Thursday, April 19, 2012

What a Terrible Week for Music

Category: News/Obituaries

Music has been slammed by deaths this week.  And, even worse, it may not be over.

Dick Clark:  The "world's oldest teenager" was the man who first brought a visual aspect to music into American homes.  The long-running show American Bandstand allowed people to see the people singing their favorite hits.  Although the performances were pantomimed it was still the forerunner of the MTV generation.  In addition to that, his production company brought New Year's Rockin' Eve, the "alternative" to the traditional Guy Lumbardo music, to television, along with countless programs ranging from reality to game shows.  He also hosted The $10,000 ($25,000, or $100,000) Pyramid and TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes.  Even though he suffered a stroke in 2004 he maintained his duties on New Year's Rockin' Eve, although in a greatly diminished role because of the damage the stroke did to his ability to speak.  In doing so, Clark put a very famous face to the reality of strokes and did untold good for raising awareness for stroke prevention.  Clark went to St. John's Medical Center in Santa Monica for a minor surgical procedure and suffered a massive heart attack.  He was 82.

Levon Helm:  The Band was the band, an act that was Americana long before the term existed.  The combination of blues, country and rock stemmed from four Canadians teaming up with a drummer from Arkansas.  That drummer was Mark Lavon Helm, who was better known as Levon. Helm sang and wrote songs for The Band, and it was his talent that, in a sense, brought an end to the group that became renown for backing Bob Dylan when Dylan went from acoustic folkie to rock singer.  Helm was outraged over lead guitarist Robbie Robertson taking songwriter credit for all of The Band's songs, including things that Helm obviously wrote (most notably, "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down").  The rift lasted for decades, to the point where Helm refused to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremonies where The Band was inducted in 1994.  Helm went on to a critically-acclaimed post-Band musical career, with each of his final three projects winning Grammy awards.  Helm also acted in several movies including his debut role as Loretta Lynn's husband in Coal Miner's Daughter.  Robertson thankfully reconciled with Helm this past weekend, visiting Helm in New York's Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.  Helm died April 19 at the age of 71.

Greg Ham: In 1983 the Australian rock band Men at Work took home the Grammy award for Best New Artist.  The five-man band had several hits from their debut album Business As Usual, including "Who Can It Be Now" and "Down Under."  The horn player in the band was Greg Ham, who played saxophone on "Who Can It Be Now" and flute on "Down Under."  After the band broke up Ham continued to work as a musician, and also acted in the Australian series While You're Down There.  On April 19 Ham was found dead in his North Carlton, Melbourne home after friends went to check on him because they had not heard from him in days.  As of this writing no official cause of death has been announced; however, the police told Australian media that there were "unexplained circumstances" regarding Ham's death.  He was 58.

In addition to these three losses, Bee Gee Robin Gibb is reportedly in a coma and near death, suffering from liver and colon cancers.  Published reports, including Gibb's own web site, stated that Gibb is suffering from pneumonia in addition to his cancer woes.  Robin's twin brother, Maurice, died from a twisted intestine in 2003.  When Robin's problems began he was initially diagnosed with the same malady that claimed his brother's life; however, it was soon discovered that he also had colon cancer that had spread to his liver.  He continued to work, and his Titanic Requiem was to be performed with Robin in attendance on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  However, in late March Gibb had abdominal surgery and his health has been deteriorating since.  Gibb is 62.