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    Paul Sperry, Tenor Who Specialized in American Song, Dies at 90

    He carved out a niche by singing songs by living composers from his own country, and was praised by critics at home and abroad.Paul Sperry, a tenor who championed little-known American art song and spiky contemporary works, and was praised for his incisive performances of the classics, died on June 13 in Manhattan. He was 90.His death, in a hospital, was caused by heart failure, his son Ethan said.In a discipline where his peers tended to stick to tried-and-true German and French classics from the 19th and 20th centuries, Mr. Sperry carved out a niche, singing songs by living composers from his own country. But he also took on some of the most difficult late-20th-century Europeans, like Karlheinz Stockhausen and Hans Werner Henze, who had been shunned by many singers. That boldness earned him steady work, his son recalled.Mr. Sperry, a Harvard Business School graduate who eschewed a career in real estate and turned to singing, his first love, in his late 20s, was a low-key performer who consistently earned high marks from music critics over three decades. They cited his intelligent approach to song, his understanding of texts, and his imaginative programs.“Paul Sperry is a true connoisseur’s singer — he may not have the most glamorous tenor voice imaginable, but he does some wonderful things with it, and his programing is always interesting and exploratory,” the critic Peter G. Davis wrote in The New York Times in 1975 about a recital of lieder, including by little-known 18th century composers who preceded Schubert.Mr. Sperry in 1985. After graduating from Harvard Business School, he turned to singing, his first love.via Sperry familyWhen critics found fault with his voice — Mr. Sperry was most comfortable in deeper registers — they still praised the intellect and musicianship behind it.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Kinky Friedman, Musician and Humorist Who Slew Sacred Cows, Dies at 79

    He and his band, the Texas Jewboys, won acclaim for their satirical takes on American culture. He later wrote detective novels and ran for governor of Texas.Kinky Friedman, a singer, songwriter, humorist and sometime politician who with his band, the Texas Jewboys, developed an ardent following among alt-country music fans with songs like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore” — and whose biting cultural commentary earned him comparisons with Will Rogers and Mark Twain — died on Thursday at his ranch near Austin, Texas. He was 79.The writer Larry Sloman, a close friend, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease.Mr. Friedman occupied a singular spot on the fringes of American popular culture, alongside acts like Jello Biafra, the Dead Milkmen and Mojo Nixon. He leered back at the mainstream with songs that blended vaudeville, outlaw country and hokum, a bawdy style of novelty music typified by tracks like “Asshole From El Paso” and “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to You.”With a thick mustache, sideburns, a Honduran cigar and a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, he played his own version of Texas-inflected country music, poking provocative fun at Jewish culture, American politics and a wide range of sacred cows, including feminism — the National Organization for Women once gave him a “Male Chauvinist Pig Award.”Mr. Friedman in performance in 1975.Richard E. Aaron/Redferns, via Getty ImagesBehind the jokes, he had serious musical talent. He sang with a clear, deep voice, modulated with a gentle twang, and played guitar in a spare, straightforward style borrowed from one of his idols, Ernest Tubb.He toured widely in the 1970s, with his band and solo, including on the second leg of Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue in 1976. He performed on “Saturday Night Live” and at the Grand Ole Opry — Mr. Friedman claimed to be the first Jewish musician to do so (though in fact others, including the fiddler Gene Lowinger, had beat him to it).We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Buzz Cason, Songwriter Best Known for ‘Everlasting Love,’ Dies at 84

    As a performer, he was a leading figure in the early days of Nashville rock ’n’ roll. He later found success as a writer, producer and publisher.Buzz Cason, a guiding force in the early days of Nashville rock ’n’ roll and a writer of the pop standard “Everlasting Love,” a surging profession of undying devotion that reached the pop Top 40 in four consecutive decades, died on June 16 at his home in Franklin, Tenn. He was 84.His death was announced by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The announcement did not specify a cause.A pivotal figure in Nashville’s evolution as a recording hub, Mr. Cason had a hand in virtually every facet of the music industry. He sang, wrote and published songs, as well as producing records and operating his own recording studio.He had his biggest success as the writer, with Mac Gayden, of “Everlasting Love.” The R&B singers Robert Knight (1967) and Carl Carlton (1974) recorded hit versions of the song, as did Gloria Estefan (1995) and the ad hoc pop duo Rex Smith and Rachel Sweet (1981). U2 released a stripped-down take of “Everlasting Love” as one of two B-sides of the 1989 single “All I Want Is You.”“We didn’t know what we had,” Mr. Cason said of the song in an interview at an event held in his honor at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014. “It was a really great radio song.”“Everlasting Love,” in its many versions, has received more than 10 million plays to date, according to the music rights organization BMI. It is among the most successful songs in any genre to come from Nashville.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Jamie Kellner, TV Executive Who Started Fox and WB, Dies at 77

    With an emphasis on younger viewers, he established the networks as serious rivals to ABC, CBS and NBC, which had ruled television for nearly 40 years.Jamie Kellner, a media executive who helped build Fox Broadcasting into a thriving television network with shows such as “Beverly Hills, 90210” and “The Simpsons” — and who went on to create the WB network, known for the angsty “Dawson’s Creek” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” — died on June 21 at his home in Montecito, Calif., near Santa Barbara. He was 77.The cause was cancer, said Brad Turell, a family spokesman.Mr. Kellner was one of the most successful television executives of his generation, whose knack for capturing young viewers — first men at Fox, then women at WB — lured viewers away from the Big Three networks that had ruled television for nearly 40 years.Mr. Kellner believed ABC, NBC and CBS were ignoring viewers under 35 and were hamstrung by middle-of-the-road taste. Rupert Murdoch, Fox Inc.’s owner, and Barry Diller, its chairman, recruited Mr. Kellner from the television syndication business in 1986 and installed him as president of the Fox Broadcasting Company.Its aspiration to be the first new TV network since ABC in 1948 was broadly derided. But from the debut in 1987 of its first series, the lowbrow family sitcom “Married … With Children,” which was shown on six Murdoch-owned stations and a string of independent ones that Mr. Kellner helped stitch together, the new network began stealing the Big Three’s audience.By 1992, with shows like “Melrose Place,” about the social lives of 20-somethings, Fox was No. 1 with viewers 18 to 34. “We don’t really need anyone over 50 years of age to succeed with our business plan,” Mr. Kellner told The New York Times.He resigned in 1993 after seven years at Fox. By then, Mr. Diller had left, and Mr. Kellner and Mr. Murdoch had clashed over Mr. Murdoch’s desire to pivot to older viewers and more mainstream shows.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Bill Cobbs, ‘Bodyguard’ and ‘Night at the Museum’ Actor, Dies at 90

    Mr. Cobbs was not a household Hollywood name, but his face was one anyone who watched TV or movies over the past several decades could recognize.Bill Cobbs, a prolific character actor whose half-century career bloomed while he was middle-aged and ranged from “Sesame Street” to “The Sopranos” to “Night at the Museum,” died on Tuesday at his home in the Inland Empire region of California. He was 90.His death was announced on social media by his brother, Thomas G. Cobbs, and confirmed by his agent, Carmela Evangelista. No cause was given.Mr. Cobbs was not a Hollywood star, but his face was one anyone who watched TV or movies over the past several decades could recognize. He appeared in more than 200 films and television shows and was also a prominent theater actor.Born Wilbert Francisco Cobbs in Cleveland, Mr. Cobbs spent eight years working as a radar technician in the Air Force, where he started doing standup comedy, he said in a 2012 interview with the podcast “Movie Geeks United.” He also worked at I.B.M. and as a car salesman.His experience in the Ossie Davis play “Purlie Victorious,” a comedy about a Black preacher’s efforts to reclaim his hometown church, had an especially profound effect on his career.“That play taught me that there were a lot of things I could say in theater, on the stage and in movies and in television, that were very important, that were meaningful things, that in addition to being a means of entertaining people and touching them in different ways, there were things you could say related to the human condition,” he said.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Russell Morash, ‘This Old House’ and ‘The French Chef’ Producer, Dies at 88

    Hailed as a pioneer of D.I.Y. programming, he oversaw groundbreaking how-to shows on public television in the days before HGTV and YouTube.Russell Morash, a public television producer and director who helped turn a cookbook author, Julia Child, into America’s chef and transformed bathroom tile replacement and roof repair into addictive TV with “This Old House,” died on June 19 in Concord, Mass. He was 88.His death, in a hospital, was confirmed by his wife, Marian Morash, who said the cause was a brain hemorrhage.Hailed as the “father of how-to television” by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which gave him a lifetime achievement Emmy Award in 2014, Mr. Morash helped usher in the D.I.Y. era with the enduring instructional shows that he helped create for the Boston PBS station WGBH.“The French Chef,” which debuted in 1963, with Mr. Morash as director and producer, and which became Ms. Child’s vehicle to mass-market fame, changed the way American’s thought about food with her distinctly American approach to French cooking. And “This Old House” proved an instant hit in 1979, and remains a ratings powerhouse after 45 years. As of last year, the show and a sister show, “Ask This Old House,” together had received 20 Emmy Awards and 119 Emmy nominations.Long before the Food Network, HGTV and other outlets created a how-to revolution on cable, Mr. Morash seized on the idea that craftspeople with no television experience could become stars of the small screen by sharing their insider tips and insights.“This Old House,” for example, made household names of Bob Vila, who previously ran a home renovation business, and Norm Abram, a carpenter whom Mr. Morash had originally hired to build a workshop in his backyard in Lexington, Mass.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Tom Prasada-Rao, Whose Song Elegized George Floyd, Dies at 66

    His 2020 lament “$20 Bill” was covered by scores of artists and, a fellow musician said, might well be destined for the folk music canon.In late May 2020, Tom Prasada-Rao, a veteran of the contemporary folk scene, was recovering from the “chemo fog,” as he put it, that was the debilitating aftermath of his cancer treatment, when he turned on CNN and saw the protests over the killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis police.He was exhausted, but the protests broke his heart, and he felt compelled to write an elegy for Mr. Floyd. He called it “$20 Bill” — a reminder that Mr. Floyd died while being arrested for buying a pack of cigarettes with what might have been a counterfeit 20. It’s a tuneful lament, the gentlest of protest songs, and when Mr. Prasada-Rao recorded himself playing it on Facebook, his soft baritone muted by his illness, “$20 Bill” took off.He then posted the guitar chords and the lyrics, and more than 100 other musicians, at his request, began recording it. (The original video now has over 40,000 views.) The singer-songwriter Dan Navarro, one of many in the folk community who did so, called it “the song of a lifetime.” NPR included it in its list of 50 protest songs that defined 2020, along with Usher’s “I Cry” and Beyoncé’s “Black Parade.” Jake Blount, a musician and ethnomusicologist, wrote that it was easy to imagine “$20 Bill” entering the folk canon.The song begins:Some people die for honorSome people die for loveSome people die while singingTo the heavens aboveSome people die believingIn the cross on Calvary’s hillAnd some people die in the blink of an eyeFor a $20 bill.Mr. Prasada-Rao — folk music’s “quiet giant,” as Mr. Blount called him — died on June 19 at his home in Silver Spring, Md. He was 66.Early in 2019 he had been diagnosed with cancer of the salivary gland, which had metastasized to his lungs, said his sister Patty Prasada-Rao, who confirmed the death.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    ‘Shifty Shellshock,’ Crazy Town’s Lead Singer, Dies at 49

    He was the frontman for the rap-rock band Crazy Town, which was most known for the hit song “Butterfly.”Shifty Shellshock, the lead singer of the late-1990s rap-rock band Crazy Town known for the hit song “Butterfly,” whose legal name was Seth Binzer, died at his home in Los Angeles on Monday. He was 49.The Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner confirmed his death, the cause of which was still being investigated.Crazy Town rose to prominence after the band released its debut album, “The Gift of Game,” in 1999. In 2001, the record reached No. 9 on the Billboard album chart ranking the most popular albums, in large part because of the success of “Butterfly.” The song, which Rolling Stone magazine described as “a sweetly floating ballad that’s atypical for these hard-rocking B-boys,” gained wide acclaim, holding the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 ranking for two weeks.Mr. Binzer was open about his struggles with substance abuse. He appeared on two seasons of the VH1 series “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew” in 2008 and also on the spinoff series “Sober House” from 2009 to 2010.Seth Binzer was born on Aug. 23, 1974, in Los Angeles to Rollin Binzer, who designed album art and directed films for rock bands, and Leslie Brooks, who was a model and script proofreader. He was raised in Southern California and spent part of his childhood in Marblehead, Mass.He was a creative child but also had a wild streak that got him into trouble, according to his mother, and sister, Aubrey Binzer. When he was about 10, he would break dance on the pier in Marblehead for tourists, Ms. Brooks said.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More