Hitmakers in New York die of COVID-19

Gil Villa - The Philippine Star
Hitmakers in New York die of COVID-19
Alan Merrill, who fronted The Arrows, was responsible for I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll and actually recorded the track with his band before Joan Jett covered and turned it into a major hit.
Alan Merrill's Twitter account

Internationally-acclaimed musicians Alan Merrill and Adam Schlesinger, who both died in New York as victims of COVID-19, had parallel backgrounds for being songwriters of separate classic hits.

Merrill, who passed away due to complications from the coronavirus disease last March 29, co-wrote and sang the original version of I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll, recorded by his band The Arrows in 1975. The same song would later become a breakthrough cover hit for lady rocker Joan Jett.

Jett, who recorded the Billboard 100 chart-topping cover with the Blackhearts, said of Merrill’s composition. “I can still remember watching The Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me.”

Noted for being the first Westerner to achieve pop star status in Japan, Merrill  kept himself busy making music and even released a Valentine’s Day single titled Your Love Song last year. He tested positive at Mount Sinai in New York and died in Manhattan. He was 69.

Three days after Merrill’s death, 52-year-old singer-songwriter Adam Schlesinger succumbed after being placed on a ventilator for over a week. He scored a signature hit in 1996 for penning the title song to the hit movie That Thing You Do! The song was even nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards and Golden Globe Awards, but lost to the Madonna-sung You Must Love Me in both occasions.

Tom Hanks, who directed and starred in the said film, honored him upon learning of his passing, saying, “There would be no Playtone without Adam Schlesinger, with his That Thing You Do!  He was a One-der.”

In the musical flick also topbilled by Liv Tyler and Steve Zahn, the fictional band originally called The Oneders (before it was respelled to The Wonders) was signed by Playtone Records courtesy of Hanks’ character Mr. White. Hanks, along with his wife singer Rita Wilson, was arguably the first big-name showbiz star who revealed to the public that he had contracted the disease after being diagnosed last March 11.

Schlesinger was a founding member of the bands Ivy, Tinted Windows and Fountains of Wayne, whose Grammy-nominated song Stacy’s Mom he also co-wrote.

The list of popular musicians affected by COVID-19, and fortunately all recovering from it, includes folk balladeer Christopher Cross; pop star Pink; opera singer Placido del Mundo; and Duran Duran bass player John Taylor. As of this writing, Taylor already recovered, having said, “I am a particularly robust 59 year old or was blessed with getting only a mild case of COVID-19.” He described the disease as “turbo-charged flu.”

Last April 3, the five-time Grammy winner Cross revealed, “Although I am fortunate enough to be cared for at home, this is possibly the worst illness I’ve ever had.”

Radiohead guitarist Ed O’Brien posted on March 23 that he had flu-like symptoms and most probably “has it.”

Country music singer Joe Diffie and saxophonist Manu Dibango were both dead late last month due to COVID-19.

The days the music died struck sad notes as the virus continues to wreak havoc throughout the world.




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