Archive for the Obituaries Category

Brown Bread: Bert Jansch

Posted in Music, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Bert Jansch, a leading figure in the British folk revival of the 60s and one of the most respected musicians of his generation, has died of cancer aged 67.

A founding member of Pentangle, Jansch was also renowned as a guitar virtuoso and was sometimes hailed as a British Bob Dylan. Born in Glasgow on 3 November 1943, he released 23 solo albums, the last of which, The Black Swan (2006), featured collaborations with Beth Orton and Devendra Banhart.

Jansch was the recipient of two lifetime achievement prizes at the BBC Folk awards – one for his solo achievements in 2001 and the other, in 2007, as a member of Pentangle. The band reformed in 2008.

In June 2009, he discovered he had a golf ball-size tumour on one of his lungs following what was at first a routine visit to the dentist. Following treatment, he went on to co-headline a US tour with Neil Young. Jansch had recently been forced to cancel a live show in Edinburgh due to ill health and was living in a hospice in north London at the time of his death.

Those he influenced included Jimmy Page, Nick Drake, Graham Coxon, Donovan, Bernard Butler and Paul Simon. According to fellow guitarist Johnny Marr: “He completely reinvented guitar playing and set a standard that is still unequalled today … without Bert Jansch, rock music as it developed in the 60s and 70s would have been very different.”

Jansch told the Grauniad newspaper last year: “I’m not one for showing off. But I guess my guitar-playing sticks out.”

R.I.P. Bert Jansch 1943-2011

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Brown Bread: Miriam Karlin

Posted in Books, Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 13, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

“The sequinned grande dame of British theatre, a Jewish legend and Equity terrorist.” Anthony Sher

“I can’t imagine being anything but left-wing. I was brought up in a home where justice was the most important quality. I’m part of a race that has survived 2,000 years of persecution. I think, if I’d had any ambition at all, I would like to have been the first female British Prime Minister. I would have been a rather lovely English Golda Meir, a benevolent dictator. I am, shall I say, a Utopian socialist. I have an idealistic dream of a wondrous socialist world where there will be a real brotherhood of man. I know it will never happen, but it doesn’t hurt to have such belief, and it keeps me going.” Miriam Karlin

Miriam Karlin, who has died of cancer aged 85, was a pillar of the British acting establishment who was also a fully paid-up member of the awkward squad. During sixty workaholic years, she acted in every area of the performing arts except ballet and the circus, and is fondly remembered as the truculent, whistle-blowing shop steward Paddy (complete with her catchphrase “Everybody out!”) in the classic TV sitcom The Rag Trade. Parallel to her life as a performer, she was a dedicated political activist, spurred on by her lifelong socialist beliefs and an unerring sense of justice, promoting broadly leftwing causes as a member of the council of the actors’ union Equity, and as a campaigner for the Anti-Nazi League, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Soviet Jewry.

She had been unwell for a number of years, suffering from peripheral neuropathy for a decade.

Here is the last page of her 2007 autobiography Some Sort of a Life, based on conversations with writer and director Jan Sargent:

I don’t think I’ll last much longer. I have to say that the contemplation of my own death only frightens me if I think it’s going to be painful and if I can’t control how I go. The idea of not being here only frightens me in terms of my vanity: I hope that I die looking good with my teeth in and that people won’t say awful things about me. I hope that the obituaries will be nice. Perhaps what I am writing now is my own; that’s what it feels like, some sort of a life story.

I don’t want another 20 years in pain; I can’t contemplate very much more of it. I want to say that’s enough, thank you, been there, done that, got all the T-shirts, let’s now finish it in a dignified fashion. I don’t want to die throwing up everywhere; I would just like to die nice and quietly. If only I hadn’t given that damn “Do It Yourself” book to somebody who never gave it back …

I love conversations and talking on the phone, but it’s probably because I have always lived alone. I’d miss gossip, not being here. I’d miss going to wonderful concerts listening to beautiful music. I don’t believe any longer in heaven; I don’t think I am going to hear beautiful harps in a mystical place. I think this is all there is. I’d miss music and my friends. I’ve got some wonderful friends that I’ve had for a very long time, and of course I’d miss my brother, my sister-in-law and my niece Vivien. I can’t really say “I’d miss” because I’d be dead, so I wouldn’t know how to; but if one could, those are the things I’d miss.

R.I.P. Miriam Karlin (Miriam Samuels) 1925-2011

Brown Bread: Gil Scott-Heron

Posted in Music, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

(Source: Grauniad)

The musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron – best known for his pioneering rap The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – has died at the age of 62, having fallen ill after a European trip.

Jamie Byng, his UK publisher, announced the news via Twitter: “Just heard the very sad news that my dear friend and one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, the great Gil Scott-Heron, died today.”

Scott-Heron’s spoken word recordings helped shape the emerging hip-hop culture. Generations of rappers cite his work as an influence.

He was known as the Godfather of Rap but disapproved of the title, preferring to describe what he did as “bluesology” – a fusion of poetry, soul, blues and jazz, all shot through with a piercing social conscience and strong political messages, tackling issues such as apartheid and nuclear arms.

“If there was any individual initiative that I was responsible for it might have been that there was music in certain poems of mine, with complete progression and repeating ‘hooks’, which made them more like songs than just recitations with percussion,” Scott-Heron wrote in the introduction to his 1990 Now and Then collection of poems.

He was best known for The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, the critically acclaimed recording from his first album Small Talk at 125th and Lenox, and for his collaborations with jazz/funk pianist and flautist Brian Jackson.

In The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, first recorded in 1970, he issued a fierce critique of the role of race in the mass media and advertising age. “The revolution will not be right back after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people,” he sang.

He performed at the No Nukes concerts, held in 1979 at Madison Square Garden. The concerts were organised by a group called Musicians United for Safe Energy and protested against the use of nuclear energy following the meltdown at Three Mile Island. The group included singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne, Graham Nash and Bonnie Raitt.

Scott-Heron’s song We Almost Lost Detroit, written about a previous accident at a nuclear power plant, is sampled on rapper Kanye West’s single The People. Scott-Heron’s 2010 album, I’m New Here, was his first new studio release in 16 years and was hailed by critics. The album’s first song, On Coming From a Broken Home, is an ode to his maternal grandmother, Lillie, who raised him in Jackson, Tennessee, until her death when he was 13. He moved to New York after that.

Scott-Heron was HIV positive and battled drug addiction through most of his career. He spent a year and a half in prison for possession. In a 2009 interview he said that his jail term had forced him to confront the reality of his situation.

“When you wake up every day and you’re in the joint, not only do you have a problem but you have a problem with admitting you have a problem.” Yet in spite of some “unhappy moments” in the past few years he still felt the need to challenge rights abuses and “the things that you pay for with your taxes”.

“If the right of free speech is truly what it’s supposed to be, then anything you say is all right.”

Scott-Heron’s friend Doris Nolan said the musician had died at St Luke’s hospital on Friday afternoon. “We’re all sort of shattered,” she told the Associated Press.

The title track from his last album I’m New Here contains the line “I’m hard to get to know, impossible to forget”, which pretty much sums up the man and his music.

An interesting fact is that his father, also called Gil, or more properly Gilbert, played football for Celtic in 1951, becoming the first black player to play for Celtic and I think the second ever black player to play in the Scottish football league.

R.I.P. Gil Scott-Heron 1949-2011

1911 No. 1: Vincent Price

Posted in 1911, Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Taking a look back at what happened 100 years ago, I find that the actor Vincent Price was born on 27 May 1911. The clip is from The Comedy of Terrors, one of the funniest films you will ever see. Featuring Vincent Price himself, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, and Basil Rathbone. If you don’t believe that a film could have such a great cast, check it out.

Vincent Price, a Suave but Menacing Film Presence, Is Dead at 82 (New York Times obituary)

Brown Bread: Elisabeth Sladen

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Elisabeth Sladen has died of cancer aged 63.

This stark sentence is perhaps the saddest thing I’ve read this year. She was the reason many dads watched Doctor Who in the 1970s, and The Sarah Jane Adventures in more recent years.

As a 12-year-old boy, I suppose I had a crush on Elisabeth Sladen, who played Sarah Jane Smith in the TV series Doctor Who. My daughter loves The Sarah Jane Adventures. So Elisabeth Sladen’s a big part of my telly childhood and hers.

Oddly enough, the only other actor of whom I can say this is Tom Baker (my own favourite Doctor Who, who had a great rapport with his companion/sidekick/assistant Sarah Jane Smith – as he points out (read his tribute below), it helped that they both came from Liverpool); my children watch Little Britain and quote his random voiceovers for that show.

R.I.P. Elisabeth Sladen 1948-2011

Related:

Tom Baker’s personal tribute to Elisabeth Sladen

Brown Bread: Elizabeth Taylor

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

“It’s the end of an era. It wasn’t just her beauty or her stardom. It was her humanitarianism. She put a face on HIV/AIDS. She was funny. She was generous. She made her life count.”
(Barbra Streisand)

Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, arguably the last great female star of the Hollywood studio system, has died at the age of 79.

The Oscar-winning star died in the early hours of the morning at Cedars-Sinai medical centre in Los Angeles, from congestive heart failure, according to her spokeswoman Sally Morrison. She said Taylor’s children were at her side.

A stunner, back in the day. But she wasn’t the kind of stunner that would have made her an actress today. Funny how Hollywood’s concept of beauty changes over the years. A lot of today’s starlets wouldn’t have made it in the 1950s because they’re too scrawny. Elizabeth Taylor was … voluptuous.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

Elizabeth Taylor: best and worst films

The five best:

1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
2. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
3. A Place in the Sun (1951)
4. National Velvet (1944)
5. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Brown Bread: Jane Russell

Posted in Culture, Obituaries with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

“The first time I saw Jane Russell, I wondered how she got her kneecaps up in her sweater.” (Fred Allen)

Jane Russell, who has died aged 89, was among the most desired women of the 20th century.

She died at her home in Santa Maria, California of a respiratory-related illness, according to her daughter-in-law Etta Waterfield.

Russell shot to fame in 1943 after Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire, discovered her and cast her in his controversial western, The Outlaw. The movie gained notoriety after censors kept the film from general release in a dispute over Russell’s cleavage. Adverts for the film showed the star sprawled on a bale of hay with the tag line “How’d you like to tussle with Russell?”

“Yes, Howard Hughes invented a bra for me. Or, he tried to. And one of the seamless ones like they have now. He was ahead of his time. But I never wore it in The Outlaw. And he never knew. He wasn’t going to take my clothes off to check if I had … ” Russell said.

The film set the tone for a career in films that majored on her figure and talent for light comedy. Russell appeared in dozens of films and theatrical productions and wrote an autobiography in 1985 called My Path and Detours. Her biggest box-office hits were Paleface, a comedy western with Bob Hope, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, co-starring with Marilyn Monroe.

She made only a handful of films after the 1960s but remained active in her church, with charitable organisations and with a local singing group.

Her health began to decline just a couple of weeks ago, her daughter-in-law told Associated Press. “She always said ‘I’m going to die in the saddle, I’m not going to sit at home and become an old woman’,” Waterfield said. “And that’s exactly what she did, she died in the saddle.”

Jane Russell was born Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell on June 21, 1921, in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her mother was a lay preacher. Russell showed a wild side from an early age and admitted to back street abortions and struggles with alcoholism. In later life she was a committed Republican and leader of the Hollywood Christian Group.

“These days I am a teetotal, mean-spirited, right-wing, narrow-minded, conservative Christian bigot, but not a racist,” she once said. Asked about today’s liberal stars George Clooney and Sean Penn, she said: “I think they’re not well.”

R.I.P. Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell 1921-2011

Related:

Jane Russell: ‘An immense, impervious beauty’

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