Welcome to the MUSICAL MEMORIES page...

Music was something I grew up with. When I was a child Dad would play Strauss. When I was a little bit older he'd play "Oh Susannah" or "The Pub with No Beer". I loved all the music we had at home!

When I reached teenage years I heard Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, the Monkees... As I grew up I began to began to love some metal and new rock'n'roll: Alan Parsons Project, Yes, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Aqualung, David Bowie, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson... So many singers!

These days many of them are dying, and I find it so sad yet so good that music is now easily available. I've started this "memory" page, with a short vale notice for each person I want to remember.

I hope you'll remember too.

George Michael

Born 25 June 1963 - Died 25 December 2016

George Michael

George was a different singer than most of the others I followed, but I loved some of the songs he sang. It took me a while to understand why he was different - he was younger than me; every other singer except Michael Jackson in this Music Memories was older than me.

When I first heard him he sounded like a young man not singing the rock'n'roll I loved but some 'pop'. His attitude wound me up, I was happy much of the time to just walk away from him, and yet some of his music, with the group Wham! or after it, replayed itself in my head. I sang to his songs, like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Freedom! '90 and Faith.

George Michael was born in London as Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou with his father Greek and his mother an English dancer. As he grew up he had a career dream as a musician, and he busked on the London Underground - performing some Queen's songs - and, later, would join with Andrew Ridgeley to form Wham!. That group grew between 1981 and 1986, with chart toppers in the USA and UK and many other countries throughout the world. In 1984 Michael joined with the supergroup to sing Do they know it's Christmas, written by Bob Geldoff. Later he contributed to music stars such as Elton John, David Cassidy and, after leaving Wham!, sang with Aretha Franklin, one of his own favourites.

In the early 1980s Michael had told his Wham! partner and some other friends that he was bisexual, but he reached depression after the end of Wham! as he began to realise he was gay. In 1993 he started a relationship with a Brazilian dress designer Anselmo Feleppa, who said he was HIV positive within 6 months. Feleppa died in 1993 to a brain haemorrhage connected to the HIV, and Michael recorded a tribute single Jesus to a Child in the memory of Feleppa.

Michael teamed up with Kenny Goss in a long-term relationship which split up in 2009 but wasn't announced until the Symphonica world tour in 2011. In 2006 and 2008 Michael became involved in anonymous public sex in London, and in 2010 was arrested on possession of cannabis.

Over his 30 years within the music industry George Michael had won numerous awards, including three Brit Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, four Ivor Novello Awards, three American Music Awards, and two Grammy Awards. By October 2011 Michael had health problems which lead to him cancelling a performance at London's Royal Albert Hall. He was admitted to a hospital in Vienna in November later that year and was in ICU with pneumonia. In May 2013 he sustained a head injury when he fell out of his car on the motorway in Hertfordshire and he was airlifted to hospital.

On 25 December 2016 George Michael passed away peacefully. RIP George, I do remember you.

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Leonard Cohen

Born 21 September 1934 - Died 11 November 2016

Leonard Cohen

On 8 August 2016 I wrote a blog about Leonard Cohen. He was still alive, and I loved his music. He died yesterday, so I have reprinted much of the blog on here.

Cohen was born into Judaism on 21 September 1934 in Westmount, Quebec, Canada. From 1948 he attended Westmount High School, studying music and poetry. After leaving school he moved to Montreal's Little Portugal on Saint-Laurent Boulevard where he read his poetry at various clubs and wrote some of his earliest songs which would become some of his most famous.

In 1951 he enrolled at McGill University, where some of his poems were published in March 1954 in the magazine CIV/n. His first published book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), contained poems written largely when he was between the ages of 15 and 20. Cohen dedicated the book to his late father.

After completing his degree, Cohen moved to Columbia University in the USA and returned to Montreal in 1957. He worked in odd jobs and focused on writing fiction and poetry, and his next book was titled The Spice-Box of Earth (1961). Cohen's father had left a small trust income for him when he'd died, and he was able to pursue his literary ambitions at that time. He bought a house on Hydra, a Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, from where he published the poetry collection Flowers for Hitler (1964), novels The Favourite Game (1963) and Beautiful Losers (1966), and Parasites of Heaven, a book of poems in 1966.

Cohen became involved with Buddhism in the 1970s, but the New York Times described him as a Sabbath-observant Jew and said that he "keeps the Sabbath even while on tour and performed for Israeli troops during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war." Cohen became a Buddhist monk in 1996 but still considered himself Jewish. He said in an interview that he was quite happy with Judaism. "Leonard Cohen: Poet, Prophet, Eternal Optimist"

In 1978 he published another book of poetry, Death of a Lady's Man, which had been kept aside for many years. It was another few years, until 1984, when Cohen published his next book of poems, Book of Mercy, influenced by the Hebrew Bible and Zen writings and referred to by Cohen as "prayers". The book contained 50 prose-poems and won the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Poetry.

That same year Cohen released the song Hallelujah, which, initially for me, meant religion. I had become atheist back in early 1970s, and this word was used far too often, I felt. I ignored it for a long time, and turned away from Cohen. Yet he was still a poet, and was still publishing poetry. I had a look through the words of Hallelujah, and it didn't look religious to me. I began to like it ... a lot.

In 1993 Cohen published Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs. It was 10 years since I'd decided I didn't really 'know' Hallelujah, but this gave me another reason to look at the lyrics for that song. I had heard so many people, especially men, these days would swear with religious profanities and never give that a thought. Now I believed that there was no religion - for atheists - within this song and I really liked it. It grew on me.

In 2006, after more years of delays, additions, and rewritings, he released another book, Book of Longing, dedicated to poet Irvine Layton, and in 2011 he was awarded the Princess of Asturias Awards for literature.

Cohen was still alive when I wrote this in my blog on 8 August 2016: 81 and going along. According to Wikipaedia, Hallelujah has been "performed by many and various singers, both in recordings and in concert, with over 300 versions known. The song has been used in film and television soundtracks and televised talent contests."

Some of the words he wrote are following. This truly is a wonderful song, and Leonard Cohen was a very gifted man. Thank you, Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen

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Keith Emerson

Born 2 November 1944 - Died 10 March 2016

Keith Emerson

Keith Emerson was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire in England. After he left school he was playing the piano during lunchtimes in a local pub, and he worked to become a commercial band player during the later 1960s.

His first band was the Nice. He had a Hammond L-100 organ, and drew supporters when he began to physically abuse it by "hitting it, beating it with a whip, pushing it over, riding it across the stage like a horse, playing with it lying on top of him, and wedging knives into the keyboard" (Wikipaedia). His performance was classified as his entry in as a "heavy metal musician".

He formed the progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer in 1970, with their first record deal with Atlantic Records. Emerson was on the keyboard for the production of their song which has stuck inside my head - Lucky Man - a beautiful and sad song. Emerson bought his first Moog modular synthesizer, sounds from which became the foundation of ELP's music. One of his more remembered concerts involved him sitting at his piano being pulled up about 20 feet in mid-air where he was rotating end-over-end.

Emerson enjoyed classical music, and rearranged many of his favourites to rock music, including Aaron Copland for Hoedown on the Trilogy album and, later - 2007 - Modest Mussorgsky on Pictures at an Exhibition.

From 2002 onwards Emerson reintroduced his previous musical groups, including Nice, and he opened the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert which was a reunion concert for Led Zeppelin, Yes and others from the earlier time.

In 2010 ELP had joined up for the last concert of Keith Emerson's ELP history, and in 2014 he was inducted into the Hammond Hall of Fame. In April this year, 2016, he was booked in Japan for a classical concert but wouldn't attend.

This month, at the age of 71, Keith shot himself in the head - suicide.

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Jon English

Born 26 March 1949 - Died 9 March 2016

Jon English

Jonathan (Jon) James English was born in Hampstead, London, in the UK and moved to Sydney in 1961 with his family. He was 12, and had played in two bands before he left school.

From the 70s he had starred in Jesus Christ Superstar and toured as Judas with them between Australia and New Zealand for 5 years. In late 1970s he got a role on the TV program Against the Wind and won a Logie award for Best New Talent in Australia. He had helped to write a score for that program, from which two songs had an international release and went up on the Norwegian playlist to number 1.

From 1983 he charged ahead, winning some Mo Awards as Entertainer of the Year, and later continued in Gilbert & Sullivan's stage shows such as Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and HMS Pinafore.

He had been entertaining since 1980, but didn't concentrate on that until 1990 when he had a 2-CD release called Paris: A Love Story, which won the 1991 ARIA Award.

During the 2000s English became very well known for further stage shows, including The Rock Show in 2009 which included classic rock music of the '60s and '70s, the same show in Tasmania in 2010, and in 2012 the revised production of Jesus Christ Superstar. His last show was in 2013 at the Sweden Rock Festival.

In February this year, 2016, English was admitted to hospital and was diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. He died following post-operative complications on 9 March 2016.

Words are not enough, Jon English.

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David Bowie

Born 8 January 1947 - Died 10 January 2016

David Bowie

David Bowie was born as David Jones in Brixton, London, England. He started his professional career as a musician in 1963, with Space Oddity becoming his first top-5 entry on the UK Singles Chart.

In 1972 he started appearing as Ziggy Stardust and produced his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which gave him some worldwide popular success.

The single Fame hit the charts in 1976, mostly in the USA because Bowie had adopted their "plastic soul". For the next few years he played with different variations, including the "electronic-inflected" album Low, and industrial and jungle.

Bowie made a number of movies, including Labyrinth (1986) which was directed by Jim Henson who introduced some similar - but evil - puppets. When originally released, the movie was not popular, but since then it has gained a cult following.

The last album Blackstar was released on his birthday on 8 January 2016, with Bowie doing video tapes for songs which stood out. David Bowie died two days later without most people understanding his inference to his songs from this album, but it subsequently hit the top of UK Albums Chart at number one.

Such a good swan song, David Bowie.

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Joe Cocker

Born 20 May 1944 - Died 22 December 2014

Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker was born in Sheffield, UK, on 20 May 1944, as John Robert "Joe" Cocker. Cocker first sang in public at the age of 12, and in 1960 he formed his first group, the Cavaliers. In 1961 he continued his career with his stage name Vance Arnold in the new group Vance Arnold and the Avengers, and played in pubs in Sheffield, mostly covering songs from Ray Charles and Chuck Berry. In 1963 his group supported the Rolling Stones at Sheffield City Hall.

In 1964 Cocker attempted to cover the Beatles song I'll Cry Instead when he was contracted to Decca, but the record failed and the contract lapsed. He had a year-long break, and set up a new band, the Grease Band, in early 1966. Cocker did a recover of another Beatles song With a Little Help From My Friends, which hit the Top 10 in the UK where it stayed for 13 weeks. It also got to #68 in the USA. Cocker was now well known. His Grease Band group played at the Who, Gene Pitney and Marmalade concerts.

In 1969 Cocker and his band travelled USA and had a hit at the Woodstock festival including their songs Delta Lady and Let's Go Get Stoned. Cocker saw Woodstock as "a very special day", pushing him into the world. Beatles Paul McCartney and George Harrison were impressed with him and let him use some of their own songs, which appeared on his second solo album Joe Cocker!.

By 1970 Cocker already had a new tour of USA which would hit 48 cities and included more than 20 musicians. The group was named Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Cocker headed back to Sheffield, UK, at the end of 1970, had a break for two years, and got back into his music in 1972 with tours throughout USA and Europe. A trip to Australia landed him in trouble with Australian Federal Police who gave him 48 hours to get out when they found out he had been smoking marijuana.

During 1973 he sunk into depression, but he got back into recording by the end of that year, although he was now relying on alcohol. His alcoholism caused him problems, including his $800,000 debt to A&M Records. He met a new producer, Michael Lang, who took him on with conditions that he had to give up alcohol.

Through the 1980s up to 2014 Joe Cocker stayed sober and continued tours throughout the world. On 3 June 2002, he performed at the event in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of Elizabeth II at the Party at the Palace concert in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. The song was With A Little Help From My Friends, accompanied by Phil Collins on drums and Queen guitarist Brian May. He returned to Australia in 2008 and again in 2011, and toured USA in 2012 and Europe in 2013.

Joe Cocker died from lung cancer on 22 December 2014 in Crawford, Colorado at the age of 70. For me, Joe, you are so beautiful.

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Lou Reed

Born 2 Mar 1942 - Died 27 Oct 2013

Lou Reed

Lewis Allan Reed was born 2 March 1942 in Brooklyn, New York US, to Jewish parents. As he grew up he said that "...the most important part of my religion is to play guitar." During his high school days he played in school bands. In 1960 he went to Syracuse University and graduated from there with his BA in English in 1964.

He moved to New York City and began working with Pickwick Records, and in 1968 he would meet John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Angus MacLise to form Velvet Underground. Just before their first paid gig MacLise quit, and Maureen Tucker came in. The group "without commercial success... [had] a long-standing reputation as one of the most influential in rock history", according to Rolling Stone.

Late in the 1970s Lou Reed came to me after my life changed (check out www.itsokaytobeangry.com). "Heroin" was produced by Reed and his group Velvet Underground in 1967 on their "Velvet Underground & Nico" album, but I didn't find it for myself until late 70s. It became one of my "trainer" songs - it taught me never to even try heroin, and I never regretted that.

Reed had contact with Andy Warhol (mentor, 1968), Rick Wakeman (session musician, 1971, from Yes group) and David Bowie (producer of Transformer, 1972), all people whose work I adored. His music influence and wide connection with so many people has kept him in the public view. He chose to appear in the Farm Aid concert in 1985 and Amnesty International's A Conspiracy of Hope Tour in 1986. In 1994 he appeared in A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, celebrating Roger Daltrey's 50th birthday. In 1996 Velvet Underground was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 1998 a documentary Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart featured on the TV show American Masters and played at the USA Sundance Film Festival and at Germany's Berlin International Film Festival, and in 1999 Reed and the film received a Grammy Award for best long-form music video. In May 2000 Reed performed at the Great Jubilee Concert in Rome, before Pope John Paul II.

Lou Reed's last years in this new century were very busy, and kept stirring his fame - which will never vanish. Lou didn't remain much in my own life (except his name is very similar to mine!) but I will always remember him. Thank you for being in my youth, Lou.

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Michael Jackson

Born 29 August 1958 - Died 25 June 2009

Michael Jackson

Jackson was "discovered" by Ed Sullivan in his brother's group, the Jackson 5, in 1964. He was only 8, but shone out as a very good singer.

As he got older he started on his own, and his first solo albums began in 1972, even though he kept singing with his brothers. His early albums were Got to Be There (1972), Ben (1972), Music & Me (1973), and Forever, Michael (1975). In 1979 his next album, Off the Wall, put him out as a definite solo, and he won three awards from the American Music Awards for his work.

By 1983 he had made Thriller, which became the best album worldwide, and in 1984 he won more AMA awards. The main song, the "zombie-themed" Thriller which was made into a 14-minute video with Jackson and his team, became the only music video registered with the American National Film Registry. (Up to 2009 it is still the only music video with NFR, according to Wikipaedia.)

His 1995 album, HIStory, came with the song You are not alone which "holds the Guinness World Record for the first song ever to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart" (Wikipaedia). In October 2001 he produced Invincible, his first album in 6 years, and in 2008 he and Sony released a 25th anniversary album called Thriller 25, which included the earlier songs plus the previously unreleased song For All Time and remixes which he performed with young artists.

Jackson was known by the clothes he wore and his "moonwalk" dance steps, which spread around the world.

On 25 June 2009 Jackson lapsed into unconsciousness while in his bed. He was pronounced dead at 2.29pm, Pacific time.

Michael Jackson was very much part of my own life, and he is missed by people of all ages throughout the world. His music still goes on.

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Freddie Mercury

Born 5 September 1946 - Died 24 November 1991

Michael Jackson

Born Farrokh Bulsara in the Sultanate of Zanzibar, Mercury grew up there and, later, in India. At St. Peter's School, a British-style boarding school in Bombay, from the age of 7 he began to learn piano and at 12 formed a school-based band, covering Cliff Richard and Little Richard.

In February 1963 he returned to his parent's flat in Zanzibar, but soon the Zanzibar Revolution would blow up. They left in 1964. Moving into Middlesex in England, Mercury enrolled into the local polytech and art college and achieved a diploma on Art and Graphic Design.

Following his graduation he moved to London where, on top of his daily work, he joined a few bands and later would form his own two which didn't work out. In 1970 he and two others, guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor, joined together and called themselves Queen. Bulsara changed his last name to Mercury.

Queen played for live audiences and produced CDs which incorporated many of the songs that Mercury had written, including Bohemian Rhapsody. Mercury demonstrated his vocal structure, described by his biographer David Bret as "escalating within a few bars from a deep, throaty rock-growl to tender, vibrant tenor, then on to a high-pitched, perfect coloratura, pure and crystalline in the upper reaches." For one live show, the writer from The Spectator said Mercury was "a performer out to tease, shock and ultimately charm his audience with various extravagant versions of himself." At Live Aid in 1985 his band was "voted by a group of music executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock music" (Wikipaedia).

As well as his work with Queen Mercury provided two solo albums which wouldn't be as successful as anything from Queen, but he enjoyed the fame the second pulled in for him from Spain.

Whilst Mercury had a relationship with Mary Austin in the 70s, he eventually became involved with male lovers. Although he had another relationship with Barbara Valentin in the early 1980s, in 1985 he began his long-relationship with Jim Hutton. Austin became Mercury's "best friend" throughout the rest of his life.

Mercury tested positive for HIV/AIDs in 1986, and was diagnosed with AIDS shortly after Easter of 1987. Hutton tested positive for HIV in 1990. Austin helped Mercury in his last years of life as he deteriorated, and by late 1991 he chose to hasten his death by declining his medication and only taking pain killers.

Freddie Mercury was one of the Champions who is still a champion.

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