Passing Notes(7)

Robert Lockwood, Jr., the pioneering Delta bluesman who learned to play guitar under the tutelage of Robert Johnson, died November 21, 2006, at the age of 91. The Turkey Scratch, Arkansas native became a professional musician at age 15, playing for sharecroppers and cotton workers throughout the Deep South. In the late 1930s, Lockwood moved to Chicago, where he became a regular in the city’s vibrant blues scene, playing with such luminaries as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, and Little Walter, and eventually signing on as a session guitarist for Chess Records. In 1970, Lockwood left Chicago for Cleveland, where he launched a solo career, along the way receiving two W.C. Handy Awards, a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship award, and a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album for his 1998 release, I’ve Got to Find Me a Woman.
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Grammy- and Tony Award-winning singer Ruth Brown, dubbed “the Queen Mother of the Blues,” passed away November 17, 2006, at a Las Vegas area hospital. One of the top-selling R&B singers of the early 1950s, Brown was forced by a changing musical landscape to take a variety of menial jobs to support her family during the ’60s and ’70s. In 1988, financed by a settlement with Atlantic Records, Brown helped create the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and spent the last two decades of her life fighting to get unpaid royalties and musical credits for R&B and blues musicians. Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records who helped define popular music in America by breaking such acts as Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, and Aretha Franklin—and later the Rolling Stones, Cream, and Led Zeppelin, among countless others—died in New York City December 14, 2006, at the age of 83. Ertegun, the son of a Turkish diplomat, never recovered from a head injury suffered in a fall backstage at Bill Clinton’s 60th birthday party at the Beacon Theater in New York on October 29.

Veteran publicist and manager Ronnie Lippin—who represented such rock heavyweights as Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Brian Wilson, and Prince—died Monday December 4, 2006, of a rare form of breast cancer at the age of 59. A Brooklyn, New York native, Lippin began her career as a publicist for film and stage, but switched to music when she moved to Los Angeles. “Ronnie was one of the most loving, thoughtful, sensitive, and caring people I’ve ever met,” said Wilson in a statement to the Associated Press. “God only knows why she has been taken all too soon.”