March 17th: The Biggest Music Headlines

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Alex Chilton

Power Pop Pioneer Alex Chilton Passes Away

On this day in music, March 17, 2010, Big Star co-founder Alex Chilton passed away at the age of 59. The Memphis-born singer, songwriter, and guitarist was just 16 when he recorded “The Letter” with the Box Tops. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967 and brought the group international fame but in 1970, Chilton quit to form Big Star, alongside Chris Bell, Andy Hummel, and Jody Stephens. While the band (who were some of the earliest purveyors of power pop) were largely ignored by the public during their heyday, Big Star eventually garnered a cult following and became a significant influence on the alt-rock scene of the 80s and 90s. In addition to his work with Big Star, Chilton also recorded several solo albums, including 1979’s highly regarded Like Flies On Sherbert.

In 1979, disco queen Gloria Gaynor began a month-long reign at the summit of the UK pop chart with her feminist anthem, “’I Will Survive.” The song, which also topped the Billboard Hot 100, began life as the B-side to a single called “Substitute.”

In 1997, singer Jermaine Stewart died of AIDS-related liver cancer at age 39. Born William Jermaine Stewart in Columbus, OH, Stewart began his career as a dancer on the 70s TV show, Soul Train. His most famous song was 1984’s “We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Off,” which reached No. 2 in the UK and No. 5 in the US.

In 2016, Adele topped the UK album chart for the third time with 25. Released in November 2015, the album debuted at No.1, selling 800,307 copies in its first week and eventually became the UK’s fastest-selling album of all time, surpassing the record previously held by Oasis for their 1997 album Be Here Now.

In 1979, The Bee Gees equaled a record set by The Beatles when their chart-topping 15th album, Spirits Having Flown, saw its first three tracks (“Tragedy,” “Too Much Heaven,” and “Love You Inside Out”) reach No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving the group an unbroken run of six US pole-sitters.

In 1957, Elvis Presley bought Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee, for $102,500. He purchased the 10,000-square-foot mansion, which was named after its builder’s daughter Grace Toof, from Mrs. Ruth Brown-Moore. Elvis died there in 1977 and five years later, Graceland opened as a museum.

In 1978, U2 won a talent contest held in Limerick whose prizes were £500 ($850) and a recording session for CBS Ireland.

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1919: Nat King Cole
1941: Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane)
1944: John Sebastian
1959: Mike Lindup (Level 42)
1962: Clare Grogan (Altered Images)
1967: Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins)
1972: Melissa Auf Der Maur (Hole)
1975: Justin Hawkins (The Darkness)
1990: Hozier

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March 17th

On this day in music
17 Mar 2024
English singer and songwriter Steve Harley died aged 73. In December 2023, Harley announced on his website that he was battling cancer. He was best known as the frontman with Cockney Rebel who had the 1975 UK No.1 single 'Make Me Smile, (Come Up And See Me') as well as hits with 'Mr Soft' and 'Judy Teen'. Harley released over five solo albums and also worked as a radio presenter.
17 Mar 2023
Taylor Swift kicked off the Eras Tour in Glendale, United States. The tour was met with unprecedented demand, breaking ticket sales and venue records worldwide, but faced various obstacles leading to the imposition of price regulation and anti-scalping laws. Around 3.5 million people registered for Ticketmaster's US presale, which quickly crashed after going online on November 15, 2022; however, over 2.4 million tickets were sold that day, marking the highest single-day ticket sales for an artist.
17 Mar 2023
American country music songwriter Kyle Jacobs died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Nashville, Tennessee, age 49. He was the co-writer of Garth Brooks' single, 'More Than a Memory', which became the first song to debut at No.1 on Billboard's Country Singles chart. Jacobs' songs have been recorded by artists such as Trace Adkins, Jo Dee Messina, Tim McGraw, Kelly Clarkson, Darius Rucker and Wynonna.
17 Mar 2019
American R&B musician André Williams died in Chicago, Illinois, at the age of 82. He started his career in the 1950s; his most famous songs include the hits ‘Jail Bait,’ ‘Greasy Chicken,’ ‘Bacon Fat’ and ‘Cadillac Jack’ (1966). He was also the co-author of the R&B hit ‘Shake a Tail Feather’.
17 Mar 2019
Irish rock guitarist, singer, songwriter, Bernie Tormé died a day before he would have turned 67. Tormé is best known for his work with Gillan, as well as his brief stints with Ozzy Osbourne's backing band and Atomic Rooster.
17 Mar 2016
English indie rock band The 1975 were at No.1 on the US album chart with their second album I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It. The album title set the record for the longest of a Billboard No.1 album with 71 characters.
17 Mar 2013
John Lennon and George Harrison were honoured with a blue plaque at the site of the former Apple Boutique in a ceremony in London held at at 94 Baker Street. The new plaque reads "John Lennon, M.B.E., 1940-1980, and George Harrison, M.B.E., 1943-2001, worked here."
17 Mar 2010
American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and record producer, Alex Chilton died in hospital of heart problems in New Orleans aged 59. As a teenager Chilton had been a member of The Box Tops who had the 1967 hit 'The Letter' and later in 1971 co-founded the power-pop group Big Star, with Chris Bell. In the 1980s both R.E.M., and the Replacements cited Big Star group as a major influence.
17 Mar 2008
Ola Brunkert, the former drummer with the Swedish group ABBA, was found dead at his home in Majorca, Spain, following an accident. The 62-year old musician had played on every Abba album the group released and had toured with the group.
17 Mar 2006
The Smiths turned down a $5m (£2.8m) offer to reform for a music festival. The band who split acrimoniously in 1987, rejected the bid to get back together for this year's Coachella US festival.
17 Mar 2005
Justin Hawkins from The Darkness became the centre of the latest hands-on activity at Madame Tussauds in London. His wax double would judge the air guitar skills of visitors who would be invited to play an imaginary guitar with smoke and music pumping out. Hawkins said: 'I find the process of air guitaring rather silly. What makes a good air guitarist? Alcohol.'
17 Mar 2004
The Kinks singer Ray Davies received his CBE medal from the Queen at Buckingham Palace for services to the music industry.
17 Mar 1997
American R&B singer Jermaine Stewart died of AIDS-related liver cancer at age 39. Stewart scored the 1986 UK No.2 and US No.5 single 'We Don't Have To...Take Our Clothes Off'. He gained recognition as a dancer on the television show Soul Train. Stewart later worked with Shalamar, The Temptations and Boy George.
17 Mar 1997
Elvis Presley Enterprises of Memphis, Tennessee, lost its Court of Appeal battle to stop London trader Sid Shaw using the name of 'The King' on his souvenirs. The legal tussle with Mr Shaw, who ran a memorabilia shop called 'Elvisly Yours', had been going on for over 17 years. Speaking after the ruling, Mr Shaw said: 'I'm delighted. I've proved that Elvis belongs to all of us - Elvis is part of our history, part of our culture'.
17 Mar 1996
American singer and songwriter Terry Stafford died of liver failure, at the age of 54. He is best known for his 1964 US Top 10 hit, ‘Suspicion’, (also recorded by Elvis Presley) and the 1973 country music hit, ‘Amarillo by Morning’. ‘Suspicion’ had the distinction of being sixth on the Billboard Hot 100 on April 4, 1964, when the Beatles held down the top five spots. 'Amarillo by Morning', was later covered by George Strait on his 1982 album Strait from the Heart. The song was once named the No.12 country song of all-time by Country Music Television.
17 Mar 1990
British multi-instrumentalist. Rick Grech who had worked with Family, Blind Faith, Traffic, and Ginger Baker's Air Force died of renal failure at the age of 43, as a result of alcoholism. As a session musician Grech also worked with Rod Stewart, Ronnie Lane, Vivian Stanshall, Muddy Waters, The Crickets, the Bee Gees and Gram Parsons.
17 Mar 1984
Van Halen's 'Jump' peaked at No.1 in the US. Over the years David Lee Roth has given various accounts of the meaning behind the lyrics, but most often says they are about a TV news story he saw where a man was about to kill himself by jumping off a building.
17 Mar 1979
Gloria Gaynor started a four-week run at No.1 on the UK singles chart with 'I Will Survive.' The song was originally released as the B-side to a song first recorded by The Righteous Brothers called 'Substitute.'
17 Mar 1979
The Bee Gees went to No.1 on the UK album chart with their fifteenth studio album release Spirits Having Flown, the group's first album after their collaboration on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The album's first three tracks were released as singles and all reached No.1 in the US, giving the Bee Gees an unbroken run of six US chart-toppers and tying a record set by The Beatles.
17 Mar 1978
U2 won £500 ($850) and a chance to audition for CBS Ireland in a talent contest held in Dublin. The Limerick Civic Week Pop '78 Competition was sponsored by The Evening Express and Guinness Harp Lager.
17 Mar 1973
Dr Hook's single 'On The Cover Of Rolling Stone' peaked at No.6 on the US chart. The single was banned in the UK by the BBC due to the reference of the magazine.
17 Mar 1967
Jimi Hendrix Experience released 'Purple Haze' in the UK, (US release was June 19). Hendrix had read Night of Light, a 1966 novel by Philip José Farmer. In the story set on a distant planet, sunspots produced a "purplish haze" which had a disorienting effect on the inhabitants. It is thought that Hendrix took this as the idea for the songs lyrics.
17 Mar 1967
Working at Abbey Road studios in London, The Beatles finished the recording of 'She's Leaving Home' after adding backing vocals to the track. Harpist Sheila Bromberg who was part of the string section on the track became the first woman to play on a Beatles recording.
17 Mar 1966
The Walker Brothers had their second UK No.1 with the single 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore', (originally recorded by Frankie Valli).
17 Mar 1962
Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies played at the opening of the Ealing Blues Club in Ealing, England. For the first time, British musicians played the blues and were given an opportunity to see other British artists playing the music. By the end of 1962, the Club had overseen the creation of The Rolling Stones who’d been brought together by Alexis Korner and played there over 20 times. Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart and Pete Townshend played Ealing, as did many other members of the future bands that would later take the raw sound of blues-based around the world.
17 Mar 1957
Elvis Presley bought the Graceland mansion from Mrs Ruth Brown-Moore for $102,500. (£60,295). The 23 room, 10,000 square foot home, on 13.8 acres of land, would be expanded to 17,552 square feet of living space before Elvis moved in a few weeks later. The original building had at one time been a place of worship, used by the Graceland Christian Church and was named after the builder's daughter, Grace Toof.
Born on this day in music
17 Mar 1990
Hozier, Irish singer-songwriter. His self-titled 2014 album went to No.1 in nine European countries and his 2013 single 'Take Me to Church' was a Top 3 hit 10 European countries.
17 Mar 1976
Stephen Gately, vocals, Boyzone, who have had 21 UK hit singles, including 6 UK No.1 singles. Their breakthrough hit was their second single and cover version of the classic Osmonds hit, 'Love Me for a Reason', which peaked at No.2 on the UK Singles Chart. Gately had the solo 2000 UK No.3 single 'New Beginning / Bright Eyes'). He died of a congenital heart defect on 10th Oct 2009.
17 Mar 1975
Justin Hawkins, singer with English rock The Darkness who had the 2003 UK No.2 single ‘I Believe In A Thing Called Love’, and the 2003 UK No.1 album ‘Permission To Land’. The album was certified quadruple platinum in the United Kingdom, with sales of over 1,300,000 and in 2004 the band won three Brit Awards.
17 Mar 1973
Caroline Corr, drums, vocals, with Irish band The Corrs, who had the 1998 UK No.3 single 'What Can I Do'. Talk On Corners was the best selling UK album of 1998 spending 142 weeks on the UK chart. The Corrs have sold 40 million albums worldwide.
17 Mar 1972
Canadian musician, singer-songwriter Melissa Auf Der Maur for the American alternative rock band Hole who she joined in the summer of 1994 and is included on several Hole releases, including the album Celebrity Skin (1998).
17 Mar 1972
American rapper Sean Price who was a member of the hip hop collective Boot Camp Clik and was also half of the duo Heltah Skeltah, performing under the name Ruckus. Price died on 8 Aug 2015 aged 43.
17 Mar 1967
Billy Corgan, American musician, songwriter with alternative rock band, Smashing Pumpkins who had the 1995 US No.1 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
17 Mar 1967
American rock musician Van Conner best known as the bassist for Screaming Trees and also joined a live lineup of Dinosaur Jr. He died from pneumonia age 55 on 17 January 2023.
17 Mar 1963
Michael Ivins, bassist and keyboardist and one of the founding members of The Flaming Lips. Their 1999 release The Soft Bulletin was NME magazine's Album of the Year and the group has won three Grammy Awards.
17 Mar 1962
Scottish actress and singer Clare Grogan who with Altered Images had the 1981 UK No.2 single 'Happy Birthday'. Her first film appearance was in the acclaimed film Gregory's Girl, and has since appeared in UK soap Eastenders, Red Dwarf and the comedy Father Ted.
17 Mar 1959
Mike Lindup, keyboard player and falsetto voiced singer from Level 42, who had the 1986 UK No.3 & US No.12 single 'Lessons In Love' & 19 other UK Top 40 hits.
17 Mar 1951
American guitarist and songwriter Scott Gorham Thin Lizzy, who had the 1976 hit single 'The Boys Are Back In Town' and the UK No.2 album Live and Dangerous. Gorham joined the band at a time when their future was in doubt after the departures of original guitarist Eric Bell and his brief replacement Gary Moore.
17 Mar 1948
Pat Lloyd, from the British pop, R&B and rock group The Equals who had the 1968 UK No.1 & US No.32 single 'Baby Come Back' written by Eddy Grant.
17 Mar 1946
Harold Brown, drummer and vocalist and band leader with American funk band War. Their album The World Is a Ghetto was the best-selling US album of 1973. They also scored the 1973 US No.2 single 'Cisco Kid'.
17 Mar 1944
Bob Johnson, guitarist with English folk rock band Steeleye Span who formed in 1969. They had the 1975 UK No.5 single 'All Around My Hat' and a hit with 'Gaudete'.
17 Mar 1944
American singer, songwriter, guitarist, harmonicist, and autoharpist, John Sebastian who is best known as a founder of The Lovin' Spoonful. They had the 1966 UK No.2 single 'Daydream', and 1966 US No.1 single 'Summer in The City' and Sebastian scored the solo 1976 US No.1 single 'Welcome Back'. In August 1969, Sebastian made a memorable, albeit unscheduled appearance at Woodstock. He was not on the performance bill and traveled to the festival as a spectator, but he was asked to appear when the organisers suddenly needed an acoustic performer after a rain break.
17 Mar 1944
Pat Mcauley, keyboards with the Northern Irish band Them who had the 1965 UK hits 'Baby, Please Don't Go' and 'Here Comes The Night' with Van Morrison on lead vocals. Morrison quit the band in 1966 and went on to a successful career as a solo artist.
17 Mar 1943
American singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly. He wrote mostly pop and country music, his notable songs include "The Need to Be" and "Midnight Train to Georgia" a 1973 No.1 hit single by Gladys Knight & the Pips. Ray Price, Lynn Anderson, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks have all recorded his songs. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006. Weatherly died on 3 Febuary 2021 age 77.
17 Mar 1941
American guitarist, singer and songwriter Paul Kantner from Jefferson Airplane. He was known for co-founding Jefferson Airplane, the leading psychedelic rock band of the counterculture era, and its more commercial spin-off band Jefferson Starship. With Jefferson Airplane, Kantner was among the performers at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966 and the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and the Woodstock Festival in 1969. Kantner died in San Francisco at the age of 74 on Jan 28, 2016 due to multiple organ failure and septic shock after he suffered a heart attack days earlier.
17 Mar 1941
Clarence Collins from Little Anthony and The Imperials who had the 1958 US No.4 single 'Tears On My Pillow'. The song gave Kylie Minogue a UK No.1 in 1990.
17 Mar 1938
Zola Taylor from American vocal group The Platters who had the 1959 UK & US No.1 single 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes'. She was the original female member of The Platters from 1954 to 1962. The Platters were one of the first African-American groups to be accepted as a major chart group and were, for a period of time, the most successful vocal group in the world. She died on 30 April 2007 age 69.
17 Mar 1919
American jazz pianist and vocalist Nat King Cole, who had the 1955 US No.2 single 'A Blossom Fell', the 1957 UK No.2 single 'When I Fall In Love'. He recorded over one hundred songs that became hits on the pop charts and was the first black man to host an American television series. Nat King Cole died of lung cancer on February 15th 1965.
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