BY TOBY PORTER
The co-writer of The Sopranos theme tune, Alabama 3 founder, Jake Black has died, just a few days after performing at a festival.
He was taken ill after the show with the Brixton band at the Highpoint Festival in Lancashire and died in hospital on May 21.
Black founded the band with fellow singer Rob Spragg – alias Larry Love – in 1995 after finding they had a mutual love of techno and country music at an acid house party in Peckham.
But there was no connection to the US state – Black was from Glasgow and Spragg from South Wales and they had met and based the band in South London.
They were known as A3 across The Pond to avoid confusion with a band called Alabama.
They have recorded a dozen albums with a sometimes tongue-in-cheek electronic fusion of country, blues and acid house music.
Their biggest hit, Woke Up This Morning, was used for the opening credits of The Sopranos TV series about US gangsters wrestling with their emotions, until it ended in 2007.
The Sopranos creator David Chase said as soon as he heard the band on his car radio he thought it perfect for one episode of the HBO show, but the producers insisted, for consistency, on having only one song throughout the whole series.
The band were reportedly paid $40,000 (£31,500) for the use of the song, which was written not about American gangsters but about the true story of a British woman who shot dead her husband after many years of abuse.
Its insistent beat and samples from the blues legends Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters gave the theme the electronic Wild West feel which the makers wanted.
Black once told The Times: “It’s totally ironic that we, who disapprove of anything villains do, should be picked for the theme song of a show that shows the human side of villains.”
Peace in the Valley is featured in the film A Life Less Ordinary (1997), Too Sick to Pray plays on the radio in the film Gone in 60 Seconds (2000) and Ain’t Goin’ to Goa is featured in the motion picture Definitely, Maybe (2008).
Their songs have also featured twice in The Simpsons. Rapper Nas sampled Woke Up This Morning for his 2001 hit Got Ur Self A...
Mr Spragg said: “He was a man who loved rock’n’roll and wouldn’t want us to be sentimental. He’d say ‘get on that f***in’ bus and do it’.”
A Facebook post by the band last month said: “Early this afternoon, on a beautiful summer’s day, our friend, comrade and spiritual teacher, Jake Black AKA The Very Reverend D.Wayne Love, passed over to the higher ground.
After a magnificent performance at the Highpoint Festival in Lancashire, D.Wayne in his supreme wisdom, decided it was the appropriate moment for his ascension into the next level.
“The transition was painless and peaceful. He was surrounded by brothers Larry Love, L.B. Dope, The Spirit, Jonny Jamm and Sister Therese Mullan. “We are heartbroken. All that remains for us, at this moment, is to carry out his precise instructions regarding the continuation of his teachings as a First Minister of The Presleyterian Church of Elvis The Divine, and continue The Great Work.
“His last words, which we have yet to decipher, were “Tweet Tweet, Possil Fleet”.
Mr Spragg recalled his meeting with Mr Black: “I could hear this techno music in the other room, and I just started singing Wait for the Light to Shine by Hank Williams over a techno beat.
Jake came over and said “hey, you know f***in’ Hank Williams!” We were both surrounded by country and western from an early age – all the showbands played it on a Saturday night.”
They initially called the band the First Presleyterian Church of Elvis the Divine (UK), The band’s harmonica player, Nick Reynolds, the son of Great Train Robbery mastermind Bruce Reynolds, said: “You could drop Jake anywhere, he was a perfect social chameleon.
He was highly intelligent and really erudite. Other singers would jump up and down like Mick Jagger, trying to get the audience’s attention. Jake just stood there with one hand in his pocket, and it had the same effect as the guy doing the look-at-me routine.”
He also told Sky News: “Jake was a great raconteur and wit – he could bring the house down with an acid quip. “An intellectual polymath, he would call my dad and they would speak for hours bouncing from (Jean) Genet to (Edgar Rice) Burroughs, (Ken) Russell or (Federico) Fellini, to (Eddie) Merckx or (Fausto) Coppi.
“We’ve lost a truly great and unique frontman. His disciples have lost their favourite minister.
RIP Jake, Gone but never forgotten.”
After The Sopranos, their music became a favourite for movie makers
Please support your local paper by making a donation
Cheques should be made payable to “MSI Media Limited” and sent by post to South London Press, Unit 112, 160 Bromley Road, Catford, London SE6 2NZ
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has encouraged everyone in the country who can afford to do so to buy a newspaper, and told the Downing Street press briefing recently: “A free country needs a free press, and the newspapers of our country are under significant financial pressure”.
So if you have enjoyed reading this story, and if you can afford to do so, we would be so grateful if you can buy our newspaper or make a donation, which will allow us to continue to bring stories like this one to you both in print and online. Everyone at the South London Press thanks you for your continued support.
Get the latest local news delivered every week!