Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door (Notable Deaths in April 2023)

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We note with sadness the following contributors to rock and pop music of the 50s through the 80s – the BEST music ever made! – who died last month:

April 02
Seymour Stein / (Seymour Steinbigle) → Teenaged entry-level clerk at Billboard magazine, helped develop the Hot 100 singles chart in 1958 before taking a post-high school job with industry legend Syd Nathan and King Records in Cincinnati, left in 1963 to return to New York and work at Red Bird Records alongside the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, co-founded Sire Records in 1966 as a production company licensing British acts in the U.S., began signing New York punk bands to the label in the 70s, including the Ramones, Talking Heads and the Dead Boys, plus UK bands Madness, Soft Cell, the Pretenders and others, sold Sire to Warner Bros. Records in 1978 and served the company in various senior executive positions until retiring in 2018, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005 with a Lifetime Achievement Award, died at home from brain cancer on 4/2/2023, age 80.

April 06
Nora Forster / (Nora Maier Forster) → German publishing heiress and music promoter in the 70s for Jimi Hendrix, Yes and others, moved to London about 1970 and fell into the bohemian scene, supported the nascent punk rock movement in the mid-70s with financial backing and den-mother encouragement for up-and-coming bands like Sex Pistols and The Clash, as well as her daughter Ari Up (Ariane Forster) and her all-female punk band The Slits, married bad-boy Johnny Rotten (John Lydon) of the Sex Pistols in 1979 and stayed married, and mostly out of the limelight since the 80s, until her death from Alzheimer’s disease on 4/6/2023, age 80.

April 07
Ian Bairnson / (John Bairnson) → Scottish multi-instrumentalist session musician, joined pop-rock Pilot in 1973 and played guitar on “Magic” (#5, UK #11, 1974) and other hits, left in 1978 with other bandmates to form The Alan Parsons Project (“Eye In The Sky,” #3, CAN #1, 1982), appeared on all 11 of the group’s albums, on the side played on art-pop-rock Kate Bush’s first four albums, played with MOR pop Bucks Fizz and co-wrote “If You Can’t Stand the Heat” (UK#10, 1983) and “Run for Your Life” (UK #14, 1983) for the band, did session work on over 100 albums by Joe Cocker, Mick Fleetwood, Neil Diamond and many others, appeared live with Eric Clapton and others, stopped performing in 2018 and died from dementia on 4/7/2023, age 69.
John Regan / (John Michael Regan) → Bass guitarist and session musician, joined Peter Frampton’s backing band in 1979 and toured and recorded with him for over 30 years, worked in Frehley’s Comet with ex-Kiss member Ace Frehley from 1984 to 1990, recorded albums with a number of artists over the decades, including David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Billy Idol, and David Lee Roth and dozens of others, died from undisclosed causes on 4/07/2023, age 71.
Lasse Wellander / (Lars-Ove Wellander) → Swedish pop-rock guitarist best known for his 50-year career with the backing band for superstar vocal quartet ABBA (“Dancing Queen,” worldwide #1, 1976), and supporting the solo careers of the band’s principals after ABBA dissolved in the mid-80s, issued several solo albums and nearly 20 singles, the last three in 2022 before dying from an undisclosed cancer diagnosis on 4/07/2023, age 70.

April 12
Megan Terry / (Marguerite Duffy) → Obie-winning avant garde playwright generally credited with writing and staging the first rock musical, Viet Rock, in 1966, which openly protested the Vietnam War and predated the far-more successful show Hair (1968), went on to a 50-year career writing over 70 other stage performances and serving as playwright-in-residence at an Omaha (NE) theater, died in a hospital from undisclosed causes on 4/12/2023, age 90.

April 13
Mary Quant / (Dame Barbara Mary Quant) → The “mother of the miniskirt,” fashion revolutionary at the forefront of the flourishing mod scene in London from the late 50s and into the Swinging 60s, introduced short skirts, hot pants, colorful clothing and trend-setting styles to drab post-war London, first from her Chelsea boutique and then with a global brand that was sold – and copied – worldwide by the mid-70s, her loyal customers included The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and many other rock stars of the day, branched into household goods and makeup in the 80s and stayed at the helm of her business until 2000, died from undisclosed causes on 4/12/2023, age 90.

April 14
Cliff Fish / (Clifford Victor Fish) → Bass guitarist and co-founding member of Brit pop-rock Paper Lace and three UK Top 20 hits in a single year: “The Night Chicago Died” (#1, UK #3, 1974), “Billy Don’t Be A Hero” (#96, UK #1, 1974) and “The Black-Eyed Boys” (#41, UK #11, 1974), left the band in 1980 but returned in the 90s and toured with one of two competing Paper Lace offshoots, died from cancer on 4/14/2023, age 73.

April 17
April Stevens / (Caroline Vincinette LoTempio) → Traditional 50s pop singer with one Top 10 single, Cole Porter’s “I’m In Love Again,” (#6, 1951) and two other minor hits through the decade, later formed a pop duet with brother Nino Tempo (Antonio LoTempio) and recorded a spoken-word-and-song version of the jazz-pop standard “Deep Purple” (#1, R&B #4, 1963), won a Grammy Award for best rock ‘n’ roll single and followed with “Whispering” (#11, 1964) but succumbed to the British Invasion as their MOR-pop style fell out of favor, stopped performing in the late 70s and led a quiet life out of the limelight, died from brain cancer on 4/28/2023, age 71.

April 18
Otis “O3” Redding III / (Otis Ray Redding III) → Singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, son of soul great Otis Redding and founding member of funk-soul The Reddings with brother Dexter and bandmate Mark Lockett, their disco hit “Remote Control” (#89, R&B #6, Dance #21, 1980) was the most successful of a handful of singles released off six studio albums in the 80s, enjoyed a solo career thereafter and spent the 2000s managing the family’s charitable foundation, died from cancer on 4/18/2023, age 59.

April 21
Mark Stewart → Teenaged co-founder, vocalist and frontman for Brit post-punk The Pop Group (“We Are All Prostitutes,” UK Indie #8, 1979) known for his expressive delivery of politically-charged lyrics above an the band’s eclectic mix of funk, dub, free jazz and hard rock, performed as a solo artist from 1981 and released eight eclectic studio albums, the last, VS, in 2022, collaborated with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack and others as well as the dub music collective known as New Age Steppers, reformed The Pop Group in 2010 and issued two albums in 2015-2016, died from unspecified causes on 4/21/2023, age 62.

April 25
Harry Belafonte / (Harold George Bellanfanti Jr.) → Songwriter, actor, social activist and beloved 50s-60s pop and adult contemporary singer best known as the “King of Calypso” for popularizing Caribbean ethnic music globally through “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” (#5, UK #2, 1956) and five other Top 25 hits plus three successive Top 5 albums in the U.S. in 1956-57, switched to an MOR sound in the 60s, appeared in numerous films and recorded into the 70s, endorsed the Kennedy Presidency in 1960 and followed with a long, outspoken and respected career supporting various civil rights, humanitarian and liberal political issues worldwide from the 60s through the 10s, died at home in New York City from congestive heart failure on 4/25/2023, age 96.
Ralph Humphrey → Rock, jazz and fusion drummer, music educator and session player, drummed in The Don Ellis Big Band from 1968 to 1973 and on the soundtrack to the 1971 film The French Connection, toured and recorded with Frank Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention in the mid-70s, did session work for Al Jarreau, Seals & Crofts, the Manhattan Transfer and dozens of others in the 70s to the 90s, co-founded (with Joe Porcaro and others) the Los Angeles Music Academy in 1996, taught percussion at LAMA and performed sessions for television, motion pictures, record albums and jingles until his death from cancer on 4/25/2023, age 78.
Billy “The Kid” Emerson / (Rev. William Robert Emerson) → Rock ‘n’ roll and blues singer, songwriter and future preacher, performed in Ike Turner’s backing band Kings of Rhythm in the early 50s, recorded the self-penned, now-standard “Red Hot” at Sun Records in 1955, moved to Chess Records as recording manager in the late 50s and formed Tarpon Records in 1966, issued over 20 non-charting singles through 1980 before switching careers and becoming an ordained minister, eventually forming his own small congregation in Florida, died in a nursing home from natural causes on 4/25/2023, age 97.

April 27
Wee Wee Harris / (Charles William Harris) → “Britain’s wild man of rock ‘n’ roll,” diminutive (5’2”) stage and TV singer and actor known for frenetic performances and brightly colored hair and clothing, a 1957 airing of his performance on BBC caused concern in the media that the network was promoting teenage decadence, issued eight non-charting singles in the 60s and played the nostalgia circuit through the 90s, stayed largely out of the limelight in the 00s and 10s except for a 30-track compilation CD and biography in 2018, died from undisclosed causes on 4/27/2023, age 90.
Mike Gregory / (Michael Gregory) → Bass guitarist and vocalist in two Merseybeat bands, The Escorts (“The One To Cry,” UK #49, 1964) from 1962-67-and the Swinging Blue Jeans (“Hippy Hippy Shake,” #24, UK #2, 1963)) from 1967-72, co-founded Big John’s Rock & Roll Circus in 1973 (later to become The Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus after the death of frontman Johnny Goodison) and performed with the band through 2005, spent the next 18 years as a solo retro-60s vocalist, died from unspecified causes on 4/27/2023, age 76.

April 28
Tim Bachman / (Timothy Gregg Bachman) → With his brothers Randy and Robbie, founding member and guitarist for Canadian hard rockers Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the band scored five straight Top 10 hits in Canada in 1974 and 1975, including “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” (#1, CAN #1, 1974), left in 1974 due to differences with older brother Randy, rejoined for a 1984 reunion and tours in 1987 and 1988, became a real estate agent in the 90s and 2000s, was charged twice in the 10s but not convicted for alleged child-sex cases in the 90s, was not included when his bandmates were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2014, died from brain cancer on 4/28/2023, age 71.
Johnny Fean → Joined Irish band Horslips in 1972 as guitarist and played with the Celtic rock pioneers for nearly 50 years through various dissolutions, reformations, and spin-offs, in 2008 played with horn rock The Miami Showband and later formed The Johnny Fean Band with Miami bandmate Stephen Travers, rejoined Horslips for occasional live performances in the 10s and died at home from unspecified causes on 4/28/2023, age 71.

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