IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-25-2011


Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images

Cesária Évora, shown in 2008, appeared barefoot in solidarity with poor women.


Published: December 18, 2011

Cesária Évora, who brought the music of the tiny Cape Verde islands off Senegal to a worldwide audience, died on Saturday in Mindelo, on São Vicente, her native island in Cape Verde. She was 70.

Her death was announced by her managers. She had a stroke in 2008 and a heart attack in 2010. After another stroke this year, she announced her retirement.

Ms. Évora’s music was in a style called morna, which is sung in taverns on the Cape Verde islands: slow, pensive ballads with an underlying lilt, suffused with sodade, the Cape Verdean creole term for a nostalgic longing that pervades music across Portugal (where the word is saudade) and its former empire.

Ms. Évora sang about love, sorrow and history, including slavery, in a husky, dignified, unhurried contralto that brought warmth and gravity to songs by Cape Verde’s leading poets. She also sang in her country’s more upbeat styles, coladeira and funaná, but her serenely sorrowful mornas were her legacy.

She always performed barefoot, a gesture of solidarity with poor women. A concert review in The New York Times described her as “a Yoda of melancholy” onstage.

Ms. Évora was born in 1941, grew up in a poor family and was reared in an orphanage after her father died when she was 7. She began performing as a teenager at sailors’ taverns and on the ships that stopped at the harbor in Mindelo. Her local reputation spread; she performed on Cape Verdean radio, and two of her broadcast concerts were released as albums in Europe in the 1960s. Ms. Évora abandoned music in the 1970s, unable to make a living. But in 1985 she re-emerged on an anthology of Cape Verdean singers recorded in Lisbon.

In 1988 a Cape Verdean producer based in France, José da Silva, brought Ms. Évora to Paris to make an album. Her studio debut was “La Diva aux Pieds Nus” (“The Barefoot Diva”), which fused morna and coladeira with Caribbean, Brazilian and European pop. Ms. Évora drew a following among Cape Verdean expatriates in Europe, but it was not until she returned to unembellished morna with her third album, “Mar Azúl” (“Blue Ocean”) — a 1991 collection recorded with acoustic instruments — that her music began to reach a broader audience.

French listeners and radio stations embraced her music’s kinship to cabaret chansons. She performed at theaters and festivals to growing audiences. Reports of her fondness for cigarettes and Cognac burnished her reputation; a few years later, she would give up drinking but not smoking.

Her 1992 album, “Miss Perfumado,” sold an impressive 300,000 copies in France alone. Concerts at large theaters in Lisbon and Paris were sold out, and her touring circuit expanded across Europe and into the Americas.

Her 1995 album, “Cesária,” was released internationally and brought Ms. Évora her first Grammy nomination. Her album “Cabo Verde” won four Kora awards, a pan-African prize, and was also nominated for a Grammy, as was “Miss Perfumado,” belatedly released in the United States in 1998. In 2003 Ms. Évora’s “Voz d’Amor” won the Grammy Award for best contemporary world music album.

Ms. Évora toured the world through the 1990s and 2000s, expanding her repertory with Cuban and Brazilian songs on “Café Atlántico” in 1999, and collaborating with Bonnie Raitt, Caetano Veloso and the Cuban musicians Chucho Valdés and the Orquesta Aragón on her 2001 album “São Vicente di Longe.” Her final studio album, “Nha Sentimento” in 2009, introduced tinges of Arabic pop to her music from the Egyptian composer and arranger Fathy Salama.

With Ms. Évora’s prominence, a younger generation of Cape Verdean musicians embraced morna and performed it internationally. Ms. Évora was a direct mentor to Fantcha, who toured the United States with her in the late 1980s, and an indelible influence on Lura, Mayra Andrade and Sara Tavares.

When Ms. Évora announced her retirement this year, she told the French newspaper Le Monde: “I have no strength, no energy. I’m sorry, but now I must rest.”

She is survived by her children, Eduardo and Fernanda, and two grandchildren. The government in Cape Verde declared two days of national mourning in her honor.


It is with great sorrow to learn of the passing of Ms. Cesaria Evora. She was a giant among singers from Cape Verde.

For more on Cape Verde and its celebrated singers, click here. For more on the music and dance genre known as morna, click  here.

Ms. Evora was unknown to many in her native Cape Verde, until at the age of 45 she released her her first album in 1988, La Diva Aux Pieds Nus, introducing the world to the beautiful music and dance of Cape Verde.

Diva Aux Pieds Nus by Cesaria Evora (Audio CD – Oct 5, 2004)

She was a unique and talented lady.

May she rest in peace.

Cesaria Evora




Published: December 23, 2011

James Ramseur, one of four teenagers who was shot by Bernhard H. Goetz, the so-called subway vigilante, in one of the most highly charged and widely publicized criminal cases of the 1980s, died Thursday in the Bronx. He was 45.

NYS Department of Corrections

James Ramseur

Mr. Ramseur’s body was found in a Boston Road motel room, the police said, without giving a cause. His death was being investigated as a drug overdose and a possible suicide, The New York Post reported.

It occurred on the 27th anniversary of the day he was shot by Mr. Goetz on a Lexington Avenue train near Chambers Street in Lower Manhattan.

The shooting engendered a furious public discourse over rampant crime in the subway, gun control, a citizen’s right to defend himself and race. Mr. Goetz, a 37-year-old electrical engineer at the time, is white. The four young men he shot were black.

Mr. Ramseur, then 18, and three friends admitted to approaching Mr. Goetz and asking him for the time and for a cigarette; one of them then asked for $5. Mr. Goetz, who had been mugged twice before, told the police that he thought he was going to be robbed. He shot five times with an unregistered handgun, hitting each of the young men.

One bullet severed the spine of Darrel Cabey, who was paralyzed and suffered brain damage. The others — Troy Canty, Barry Allen and Mr. Ramseur, who was hit in the chest — recovered from their wounds.

In 1987, Mr. Goetz was acquitted of attempted murder charges but found guilty of illegal weapons possession. He served eight and a half months in jail.

Mr. Ramseur testified at the trial, but his angry outbursts provoked the judge to disallow his testimony and order him removed from the courtroom. He was twice cited for contempt.

Mr. Ramseur was already incarcerated at the time of the trial, having been convicted of raping, sodomizing and robbing a young pregnant woman in 1986. He was conditionally released in 2002, but he returned to prison for a parole violation in 2005. He finished his sentence in July 2010.

Mr. Ramseur was born on Aug. 15, 1966, and was living in the South Bronx when he was shot. According to New York State Department of Corrections records, his parents, James and Bessie, moved to New York City from North Carolina, but it was unclear where young James or his four brothers and sisters were born.

The New York Police Department said that at least one sister, Brenda Ramseur, survives him. Information about other survivors was not available.





Published: December 19, 2011

Dan Frazer, a character actor whose Hell’s Kitchen upbringing prepared him for a long run of roles as a blue-collar type or a cop, most notably as the beleaguered supervising officer Capt. Frank McNeil on “Kojak,” died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90.


Dan Frazer

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Susanna Frazer.

Mr. Frazer was steadily employed on television from the 1950s into the ’90s, in both dramas and sitcoms, including “The Phil Silvers Show,” “Car 54, Where Are You?,” “Route 66,” “The Untouchables,” “The F.B.I.,” “Barney Miller” and “Law & Order.”

He had roles in a half-dozen films, including “Lilies of the Field,” the 1963 drama for which Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award. Mr. Frazer played an itinerant priest alongside Mr. Poitier’s construction worker, who happens upon a farm run by nuns.

Mr. Frazer was also in two of Woody Allen’s early comedies. In “Take the Money and Run” (1969), he played Mr. Allen’s thieving character’s psychiatrist. In “Bananas” (1971), he was a priest again, peddling New Testament cigarettes in a send-up of a TV commercial. “New Testament cigarettes — I smoke ’em,” Mr. Frazer’s priest says, exhaling smoke and sticking a thumb skyward. “He smokes ’em.”

“Kojak,” starring Telly Savalas in the title role as Lt. Theo Kojak and broadcast from 1973 to 1978, gave Mr. Frazer his most enduring role. Mr. Frazer’s Capt. Frank McNeil often wore the fretful look of a strait-laced boss who may not always know what the unorthodox Kojak is up to but who gives him his head, knowing that Kojak, like him, is an honest cop.

Daniel Thomas Frazer was born in the West Side neighborhood in Manhattan that used to be called Hell’s Kitchen on Nov. 20, 1921, the youngest of 10 children of Daniel and Catherine Frazer. His father was a bricklayer and ironworker who helped build the Empire State Building.

Mr. Frazer traced his interest in acting to theater productions in which he performed at a community center run by a Roman Catholic church in his neighborhood, a rough place known for bars and daily shape-ups down at the docks, where longshoremen got their jobs. During World War II, he served in an Army company entertaining troops.

He and his wife, the former Lillian Lee, met in the neighborhood theater. They married in 1943. She died in 1999. In addition to his daughter, Mr. Frazer is survived by his sisters, Teresa Frost and Catherine Whalen, and two grandchildren.

Mr. Frazer lived in the Los Angeles area during the 1960s and ’70s, but after “Kojak” he returned to New York and re-established his family in his old neighborhood, which had become known as Clinton. He had a regular role in the soap opera “As the World Turns,” had recurring roles in all three “Law & Order” series and performed in dinner theater companies.

In the old neighborhood, where he was a regular at local restaurants, shops, churches and community centers, he was known in later years as the Mayor of 43rd Street.





Published: December 20, 2011

Ralph MacDonald, a Grammy Award-winning percussionist and composer whose understated Afro-Caribbean rhythms were known as “the ghost” behind the hit records of a multitude of 1970s and ’80s pop stars and who was a co-writer on the hit songs “Where Is the Love?” and “Just the Two of Us,” died on Sunday in Stamford, Conn. He was 67.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Ralph MacDonald at home in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1977.

The cause was lung cancer, his family said.

Mr. MacDonald’s touch on the conga drums and dozens of other percussion instruments was ubiquitous for many years in pop music. It supplied the intimate undertow of Bette Midler’s “Do You Want to Dance?” (1972), the drive behind David Bowie’s “Young Americans” (1975) and the Caribbean lilt in Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” (1977).

With a reputation in the industry as “the ghost behind the million-selling albums,” as The New York Times recounted in 1977, he made similarly defining contributions to records by Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Phoebe Snow, Rod Stewart, George Benson, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Luther Vandross and Amy Winehouse. “My approach is to work with melody by simply enhancing it,” he told The Times. Mr. Simon, with whom he made six albums, “sings such pretty songs,” he said, that “it’s a challenge to enhance that without overdoing it.”

Mr. MacDonald began learning his craft at an early age. His father and five uncles, immigrants from Trinidad, all played professionally in calypso bands. It was one of his uncles, Urias Fritz, who taught him to play with his fingers, not his whole hand, and showed him where to hit the drum. “He didn’t just hit the top of the drum,” Mr. MacDonald said in an interview. “He’d hit it all over, for all types of sounds.”

Mr. MacDonald was 17 when Harry Belafonte hired him for his touring orchestra. He worked with Mr. Belafonte for 10 years, and at some point informed him that despite his many gold records and despite being celebrated as the King of Calypso, Mr. Belafonte really didn’t know what calypso was.

Mr. Belafonte apparently took the criticism with magnanimity. According to Mr. MacDonald’s Web site, Mr. Belafonte invited the young man to write him a song. Mr. MacDonald wrote many, most of which ended up on Mr. Belafonte’s 1966 album “Calypso Carnival.”

After leaving Mr. Belafonte in the early ’70s, Mr. MacDonald and two partners, William Salter and William Eaton, began composing full time. One of their first songs, “Where Is the Love?,” was recorded in 1972 by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway and went on to sell several million copies and win two Grammy Awards. He and his partners wrote many more successful songs, including “Just the Two of Us,” a huge hit for Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr. in 1981.

Ralph Anthony MacDonald was born in Harlem on March 15, 1944, the eighth of Patrick and Evelyn MacDonald’s eight children. His father was a calypso star known professionally as Macbeth the Great. In interviews, Mr. MacDonald said he had grown up almost literally with a set of drums in his hands and had been extremely lucky in his teachers: his father, his uncle and Mr. Belafonte.

He is survived by his wife, Grace; their children Nefra-Ann and Atiba; two children, Anthony and Jovonni, from a previous marriage; a sister, Sylvia Pristell; and three grandchildren.

Mr. MacDonald’s versatility made him a sought-after session player on records by jazz and jazz-soul fusion artists like Bobbi Humphrey, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Herbie Mann, David Sanborn, Ron Carter, Tom Scott, Maynard Ferguson and Mr. Washington, for whom he and his partners wrote the 1975 hit “Mr. Magic.”

He and his partners also wrote “Calypso Breakdown” for the soundtrack of “Saturday Night Fever,” which earned Mr. MacDonald two Grammys of his own in 1978 as a performer and a producer.

In the interview with The Times, Mr. MacDonald said he never regretted being a relative unknown, despite his renown among his peers. “I don’t want to be a superstar,” he said. “Above all, I’m a musician first.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 22, 2011

Because of an editing error, an obituary on Wednesday about the percussionist and songwriter Ralph MacDonald referred incorrectly to two of his survivors. Atiba is his son and Jovonni is his daughter — not the reverse. The obituary also misstated part of the title of a song performed and co-written by Mr. MacDonald that was on the soundtrack of the movie “Saturday Night Fever.” It is “Calypso Breakdown,” not “Calypso Fever.”




Korean Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency

Kim Jong-il, the son of North Korea’s founder, visiting a farm in 2003. An unknowable figure, even his exact birth date was unclear. More Photos »


Published: December 18, 2011

Called the “Dear Leader” by his people, Kim Jong-il presided with an iron hand over a country he kept on the edge of starvation and collapse, fostering perhaps the last personality cult in the Communist world even as he banished citizens deemed disloyal to gulags or sent assassins after defectors.


He came to power after the death in 1994 of his father, Kim Il-sung, North Korea’s founder. His inheritance was an impoverished country with an uncertain place in a post-cold-war era. He played his one card, his nuclear weapons program, brilliantly, first defying efforts by the administration of George W. Bush to push his country over the brink, then exploiting America’s distraction with the war in Iraq to harvest enough nuclear fuel from his main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon to produce the fuel for six to eight weapons.

Throughout, he remained an unknowable figure. Everything about him was guesswork, from the exact date and place of his birth to the mythologized events of his rise in a country formed by the hasty division of the Korean Peninsula at the end of World War II.

North Koreans heard about him only as their “peerless leader” and “the great successor to the revolutionary cause.” His portrait hangs beside that of his father, Kim Il-sung, in every North Korean household and building. Towers, banners and even rock faces across the country bear slogans praising him.

Mr. Kim was a source of fascination inside the Central Intelligence Agency, which interviewed his mistresses, tried to track his whereabouts and psychoanalyzed his motives. And he was an object of parody in American culture.

Short and round, he wore elevator shoes, oversize sunglasses and a bouffant hairdo — a Hollywood stereotype of the wacky post-cold-war dictator. Mr. Kim himself was fascinated by film. He orchestrated the kidnapping of an actress and a director, both of them South Koreans, in an effort to build a domestic movie industry. He was said to keep a personal library of 20,000 foreign films, including the complete James Bond series, his favorite. But he rarely saw the outside world, save from the windows of his luxury train, which occasionally took him to China.

He was derided and denounced. President George W. Bush called him a “pygmy” and included his country in the “axis of evil.” Children’s books in South Korea depicted him as a red devil with horns and fangs. Yet those who met him were surprised by his serious demeanor and his knowledge of events beyond the hermit kingdom he controlled.

“He was a very outspoken person,” said Roh Moo-hyun, who as South Korea’s president met Mr. Kim in Pyongyang in 2007. “He was the most flexible man in North Korea.”

Wendy Sherman, now the No. 3 official in the State Department, who served as counselor to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and accompanied her to North Korea, said in 2008: “He was smart, engaged, knowledgeable, self-confident, sort of the master-director of all he surveyed.”

Ms. Albright met Mr. Kim in October 2000 in what turned out to be a futile effort to strike a deal with North Korea over limiting its missile program before President Bill Clinton left office.

“There was no denying the dictatorial state that he ruled,” Ms. Sherman said. “There was no denying the freedoms that didn’t exist. But at the time, there were a lot of questions in the U.S. about whether he was really in control, and we left with no doubt that he was.”

When Ms. Albright and Ms. Sherman sat down to talk through a 14-point list of concerns about North Korea’s missile program, “he didn’t know the answers to every question, but he knew a lot more than most leaders would — and he was a conceptual thinker,” Ms. Sherman added.

A Deal With Washington

President Bush said during his first term in office that he would never tolerate a nuclear North Korea, but as his presidency wound down, many of his aides believed he did exactly that.

It was not until the spring of 2007 that Mr. Bush was told by the Israelis that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor; before the Syrians or the North Koreans were confronted with that evidence, Israel sent bombers on a secret mission to destroy the Syrian plant. The North Koreans have never explained their role.

By the time Mr. Bush left office, the administration had moved from four years of confrontation with the North to three years of halting negotiations. Led by Christopher R. Hill, a veteran American diplomat, the negotiations resulted in a deal that hawks hated: the United States agreed to supply North Korea with large amounts of fuel oil in return for the dismantlement of the aging Yongbyon plant, described by inspectors as a radioactive accident waiting to happen.

Choe Sang-hun contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 20, 2011

An obituary in some editions on Monday about the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il reversed, in some copies, the second and third columns of type. The correct version can be found at The obituary also referred incompletely to comments by Hwang Jang-yop, a former aide to the Kim regime, who was quoted describing Mr. Kim’s rise to power. The comment was from a 2006 memoir of Mr. Kim; it was not a current observation. (Mr. Hwang died in 2010.)


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