Larry Jon Wilson passed away today at age 69. In 1975, at age 35, he released his debut album New Beginnings. It ought to act as an inspiration to anyone wondering whether they’re capable of a new beginning. It does to me. He showed that a new act in life can be a truly sweet thing, proving that one can still surprise himself and those around him. His song “Loose Change” (1977) is my Song of the Month. You can read it at Marathonpacks.
There’s something pretty special about when brothers get to do good work together. Ask me. I’ll tell you all about it. I love working with my brother and find it very inspiring when I see other brothers doing the same. Brotherly collaborations are filled with so much passion — the kind that runs hot, spanning the entire spectrum between light and dark. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s not good, it’s awful. Luckily for me, I have very little of the latter with which to contend.
The story of Dayton, Ohio’s premiere funk band Zapp is a brotherly tale for the ages. Comprised of five brothers, Roger, Lester, Larry, Terry and Tony, Zapp rode the funktails of Parliament in 1979 into a record deal with Warner Brothers, which led to a series of classic funk albums (under the names Zapp and Zapp & Roger) that became both a sonic blueprint as well as sample fodder for West Coast G-Funk hip hop a decade later and beyond. It’s actually quite impressive how much the Midwest’s dual funk axes of Ohio and Minnesota contributed (Zapp and Bootsy Collins for the former; Prince and The Time for the latter) to the genre in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
It’s Zapp’s first three albums (Zapp, Zapp II, Zapp III) that I’ve been devouring lately, the first of which was a gold record for the group, mostly on the strength of “More Bounce to the Ounce”. An outstanding debut that illustrated that when this band of brothers was on, they reached great heights.
When the Troutmans were not on, however, it got mega-dark. There were many professional and personal tensions that the Troutmans dealt with throughout the years, but the rock fugging bottom hit in 1999 when — presumably over a business dispute — Larry fatally shot his baby brother Roger,then turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. The Palms Weekend offers a horrifying chronicle of that Sunday in 1999. When the distance between the zenith and nadir of a story is this vast, its hard not to attribute an additional heaping order of magnitude’s worth of gravity to that which was born of the zenith.