As we come to the end of 2023, we remember the people who have moved through the door of life and into our collective subconscious. Musicians, composers, and singers are among the many groups of people who deserve a moment of remembrance as they frequently put into feeling what we cannot express simply through words or pictures or hugs.
In part three of this four-part series, I will list some of the musicians you might not realize you knew who passed away in 2023. While you might not recognize most of the names, the chances are the music they made is embedded in the fabric of your life. The lists in this series are by no means exhaustive, and I would appreciate mentions in the comments, or stories you may have related to any of the music-makers listed below.
Fred White: He was the drummer of a band called Earth, Wind, & Fire, and all of those songs you know and love were driven by White’s beats. Songs like “Let’s Groove,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “September” were all Fred White. His half-brother Maurice White, with whom he started the band, wrote about his brother in a memoir: “Fred was the brick wall. He provided a rock-solid tempo and a rock-solid feel, priceless qualities in a drummer. He was one of the best things going for us.”
Carol Buschmann: Buschmann was the baritone for the singing group the Chordettes. In the band’s heyday they were the bee’s knees, and whether or not that name rings a bell, it was Buschmann’s voice that was featured on songs like “Lollipop” and “Mr. Sandman.” Yes, that song; and yes, that other song too.
Charlie Thomas: Thomas was a tenor in the Drifters for over 60 years. You know his voice from songs like “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “Under the Boardwalk.” He continued touring with the Drifters right up until the pandemic stopped touring everywhere.
Jeffrey Foskett: Foskett toured with the Beach Boys as well as with Brian Wilson’s band for four decades. Foskett was a unique bridge between what were frequently estranged factions of the famous Los Angeles rock and roll group. Wilson wrote of his late friend’s passing, “I’m so heartbroken that my dear friend Jeff Foskett has passed. Jeff was always there for me when we toured and we couldn’t have done it without him. Jeff was one of the most talented guys I ever knew. He was a great musical leader and guitarist and he could sing like an angel. I first met Jeff in 1976 when he knocked on my door in Bel Air and I invited him in, and we were friends ever since. I don’t know what else to say. Love and Mercy to Jeff’s family and friends, we will remember him forever.”
Gary Wright: You know the song “Dream Weaver”? That’s Wright. Wright was an electronic music pioneer and close with George Harrison, on whose 1970 “All Things Must Pass” album he contributed keyboards. Take a trip down memory lane and into the stars.
Bob Feldman: He wrote and/or produced songs like “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy.” His songs were recorded and covered, and recorded again. Many of them were hits in their day, only to become hits again a decade or two later, like this David Bowie rendition of the Feldman song “Sorrow.”
Katherine Anderson: She co-founded the Motown group the Marvelettees, and you remember her voice from Motown’s first hit, “Please Mr. Postman.”
Jean Knight: Born Jean Caliste in New Orleans in 1943, Knight is best known for her 1971 hit “Mr. Big Stuff.” Who do you think you are!
Astrud Gilberto: The first song she ever recorded was “The Girl From Ipanema,” and the song hit so hard you can hear it in your head while you read this. It was covered more than virtually any other song in the history of pop music and has appeared in dozens of films.
Essra Mohawk: She started her life as Sandra Elayne Hurvitz and recorded her first music as Jamie Carter. Her songs were covered by legendary acts like the Shangri-Las, Cyndi Lauper, and Tina Turner. She married producer Frazier Mohawk and became Essra. She collaborated with the likes of Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia and created music for television. Here’s one of the songs she contributed to a series many know called “Schoolhouse Rock.”
Cynthia Weil: Along with her writing partner and husband Barry Mann, Weil wrote such hits as “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” as well as hit songs for the Drifters, the Animals, Dusty Springfield, and Mama Cass. Elvis Presley recorded and performed the couple’s songs.
“Sweet Charles” Cherrell: You may not place the name, but you know his bass lines and his direction for the many James Brown hits of the 1960s. For example:
Gerald Fried: If you’ve ever watched “Star Trek,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “Dynasty,” “Gilligan’s Island,” or the famous miniseries “Roots,” you know Fried’s work. He was childhood friends with Stanley Kubrick and scored his first few films, including “The Killing,” and “Paths of Glory.” Here he is with his original instrument, the oboe, playing some of his Trek music.