Wednesday, 28 December 2016

George Michael is dead - and yet Keith Richards, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Dave Bartholomew are still going strong!

Bobby Lewis ("Tossin & Turnin'") is still with us at 91. So is Chuck Berry at 90. Fats Domino is 88. Elvis's drummer, D.J. Fontana is 85, as is Sun Records artist Sonny Burgess ("We Wanna Boogie"/"Red-Headed Woman"). Little Richard is 84, and so is one of my all-time Country favourites, Stonewall Jackson ("Life to Go"), while Lloyd Price (whose "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" came out in 1952) is 83 - as is songwriter Mike Stoller, who, along with Jerry Lieber, wrote "Kansas City", "Hound Dog", Jailhouse Rock", "Stand by Me", "I (Who Have Nothing)". "There Goes my baby", "Poison Ivy", Yakety Yak", "On Broadway" and at least another dozen classics. Yoko Ono's still with us at 83, so it's not all good news - but I'm delighted to learn that the Canadian rocker, Jack Scott ("Geraldine", "The Way I Walk",  "Leroy") is due to turn 81 next month. But the most delightful discovery of all is that Dave Bartholomew... still with us at 98!

I hear you asking two questions at this point: (1) What's the big deal about reaching 80 or even 90 these days?, and (2) Who is Dave Bartholomew when he's at home?

Certainly, people are living longer. Neither of my parents reached 80 (my father died at 60), but my dear aunt, Elizabeth Mitchell, recently died at the age of 94, having lived in her own flat until entering hospital three months ago. But rock 'n' rollers are different - the drugs, the booze, the endless touring, the ups and downs in their careers... You somehow don't expect them to last as long as other people. And yet, while some of them certainly do expire at relatively young ages (mostly because of drugs, it seems), a heartening number just motor on well into old age - and, in the case of Dave Bartholomew, into a phase of life one could describe as extreme old age.

Apart from writing and recording the compelling "The Monkey Speaks His Mind" in 1957, (see above), Dave Bartholomew also wrote this little ditty (the words were cleaned up for the Elvis version):

And this one, which has been a hit for three different artists:

Then there's this, the record that kick-started Fats Domino's extraordinary career:

So we'll forgive him for writing and recording "My Ding-a-ling" in 1952 - although Bartholomew can't be held responsible for what Chuck Berry did to it 20 years later, nor for all those deluded souls who bought it and sent it to No. 1:

And we can definitely thank him for writing this lovely number, here given a Cajun twist by Tommy McLain:

Dave Bartholomew was (he has retired now, obviously) a New Orleans trumpet-player, song-writer, band-leader, arranger and record producer who started his career in the era of big band swing, moved into rhythm and blues, and became a major figure in rock 'n' roll. He recorded his own music, but he's best known for writing (or co-writing) songs and producing records for a host of other artists, first with Imperial Records, then with Specialty, King and Decca. Among the many artists he worked with were Fats Domino,  Chris Kenner, Robert Parker, T-Bone Walker, Roy Brown, Frankie Ford and Shirley and Lee.

While co-writing and producing most of Fats Domino's greatest singles (including "Ain't it a Shame," "I'm in Love Again," "Blue Monday," "I'm Walkin'," and "Valley of Tears"), he also produced a stream of other New Orleans classics:

There was Smiley Lewis's "Blue Monday":

Bartholomew co-wrote and produced Christ Kenner's great 1957 hit, "Sick and Tired":

Finally, Fats Domino's wonderfully amiable "Hello, Josephine":

Now that's what I call a career! So, while it may have been a bad year for pop star deaths, it's great that Mr. Bartholomew is still with us - long may he continue to be.

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