Monday Mourning: Otis Clay, Red Simpson & David Bowie

The past few days have seen much sadness in the music world with the deaths of Otis Clay, Red Simpson and David Bowie.

Blue Hall of Famer Otis Clay passed away on Friday Jan. 8passed at 73. Clay was best known for the soul hit “Trying To Live My Life Without You.” He also earned a Grammy nomination in 2008 in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category for “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” and his most recent album, his 2015 collaboration with Billy Price This Time For Real, is up for Best Soul Blues Album at this year’s Blues Music Awards.

Here is Clay singing his signature song on Soul Train

Also on Friday, Red Simpson died in Bakersfield at the age of 81. Simpson was one of the founders of the Bakersfield Sound that was popularized by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Simpson also is associated with trucking songs. He scored hits with songs like “I’m A Truck,” “Roll Truck Roll” and “Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves.” He reportedly just wrapped what will be his final album Soda Pops and Saturdays, which is scheduled to be released on Feb. 4.

I really found out about Red Simpson through Junior Brown’s covers of Simpson’s songs. This is Simpson’s original version of “Highway Patrol”

and, of course, the most shocking of them all is David Bowie’s death, which stunned me when I heard about Sunday night. There will others who will write more eloquently about Bowie, his music and his legacy. But I too feel the need the share.

Growing up in the ‘70s in Cleveland listening to WMMS and reading Creem Magazine, David Bowie was always there (Cleveland being one of the first cities to “get” Bowie and Creem, well, for being Creem). When I first heard him during his Honky Dory/Ziggy Stardust era, there was something always more exciting, interesting, cooler about Bowie than contemporaries like Elton John or Queen.

Aladdin Sane was the first Bowie album I actually bought – and not just for the fun pun of a title. While “The Jean Genie” was its big hit, I always gravitated to “Drive-In Saturday” and “Panic In Detroit” (maybe that’s the Midwestern in me).

While I didn’t stay a close fan over the years, there was always something fascinating about Bowie because…he was always doing something fascinating. Last night, I was reading a review of his latest album Blackstar, which spoke about how strong and vibrant the music was. It was good to see that he was still creating something interesting and not just putting out an album for the sake of it. I then walked into the next room and my wife told me that David Bowie had died. I couldn’t understand her at first, like it had to be someone else’s name she was saying. But sadly it was David Bowie.

There are some many songs I could play here in his honor. But the line for this song “blue, blue, electric blue/that’s the color of my room/where I will live” has been one, for whatever reason, that has run through my head on a regular basis. Today, however, I am thinking of its opening line: “Don’t you wonder sometimes…”

Here is a very nice video of “Sound And Vision” that someone made several years ago as a tribute to the man.

About Michael Berick

I am a longtime writer, and lover, of music and pop culture. I have written for Entertainment Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, Cleveland Scene and more places (that I wouldn't take up more of your time mentioning now).
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