“Tom died yesterday, July 11, at 12:15 p.m. at his home in Ridgewood, Queens,” Andy Schwartz, publisher of New York Rocker magazine, said on behalf of Ramone’s family. “He was in hospice care following treatment for cancer of the bile duct.”
And how can this be? How can The Ramones be dead?
I remember it all so well.
Reading about The Ramones in the Village Voice, and the anticipation leading up to the release of their first album in 1976.
And what an album. You put it on and it was over almost before you realized it. The songs were so short. I think the whole album clocks in at 30 minutes.
And then they were coming to the Bay Area!
We’d already seen Patti Smith, and she was the greatest of course. But The Ramones were something else.
It was as if The Ramones had invented a new kind of rock ‘n’ roll. The lyrics to their songs were a kind of haiku, as my wife Leslie described it. And the songs were so short. And they mostly sounded like subtle variations on the same song. One song. One.
You wanna get an idea of how radical The Ramones music was in 1976? Go put on a Doobie Brothers album from the early ‘70s, or an album by Journey. Then follow it with The Ramones “Beat On The Brat.”
It’s like someone taking a sledgehammer to a refrigerator and smashing the thing to bits.
Yeah, get it?
I met the original band – Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy in August 1976 when they came out here. Out West. We sat next to a swimming pool at a cheap South of Market Street motel, and I attempted to interview them. I was 23, and new at interviewing bands. Their skin was an anemic white. Like they never had been out in the sun before. (There’s a photo by Jenny Lens of Joey Ramone lounging near the pool here.)
They didn’t say much.
They were so New York. So cool. They looked just like the cover of that first album. Same clothes – Black leather jackets, ripped jeans, and well-worn t-shirts.
They played in a small room at the back of North Beach bar, The Savoy, on upper Grant Avenue, just a half block or so from the Café Trieste, you know, where some of the Beats hung out.
It was hot and sweaty and packed. How did all these people know about The Ramones? All these people amounting to maybe 80 people. Maybe.
The music was loud. I’d never heard rock played at such a volume in such a small room.
But it wasn’t just the volume. It was everything. And we knew it, whose of us who were there. In 1976, this was the New Thing. The ‘60s were already long gone, but it was The Ramones who ushered in what came next.
Their music, and all of punk, is now old hat too. That’s what happens.
Tommy Ramone. Sixty-five years old. Much too young to die.
Imagining Tommy Ramone at 65, when I want to remember Tommy and Joey and Johnny and Dee Dee just as they were in 1976, that’s a hard pill.
The Ramones, 1974:
The Ramones, Arturo’s loft, 1975:
The Ramones, Max’s Kansas City, 1976:
The Ramones in England, 1977:
“I Wanna Be Sedated” and “The KKK Took My Baby Away”:
Soul man Bobby Womack, whose numerous R&B hits included “Lookin’ For A Love,” “That’s The Way I Feel About Cha,” “Woman’s Gotta Have It” and “If You Think You’re Lonely Now,” died today according to the artist’s label, XL Records.
The cause of death has not been revealed, but Womack had been suffering from colon cancer and diabetes.
In 1964 Womack and his brothers, recording as The Valentinos, released a song Womack had written, “It’s All Over Now.” A month later the Rolling Stones released their version, which became a #1 hit on the UK sales charts and introduced the singer’s song to a generation of white teens, including me.
I loved “It’s All Over Now,” though it was years before I noticed that the songwriter was Bobby Womack.
I interviewed Womack in 1984 at his home in the Hollywood Hills for Rolling Stone when he was in the midst of one of many comebacks — this one had started with 1981’s The Poet.
At the time we talked, Womack had another hit album,The Poet II.
I asked Womack what his reaction was back in 1964 when he first learned that the Rolling Stones had a hit in England with his song.
“Tell them to get their own fucking song!,” he said. “I never was happy about that until I saw a check.”
Womack became friends with Ron Wood of the Stones, and played on several of Wood’s solo albums.
When he learned of Womack’s death, Ron Wood Tweeted:
“I’m so sad to hear about my friend Bobby Womack ~ the man who could make you cry when he sang has brought tears to my eyes with his passing.”
Womack had problems with drugs — in particular, cocaine. “The biggest downfall for any entertainer is drugs,” Womack said. “I ain’t saying I was totally out there, but I had my share.
During that interview he said he’d been clean for six months and told me he was excited to be touring with a hit album.
“I don’t know about everyone else, but I want to live,” he told me. “I have two sons. I have a beautiful wife. And music, the gift that God gave me, means more to me today than it’s ever meant.”
In 1977, my wife Leslie and I interviewed Jesse Winchester. I was a young music critic at the time, and Leslie and I were freelancing for underground publications including the Berkeley Barb, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, as well as some local and national magazines.
I found the article we wrote when I was going through years of stories for a collection of my music journalism that I’m putting together. With Jesse’s passing this morning, I want to share it with those who, like I, have appreciated his music for many, many years, and for those who are hearing it for the first time today.
So here’s the article, along with a few of Jesse’s songs:
A Little Bit of Dixie in the Cool Blue North
By Leslie & Michael Goldberg
If there was ever a man who seemed predestined to be a singer/songwriter/musician it is draft-resister-turned-Canadian-citizen Jesse Winchester. His career has been riddled by strange lurches of fate. The strangest lurch of all, of course, was the Vietnam War.
Rather than be drafted, Winchester, at age 22, fled to Canada in January of 1967, arriving with only two hundred dollars in his pocket.
“I had never considered music as a profession until I was forced to,” reflected Winchester between sets in the dark, smokey Boarding House bar [in San Francisco] last week. “I tried to find a straight job when I moved to Canada in some kind of business or something. I wanted to show good faith to the Canadian government, that I was not going to be a ward of the state. So I looked around for a legitimate job and couldn’t find one.
“People heard my southern accent and wanted to know what I was doing there and when I told them they were kind of wary of hiring me. So music was the only thing I knew how to do that I knew I could make a living at. So I was pretty well forced into it.”
“The Brand New Tennessee Waltz” (produced by Robbie Robertson):
He hooked up with a Canadian rock and roll band, Les Astronauts. During the following two years Jesse was in and out of bands, writing songs and building a following in the clubs and bars of Montreal. Through fortunate circumstances Jesse happened to meet up with The Band’s Robbie Robertson.
“Robbie was a friend of a friend of the girl I was living with. He and I met in the basement of a church in Ottawa where I was working on a tape. So this friend I was speaking of brought Robbie down and he had just put out Music From Big Pink with his band So I was very impressed by him and very thrilled to meet him,” said Jesse, a softspoken, exceedingly polite man who neither drinks nor smokes.
“Robbie liked what we’d been doing. He decided we’d make a demo tape in a real studio and he would take it to Albert Grossman (Dylan’s former manager) which is what happened.”
ApparentIy Robertson, a Canadian himself with a fascination with the South, was much taken by Jesse’s heartfelt songs about his homeland.
“Black Dog” (produced by Robbie Robertson):
The Winchester family has a strong southern heritage which is evoked in many of Jesse’s songs. Jesse was born on May 17, 1944 in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Winchesters are connected to the Robert E. Lee family and Jesse’s fifth great – grandfather helped Andrew Jackson found Memphis. His grandfather gave the funeral oration at Memphis jazzman W. C. Handy’s funeral.
Jesse’s father was the first “radical” of the family. He hated World War II and initially rejected a legal career to work the land. “He was one of the original hippies in the late Forties,” said Winchester. “He took up farming to get closer to the land.”
Although Jesse insists on his Canadian loyalty, he is proud of the South and has turned to it for his songwriting inspira-tion. Perhaps his exile in Canada has fueled the fires of this great passion.
“I think I hear a noisy-old John Deer/ In a field specked with dirty cotton lint/ And below the field runs a little shady creek/And there you’ll find the cool green leaves of mint/ Mississippi you’re on my mind/ Mississippi you’re on my mind/ Oh, Mississippi you’re on, my mind.” — “Mississippi You’re On My Mind”
“Mississippi You’re On My Mind”:
Jesse Winchester is one of the best contemporary songwriters working today. Not only do songs like “Mississippi, You’re On My Mind” evoke crystal clear images and moods of the South, but his good natured songs about relationships transcend the merely personal to the universal.
“I’m no good company/ I guess that’s true/ I like my silence/ Like I love you/ But if you feel like talkin’/ Talk away/ I’m gonna hang on/ Every word you say.” — “Every Word You Say”
Although many of the songs on Jesse’s five albums are about the South, until recently he has had no way to tour the U.S. and thus expose his music. Despite highly favorable reviews of each album, starting with his first (and only) Robbie Robertson produced album, Jesse Winchester, right up to his latest, Nothing But a Breeze, Jesse was unable to sell many records. He lived off club work and the royalties that came in from versions of his songs, “Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Isn’t That So,” “‘Yankee Lady” and “Mississippi, You’re On My· Mind” recorded by better known artists including Joan Baez, Jimmy Buffett, the Everly Brothers and even Wilson Pickett. Carter’s amnesty was welcomed because it allowed Jesse to tour the U.S. for the first time and promote his records.
We caught two of Winchester’s many sold out shows at the Boarding House. Drawing from each of his albums, Winchester presented a powerful, cohesive performance that far surpassed his best recorded efforts. His was one of the best club appearances so far this year. The Midnight Bus, his terrific band, glided easily from Nashville-style country to funky blues and moody ballads.
Winchester’s sense of humor, a side seldom revealed on record, balanced the serious tone of many of the songs. For a new tune, “Rhumba Man,” Jesse danced, bopped and gestured comically as he sang about the joys of doing the Rhumba.
Winchester’s tour through the U.S. has been wildly successful. Still, he feels uncomfortable with all the fanfare and his notoriety as the draft-dodging songwriter. “My feelings are ambivalent,” he admitted freely. “On one hand I know that a lot of publicity has come to me because of it and on the other hand I think it would be just in the worst possible taste to purposely capitalize on something like that. So I’m benefiting from an ugly thing. And it’s a fine, delicate line to tread and I just have to try extra hard to do the right thing, say the right thing all the time, be as forthright as I can on the subject.
“I’d like to be able to forget the whole thing. But on the other hand I can’t pretend it didn’t happen. I just have to play it by ear and do the best I can. My job at the moment is to play the best music I can and I think if I do that, eventually it will be the thing that will stand. I really have to concentrate on that and let the political stuff do what it will.”
Jesse, his French-Canadian wife Leslie, 26, and their two children, James, 5 and Alice, 2, make Montreal their home Jesse became a Canadian citizen in 1973.
“I feel that can’t come back to the U.S. to live because I made a decision to move to Canada and not away from the United States. So I’m doing my best to be a good Canadian. I have nothing against the United States. I love the United State and always will. But my loyalties lie with Canada now. I’m very grateful to the country and I want to be a good citizen.”
When asked what he meant by the key lines of the title track of his new album “Me, I want to live with my feet in Dixie/ And my head in the cool blue North, Jesse explained, “It’s just talking about how people want to have their cake all eat it too. You kinda want both sides of things and it’s hard to make up your mind, that’s all.”
Elvis Costello, Jesse Winchester & Sheryl Crow play “Payday”:
-– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post: sounds, visuals and/or news –
Folksinger Jesse Winchester died this morning (April 10, 2014) from cancer, his wife Cindy Winchester told The Commercial Appeal.
Winchester died at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Commercial Appeal wrote:
The mellifluous-voiced author of “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Mississippi, You’re on My Mind” and “Biloxi,” the Memphis-raised Winchester had long been a favorite of critics and fellow musicians, covered by a wide array of artists from Wilson Pickett to the Everly Brothers, Jerry Garcia to Reba McEntire. Bob Dylan was famously quoted as saying of Mr. Winchester: “You can’t talk about the best songwriters and not include him.” In 2007, Mr. Winchester was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award from performing rights organization ASCAP for his body of work.
The Stooges drummer Scott Asheton died of a heart attack this past Saturday. Now Iggy Pop has called Rolling Stone and spoken about Asheton. Pop also said “I definitely have no plans to be a touring musician for the next couple of years.”
Iggy Pop on Scott Asheton:
I first met Scott Asheton when I was working at Discount Records in Ann Arbor to augment my drumming. He used to stand with [future Stooges bassist] Dave Alexander at the corner of State Street and Liberty, which is grand central for the University of Michigan campus. Scott impressed me immediately by his obvious physical gift. He remembered this better than I do, but he would bug me to teach him how to play drums.
Things didn’t get very far until I realized it would better for me to work with a good drummer rather than continuing as a drummer myself in blues bands. Also, you could just look at this guy and tell that he had it. He was just a likable and attractive person, and he picked the drums right up. I gave him my kit and showed him a couple of things. I’d be like, “Here’s how you do a Stax Volt beat. Here’s a Bo Diddley beat. This is a Middle Eastern one.” He got it very quickly. I didn’t have to show him much.
Scott played drums with a boxer’s authority. When he wanted to, he had a heavy hand on the drums. He hit the drum very hard, but there were never a lot of elbows flying. He wasn’t showy. He didn’t have to make a physical demonstration to get the job done. When he played with you, it was always swinging. He brought a swinging truth to the music he played and extreme musical honesty.
The thing that Flea and Chad Smith always understood is that Scott always played a little behind the beat, always a little back. He would hold the band back, just very slightly, from where it might have gone if it was going to rush ahead. It gave authority and a kind of trance to the music. He always, always, always played the song. He never got up there and started playing the kit to show everyone what he could play.
When we reformed for Coachella in 2003, we hadn’t played together in years. He used to ride [bassist] Mike Watt and say, “Watt, that note isn’t on the song.” He wouldn’t say, “It’s not on the record.” He’d say, “It’s not on the song.” He just always understood that he was playing a part in a song. We were a group that worked with a real simple vocabulary, and you need a lot of help if you haven’t got a Burt Bacharach or Paul Simon. How do you bring in songcraft and hold it together? He helped with that a lot.
Scott Asheton, founding drummer for the proto-punk band The Stooges died today. He was 64.
Asheton played on The Stooges’ classic albums: The Stooges, Funhouse and Raw Power.
Asheton had been ill recently, but the ’cause of death has not yet been made public.
On The Stooges Facebook page, Iggy Pop posted:
My dear friend Scott Asheton passed away last night.
Scott was a great artist, I have never heard anyone play the drums with more meaning than Scott Asheton. He was like my brother. He and Ron have left a huge legacy to the world. The Asheton’s have always been and continue to be a second family to me.
My thoughts are with his sister Kathy, his wife Liz and his daughter Leanna, who was the light of his life.
Rolling Stone wrote:
Asheton was born in Washington, D.C., but moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan when he was 14. He began playing music with his older brother Ron and their friend Dave Alexander soon after. “We didn’t get very far,” Scott told writer Brett Callwood in his book The Stooges: Head On. “We liked the idea of being in a band, we looked like we were in a band and we’d all hang out together. It wasn’t until…Iggy, got involved that it actually became a real band.”
Under the leadership of Iggy Pop, The Stooges, along with the MC5, became one of the most popular acts around Ann Arbor and Detroit, eventually signing a deal with Elektra and releasing their groundbreaking self-titled LP in 1969. “We didn’t have songs,” Scott Asheton told Callwood. “A lot of that first album was written at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City over two days immediately before we went in the studio.”
For the rest of the Rolling Stone obit, head here.
Marty Thau, who managed the New York Dolls and figured in the careers of Richard Hell, Blondie, the Ramones and Suicide, died on Feb. 13 in Richmond, Va. He was 75.
The cause was complications of renal failure, his daughter, Leslie Bernard, told the New York Times.
Writing about his discovery of the New York Dolls in early 1972, Thau wrote in a blog post:
At first I couldn’t get past the sight of them. They were visually remarkable. While everybody in America were wearing army coats and earth shoes, here were these guys decked out in leather and leopard skin with bouffant hairdo’s, black nail polish, lipstick, six-inch platform boots, chopped jeans, feather boa’s, armbands and pantyhose. It was a style beyond femininity and thrown together in such a way as to appear natural. Then I zeroed in on their music … loud and hard ghetto music about girls, sex, drugs, loneliness, heartbreak and the rites of teenage romance. In other words … real rock ‘n’ roll.
I had never seen or heard anything like it and instantly knew they made everyone else look tired, which at that time meant David Bowie, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, Roxy Music. Betty and I looked at each other and smiled. One thought was spinning through my mind … “what would the world think of the Dolls indeterminable gender bending … is this too real?”
Bob Casale, a founding member of the Akron, Ohio pre-punk band Devo, died suddenly on February 17th of heart failure. He was 61.
Bob Casale helped create the futuristic rock sound that was at its most extreme on Devo’s radical 1978 debut album, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
In a statement, Gerald Casale said: “As an original member of Devo, Bob Casale was there in the trenches with me from the beginning. He was my level-headed brother, a solid performer and talented audio engineer, always giving more than he got. He was excited about the possibility of Mark Mothersbaugh allowing Devo to play shows again. His sudden death from conditions that lead to heart failure came as a total shock to us all.”
Alan Myers, Devo’s drummer during the group’s creative peak, died last year of stomach cancer. He was 58.