News in Review: Captain Beefheart, Aretha Franklin, Jane’s Addiction, Robbie Robertson, Bernard Wilson
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2011, Volume 18, #2
Written by John Metzger
Thu February 10, 2011, 06:30 AM CST
Captain Beefheart Dead at 69
Don Van Vliet, better known as Captain Beefheart, passed away on December 17, just a few weeks shy of his 70th birthday. He had been locked in a lifelong battle with multiple sclerosis. Van Vliet began performing under the Captain Beefheart moniker in 1964. Over the course of his career, he recorded 12 studio albums with a rotating cast of musicians known as The Magic Band. Initially, the outfit worked mostly in a blues vein, though neither A&M nor Buddah was able to help its singles and its albums gain traction. Liberated in 1969 by its association with Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and The Magic Band assembled Trout Mask Replica, a broad-reaching double-LP that boasted a stylistic hodgepodge of R&B, garage-rock, and jazz. Forming the template for the duration of the collective’s career, it became an instant, if lesser known, classic. In the 1980s, Captain Beefheart retired from performing and recording in order to focus on painting and drawing.
Aretha Franklin Survives Surgery
In early November, Aretha Franklin was hospitalized due to an undisclosed illness. Although she quickly was released, she abruptly cancelled all of her scheduled concerts, including a holiday show in Detroit. Later reports indicated that Franklin was suffering from pancreatic cancer. She reentered the hospital on December 2 and underwent surgery, which she deemed successful. Unfortunately, Franklin’s long-term prospects aren’t good because the form of cancer for which she was treated is particularly lethal.
Jane’s Addiction Regroups, Begins Anew
If the new album from Jane’s Addiction ever gets completed, it will mark a bold new beginning for the band. In an exclusive interview with Rolling Stone in early January, front man Perry Farrell revealed that he was pursuing a path that would envelop his outfit’s gothic rock in the heady atmospherics of Radiohead. In recent months, TV on the Radio’s David Sitek has taken an active role in the collective, playing bass during the sessions and splicing together musical ideas culled from his jam sessions with drummer Stephen Perkins and guitarist Dave Navarro. Farrell also stated that the forthcoming endeavor, which is tentatively titled The Great Escape Artist, would be a conceptual work. He is hoping to be able to release the effort this summer. It would be the first album of new material from Jane’s Addiction since 2003’s Strays.
Blue Notes Singer Bernard Wilson Dies
John Legend and The Roots might have brought new fans to the classic soul outfit Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes by covering its seminal single Wake Up Everybody. This good news, however, was tempered by the recent loss of so many members of the outfit. Teddy Pendergrass, the Blue Notes’ best-known front man, passed away in January 2010, while original member Roosevelt Brodie died in July. On December 26, Bernard Wilson was killed instantly after suffering both a heart attack and a stroke. Wilson sang with the original incarnation of the group that emerged in the mid-1950s, and after a stint with a splintered rendition of the collective, he rejoined Melvin’s Blue Notes during its highly successful run with Philadelphia International. At the time of his death, Wilson was 64.
The Return of Robbie Robertson
Since he walked away from The Band in 1976, Robbie Robertson has issued only three proper studio albums: his self-titled set from 1987, Storyville, and Contact from the Underworld of Red Boy. For the past 13 years, he has refrained from working in the roots-rock idiom. Instead, he has been content not only to contribute to a variety of film projects, particularly in collaboration with director Martin Scorsese, but also to devote his time to preserving rock history alongside Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner and the staff at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Robertson, however, is in the midst of staging his comeback. Slated for release in April, his new album How to Become Clairvoyant features an all-star cast that includes Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Tom Morello, Robert Randolph, and Trent Reznor.
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