Friday 20 January 2012

From Otis to Glass: A Short Musical Journey

Johnny Otis, the Greek-American 'godfather of rhythm and blues', has died at the age of 90. After beginning as a drummer in swing orchestras, he effectively adopted a black musical identity and went on to have a remarkable career as musician, singer, talent scout and songwriter (with the odd lapse, e.g. Ma, He's Making Eyes at Me, a UK number 2 in 1957). Otis played the drums - just listen to him - on Big Mama Thornton's Hound Dog. He also wrote the lovely Every Beat of My Heart for Gladys Knight, her breakthrough single in 1961 (here she is reprising it a decade later). As a producer, he was responsible for all the R&B hits of Johnny Ace, until the singer accidentally shot himself in 1954, the year Otis launched Etta James - he sure could spot talent...
Johnny Ace lives on in the song The Late Great Johnny Ace on Paul Simon's best album, Hearts and Bones. The beautiful one-minute coda is by Philip Glass. Enjoy.


  1. Quite agree about Hearts & Bones Nige - seem to remember that it sold about ten copies, eleven including mine. Love the bass clarinet wandering through that track...listen for it over at the dabbler this Lazy Sunday in Khachaturian's grotesque but tuneful Bell Symphony...a wonderful but under-used dark and mysterious.

  2. I shall! Thanks for the tip, MM.