Category Archives: RIP

Maggie Roche, gentle, New Jersey native singer-songwriter dies at 65 (Videos)

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Maggie, Suzzy, and Terre Roche (Photo by Irene Young via The Roches Facebook page)

Maggie Roche, the eldest of the three folk-singing sisters from Bergen County, New Jersey, who performed as The Roches, died Saturday morning.

Maggie, who always seemed like the sensible, quiet sister, was 65 when she lost her battle with cancer.

Younger sister Suzzy Roche confirmed the death in a loving Facebook farewell, saying she and Maggie spent  “the last month and a half helping each other through her final journey.”

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How Ron Wasserman’s visit with Fred Hellerman, the last living member of The Weavers folk quartet, resulted in a world premiere

Ron Wasserman, front left, with the New York Jazzharmonic. (Mihyun Kang)

Ron Wasserman, front left, with the New York Jazzharmonic. (Mihyun Kang)

Fred Hellerman, the sole surviving member of the famous 1950s folk quartet the Weavers until his death on Sept. 1 at the age of 89, wanted to be more than just a folkie, his son, Caleb Hellerman told The Washington Post.

The quartet – which Hellerman founded with Pete Seeger, Ronnie Gilbert, and Lee Hays — was immensely popular for its vocal harmonies and faux naïve guitar-and-banjo versions of songs like Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene,” other now-standard folk songs including “On Top of Old Smoky” and “The Hammer Song.”

Hellerman, the son of a poor immigrant couple, taught himself to play the guitar while serving in the Coast Guard during World War II and never studied music.

As a result, he longed to be taken seriously as a musician, and was always self-conscious about his lack of musical education, his son said. “He wanted to be seen as a serious musician and composer,” he said.

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On June 28, just two months before Hellerman died, the New York Jazzharmonic gave him just the boost he wanted by giving one of Hellerman composition’s, “Fourths of July,” its world premiere at the Washington Square Music Festival.

It was almost by chance that Ron Wasserman of New City, the Jazzharmonic’s artistic director, found out about the piece a year ago and began the process of bringing it to the world.

“When I started talking about this with him, it was really kind of thrilling, because I felt like I’d made a discovery,” Wasserman explains.

Hellerman was old friends with Wasserman’s mother, retired singer Joan Wile.

“She sang with him in another group he had after the Weavers, called the Neighbors. The Weavers were blacklisted for a while, so he formed the Neighbors, and my mother was in that group.”

Hellerman and Wile had fallen out of touch, but reconnected in the last several years, says Wasserman, who soon learned that Hellerman possessed some demo recordings he had produced for Wile.

Hellerman wasn’t able to email digital copies of the recordings, so Wasserman paid the elderly musician a visit.

“I went over to his house and got the recordings, which are actually really good, some of the best recordings I’ve heard of my mother singing back in the day.”

Hellerman was intent on getting Wasserman’s attention for something else.

“He was like, ‘I’ve got to play you this piece I wrote,'” Wasserman says. “He had a MIDI computer realization of the piece. He says, ‘I wrote this 30 years ago and nobody’s played it…

“It was a good piece, it was a patriotic kind of piece that the Boston Pops would play, sort of like a theme and variations on ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy.’ So I was like, yeah, I’m gonna do the piece,” Wasserman says.

Wasserman learned that the germ of Hellerman’s idea came from his son, Caleb, who was then an infant.

“When his son was a baby in the crib, he used to scream. In the morning he would wake up like an alarm clock screaming out ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy,'” explains Wasserman. Hellerman learned to turn the noisy distraction into something productive by composing countermelodies in his head. “Eventually, a number of years later, the piece had stuck with him, and that’s how he wrote it. So he dedicated it to his son.”

Because it was written for conventional string orchestra, Wasserman had to recorchestrate it for his 17-piece jazz band.

Over the months between Wasserman’s initial discussions with Hellerman and the June concert date, Hellerman’s health deteriorated. He was too frail to attend the premiere at New York University’s Frederick Loewe Theatre.

“That’s the great irony, the irony of ironies. But his family was there, and they had a great time,” Wasserman says.

Though Hellerman couldn’t attend the premiere, Wasserman found the Washington Square Music Festival audience was very aware of its composer.

“I said to the crowd, ‘You guys remember Fred Hellerman?’ And of course, down there in the Village everybody remembered Fred Hellerman.”

Pete Seeger, Hudson Valley-based singer, activist, environmentalist dead at 94 (video, playlist)

Pete Seeger onstage at a 2009 rally in Memorial Park, Nyack, N.Y. (© 2009, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Pete Seeger onstage at a 2009 rally in Memorial Park, Nyack, N.Y. (© 2009, Steven P. Marsh/willyoumissme.com)

Pete Seeger is dead.

The legendary musician, environmentalist, and activist, a longtime resident of Beacon, N.Y., died Monday at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan, The New York Times reports.

His death comes six months after his wife, Toshi, died just short of their 70th wedding anniversary.

He continued to work after Toshi’s death, appearing in September at a Farm Aid Concert in Saratoga Springs, reports Peter Kramer of The Journal News in a wonderful obituary posted on lohud.com. (Be sure to check out the great video on lohud.com, including this raw footage of a rambling interview at Seeger’s Beacon home. Continue reading

Stew stirs things up with fantastic new songs at Barbès

The hat was more crumpled at Barbès on July 25, but Stew's energy was at a peak. (Photo © 2012, Steven P.  Marsh)

The hat was more crumpled than this at Barbès on July 25 and Stew’s energy level seemed higher than usual. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

By the time his latest gig in his musical living room (aka Park Slope, Brooklyn, boîte Barbès) rolled around Thursday night, July 25, singer-songwriter and Tony Award winner Stew had dumped his original staged plan to play versions of his songs from Passing Strange and other numbers from his extensive repertoire.

Instead, he launched into a tight song cycle “inspired by recent events.” In other words, songs about George Zimmerman and the Trayvon Martin case. If yoy don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s time to get out from under that rock where you’ve been living and catch up on the news!

If you’re a Passing Strange fan who passed on the show for one reason or another and are thinking now that this make you feel OK about missing, hold that thought. I’m here to tell you differently. Continue reading

RIP Faye Hunter, bass player with Let’s Active

Faye Hunter via Fidelitorium Recordings' Facebook page

Faye Hunter via Fidelitorium Recordings’ Facebook page.

Faye Hunter, a North Carolina-based musician best known for her work as the bass player 1980’s jangle-pop band Let’s Active with Mitch Easter and Sara Romweber, died Saturday.

The 59-year-old died of apparent suicide, according to a blog post by David Menconi on the website of The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

UPDATE: Peter Holsapple of The Db’s reacts

Those of us who grew up with Faye also knew her as a sweet, droll and artistic friend who unintentionally served as something of a den mother and big sister to many of the younger musicians in town, myself included. … It is hard to imagine a world without Faye Hunter. We all wish we could have done more to help her, but we couldn’t.

Click here for the full text of Holsapple’s tribute.

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Speed the Plough joins Bar/None’s July 24 farewell to Maxwell’s

Speed the Plough at Maxwell's on Oct. 20, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

Speed the Plough at Maxwell’s on Oct. 20, 2012. (Photo © 2012, Steven P. Marsh)

STP is part of a promised ‘cavalcade of mystery stars’ joining Headliners Freedy Johnston and Band, James Mastro’s Health & Happiness Show and Chris Stamey with Anton Fier and Gene Holder

Myrna and the Hangar Boys (Human Switchboard’s Myrna Marcarian, Jared Michael Nickerson, Dave Schramm and Ron Metz) join lineup

WFMU to broadcast live from the lounge

Even before Maxwell’s closing was announced, Speed the Plough was gearing up get active again. The band, which can trace its lineage back to The Feelies through The Trypes, became active in 2009 after a long hiatus, but has been picking up steam lately in anticipation of a new album — a compilation of some of its long-out-of-print music from the early days plus six brand-new tracks.

But now they’re preparing to say goodbye to the venerated Hoboken club with one last gig there, on Thursday, July 24, as part of a Bar/None record label lineup.

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Maxwell’s bowing out with a block party; many details still to be revealed

Patrons enter Maxwell's at 11th and Washington streets in Hoboken, on July 5, 2013, (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

Maxwell’s at 11th and Washington streets in Hoboken, is planning a farewell block party on July 31. (Photo © 2013, Steven P. Marsh)

NJ.com
is reporting
that Maxwell’s, the restaurant and music
club in Hoboken, N.J., will make its farewell with a block party on
11th Street at Washington Street on July 31. It’s clearly an effort
by longtime booker and co-owner Todd
Abramson
to make the 200-capacity club accessible to
the masses of people who will want to be a part of the venerated
venue’s last day. But a block party with DJ music as its final
event?

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