Barrett Strong Jr. (February 5, 1941 – January 28, 2023) was an American singer and songwriter. Strong was the first artist to record a hit for Motown, although he is best known for his work as a songwriter, particularly in association with producer Norman Whitfield. Among his most famous work at Motown, Strong wrote the lyrics for many of the songs recorded by the Temptations.
Strong was among the first artists signed to Berry Gordy’s fledgling label, Tamla Records, and was the performer on the company’s first hit, “Money (That’s What I Want)”, which reached No. 2 US R&B in 1960. The single was originally released on Tamla, Motown’s first label, but was then leased to the Anna label as it was getting airplay, and it was on the Anna label that it was a hit. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. “Money” was later recorded by a number of acts, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, the Kingsmen, Richard Wylie and His Band, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Searchers, the Flying Lizards, the Sonics, and Buddy Guy. Strong claimed that he co-wrote “Money” with Gordy and Janie Bradford; his name appears on the song’s original copyright registration with the United States Copyright Office. Gordy disputed these claims, stating that Strong’s name was only included because of a clerical error.
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Tom Verlaine (born Thomas Miller; December 13, 1949 – January 28, 2023) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, best known as the frontman of the New York City rock band Television.
Tom moved to Wilmington, Delaware, with his family at age of six. He began studying piano at an early age, but switched to saxophone in middle school after hearing a record by Stan Getz. Jazz saxophonists such as John Coltrane and Albert Ayler inspired him. Verlaine initially was unimpressed with the role of the guitar in both rock music and jazz, but was inspired to take up the instrument after hearing the Rolling Stones’ “19th Nervous Breakdown” during his adolescence, at which point he began a long period of experimentation to develop a personal style. A later musical influence of Verlaine’s became jazz musician Miles Davis’ electric-period recordings, particularly the Japanese LPs Agharta (1975) and Dark Magus (1977), which he was able to obtain as imports.
Tom’s family sent Verlaine and his twin brother John to a private prep school, The Sanford School. While John excelled in athletics and graduated in 1967, Tom’s interest leaned toward writing and poetry. At Sanford, Tom became friends with future bandmate and punk icon Richard Hell (Richard Meyers) They quickly discovered that they shared a passion for music and poetry. Neither Verlaine nor Hell graduated from Sanford and later moved to New York City.
In New York City, Miller created his stage name, a reference to the French symbolist poet Paul Verlaine. He is quoted as having said that this name was inspired by Bob Dylan’s name change and was a way of distancing himself from his past.
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Peter James McCann (March 6, 1948 – January 26, 2023) was an American songwriter, musician, lecturer, and songwriters’ activist. He was known for writing a hoard of successful pop-rock and country songs, including his 1977 solo hit “Do You Wanna Make Love” and “Right Time of the Night” for Jennifer Warnes.
McCann was educated in Bridgeport and Fairfield. At Fairfield University, he founded folk-rock group the Repairs, for which he served as guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist, and songwriter. He moved to Los Angeles in 1971 to record with the Repairs under the Motown label, and then was signed to ABC Records as a staff writer. McCann moved to Nashville in 1987 and began a long career as a staff writer and occasional recording artist. McCann also spent upwards of 25 years lobbying for songwriters’ rights in Washington, giving lectures on copyright law in several institutes of higher education across the United States.
During his career, McCann had been signed as a recording artist to Motown, 20th Century Fox, CBS Records and RCA Records. His songs have been recorded by Lynn Anderson, Paul Anka, Karen Carpenter, Shaun Cassidy, Crystal Gayle, Mickey Gilley, Lee Greenwood, Whitney Houston, Julio Iglesias, Jermaine Jackson, Michael Johnson, Nicolette Larson, Kathy Mattea, Reba McEntire, Michael McDonald, Anne Murray, Ricky Nelson, The Oak Ridge Boys, K.T. Oslin, Donny Osmond, Buck Owens, Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, John Travolta, Bobby Vinton, Shelly West, among others.
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Charles Thomas (April 7, 1937 – January 31, 2023) was an American singer best known for his work with The Drifters. Thomas was performing with The Five Crowns at the Apollo Theater in 1958 when George Treadwell fired his group, called The Drifters. Treadwell recruited the Five Crowns to become the new Drifters.
The new Drifters’ first release was the 1959 hit “There Goes My Baby”. Charlie was lead singer on two of the group’s top 40 hits, “Sweets for My Sweet” and “When My Little Girl Is Smiling”.
Charlie Thomas was the father of Charles “Happy” Thomas Jr. and grandfather of hip hop producer Charlie “Bambu” Thomas.
Thomas died from liver cancer on January 31, 2023 at the age of 85.
Thomas was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 as a member of the Drifters and was given a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1999. On May 21, 2011, in Cranston, Rhode Island, Thomas and The Drifters performed at the Vintage New England Theater.
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OTHER NOTABLE MUSICIANS’ DEATHS:
We’re really starting to lose our older generations. If there is a group or a performer that is over the age of 65, go to see them now or you’ll only get to see them on PBS fund raisers if you are lucky! If you want to know more about any of the musicians we lost, please check them out at http://www.wikipedia.com
1: Maria Mykolaychuk, 81, Ukrainian singer and actress.
31: Donnie Marsico, 68, American singer (The Jaggerz); Charlie Thomas*, 85, American Hall of Fame singer (The Drifters), liver cancer.
29: Heddy Lester, 72, Dutch singer and actress; Barrett Strong, 81, American singer (“Money (That’s What I Want)”) and songwriter (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”); Gabriel Tacchino, 88, French classical pianist.
28: Odd Børre, 83, Norwegian pop singer (Eurovision Song Contest 1968); Tom Verlaine, 73, American musician (Television), songwriter (“Marquee Moon”) and producer (Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk).
27: Floyd Sneed*, 80, Canadian drummer (Three Dog Night); Daniel Lewis Williams, 73, American operatic basso profondo, complications from Alzheimer’s disease.
* Floyd Chester Sneed (November 22, 1942 – January 27, 2023) was a Canadian drummer, best known for his work with the band Three Dog Night.
Born in the Canadian city of Calgary, Sneed grew up in a musical family (his parents were both musicians at their church) and became interested in drums at an early age. His first drum kit was a gift from his older sister Maxine, who at the time was married to the musician-actor Tommy Chong. He was in a band called the “Calgary Shades” that included his pianist older brother Bernie Sneed (1940–2016). He soon began performing in the Vancouver area as part of Chong’s band, Little Daddy and the Bachelors.
In 1966, Sneed formed his own band and moved to Los Angeles, California. In 1968, he met a trio of vocalists (Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, and Cory Wells), who had a contract with Dunhill Records and were looking for backing musicians. Sneed joined their new band, Three Dog Night, which became a commercial success in the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s. Sneed sang backup on only one song with the band; he did the deep vocal on “Joy to the World”, singing the lyric “I wanna tell you.” . .
Sneed regularly appeared in concert on percussion and drums with former Three Dog Night lead singer Chuck Negron through the 1990s and 2000s, and is credited on Chuck Negron’s Live In Concert released in 2001.
Sneed was descended from the original black settlers to Alberta’s Amber Valley, Alberta – their migration to Canada under Clifford Sifton’s campaign to entice U.S. farmers to settle in the prairies.
Sneed died on January 27, 2023, at the age of 80.
26: Dean Daughtry, 76, American keyboard player (The Candymen, Classics IV, Atlanta Rhythm Section); Peter McCann*, 74, American songwriter (“Do You Wanna Make Love”, “Right Time of the Night”) and musician.
24: Jackson Rohm, 51, American singer-songwriter.
Photo: Barrett Strong (from Facebook –