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  Jimmy Carl Black (1938 to 2008)

It is with great sadness that I write of the death of Jimmy Carl Black, the eccentric drummer and singer best known as "the Indian of the group" in the Mothers of Invention. Jimmy was diagnosed with lung cancer in August, and died on Saturday 1 November.

From an early age an interest was shown in music with piano and trumpet occupying Jimmy's musical youth. Upon leaving the family home in Anthony, Texas to join the US Air Force, Jimmy took up the drums (as there were no trumpets in rock 'n' roll!). Winding up in a band called The Soul Giants, he eventually found the band shaping itself around the musical vision of an exciting young guitarist named Frank Zappa and that band would soon come to be known as The Mothers of Invention. Jimmy himself became well-known for his trademark quip: "Hi boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black, and I'm the Indian of the group!"

In the thirty-nine years since the break-up of The Mothers of Invention, Jimmy Carl Back involved himself with some truly wonderful projects, including The Grandmothers, while also establishing himself as a successful painter. In the nineties he moved to Europe - a long time dream of his - and 1995 saw him join a Liverpuddlian Zappa homage act called The Muffin Men with whom he recorded three studio albums.

Despite a lengthy battle with leukaemia after the turn of the century, Jimmy continued to tour with the Muffin Men, and I am grateful to say that I was able to have a beer with the man himself at one of the Muffin Men's shows in Glasgow. Jimmy was a truly exceptional character and always had time for those who came to see his shows.

In August of 2008, Jimmy was diagnosed with lung cancer, and unfortunately it went on to claim his life. Jimmy was a man who lived most of his life for music and never seemed to get the recognition that many thought he was due. Music has lost another irreplaceable icon.

Author: Peter McGee