News in Review: R.E.M., Jerry Leiber, Amy Winehouse, Marshall Grant
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2011, Volume 18, #7
Written by John Metzger
Fri October 28, 2011, 05:30 AM CDT
On its most recent efforts Accelerate and Collapse into Now, R.E.M. stopped moving forward. Instead, the band opted to retreat to its past. The albums were brilliantly executed, but after effectively summarizing its career, R.E.M. was left with two options: begin anew or call it a day. The group chose the latter path. In a statement posted on its website in September, the remaining members of R.E.M. — Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, and Mike Mills — announced that, after issuing 15 albums in 31 years, they had decided it was time to part ways. As a final farewell, the outfit is planning to release its first-ever greatest-hits compilation on November 15. Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage: 1982 – 2011 will feature 40 tracks that span the collective’s career, including a trio of previously unreleased selections from a recent session with producer Jacknife Lee.
Lyricist Jerry Leiber Departs
On July 22, songwriter Jerry Leiber passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 78. He was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after suffering cardiopulmonary failure. Leiber was one of the most successful lyricists in rock history. He and his collaborator Mike Stoller originally wrote for R&B artists, such as Ray Charles and Jimmy Witherspoon. The duo became a hot commodity after Elvis Presley tackled Hound Dog in 1956. The Leiber-Stoller partnership produced a number of classic rock tunes, including Young Blood and Searchin’. In addition, Leiber and Phil Spector, with some assistance from Stoller, crafted Spanish Harlem. while the Leiber/Stoller-owned label Red Bird served as a forum for additional hits, such as Leader of the Pack — a tune by George "Shadow" Morton, Ellie Greenwich, and Jeff Barry. Artists from The Rolling Stones and The Beatles to Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly to Aretha Franklin and The Coasters covered their tunes. In the latter case, Leiber and Stoller wrote songs specifically for the group to record. Not surprisingly, Leiber was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1985 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later.
Alcohol Fells Amy Winehouse
On Saturday, July 23, singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse was found dead at her home in London. She was 27. Once a promising artist, Winehouse was left to do little more than watch as her career faded into a tragic comedy. Her 2006 endeavor Back to Black scored five Grammy Awards; it also was nominated for Album of the Year. Winehouse repeatedly tried to craft a follow-up to her blockbuster breakthrough set, but recording sessions routinely were scuttled as she struggled to keep her personal life under control. In recent years, she not only faced a series of assault charges, but she also was caught in a vicious cycle of addiction and rehabilitation. Ironically, her toxicology reports showed she had no signs of illicit substances in her system. Initially, it was believed that she had died after suffering a seizure that was caused by an overdose of the medication she was taking to temper her desire for alcohol. However, later reports indicated that she died of alcohol poisoning after consuming a massive amount of vodka.
Johnny Cash’s Original Bass Player Dead at 83
On August 7, at the age of 83, Marshall Grant suffered an aneurysm and passed away in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where was attending a benefit to restore Johnny Cash’s childhood home. Grant was the original bass player in the Tennessee Two, the renowned outfit that not only backed Cash during his sessions for Sun Records, but also developed a distinctive sound that revolutionized country music and rock ’n‘ roll. Grant got the gig after he met guitarist Luther Perkins and Cash’s older brother Roy through their other place of work: Memphis’ Automobile Sales Company. Grant performed with Cash until 1980, when Cash’s hard-living ways grew too great to bear. After a series of disagreements, Grant was let go. He soon filed a lawsuit against Cash, claiming that The Man in Black had embezzled money from his retirement fund. In the wake of an out-of-court settlement, the duo repaired their friendship. Four years ago, Grant was honored for his work with Cash via an induction into the Musicians Hall of Fame.
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