RIP: Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens

Pat DiNizio, the lead singer and songwriter of The Smithereens, died on Tuesday December 12, 2017. He was 62. On The Smithereen’s website, his bandmates wrote, “Today we mourn the loss of our friend, brother and bandmate Pat DiNizio. Pat had the magic touch. He channeled the essence of joy and heartbreak into hook-laden three minute pop songs infused with a lifelong passion for rock & roll. Our journey with Pat was long, storied and a hell of a lot of fun. We grew up together.”

DiNizio formed The Smithereens in 1980 with Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken and Mike Mesaros. When bassist Mesaros left the band in 2006, he was replaced by Severo Jornacion. The band was inducted into The Power Pop Hall of Fame last year.

I was lucky enough to meet Pat in 2015 at a small show in Glen Cove where he told his life story and sprinkled in some Smithereens songs with an acoustic guitar. He held the audience spellbound for the entire show. We talked before the show a little, and he was very friendly and approachable. He was suffering from health issues and was very self-conscious about his weight, to the point where he did not want photos taken except in “close up.” Here I am doing a selfie at a terrible angle, but Pat took it in stride. He seemed to be active in many outside projects, politics, and still played solo and with The Smithereens regularly. It’s like he didn’t want to slow down, but go out swinging. God bless, Pat — you lived the dream.

Tommy Keene, Power Pop icon 1958 – 2017

Tommy Keene, a veteran power pop singer-songwriter has passed away. His website made the announcement, gives no cause of death and simply states: “Tommy Keene 6/30/58 – 11/22/17. Tommy passed unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep.  Thank you to all his friends and family who he loved very much.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tommy in 2011, prior to his release Behind The Parade and it was one of my most memorable experiences. Tommy knew his audience and the state of pop music well.

His musical history is long, and over the years he collaborated with a number of stylistically similar artists. As early as the mid-197o’s Tommy played alongside Nils Lofgren (opening for his band Grin) and then while attending the University of Maryland he joined up with Richard X. Heyman. Then he formed a new band, The Razz who opened for such notable acts as the Ramones, Devo, and Patti Smith. Tommy joined several bands before finally going on his own in 1982. Then in 1986, Keene tapped Beatles producer Geoff Emrick for Songs From The Film, a classic power pop masterwork.

From there Keene’s music career took off, but he never achieved the recognition or stardom many of his peers felt he deserved. He’s played with Velvet Crush, Paul Westerberg, Guided By Voices and many others.  But other than power pop devotees and fellow musicians the general public barely knows him. If there was ever an artist who deserves a bigger box set retrospective of his career, its Tommy Keene. I hope more people discover him, as he was a special talent that is now sadly gone — and he will never be forgotten.

The passing of David Cassidy and Malcolm Young

In many ways with the passing of these icons, you have two sides of a musical coin. On one side, the squeaky clean image of David Cassidy’s Partridge Family persona. His biggest hit “I Think I Love You” written by Tony Romeo in 1970 was in many ways one of the last big hits that recalled the late ’60s sunshine pop era. On the other side of the coin was Young and AC/DC, a band that was part of a new wave of hard rock acts in the late ’70s that wiped away the progressive “art” rock that grew out of the psychedelic era. One style was weightlessly light pop. The other featured dark pounding riffs. Both styles were infectiously catchy. America loved them both.

David Cassidy was the ultimate teen idol of his era, both as an actor and a musician. His big hit sold over 5 million copies and his fan club at one point was larger than The Beatles. But once he left that carefully crafted teen persona, he never regained that level of popularity again. He passed away from liver and kidney failure, exacerbated by his long struggle with alcohol. He was 67.

Malcolm Young co-founded Australian rock legends AC/DC in 1973 with brother Angus Young died following a long battle with dementia. From the beginning Malcolm and Angus Young served as the band’s main songwriters, crafting the unmistakable riffs that would make AC/DC guitar rock legends. He was 64.

Another Wilbury gone: RIP Tom Petty

 

Tom Petty has died of Cardiac Arrest. He was only 66, finishing the last leg of his 40th Anniversary Tour with The Heartbreakers. Born in Gainesville, Fla., and played in the local bands The Epics and Mudcrutch, until he formed his own band, the Heartbreakers. He even teamed up with power pop legend Dwight Twilley. Twilley and Phil Seymour also sang on Petty’s first album on “Strangered In The Night” and Phil’s the main backing singer on Petty’s first breakout hit “Breakdown” and on “American Girl”; and as Petty notes in the liners to his boxed set, it was Twilley who suggested that the guitar riff at the end of “Breakdown” be moved to the beginning, as that was clearly the hook. ”

He scored big radio hits with his third album, 1979’s Damn the Torpedos, when “Refugee” entered the Top 20 in early 1980. He scored another Top 20 hit with “The Waiting,” from 1981’s Hard Promises, and another with “You Got Lucky,” from 1982’s Long After Dark. Eventually, he joined The Traveling Wilburys, a supergroup that also comprised Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. We only have two Wilburys left. Then Petty ditched the Heartbreakers, but got Jeff Lynne to jump-start his solo LP, 1989’s Full Moon Fever. Then came 1994’s Wildflowers and 2004’s Highway Companion, and hits like “I Won’t Back Down” and “Free Fallin’.”

Petty wrote “Even the losers get lucky sometimes,” but Petty was no loser, nor was he very lucky. It was a natural talent, hard work and stubborn persistence that made him a legend.

 

RIP: Glen Campbell finally free

Glen Campbell is the definition of musical legend with a very long and storied career. In the early ’60’s he was a sought after session player for the famous Wrecking Crew and played for many stars (Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Frank Sintra, Merle Haggard, The Monkees, The Association and The Mamas & The Papas.) He played bass with The Beach Boys, when Brian Wilson’s stage fright prevented him from playing live. The Beach Boys offered him a job, and he turned it down to pursue a successful solo career. While not a songwriter, he was an exceptional guitar player and vocalist – and nobody could play Jimmy Webb tunes like Glen could.

Throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s, Campbell began to record hit after hit including “Wichita Lineman” (1968) and “Galveston” (1969), “Try a Little Kindness” (1969), “Honey Come Back” (1970), “Everything a Man Could Ever Need” (1970), and “It’s Only Make Believe” (1970).

His hits catapulted him to his own prime time TV show, and peaked in 1975 with his biggest #1 song “Rhinestone Cowboy” from there he delivered more hits until his last #1 “Southern Nights.” After his hit-making days, he never really retired, playing until his affliction with Alzheimer’s disease took his life. More than any other musician I can think of he brought country music to the mainstream of pop. Take some time to re-discover this master performer.