POINCIANA, Fla. - Singer Jon Lucien, whose deep baritone and soulful love songs made him a respected jazz artist for more than 35 years, has died, his wife said. He was 65. Lucien died Saturday from respiratory complications after surgery, his wife, Delesa, said Tuesday from her home in Poinciana.
Born in the British Virgin Islands' main island of Tortola and raised in St. Thomas, Lucien began performing in his teens.
His 1970 RCA album, "I Am Now," launched a recording career that earned him a loyal following, though his hard-to-categorize style never lead to breakout success.
Among his songs were "Rashida," "Lady Love," "Dindi," "You Don't Need Me," "Hello Like Before," and "Sweet Control." His recordings of "Rashida" and "Lady Love" garnered Grammy nominations for arranger Dave Grusin in 1974 in the category of best arrangement accompanying vocalist(s).
In 1979, critic Leonard Feather praised Lucien in the Los Angeles Times for his "resonant baritone, assured timber and phrasing, the West Indian piquancy of his announcements. Contemporary material works better for him than standards."
In 1978, he contributed a vocal track to Weather Report's album "Mr. Gone."
"All the musical world knows about Jon Lucien," his widow said.
Drummer Kim Plainfield, who played with Lucien for 19 years, recalled him as "a consummate musician. He wasn't just a singer. He played multiple instruments live and in the studio. He was also a prolific composer." But Plainfield said Lucien never made it big because he couldn't be classified in a genre.
Lucien's 17-year-old daughter, Dalila, was among the 230 people killed in the crash of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in July 1996. He sought solace in the studio and recorded the album "Endless is Love," which was released in 1997.
In recent years, he performed live with a jazz fusion group at local venues and jazz festivals around the nation and managed his own record label, Sugar Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) Music.
He is survived by his wife, two sons, an adopted daughter and a stepson.
Sky, so vast is the sky
And far away clouds just wandering by..
Where do they go?
Oh I don't know, don't know...
Wind that speaks to the leaves
Telling stories that no one believes
Stories of love
Belong to you and me....
If I only had words
I would say all the beautiful things that I see
When you're with me
oh my Dindi
Like the song of the wind in the trees
That's how my heart is singing Dindi, happy Dindi
When you're with me
I love you more today
Yes I do, yes I do
I'd let you go away
If you take me with you
Don't you know Dindi
I'd be running and searching for you
Like a river that can't find the sea
That would be me
Without you my Dindi
Remembering Jon Lucien
by Mark Anthony Neal
That Jon Lucien’s name is rarely evoked in casual conversation about Jazz and Soul vocalists of the past two generations is perhaps fitting for an artist who was often cast as an outsider. It wasn’t just the affectations of the Caribbean male that marked Lucien as an outsider when he first emerged in 1970 with his debut recording I Am Now, but his embodiment of something else—that something else that few, including his record labels, could ever quite wrap their heads around. If so much of the Soul music of the early 1970s yearned for the trinkets of a newly formed freedom—including the freedoms derived from uninhibited sexual passion—then Jon Lucien’s music, his rich Caribbean baritone and his cosmopolitan swagger were evidence of an always, already freedom.
It was all too easy to compare Jon Lucien to Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass and, much later, Luther Vandross (the sheer heft of their vocals would have it no other way), but in reality Lucien’s peers were song stylists like Johnny Hartman and Jimmy Scott—both tragically forgotten, even as Scott (and his natural falsetto) continues to toil in obscurity and Hartman remains the only vocalist to have collaborated with John Coltrane. What distinguished Lucien from those men was his ability to translate the gravitas of their instruments into something that was accessible and tangible, albeit “foreign” in both the literal and commercial sense, to audiences in the 1970s.
Simply put, Jon Lucien conjured sex in a way that was only comparable to the onscreen work of the late Calvin Lockhart - who, like his Caribbean contemporary, never quite found the vehicles to support his considerable talents. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was difficult for male Caribbean artists to exist beyond the huge shadows of Sir Sidney and King Harry; Lucien and Lockhart, I would argue, suffered accordingly. Ironically Lucien first came to the states in the 1960s playing bass in the Catskills behind a trio that once performed as part of the Harry Belafonte Folk Singers.
Nevertheless Lucien’s second recording, Rashida (1973), with its lush arrangements, unbridled percussive energies and Lucien’s vocals in fine form, ranks as one of the great “Soul” albums from the period. And yet to call Lucien’s music “soul” or “jazz” does a disservice to the music. This is something that was not lost on Lucien as he struggled with his record company at the time. As Lucien told Richard Harrington a few years ago, “There was a lack of vision, especially when we did the Rashida album… everybody was saying, ‘what do we call this music?’” Such questions kept RCA from giving Lucien’s recordings full promotional support, particularly in an era when many labels were still getting a handle on their nascent black music divisions. If the music didn’t sound like Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, The O’Jays or Aretha Franklin, many labels didn’t believe there was an audience for it.
Read Full Essay at CRITICAL NOIR @ Vibe.com
Labels: Jon Lucien, Rashida, Soul Music
Smooth soul-jazz singer
Published: 25 August 2007
Lucien Harrigan (Jon Lucien), singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer: born Tortola, British Virgin Islands, 8 January 1942; four times married (two sons, one adopted daughter, one stepson, and two daughters deceased); died Orlando, Florida 18 August 2007.
Jon Lucien's smooth, soulful baritone was always a delight to listen to and drew comparisons with Nat King Cole, Lou Rawls, and Luther Vandross. He was often heard on mellow jazz stations in the United States and was championed in the UK by the DJ Gilles Peterson. Possibly best known for his cover of "Dindi" by the Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, Lucien penned a great percentage of the material he recorded, most notably the ballads "Would You Believe in Love", "Lady Love", "Rashida" and "Soul Mate".
A native of the Virgin Islands, he incorporated the gently swaying rhythms of the Caribbean into material like "Hello Like Before", "Mysteries" and "Sweet Control" but, despite stints with RCA, Columbia and Polygram, and collaborations with Weather Report and Grover Washington Jr, Lucien never quite broke through to the mainstream.
Born Lucien Harrigan on Tortola in 1942, he was the oldest of eight children and grew up on the neighbouring island of St. Thomas. From his mid-teens, he played bass and various other instruments in Rico and the Rhythmaires, a band led by his blind father Eric "Rico" Harrigan. In the 1960s, he moved to the US and worked as a jobbing musician and singer, recording advertising jingles and performing at bar mitzvahs and weddings. During one of those engagements, he met Ernie Alshulter, who had worked with Tony Bennett and got him a deal with RCA. Renaming himself Jon Lucien, he recorded his debut album, I Am Now, in 1970, but found the label didn't quite know what to do with him.
"I did pop and jazz standards. The only original song on there was 'Find Yourself a Lover'," Lucien recalled. "The record company was attempting to package me as a sort of 'black Sinatra'. Once the white women started to swoon at my performances, their attitudes quickly changed."
By the time Lucien recorded Rashida, his second album, in 1973, he'd stockpiled enough compositions to make it a totally self-penned effort. "That was the most natural album I ever made because I was allowed to be myself," he said. The bossa nova-flavoured "Lady Love" and the title track both found favour on US radio and earned arranger Dave Grusin Grammy nominations (for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist).
Issued in 1974, Mind's Eye repeated the feat, but a move to CBS for the albums Song For My Lady (1975) and Premonition (1976) didn't quite yield the expected dividends. Despite making guest appearances on Yesterday's Dreams, the 1976 album by the jazz-rock bassist Alphonso Johnson, and Mr. Gone, the 1978 album by the jazz-fusion supergroup Weather Report, Lucien grew increasingly disillusioned with the industry. "My frustration stemmed from being asked to be a hit-maker... do disco, country... whatever it takes to sell millions. I struggled for the executives to understand my music," he admitted. "My style, like most of the music of the Caribbean, is an amalgam of cultures, rhythms and styles. It was an uphill battle and I just thought I've gotta get out of here."
Lucien also experienced personal problems. In 1980 he lost a young daughter from his third marriage in a drowning accident and he battled with drug addiction for several years. He went back to the Virgin Islands, lived in Puerto Rico and married a fourth time in 1988. He came back and found a new US audience on the "quiet storm" urban radio format with the albums Listen Love (1991) and Mother Nature's Son (1993), while, in the UK, the rare groove scene rediscovered his early work.
In July 1996, his 17-year-old daughter Dalila was killed in a plane crash. Grief and stress took their toll and he lost the sight in his left eye. "That was a heavy lesson," he later reflected. "All that I had was my music and my prayers." The following year, he dedicated the Endless is Love album to her.
Lucien issued four more albums on his own Sugar Music label and continued performing until recently. Last month, he took part in the US Superstars of Jazz Fusion tour with Roy Ayers, Jean Carne, and Wayne Henderson.
Despite his considerable register, Lucien was never a showy singer but remained a consummate balladeer, never better than when delivering his own atmospheric compositions. "My sound is a romantic sound. It's water, it's ocean, it's tranquillity," he said. "I've experienced tragedy, had professional disappointment, loved, lost, lived. I hope to heal people who are sad and spiritually dead because, even though I don't pray in the music, the spirit is still there."
Herbie Hancock simply called him "the man with the golden throat."