Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Solly Lipsitz Dead at 92

Solly Lipsitz, one of Northern Ireland's most influential figures in the world of music died on March 30, aged 92.  A prominent member of Northern Ireland’s Jewish community he was known as ‘Northern Ireland’s Mr. Jazz’.  He also helped organise the Jazz Club of the first ever Belfast Festival in 1961.  His lifelong hero was Louis Armstrong and he was one of the first people to welcome 'Satchmo' when he played the King's Hall in 1962.

He enjoyed a distinguished and influential career in the local music scene. He was a former music critic with the Belfast Telegraph and owned both the famous Atlantic Records shop specialising in Jazz imports and the Jazz Club on the Embankment in Belfast. He was an Honorary Member of the Royal Ulster Academy of Arts and is credited for discovering a number of important local music talents.  He was also an avid book collector and an art aficionado, for a time lecturing at Belfast College of Art and Design. 

Solly's connection with Van stemmed from his ownership of the Atlantic Records record store.  He imported all kinds of American jazz and blues records at a time when they were virtually unknown on the European side of the Atlantic.  Van's father George was an avid collector of records particularly blues.  He took his son Van along with him on buying trips on Saturday mornings.  Their usual haunts included the record stalls at Smithfield markets and then on to Atlantic Records. 

Solly said in an interview, Van's father used to come in every Saturday.  He was more interested in the blues side of things - Howlin' Wolf and Little Brother Montgomery.  I remember Van very well in a grey school cap.  
Beautiful Old Belfast
Van had a lifelong relationship with Solly and their paths crossed many times.  Solly is credited on two albums, Magic Time (2005)  and Born to Sing (2012).  In fact Solly was commissioned to write sleeve notes for Born to Sing. In a number of interviews Van described the influence that Solly and the music he brought to Belfast had on his development. "I had a regard for the man," added Van the Man. "He was a music critic who actually made music himself."   
Van joined dozens of mourners in the Jewish section of Carnmoney Cemetery in Newtownabbey for the funeral of Solly on April 3.   


Check out the fantastic audio interview with Mr Lipsitz conducted by Van over at Van's official site.

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