Friday, December 14, 2007

Ike Turner and Marit Allen Pass On

Thankfully, December has not seen nearly a many deaths among the famous as November has. That having been said, two more well known artists have recently passed.

One was Ike Turner, the legendary performer, songwriter, and producer, Turner died Wednesday at the age of 76.

Turner was born either Izear Luster Turner Jr. or Ike Wister Turner on November 5, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. While only eight years old, he got a job at a radio station. Initially, he simply ran the elevator, but he soon found himself behind the turntable and associating with the likes of blues artists Robert Nighthawk and Pinetop Perkins. Reportedly, it was Perkins who helped teach Turner guitar. It was in the late Forties that Turner launched his music career, with a band called the Kings of Rhythm. It was in 1951 that the Kings of Rhythm, credited as Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats (Jackie Brenston being the lead singer on the song), released the epochal record "Rocket 88." Written by Ike Turner, the album is credited by some as the first true rock 'n' roll record. Among other things, it was one of the first songs to use guitar distortion. It was during these early days that Turner also acted as a talent scout, helping sign such names as Howlin' Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. Turner was also much in demand as a sideman, working with Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, and Otis Rush among others.

It was around 1958 that Ike Turner discovered a teenage vocalist named Anna Mae Bullock, who would go onto greater fame as Tina Turner. Initially Tina was a background vocalist who only occasionally sang lead, but this changed in 1960 when the lead vocalist scheduled to sing the song "Fool in Love" did not show up. Tina filled in and the song became a hit, reaching #2 on the R&B chart and entering the Billboard top 30 singles chart as well. The two were married two years later in 1962. From 1960 to 1975 Ike and Tina Turner had a string of hits, including "River Deep--Mountain High," "A Love Like Yours," and "Nutbush City Limits." Unfortunately, their marriage was not exactly smooth. Tina left Ike in 1975 and his music career floundered. He released two solo albums, but neither did well. To make matters worse, Turner found himself on the wrong side of the law. Arrested on drugs and weapons charges in 1989, he spent some time in prison. After his release in 1993, Turner returned to recording. His album Here and Now was nominated for a Grammy. His album Risin' with the Blues won the Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album. He also worked with the likes of Gorillaz and The Black Keys.

Although today widely known for his violent temper and his marriage to Tina Turner, Ike Turner was a talented musician. Depending on whom one asks, he may well have written the first true rock 'n' roll record--he was definitely one of the first to use distorted guitar on a song. He had a lasting influence on artists ranging from The Rolling Stones to Led Zeppelin. While his personal was not always what it ought to have been, he did have a lasting impact on rock music and yet other musical genres.

The other celebrity to die recently was costume designer Marit Allen. Allen died at the age of 66 on November 26 from a brain aneurysm.

Allen was born September 17, 1941 in Cheshire, England. She attended the University of Grenoble, France. Following graduation she got a job as an assistant at the magazine Queen. It was only two years later that she began writing the the magazine's "About Twenty" pages, which were devoted to the lifestyle of twentysomethings at the time. It was in 1964 that she started working for Vogue and writing their "Young Idea" pages. In 1966 she married movie producer Sanford Lieberson. Her marriage to Lieberson opened the door to a career in movies, her first film credit being as a "fashion consultant" on the movie Kaleidoscope in 1966. Her first credit as a costume designer was on the film Bad Timing in 1980. Over the years, she designed costumes for such films as Little Shop of Horrors (the 1986 musical version), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Eyes Wide Shut, and Brokeback Mountain. Her last film credit was for the Justice League of America movie slated for release in 2010.

Marit Allen was a talented and prolific costume designer, having designed costumes for 41 movies in all. She was also very versatile in her costuming. She could create ornate costumes for a period piece such as La Vie en Rose, off the wall costumes for a musical comedy such as Little Shop of Horrors, or more sedate costumes such as the ones she did for Don't Look Now. Having a talent that lent itself to a wide array of styles and having worked on so many movies, Allen will not soon be forgotten.

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