Morbid Curiosity: April 2011, Huey P. Meaux & Phoebe Snow

We all know that Bin Laden's dead - but that happened in May, man. Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. That's why we're back with another installment of Morbid Curiosity, providing a little time to reflect on those notable souls who passed last month.

As we profiled last month, noted record producer Huey P. Meaux died in his hometown of Winnie, Texas on April 23. While some may never forgive his crimes, most still can't deny his uncanny ear for a hit song.

Meaux was hardly the only musical passing of April, however, as Phoebe Snow, Poly Styrene, and TV On The Radio's Gerard Smith all left this earth. Snow died on April 26, after a cerebral hemorrhage in January 2010 left her in a coma. With her she took a powerful voice capable of spanning four octaves and a wealthy catalog of songs, including her 1975 chart-topper "Poetry Man."

Just a month after announcing it on March 14, Gerard Smith died on April 20 of lung cancer. A member of TV On The Radio since the band's third album, 2006's Return To Cookie Mountain, Smith handled bass and keyboards on the past three TVOTR releases, including Nine Types Of Light, released just eight days before his death.

Legendary punk icon Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, better known to the world as Poly Styrene of the band X-Ray Spex, passed on April 25. Styrene was inspired to form X-Ray Spex after seeing a very early Sex Pistols show, and was described by Billboard as the "archetype for modern-day feminist punk." Indeed, her influence is legendary, and we can think of several artists in Houston alone that owe a nod to X-Ray Spex.

Pierre Celis, founder of the Celis Brewery, died on April 9. Celis, a milkman by trade, was inspired to give brewing a try a decade after his friend Louis Thomsin had closed his Hoegaarden brewery. Without Celis, Belgian Wit Bier might have never been revived, leaving many a thirsty summer drinker with fewer options.

Hubert Schlafly, co-inventor of the teleprompter, passed away on April 20. In addition to the teleprompter, though, Hubert was a driving proponent behind satellite television broadcasting. Schlafly and his collaborator Sidney Topol constructed a portable satellite receiver speifically to receive satellite broadcasts for television, which was first demonstrated in 1973.

Longtime baseball executive and general manager Lou Gorman died on April 1. As GM for the Boston Red Sox, Gorman orchestrated the trade that won the Sox beloved Astro Larry Andersen in exchange for a certain baby-faced prospect named Jeff Bagwell.

Alice Ward, mother to boxers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, passed on April 27 as a result of cardiac arrest. Ward was portrayed by actress Melissa Leo in last year's film, The Fighter, for which Leo won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Photojournalists Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed while covering the front lines of the besieged city of Misrata, Libya on April 20. The pair were traveling with Libyan rebel forces. Hetherington was killed in the attack, while Hondros died shortly thereafter of his injuries. Both were award winning press photographers, and Hetherington was co-director of the film Restrepo, which was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2011 Academy Awards.

American psychiatrist Alfred Freedman died on April 17. As president of the American Psychiatric Association in 1973, Freedman threw his support behind a resolution to declassify homosexuality from the register of mental illness. Freedman's decision is largely recognized as one of the greatest advances for gay equality in the United States.

Artist Hedda Sterne, the only woman in the seventeen-member group of abstract expressionists known as "The Irascibles," passed on April 8. Sterne, was an iconoclast artist who never aligned herself directly with anyone, at least for long. She was married to Saul Steinberg, an artist for the New Yorker, and the two had a joint exhibition at the Menil Collection in 2008.

Finally, Gil Robbins, folk musician and actor, died on April 5. Robbins was a member of The Highwaymen - the folk group from the 1960's, not the country supergroup from 1985-1995. The Highwaymen contributed two of folks most notable standards, "Big Rock Candy Mountain" and "All My Trials" in addition to their hits "Michael" and "Cottonfields." Robbins can also be seen in the films Dead Man Walking, Wide Awake and Cradle Will Rock, and is the father of actor/director Tim Robbins.

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Marc Brubaker
Contact: Marc Brubaker