Ralph Murphy
Ralph Murphy

Music News Digest, July 15, 2019

"It's good to be seen.": On Thursday, July 11, industry friends and pals raised a glass to honour the memory of Ralph Murphy, the veteran songwriter, producer and mentor who passed away in May. Murphy had bestowed indispensable creative and practical advice to many in attendance.

Louis Cifer on Toronto's Danforth was decked out with several framed photos of Ralph and his pals, and video screens displayed memories of an accomplished career and those who cherished him. There was a musical tribute hosted by the ageless Beverly Mahood that included songs and anecdotes by Jim Witter, Patricia Conroy, Jamie Warren, and The Wilkinsons, and donations at the door were welcomed by the Unison Benevolent Fund, one of Murphy's favourite charities.

Spotted partaking in this sentimental journey, organized by Brian Hetherman and Derrick Ross, were SOCAN's Eric Baptiste, Michael McCarty and Rodney Murphy, Eddie Schwartz, Neill Dixon, Sheila Hamilton, Amanda Power, Jodie Ferneyhough, Allan Reid & Kim Stockwood, Mike Denney, Ron Kitchener, Jill Snell, Wendell Ferguson, Vicki Walters, Margaret McGuffin, Jennifer Beavis, Bonnie Fedrau, Marni Thornton,  Don Bird, Jane Harbury, Martin Melhuish, Sarah Hagerman and Barry Roden. Ralph, you left a great impression, and you will be missed. (Nick Krewen)

– The ninth annual OVO Fest in Toronto takes place Aug. 4 and 5 at Budweiser Stage in Toronto. Acts announced include OVO head Drake (on Aug. 5)B2K, Mario, Pretty Ricky Floyd, and Chingy.

– Serena Ryder and Pandyamonium Management have launched ArtHaus, a multi-purpose creative working space in Toronto where professionals and artists in the industry can collaborate and connect. The custom-built facility, located in the city's west end, initially built as a recording studio, has been used to record podcasts, rehearse, shoot videos and photos, exhibit art, host meetings and seminars, and more. With songwriting camps, recording sessions and other activations underway, ArtHaus will open its doors for the first time on Sept. 12 for an invite-only showcase.

– Fifty years ago this month, The Archies’ Sugar, Sugar, a song co-written by a young Canadian singer-songwriter, Andy Kim, debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, a full two months after being released as radio doesn’t want to play a cartoon band. In September 1969, it hit #1 on the way to becoming Billboard’s Record of the Year and the biggest-selling single of the year. Wilson Pickett, Tom Jones, Ike & Tina Turner, Bob Marley, The Germs, Mary Lou Lord, and even Homer Simpson went on to cover the tune. Read more about the song and Songwriters Hall of Fame member Kim in this Cashbox feature.

– The Polaris Music Prize will announce the 10 album Short List on Tuesday, July 16. The winner will be determined at the Polaris Gala on Sept. 16 at The Carlu in Toronto. Here is the Long List

– Toronto-based record label and management company We Are Busy Bodies is rebranding to include music and entertainment consultancy services. Founded in 2005 by Eric Warner, the company has expanded to offer a range of valuable services including brand strategy, event management, entertainment planning, and grant writing. 

The label side of the company has released over 50 albums and has acted as an incubator and springboard for an eclectic range of artists including METZ, The Elwins, Doldrums, Julie Doiron & The Wrong Guys, Cuff The Duke, The Meligrove Band, Young Governor, Limblifter, and The Age of Electric, as well as international talent from Australia and Japan. The company's management roster includes The Elwins, Close Talker, Limblifter and most recently, Wide Mouth Mason. More announcements re upcoming projects and initiatives are expected. 

–  Arcade Fire mainman Win Butler officially became a Canadian citizen last week. Born in California, Butler moved to Montreal to attend McGill in 2000 and has lived in the city ever since. He is now a dual citizen of Canada and the US.

– After a two-day preliminary hearing in Toronto, Ontario Court Justice Mara Greene ruled on Friday that Hedley frontman Jacob Hoggard will stand trial on three sex-related charges involving a woman and a teenager. Hoggard was arrested and charged last summer after allegations of sexual misconduct emerged. Earlier in the hearing, the 35-year-old singer pleaded not guilty to two counts of sexual assault causing bodily harm and one count of sexual interference. He also requested to be tried by a jury. A trial date has not yet been set, but a hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 23. Source: CP

– Sawdust City Music Festival in Gravenhurst, ON, has announced the official multi-venue weekend schedule for its third annual edition, running Aug. 2-4. Featured artists include Maria Doyle Kennedy, Noah Reid, Bill and Joel Plaskett, Harrow Fair, The Sadies, Emm Gryner, and Shakura S'Aida, James Gordon, and Stephen Stanley Band.

– Applications are now open for Creative Manitoba's The Art of Managing Your Career (AMYC) course. Taught by Heather Bishop, the 13-weeks' course material has been designed at a college/university level and applies to artists from all disciplines including actors, craftspeople, dancers, filmmakers, musicians, new media content creators, visual artists, and writers. Apply here by Aug. 14.

RiP

Gary LeMel, a longtime president of music at Warner Bros. Pictures whom the Los Angeles Times once called “the father of the compilation soundtrack album,” died July 6 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 80.

At Warner Bros., LeMel became known as “the godfather of the modern soundtrack” with successes including the Batman, Matrix, Harry Potter and Ocean’s Eleven films among his credits, alongside one of the most successful soundtrack albums of all time, The Bodyguard.

Before joining Warner Bros., LeMel was a VP at Jerry Weintraub’s management company. He was working at First Artists Music when he was asked to be the music supervisor on Barbra Streisand’s A Star Is Born project, resulting in one of the biggest soundtrack albums of the 1970s. At Columbia Pictures, he worked on the soundtracks for Ghostbusters, The Big Chill and Against All Odds, before a long career at WB, starting in 1986 and lasting for 23 years.

One of LeMel’s last and most prestigious public appearances came in 2017 when he was honored with the Guild of Music Supervisors’ Legacy Award at their annual gathering at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

LeMel was a jazz recording artist in his own right over decades, and he had not let illness keep him away from making music. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010, LeMel went on to join the Fifth Dementia, a waggishly named jazz group made up of dementia patients. Source: Variety

Johnny Kitagawa, one of the most influential figures in Japan's entertainment industry, has died July 9, after a stroke, at age 87.

For more than 50 years the agency he founded, Johnny & Associates, made numerous boy bands household names, including SMAP, Arashi and KAT-TUN. Many of the artists he propelled to fame also became stars of TV shows.

Kitagawa was responsible for 232 number one singles between 1974 and 2010. He was recognized three times by Guinness World Records - for the most number one singles, the most number one artists and the most concerts produced by an individual.

Born in Los Angeles in 1931, Kitagawa returned to Japan with his family as a small child and broke into show business in 1962 with a groundbreaking four-man pop group called Johnny's.

His talent agency grew to become the most powerful in Japan, with a virtual monopoly on the lucrative boy-band market. Source: BBC

João Gilberto, a Brazilian musician, best known for his pioneering work within the Bossa Nova genre, died on July 6, age 88.

Gilberto first introduced the bossa nova genre to the world in 1959 with his groundbreaking album Chega de Saudade. The new sound was a mix of traditional samba music and more modern jazz sounds, all tied together with Gilberto’s unique guitar playing ability.

The New York Times writes that "Mr. Gilberto’s new synthesis replaced samba percussion with guitar-picking figures in offbeat patterns (called by some “violão gago,” or “stammering guitar”). It also conveyed interiority through a singing style that was confiding, subtly percussive and without vibrato."

Gilberto partnered with American saxophone player Stan Getz to release another successful album in 1964, Getz/Gilberto, which sold millions of copies and won several Grammy Awards, including one for album of the year. The album also featured the duo’s hit song The Girl from Ipanema, which reached number five on the Billboard Hot 100.

More recently, Gilberto received an honorary doctorate in music from Columbia University in 2017. His daughter, Bebel Gilberto, became a very successful recording artist. Sources: Variety, The New York Times

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