In an era of loss and grieving, we continue losing unsung heroes before their time. That included most recently not just one but two House music legends – Elbee Bad and Rodney Baker.
It’s well worth not only marking their passing, but reflecting on why artists are not more sung in their lifetime, and whether the music community can do more to come to the aid of the artists whose music we enjoy – especially, it seems, people of color and Black artists. That conversation for me at least comes up again and again – loss is part of life, but we seem to be losing too many too soon.
Rodney Bakerr (or his original name, Rodney Baker, minus the extra ‘r’) has always deserved to be better known. One of the most prolific contributors to Chicago House, both as record producer and as the founder of Rockin’ House Records, he also played an instrumental role in the rise of Roland’s machines.
TB-303, TR-808, TR-909 – if you use these machines today, you’ve partly got Rodney to thank. That included now only championing the rise of Acid House on the 303, but also composing the original house music patterns for the TR series.
It’s actually a bit hard to overstate the influence of that – it etched those soulful patterns into the DNA of drum machine music to follow. (That is, drum machines do have a soul, and Rodney Baker is one of the ghosts in the machines.)
According to Rockin’ House Records, these documents published in the Roland Rhythm Guide book and Roland Users Group magazine and commissioned by then Roland USA president Tom Beckman were the first transcription and dissemination of the Chicago House patterns.
Check out a two-part article in German on that commission:
(The Alfred-published Drum Machine Rhythm Dictionary mentions styles known at the time – “Latin” and “Jazz” and presumably House falls under “Special Dances,” plus how to program like Phil Collins and Van Halen.)
5Mag.net, easily Chicago’s deepest electronic music outlet, has a must-read obituary by essential scribe Terry Matthew:
But also don’t miss Terry’s interview with Rodney from 2015:
See also the official label site:
Elbee Bad, Prince of Dance
It’s honestly hard to believe that we started the week with news of losing Chicago’s Rodney Bakerr and finished with the passing of Berlin resident Elbee Bad. Elbee had been a fixture around Berlin and we will deeply miss him. Here he is DJing from last summer:
Found having died quietly in his sleep just this week, this news is especially strange as earlier this spring the death of Elbee Bad was announced in an apparent retirement of his artist moniker, but with the artist (aka Lamont Booker) still alive. (The actual story was, maybe, a switch of moniker from LB Bad to LB GooD.) That makes this “obituary” from the time commenting after the fact – once he was known to still be among the living – all the more poignant. What this article says about death, and about valuing artists more when they’re dead than when they are alive, takes on the feeling of an indictment of all of us. From Open House Conspiracy:
Again for those of you reading German, there is an essential read from Groove today by Alexis Waltz:
For English, RA has compiled a lot of remembrances by friends.
But maybe best to let the artist tell the story:
Elbee was as significant in New York House as Rodney Bakerr was Chicago, a DJ since DJing was born in the 70s, and released on Nu Groove in NYC as well as defining Berlin ex-pat House life. (See also aliases LB Bad and The Prince of House.)
It might not be an exaggeration to say Elbee Bad is a big part of why a lot of us Americans are here in Berlin, with him having paved the way moving in 1993 and playing a Hard Wax-booked party at long-defunct Mitte mainstay Planet.
And, well, this is DJing as real instrumental art form – free and powerful –
Plenty more on his channel.
I know folks can’t stay with us forever. But I feel ashamed that so much of what we’re saying is obituary and that we aren’t doing enough while people are with us. So keep playing, keep caring, and let’s please make the next chapter in music more about living.
And I hope you’re taking care of yourselves, too.
Photo at top: L.B. GooD.