A Thanksgiving Appreciation: David Cassidy, Jon Hendricks, George Akavian

Happy Thanksgiving! We have discovered that, contrary to movie titles, death does not take a holiday, so neither will Obit.

No matter what the day, it would be hard to let the deaths of a trio major musical figures  pass unnoticed. One of the things we’re perpetually thankful for around here is music. We hope you’ll take a moment out from Thanksgiving football (Go Chargers!), preparing the meal, trying to figure out who is going to sit next to Grandma Laura, who nobody wants to sit next to, and if you grew up in New York,  missing the  WOR-TV  marathon on Big Ape movies—Mighty Joe Young! King Kong! Son of Kong!—and give these greats a listen.

David Cassidy (April 12, 1950-November 21,2017)

As Keith Partridge, the lead singer of the Partridge Family, a television confection conceived as a kind of mash up of the Cowsills and the Monkees (they were created by Screen Gems, who also produced the Monkees TV show), Cassidy had the unfortunate luck to be come a teen idol just as the squeaky-clean teen idol was losing its central place in pop. But it still has plenty of power—”I Think I Love You,” their first hit, produced by Wes Farrell and backed by the Wrecking Crew, outsold the Beatles “Let It Be.” Cassidy tried to escape the shadow of Keith Partridge, most notably by appearing on the cover of Rolling Stone in 1972, but even toward the end, was singing his teenaged hits.

Jon Hendricks (September 16, 1921-November 22, 2017)

It’s impossible not to break into a smile when hearing Jon Hendricks sing. To start, there was the sheer speed he could sing, a motormouth patter that sounded  rocket fueled. It was matched by the lyrics he wrote: sophisticated, witty digressions filled with wordplay and knowing references, a kind of verbal bop, as in “Twisted,” a twisty, conversational blast, like Nichols and May set to music.

“They all laugh at angry young men/They all laugh at Edison/And also at Einstein/So why should I feel sorry/If they just couldn’t understand/The reasoning and the logic/That went on in my head/I had a brain/It was insane.”

As part of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, he was expanded the audience of jazz, bringing the music into midtown supper clubs and concert halls.  They even reached a pop audience when Joni Mitchell covered the aforementioned “Twisted” on her 1974 breakthrough Court and Spark.

Here’s Jon Hendricks demanding to “Gimme That Wine,” a Louis Jordan-styled tall tale, and a sentiment many of us might feel today…

George Avakian (March 5, 1919-November 22, 2017)

If you own a copy of any of the Columbia Masterworks Jazz albums, you owe a debt to George Avakian. Or simply own an LP.  Starting in the 1940s, when he was a producer and archivist for Columbia Records, until the turn of this century, when he supervised the remastering and reissuing on CD of Columbia’s massive catalog of Jazz records, he’s signed, produced, or compiled recordings by Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk,  Johnny Mathis, Charles Lloyd, and Keith Jarrett. His influence went beyond what people listened to,  but in how they heard it; he was one of the leading proponents in the industry adaptation of the 33 1/3 rpm longplaying album in 1948. We include “Tadd’s Delight,” from Miles Davis’ first album for Columbia, Round About Midnight.


Steven Mirkin

Steven Mirkin’s diverse career has taken him from politics to pop culture to high art, offering him a front row seat to some of the most fascinating events and personalities of our time: writing speeches, fundraising appeals and campaign materials for Ed Koch, John Heinz and independent presidential candidate John B. Anderson; chronicling the punk/new wave scenes in New York and London; interviewing musicians such as Elton John, John Lydon and Buck Owens; profiling modern masters Julian Schnabel, Paul Schrader and Jonathan Safran Foer; and writing for TV shows including 21, The Chamber, Let's Make A Deal, and Rock Star: INXS.

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