Sunday, September 17, 2006

Peter Tevis and Charles L. Grant


John Bender informs me that singer Peter Tevis died last Wednesday, September 13, of Parkinson's disease at the age of 69. Though he never quite made a name for himself here in his native America, Tevis had a successful singing career in Rome, the most significant highlight of which turned out to be his 45 rpm recording of the Woody Guthrie song "Pastures of Plenty," which was arranged and conducted by the young Ennio Morricone. A year after that record was issued, it was played by Morricone for Sergio Leone, who was looking for a new kind of Western music to accompany his new film A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS. A special bridge that Tevis wrote for the song provided the eureka Leone was looking for, and it was subsequently developed by Morricone into the theme of Leone's film -- the birth of Spaghetti Western music. Though uncredited for this initial effort, Tevis achieved a modest but growing celebrity within the genre, issuing his Woody Guthrie cover with new lyrics as the theme from A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS (pictured) and singing later themes for such Italian Westerns as PISTOLS DON'T ARGUE, A COFFIN FOR THE SHERIFF, and GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS. His classic "Gringo Song" (from GUNFIGHT AT RED SANDS) can be heard in all its glory here. Tevis, who returned to America in the late 1960s, is also credited as the music producer of FLESH GORDON (1974). He will not only be missed but, as one of the chief architects of Italian Western music, never forgotten.

Another sad passing to report is that of Charles L. Grant -- the award-winning horror and fantasy novelist, short story writer and anthologist -- who died on September 15 after a long illness, at age 64. Grant had reportedly been hospitalized for the better part of the last year and recently returned home in accordance with his wishes. Grant is best-known for his "Oxrun Station", "Black Oak", "Parric Family" and "Millennium" novel series; he also wrote two novels in the X-FILES series, edited eleven volumes of the SHADOWS anthology of short horror fiction, and appeared in dozens of anthologies edited by others. He also found time to moonlight, publishing other novels (including the novelization of HUDSON HAWK) under such pseudonyms as Geoffrey Marsh, Steven Charles, and Simon Lake. VW's own Douglas E. Winter counted Charlie Grant not only as a personal friend but as a mentor, and we extend our condolences to him, and most particularly to Grant's widow Kathryn Ptacek (a novelist/anthologist in her own right), and his many friends and readers.

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