David "Fathead" Newman Has Died at 75
By Robert Wilonsky in Music News
Wednesday, Jan. 21 2009 @ 5:09PM
Josh Alan Friedman, who penned an amazing piece about the Texas Tenor
for the paper version of Unfair Park long ago, brings sad news today:
Corsicana-born, Dallas-raised sax great David "Fathead" Newman died
yesterday. There's only been one obituary, but a call to David's wife
and manager Karen offers further confirmation. Says a family friend
named Patty, he died last night following a long bout with pancreatic
cancer. Funeral services are being arranged, says Patty, and "there
will be a jazz service at a later date in New York."
Newman, who so beautifully straddled the line between jazz and R&B
throughout his estimable career, had one of the most illustrious
careers in modern music, stretching all the way from Lincoln High
School to bandleader Buster Smith to Ray Charles to Atlantic Records
to Aretha Franklin to ZuZu Bolin to Robert Altman's film Kansas City,
in which he had a small role as a sax player, but of course. As Josh
wrote in 1996, "Aside from his own 28 [albums], Newman estimates he
has played on some 400 pop, jazz, and blues albums as a star sideman."
He acquired his nickname while at Lincoln: As Sarah Hepola recounted
in the Observer in 2004, legendary band director J.K. Miller "called
him a 'fathead' after he bungled a note in class."
In his autobiography Brother Ray, co-written with native Dallasite
David Ritz, Charles wrote of his fondness for Newman, who joined his
band in 1954. "He was one of the best musicians I'd ever heard,"
Charles wrote, one who played with such "lyricism" and "sweetness."
Added Charles, "He could make his sax sings the song like no one
else." Fathead was such an enormous part of Charles's life that in the
2004 film Ray, Bokeem Woodbine portrayed the saxophone-playing
sideman. And it was Charles who lent his name to Newman's 1958 solo
debut: Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David Newman.
In '04, Newman told the Observer that playing with Charles "was like a
course in music appreciation... Ray loved jazz, blues, rock, rhythm
and blues, country and western, and classical. I was stuck in the
bebop era, and I didn't think there was anything other than bebop, but
he taught me differently."
In 2005, Newman released the album I Remember Brother Ray. It would be
among his last. His final album was 2008's Diamondhead, which also
featured South Dallas-born pianist Cedar Walton.
I know it has been silent here for some time now, all my apologies! I appreciate the fact you keep coming back at this blog but right now my all day life is abit to overwhelming (the birth of our first son, and a lot of work at the office).
Anyway i try to post someting newt week on Phil Woods and Bobby Hutcherson!
Thanks for yoru patience.