BY BILLY SUTER
FACEBOOK is being swamped with messages of shock and condolence from members of the South African entertainment community over the sudden death on Friday, May 11, of popular Johannesburg-based pianist and singer Lorraine Shannon.
The charming and attractive redhead, affectionately known as Lolly, grew up in Durban as Lorraine Southwick, a versatile and talented pianist. Her keyboard skills and vocal talent took her to Johannesburg years ago, where she made her name as a session musician, often appeared on television and also recorded solo albums.
I had a personal connection with her in that she and her older sister, Morgan Southwick – now Morgan Harris and also based in Johannesburg – were, for a short while, members of The Harlequinns, a lip-sync group I founded to put on shows for charity fundraising in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
I also fondly recall attending one of the first big concerts Lolly performed as a singer and pianist at the Durban City Hall, alongside Andre Schwartz.
Lolly was highly respected in the South African music industry. Claire Johnston of Mango Groove, writing on her Facebook page, said: “My heart is hurting. Rest in peace my beautiful, talented, kind friend. I’ve known you for 40 years and will miss you for as long as I’m alive. Rest well.”
Cindy Alter, of Clout fame, said: “With a truly heavy heart, I mourn the passing of my friend Lorraine Shannon, a beautiful, talented soul. May your soul finally find the peace that you sought. Deepest condolences to her loving family and loved ones.”
Lorraine released her own album of cover material in 2003. It featured contributions from Trevor Rabin (of Rabbitt and Yes), among others. It was a self-titled album on the Gallo SA label and featured 16 interpretations of classic pop songs, produced and arranged by Mauritz Lotz.
Other guest spots on that album include trumpeter Marcus Wyatt on Nature Boy, vocalist Juanita Kruger on All By Myself, vocalist Jannie Moolman on Your Song and Mauritz Lotz duets on guitar on Somethin’ Stupid.
Lotz played all the guitars on the album and Lolly played piano, keyboards, and adds some haunting vocal effects. The other musicians on the album are Denny Lalouette (bass), Neill Ettridge (drums), and Bruce Wallace (drums).
Lolly also released a solo album of romantic piano covers in 2005.
Lauren Copley, who as a teen in the 1970s had hits with Kentucky Blues and It’s Too Late Now, said on Facebook: “How sad I am to hear this devastating news about Lorraine. I did some shows with her many years ago and was so taken by her musical talent and beauty, both inside and out.
Copley added on Facebook: “I was just speaking about her to Bobby Louw the other day and saying how I’d love to get back into contact with her. So distressing that I’ll never be able to do that. My sincere condolences to Lorraine’s family and loved ones”.
A close and longtime friend of Lolly’s, singer-actress Tonya Koenderman, said: “My dear, sweet, kind, beloved friend Lorainne Shannon. I am devastated that you are gone. May you be flying with the angels, cuddling all the cats, and reading all the sci-fi books you can.
“You loved too much. You cared too much. You hurt too much. I only hope that you may finally be at peace. We met when I was a 21-year-old girl. You were older and so much wiser in my eyes.
“We partied, we drank too much. You introduced me to sherry. Together we saw each other through numerous heartbreaks, joy and sorrow. But most of all we forged a friendship and bond that will never be broken.
“My love and all my heart goes out to Morgan Harris, Justin Harris, Pia and Jorga. You have been an incredible family to her. I will love and miss you forever. Lorraine.”
Singer and actor Tim Moloi said: “So sad to hear that lovely Lorraine Shannon passed away this weekend. An enormous loss to those who loved her and worked with her, and to the South African recording industry. My heartfelt condolences to her family and everybody at Robroy Music. Rest in peace dear friend. You will be sorely missed.”
Singer and actor Joseph Clark commented: “A dear friend and brilliant colleague. This is very sad news, indeed. My heart goes out to all her family, friends and co-workers who she has truly inspired in her (too short) life.”
NOTE: For a glimpse of her talent, click on these links for old video footage of Lorraine Southwick – performing Please Mr Postman at https://youtu.be/FGXGSAwHhKg and Where the Boys Are at https://youtu.be/Rlp5vbAmosY