SA music legend dies

Johannesburg - South African musical great Dan Hill has died, his friends confirmed on Tuesday.

Hill died at his grandson's home in Durban on Sunday at the age of 85 and was buried at West Park cemetery on Tuesday, said actress, comedienne and singer Annabel Linder.

"He was such a lovely man. We all loved him," said Linder.

Wearing his trademark red shoes, he played his clarinet at Browns, in Rivonia, twice a week "right up until the very end", she said.

He was forced to stop just two months ago when he had the first of the strokes which would eventually claim his life.

Linder's husband, musician Sam Sklair, met Hill shortly after arriving in South Africa in the early 1950s.

"... He will be sorely missed by me... Apart from being a wonderful musician, he was a gentle, kind and generous man, loved by all who knew him and worked with him."

Married backing singer

Sklair called his tennis club buddy Danny Boy. His real name, however, was Illchillchick, and he came from a background steeped in musical tradition, with a father who had led an orchestra in Russia.

He went on to marry a fellow musician - his backing singer, Artemis, who died many years ago, as did their son, Michael, who was killed in a car crash. He is survived by his grandson Zac.

Hill is feted as "one of the most respected jazz musicians and band leaders in South Africa", by the History of Contemporary Music of South Africa, compiled by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz.

He and his band, the Dan Hill Orchestra, backed, arranged produced and even discovered artists such as Sharon Tandy, June Muscat, Judy Page, Mercia Love, Dana Vallery and Una Valli, Chilvers said.

Record company a huge force

Hill's main claim to fame was the establishment of RPM records, which was "quite a force" in the local industry in the 60s and 70s, he said.

It was this record company for which he would be remembered by another local musical legend, David Gresham.

"It [RPM] was actually huge. It became a huge independent," Gresham said from Los Angeles. Matt Mann on the financial side and Dan Hill on the musical side was a winning combination for RPM.

RPM was eventually absorbed into Gallo Music South Africa with Hill for many years the musical director of Gallo Africa.

"He was a brilliant musician," said Gresham, who remembered him playing at the Orange Grove Hotel in the early days.

Bobby Angel was among those who sang with Hill and Hymie Baleson at weddings and dances at the hotel. Hill also produced and recorded the first jingles used on LM Radio in 1964.

Album covers covered up

Many of these were for Grant Advertising's work for Colgate Palmolive on the weekly LM Radio show Anything Goes, said Norman Chilvers, the owner of Chilvers Advertising and father of Garth Chilvers.

"He did quite a lot of work for me at one stage," said Chilvers. This included the advertisements for Ronnie Bass Motors.

Hill was also known for his own albums, particularly the Sounds Electronics series of dance records launched in 1967 said Garth Chilvers.

These - and Music to Watch Girls By - caused a stir with their provocative album covers of scantily clad women - pictured on - and many had to be manually covered up with sketched on bikinis.

"Covers of best-selling records banned," shouted one newspaper headline. Another pointed out that what the model's own father had found acceptable, the censors had not, according to the website.

Hill's album Happy Days Are Here Again was the first South African album to go gold with more than 25 000 sales. His first Afrikaans album was Kom Dans Vanaand, Unika.

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