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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Max Bennett born 24 May 1928

Max Bennett (born May 24, 1928) is an American jazz bassist and session musician. He is perhaps the most recorded bass player in the world, having recorded every year for 68 years, and counting. 

John Williams, Max Bennett, Howard Roberts, 1956
One of the most versatile of session bassists, Max Bennett hailed from the Midwest. He was raised in both Kansas City and the town of Oskaloosa in Iowa, and undertook his university musical studies in the latter state. In 1949, he went professional as the bassist in the Herbie Fields band, followed rapidly by gigs with players such as Georgie Auld, Terry Gibbs, and Charlie Ventura. 

The stream of happening basslines was interrupted by the Army from 1951 through 1953; he was then back on the scene with Stan Kenton before settling into the stay-at-home local Los Angeles music scene. The bassist fronted his own combo during this period, and was part of a house band at the Lighthouse, a famous L.A. jazz venue. 

He also began backing Peggy Lee, the first of his many associations with female vocalists, which would include Ella Fitzgerald in the late '50s and Joan Baez in the '70s. He also recorded with Charlie Mariano, Conte Candoli, Bob Cooper, Bill Holman, Stan Levey, Lou Levy, Coleman Hawkins and Jack Montrose.
Bennett was part of the Jazz at the Philharmonic tour in 1958 and rejoined his former associate Gibbs the following year. In the '50s he also began releasing sides under his own name, an area of creativity he would return to off and on through his career whenever his schedule would permit. His studio activity drew him solidly into the world of pop music, beginning in an era when hit makers often relied on studio pros to actually play the instruments heard on a record.  

The best example in this case would be the Monkees, who had to battle mightily just to be allowed to touch their instruments on record. Bennett is the bassist on many of this group's best records, and also holds down the bottom end on cuts by the Partridge Family. His association with the latter group serves as one link between such bubblegum pop and the unsavoury taste of Frank Zappa.  
                     Here's "Star Flite from above 1987 album.

Bennett was one of the studio players brought in to realize the Hot Rats project, Zappa's regular band having gotten the heave-ho only weeks before the sessions began. Bennett also showed up on later Zappa masterworks such as Chunga's Revenge. While Bennett can't rival Zappa in the sheer number of compositions he created, he has also been active as a writer and has had material recorded by west coast stalwarts such as Victor Feldman and Tom Scott.  

His studio work also included bass on the Lalo Schifrin soundtrack to the 1969 film Bullitt as well as Greatest Science Fiction Hits Volumes 1-3 with Neil Norman & His Cosmic Orchestra. 

Bennett continued with his own band, L.A. Express, which included Joe Sample, Larry Carlton and John Guerin, under the leadership of Tom Scott. After this band, Bennett formed his own group Freeway, and currently heads his most recent band, Private Reserve. (Info edited from AMG & Wikipedia)

Living bass legend, Max Bennett with Mike Miller on guitar and Roy Weinberger on drums take cool to a new level at TC Electronic's booth at NAMM 2012.


Monday, 23 May 2016

Humphrey Lyttelton born 23 May 1921

Humphrey Richard Adeane Lyttelton (23 May 1921 – 25 April 2008), also known as Humph, was an English jazz musician and broadcaster from the aristocratic Lyttelton family. 
Raised in an academic atmosphere (his father G.W. Lyttelton, the second son of the 8th Viscount Cobham, was a housemaster at Eton College), he taught himself to play a variety of instruments including the banjulele (a hybrid of the banjo and ukulele). His prodigious talent was spotted early and he was given formal lessons on piano and, a little later, in military band drumming. Eventually, his education took him back to Eton College, this time as a pupil. He joined the school orchestra as a timpanist but after a while drifted away from the orchestra and the instrument.   

At the age of 15 he discovered jazz, thanks to records by trumpeters Nat Gonella and, decisively, Louis Armstrong. By this time Lyttelton had switched to playing the mouth-organ, but, realizing the instrument's limitations, he acquired a trumpet, which he taught himself to play. Forming his own small jazz band at the college, he developed his playing ability and his consuming interest in jazz. With the outbreak of World War II he joined the Grenadier Guards, continuing to play whenever possible. 

After the war Lyttelton resumed playing, this time professionally, and in 1947 became a member of George Webb's Dixielanders. The following year he formed his own band and quickly became an important figure in the British revivalist movement (during this time he also worked as a noted cartoonist for the UK newspaper Daily Mail). In the late 40s and through to the mid-50s Lyttelton's stature in British jazz increased. Significantly, his deep interest in virtually all aspects of jazz meant that he was constantly listening to other musicians, many of whom played different forms of the music. Although he was never to lose his admiration for Armstrong, he refused to remain rooted in the revivalist tradition.  

His acceptance and absorption of music from the jazz mainstream ensured that when the trad boom fizzled out, Lyttelton continued to find an audience. In the mid-50s he added alto saxophonist Bruce Turner to his band, outraging some reactionary elements in British jazz circles, and a few years later added Tony Coe, Joe Temperley and other outstanding and forward-thinking musicians.  In 1956, he had his only pop chart hit, with the Joe Meek-produced recording of "Bad Penny Blues", which was in the UK Singles Chart for six weeks.

In the early 60s Lyttelton's reputation spread far beyond the UK and he also developed another important and long-term admiration for a trumpet player, this time, the American Buck Clayton. By this time, however, Lyttelton's personal style had matured and he was very much his own man. He was also heavily involved in many areas outside the performance of music. 

In 1954, he had published his first autobiographical volume and in the 60s he began to spread his writing wings as an essayist, journalist and critic. He also broadcast on radio and television, sometimes as a performer but also as a speaker and presenter. These multiple activities continued throughout the next two decades, his UK BBC Radio 2 series, The Best Of Jazz, running for 40 years. His writings included further autobiographical work and his ready wit found outlets in seemingly unlikely settings, such as his role as quiz master on the long-running radio comedy-panel series, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue (he hosted the show from 1972 until his death in 2008).   

During this time Lyttelton continued to lead a band, employing first-rate musicians with whom he toured and made numerous records. He also toured and recorded with singers Helen Shapiro, Carol Kidd and Lillian Boutté. Back in the late 40s Lyttelton had recorded with Sidney Bechet and in the 70s and 80s he occasionally made albums with other American jazz. 

In the early 80s Lyttelton formed his own recording company, Calligraph, and by the end of the decade numerous new albums were available. In addition to these came others, mostly on the Dormouse label, which reissued his earlier recordings and were eagerly snapped up by fans of all ages. In the early 90s, touring with Kathy Stobart, Lyttelton showed no signs of letting up and barely acknowledged the fact that he had sailed past his 70th birthday. In 2001, his 80th year, he sessioned on Radiohead's Amnesiac and received an award at the BBC Jazz Awards, continuing to perform with undiminished flair and enthusiasm. In 2002 he recorded an album with singer Elkie Brooks, and for the next five years continued to release regular recordings with his new band.
On 18 April 2008 Jon Naismith, the producer of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, announced cancellation of the spring series owing to Humphrey Lyttelton's hospitalisation to repair an aortic aneurysm. Lyttelton postponed his operation and managed to perform on all but the last night. He died peacefully following his surgery on 25 April 2008 with his family around him.  

Although he chose to spend most of his career in the UK, Lyttelton's reputation elsewhere was extremely high and thoroughly deserved. As a trumpet player and band leader, and occasional clarinettist, he ranged from echoing early jazz to near-domination of the British mainstream. For more than 50 years he succeeded in maintaining the highest musical standards, all the time conducting himself with dignity, charm and good humour.
(info edited mainly from NME)

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Peter Nero born 22 May 1934

Peter Nero (born Bernard Nierow, May 22, 1934, Brooklyn) is a pianist and New York native who started with jazz then moved up to symphony until the early '60s, when RCA Victor signed him and successfully promoted him into a pop music interpreter. He won the 1961 Grammy for Best New Artist. His lush orchestrated albums continued through the early '70s, when he returned to a harder jazz format, recording with a trio.  
Nierow began playing piano as child, learning the instrument quite rapidly; by the age of 11, he was playing Haydn concertos. However, he was restless and quickly grew tired of classical music, becoming infatuated with jazz as a teenager. In fact, after Nero graduated from Brooklyn College in 1956, he became a jazz pianist. However, instead of playing straight jazz, he created a swinging hybrid of jazz and classical music.  

Nierow didn't have much success as a performer, which meant he had to take a gig as a saloon pianist in a New York club called the Hickory House. Unsatisfied with the compromises he was making at the club, he headed out to Las Vegas, where he didn't find much success. He returned to New York, taking a lesser job at the Hickory House. For several years, he played New York's club circuit and he recorded his first album under the name of Bernie Nerow in July 1957 under the Mode label which highlighted his technical virtuosity in the jazz genre. He then came to the attention of Stan Greeson, an executive at RCA Records. 

His first major national TV success came when he was chosen to perform Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue on Paul Whiteman's TV Special. He subsequently appeared on many top variety and talk shows including 11 guest appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, and numerous appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. 

Convinced that Nierow had star potential, Greeson signed the pianist and had him change his name to Peter Nero; he also persuaded Nero to add pop songs like "Over the Rainbow" to his repertoire. His first RCA LP, "Piano Forte," was an immediate success and Nero began touring as a solo artist. That same year, he won the Grammy for Best New Artist.  

Nero's popularity continued to rise throughout the early '60s; his jazzy hybrid of pop, classical, swing, and bop became one of the most popular mainstream sounds of the era. Since then, he has received another Grammy, garnered ten additional nominations and released 68 albums. Nero's early association with RCA Victor produced 23 albums in eight years."Hail the Conquering Nero" topping out at #5 on the Billboard LP chart. His subsequent move to Columbia Records resulted in a million-selling single and album – Summer of '42.

Eventually, he became the musical director of the Philadelphia Pops Orchestra, where he frequently performed classical arrangements of pop songs. Nero was founding conductor and led the Philly Pops for 35 years until 2013.
Theatrical producer Moe Septee founded the Philly POPS in 1979 as part of an effort to rekindle Philadelphia’s struggling theater community.  Grammy Award-winning pianist Peter Nero's recordings include albums with symphony orchestras: On My Own, Classical Connections and My Way. He recorded Peter Nero and Friends where he collaborated with Mel Torme, Maureen McGovern and Doc Severinsen and others. Nero's latest albums, Love Songs for a Rainy Day and More in Love, focus on romantic themes. By popular demand, four of his earlier recordings have been reissued. He also appeared on Rod Stewart's album As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook, Volume II. 

Nero has worked with a long list of notable musicians including Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Ray Charles, Dizzy Gillespie, Diane Schuur, Johnny Mathis, Roger Kellaway and Elton John.

Nero's long list of honours, including six honorary doctorates, the most recent from Drexel University in 2004, and the prestigious International Society of Performing Arts Presenters Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2009 Nero was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Federation of Musicians.

He has continued to appear on the concert platform as a pianist and conductor, often with top US symphony orchestras, still blending the classical with the popular.

(Info edited from Wikipedia & Cub Koda, Rovi)

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Dennis Day born 21 May 1916

Dennis Day (May 21, 1916 – June 22, 1988) born Owen Patrick Eugene McNulty, was an American singer, radio, television and film personality and comedian of Irish descent.
Dennis was christened Owen Patrick McNulty on May 21, 1917 in Bronx, New York, the son of an Ireland-born stationary engineer. The strength and promise of his lilting tenor was first discovered while performing with his glee club at St. Patrick's Cathedral High School. Graduating from Manhattan College, he first had designs on a law career and starting singing in order to earn money for tuition. By himself, he recorded "I Never Knew Heaven Could Speak" and distributed the song out to various radio producers, one of whom presented it to Mary Livingston, Benny's wife.
She was so taken that she insisted he be considered for her husband's popular radio show "The Jack Benny Show". When the show's then-tenor Kenny Baker objected to being a featherbrained foil to Benny on the show and gave notice, Dennis auditioned and won a regular spot, and the idea of law school became a thing of the past. Making his debut on the Benny show on October 8, 1939, Dennis' innocent-eyed teenager (he was actually 21 at the time) often drew more laughs than Benny himself in their rapport together. His career was interrupted by World War II when he served with the Navy. He was discharged in 1946.
Dennis legally adopted his professional name in 1944 against his family's wishes. The strict Irish-Catholic married Peggy Almquist in 1948 and the couple had ten children (six daughters, four sons). Dennis and his family settled in Los Angeles where he became an honorary mayor of Mandeville Canyon. He and his wife also owned an antique shop in Santa Monica for a time.

His cherry-cheeked, wide-eyed charm delighted scores of radio fans and the fame Dennis received from the show drew invitations to other radio programs, and eventually his own radio show "A Day in the Life of Dennis Day" in 1946. Here he played (naturally) a naive soda jerk. But he never left Benny, staying true-blue to the 
Dennis & Jack Benny
comedian when The Jack Benny Program (1950) transferred to TV and became an institution for a decade and a half. Dennis also showed great flair as a mimic, impersonating a number of illustrious stars such as Ronald Colman, Jimmy Durante and James Stewart on the Benny program. Dubbed "America's Favourite Irish Tenor", The Dennis Day Show (1952) took life just two years after the Benny program went on the air. It enjoyed two seasons on TV before it was cancelled.

Dennis also appeared in support of Benny on film. Buck Benny Rides Again (1940), marked Dennis' movie debut and in it he sang "My Kind of Country." Other sporadic filming emphasizing his vocal prowess were for the most part "B"-level musical

entertainment. These included Sleepy Lagoon (1943), Music in Manhattan (1944), I'll Get By (1950), Golden Girl (1951), The Girl Next Door (1953), and Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) . For the soundtrack of My Wild Irish Rose (1947), a biopic about Chauncey Olcott, Day provided the singing voice to the acting of Dennis Morgan.

Despite these agreeable outings, he never came close to becoming a musical film star perhaps because he was too identified with his cheery, naive image on radio and TV. Once he finished The Girl Next Door (1953) which again starred Ms. Haver, Dennis was nowhere to be seen on celluloid for at least another two decades. Walt Disney also welcomed Dennis' sunny tenor in his animated features The Legend of Johnny Appleseed (1948), in which Dennis sang the title song, and Melody Time (1948).

Best known for his recording of Irish tunes, including such novelty songs as "Clancy Lowered the Boom", Dennis won over the ladies with his romantic covers of such ballads as "Mam'selle," "Dear Hearts and Gentle People" and "Mona Lisa." Occasionally he was given dramatic work on TV but nothing really came of it, coming off much better as a guest in musical variety shows. He continued to perform at conventions and fairs throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and was seen only occasionally in film and TV parts as he refused any work he deemed objectionable.
In 1987 Dennis had been diagnosed as having Lou Gehrig's disease, the common name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a crippling nerve disorder. In April 1988 he undergone brain surgery to control internal bleeding that occurred after he fell at his home. He died on June 22, 1988 after a long illness at his Bel Air, home in California.  He was 71 years old. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is at 6646 Hollywood Boulevard. He is interred in Culver City's Holy Cross Cemetery. (Info mainly edited from IMDb)

Friday, 20 May 2016

Betty Driver born 20 May 1920

Elizabeth Mary "Betty" Driver, MBE (20 May 1920 – 15 October 2011) was an English actress and singer, best known for her role as Betty Williams (previously Betty Turpin) on the British soap opera, Coronation Street from 1969 to 2011, appearing in more than 2,800 episodes. She was made an MBE in the 2000 New Year Honours.

Elizabeth Mary Driver was born in Leicester on 20 March 1920, the older of two daughters born to Federick Driver and his wife Nell. At the age of two the family moved to Manchester and Nell
turned her long term hobby as concert pianist into a profession. Betty was pushed into a life on the boards by her star-struck mother, joining the Terence Byron Repertory Company at the age of nine and turning professional at the age of 10 in a touring production of Mixed Bathing. and at 14 both landed her first film role and trod the London boards.
Betty appeared in George Formby's Boots Boots in which she had a few lines of dialogue and a big production number in which she sang and tap danced with Formby. Sadly, these scenes ended up being cut from the film on the orders of Formby's domineering wife, Beryl who also danced in the film and did not want to be upstaged by a sweet child.
At the tender age of 12 Betty moved into radio where she sang with the famous bandleader Harry Hall. She was spotted while performing in a revue at the Prince Of Wales Theatre by Archie Pitt (former husband of Gracie Fields) and his brother Bert Aza. They quickly signed her up and Bert became her agent and put her in a leading role in the hit show Mr Tower of London. Film director Basil Dean, after seeing her in Jimmy Hunters Brighton Follies, cast her in the 1938 film Penny Paradise. This was followed by Let's Be Famous and Facing The Music.
During World War II she entertained the troops with the ENSA organisation and teamed up with bandleader Henry Hall, singing in his radio show Henry Hall's Guest Night on and off for seven years. She also had her own show A Date With Betty. She became a forces’ sweetheart, with the RAF naming a Spitfire after her.
In the 1930's and 40's, Betty became a major recording artist with hit songs including The Sailor With The Navy Blue Eyes, Macnamara's Band, Pick The Petals Of A Daisy, Jubilee Baby and September In The Rain..

However, behind the scenes all was not well. On the orders of her mother she was ruining her voice. To sound like Gracie Fields she had to sing at a much higher register than she was comfortable with, then in her 20s she started fainting on stage. Her mother would throw water over her to bring her round but as her voice grew ever more painful Driver had a nervous breakdown. Helped by Henry Hall she managed to keep performing but her singing voice eventually gave out for good.

Soon Betty travelled to Australia where she performed her own show and her career took her to Cyprus, Malta and the Middle East. On her return to England she appeared in various Ealing comedies.
In 1953, aged 33, she married the South African singer Wally Peterson whom she had met four years earlier on the set of her television show, a variety vehicle called The Betty Driver Show. The marriage was a disaster. Wally turned out to be as domineering as her mother then a pregnancy ended in miscarriage and a hysterectomy. Finally she gave up her career and followed Wally back to South Africa where he turned out to be an inveterate womaniser.
After seven years of marriage and penniless she left him and returned to the UK. Back in Britain her career flourished. She appeared in Ealing comedies and in 1964 auditioned for the role of Hilda Ogden in Coronation Street. She didn’t get it but she did get a part in the Street spin-off Pardon The Expression alongside Arthur Lowe.
During a stunt she damaged her hip. Although she recovered she went off with her sister Freda to run a pub in Derbyshire. In 1969, however, she auditioned for the role of Betty Turpin, a part she would play for 40 years.
In the New Year's Honours List for 2000, Betty was awarded an MBE - one of only a handful of cast members to receive the award.

Driver lived with and cared for her sister Freda until Freda's death in December 2008. On 11 May 2011, Driver was rushed to hospital, suffering from pneumonia. She died on 15 October, aged 91, after around six weeks in hospital. (Info edited mainly from & Express obit)

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Kai Winding born 18 May 1922

Kai Chresten Winding (May 18, 1922–May 6, 1983) was a popular Danish born American trombonist and jazz composer. He is well known for a successful collaboration with fellow trombonist J. J. Johnson.
Winding was born in Aarhus, Denmark. In 1934 his family immigrated to the United States. He graduated in 1940 from Stuyvesant High School in New York City. His career as a professional trombonist began in 1940 with Shorty Allen's band. Subsequently, he played with Sonny Dunham and Alvino Rey, until he entered the United States Coast Guard during World War II.

After the war, Winding joined Benny Goodman's band, and later moved on to Stan Kenton's orchestra. Winding participated in the first of the Birth of the Cool sessions in 1949, appearing on 4 of the 12 tracks (while Johnson appears on the other eight, having participated on the other two sessions). He also participated in some early bop sessions, played with Tadd Dameron (1948-1949), and was on one of the Miles Davis' nonet's famous recording sessions.

After playing with the big bands of Charlie Ventura and Benny Goodman, he formed a quintet with J.J. Johnson (1954-1956); the two trombonists (who sounded nearly identical at the time) had occasional reunions after going their separate ways. At the urging of producer Ozzie Cadena, he joined forces with Johnson to produce a highly successful series of trombone duet recordings, which were initially on Savoy Records and then on the Columbia Records label. While at Columbia, Kai experimented with different instrumentation in brass ensembles and also used a trombonium on at least one album that featured a trombone octet. Winding also arranged and/or composed many of the tracks he and Johnson recorded.

Winding led a four-trombone septet off and on through the latter half of the 1950s and into the '60s, was music director for the Playboy clubs in New York. During the 1960s, Kai had a long stint at Verve Records and under producer Creed Taylor made some of his most memorable jazz-pop albums. His best known recording from this period is "More", the theme from the movie Mondo Cane.

This hit was arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman. The recording featured, what is probably the first American recording of the French electronic music instrument, the Ondioline, which was played on "More" by Frenchman Jean Jacques Perrey. Guitarist Vinnie Bell was also on the session, and remembers distinctly that Perrey was the player of the Ondioline, although Winding publicly took credit for it.

While at Verve, Kai further experimented with various ensembles, made solo albums, and even an album of country music with the Anita Kerr Singers. In the late 1960s, Kai followed Creed Taylor to his new recording label at A&M/CTI and made at least two more albums with Johnson.
During 1971-1972 Kai worked with the Giants of Jazz; an all-star group with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, and Thelonious Monk. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kai recorded for a number of independent record labels. During this time, he continued to give clinics, play jazz concerts and even reunited with Johnson for a live concert in Japan. He also wrote instructional jazz trombone books that included transcribed solos. Winding was featured at the 1982 Kool Jazz Festival in one of his last appearances in New York

Although he recorded frequently both as a leader and a sideman throughout his career, most of Winding's sessions are not currently available on CD.

 Winding died of a heart attack in St. John's Riverside Hospital in Yonkers on May 6, 1983 after being hospitalized for the treatment of a brain tumour. He was survived at the time by his wife, accomplished painter Eschwan Winding. (Info various, mainly from Wikipedia & AMG)

Jazz Giants - Tivoli Copenhagen – 1971 Thelonius Monk, piano - Dizzy Gillespie, trumpet - Kai Winding, trombone - Sonny Stitt, sax - Al McKibbon, bass - Art Blakey, drums.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Penny DeHaven born 17 May 1948

Penny DeHaven (born Charlotte DeHaven; May 17, 1948 – February 23, 2014) was an American country and gospel music singer and actress. At the beginning of her career, she recorded as Penny Starr.
Country entertainer Penny DeHaven was born in Winchester, Virginia. She sang and performed on local shows as a child, but moved to WWVA's Wheeling Jamboree during the mid-'60s after high school. Using the stage name Penny Starr, she became a favourite and recorded "A Grain of Salt" for the Band Box label in late 1966. The single placed modestly the following year.
After spending two years in Wheeling, she moved to Nashville to sign with Imperial in 1969. Two of her recordings hit the Country Top 40 that year: "Mama Lou" and "Down in the Boondocks."

 Changing labels to  United Artists, Penny DeHaven's biggest hit came in 1970 when "Land Mark Tavern" a duet with Del Reeves, hit number 20. Though DeHaven never re-entered the Top 40 again -- "The First Love" and "Don't Change on Me" came closest in 1971 -- she continued to record for United Artists and later Mercury, Starcrest, and Main Street.
DeHaven’s other singles included country remakes of such pop hits as Billy Joe Royal’s "Down in the Boondocks" (1969), The Beatles’ "I Feel Fine" (1970), The Everly Brothers’ "Crying in the Rain" (with Reeves, 1972), and Marvin Gaye’s "I'll Be Doggone" (1974). Her albums included 1972’s Penny DeHaven and 2011’s gospel collection A Penny Saved.
As an actress, she made two guest appearances on the long-running CBS-TV/syndicated TV show Hee Haw in 1972-73. She also appeared in the movies Travelling Light, Country Music Story, the 1973 horror movie Valley of Blood, and the 1974 short-lived TV series Funny Farm.

Following a 1979 conversion, she largely concentrated on Gospel music, though she did continue her country performances. She appeared in several films in the early '80s, and sang "Bayou Lullaby" for the soundtrack to 1980's Bronco Billy. DeHaven also guested on the Grand Ole Opry several times. Penny died after a long battle with cancer in Atlanta, Georgia on 23 February 2014; she was 65 years old. (Info edited from Wikipedia & AMG)