We all loved him, friends say of music legend Dan Hill

South African musical great Dan Hill has died, his friends confirmed on June 3.

Hill died at his grandson’s home in Durban on May 31 at the age of 85, and was buried at West Park cemetery on June 3, said actress, comedienne and singer Annabel Linder.

“He was such a lovely man. We all loved him,” said Linder.

Wearing his trademark red shoes, he played his clarinet at Browns in Rivonia twice a week, “right up until the very end”, she said.

He was forced to stop just two months ago when he had the first of the strokes that would eventually claim his life. He is survived by his grandson Zac.

Hill was fêted as “one of the most respected jazz musicians and band leaders in South Africa” by the History of Contemporary Music of South Africa, compiled by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz.

He and his band, the Dan Hill Orchestra, backed, arranged produced and even discovered artists such as Sharon Tandy, June Muscat, Judy Page, Mercia Love, Dana Vallery and Una Valli, Chilvers said.

Hill’s main claim to fame was the establishment of RPM records, which was “quite a force” in the local industry in the 1960s and 1970s, he said.

It was this record company for which he would be remembered by another local musical legend, David Gresham.

“It [RPM] was actually huge.
It became a huge independent,” Gresham said from Los Angeles.

RPM was eventually absorbed into Gallo Music South Africa, with Hill, for many years, the musical director of Gallo Africa.

Hill’s death would be a loss to the musical world. “He was a brilliant musician,” said Gresham, who remembered him playing at the Orange Grove Hotel. Bobby Angel was among those who sang with Hill and Hymie Baleson at weddings and dances at the hotel. Hill also produced and recorded the first jingles used on LM Radio in 1964.

Hill was also known for his own albums, particularly the Sounds Electronic series of dance records launched in 1967, said Chilvers.

His album Happy Days Are Here Again was the first South African album to go gold with more than 25 000 sales.

His death came as “very sad news”, said comedian Eddie Eksteen, just one of the many musicians Hill helped.—Sapa

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