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2014 News March 21, 2019   

April 27, 1956 - Oct. 9, 2014

Sista Monica Parker By Lee Hildebrand - SFGate www.sfgate.com

Blues, soul and gospel singer Monica Parker, known professionally as Sista Monica, battled cancer twice during the past decade.  Diagnosed in 2004 with synovial sarcoma under her right arm, she was given only three months to live, but she survived and carried on her simultaneous careers as a Silicon Valley corporate recruiter and international performing artist.  She wasn't as fortunate the second time, when complications from cancer in her right lung ended her life Oct. 9 at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Modesto.  She was 58.

Known for her big, brassy, gospel-imbued contralto pipes and highly emotive way with songs, many of which she wrote herself, Ms. Parker gave her final performance at Yoshi's in Oakland on Sept. 2 with the aid of an oxygen tank.  She had announced her illness on Facebook several days earlier, and the club was packed with friends, family and fans.

"The different emotions she would take an audience through during a performance - from happiness to sadness - were just really wonderful," said Leon Joyce Jr., Ms. Parker's drummer for the past three years.

"I always looked at her career as a source of inspiration as something I could work towards," said fast-rising Oakland blues and soul singer Terrie Odabi.  Ms. Parker was scheduled to appear as part of Odabi's Sept. 13 "Soul Divas" show at the Fenix in San Rafael, but had to cancel due to the effects of chemotherapy.

Ms. Parker began singing at age 7 at a Baptist church in her native Gary, Indiana.  She joined the Marine Corps at 21 and spent the bulk of her three-year stint as a recruiter.  From shortly after her discharge until recently, she worked as a job recruiter for such firms as Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Yahoo, Sun Microsystems, Dolby Laboratories and Amazon.

Having debuted as a blues singer and bandleader in 1992 in Santa Cruz, Ms. Parker went on to record 11 CDs for her own Mo Muscle label - nine of them blues and soul, two gospel - and appeared at festivals and clubs and on blues cruises throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and in Turkey and Mexico.  She was named "Best Blues Artist" at the California Music Awards in 1998, and was nominated for the "Beat Soul Blues Female Artist" award by the Blues Foundation in Memphis in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012.

She found no contradiction in singing both blues and gospel music.  "Blues has some of the same rhythms and chord changes that gospel does," she said during an August 11 interview at her home in Mountain House (San Joaquin County).  "There's a lot of truth in both blues and gospel.  That's why I write both.  Maya Angelou said, 'People don't think about what you say; they think about how you make them feel.'  I would like to make people feel uplifted and hopeful."

"She slipped away peacefully and quietly into the presence of the Lord," Ms. Parker's friend and musical associate Bishop Yvette Flunder of City of Refuge Church of Christ in Oakland wrote in an e-mail.  "Now she can breathe again, sing with the spirit and the ancestors and worship in the presence of her creator.  She has taken her wings and joined the heavenly choir."

Ms. Parker is survived by her sister, Charlotte Parker of Castro Valley, and brothers Barryington Parker and Garland Parker, both of Gary, Indiana.  The family suggests that donations in her memory be made to Healing Journeys at www.healingjourneys.org.  A memorial service is slated for 5 p.m. Nov. 2 at Inner Light Ministries, 5630 Soquel Drive in Soquel (Santa Cruz County).

February 23, 1944 - July 16, 2014

Johnny Winter By Matt Marshall - American Blues Scene Magazine www.americanbluesscene.com

Johnny Dawson Winter III has passed away.  He was 70.  "Texas blues icon Johnny Winter has passed away on July 16th, 2014, in his hotel room in Zurich, Switzerland," read an official email from Winter's PR company, Kid Logic Media.  "His Wife, family and bandmates are all saddened by the loss of one of the world's finest guitarists."

The email promised an official statement at the appropriate time.

Winter and his brother, Edgar were raised in a musical family, with his roots firmly planted in the Mississippi delta - his father was the mayor of Leland, Mississippi, and Winter was recently honored with a Blues Trail Marker.  From before his teens, Winter was playing and recording, even sitting in with the biggest blues legends of the day and in history, including Muddy Waters and BB King.  In 1968, he released his first album, The Progressive Blues Experiment, and after a now-famous performance at The Fillmore East, he was signed to Columbia Records with what was reported to be the largest advance ever made to an artist.

After his mammoth deal, Johnny immediately laid out the blueprint for his fresh take on classic blues, according to his official biography, which was a prime combination for the legions of fans just discovering the blues through the likes of Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton.  His first album with Columbia was Johnny Winter, with Willie Dixon playing stand up bass.  Winter continued to gain widespread critical acclaim with his innovative blues stylings and in 1970, Winter released his commercially acclaimed "Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo", before struggling with heroin addiction for several years, seeking treatment, and emerging with a renewed lease on life.

He made a successful comeback, culminating in what Winter described to American Blues Scene Magazine as the "highlight of my life" when, after the closing of Chess Records, he brought Muddy Waters to the studio to record what would widely become known as the bluesman's comeback record, Hard Again.  In the album, Winter performed most of the guitar work, while Muddy sang.  Winter would go on to produce several Grammy-winning albums for Muddy before the bluesman's death in 1983.

Winter earned several Grammy nominations for his searing, scorching slide guitar work, and was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Blues Hall of Fame in 2003, and was one of Rolling Stone Magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time.  "I'm not a rock n roller," Winter told American Blues Scene.  "I'm a bluesman."  From his earliest childhood in the Mississippi Delta and Beaumont, Texas to his last breath, touring on the road, Winter truly lived up to that statement in every sense of the word.


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