25 August 2009

4 Above & 2 Below (apologies to Hole)

Today marks the 8th anniversary of the plane crash that killed Aaliyah. I can't believe it's been eight years already. I went to see Teena Marie in concert at City Hall Park here in NYC exactly 3 years ago when it was the fifth anniversary and Lady T (whose daughter, incidentally, is named Alia Rose) dedicated her show to Aaliyah.

Sigh. I really miss her.I was watching some of her videos on YouTube over the weekend. This one is my favorite.

Last week, I neglected to commemorate the birthdays of three musicians but I've heard that people are very forgiving once they get to heaven, so I don't think they're too pissed.

Isaac Hayes was born on 20 August 1942 in TN. At the legendary Stax Records, he was a songwriter and session musician for such artists as Sam & Dave and Johnnie Taylor before he went solo. (Sam & Dave's hit song "Hold On, I'm Comin'" got its title when Hayes and the duo were in the studio and those words were the response when one of them was being summoned from the bathroom.) He won an Oscar for the Shaft theme song. And, of course, he originated the Chef character on South Park. There was more to his life, obviously, so click here to read more.

Here he is performing my favorite song from the Shaft soundtrack, "Soulsville." Check out his infamous chainlink "shirt."

Philip Parris Lynott was also born on 20 August, but in 1949, in West Bromwich, England. His parents, a white Irish teenager named Philomena Lynott and Cecil Parris, a black man reportedly from Brazil, met in England where Philomena had found work; they never married, although in an interview, Philomena said that Cecil had wanted to. Philomena shipped her young son to Ireland for her mother to raise when he was three or four. Philip's childhood friend and later bandmate, drummer Brian Downey, said that Phil was always the only black kid in school when they were growing up in Dublin. As a teenager Lynott formed the band that became Thin Lizzy (where Philip sang, wrote or cowrote nearly all the songs and played bass) with Downey and a guitarist from Belfast named Eric Bell. They signed to Decca Records and recorded three albums before Bell quit the band, but not before scoring their first UK hit, a version of the Irish drinking song "Whiskey in the Jar." With various other guitarists like Gary Moore, Brian Robertson, and Scott Gorham, Thin Lizzy used a double-lead guitar sound (if something happened to one lead there was still another one, Philip later explained) and recorded ten more albums. Their biggest hit, "The Boys Are Back in Town," Lynott's tune about soldiers returning from Vietnam, can be found on 1976's Jailbreak; the song is still used today in TV commercials and movie trailers. Lynott released two solo records, published a book of poetry and song lyrics that he dedicated to his father, and formed other bands, such as Grand Slam and The Greedies (aka The Greedy Bastards). After years of drug and alcohol abuse, he fell ill at Christmas of 1985. A friend drove him to a rehab clinic where the staff determined that his organs were failing. He was rushed to a hospital where he eventually died on 4 January 1986. He left behind a wife and two young daughters along with a devastated Philomena.

"The Boys Are Back in Town" live

This song "The Man's a Fool" comes from his second solo record, The Philip Lynott Album.

I wrote more about Philip because I think Thin Lizzy is a severely underrated band (they did get their own episode of Behind the Music though) and Philip is my favorite bass player of all time. Two pieces of trivia: a bronze statue of Philip stands on Henry St. (if I'm not mistaken) in Dublin (UPDATE: I was mistaken. It's Harry St.); and Philip was proclaimed "The Father of Irish Rock" by the priest officiating his funeral (which the group U2 attended), as Thin Lizzy was the first band from the Republic of Ireland to become a worldwide success. And before you say,"But what about..." I will remind you that Van Morrison is from Belfast which is in Northern Ireland, not the Republic of Ireland.

John Graham Mellor, the son of a British diplomat, was born in Ankara, Turkey, on 21 August 1952. He grew up in Egypt, Mexico, and Germany before his parents enrolled him and his older brother David in a British boarding school when John was nine. Rarely seeing his parents while at the school, John immersed himself in American rock and roll and folk music. He took on the name "Woody" because of his obsession with Woody Guthrie. His world changed when his brother committed suicide in 1970 and soon after, John started art school, at first wanting to be a cartoonist. He later dropped out and began playing the guitar on the street for money, an activity that led him to the name that he eventually found fame with, Joe Strummer. After playing in other bands, Strummer joined the Clash in 1976, the most famous line-up of which included Mick Jones on lead guitar, Paul Simonon as the bass player, and drummer "Topper" Headon. The band imploded during the early '80s. Simonon and Strummer continued the Clash despite kicking out Jones and Headon, for personality conflicts and heroin addiction, respectively; the Clash finally quit in 1986. Strummer acted in movies (including a film called Straight to Hell which also featured Elvis Costello and a young Courtney Love) and performed in other bands like the Pogues and the Mescaleros. Strummer passed away from a heart attack caused by an undetected congenital heart defect on 22 December 2002, three months before the Clash was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was a young 50 years old.

Click here to see the Clash's video for "Bankrobber." Below is the Clash performing the group's foray into rap,"Magnificent Seven" on Tom Snyder's show in 1981.

Speaking of Elvis Costello, today is his 55th birthday. He, Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, "Little Steven" Van Zant, and No Doubt's rhythym section, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young performed "London Calling" as a tribute to Strummer at the Grammys in 2003.

Below is Costello when he was young, angry, and performing pigeon-toed.

Today is also the birthday of a fellow born Chaim Witz in Israel in 1949. He moved to America as a young boy and grew up intent on becoming a rabbi. Instead, after becoming an English teacher, he changed his name to Gene Simmons and played bass for KISS. Yeah, I know, totally different path.


  1. Hey

    Nice post - great to raise a fist for Joe Strummer - being on time wouldn't be an issue - the sentiment was right.


  2. Thanks for the reminder about Aaliyah. A friend gave me the news that day just before we went to a movie. I don't remember what movie we saw, but I do remember being stunned that someone that young and talented had lost her life. For a long time, I blamed her death for opening a void that was filled by the likes of (ugh) Ashanti. After 8 years, perhaps it's time for me to put down the Haterade!