Donna Summer, Chuck Brown, Belita Woods, Robin Gibb and legendary DJ Hal Jackson have all passed away recently. It seems like so many of our outstanding contributors in music are leaving us at a faster rate lately. Just as soon as we’re able to take a breath from the death of an entertainer that’s beloved, we’re struck again with the sad news of another.
The latest rash of deaths included The“Disco Queen” of all Disco Queen’s, the undisputed “Godfather of Go-Go”, one of the FUNKIEST vocalist of all time and the third musical brother from the Gibb family. Donna Summer died at the age of 63 on May 17th in Florida. Afflicted with cancer for the past several years, she remained active in the latter part of her life. According to Rolling Stone online: “Early this morning, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith,” reads a statement from the singer’s family. “While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy. Words truly can’t express how much we appreciate your prayers and love for our family at this sensitive time.” Summer was a five-time Grammy winner best known for smash hits including “I Feel Love,” “Love to Love You Baby,” “Bad Girls,” “Last Dance” and “She Works Hard for the Money,” among others.
Chuck Brown died at the age of 75 on May 16th at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland from pneumonia. The Washington Post reported last month that sources said Brown initially went to the hospital because of arthritis problems, and there, doctors found a blood clot. Brown had an operation to have the clot removed, but he then developed pneumonia. One who rocked the stages of Maryland and Washington D.C. for five decades, Chuck’s biggest record is the 1978 song “Bustin’ Loose.” Hip-hop talent Nelly revived the Go-Go hit in his song “Hot in Herre” in 2002.
On May 18th, according to the Associated Press former Parliament-Funkadelic and Brainstorm singer Belita Woods died in Detroit at age 63. Longtime friend and caregiver Joycelyn Goins says Woods died Monday of heart failure at St. John Hospital & Medical Center. Woods was lead singer of Brainstorm, whose 1977 album, “Stormin’,” featured the disco hit, “Lovin’ Is Really My Game,” and the R&B hit, “This Must Be Heaven.” Woods toured with the Parliament-Funkadelic P-Funk All-Stars for two decades, beginning in 1992.
The Museum of UnCut Funk would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the loss of Robin Gibb. One of the last two living members of the Bee Gees, the brothers Gibb may have been kings in the worlds of pop and disco, but their sound was undoubtedly FUNKY! Not long ago we lost extraordinary percussion player Ralph MacDonald. Both Ralph and Robin were just two of of the elements featured on one of the Funkiest Soundtracks of All Time, that is “Saturday Night Fever.” Robin was 62, he died this past Sunday May 20th in England, succumbing to colorectal cancer that had spread to his liver. His twin brother and fellow band member, Maurice, died in 2003. Only Barry survives from the pioneering group, which has sold more than 220 million records.
Hal Jackson was one of New York’s longest working radio hosts and a legend in the world of broadcasting. The creator of the Hal Jackson’s Sunday Classics show on WBLS, I had the fortune to work with him and co-produce the program for six years. Hal also created Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens. A beauty pageant geared toward young ladies of color, it encouraged thousands of girls coming of age in New York City. Tammi Townsend, Vanessa Williams and Jada Pinkett Smith are on the list of past winners and participants. Jackson was a co-founder of WBLS, which officially launched in 1972 on the FM dial at 107.5. Jackson opened the doors for generations of black broadcast talent throughout his career. A native of Washington D.C., the nature of his death has yet to be disclosed, Jackson was 97.