Death is the great leveler that evens out the playing field. Death takes no bribes, pays all debts, and keeps no calendar.
Sadly, as we close out another year circling the Zodiac, we at The REVIEW find it incumbent to take inventory and honor many the many significant souls who passed over to what I like to call the ‘unseen world’.
Each of these individuals were special in their own way and sadly irreplaceable, although their legacies and contributions will resonate strongly, even though their mortal coils have ceased to exist.
Some of them were personal friends; other majors influences. May each of them live eternally in our collective memory and fortify us with the light, wisdom, and talent they brought to this often dark and unruly world.
The year started out on a sadly sorrowful note with the passing of Sound Technician Charlie Williams, who played a pivotal role in the fabric of the Bay City Music Scene. Many knew Charlie for his work as a sound technician who supported many of the artists working in this area.
This belied his total package of talent, as he was also a musician in his own right, a fact he sometimes revealed during sound check or troubleshooting when a band was on break. While he easily could have had a spot in a gigging band if that’s what he wanted, it was the support roles that really allowed him to be himself.
Whether it was doing sound for a top shelf act like Barbarossa Brothers, or popping in to make that night’s band at Bemo’s sound just a little bit better, or stage managing an event like the Sunshine Daydream Festival – if you saw Charlie behind the board, that is when he was in his element and when he was at his best.
November delivered a severe and shocking blow to the sensibilities with the sudden passing of Andy ‘Skinny’ Kostrezewa, who was a fixture of support to artists populating the regional music scene and an inspiration to all who encountered his good nature, irascible sense of humor, and generous constitution.
Andy brought an energy and magnetism into any room he entered, largely because he was focused and engaged on so many levels, whether it was athletics, music, politics, or contributing his time and energy to worthwhile groups, organizations, and individuals bettering the community that he lived in.
Employed and active in the U.S. Postal System as a mail deliverer until his retirement this year at the age of 60, it was the multiple talents and interests that Andy so passionately pursued that defined him, whether it was dance (he’s the only guy I ever saw that could actually do the limbo), fishing, making his family’s secret-recipe sausage over the holidays, or lending assistance to a friend in need, Andy brought class, style, and purpose to everything he did and all those he touched.
In April, long-time manager and concert promoter Paul Koch passed away suddenly during a vehicle accident.. The owner of Magnolia Entertainment for over 30 years, he managed the career of Larry McCray for over 30 years as well and also brought top-notch national and international blues and rock artists such as Robin Trower, Leslie West, Johnny Winter, and John Mayall to the Great Lakes Bay Region.
Known for his unique disposition and a management style that a mix of Col. Tom Parker, Don Rickles, and Svengali on steroids, Koch did much to advance and promote the exposure of top-flight talent to audiences in the tri-cities.
Another long time fixture on the local music scene who left us in 2021 was William ‘Bill’ Crofton, Jr., who left us at the age of 68. A fixture of the Saginaw community who owned and operated Nationwide Service Center for nearly 50 years, Bill was also a top-notch golfer and played guitar in numerous bands throughout the region ever since his early days at Daniel’s Den. He will be remembered for his audacious spirit, wit, sense of humor, and willingness to help others.
A significant loss on many levels was the passing of journalist Doug Moiles in March of this year, after a short yet courageous battle with lung cancer at the age of 65. An avid sailor and man of many talents, Doug started out running sound and lights for concerts at the Saginaw Civic Center. Later, Doug started filling local living rooms with stories during his time at TV12 and then TV5, where he later retired as an assignment manager. Indeed, I can remember back when I first started the REVIEW, Doug was instrumental in turning me on to our first big local piece of investigative journalism pertaining to the Downtown Conference Center, for which I will always be indebted. A first-class guy and top-notch journalist all the way.
One of our deepest personal losses at the offices of The REVIEW this year was the shocking news that musician, writer, and dear friend Randy Chandler passed away after suffering a massive heart attack while performing with his band onstage. A significant creative force on the mid-Michigan musical scene, and a pivotal contributor to this publication from the years of 1995-2004, his articles, much like Randy himself, were always enlightening and upbeat, seeking to find the positive qualities and attributes that distinguished whatever subject he covered. As a musician, he helped define the sound of numerous bands throughout the region with his contributions.
Compounding our send of loss here at The REVIEW was the passing of Art Director & Cover Designer David Horton hours before the commencement of Groundhog Day on the evening of February 1st. A pivotal creative force, Dave served as the REVIEW’s graphic designer since 1986 and as our cover designer pulled together the imagery and created the visuals for approximately 730 of our 923 covers over the past 35-years.
As for the world-at-large, it lost a self-styled observer, minimalist, reader, writer, and occasional visionary, who unlike many other far more notable ‘Renaissance-styled’ iconoclasts, was distinguished first and foremost by his humbleness, humility, and self-deprecating sense-of-humor. He possessed a mind that worked like a fusion of Einstein's neurons firing off as they met splatters of Jackson Pollack's thought fragments inside his head. A renaissance maestro of the Beat Ethic - Dave was like Jack Kerouac on laughing gas; Ginsberg as a member of the Goon Squad, and possessed his own unique brand of absurd and unconventional humor and a particular fondness for Beat Generation writing and music.
In addition to working at The REVIEW, Dave later went on to work as a graphic designer at Zehnder’s Restaurant in Frankenmuth, moving to Grand Rapids in the mid-2000s to expand his involvement, not only as a weekend disc jockey on a public radio station WYCE 88.1 FM, but also teaching computer and internet classes to seniors in an adult education program.
Zorbas Restaurant & Lounge
A contemporary culinary landmark in the tri-cities that was started by inimitable proprietor & chef Tom Veremis back in 1982, Zorba's Restaurant & Lounge occupied both a unique and beloved position for nourishing the soul, spirit, and appetite of the Great Lakes Bay Region for 40 years.
Specializing in Greek & American cuisine, this tidy and non-pretentious gem, quietly tucked into a tastefully appointed corner at 700 Gratiot St. on the City of Saginaw’s west side, charmed and fed not only its regular customers, but also satisfied the discriminating taste buds of a notable list of celebrities over the generations, including but not limited to the likes of Robert Goulet, Shirley Jones, Andy Williams, Tony Bennett and Debbie Boone whenever they made their way to town for performances at the Temple Theatre, Dow Event Center, or Midland Center for the Arts.
Now it is left to stand only within the recess of our hearts and memory.
One of the tastiest, classiest, and most definitive rock (and jazz-based) drummers of all time, Charlie Watts was the piston that drove the pulse of The Rolling Stones. Watts was the thread Between the Buttons that held it all together. Here’s to the drummer who made them the World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band roll! Ride on forever, Charlie Watts.
Lee Scratch Perry
In August of 2021, the world lost arguably the greatest musical pioneer of the 20th century, Rainford Hugh Lee $cratch Perry. Born on 20 March 1936 in Kendal, Jamaica, in the parish of Hanover, Scratch was instrumental in pioneering recording techniques which influenced modern music. Dub, Rap, Techno and many more genres were made possible by his work. His musical career began in the late 1950s as a record seller for Clement Coxsone Dodd's sound system, forming his own Upsetter Records in 1968. He became known for his innovative production techniques as well as his eccentric character. In the late 60's Scratch took a young Bob Marley under his wing, and helped to develop Bob's talent into the internationally known icon that he is today.
In 1973, Perry built a studio in his backyard, the Black Ark, to have more control over his productions and continued to produce notable musicians such as Bob Marley and the Wailers, Junior Byles, Junior Murvin, the Heptones, the Congos, and Max Romeo. He also was in demand as a producer by rock artists such as Paul and Linda McCartney, The Clash, Robert Palmer and others, who all worked with him in some capacity in the Black Ark era, and following it.
in 2003, Perry won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album with the album Jamaican E.T. In 2019 Perry's album with British Dub colaborator Adrian Sherwood of On.U Sound Records, reached number one of Billboard's world-wide Reggae Charts, a first for both men.
Lee $cratch Perry passed on 29 August 2021 at the Noel Holmes hospital in Lucea, Jamaica, from an unspecified illness, aged 85.
(Contributed by David Asher)
A Beat poet and founder of the iconic City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, Lawrence Ferlinghetti left his mortal coil back in February at the age of 101. From one of his last works:
“If you would be a poet, experiment with all manner of poetics, erotic broken grammars, ecstatic religions, heathen outpourings, speaking in tongues, bombast public speech, steams of consciousness, found sounds, rants, an raves - to create your own limbic, your own underlying voice.
If you would be a poet, discover a new way for mortals to inhabit the earth.
If you would be a poet, invent a new language anyone can understand.
If you would be a poet, speak new truths that the world can't deny.”
Phil Spector, one of the most influential and successful record producers in rock ’n’ roll, who generated a string of hits in the early 1960s defined by the lavish instrumental treatment known as the wall of sound, but who was also sentenced to prison for the murder of a woman at his home passed away in January of this year at the age of 81. The cause was complications of Covid-19.
Spector had been serving a prison sentence since 2009 for the murder of Lana Clarkson, a nightclub hostess whom he had taken to his home after a night of drinking in 2003..
Spector scored his first No. 1 hit when he was still in his teens. With the Teddy Bears, a group he formed with two school friends, he recorded the dreamy ballad “To Know Him Is to Love Him.” Released in August 1958, it sold more than a million records after the group appeared on the popular TV show “American Bandstand,” with Mr. Spector playing guitar and singing backup. He later went on to work with The Beatles as a group and produce albums individually for John Lennon & George Harrison.
Larry Flynt, the controversial publisher who founded Hustler magazine, passed away this year at the age of 78. Flynt launched Hustler Magazine in the 1970s as a print extension of his adult club of the same name, which featured nude hostesses. As the pornographic publication grew in popularity, Flynt became the target of critics who called the magazine obscene.
Flynt's legal battles over the content of his magazine are considered landmark free speech cases. Flynt fiercely defended his right to publish amid prosecution and threats against his life. Flynt was shot in 1978 as he left the Gwinnett County Courthouse in Georgia, where he was facing trial on charges of distributing obscene materials. The attack paralyzed him from the waist down, and the judge declared a mistrial.
Losses in the Reggae World
2021 held lots of tears for Reggae fans around the world as the gates of Zion opened wide to receive some of the genre's greatest artists and pioneers. Here are short biographies of four of the greatest Reggae artists lost this year:
In February the world lost the last foundation member of the Wailers, Neville Livingstone aka Bunny Wailer. Along with his partners Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, Jah B as he was known to friends and fans, helped to spread the gospel of Reggae far and wide, from the early Ska era in the 60's, to Rock Steady, and through the "golden age" of Roots Reggae in the 70's, through Dancehall in the 80's and beyond. Wailer won the Grammy Award for Best Reggae Album three times, and received Jamaica's fifth highest honor, the Order of Jamaica, as well as The Order of Merit by the Jamaican government, the nation's fourth-highest honor.
Wailer passed away after suffering a stroke.
Also in February 2021, the world lost the amazing talent Ewart Beckford, known professionally as "U. Roy". U. Roy pioneered the tradition of rapping or "Toasting" over Jamaican 45 rpm singles, at sound systems, which eventually became very popular with the Jamaican public, and the world.
U.Roy was renowned for his melodic style of toasting, and a highly developed sense of timing. Beckford was featured on the album True Love by Toots and the Maytals, which won the Grammy Award in 2004 for Best Reggae Album, and showcased many notable musicians including Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Trey Anastasio, Gwen Stefani / No Doubt, Ben Harper, Bonnie Raitt, Manu Chao, The Roots, Ryan Adams, Keith Richards, Toots Hibbert, Paul Douglas, Jackie Jackson, Ken Boothe, and The Skatalites.
Beckford was awarded the Order of Distinction in 2007 by the Jamaican government for his contribution to music. In addition to being arguably the first performer to record Rastafari themes on record, many internationally known dancehall deejays have acknowledged U-Roy as an influence on their careers, including Sean Paul and Shabba Ranks.
No cause of death has been made public, although he suffered from diabetes, hypertension, and problems with his kidneys prior to his death, and had been undergoing surgery at the hospital.
In December 2021, the world lost the incredible talent of bassist Robbie Shakspeare, one half of "The Rhythm Twins" the reggae rhythm section and production duo Sly and Robbie, with drummer Sly Dunbar.
As part of the Channel One studio house band, Shakespeare played on innumerable Reggae hits in the 1970's, for many artists, on various record labels.
As a part of Sly and Robbie, Shakespeare worked with various reggae artists such as U-Roy, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Dennis Brown, Gregory Isaacs, Sugar Minott, Augustus Pablo, Yellowman, Black Uhuru and Grace Jones.
His production work also extended beyond the reggae genre, covering various pop and rock artists such as The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Joe Cocker, Yoko Ono, and Serge Gainsbourg.
He toured the world extensively, throughout the 70's, up until recently, with various artists, and ran the Taxi record label, with his partner Sly Dunbar.
Prior to his involvement in Sly and Robbie, he was a member of the session groups The Revolutionaries and The Aggrovators.
Robbie Shakspeare received two Grammy Awards in his lifetime, along with 13 Nominations.
Shakespeare died following kidney surgery in Florida, on 8 December 2021, at the age of 68.
All of these truly legendary artists will continue to live on in the firmament of music, and their contributions to it are immortal.
Written by David Asher. David is the former vocalist of the Reggae/Rock group The Process, and currently fronts his own Roots Reggae group DAB David Asher Band.
Although space does not allow us to go into greater detail, we also lost Larry King, Hal Holbroock, Cloris Leachman, Cicely Tyson, Mary Wilson, Chick Corea, Rush Limbaugh, Bunny Wailer, George Segal, Olympia Dukakis, Charles Groden, F. Lee Bailey. Donald Rumsfeld, Ed Asner, and Colin Powell in 2021.
The grim reaper has certainly been busy pruning the tree of life in 2021.
Let’s pray in 2022 he takes a break.
16th November, 2023