Simón Díaz, one of Venezuela’s most popular singers and comedians who also earned recognition worldwide for his prowess as a player of the cuatro, a guitar-like instrument, died on Feb. 19 at his home in Caracas. He was 85.
His death was announced by his daughter, Bettsimar Díaz, who did not offer further details. In recent years he had been treated for Alzheimer’s disease.
Known as “Uncle Simón,” Mr. Díaz had been a presence in the cultural life of Venezuela and neighboring South American and Caribbean countries since the mid-1950s. He first gained attention as the host of a radio show of folk music called “The Plainsman,” whose popularity led to a recording contract and more than 50 albums and CDs in which he mixed traditional songs and original compositions.
Sean Potts, who learned to play the tin whistle from his grandfather in the 1930s and for a time made an international career out of it as a founding member of the traditional Irish band the Chieftains, died on Feb. 11 in Dublin. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by his son Sean.
Mr. Potts was self-conscious as a boy because, unlike many of his peers, he was drawn to the old music his grandfather John would play with friends in the parlor of his house in Dublin. The grandfather, who had moved to the city from County Wexford, in southeastern Ireland, in 1891, favored tin whistles and uilleann pipes.
Sometimes, after tilling the soil of the small plot where the family grew vegetables during World War II, John Potts would play a tune, then insist that his grandson try to match him note for note.
NY Times February 19, 2014
Bob Casale, Guitarist in Devo, Dies at 61
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Bob Casale, a guitarist who was an original member of the influential rock band Devo, died on Monday. He was 61.
His death was announced by the bassist Gerald Casale, his brother and fellow band member, who said in a statement that the cause was “conditions that lead to heart failure.” He provided no further details.
Devo (the name is short for “devolution”) began in Akron, Ohio, in the early 1970s and first attracted national attention in 1977 with a frenzied version of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
The group’s first album, “Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!,” produced by Brian Eno, was released in 1978; its off-kilter rhythms, deadpan lyrics and use of electronics quickly attracted a following and had a strong influence on the music that came to be known as new wave.
The singer Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale were the band’s leaders. Mr. Mothersbaugh said in a statement on Tuesday that Bob Casale was “integral in Devo’s sound.”
The band’s popularity peaked with the 1980 album “Freedom of Choice,” which was certified platinum and contained Devo’s best-known song, “Whip It,” which reached the Billboard Top 20 and became an MTV favorite.
Devo broke up in 1991, but re-formed five years later. In 2010 the band released “Something for Everybody,” its first new album in 20 years.
Mr. Casale’s survivors include his wife, Lisa; a son, Alex; and a daughter, Samantha.
Devo’s longtime drummer Alan Myers died last year.
Sid Caesar died yesterday at the age of 91. The N.Y. Times obituary (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/arts/television/sid-caesar-comic-who-blazed-tv-trail-dies-at-91.html) pays tribute to his remarkable breakthroughs as a comedian that Alfred Hitchcock compared to Charlie Chaplin and who counted Albert Einstein as one of biggest fans. Speaking of Chaplin and Einstein, a couple of lefties, I can’t say I am surprised that the obit did not pay attention to Sid Caesar’s early leftist affinities. While they never were manifested in his hugely popular TV show, his evolution as a comic was definitely just as much a product of the New Deal popular culture as Pete Seeger’s.
I had pretty strong connections to Sid Caesar even though I never spoke a word to him. This is partly a function of my being a young kid when he used to show up in Woodridge, my hometown, from time to time but also a function of his intimidating presence. He used to show up at the pharmacy next to my dad’s store “strapped”—he was heavily into guns. Plus, he was a big guy who gave off “don’t bother me” vibes. As it turned out, Sid was a health food nut even if he was not above developing a spoof on the bean sprout scene.
I know for a fact that he was a health food nut because the owner of the hotel where he got his start used to call my father up to order his best fruits and vegetables for Sid. This is captured in the excerpt from my abortive memoir below, as well as the leftist connections. (Btw, if any of my enemies—you know who you are—needs wising up, I am posting the excerpt under the provisions of the Fair Use provisions of the copyright laws.)
My first reference to Sid’s leftist past that formed the basis for the comic book passage was prompted by a visit to a conference on the Catskills organized by Phil Brown, a Brown University sociologist whose parents ran a small hotel not far from my home town. The entire report is at http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/jewish/borschtbelt.htm
Here’s the relevant part:
Most people know about the resort hotels and the famed Jewish comedians who got their start there, including Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye, Rodney Dangerfield and Buddy Hackett among others. What is not so well-known is that the area was a hotbed of left-wing politics. I suppose that wherever Jews can be found there is bound to be left-wing politics, except Israel that is.
Sid Caesar got his start at the Avon Lodge about a mile from my father’s fruit store. His comedy show was the biggest thing on television in the fifties. The writing staff included Woody Allen, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks at one point. Caesar had a violent temper and during a writing session once held an errant writer outside the window of the NBC offices by his heels.
He would come to my village to do some shopping whenever he was upstate for a weekend getaway. Sid was a gun-nut and would always come to town with big revolvers in his holster and a cartridge belt fully loaded. He would spend hours at a time on the firing range at the Avon Lodge venting his rage on tin cans and bottles. When I drove my bicycle down the road near the Avon Lodge, I could always hear him shooting. Ka-boom. Ka-boom. Ka-boom.
The Avon Lodge was co-owned by the Arkins and the Neukrugs. Sid Caesar had married an Arkin. The Neukrugs were rumored to be red. I studied piano briefly with Henrietta Neukrug in 1957 and in the middle of practicing “Row-row-your-boat” one afternoon, I turned to her and asked, “Mrs. Neukrug, are you a Communist?” She glared at me and told me that I was rude. Many years later as my exploits as a globe-trotting radical became common knowledge in town, the Neukrugs decided to turn over a box of Henrietta’s mementos after she died. It included many pamphlets by William Z. Foster, WEB DuBois and Sy Gerson, etc., and a hand-painted portrait of Joseph Stalin. Her family’s gesture meant a lot more to me than the contents of the box.
I imagine that most people under 40 have no idea who Shirley Temple was but she died yesterday at the age of 85. Good riddance, I say.
Temple was a big child star in the 1930s. The rather sanitized NY Times obit refers to the films she did with Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, who was immortalized in the Jerry Jeff Walker song from 1968. Robinson, an African-American, was cast in the kind of role that Stepan Fetchit made infamous, a grinning, shuffling and deferential Uncle Tom. In real life, Robinson was nothing like his character. He was a proud and assertive Black man who after being refused service in a restaurant once asked the owner to give him a ten dollar bill for a minute, which he did. Robinson then took 5 ten-dollar bills out of his wallet and shuffled all the bills together. Which one is mine, Robinson challenged.
The worst of the Temple-Robinson collaborations was undoubtedly “The Littlest Rebel” that starred Temple as Virgie, a little girl trying to save her Confederate officer dad from the Union army. You can get a flavor of the film from this Wikipedia article:
The film opens in the ballroom of the Cary plantation on Virgie’s sixth birthday. Her slave Uncle Billy dances for her party guests, but the celebration is brought abruptly to an end when a messenger arrives with news of the assault on Fort Sumter and a declaration of war. Virgie’s father is ordered to the Armory with horse and side-arms. He becomes a scout for the Confederate Army, crossing enemy lines to gather information. On these expeditions, he sometimes briefly visits his family at their plantation behind Union lines.
One day, Colonel Morrison, a Union officer, arrives at the Cary plantation looking for Virgie‘s father. Virgie defies him, hitting him with a pebble from her slingshot and singing “Dixie”. After Morrison leaves, Cary arrives to visit his family but quickly departs when slaves warn of approaching Union troops. Led by the brutal Sgt. Dudley, the Union troops begin to loot the house. Colonel Morrison returns, puts an end to the plundering, and orders Dudley lashed. With this act, Morrison rises in Virgie’s esteem.
This scuzzy movie is online:
Turn to 05:50 for a flavor of the racism in this film.
For what it’s worth, “The Littlest Rebel” is a 20th Century Fox movie, the same studio that brought us “12 Years a Slave”. The executive most closely associated with the 20th Century Fox brand name was one Darryl Zanuck. To his credit, Zanuck was responsible for “Pinky”, a 1949 film that tackled racism in the Deep South. Of course, racial attitudes were a lot different by then.
After her film career ended, Temple married one Charles Alden Black in 1950 and became Shirley Temple Black, a figure long associated with rightwing Republican politics even though she caught flak in 1938 for sending a friendly letter to a French newspaper with CP ties. My guess is that when she was a kid, she had no idea about what was going on in the world. By the 1950s, she had wised up. Anti-Communism was a good career movie, for liberals and conservatives alike.
In 1967 Temple ran for Congress against Pete McCloskey, a staunch antiwar Republican liberal—yes, Virginia, there were such people around back then. Despite losing the race, her political future remained rosy. Nixon appointed her representative to the United Nations and later on Ford made her ambassador to Ghana.
Back in 1974, Charles Eckert wrote an article for Jump Cut—a radical film magazine—titled “Shirley Temple and the House of Rockefeller” that made the case for her films functioning as a damper against working-class militancy. I find his arguments persuasive, especially since they are formulated in terms of rejecting the “Hoover-Roosevelt” solution for economic misery:
If we add to all of this Shirley’s function as an asset to the Fox studios, her golden locks and the value of her name to the producers of Shirley Temp dolls and other products, the imagery closes in. She is subsumed to that class of objects which symbolize capitalism’s false democracy: the Comstock Lode, the Irish Sweepstakes, the legacy from a distant relative. And if we join her inestimable value with her inability to be shared we discover a deep resonance with the depression-era notion of what capital was: a vital force whose efficacy would be destroyed if it was shared. Even Shirley’s capacity for love is rendered economic by our awareness that Fox duplicated the Hoover-Roosevelt tactic of espousing compassion for anterior economic motives (specifically, by making a profit from the spectacle of compassion). And because of the unique nature of the star-centered movie industry of the thirties, Shirley was a power for monopoly control of film distribution.
Most people probably had the same reaction to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death by heroin overdose that they did to Heath Ledger’s on painkillers in the same kind of posh downtown neighborhood. Why would somebody earning millions of dollars and the adulation of countless fans ever become a drug addict, and as was the case with both superstars, an alcoholic as well? The dirty little secret of the acting profession is that many people attracted to it are compensating for deep feelings of inadequacy that no amount of money or fame can relieve. When I was an undergraduate at Bard College, I became good friends with a woman who would become a film and theater star of some magnitude but most of the time she could not shake the feeling that she was not smart as the other students. When she was on stage being applauded, that was when she felt like a human being. Of course, when you are not on stage or on the silver screen, reality has a way of bringing you down.
Hoffman earned the kind of accolades that do not usually come the way of “character actors”. Most movie stars are the sorts of prime meat in their twenties and early thirties who end up on David Letterman’s sofa talking about the cute things their pet schnauzer does and promoting their next film, an exciting tale of Navy Seals rescuing San Diego from mutant flying sharks. Wikipedia says that the earliest known use of the term character actor is from the November 9, 1883 edition of The Stage, which defined it as “one who portrays individualities and eccentricities, as opposed to the legitimate actor who [...] endeavours to create the rôle as limned by the author”.
Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.
His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
Mr. Seeger’s career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.
For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.
In his hearty tenor, Mr. Seeger, a beanpole of a man who most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in. His agenda paralleled the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond. “We Shall Overcome,” which Mr. Seeger adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.
Mr. Seeger was a mentor to younger folk and topical singers in the ‘50s and ‘60s, among them Bob Dylan, Don McLean and Bernice Johnson Reagon, who founded Sweet Honey in the Rock. Decades later, Bruce Springsteen drew the songs on his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” from Mr. Seeger’s repertoire of traditional music about a turbulent American experience, and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Mr. Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”
Although he recorded more than 100 albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.
Mr. Seeger saw himself as part of a continuing folk tradition, constantly recycling and revising music that had been honed by time.
During the McCarthy era Mr. Seeger’s political affiliations, including membership in the Communist Party in the 1940s, led to his being blacklisted and later indicted for contempt of Congress. The pressure broke up the Weavers, and Mr. Seeger disappeared from television until the late 1960s. But he never stopped recording, performing and listening to songs from ordinary people. Through the decades, his songs have become part of America’s folklore.
“My job,” he said in 2009, “is to show folks there’s a lot of good music in this world, and if used right it may help to save the planet.”
Peter Seeger was born on May 3, 1919, to Charles Seeger, a musicologist, and Constance de Clyver Edson Seeger, a concert violinist. His parents later divorced.
He began playing the ukulele while attending Avon Old Farms, a private boarding school in Connecticut. His father and his stepmother, the composer Ruth Crawford Seeger, were collecting and transcribing rural American folk music, as were folklorists like John and Alan Lomax. He heard the five-string banjo, which would become his main instrument, when his father took him to a square-dance festival in North Carolina.
Young Pete became enthralled by rural traditions. “I liked the strident vocal tone of the singers, the vigorous dancing,” he is quoted in “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a biography by David Dunaway. “The words of the songs had all the meat of life in them. Their humor had a bite, it was not trivial. Their tragedy was real, not sentimental.”
Planning to be a journalist, Mr. Seeger attended Harvard, where he founded a radical newspaper and joined the Young Communist League. After two years, he dropped out and came to New York City, where Mr. Lomax introduced him to the blues singer Huddie Ledbetter, known as Lead Belly. Mr. Lomax also helped Mr. Seeger find a job cataloging and transcribing music at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress.
Mr. Seeger met Mr. Guthrie, a songwriter who shared his love of vernacular music and agitprop ambitions, in 1940, when they performed at a benefit concert for migrant California workers. Traveling across the United States with Mr. Guthrie, Mr. Seeger picked up some of his style and repertory. He also hitchhiked and hopped freight trains by himself, trading and learning songs.
When he returned to New York later in 1940, Mr. Seeger made his first albums. He, Millard Lampell and Mr. Hays founded the Almanac Singers, who performed union songs and, until Germany invaded the Soviet Union, antiwar songs, following the Communist Party line. Mr. Guthrie soon joined the group.
During World War II the Almanac Singers’s repertory turned to patriotic, antifascist songs, bringing them a broad audience, including a prime-time national radio spot. But the group’s earlier antiwar songs, the target of an F.B.I. investigation, came to light, and the group’s career plummeted.
Before the group completely dissolved, however, Mr. Seeger was drafted in 1942 and assigned to a unit of performers. He married Toshi-Aline Ohta while on furlough in 1943.
When he returned from the war he founded People’s Songs Inc., which published political songs and presented concerts for several years before going bankrupt. He also started his nightclub career, performing at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village. Mr. Seeger and Paul Robeson toured with the campaign of Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party presidential candidate, in 1948.
Mr. Seeger invested $1,700 in 17 acres of land overlooking the Hudson River in Beacon and began building a log cabin there in the late 1940s. In 1949, Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman started working together as the Weavers. They were signed to Decca Records by Gordon Jenkins, the company’s music director and an arranger for Frank Sinatra. With Mr. Jenkins’s elaborate orchestral arrangements, the group recorded a repertoire that stretched from “If I Had a Hammer” to a South African song, “Wimoweh” (the title was Mr. Seeger’s mishearing of “Mbube,” the name of a South African hit by Solomon Linda), to an Israeli soldiers’ song, “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena,” to a cleaned-up version of Lead Belly’s “Goodnight, Irene.” Onstage, they also sang more pointed topical songs.
In 1950 and 1951 the Weavers were national stars, with hit singles and engagements at major nightclubs. Their hits included “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” and Mr. Guthrie’s “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh),” and they sold an estimated four million singles and albums.
But “Red Channels,” an influential pamphlet listing performers with suspected Communist ties, appeared in June 1950 and listed Mr. Seeger, although by then he had quit the Communist Party. He would later criticize himself for having not left the party sooner, though he continued to describe himself as a “communist with a small ‘c.’ ”
Despite the Weavers’ commercial success, by the summer of 1951 the “Red Channels” citation and leaks from F.B.I. files had led to the cancellation of television appearances. In 1951, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigated the Weavers for sedition. And in February 1952, a former member of People’s Songs testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that three of the four Weavers were members of the Communist Party.
As engagements dried up the Weavers disbanded, though they reunited periodically in the mid-1950s. After the group recorded an advertisement for Lucky Strike cigarettes, Mr. Seeger left, citing his objection to promoting tobacco use.
Shut out of national exposure, Mr. Seeger returned primarily to solo concerts, touring college coffeehouses, churches, schools and summer camps, building an audience for folk music among young people. He started to write a long-running column for the folk-song magazine Sing Out! And he recorded prolifically for the independent Folkways label, singing everything from children’s songs to Spanish Civil War anthems.
In 1955 he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee, where he testified, “I feel that in my whole life I have never done anything of any conspiratorial nature.” He also stated: “I am not going to answer any questions as to my association, my philosophical or religious beliefs or my political beliefs, or how I voted in any election, or any of these private affairs. I think these are very improper questions for any American to be asked, especially under such compulsion as this.”
Mr. Seeger offered to sing the songs mentioned by the congressmen who questioned him. The committee declined.
Mr. Seeger was indicted in 1957 on 10 counts of contempt of Congress. He was convicted in 1961 and sentenced to a year in prison, but the next year an appeals court dismissed the indictment as faulty. After the indictment, Mr. Seeger’s concerts were often picketed by the John Birch Society and other rightist groups. “All those protests did was sell tickets and get me free publicity,” he later said. “The more they protested, the bigger the audiences became.”
By then, the folk revival was prospering. In 1959, Mr. Seeger was among the founders of the Newport Folk Festival. The Kingston Trio’s version of Mr. Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” reached the Top 40 in 1962, soon followed by Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of “If I Had a Hammer,” which rose to the Top 10.
Mr. Seeger was signed to a major label, Columbia Records, in 1961, but he remained unwelcome on network television. “Hootenanny,” an early-1960s show on ABC that capitalized on the folk revival, refused to book Mr. Seeger, causing other performers (including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary) to boycott it. “Hootenanny” eventually offered to present Mr. Seeger if he would sign a loyalty oath. He refused.
He toured the world, performing and collecting folk songs, in 1963, and returned to serenade civil rights advocates, who had made a rallying song of his “We Shall Overcome.”
Like many of Mr. Seeger’s songs, “We Shall Overcome” had convoluted traditional roots. It was based on old gospel songs, primarily “I’ll Overcome,” a hymn that striking tobacco workers had sung on a picket line in South Carolina. A slower version, “We Will Overcome,” was collected from one of the workers, Lucille Simmons, by Zilphia Horton, the musical director of the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., which trained union organizers.
Ms. Horton taught it to Mr. Seeger, and her version of “We Will Overcome” was published in the People’s Songs newsletter. Mr. Seeger changed “We will” to “We shall” and added verses (“We’ll walk hand in hand”). He taught it to the singers Frank Hamilton, who would join the Weavers in 1962, and Guy Carawan, who became musical director at Highlander in the ‘50s. Mr. Carawan taught the song to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at its founding convention.
The song was copyrighted by Mr. Seeger, Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Carawan and Ms. Horton. “At that time we didn’t know Lucille Simmons’s name,” Mr. Seeger wrote in his 1993 autobiography, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” All of the song’s royalties go to the “We Shall Overcome” Fund, administered by what is now the Highlander Research and Education Center, which provides grants to African-Americans organizing in the South.
Along with many elders of the protest-song movement, Mr. Seeger felt betrayed when Bob Dylan appeared at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival with a loud electric blues band. Reports emerged that Mr. Seeger had tried to cut the power cable with an ax, but witnesses including the producer George Wein and the festival’s production manager, Joe Boyd (later a leading folk-rock record producer), said he did not go that far. (An ax was available, however. A group of prisoners had used it while singing a logging song.)
As the United States grew divided over the Vietnam War, Mr. Seeger wrote “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy,” an antiwar song with the refrain “The big fool says to push on.” He performed the song during a taping of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” in September 1967, his return to network television, but it was cut before the show was broadcast. After the Smothers Brothers publicized the censorship, Mr. Seeger returned to perform the song for broadcast in February 1968.
During the late 1960s Mr. Seeger started an improbable project: a sailing ship that would crusade for cleaner water on the Hudson River. Between other benefit concerts he raised money to build the Clearwater, a 106-foot sloop that was launched in June 1969 with a crew of musicians. The ship became a symbol and a rallying point for antipollution efforts and education.
In May 2009, after decades of litigation and environmental activism led by Mr. Seeger’s nonprofit environmental organization, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater, General Electric began dredging sediment containing PCBs it had dumped into the Hudson. Mr. Seeger and his wife also helped organize a yearly summer folk festival named after the Clearwater.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s Mr. Seeger toured regularly with Arlo Guthrie, Woody’s son, and continued to lead singalongs and perform benefit concerts. Recognition and awards arrived. He was elected to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, and in 1993 he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award. In 1994, President Bill Clinton handed him the National Medal of Arts, America’s highest arts honor, given by the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1999, he traveled to Cuba to receive the Order of Félix Varela, Cuba’s highest cultural award, for his “humanistic and artistic work in defense of the environment and against racism.”
In 1996, Mr. Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. Arlo Guthrie, who paid tribute at the ceremony, mentioned that the Weavers’ hit “Goodnight, Irene” reached No. 1, only to add, “I can’t think of a single event in Pete’s life that is probably less important to him.” Mr. Seeger made no acceptance speech, but he did lead a singalong of “Goodnight, Irene,” flanked by Stevie Wonder, David Byrne and members of the Jefferson Airplane.
Mr. Seeger won Grammy Awards for best traditional folk album in 1997, for the album “Pete,” and in 2009, for the album “At 89.” He also won a Grammy in the children’s music category in 2011 for “Tomorrow’s Children.”
Mr. Seeger kept performing into the 21st century, despite a flagging voice; audiences happily sang along more loudly. He celebrated his 90th birthday, on May 3, 2009, at a Madison Square Garden concert — a benefit for Hudson River Sloop Clearwater — with Mr. Springsteen, Dave Matthews, John Mellencamp, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Emmylou Harris and dozens of other musicians paying tribute. In August he was back in Newport for the 50th anniversary of the Newport Folk Festival.
Mr. Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, days before the couple’s 70th anniversary. Survivors include his son, Daniel; his daughters, Mika and Tinya; a half-sister, Peggy; and six grandchildren, including the musician Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, who performed with him at the Obama inaugural. His half-brother Mike Seeger, a folklorist and performer who founded the New Lost City Ramblers, died in 2009.
Through the years, Mr. Seeger remained determinedly optimistic. “The key to the future of the world,” he said in 1994, “is finding the optimistic stories and letting them be known.”
Amiri Baraka and Adolfo Olaechea both died on January 9, 2014, Baraka of an undisclosed illness at the age of 79 and Olaechea of pancreatic cancer at the age of 70. Besides dying on the same day, the two shared Maoist politics. Baraka was a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist) that dissolved in 1990 while Olaechea was the most prominent spokesman for the Communist Party of Peru, better known as Shining Path. And perhaps as a bit of a surprise, both were subscribers at one point to Marxism listservs that are now based at the University of Utah. I never knew Baraka personally but his career had a significant impact on my own political development. I knew Olaechea as a bitter adversary on the Marxism lists but grew closer to him after offering my support when he was in danger of becoming a victim of Peru’s repressive judicial system. And long after that, he became a Facebook friend, where I learned of his death.
In 1961 I was a sixteen-year-old freshman at Bard College, having skipped my senior year of high school. I was about as confused as any teenager, in my case a member of the Young Americans for Freedom and an aspiring “beatnik”. Maybe that wasn’t so strange a combination since this was just around the time that Jack Kerouac was drifting to the right in an alcoholic haze.
When I discovered that Robert Kelly was giving a writer’s workshop, I signed up since he was pretty well known as a “new poet”. Kelly was committed to bringing kindred spirits up to Bard for readings, including Robert Duncan. When I discovered that Leroi Jones was going to give a reading from his novel-in-progress “The System of Dante’s Inferno”, I was really excited since Jones was becoming a star of the new poetry movement.
Nothing prepared me for “The System of Dante’s Inferno”. This was one of the first expressions of Black outrage at the time. Inferno was nothing less than American society and Jones’s protagonist was its victim. The reading was so powerful that I became an early convert to the Black struggle even though on all other fronts my consciousness lagged.
A year after Jones’s reading, I had dumped the conservatism of my high school years and subscribed to the Camus-influenced liberal existentialism that was in vogue at Bard and other “hip” colleges. But it was Black nationalism that intrigued me, not so much the “integrationism” of the student movement. Bard was the kind of place where “prejudice” was unheard of but I never heard any white students trying to figure out why only 2 percent of the student body was Black.
In my senior year, when I was in New York for the weekend I found out that there was going to be a debate on Black nationalism between Jones and Nat Hentoff at Art D’Lugoff’s Village Gate. This I would not miss for the world. The Village Voice reported on the event:
Village Voice March 18, 1965, Vol. X, No. 22
Gig at Gate: Return of the White Liberal Stompers
By Jack Newfield
Goateed, immaculately dressed Negroes looking for a pogrom, carefully coifed Hadassah ladies looking for a lynching and impassive hipsters looking for a “happening” jammed the Village Gate last Wednesday night. The marquee proclaimed blues singer Paul Butterfield, but the magnet was LeRoi Jones and his White Liberal Stompers.
The Stompers had made a spectacular debut at the Village Vanguard two weeks ago when they refused to play a dirge for the slain civil rights workers Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner and for the six million Jews incinerated by Hitler.
“Those boys were just artifacts, man,” poet-playwright-polemicist Jones had said of the dead integrationists. “They weren’t real. If they went (to Mississippi) to assuage their leaking consciences that’s their business. I won’t mourn for them. I have my own dead to mourn for.”
Even if I weren’t more sympathetic to Jones to begin with, I would have supported him no matter what Hentoff had to say. I always found him an insufferable Pecksniff and never understood how he became such an authority on jazz, let alone politics.
Two years later I found myself at the New School working on a PhD in philosophy, mostly as a way of staying out of the army. By day I was working for the welfare department in Harlem and becoming radicalized by the injustice that my clients faced and on a personal level facing the draft.
On July 12, 1967 the Newark ghetto exploded. I reacted to it with jubilation. People inside the U.S. were resisting the same rotten system that the Vietnamese were. Six weeks later I would join the Young Socialist Alliance, the youth group of the SWP.
Amiri Baraka, Newark, July 1967
During the Newark riots, the cops ganged up on Jones, who had changed his name to Amiri Baraka by this point. The charge was carrying an illegal weapon and resisting arrest that was later dropped. His real crime was being a Black militant.
As Amiri Baraka became more of an activist than an artist, his poetry suffered. I pretty much stopped paying any attention to him until he forsook Black nationalism for Maoism when he joined the League for Revolutionary Struggle. The LRS was the result of a fusion in 1978 of a number of Asian, Chicano and Black groups including Amiri Baraka’s Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Tse-tung Thought). By 1990 the group was a spent force and dissolved itself, with a number of members joining the Freedom Road Socialist Party that staggers on, although divided into two rival sects.
I never paid much attention to what Baraka was writing as a member of the LRS but decided to have a look today to help put his Marxism into context. On the Marxist Internet Archives, you can read his polemic with the Revolutionary Workers Headquarters (RWQ), a group that has like so many of these Maoist currents disappeared from the face of the earth. Baraka is anxious to take on the “workerism” of the RWQ that he evidently regards as too much influenced by their origins in Bob Avakian’s RCP. He lectures them:
RWH does not understand that black capitalism is the cry of the black bourgeoisie for self-determination!! And black capitalism can help the Black Nation at this point. We should encourage the black national bourgeoisie to be bigger and better capitalists (at present their whole gross income is about that of General Electric). We must, as Mao said in his classic work on the United Front, “respect the interests” of the black national bourgeoisie as well as all the other classes in the front. But obviously, as communists, we struggle for the leadership of the working class within the black united front. And even though we encourage black capitalists to become bigger and better capitalists, we do so urging that this proposed expansion of black capitalism be done in the interests of the Afro-American Nation.
I guess this sort of explains Baraka’s eventual embrace of Barack Obama (their names means “blessed” in Arabic and is obviously related to the Hebrew word “baruch”.)
The most interesting sentences in the polemic are those that evoke the incandescent imagery of “The System of Dante’s Hell” that I first heard 52 years ago:
But what is also overwhelming is RWH’s consistent upholding of these RU / RCP lines, in spire of themselves. Sometimes it is like an old junkie one has known a long time who now tells you he is going to “clean up” and bores a hole in your head with this Christmas tree fantasy, but at the same time still speaks so lovingly and hungrily about “scag” that one is certain he is never going to kick. In fact, while he is talking to you, you can still see a trace of spittle in the corners of the mouth, the eyes begin to sag just a bit, and the telltale hand starts to scratch ubiquitously at the dried skin the drug has made.
An old friend who graduated Bard the year I came in as a freshman started out preferring my non-political writings, especially ones that referred to birds. He would rebuke me: “more birds…” If I knew Amiri Baraka better, I would have told him “more junkies…”
In 1998 Adolfo Olaechea showed up on the Marxism-International mailing list that gave birth to Marxmail after he and Louis Godena, a CP’er who had become converted to Maoism, hijacked the moderation board and began expelling people right and left.
Like Amiri Baraka, he was capable of some truly bombastic “Marxist-Leninist” rhetoric:
Today’s social-fascists are the direct descendants of the Menshevik social-chauvinists who led the working masses into the butchery of the First Imperialist War, who later PAVED the way for FASCISM and nurtured and provided “intellectual muscle” for Mussolini’s anti-bolshevik “Fascios die Combattimento”, the same “white-gloved butchers” who showed Hitler and his brown shirts the road and methods for assassinating the working masses and the proletarian leaders by means of the Social Democrat revisionist “Frei-Korps” organised by the social-fascist regime of Ebert in Germany.
Within a year of “capturing” Marxism-International, the list was dead. And within another year, the Communist Party of Peru was also dead. Its founder Comrade Gonzalo had been captured in 1992 and by the late 90s, the group began to splinter—partly out of state repression but also out of its own sectarian logic.
Adolfo was out of sight and out of mind until 2004 when Louis Godena asked me to publicize efforts to prevent his being extradited to Peru, where he would face the firing squad or life imprisonment if he were lucky. When he was in Spain doing some consulting for his corporate employer, the Spanish cops arrested him.
Three years after being arrested, he stood trial and was cleared of all charges:
“CHANCELLOR OF TERROR” TRIAL COMES TO AN END IN PERU
In Lima’s National Criminal High Court, on Tuesday October 23, 2007, and after 4 years and 3 months of what started as one of the most internationally trumpeted “terrorism” extraditions and trials of recent times, these proceedings come to the end of the juridical road completely transformed into a purely political and ideological test of the essential democratic values of freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
Adolfo Olaechea was arrested July 3, 2003 in the Spanish town of Almeria, while on a consultancy assignment for the British firm Spectrum International Research Ltd. on behalf of a top Japanese vehicle manufacturer. The then Spanish govrenment of Jose Maria Aznar, involved to the hilt on Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’, had decided to enforce an extradition request from the Peruvian government. This extradition order had originally been issued in 1993 by the now himself extradited former Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori. Ironically, Fujimori himself is now in Lima too, awaiting trial for the same crimes against humanity that Olaechea had first denounced in a “war crimes trial” sponsored by the Secretariat of the late Lord Bertrand Russell in London back in 1992. This action of Olaechea’s has been revealed to be at the centre of the charges of “terrorism” brought illegally against this long standing British resident on the instructions of Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori’s spy chief.
Dubbed by the international press as the case of “Shining Path’s Chancellor”, the “ambassador of terror”, etc., the proceedings against Mr. Olaechea have involved international campaigns on his behalf by prominent personalities, among which several members of the House of Lords and the British parliament-. Among them Lords Eric Avebury and Lord Nicolas Rea, statement on his behalf by prominent intellectuals and writers, including Tony Benn and Mario Vargas Llosa, the famous Peruvian novelists, as well as writers, journalists and activists in many countries. Lord Nicolas Rea, the hereditary peer member of the All Party Human Rights Group of the British parliament, appeared in Lima’s High Court back in April 2007, as a witness for the defense, a totally unprecedented event in Peruvian juridical history. In the pre-trial stages of the proceedings, the famous Peruvian jurist, Javier Valle Riestra – now a member of the Peruvian Parliament again, and therefore unable by law to defend cases in which the Peruvian state is involved – took a prominent role, and even wrote a chapter dedicated to the case in his celebrated Treaty on Extradition, published in 4 volumes. Valle Riestra therefore, gets frequently quoted and mentioned during the closing stages of the proceedings. The case, also reached the Spanish Constitutional Court, that decided that Spain had violated Mr. Olaechea right to legality. In the European Court of Human Rights Spain was condemned and ordered to pay a fine for having extradited Olaechea in defiance of a directive from the Human Rights Directorate to have the case examined at Strasburg first.
Then, six years later, I got a Facebook friend request from Adolfo—of all people. In the first few months he was very warm and gracious even promising that I would be his guest of honor if I ever made it down to Lima.
The tone changed somewhat after he figured out that I was behind the Syrian armed struggle against the Baathists. As might be obvious, rallying around Bashar al-Assad comes easy for those who were trained in Stalinist politics.
I didn’t pay much attention to the sparks that flew when some of my pro-revolution FB friends began to take issue with him, but somewhere along the line I discovered that he was ill. When I found out how seriously ill he was, I urged my friends to avoid using invective with him. Even though he claimed that he had beaten the disease, I knew that pancreatic cancer had the lowest survival rate of all cancers.
This was the last conversation we had on September 14, 2013. I will really miss Adolfo.
Me: Adolfo, are you sick? What is going on?
Adolfo: I have been diagnosed last year (September) with cancer to the páncreas. Was given 3-6 months and dubbed a terminal case stage 4. However after undergoing a heavy chemio (against the advice of some doctors).the cáncer markers started giving negative results (no cancer) and the tomographies and magnetic resonances could´t visualise the tumour at all. Sincé then I have been put in an only pills chemiotherapy that actually does have as one of its side effects to empty my bowels in a full manner every morning at 6.00 am like clock work. Another side effect is losing my toenails due to swollen feet and therefore must spend a few hours of the day with my feet high up. Can´t complain. A leader of the Peruvian parliamentary “left” was disgnosed with the same cancer around the same time as mine. He died in less tan 4 months despite the most expensive treatments and private clinics. I am having treatment in the Social Security services, that even though seems more like a nuthouse, has evidently good doctors!
Me: I am so sorry to hear this. I am sure you know that pancreatic cancer is very deadly. I am an atheist but my thoughts are with you.
Adolfo: Well, I am an atheist too, however my family is not, and they are now trying to get my experience with pancreatic cancer declared a “miracle” and ascribe it to my mother or my aunt, both now diseadsed but with the last one, my aunt having died. – as the clerics like to say – in “odour of sanctity”. Don´t worry too much and remeber DEmocritus way of dealing with death: “When I am here, death is not. When death is there, I am not. We will never meet”.}
Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, whose hits with his older brother, Don Everly, carried the close fraternal harmonies of country tradition into pioneering rock ‘n’ roll, died Friday, according to the group’s official website.
He died in a hospital in Burbank, near his home in Southern California, of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after lifelong smoking, according to reports from The Los Angeles Times and The Associated Press. He was 74.
With songs like “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “When Will I Be Loved?,” which was written by Phil Everly, the brothers were consistent hitmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They won over country, pop and even R&B listeners with a combination of clean-cut vocals and the rockabilly strum and twang of their guitars.
They were also models for the next generations of rock vocal harmonies for the Beatles, Linda Ronstadt, Simon and Garfunkel and many others who recorded their songs and tried to emulate their precise, ringing vocal alchemy. The Everly Brothers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in its first year, 1986.
The Everlys carried a mountain-music blend, rooted in gospel and bluegrass, into pop songs that reached teenagers. They often sang in close tandem, with Phil Everly on the higher note and the brothers’ two voices virtually inseparable. That sound was part of a long lineage of country “brother acts” like the Delmore Brothers, the Monroe Brothers and the Louvin Brothers. In an interview in November, Phil Everly said: “We’d grown up together, so we’d pronounce the words the same, with the same accent. All of that comes into play when you’re singing in harmony.”
Paul Simon, whose song “Graceland” includes vocals by Phil and Don Everly, said in an email on Saturday morning: “Phil and Don were the most beautiful sounding duo I ever heard. Both voices pristine and soulful. The Everlys were there at the crossroads of country and R&B. They witnessed and were part of the birth of rock and roll.”
The Everly Brothers’ music grew out of a childhood spent singing. Phil Everly was born in Chicago on Jan. 19, 1939, the son of a Kentucky coal miner turned musician, Ike Everly, and his wife, Margaret. The family had left Kentucky, where Don Everly was born in 1937, for musical opportunities in Chicago. They soon moved on to Iowa, where Ike Everly found steady work playing country music on live radio. In Shenandoah, Iowa, Ike Everly got his own show — at 6 a.m. on the radio station KMA — and in 1945, “Little Donnie” and the six-year-old “Baby Boy Phil” started harmonizing with their parents on the air. They went to school after they performed.
The Everly family moved on to radio shows in Indiana and Tennessee. In 1955 the teenage brothers settled in Nashville, where they were hired as songwriters before starting the Everly Brothers’ recording career.
They had a blockbuster in 1957: “Bye Bye Love,” a song written by the husband-and-wife team Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. It reached No. 1 on the country chart, No. 2 on the pop chart and No. 5 on the rhythm and blues chart, selling more than a million copies. They followed it with another Bryants song, “Wake Up Little Susie,” that was a No. 1 pop hit and another million-seller. For the next few years, they were rarely without a Top 10 pop hit. Wmong them were “All I Have to Do Is Dream” in 1957, “Bird Dog” and “Devoted to You” in 1958, “(Till) I Kissed You” in 1959, and, in 1960 alone, “Let It Be Me,” “Cathy’s Clown” (written by Don and Phil Everly) and “When Will I Be Loved.”
Their hitmaking streak ended in the United States in the early 1960s, lasting slightly longer in Britain. But the Everlys continued to tour and make albums, notably the 1968 “Roots,” a thoughtful foray into country-rock which included a snippet of a 1952 Everly Family radio show. They had a summer variety series on CBS in 1970.
But the brothers were growing estranged. In 1973, at a concert in California, Phil Everly smashed his guitar and walked offstage, and Don Everly announced the duo’s breakup. They recorded solo albums for the next decade before reuniting in 1983, with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London that was filmed as a documentary. They returned to the studio for a 1984 album, “EB84,” that was produced by the British pub-rocker Dave Edmunds and included a song written for the Everlys by Paul McCartney; they made two more studio albums together in the 1980s.
Among musicians the Everlys had generations of admirers. The Beatles included Everly Brothers songs in their live sets and modeled the vocal harmonies of “Please Please Me” on “Cathy’s Clown.” The Beach Boys recorded the Everlys song “Devoted to You.” Linda Ronstadt had a Top 10 hit with “When Will I Be Loved” in 1975. On his four-album set “These Days” in 2006, the country songwriter Vince Gill recorded a duet with Phil Everly, “Sweet Little Corinna,” that paid homage to the early Everlys sound.
Simon and Garfunkel included “Bye Bye Love” on their “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album, and years later — after their own separations and reunions — brought together the Everly Brothers to be their opening act for their 2003 “Old Friends” tour. The brothers reportedly had not spoken to each other for three years before that.
“Personally I loved them both,” Mr. Simon wrote. “Phil was outgoing, gregarious and very funny. Don is quiet and introspective. When Simon and Garfunkel toured with the Everlys in 2003, Art and I would take the opportunity to learn about the roots of Rock and Roll from these two great historians. It was a pleasure to spend time in their company.”
The Everly Brothers played their last headlining tour in 2005 in Britain. They were also heard together on a 2010 album by Don’s son, Edan Everly, in a dark song about child stardom called “Old Hollywood.”
Phil Everly is survived by his brother and by their mother, Margaret Everly; his wife, Patti; his sons, Jason and Chris, and two granddaughters.
In 2013, younger musicians released two full-length albums of Everly Brothers songs: “What the Brothers Sang” by Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie Prince Billy (the indie rocker Will Oldham), and “Foreverly” by Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, a remake of every song — some traditional, some traditional-styled — on the 1958 Everlys album “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.”
The Everly Brothers are “such a mainstay,” Mr. Armstrong said in November. “You either consciously grew up with them, or you subconsciously grew up with the Everly Brothers.”
SHUTESBURY, Mass. (AP) — Grammy-winning musician and composer Yusef Lateef, one of the first to incorporate world music into traditional jazz, has died. He was 93.
Lateef died Monday at his home in Shutesbury in western Massachusetts, according to the Douglass Funeral Home in Amherst.
Lateef, a tenor saxophonist known for his impressive technique, also became a top flutist. He was a jazz soloist on the oboe and played bassoon. He introduced different types of flutes and other woodwind instruments from many countries into his music and is credited with playing world music before it was officially named.
“I believe that all humans have knowledge,” he said in a 2009 interview for the National Endowment for the Arts. “Each culture has some knowledge. That’s why I studied with Saj Dev, an Indian flute player. That’s why I studied Stockhausen’s music. The pygmies’ music of the rain forest is very rich music. So the knowledge is out there. And I also believe one should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave. With that kind of inquisitiveness, one discovers things that were unknown before.”
As a composer, he created works for performers ranging from soloists to bands to choirs. His longer pieces have been played by symphony orchestras throughout the United States and in Germany. In 1987, he won a Grammy Award for his new age recording “Yusef Lateef’s Little Symphony,” on which he played all of the instruments.
In 2010, he was named an NEA Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.
Lateef had an international following and toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Japan and Africa. His last tour was during the summer.
He held a bachelor’s degree in music and a master’s degree in music education from the Manhattan School of Music, and from 1987 to 2002, he was a professor at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which he was awarded a doctorate in education.
He created his own music theory called “Autophysiopsychic Music,” which he described in the NEA interview as “music from one’s physical, mental and spiritual self, and also from the heart.”
Born William Emanuel Huddleston in Chattanooga, Tenn., in 1920, Lateef moved with his family to Detroit five years later. He became acquainted with many top musicians who were part of Detroit’s active music scene and by age 18 he was touring professionally with swing bands led by Lucky Millinder, Roy Eldridge, Hot Lips Page and Ernie Fields.
In 1949, he was invited to perform with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, which was playing be-bop. He took the name Yusef Lateef after becoming a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, and twice made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
He became a fixture on the Detroit jazz scene in the 1950s leading his own quintet. In 1960, he moved to New York and joined Charles Mingus’ band. Lateef would go on to perform with some of jazz’s best talent, including Cannonball Adderley, Donald Byrd and Miles Davis.
Lateef first began recording under his own name in 1956 for Savoy Records, and made more than 100 recordings as a leader for such labels as Prestige, Impulse, Atlantic and his own YAL. His most enduring early recordings included such songs as “Love Theme from Spartacus” and “Morning.”
In the 1980s, he taught at a university in Nigeria, where he did research into the Fulani flute.
Lateef formed his own label, YAL Records, in 1992, which released an extended suite, “The World at Peace,” co-composed with percussionist Adam Rudolph. He also wrote a four-movement work for quintet and orchestra, “The African American Epic Suite,” which was commissioned and performed by the WDR Orchestra in Germany in 1993.
He is survived by his wife, Ayesha Lateef; son, Yusef Lateef; granddaughter and great-grandchildren.
Jim Hall, a jazz guitarist who for more than 50 years was admired by critics, aficionados and especially his fellow musicians for his impeccable technique and the warmth and subtlety of his playing, died on Tuesday at his home in Greenwich Village. He was 83.
The cause was heart failure, his wife, Jane, said.
The list of important musicians with whom Mr. Hall worked was enough to earn him a place in jazz history. It includes the pianist Bill Evans, with whom he recorded two acclaimed duet albums, and the singer Ella Fitzgerald, as well as the saxophonists Sonny Rollins and Paul Desmond, the drummer Chico Hamilton and the bassist Ron Carter, his frequent partner in a duo.
But with his distinctive touch, his inviting sound and his finely developed sense of melody, Mr. Hall made it clear early in his career that he was an important musician in his own right.
He was an influential one as well. Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and John Scofield are among the numerous younger guitarists who acknowledge him as an inspiration. Mr. Hall, who never stopped being open to new ideas and new challenges, worked at various times with all three.
In his later years Mr. Hall composed many pieces for large ensembles, drawing on both his jazz roots and his classical training. Works like “Quartet Plus Four” for jazz quartet and string quartet, and “Peace Movement,” a concerto for guitar and orchestra, were performed internationally and widely praised.
If the critics tended to use the same words over and over to describe Mr. Hall’s playing — graceful, understated, fluent — that was as much a tribute to his consistency as to his talent. As Nate Chinen wrote recently in The New York Times, Mr. Hall’s style, “with the austere grace of a Shaker chair,” has sounded “effortlessly modern at almost every juncture” of his long career.
James Stanley Hall was born on Dec. 4, 1930, in Buffalo to Stanley and the former Louella Cowles, and spent most of his early years in Cleveland. He started guitar at age 10 and began playing professionally in his teens.
Like most of his guitar-playing peers, he was influenced by the first two great jazz guitar soloists: Charlie Christian, best known for his work with Benny Goodman, and the Belgian Gypsy Django Reinhardt. But he derived as much inspiration from saxophone players as he did from other guitarists.
“Tenor saxophonists really influenced the way I play,” he told The Times in 1990. When he was developing his style, he explained, “I’d try and get that lush sound of a tenor saxophone.”
While studying music theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music, he played guitar on weekends “but wasn’t all that involved in jazz,” he said in an interview found on his website. His plan was to become a composer and teach on the side. But shortly after he graduated in 1955 and began studying for a master’s degree at the institute, that plan changed. “I had to try being a guitarist or else it would trouble me for the rest of my life,” he said.
Moving to Los Angeles, where he studied classical guitar, he became a charter member of the Chico Hamilton Quintet, one of the first and most successful exemplars of the soft-spoken style known as cool jazz. (Mr. Hamilton died last month.) He then worked with the clarinetist, saxophonist and composer Jimmy Giuffre, whose adventurous approach to both composition and improvisation had a lasting impact on Mr. Hall’s own music.
Mr. Hall attracted further attention in the early 1960s when Sonny Rollins, a major star returning to music after a long hiatus, chose him to be in his new quartet. The contrast between Mr. Rollins’s aggressive saxophone playing and Mr. Hall’s quieter approach helped make the release of Mr. Rollins’s album “The Bridge” one of the most notable jazz events of 1962.
After a low-profile but lucrative television stint in the “Merv Griffin Show” band in the mid-1960s, Mr. Hall focused on leading his own groups, usually consisting simply of guitar, bass and drums, and recorded as a leader for CTI, A&M, Concord, Telarc and other labels. In the 1990s he taught at the New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music in New York.
In addition to his wife of 48 years, the former Jane Yuckman, a psychoanalyst, Mr. Hall is survived by his daughter, Devra Hall Levy, who in recent years had been his manager.
Mr. Hall had back surgery in 2008 and other health problems, but he performed almost until the end, often in the company of other guitarists. This summer he performed with the 26-year-old guitarist Julian Lage at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. His last appearance was on Nov. 23 at a Jazz at Lincoln Center concert that also featured the guitarists John Abercrombie and Peter Bernstein.
For all the accolades he received over the years — including a Jazz Masters award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004 — Mr. Hall never took his mastery of the guitar for granted. “The instrument keeps me humble,” he once told Guitar Player magazine. “Sometimes I pick it up and it seems to say, ‘No, you can’t play today.’ I keep at it anyway, though.”