News in Review: Grateful Dead, The Who, Jerry Ragavoy, America
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2011, Volume 18, #9
Written by John Metzger
Fri December 2, 2011, 05:30 AM CDT
Grateful Dead Retires Road Trips, Launches Dave’s Picks
In late October, the Grateful Dead organization announced that it was retiring its Road Trips series with the release of its final chapter, which features a compilation of material that was culled from the band’s performances at the Boston Music Hall in June 1976. In February, the group is planning to re-brand its archival releases under the Dave’s Picks moniker. Vault archivist David Lemieux will curate the project, though its title also serves as a tip of the hat to Dick Latvala, who served as the mastermind behind the Grateful Dead’s long-running Dick’s Picks collection. The first installment of Dave’s Picks will feature the entirety of the collective’s concert on May 25, 1977 at The Mosque in Richmond, Virginia. Three additional endeavors are slated for release in 2012, and those fans who purchase a subscription to the program will also receive an exclusive bonus CD. In addition, the Grateful Dead Almanac has been transformed into an online newspaper, featuring videos, games, and photo galleries.
The Who to Revisit Quadrophenia
On the heels of the release of an expansive boxed set devoted to Quadrophenia, The Who has announced that it might reunite in 2012 for a concert tour during which it will perform its fabled rock opera in its entirety. It is possible that the outfit might also use its shows as a venue for previewing material from Floss, an on-again, off-again project from Pete Townshend that has yet to see the light of day. Nevertheless, more cynical fans might view this news as simply a way of generating additional press to expand sales of the repackaged Quadrophenia. The biggest factor that might prevent The Who from returning to the road in 2012 is Townshend’s hearing loss, which, in recent years, has nixed numerous plans by the outfit. Biding his time until Townshend is deemed healthy, Roger Daltrey performed Tommy in its entirety throughout his recent solo tour.
Songwriter Jerry Ragavoy Gone but Not Forgotten
Jerry Ragavoy — the songwriter who wrote such masterpieces as Piece of My Heart, Try (Just a Little Bit Harder), and Time Is on My Side — passed away on July 13 after suffering complications from a stroke. He was 80. Ragavoy’s output was steeped so deeply in gospel and soul that Janis Joplin was taken aback by the fact that he was a caucasian man from Brooklyn. While selling record players in Philadelphia, Ragavoy discovered R&B. By the 1950s, he had founded Grand Records, and soon he began writing material with Bert Berns. He often wrote under a pseudonym, which meant that many artists never knew he was the genius behind the songs they were covering. In his career, Ragavoy also ventured into producing albums, such as Bonnie Raitt’s Streetlights, and he founded New York’s legendary recording studio Hit Factory.
America’s Dan Peek Dead at 60
Dan Peek, a founding member of America, passed away on July 24 at the age of 60. Peek died of unknown causes at his home in Farmington, Missouri. Peek was a high-school pal of Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley. Calling themselves America, the trio quickly scored a record deal and issued their self-titled debut in 1971. A Horse with No Name climbed to the top of the charts, and the group snagged a Grammy award for Best New Artist. Subsequent hits by the band included Ventura Highway, Sister Golden Hair, and Sandman. Peek not only played guitar, bass, and keyboards for America, but he also penned a few of the outfit’s successful singles, most notably Don’t Cross the River and Lonely People. In 1977, he amicably parted ways with Bunnell and Beckley in order to pursue a career in Christian rock.
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