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Don Brooks
Donnie Brooks
October 25, 2000
Age 53
Leukemia 
 
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 Don Brooks, 53, Harmonica Player Suited to Blues and Bee Gees

          By JON PARELES 

                Don Brooks, a harmonica player who recorded widely 
                as a studio musician in New York City, died of 
                leukemia Wednesday at Cabrini Medical Center in 
                Manhattan, said his widow, Anne. He was 53 and lived in 
                Greenwich Village. 

                Mr. Brooks grew up in Texas and took up the harmonica 
                after hearing an album by the bluesman Sonny Terry. He 
                played in Dallas coffeehouses in the 1960's alongside 
                songwriters like Mance Lipscomb, Lightning Hopkins and 
                Jerry Jeff Walker. 

                In 1967, he moved to New York City and became part of 
                a Greenwich Village folk scene that included David 
                Bromberg and John Hammond Jr. He recorded and 
                performed with Judy Collins and Harry Belafonte, and in 
                1973, he joined the country singer Waylon Jennings's 
                band, in which his harmonica playing helped create the 
                sound of outlaw country music. 

                "He influenced a lot of people," said Mickey Raphael, the 
                longtime harmonica player in Willie Nelson's band. 

                "What made him distinctive is the simplicity of his playing 
                and his great tone," Mr. Raphael said. "He played the right 
                thing at the right time. He was also a very rhythmic player. 
                He mastered a technique he called chucking, a popping of 
                the harmonica that sounded like a rim shot on a snare. It 
                can be very useful when you don't want to play a lot of 
                notes all the time, so the harmonica becomes a rhythm 
                instrument. If he didn't invent it, he surely perfected it and 
                passed it on."  

                Mr. Brooks established himself as a leading studio player in 
                New York. 

                Through the years, he recorded with Billy Joel, Cyndi 
                Lauper, Carly Simon, the Talking Heads, Ringo Starr, Tim 
                Hardin, the Bee Gees, Diana Ross, Bette Midler and Yoko 
                Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. He was a musician on 
                Broadway in "Big River" in 1985 and "The Gospel at 
                Colonus" in 1988, and was heard in the Ken Burns public 
                television documentary "The Civil War."  

                "My job was always to make other people sound good," 
                Mr. Brooks once said. "Everything I do, everything I play, is 
                the blues."  

                He is survived by his wife; a son, Leonard; and two 
                grandchildren. 

 
       
 

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