Thursday, March 14, 2019

Hal Blaine, Drummer, Dies at 90

May He Rest Forever on 2 and 4: You may not have heard of Hal Blaine. But you have heard Hal Blaine playing drums plenty, as he contributed something immutable and inspirational to all our lives.

Hal Blaine, one of the most famous drummers in the history of pop music,
poses in front of an oil painting of himself in younger days at his home
in Palm Desert.   
Gina Ferazzi / LA Times via Getty Images file

NBC News (via The Associated Press) reported:
Hal Blaine, the Hall of Fame session drummer and virtual one-man soundtrack of the 1960s and '70s who played on the songs of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beach Boys and laid down one of music's most memorable opening riffs on the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," died Monday. 
Blaine died of natural causes at his home in Palm Desert, California, his son-in-law, Andy Johnson, told The Associated Press. He was 90. 
On hearing of his death, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson called him 
"the greatest drummer ever."
Hal Blaine in about 1970. He played drums on at least 40 singles that
reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

And Richard Sandomir of The New York Times reported:
Mr. Blaine, who played on at least 40 singles that reached No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart, was a reliable and adaptable musician, able to offer delicate brushwork on a ballad or a booming beat on records produced by Phil Spector, who was known for his so-called Wall of Sound
Mr. Blaine brought drama to a song’s transitions, often telegraphing a big moment with a flurry of strokes on a snare drum or tom-tom. 
If he had a signature moment on a record, it was on the Ronettes’ 1963 hit, “Be My Baby,” produced by Mr. Spector. The song opened cold, with Mr. Blaine playing — and repeating — the percussive earworm “Bum-ba-bum-BOOM!” But the riff came about accidentally. 
“I was supposed to play more of a boom-chicky-boom beat, but my stick got stuck and it came out boom, boom-boom chick,” he told The Wall Street Journal in 2011. “I just made sure to make the same mistake every few bars.”
Hal Blaine, who died at 90 this week, was the drummer behind the famous
"Be My Baby" beat and many others.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

And then there was The Wrecking Crew.
Mr. Blaine was part of a loosely affiliated group of session musicians who in the early 1960s began dominating rock ’n’ roll recording in Los Angeles. 
Along with guitarists like Glen Campbell and Tommy Tedesco, bassists like Carol Kaye and Joe Osborn, and keyboardists like Leon Russell and Don Randi, Mr. Blaine played on thousands of recordings through the mid-1970s. 
He famously said he gave the group its name, the Wrecking Crew ...
Yes, it was Mr Blaine (not Dennis Wilson) who played drums for The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" - plus
Mr. Blaine’s other studio credits include Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Ms. Streisand’s “The Way We Were,” the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron” and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s “A Taste of Honey.”

Wait a minute! Abq Jew hears you exclaim.
Where's the Jewish angle?

Funny you should mention it. 
Hal Blaine was born Harold Simon Belsky on Feb. 5, 1929, in Holyoke, Mass., to [Jewish immigrants] Meyer Belsky, who worked in a leather factory, and Rose (Silverman) Belsky. 
When he was 7 the family moved to Hartford, where he was inspired to learn drumming by watching the fife and drum corps of the Roman Catholic school across the street from his Hebrew school. 
“One of the priests noticed I was watching, and before long I was playing with these kids,” he told The Hartford Courant in 2000

So let's talk about Hal Blaine's signature hit "Be My Baby". Wikipedia tells us:
"Be My Baby" is a song written by Jeff Barry [Joel Adelberg], Ellie Greenwich, and Phil Spector. It was recorded on July 5, 1963 at Gold Star Studios Hollywood by American girl group the Ronettes and released as a single in August 1963 and later placed on their 1964 debut LP Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes featuring Veronica
Ronnie Spector is the only Ronette to appear on the single; her future husband Phil produced their elaborately layered recording in what is now considered a quintessential example of his Wall of Sound production formula. 
It is considered one of the best songs of the 1960s by NME, Time, and Pitchfork staff members. In 2004, the song was ranked 22 by Rolling Stone in its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time ...

Want to hear more of Hal Blaine's work? 

Here's a guide by Christopher R Weingarten of The New York Times.
Hal Blaine: Listen to 12 Essential Songs
The drummer, who died at 90, was the beat behind Phil Spector innovations, Beach Boys experiments and easy listening hits.
Hal Blaine, who died on Monday at 90, was the greatest and most prolific session drummer during the turbulent Sixties crescendo from pop to psychedelia, keeping the nation’s heartbeat through dozens of No. 1 hits during the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. 
His resume included ambitious art-rock totems, easy listening schmaltz, TV theme songs, incendiary folk-rock, Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” and Steely Dan’s smooth softscapes. 
His beats backed a hall of fame of mid-20th century icons, including Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, the Supremes, Simon and Garfunkel, Sam Cooke, Barbra Streisand, Herb Alpert, John Denver and Leonard Cohen. 
But his most legendary beat is the primordial thump-thump-thump-crack heartbeat in the first four seconds of the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” 
Here’s just a fraction of what Blaine tapped into musical history.

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