Concert to pay tribute to musicians who died in 2018

Songs carry on.

Like the paintings of a long ago painter, the buildings of a skilled architect, works of art last beyond their creators. But paintings can be crumpled and buildings can fall apart. Songs spread on the wind and will last forever as long as someone remembers them, boosts their profile.

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A set of Prince George musicians has made it an annual obligation of love to give some of their favourite songs that nudge into the future just when their creators pass away.

Saturday is the next edition when some local all-stars present Songs Carry On: A Tribute to Musicians Lost in 2018.

The performers on the roster include Naomi Kavka, Britt AM, The Brain Porter (a project led by Brin Porter), Danny Bell Music, Sean Wesley Wood, Dan Johnson and Nathan Kelly. Some other friends may also jump into the fray.

"Britt is the mastermind who got this going," said Bell, who also helps on the production side of the event. "It has become an annual event which is really cool. The first year we did it, even though I wasn't involved that first time, was when David Bowie died and it just felt obvious to do it and force all those explorations of discographies. Then Prince died, Tom Petty, Gord Downie, there were some really beloved musicians in a short period of time and those are people we want to honour and explore. It made this concert feel especially important for us, as musicians."

This year's set of musical obituaries is, as always, a roster of legends and rising stars. Some died long before their time and some had extraordinary longevity. In all their cases, the music left behind is bigger than any of their personal times on earth.

Music fans the world over are mourning the 2018 losses of artists like electronica/dance superstar Avicii (Tim Bergling), jazz musician Hugh Masekela, Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards, DJ and rapper Lovebug Starski, Oscar-nominated composer Jhann Jhannsson, Motrhead guitarist Eddie Clarke, lead singer Barbara Ann Alston of The Crystals, Pantera co-founder Vinnie Paul Abbott, lead vocalist Jill Janus of heavy metal band Huntress, Baba Oje of Arrested Development, Melvin Ragin (aka Wah Wah Watson), musical theatre star Marin Mazzie, country music standouts Randy Scruggs and Lari White, and Dave Holland of Judas Priest, just to name some who cover a gamut of genres and time-periods.

On the Canadian scene, there was loss as well, with the passing of rappers Jon James McMurray, Smoke Dawg and Bender; children's entertainer Carmen Campagne; one of Canada's first country stars Ronnie Prophet; street poet Roy McDonald; jazz pianist, composer, show host and senator Tommy Banks; Mike 'Beard Guy' Taylor of the band Walk Off The Earth; musical theatre composer Galt MacDermot, famous for his music in Hair and Two Gentleman Of Verona and Big Sugar's bassist Garry Lowe.

"We are focusing on some particular ones that resonate with us, but they weren't necessarily people we were all familiar with before. This is an education for us, too," said Bell. "I never knew much about Roy Clark before, or the Buzzcocks (that band's co-founder Pete Shelley passed away last year), so it is kind of cool for me to get that introduction. We are doing something by The Stables Singers because one of the Staples family (Yvonee) died. We're doing some Cranberries (because of lead singer Dolores O'Riordan's passing), we're doing some Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (because keyboard player Conway Savage passed on). The lead singer of Dr. Hook (Ray Sawyer) also died just recently so we're thinking of ways to include him. The Kinks is a big one (bassist Jim Rodford, also a past member of The Zombies). Aretha Franklin, of course."

Bell's voice isn't akin to that of Franklin or Staples, he said, so he is focusing on British folk singer and academic Roy Bailey who died in late November.

Each of them is centring on artists who fit with either their musical presentation style, their own fan feelings, or a need to pay homage. Sometimes the tribute is acutely personal.

"Vic Horvath, was our friend - a Victoria-based musician, an incredible songwriter and guitar player, so Naomi, Brin and Britt will definitely be playing some of that work," said Bell.

"For most of us it will be a surprise," he added. "Some of us have been sharing on an email thread some of what we plan to perform, just to make sure there isn't too much overlap, but we don't know everything that's coming. We will get surprised right along with the audience."

Bell's Mad Loon production company is stickhandling the presentation details, and the event is the first in a series planned for 2019 by local recording firm Good Egg Records.

Songs Carry On: A Tribute to Musicians Lost in 2018 happens Saturday night at 9 p.m. at The Legion.

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