Farewell

Below are brief tributes to some recent losses from across the world of music

Ronnie Spector
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Born: 10 August, 1943

Died: 12 January, 2022

 Veronica Bennett had the voice that Phil Spector had been looking for. Together, they made the record (Be My Baby) that Brian Wilson thought was the best record ever made. But her group, the Ronettes (with sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley) was short-lived, unable to survive Phil Spector's jealous close control of his now-wife. She fled the marriage in 1972. In the 80's she re-married happily, and properly restarted her career, later presenting an annual Christmas show on American TV, and continuing to influence many, including Amy Winehouse.

Leslie West
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Born: 22 October, 1945

Died: 23 December, 2020

The mountain in Mountain started out in a 1960s R&B band The Vagrants, but was looking for something meatier. Thus Mountain was born, blending West's practised tone and stunning vibrato on guitar with Felix Pappalardi's melodies and bass. A heavier Cream, often confused with heavy metal, Mountain provided a home for West on-and-off for 40 years; in between he worked with a Who's Who of rock's finest, and fronted his own band.

Howard Wales
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Born: 8 February, 1943

Died: 7 December, 2020

A versatile keyboard player and an R&B session musician in the 1960s, he failed an audition for The Grateful Dead. Shortly afterwards he contributed to the Dead's classic American Beauty (listen to the spare but exactly right organ on Candyman). He played a lot with Jerry Garcia, primarily at The Matrix, the club founded by Marty Balin of the Airplane in San Francisco, a collaboration that produced both a studio and a live album. After that he had a solo career, playing mainly free-form acid jazz, recording till as recently as 2018.

Tony Hooper
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Born: 14 September, 1939

Died: 18 November, 2020

A guitarist and founder member of the Strawbs, he quit after eight years and six albums, fearful of a drift towards pop stardom, and away from folk authenticity. Just over a decade later, and by now an electronics engineer, he joined the now-defunct Strawbs for a one-off reunion gig. It was so successful the band reformed, and Tony stayed with them for another ten years, before quitting again, this time to become the author of a wide range of children's educational books.

Ken Hensley
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Born: 24 August, 1945

Died: 4 November, 2020

Like many great guitarists born in the 40s he taught himself using the Bert Weedon book. He'd already learned piano, and his keyboards were an essential part of the classic Uriah Heep sound. I saw them just once; they were supporting The Groundhogs (who were strangely off form that night), at a theatre in Bromley (it might have been the only time it was used for a rock gig). Both bands were loud, Heep were loudest. Never the critics' favourites, they had - and still have - a loyal and dedicated following. Ken was wise enough to step back from the rock'n roll lifestyle before it claimed him, and had a full and rewarding life away from the band whose reputation he helped forge.

Jimmy Winston
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Born: 20 April, 1945

Died: 26 September, 2020

It would be unfair to say he was only in the group because his dad owned a pub which offered the nascent Small Faces a rehearsal space. More true to say the Small Faces was merely a diversion on the way to his preferred acting career. The owner of both a guitar and an organ, he played the latter, letting Steve Marriott major on the former. When he tried to upstage Marriott, the acknowledged front man, the group wanted him gone, and their manager Don Ardern made him an offer he couldn't refuse. He ought to be better known for the single he later wrote and made with Winston's Fumbs, Real Crazy Apartment, with future Yes member Tony Kaye on keyboards.