Monday, September 22, 2008

GOODBYE, DEAR BROTHER JOHN. It's a sad Monday afternoon here in my adopted hometown. One of the brightest lights in this City of Light has ceased to shine.

John Simms, one of our dearest friends and a musician of limitless talent, passed away last night after a brief illness. Our hearts go out to his beloved Mary.

One of my cherished memories is of slow-dancing with Marti as John serenaded us with his marvelous version of the early 1960s R&B ballad "Spanish Harlem." John's own songs expressed an array of emotions -- from joy and happiness to the sadness of loss -- that couldn't help but resonate deeply with his listeners. In the end, John could always be counted on to put a smile on our faces and romance in our hearts.

I loved hanging and schmoozing with John about classic soul music. We'd laugh at the realization that we were probably the only old farts in this town who remembered long-forgotten R&B performers like Jon Lucien and Dennis Coffey. Gotta say, I'll sure miss those late-night conversations with John.

I like to think of myself as a writer but today I'm at a complete loss for words.

I'll let John speak for himself:
As a guitarist, learning my instrument in the early Seventies, my musical influences were vast. As a vocalist, I really didn't have to search any further than my own family. I became interested in guitar at the age of 12, and at 17, I was making a name for myself as lead guitarist and bandleader for various local R&B and pop bands.

I was lucky enough to be taken on as guitarist, musical arranger and occasional road manager for my nephew's group "The Softones," already Baltimore's number one R&B recording act. It was with the "Softones" that I began to tour the U.S., Canada and Japan.

After a while I felt the need to learn more about singing, songwriting and composition. After about two and a half years with the "Softones" and at the end of a second European tour of club dates, I decided to put in my notice to join a German based group called the "Singing Players."

At the end of one year and after reassuring myself that I was indeed a "singing player," I decided to accept my brother Arthur's invitation to come to Paris to "see what we can get into."

Arriving in Paris I found myself for the first time in my young adult life not in a band, but Arthur and I soon found ourselves recording backing vocals for a number of French recording artists and various musical productions.

I stayed on in France following Arthur's death in 1987 and continued composing, writing and doing studio work. After my wife passed away in 2002 I was no longer sure what direction to take. I prayed for an answer. The time had come . . . I wanted other people to hear the songs I had written over the years.

I had set my heart on doing an album with acoustic intruments, so when I met up with an old friend (Michel Tattinger) . . . who had just opened his own recording studio (Bluegamm), the album
My Acoustic Soul came to life.

The result of that collaboration turned out to be John's masterpiece, a beautiful collection that is one of Marti's and my most treasured CDs, one that we've shared with many friends over the years. You can find it on iTunes or at CDBaby.

Marti and I are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend but heartened that his music will live on.