fame after competing at the famous Flamenco Art National Contest, in Cordoba. He was awarded the Honor Prize “Tomás El Nitri”.
He performed throughout the world. In November 1974 he gave a concert at the Olympia Theater in Paris, where he recorded an album for RCA.
He also performed at Madrid’s Royal Theater (Teatro Real) with the Orquesta Sinfónica de Radio Televisión Española conducted by maestro Odón Alonso.
José Menese was considered one of the most important singers in recent decades. In addition to the above mentioned prize, he also received the following accolades: Placa de Plata de Mairena del Alcor (1967), Cátedra de Flamencología de Jerez de la Frontera, two times (1965 and 1974), Taranto de Oro, in Almería (1971), Saeta de Oro in Sevilla (1969), Premio Ondas de la Cadena Ser, Popular del Diario Pueblo in Madrid (1968), Famoso de Sevilla y Sevillano del Año (1973), among others.
One of Spain’s legendary flamenco singers and trendsetters, El Lebrijano passed away in Sevilla on July 13, 2016.
Juan Peña Fernández, “El Lebrijano” was born in Lebrija (Sevilla) in 1941, within a well-known family of Gypsy flamenco performers such as Perrata y Perrate, Fernanda y Bernarda de Utrera, Bambino, Turronero, Gaspar de Utrera, Miguel Funi, Diego del Gastor, Pedro Peña, Pedro Bacán and Dorantes, among others.
El Lebrijano started his career at 17, playing guitar in a show by La Paquera de Jerez. However, his guitar career didn’t last very long. When a singer fell ill, El Lebrijano replaced him and became a cantaor (flamenco singer).
He was hired by the tablao (flamenco nightclub) “La Venta de Antequera” and later moved to Madrid to work at the iconic “El Duende” and “Los Canasteros” clubs.
Antonio Gades heard El Lebrijano and recruited him for his flamenco company that toured throughout the world. El Lebrijano later toured with Manuela Vargas. After that, he initiated his solo career.
His first recording was “Juan Peña El Lebrijano” (Columbia, 1963) that was followed by singles. El Lebrijano’s first LP was “De Sevilla a Cadiz” (Columbia, 1969). His popularity grew and with the support of his manager Juan Antonio Pulpón, he toured throughout Spain.
El Lebrijano was an innovator. In 1972 he released “La palabra de Dios a un gitano” ” (The word of God to a Gypsy) on the Philips label. He pioneered the use of symphonic and choral voices in flamenco.
Next came “Persecución” (Philips, 1976), which translates as pursuit. Here, he exposed the discrimination suffered by gypsies in Spain during different time periods.
In 1979, he brought flamenco to one of the most prestigious venues in Europe, the Teatro Real de Madrid (the Royal Theater). The concert was released with the title “Flamenco en el Teatro Real” (Philips, 1979).
In 1982, he released “Ven y Sígueme” (Come and Follow Me) on RCA, using the figure of Christ and the Gospels to demand social justice. The album included two essential Spanish artists, Rocio Jurado and Manolo Sanlúcar.
El Lebrijano’s next project was a collaboration with an orchestra of North African musicians who kept alive the ancient Arab-Andalusian music. The result was “Encuentros” (Encounters), released in 1985 on Ariola. This proved to be a controversial move, criticized by purists who didn’t like these cross-cultural collaborations. El Lebrijano was not intimidated by these reactions and, in the following years, he released two additional collaborations with Arab musicians, “Casablanca” (EMI, 1998) and “Puertas abiertas” (Senator, 2005).
In “Tierra” (1989), El Lebrijano told the travel stories of the intrepid Spanish adventurers and explorers who traveled to the Americas.
Another significant album in El Lebrijano’s career was “Lágrimas de Cera” (Tears of Wax) on EMI, released in 1999. This was a tribute to the Andalusian Holy Week. El Lebrijano surprised everyone once more by adding a Bulgarian choir.
El Lebrijano won many awards and distinctions, including the Medal of Andalusia (1986), awarded by the Andalusian government; and the Labor Medal (1999), granted by the government of Spain. In April 2010 he received an award in the category of music at the III Premios de la Cultura Gitana (3rd Gypsy Culture Awards).
American Indian musician, songwriter, producer and Colville Tribal Chairman in Washington State, Jim Boyd passed away on Tuesday, June 21st, 2016. He was a member of the Arrow Lakes tribe, which is one of the twelve tribes of the Colville Confederacy.
As one of the most active Native American recording artists, Jim Boyd’s music career spanned over four decades. He worked on projects for Miramax, Warner Brothers, Mega International Records, Dixie Frog Records, Sound of America Records, as well as audio-visual projects for businesses and colleges.
Jim Boyd released 15 records; Reservation Bound, Unity, Reservation Blues, First Come Last Served, AlterNatives, Jim Boyd w/ Alfonso Kolb Live At The Met, Kyo-t Live, Going To The Stick Games, Them Old Guitars, Live At Two Rivers, Blues To Bluegrass, Voices From The Lakes, Harley High, Living For The Sunny Days, and most recently Bridge Creek Road. Jim also managed his own career and operated his label, Thunderwolf Records.
At the Second Annual Native American Music Awards, Boyd received the award for Best Compilation Recording for the Smoke Signals soundtrack. At the Fifth Annual Awards, he won Record of the Year for his recording, AlterNatives. The next year he took Best Pop/Rock Recording for Live at the Met.
At the Seventh Annual Awards he received Record of the Year for Going to the Stick Games. He received Songwriter of the Year at the Eighth Annual Native American Music Awards for Them Old Guitars. He won Best Short Form Music Video for Inchelium at the Ninth Annual Awards; and he received the prestigious Artist of the Year Award at the Tenth Annual Native American Music Awards.
On November 14, 2014, Jim Boyd was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his outstanding contributions in the field of Native American music at the 15th Annual commemoration held at the Seneca Allegany Casino & Hotel in Salamanca, New York.
In addition to his wife Shelly, Jim Boyd is survived by his wife Shelly, his mother, Violet Boyd; brothers Lanny and Michael; sisters Pam, Luana and LaDonna; sons Joel, Dakota, Brian and Michael Carson, and daughter Stevey Seymour; nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Acclaimed bluegrass banjo player and vocalist Ralph Stanley, “Dr. Ralph,” passed away at his home in the mountains of southwestern Virginia.
Ralph Edmund Stanley was born February 25, 1927 in Big Spraddle, Virginia. He learned ballads and how to play banjo from his mother. Her repertory included traditional narrative songs and 19th-century hymns sung a cappella.
After graduating high school and serving in the United States Army, he joined older brother Carter to form the Clinch Mountain Boys. They started performing on local radio stations and at regional venues.
After Columbia Records signed them, they become known as The Stanley Brothers and went on to record such classics as “Angel Band,” “Little Maggie” and their highly popular song, “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Ralph Stanley developed a unique style of playing the banjo that became known as “Stanley style.” The Stanley Brothers became one of the most popular brother acts in country music history.
In 1976, Stanley received an honorary doctorate from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee and became known as “Dr. Ralph Stanley.”
In 1984, Ralph Stanley was the recipient of the “National Heritage Award.” In 1992 Ralph Stanley was inducted into the” International Bluegrass Music Hall Of Honor”. In 2000 he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
Ralph Stanley was introduced to a new generation of fans thanks to his stirring a cappella hymn “O Death” from the hit Coen Brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” movie soundtrack. The album was a bestselling hit. In 2002 Ralph Stanley received his first ever Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance of the haunting rendition of “Oh Death.”
The following year Ralph Stanley and Jim Lauderdale won a Grammy for best bluegrass album for “Lost in the Lonesome Pines.”
In 2006 He received the Living Legend award from the Library of Congress and National medal of arts given by President George W. Bush.
Ralph Stanley’s continuation of a cappella singing led to its revival in contemporary bluegrass bands. Some of country and bluegrass music’s biggest stars came from Ralph Stanley’s band, including Ricky Skaggs, Larry Sparks and the late Keith Whitley.
Ralph Stanley is survived by his wife Jimmie Stanley; his children Lisa Stanley Marshall, Tonya Armes Stanley and Ralph Stanley II; his grandchildren Nathan Stanley, Amber Meade Stanley, Evan Stout, Ashley Marshall, Alexis Marshall, Taylor Stanley, and Ralph Stanley III; and great grandchild Mckenzie Stanley.
News reports from Pakistan indicate that renowned Qawwali musician Amjad Sabri, one of Pakistan’s most well-known Sufi musicians, was shot and killed on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 in the southern city of Karachi.
Amjad Farid Sabri was born on December 23, 1976 and was a member of one of the most famous Qawwali music ensembles in Pakistan, the Sabri Brothers.
The Sabri Brothers is Pakistan’s best known, extraordinarily successful family of devotional Sufi singers, from Kalyana in the East Punjab and with over 30 years of sung religious poetry behind them.
In 2012, Amjad Sabri released a solo album titled Ecstasy of the Soul.
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