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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 1:57 am

Acclaimed songwriter Masser dies

News services

Michael Masser, a songwriter who composed several No. 1 hits in the 1970s and 1980s and who helped launch the career of singer Whitney Houston by writing and producing some of her most popular songs, died Thursday at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 74.

His death was first reported by the Desert Sun newspaper of Palm Springs, California. He had complications from a stroke suffered three years ago.

A stockbroker before he turned to music, Masser first found success as a songwriter with "Touch Me in the Morning," which became a No. 1 hit for Diana Ross in 1973.

He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1976 for Ross’ "Theme From Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)," written with lyricist Gerry Goffin, and he later wrote and produced three No. 1 hits for Houston.

"Michael Masser’s wonderful melodies are memorable and hypnotic," music producer and record-company executive Clive Davis said in a statement. "He is and was truly an all-time great composer."

Masser wrote the music while collaborating with several lyricists, including Goffin, Will Jennings and Linda Creed. In his 20 years as a songwriter, he worked with George Benson, Natalie Cole, Robert Flack, Peabo Bryson, Gladys Knight, Crystal Gayle and Barbra Streisand. Masser was named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2007.

His songs typically began with a quiet keyboard introduction before layers of lush strings and synthesizers built to a soaring climax.

John Vickers, 88

Canada-born opera singer John Vickers, nicknamed "God’s tenor" for his inimitable voice and strong Christian beliefs, has died. He was 88.

The Royal Opera House opera in London, citing a statement from Vickers’ family, said he died Friday in the Canadian province of Ontario after a struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

Vickers made his Royal Opera debut in 1957. A year later, he performed at Germany’s Bayreuth festival, going on to become one of the world’s leading performers of Richard Wagner, acclaimed for roles including Siegmund in "Die Walkuere." From 1960, he was a regular at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where his signature roles included Benjamin Britten’s "Peter Grimes."

For three decades Vickers performed around the world, collecting devoted fans, numerous honorary degrees, companionship in the Order of Canada and two Grammy Awards.

Vickers retired in 1988.