Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in August 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:

August 04
John Gosling → Keyboards and vocals for Brit pop-rock The Kinks and ten albums from 1970, debuted with the band for the mega-hit “Lola” (#9, UK #1, 1970) but left in 1978 after growing tired of long hours in the studio, constant touring, and infighting, formed short-lived Net Worth with Kinks bandmate Andy Pyle, then taught music and ran a record shop northwest of London until co-founding The Kast Off Kinks in 1990 with Pyle and other former Kinks musicians, retired in 2006 and died from an unspecified illness on 8/4/2023, age 75.

August 06
David LaFlamme / (David Gordon LaFlamme) → Classically-trained violinist, performed with the Utah Symphony Orchestra as a youth and later fell into the 60s counter-culture scene in San Francisco, in 1967 co-founded and fronted acclaimed but commercially less successful, psych-folk-rock It’s A Beautiful Day, their most memorable song “White Bird” (1969) was updated as a disco version in 1976 off a solo debut album and peaked at #89, issued six additional solo albums through 2005 and a lone album by a reconstituted IABD in 2013, suffered from Parkinson’s disease in his later years and died on 8/6/2023, age 82.

August 08
Jamie Reid / (Jamie Macgregor Reid) → English visual artist and graphic designer best know for creating the logo for punk-rock deities Sex Pistols and the iconic covers to genre-leading singles “Anarchy In The UK” (UK #33, 1976) and “God Save The Queen” (UK #2, 1977), plus covers to their debut album and several later LPs, his artwork outraged proper British society while inspiring young punks in London’s rebellious mid-70s cultural scene, spent the next four decades designing graphics for next-generation neo-punk bands, plus other radical and activist social causes, died at home from unannounced causes on 8/8/2023, age 76.
“Sixth Prince” Rodriguez / (Sixto Diaz Rodriguez) → Detroit-based Mexican-American R&B singer with two unnoticed albums in the U.S. in the 70s but with significant airplay and fan appreciation elsewhere, including Australia and South Africa, toured and issued a live album in Australia in the early 80s but largely lived a working class life out of the limelight in Detroit for 30 years until enjoying a double-resurgence of interest when re-discovered in the late 90s and featured in a 2012 documentary Searching For Sugar Man, died from unspecified causes on 8/8/2023, age 81.

August 09
Robbie Robertson / (Jaime Royal Robertson) → Canadian musician, songwriter and key architect of Americana music, started as lead guitarist for Ronnie Hawkins & The Hawks in the late 50s/early-60s and Bob Dylan’s backing band in the mid-60s, both groups evolving into seminal folk-rock The Band, wrote most of the group’s best-known songs, including “The Weight” (#63, CAN #35, 1968), “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (1969), “Up On Cripple Creek” (#25, CAN #10, 1970), later wrote film scores for numerous motion pictures, including eleven in collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, among them The Band’s finale concert The Last Waltz (1978) and Raging Bull (1980), issued six solo albums over 30 years, the last, Sinematic (#17) in 2019, suffered from prostate cancer for a year before dying on 8/9/2023, age 80.

August 13
Clarence Avant / (Clarence Alexander Avant) → Dubbed “The Black Godfather” in a 2019 video documentary, music industry entrepreneur with a long and remarkable career as a deal-maker, power-broker, record label executive, film producer, FM radio station owner, sports talent agent, community betterment advocate, and tireless supporter of Black musicians from Quincy Jones to Whitney Houston and Black luminaries from Hank Aaron to Barack Obama, his contributions to the music industry earned a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021, died at home from natural causes on 8/13/2023, age 92.

August 17
Gary Young / (Garrit Allan Robertson Young) → Concert promoter and recording studio owner in Stockton, California, engineered indie rock Pavement’s first three EPs in his studio and played drums for the influential band on the EPs plus “Cut Your Hair” (Alt Rock #10, UK #52, 1994) and the seminal indie rock LP Slanted And Enchanted (1992), departed in 1994 due to disputes with his bandmates, issued three albums fronting Gary Young’s Hospital and a solo album in 2016, patented and sold thousands of hand-made units of a Universal Shock Mount for microphones until his death from complications of long-term alcohol abuse on 8/17/2023, age 70.
Bobby Eli / (Eli Tatarsky) → Multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, record producer and key figure in the development if Philly soul music through his association with the Gamble & Huff songwriting team, as a session guitarist at Philadelphia International Records and Sigma Sound Studios, and as a member of the studio collective MFSB, or Mother Father Sister Brother, that released seven studio albums in the 70s and one mega-hit, “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” (#1, R&B #1, 1974), played on hundreds of songs and dozens of albums by soul and funk giants The Spinners, Teddy Pendergrass and many others, wrote several hits, including “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” (#5, R&B #1, 1975) for Major Harris, opened his own recording studio in 2006, produced and recorded music for others, and mentored young musicians until suffering a stroke in 2017, died in his sleep from natural causes on 8/17/2023, age 77.

August 18
2023 ● Ray Hildebrand / (Raymond Glenn Hildebrand) → With his friend Jill Jackson, vocals in pre-Beatlemania pop duet Paul & Paula and five Top 100 singles in 1963, including the self-penned, 1962-released, surprise chart-topper “Hey Paula” (#1, R&B #1, 1962) and the follow-up “Young Lovers” (#6, 1963), left the music industry in the late 60s but returned in the 80s as a Christian music artist, occasionally reunited with Jackson into the 2000s on the oldies circuit and TV specials, died from complications of dementia on 8/18/2023, age 82.

August 23
Bob Feldman / (Robert C. Feldman) → Record producer and songwriter with a slew of 60s pop hits in his canon, mostly co-written with fellow Brill Building writers Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer as FGG Productions, including “My Boyfriend’s Back” for the Angels (#1, 1963), the trio also recorded as the fictional Australian band The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy,” #11, CAN #7, 1964) and produced The McCoys‘ “Hang On Sloopy” (#1, 1964) – now the official rock song of the State of Ohio – relocated to Los Angeles in 1966 with Goldstein, recorded as the duet Rome & Paris and produced records for the Belmonts and Link Wray, moved to Nashville in the 90s, continued to write music and publish a memoir, died from undisclosed causes on 8/23/2023, age 68.

August 24
Bernie Marsden / (Bernard John Marsden) → English guitarist and member of hard rock Whitesnake from 1978 to 1982, co-wrote with bandmate David Coverdale numerous songs, including the hits “Fool For Your Loving” (#53, UK #13, 1980) and “Here I Go Again” (#1, UK #9, 1987), issued two solo albums while with Whitesnake and another 21 after leaving the band, including Kings (2021), a tribute to Albert King, Freddie King and B.B. King, gigged and recorded with multiple other artists on dozens of albums and in various bands over the years, died from bacterial meningitis on 8/24/2023, age 72.

August 28
Len Chandler / (Len Hunt Chandler Jr.) → Child musical prodigy and classically trained oboist, performed with the Akron Sympathy Orchestra while in high school, moved to New York City in the late 50s and soon fell into the burgeoning Greenwich Village folk revival scene, played alongside Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and other folk luminaries at 60s civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, moved to Los Angeles in 1968 to speed-write three topical songs per day for a novelty radio program, co-founded in 1971 the Songwriters Showcase, where songwriters performed new material for music publishers and recording executives, suffered a series of strokes in his last years and died on 08/28/2023, age 88.

August 30
Jack Sonni / (John Thomas Sonni) → Rhythm guitarist and leader of New York-based pop-rock The Leisure Class, a chance encounter in 1984 with Dire Straits frontman Mark Knopfler at a New York City guitar shop led to his hiring as second guitarist for on the Grammy-winning album Brothers In Arms (Worldwide #1, 1985) and the supporting world tour, including a performance at the Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium in July 1985, left the band in the late-80s for session work and various marketing positions in the music retail world, including vice president of marketing at Guitar Center retail chain in the early 00s, switched to writing in the 00s and performed with other former Straits musicians in Dire Straits Legacy through the 10s, died from unspecified causes on 8/30/2023, age 68.

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