Bobby Curtola’s death June 4 at 73 came as a real shock. I will always remember his youthful enthusiasm and how he loved to perform. Bobby was Canada’s first singing idol. Ottawa’s Paul Anka moved to the U.S. and in hindsight Bobby should have gone too – most of his early recordings were made in Nashville. He was the Justin Bieber of his day. Without the tattoos!
To this day Bobby Curtola has yet to be recognized by the Canadian Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to Canadian pop music. He was good enough to receive the Order of Canada but obviously not recognition by his peers.
Bobby broke out in the early Sixties and when he appeared in Vancouver at Park Royal mall over 3,000 kids showed up. I met him when I was program director at C-FUN/Vancouver and he performed for C-FUN Day at Kits Showboat. Almost 10,000 showed up for this annual event, big numbers for the Sixties!
I worked with Bobby over the years, but having him open for Roy Orbison at EXPO 86 in front of two packed houses was one of the highlights of his life. His genuine and positive attitude about life caused him considerable strife. He was naive and some of his professional moves were questionable. Bobby Curtola always gave a great performance and gave it his all. He was a kind and considerate talent and always proud to be a Canadian.
The music world lost a lot of great artists in the year.
Natalie Cole, R&B singer and daughter of music legend Nat “King” Cole, New Year’s Eve at 65
Robert Stigwood January 4 at 81. He managed Cream and the Bee Gees before producing Grease and Saturday Night Fever.
David Bowie January 10, two days after his 69th birthday
Rene Angelil, husband and manager of Celine Dion, January 14 at age 73
Glenn Frey, Eagles guitarist and co-founder, at 67 on January 18
Paul Kantner, Jefferson Airplane co-founder and guitarist, at 74 on January 28
Maurice White, a founding member of disco-funk group Earth, Wind & Fire, February 3 at 74
Dan Hicks, who led ’60s band Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, February 6 at 74
Sonny James, country singer behind hits like Young Love, February 22 at age 87
George Martin, the “Fifth Beatle” best known as a producer for The Beatles, March 8 at 90
Ray Griff, CCMA Hall of Famer, country music legend and one of Canada’s most prolific songwriters, at 75 March 9
Gogi Grant, whose song The Wayward Wind topped the charts for 6 weeks in 1956, March 10 at 91
Keith Emerson, founder and keyboardist of band Emerson, Lake and Palmer, March 11 at 71
Frank Sinatra Jr., singer and son of Ol’ Blue Eyes, March 16 at 72
Merle Haggard, country music legend, April 6 on his 79th birthday
Prince, music legend behind hits Purple Rain, 1999 and others, April 21 at 57
Lonnie Mack, blues guitar great, best known for his hit Memphis, April 21 at 74
Billy Paul, Grammy-winning jazz and soul singer best known for the 1972 hit Me and Mrs. Jones, April 24 at 80
Philip Kives created the company that bore the first letter of his last name, K-Tel. April 27 at 87
Chips Moman, American record producer, guitarist, and Grammy Award-winning songwriter, June 13 at 79
Scotty Moore, pioneering rock guitarist for Elvis Presley, June 28 at his home. He was 84
Lovie Eli, Vancouver singer, at 77 on July 25
Glenn Yarbrough, founding member of folk trio The Limeliters, August 11 at 86
Rod Temperton, Michael Jackson’s Thriller songwriter and Heatwave member, October 5 at 66
Bobby Hales, composer, bandleader and Music Director for Music Hop, October 15 at 82
Stan Cayer, Vancouver singer and record label owner, at 76 on October 16
Bobby Vee, ’60s teen idol who replaced Buddy Holly, October 24 at 73
Kay Starr, 94, American singer (Wheel of Fortune, The Rock and Roll Waltz), November 3
Leonard Cohen, Canadian singer-songwriter, November 7 at 82
Al Caiola, 96, American guitarist and composer, November 9
Doug Edwards, 71, Victoria musician and composer (Wildflower), November 11
Leon Russell, influential singer-songwriter and all-star collaborator, November 13 at 74
Joe Esposito, road manager for Elvis Presley, November 23 at 78
Greg Lake, English singer and musician, December 7 at 69
Jim Lowe, 93, American singer-songwriter (Green Door), December 12
Gordie Tapp, 94, Canadian country singer and entertainer (Hee Haw), December 18
Rick Parfitt, 68, British singer, songwriter and guitarist (Status Quo), December 24
George Michael, 53, British singer/songwriter (Careless Whisper, Last Christmas, Kissing A Fool), December 25