News in Review: Vic Chesnutt, Teddy Pendergrass, Lilith Fair, Willie Mitchell
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2010, Volume 17, #1
Written by John Metzger
Fri January 29, 2010, 06:30 AM CST
Darkness Swallows Vic Chesnutt
Vic Chesnutt passed away on Christmas Day while undergoing treatment at a hospital in Georgia. He was 45. Chesnutt had been in a coma for several days, the result of taking an overdose of muscle relaxants. Many have speculated that Chesnutt committed suicide. Although he carried insurance, Chesnutt reportedly was facing a mountain of debt, primarily from unpaid bills for his ongoing medical care. After an auto accident when he was 18, Chesnutt was paralyzed from the neck down and confined to a wheelchair. The crash forced him to reconsider his life, spurring his career as a songwriter. Tempered with humor, his dark tales frequently examined death and questioned life and religion. Chesnutt was never destined to be a mainstream success. Yet, he left his mark on a wide array of artists. Many of them ó including R.E.M., Soul Asylum, and Cracker ó paid homage to Chesnutt on the 1996 benefit album Sweet Relief II: Gravity of the Situation.
Suffering Continues for Music Business
The music industryís sharp decline continued last year, with a 19 percent drop in sales from 2008. Things could have been worse. Michael Jacksonís death and the long-anticipated re-release of The Beatlesí catalogue gave the music business a significant boost during the latter half of 2009.
Soul Singer Teddy Pendergrass Passes Away
Teddy Pendergrass, one of the primary voices of the Philadelphia soul movement in the 1970s, passed away on January 13 at the age of 59. Pendergrass was being treated for colon cancer at Bryn Mawr Hospital, near Philadelphia, but he had developed complications after undergoing surgery. As lead vocalist for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Pendergrass scored immense hits with If You Donít Know Me by Now from the outfitís self-titled debut in 1972 and the title track from the its 1975 album Wake Up Everybody. Following an irreconcilable dispute with Melvin, Pendergrass launched his solo career in 1977 and became a bigger sensation. In March 1982, he was involved in an automobile accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. Although he continued to record and release albums, the crash effectively put his public performances on hold. In 1985, when he made an appearance at Live Aid, Pendergrass clearly was touched by the crowdís reaction. He joined the cast of the musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God for a tour in 1996 and assembled a string of concert dates in 2002.
The Return of Lilith Fair
As The Music Box previously reported, Lilith Fair is slated to return this year, after an 11-year hiatus. Indigo Girls, Sheryl Crow, and, of course, the eventís founder Sarah McLachlan will reprise their roles as the headlining acts for the Lilith Fairís summer sojourn. Multiple stages will be used at each of the festivalís engagements, and some of the other artists who will be joining the traveling revue include Mary J. Blige, Miranda Lambert, Cat Power, Emmylou Harris, Norah Jones, Heart, and Colbie Caillat.
Producer Willie Mitchell Dead at 81
On January 5, Willie Mitchell went into cardiac arrest and died in Memphis. The 81-year-old musician and producer was best-known for his work at Hi Records, where he developed a style of production that helped to define the careers of Al Green and Ann Peebles. The material Mitchell produced was accented with horns and underscored with steady cadences. The result was music that simultaneously felt raw and sensual. In 2003, when Green decided to reclaim the spotlight, he asked Mitchell for help in crafting I Canít Stop. In the 1960s, Mitchell had enjoyed some success of his own as a recording artist. He scored a few minor hits with songs like 30-60-90 and Soul Serenade.
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