Friday, August 07, 2009

R.I.P Mink Deville

Mink DeVille died yesterday of pancreatic cancer, age 58. I hadn't listened to him in some even though I had a run of his songs on iTunes. I just listened to nine of his songs in a row and man it made me feel young and strong and crazy again. All the pain, all the passion, all the fuck you. So much of punk was crap but when you hear DeVille you understand what punk was supposed to be about. All those giddy outrageous days of 75-80 in London, Paris and NYC. You can hear it all in Mink DeVille. Fire up your iTunes. Spanish Stroll, Desperate Days, This Must Be The Night, Love and Emotion are a good place to start.

From Rolling Stone:

Mr. DeVille's career never quite took off, despite the impressive breadth and depth of his talent. He is recording a new album for Atlantic records, having departed from his previous recording commitment under less than amicable circumstances. And on Friday night he was at the Savoy, where he demonstrated with an almost insolent ease that he is still ready for the recognition that should have been his several years ago. He has the songs, he has the voice, and he has the band. And he has expanded the scope of his music by adding elements of French cafe songs and Louisiana zydeco to the mixture of rock, blues, Latin and Brill Building soul that was already there.[37]

From Wikipedia:

Critic Robert Palmer wrote about him in 1980, "Mr. DeVille is a magnetic performer, but his macho stage presence camouflages an acute musical intelligence; his songs and arrangements are rich in ethnic rhythms and blues echoes, the most disparate stylistic references, yet they flow seamlessly and hang together solidly. He embodies (New York's) tangle of cultural contradictions while making music that's both idiomatic, in the broadest sense, and utterly original."[3]

Doc Pomus, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member with whom he penned several songs, wrote about him, "DeVille knows the truth of a city street and the courage in a ghetto love song. And the harsh reality in his voice and phrasing is yesterday, today, and tomorrow—timeless in the same way that loneliness, no money, and troubles find each other and never quit for a minute."[4]Mink DeVille, for which DeVille was the principal songwriter, was billed as one of the most original groups on the New York punk scene after an appearance at the legendary CBGB club in Greenwich Village in the 1970s.


In 1977, the band recorded "Cabretta," a rock and roll/rhythm and blues album with renowned producer Jack Nitzsche. Its featured song, "Spanish Stroll," was a Top 20 hit in Britain. It was followed by the album "Return to Magenta."

Better known in Europe than in the United States, DeVille went solo in 1980 with "Le Chat Bleu." Recorded in Paris and influenced by his admiration for siren Edith Piaf, the album featured "This Must Be the Night" and "Just to Walk That Little Girl Home."


Vanderwolff said...

Just watched Spanish Stroll, Cadillac Walk and Stand By Me by Willy. How immediate that voice, how laserlike the edge, how meaningless the kinderpunks that followed in his wake.

gianfausto said...

we'll miss him

with love


matt williamson bathurst said...

i am deeply saddened by the loss of willy deville, he has been a big part of my life for 32years, he is an icon of individualism and a true artist, im going to cover one of his songs "i broke that promise" whenever i play just to keep him close. may you step into heaven in your finest italian shoes. i will never get to see you play, as i hoped one day i would. good-bye.

Todd Mason said...

It's a serious loss, that of Willy DeVille, but that's not really a reason to try to diminish all the punk rockers who followed. A bit like attempting to fix the importance of the loss of Warren Zevon by insisting that Elvis Costello and Nellie McKay just suck in comparison.

Actually go listen to the best of Jawbox and Bad Religion and Spitboy and Operation Ivy and Bikini Kill, to stick with the really not obscure bands, and I'll be a little less convinced you're not trying to compare the first self-conscious wave of punk with Blink 182, a bit like trying to compare Jerry Lee Lewis to David Cassidy and making a point of ignoring Lou Reed or Bruce Springsteen.