NEWS

April 2016

 

2016 may have only just begun, but sadly, we’ve already mourned more than enough tragic deaths to last us the whole year. From David Bowie to Alan Rickman, here’s a look at the famous faces we’ve had to say goodbye to in 2016 thus far.
The loss of a beloved celebrity is always incredibly sad, but there’s something about this recent string of deaths that’s really hitting home for us. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s only a few months into the new year, and we’ve already experienced a handful of shocking deaths spanning the film and music industries. From world-renowned icons to young, up-and-coming stars, here’s a look back at the saddest celebrity deaths of 2016 thus far — R.I.P. all.

The most shocking death of the year thus far was without a doubt the passing of rock n’ roll legend David Bowie. The British icon passed away on Jan. 10 at the age of 69 after suffering through a difficult 18-month battle with cancer. David is survived by his wife of 23 years, model Iman, as well as his two children, Alexandria “Lexi” Zahra Jones and Duncan Jones.

Unsurprisingly, countless celebrities and fans took to social media in the days that followed to mourn the death of the great artist. Stars like Harry Styles, Kanye West, Pharrell and more shared their condolences on Twitter while remembering his decades of artistic contributions, including a total of 25 albums and dozens of iconic music videos.

The U.K. lost another beloved celebrity with the tragic passing of legendary actor Alan Rickman on Jan. 14. The British acting icon, best known for his role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies, also died at the age of 69 after going through his own cancer battle. Alan, who played Professor Snape in all eight of the Harry Potter movies, first made headlines on the big screen when he starred as the evil Hans Gruber in 1988’s Die Hard. He was notorious for playing villains in movies, including Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Rasputin, but was  loved by fans all the same. Following his death, Daniel Radcliffe paid a heartbreaking tribute to the actor in which he referred to Alan one of the “most loyal and most supportive people” in the industry, while Emma Watson said she was “so lucky” to work with him.

Dan Haggerty, one of Hollywood’s most beloved TV actors from the 70s and 80s, also passed away after going through his own heartbreaking cancer battle. Dan first discovered his cancer after undergoing back surgery for a constant pain he was having. Unfortunately, the cancer was already too far along at that point, making Dan’s illness untreatable. Dan was best known for playing the Grizzly Adams on his hit 1977 TV show, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, who was best friends with a grizzly bear. He also starred on CHiPs and Charlie’s Angels.

The rock world suffered another major loss on Jan. 16 when The Eagles’s founding member Glenn Frey tragically passed away at the age of 67. The rock n’ roll hit maker died of complications due to ongoing intestinal issues and pneumonia. The band announced the sad news on their website, saying that, “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our comrade, Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016. Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.”

In addition to his amazing work with The Eagles, he also contributed music to such films Beverly Hills Cop, Ghostbusters II, Thelma & Louise. The multi-talented singer also dabbled in acting on TV’s Miami Vice, Nash Bridges and HBO’s Arli$, and had a small role working with Tom Cruise in his classic film Jerry Maguire.

That list in itself would have been sad enough but some of the others we have had to say goodbye to this year are:

Natalie Cole, R&B singer and daughter of music legend Nat "King" Cole, died New Year's Eve at age 65 from heart failure caused by lung disease but her death wasn’t announced until 1st January.


Craig Strickland, rising country singer and front man for Backroad Anthem, was found dead at 29 years old on Jan. 4 after going missing during a duck-hunting trip in extreme weather.

Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart died at the age of 74 on 9 January in hospital in Bournemouth following a stroke. He was principally known for his work as a DJ on BBC Radio 1 (particularly the Saturday morning Junior Choice) and Radio 2 and as a presenter for Top of the Pops and Crackerjack on BBC Television.


Brian Bedford, best known for voicing the title character in Disney's 1973 animated film "Robin Hood" as a fox, died Jan. 13 at 80. The British stage actor also had a role in 1995's "Nixon" and appeared on TV shows like "Murder, She Wrote," "Cheers" and "Frasier."


Rene Angelil, husband and manager of Celine Dion, died Jan. 14 of cancer at age 73. The "My Heart Will Go On" singer's brother Daniel Dion died two days later.


Dale "Buffin" Griffin, drummer and co-founder for Mott the Hoople, died at 67 on Jan. 17 after a decade-long battle with Alzheimer's disease.


Abe Vigoda, character actor in "The Godfather" and "Barney Miller," died at 94 on Jan. 26.


Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist, died at 74 on Jan. 28.

Signe Anderson, the original Jefferson Airplane singer who was replaced by Grace Slick, died at 74 on Jan. 28, the same day as Kantner.


Frank Finlay, Oscar-nominated actor who played Iago in Laurence Olivier's "Othello," died Jan. 30 at 89.


Maurice White, a founding member of disco-funk group Earth, Wind & Fire, died Feb. 3 at 74.


Daniel Gerson, co-writer of "Monsters, Inc." and "Big Hero 6," died Feb. 6 of brain cancer at 49.


Keith Emerson, founder and keyboardist of the progressive-rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, died March 11 at 71.

Sylvia Anderson, "Thunderbirds" co-creator and voice of the Lady Penelope puppet character, died the week of March 15 at age 88.


Frank Sinatra Jr. the 72-year-old singer and son of Ol' Blue Eyes, died March 16 of cardiac arrest while travelling the country on his ‘Sinatra Sings Sinatra’ tour.

Ronnie Corbett, Comedy Legend, who left us on 31st March at the age of 85

 

The saddest news for me this year was the loss of industry genius George Martin, affectionately dubbed the "Fifth Beatle". The 90-year-old producer died in his sleep at his home in Wiltshire on March 8 but a cause of death has not yet been reported. Dad first met George when the producer had rung mum, who worked at Mills Music at the time and told her about a small job he had for Matt, which would require him to record a take-off of Sinatra. A song had been written for the opening track on the second Peter Sellers album he was working on and the intention was that Sellers should sing it with a voice as near as possible to Sinatra’s.

Although Peter couldn’t sing terribly well, it was thought he could use his great powers of mimicry so that it would actually sound like someone doing an impression of Sinatra, adding comic significance to the title of the LP, Songs for Swingin’ Sellers. However, Sellers was doubtful that he could pull off the task, admitting that he could manage ordinary impressions but not vocal ones. Although he wanted to phrase it like Sinatra would, he didn’t know how to achieve the effect and, being a new song, Sellers had no Sinatra version to compare it to. George’s solution was to look for someone who had a voice like Sinatra—he didn’t want an impression but to hear it sung the way that Sinatra might sing it. He came up with two possibilities, Denis Lotus and Matt Monro. He’d heard of Matt through his Decca recordings and decided he had the better voice and sounded more like the American singer, so he offered the session to him.

At first Matt was thrilled to get another offer from a record company, but the feeling soon turned to one of disappointment and then to anger. He didn’t want to imitate anyone. He wondered why, if he apparently wasn’t good enough for regular work, was he good enough to impersonate just about the greatest singer in the music industry at the time. The actual recording was never intended for the album but was only to be used as a guide for Seller’s own impression. Matt was seething with frustration and he wanted so much to record in his own right that he nearly turned the job down, but Mickie managed to cool him off. She persuaded him to take the job by insisting that they could never tell where it might lead or where the breaks might come from.

“He came in and did the job like the professional he was and he was so good at the job and so easy to work with. I paid him a measly twenty-five pounds and he did the job very quickly and very efficiently as he always did. I had to give him a pseudonym and Fred Flange came to mind. ‘Flange’ was one of my favourite nonsense words and (indoctrinated by Spike Milligan) when John Lennon asked me how does artificial double tracking work? I said to him, “It’s very simple John, all you have to do is put the voice into a double bifurcated sploshing flange”. From then on he would say to me, “let’s flange the voice shall we?” and so a new verb was formed”.  George Martin

Matt did the job and he did it well and upon hearing the recording, Sellers — a master of impersonation — admitted he could never approach Sinatra’s style so accurately or do such justice to the song. He thought the test number was great and suggested they use Matt’s version as the opening track on the album. George rang Matt again and explained the situation. George only wanted him for the one job, to sing a single song and then disappear, with no credit. Matt got the dead needle as nobody was going to know who the artist was; it seemed a complete waste of time. Nevertheless, Matt agreed to the use of his voice under the guise of a pseudonym and made a return trip to the studio to record the final cut.

Matt didn’t realise what he’d taken on until he did that second session. Unlike the first take, this recording was intended for release and all he could do was imagine how Sinatra might approach a new song. Sinatra had influenced practically every singer worth his salt but Matt had never consciously copied him and felt the elements that make Sinatra so unique were elusive. The balance room technicians tinkered with the track to get it closer to the ‘Capitol’ sound.

Though the experience was demoralising for Matt at the time, the only lasting regret he had about the experience was that, having admired Sellers greatly, he never got the chance to meet the comic genius.

For the benefit of the record and to keep the true identity of the artist under wraps the album sleeve read: ‘In ‘You Keep Me Swingin’’ you will hear some very familiar, and expensive, tones. No it’s not Peter Sellers this time. For mainly political reasons, however, the real identity of this performer must be kept secret. No prizes are offered for the correct solution.’

Released at the end of 1959 with the memorable album cover featuring a body hanging from a tree, it caused something of a furore in professional circles. Billed as a ‘Capitol’ singer, the publicity pictures taken of Matt from behind with a hat on created a huge buzz in the industry.

After the initial comedic value had been appreciated, the press association, DJs, agents and producers all wanted to know how Parlophone had managed to get clearance to use the vocal talents of Mr Sinatra. Second thoughts told them the voice couldn’t be Sinatra’s as the copyright laws would have prevented the use of his voice, but the alternative was just as unbelievable. Had Sellers, the man of many parts, excelled himself to carry off such a convincing pastiche? Parlophone were besieged with phone calls and letters with record buyers and press wanting to know who the mystery singer was.

Once the true identity of the impersonator got out, the industry tabloids were awash with admiration and offers to give Monro work flooded in.

 “Fred Flange” marked a peculiar beginning to a twenty-five-year relationship with EMI for Matt Monro. George Martin was impressed with the way Matt had approached his work on that session. “He was extremely professional, had no tricks and no temperament and only had to be asked to do something once. When he sang he just expanded and the notes would come out and go on forever”.

It didn’t take too long for George to ask Matt if he would like to record under his own name. He presented the singer with a generous contract and became his recording manager. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. The end of 1959 was rock bottom for Matt, he was a thousand pounds in debt and he and Mickie had toasted the New Year in with cooking sherry.

Dad and George became staunch friends as did my mum and George’s wife Judy and the foursome were often sharing a dinner table together. Like most boys with their toys dad and George loved motor racing, so much so that they wanted to enter themselves in La Mans, the world's oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, Held annually since 1923 near the town of Le Mans, France it is one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world.

The only thing that stopped the two young men competing was time. Although only a 24-hour race which usually took place on the second weekend of June, the competitors were required in France for a week with qualifying and practice taking place on the Wednesday and Thursday before the race, following a car inspection on Monday and Tuesday and Friday serving as a day of rest when a parade of all the drivers through Le Mans is held.

Two of the industry’s up-and coming stars were in big demand, studio time had been booked throughout the year and dad and George both had a diary of dates that had to be honoured. It was one of those times when the phrase ‘if only’ was banded about frequently.

Certainly the men’s passion remained in music and together with dad’s musical director Johnnie Spence, the trio earned the nickname ‘The three musketeers’ and sharing the same sense of humour it wasn’t unusual to see the three of them rolled up on the floor in laughter. Most certainly the friendship transcended the workplace
and George became a regular guest at our various homes, in fact mum and dad played cupid to George at the start of a very special relationship.  

At the tender age of 17, George enlisted in the Fleet Air Arm, the aviation unit of the British Navy, as an aircraft observer and during that time he met and courted Jean ‘Sheena’ Chisholm. They married in January 1948 on George’s 22nd birthday, but the marriage fell apart in 1965.

George met Judy while she worked as a P.A for his mentor at Parlophone Records, Oscar Preuss. When Oscar passed away in 1958, George took on his job and thus inherited Judy as his assistant. It’s alleged that the two then embarked on a torrid office affair.  Keeping the romance a secret was hard especially as they were worried about being seen out together so a regular meeting place became our first house in Ruxley Lane. The romance blossomed and in June 1966 the two lovebirds made it official and like my mum and dad, love the second time around proved the right recipe for a lifetime of happiness.

Unlike so many others, who dumped my mum after dad died because her usefulness had ended, George and Judy remained constant companions and every year without fail the couple sent mum roses.

George continued to carve out a name for himself within the industry long after dad had passed away and in 1996 he was made a Knight Bachelor. Not only will his early work with the Beatles remain legendary among the historical music archives but he continued to hit gold when in 2006, Martin and his son Giles, remixed 80 minutes on Beatles music for the Las Vegas stage performance ‘Love’ a joint venture between Cirque du Soleil and the Beatles Apple Corps.

George Martin wears many titles: record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician. He was referred to as the "Fifth Beatle” in reference to his extensive involvement on each of the Beatles' original albums. There aren’t many in the business that can boast 30 number-one hit singles in the United Kingdom and 23 in the United States. He is one of only a few producers to have number one records in three or more consecutive decades (1960s, 70s, 80s and 90s) and I’m sure there are some people who envied his talent for winning an Academy Award, 6 Grammy and 2 Brits. Not bad for a six-year-old small boy whose interest in music started when the family acquired a piano. His parents persuaded the boy to take lessons but those ended after only eight because of a disagreement between his mother and teacher.

Despite Martin's continued interest in music, and "fantasies about being the next Rachmaninov", it wasn’t his initial career choice. He worked briefly as a quantity surveyor, and later for the War Office as a Temporary Clerk, which meant filing paperwork and making tea.

In 1943 he joined the Royal Navy and became an aerial observer and a commissioned officer. The war ended before Martin was involved in any combat and he used his veteran's grant to attend the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he studied piano and oboe. Following his graduation, he worked for the BBC's classical music department and then joined EMI in 1950.

One of my most thrilling moments was a few years ago. George and Judy had been invited to attend my original book launch but as expected he couldn’t attend. Like most artists of his standing, those sorts of promotional soirees were bland and unexciting and George stayed away from most.

 

In 2011 Titan Publishing together with EMI Records threw another launch, this time for the paperback of “The Singer’s Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro”. This was most unusual within the industry but EMI became involved because I had brought out an album of the same name in recognition of dad’s 25th anniversary.

Because of my memory problems with M.S. and after lessons learnt in the first book launch, I insisted that every guest had to wear a name badge, that way I would instantly know whether they were fans, press or radio presenters. The evening was so special in so many ways, the first being that it proved my last time in EMI before it was subsequently sold to Universal Music.

The second surprise came later in the evening when a hubbub started by the entrance to the building. A stunned silence seemed to take over the room as Sir George and Lady Judy Martin strode into the main area, shooing everyone away in their attempts to find me. It was like the parting of the Red Sea and people flowed to the back of the room so this giant of industry could find his prey. Certainly all the EMI staff were in shock as George hadn’t stepped foot in EMI in years and although I’d invited the couple out of politeness it never occurred to me they would actually come. I could hardly get my mouth to work especially after noting that both George and Judy donned their name badges. It merely endorsed just how humble the couple was, they simply took it in their stride while many lesser industry names would have histrionics and thrown their toys out of their ram while demeaning themselves with words like “Don’t you know who I am?”

George with the late Lynsey de Paul

and with Dennis Lotis

Apart from the fact the couple don’t like this sort of function, and despite the fact they don’t even live in London there was also a matter of age. George was 85 at the time and had driven himself, why? He told me “your father was one of my best friends and the least I can do is honour his name by showing my respect for the man and musician he was”. If that wasn’t enough of a reason to burst into tears, he then brought out the original score of ‘Michelle” and presented it to me having written on the front page ”Your dad meant this for you”. For those that don’t know the story my very first session with dad was on the day he recorded that Beatle’s song although I was unaware of what he was recording until George tapped his baton, the 40- strong musicians directed into silence and dad held out his hand to me and sang that song. It was the actual track pressed for release, the memory of which has stayed with me all my life. The score is framed and lives in my office.

Signing the manuscript of 'Michelle'

It was quite a night and even after George and Judy had left, the room continued to talk about this unexpected bonus to their evening. Poor Richard was in shock himself as George Martin is one of his long time idols and he couldn’t quite believe that he was sitting talking to one of music’s most talented icons. I know it meant so much to him and I’m thrilled that I was able to make it happen.

Being presented with a CD of his favourite recording of Matt. His own composition a demo of "No One Will Ever Know". George only had an old acetate. Richard had discovered the mastertape and wanted George to have a copy. The recording would have to wait a couple of years more to find release on "Matt Uncovered"

Losing George is also painful because it made me realise that nearly everyone associated with dad and that era of music has gone from our shores, never to create any more masterpieces but at least their legacy continues and certainly none of the people we have lost this year will ever be forgotten.

 

 

My new dates for 2016 have been confirmed as follows.

Cruise Calendar 2016

6 June – 1 July – Fred Olsen – Boudicca
9 July – 23 July – Emerald Princess (TBC)
23 July – 6 August – Emerald Princess (TBC)
26 August – 3 September – Celebrity Eclipse
3 September 17 September – Celebrity Eclipse
17 September -30 September – Celebrity Eclipse
30 September – 3 October – Celebrity Eclipse
3 October – 16 October – Celebrity Eclipse
16 October – 29 October – Celebrity Eclipse

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them and I’m sticking to the subject of this update and focusing on George Martin

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging Matt Monro’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage go home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month.

Warmest to you and yours
Michele

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