Annie Caroline Upham (1956 - 1987)
During what would be the start to my own public singing career I encountered what can only be described as a phenomenal singer with a voice more beautiful than Cleo Laine and with a soulfulness more defined than Aretha Franklin down in a tiny pub called 'The Driftwood Den' on Grotto Beach in Hermanus, South Africa.
I'd been asked to join a band of gypsy buskers who were playing at the Marine Hotel in one of their pubs which would be the meeting place for the younger crowd over the holiday season. The band consisted of the lead singer and guitarist Shane Keays, a second singer who played harmonica and a singing keyboard player Kevin Maddock who also happened to be the manager (owner?) of 'The Driftwood Den' and he invited me to play there on one night a week. I think it was a Saturday, perhaps a Friday and on one very special evening as I was playing my guitar and singing some a collection of tunes by Neil Young and Bob Dylan I felt a tap on my shoulder and turning to see a woman with very long brown hair who looked every bit like plumper version of Janis Joplin whispered to me that she'd be coming up to sing a couple of songs, but she'd let me know when she was ready.
Later on in the evening she suddenly appeared and sang 'Blowing in the Wind' by Bob Dylan and 'Summertime' (here is a rendition of this classic by Ray Charles and Cleo Laine which gets quite close to Annie, but no cigar ) with so much delivery that by the time she was half way into the first song, everyone was up on their feet, beers in hand and utterly stunned by what was happening. I've never then or since been so overwhelmed by what I can only describe as an unforgettable moment. She'd go on to repeat this a few times, in various places around town.
Sadly, she was not long for this life and departed it on a lonely stretch of road between town and her home some twenty miles away. I forget the details now, but remember that pretty much the entire crowd which frequented that tiny pub were at the funeral.
I hope one day that someone will contact me and tell me they have a recording of her singing, but until then the memory will have to suffice.
Written by Eric Sawyer - 2012.03.13
Michelle Ward singing 'I Humbly Bow The Knee' - website: Michelle Ward
Michelle and I have always been musically connected and there are few singers who can reach the level of intensity that she does so easily.
It's hard for me to be objective but the truth is that this woman has a voice that needs to be enjoyed by the whole world. She has a message that many of us have forgotten, but when you listen I'm sure you'll find out that she's touching that heart we all share.
John Mossop singing 'Give' with Martin Kruit - website
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I'm not sure exactly when I met John for the first time. I think it might have been in Flamingo Studios, Kommetjie, South Africa laying down a few tracks, when suddenly there was John and he delivered the most scintillating harmonies. It was like having Gerry Beckley (America) singing with me. How alike they sound.
Howard's gone on to build one of the best studios in South Africa ( Peace of Eden Recording Studios ) and as far as I know John is doing gigs somewhere in Australia. He released and album called 'One' and I think this track might have been on it.
Josh Sithole singing 'Cecelia' - website
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Josh Sithole (b. 1947 d. 1999) used to play some of his gigs just around the corner from where I played every now and then. Though, I heard once or twice playing in the underground shopping centre near Cape Town station, I’d always wanted to hear him doing a live gig.
This song is a tribute I wrote for him back then and after being reminded of it several times by a good friend and fellow musician Andrew Wettergreen, I decided to record it. It’s not a professional recording, but hey that adds to the flavour of how hard it was to do gigs, earn a living (barely) and impress recording honchos.
Well, today for the first time I got my pleasure as I listened to my first sample of the genius of Josh Sithole, both as a cover musician at venues around the Cape and further fields as well as a sample of his album. (see in the picture above)
Here is a link to hear him as he sounded in pubs and restaurants, and if you click on the poster above you can buy his album.
Allan Bird singing 'Naturally' - website: Allan Bird
Just a little bit of Allan's testimony in his own words...
In December 1973 when I had just ‘klaared out’ of army and he (Trevor Rabin) asked me to consider remaining in JHB with my accommodation fully paid, till he finished his army stint 6 months later. Ronnie ‘Robot’ Friendman the bass player also spent those 9 months with me in the Entertainment Unit and Neil Cloud the fantastic drummer – was my corporal. I was complete; the rock band named Rabbitt, as co-writer, rhythm guitarist and lead singer.
I had left high school 16 months before without graduating to pursue my life long dream of becoming a professional songwriter, musician and singer. If I accepted his offer, all my fellow national servicemen and I knew, there’d be guaranteed instant success because we (Trevor and I) clicked, became best friends jamming often during my 6 months in the Unit.
However, the Holy Spirit dug deep into my soul and urged me to decline, leaving me without any genuine solid reason and I declined Trevor’s offer saying there was something in Cape Town I had attend to.
All the way back on the plane I screamed at God under my breath, asking why He wouldn’t let me live out my ‘teenage’ dream – realizing the fame and fortune Trevor and I would so easily make.
Then God showed me the clouds outside the window, reminded of the Rapture and my present rebellious attitude and firmly urged me to “..Sit down – Shut up and Listen..” Only after I sat down, I repented of my arrogance, anger and very childish covetousness of wealth and fame, God could begin composing my very first gospel song. Obviously it was about Trevor, the army I’d just left and the real reason why I refused his offer. Ironically it was written 10 years before Bob Dylan’s Slow Train Coming was released and mine only in 1983.
From: Jesus Music Quest II - Allan Bird