Eugene McDaniels passed away this past Saturday, at the age of 72. I can’t do his long and illustrious career proper justice – most of what I know of his catalog constitutes a small fraction of the total number of songs he wrote and recorded. However, the few McDaniels songs I’m most familiar with rank among some of the most interesting and socially relevant I know of.
I’ve written about him in the past and here’s what I had to say:
Eugene McDaniels: Cherrystones
From Outlaw (Atlantic, 1970)
This song is so excellent on so many levels: the production, McDanielsâ€™ singing, the lyrics â€“ absolutely one of my favorite songs ever. You can get all the background info on this album and McDaniels here. For now though, just listen. (Orig. written 9/22/04)
Then there’s McDaniels’s best-known LP amongst “heads”:
Eugene McDaniels: Freedom Death Dance
From Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse (Atlantic, 1971)
A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation about the 24 Carat Black LP and Hua said, “yeah, it’s so much more than just a digger’s album” upon which I said, “like the Headless Heroes LP” and Hua quickly put me in check and suggested that this McDaniels album was far better than I gave it credit for. And he was right.
Now that I went back to actually listen to it, the album truly is much more than just about “Jagger the Dagger” (a favorite of break compilations). Supposedly, the social/political content of the album had the Nixon administration nervous and they basically shut down the LP’s distribution (hence it’s rarity and status as a “Holy Grail” find).
For a protest album, McDaniels’ musical temperment isn’t one of outrage – hot and heavy – but rather, melancholy and moody. He indicts through solemnity. McDaniels isn’t a stellar vocalist but there’s something alluring about how he sings here…reminds me a lot of what Chet Baker might have sounded like as a soul artist: very smooth, goes down easy. (Orig. written 2/3/05)
Here’s McDaniels talking about one of his most covered compositions, “Compared to What”:
By the way, I just realized that three of my last five posts have been RIPs. Not my intention but I’m in the middle of an intensive work schedule for at least the next two weeks. I’ll surface back to “normal” (i.e. not about dead people) posts soon, promise. New Sidebar w/ Dan Charnas coming soon too.
Man, that is so sad! Headless heroes is a top, top LP too. Supermarket Blues and the title song are my two favourites…
Shame. He looks in such good shape in that video too. It’s sad that pioneers like this man and Gil Scott Heron are not being replaced. Fortunately they live on through the music.
“Compared To What” was the first jazz LP I bought.
time for another RIP, unfortunately: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/31/arts/music/joe-arroyo-superstar-of-colombian-music-dies-at-55.html
Frank Foster is gone, too. Death seems to be on a roll at the moment.
A real pity about Eugene McDaniels. I was looking forward to more youtube posts from him. We lose so much history when someone like him passes.