Friday, 29 February 2008

Two Music Legends of the Sixties Pass On

Two men who contributed to the musical landscape of the Sixties, albeit in very different ways, have passed on. One was the lead vocalist for one of the best known British Invasion bands. The other was a drummer for one of psychedelia's most legendary performers.

Mike Smith, the lead singer of the Dave Clark Five, passed yesterday at the age of 64. The cause was pneumonia. Smith had sustained injuries to spinal cord in 2003 that left him paralysed below his ribs. Sadly, he died just two weeks before the Dave Clark Five were to be inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

Smith was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, England on December 3, 1943. From an early age he was drawn to music, learning to play the piano at the age of five. When he was 13 he passed the entrance exam for London's Trinity College of Music. Despite this, Smith's destiny lay with rock 'n' roll rather than classical music. He had first met Dave Clark when they both played for the football team for the St.George Boys Club. When Clark's band lost their lead singer, he asked Smith to join as their new lead vocalist. Smith's first record with the Dave Clark Five was "I Knew It All The Time," released in June 1962. The Dave Clark Five would finally crack the British charts with the song "Do You Love Me," released in October 1963, which peaked at #30 on the UK charts. With the song "Glad All Over," released the following month, they would have their first bona fide hit. The song went to #1 in the United Kingdom and #6 in the United States as well. With a sound that was strong on percussion, the Dave Clark Five rivalled The Beatles in their early days. In addition to singing lead vocals and playing keyboards, Smith also co-wrote many of the Dave Clark Five's biggest hits, including "Glad All Over," "Bits and Pieces," and "Try Too Hard."

Unfortunately by 1967 the Dave Clark Five was no longer hitting the charts as they once had. They broke up in 1970. Smith continued to work with Clark for time after the Dave Clark Five disbanded. Afterwards he worked as a music producer for artists such as Shriley Bassey. He also wrote jingles for such companies as British Airways and Volvo. He eventually formed the band Mike Smith's Rock Engine and toured the United States in 2003.

Mike Smith was arguably one of the best lead singers of any British Invasion band. He had an very good vocal range, and could shout better than almost anyone. His voice was certainly fitting for a band driven by both guitars and a remarkably powerful drumbeat, Even singers of some considerable talent could not have matched Mike Smith when he was the Dave Clark Five.

Buddy Miles, the drummer for Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys, died Tuesday at the age of 60 from congestive heart disease.

Miles was born George Allen Miles, Jr. on September 5, 1947 in Omaha, Nebraska. He took to music young, so much so that one of his aunts gave him the nickname "Buddy" after legendary drummer Buddy Rich. At the age of 12 he started playing drums in his father's band, The Be-Bops. While still a teenager Miles played with such big names in the rhythm and blues world as Ruby and the Romantics, The Ink Spots, and Wilson Pickett. Moving to Chicago in 1967, he formed the band Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield (once guitarist for the Butterfield Band). Electric Flag would reach their peak with the album A Long Time Comin' in 1968. Unfortunately, conflicts between Miles and Cooper would pull the band apart before it could have any further success.

Buddy Miles would then form another band, The Buddy Miles Express. He had met Jimi Hendrix when the two of them were still sidemen playing for various rhythm and blues groups. After Hendrix had disbanded the Jimi Hendrix Experience and formed the Band of Gypsys, he naturally invited Miles to join. Following his work with Hendrix, Miles recorded with his own band under the name "Buddy Miles." He would also work with Carlos Santana, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Barry White, and George Clinton.

Miles would serve time in prison on grand theft in the late Seventies and again for auto theft in the early Eighties. Following his time in prison he became the lead vocalist of the Claymation advertising characters, the California Raisins.

Buddy Miles was a remarkable drummer. While his style arguably lacked finesse, Miles made up for it with the sheer power of his drumming. With Miles at the drum kit, drums were not simply a back up instrument--they were the driving force of a song's rhythm. Miles was also a gifted singer, with an expressive, tenor voice. Although he saw only a little success in his musical career, he was certainly a great talent.

1 comment:

Squirrel said...

Smith was an outstanding vocalist (now that I know who he was) The lead vocal on "Do You Love Me" --all I can say is wow.