Friday, August 20, 2010

Michael Been dies...

Oklahoma-born rocker Michael Been dies in Belgium
Michael Been's composition "Oklahoma" was nominated for state rock song and the inspiration for the name of the History Museum's rock 'n' roll exhibit.

Oklahoma City-born rock musician Michael Been, whose band The Call rose to MTV-level fame in the 1980s, died of an apparent heart attack Thursday at a music festival in Hasselt, Belgium.

He was 60.

Been, who was The Call's lead singer and chief composer, was on tour as a sound man with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, for which his son, Robert Levon Been, is lead singer and bassist. That band was performing at the Pukkelpop Festival on the same bill with Oklahoma City's Flaming Lips.

"Salvator hospital in Hasselt has just notified us of the death of Michael Been," festival organizer Chokri Mahassine said in a written, translated statement to the press in Belgium. "He was taken ill in the backstage area. First aid was immediately administrated, and the Red Cross and medical urgence (sic) teams were immediately at the scene."

One of Been's songs, "Oklahoma," written for The Call's 1986 Elektra Records album "Reconciled," was among the 10 finalists in the official state rock song competition of 2009.

Inspired music exhibit

Jeff Moore, director of exhibits at the Oklahoma History Center, said a line from that song became the inspiration for the name of "Another Hot Oklahoma Night: A Rock & Roll Exhibit," which opened at the center in May 2009.

A section of that exhibit is devoted to Been and The Call.

"Michael Been was my inspiration for the rock 'n' roll exhibit," Moore said. "While I knew about the Wanda Jacksons and Leon Russells, they weren't part of my generation. The Call was my generation, and I will always be a fan. Personally, it was a dream come true to meet Michael, interview him and include The Call in our exhibit. He will be greatly missed by his family, bandmates and fans around the world."

Been formed The Call in Santa Cruz, Calif., in the late 1970s with fellow Oklahoman Scott Musick on drums, and Bay Area musicians Tom Ferrier (guitar) and Greg Freeman (bass).

The band signed to Mercury/PolyGram Records and released its self-titled album debut in 1982. The 1983 follow-up, "Modern Romans," yielded the MTV hit "When the Walls Came Down," which led to a tour of the United States and Europe with Peter Gabriel.

During the '80s, Freeman departed, keyboardist Jim Goodwin joined, and the band switched labels twice, signing with Elektra, where they recorded the highly regarded albums "Reconciled and "Into the Woods," then moving to MCA for "Let the Day Begin" and "Red Moon."

The Call's anthemic, socially conscious, spiritually influenced music drew critical comparisons to Irish superstars U2, and the admiration of people such as film director Martin Scorsese, who in 1988 cast Been as John the Apostle in "The Last Temptation of Christ."

Vice President Al Gore adopted The Call's high-blooded "Let the Day Begin" as the theme for his presidential campaign, and Been's music was used in such films as "The Lost Boys," "Tango & Cash" and "Light Sleeper."

Been released one solo album in 1994, "On the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough," but widespread commercial success eluded him throughout his career. In recent years Been has lived in the Los Angeles area, worked as a producer and spent much of his time lending technical support to his son's band.

Information on services was not available.

1 comment:

  1. I was an emcee/sponsor for a Bill Mallonee show in Chicago last night when Bill let slip while introducing a song that Michael was gone. I had not heard, and for obvious reasons was shaken to hear the news in that way. My prayers go out to Robert and BMRC, the Been family, and the fans and supporters of Michael's career. The Call was heard loud and clear, and now Michael has responded to a new call. He leaves behind a grateful public, and in myself, one who was permanently changed by his music. Thanks to one and all.

    Mark Nielsen, Skokie, IL