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Sunday, March 24 Local

Charlie Karp, Fairfield resident, longtime musician, dies

FAIRFIELD — Award-winning singer, songwriter and guitarist Charlie Karp died Sunday night after a long illness, friends said.

A former student at Staples High School in Westport — who left school as a senior to pursue music — Karp had a professional career that stretched nearly 50 years.

Karp, who lived in Fairfield and had a studio there, recorded with R&B legend Buddy Miles when he was a teenager; his long path through the music industry also included writing songs for the likes of Joan Jett and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, performing in bands and producing music for documentaries, sporting events and feature films.

“Charlie cut a wide swath through Connecticut music over the last half-century, be it in rock, pop, blues rock or just plain blues,” said radio host and writer Fran Fried, of Prospect, in an email. “He wasn’t a household name, but musicians certainly knew who he was.”

Fried hosts Franorama 2.0, on Cygnus Radio, a Connecticut-based online radio station. Two years ago, she narrated the documentary “The High School That Rocked!” about Staples and how it drew such influential bands as Cream, The Doors and The Yardbirds to play on its stage.

Miles played Staples in December 1969, and needed a pickup band, Fried said. Karp was recommended as a guitarist, played the show and so impressed Miles that he hired Karp, who left school to tour with him.

“That alone should speak to the talent he had, and from a young age,” Fried said.

According to the biography on Karp’s website, he recorded four albums with Miles in two years, and his time on the road with Miles included opening for Jimi Hendrix.

In 1972, Karp left Miles to form his own band, White Chocolate. The group was signed by RCA Records. In 1975, Karp signed to Seymour Stein’s Sire Records and released a single called “Rock & Roll Love Letter,” which was later covered by the Bay City Rollers.

The band eventually morphed into The Dirty Angels, which, in 1979, toured with Aerosmith on the Double Live Bootleg Tour.

“To me, as an impressionable teen growing up in the mid- to late ’70s, he’ll always be the guitarist for the Dirty Angels, who recorded one of the most criminally under-noticed FM rock songs of the era, ‘Tell Me,’ ” Fried said. “I still smile every time I hear it.”

In the 1980s, Karp did many sessions as a songwriter and guitarist, including writing songs for Perry and Jett.

According to his biography, in the past decade or so, he had been writing and producing with Danny Kortchmar — a producer/guitarist for James Taylor, Carole King, Don Henley and Billy Joel among others — for their band Slo Leak.

Karp also won an Emmy producing music for films and television, and his biography credits him as working on jingles for such products as TWIX candy bars, US Tobacco and Xerox.

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Those remembering Karp included Brian Keane, a classmate of Karp’s at Staples, and an accomplished musician. The two co-wrote the song “You Lift My Heart,” which was released on Marion Meadows’s album “Secrets” in 2009.

Keane posted on Facebook about Karp on Saturday, before his death, about how Karp had been moved into hospice and wasn’t expected to live more than a few weeks.

At that time, Keane wrote about how, when the two were seventh-graders at Coleytown Junior High School in Westport, “ I realized that Charlie Karp possessed naturally what it would take me at least 15 years more of hard work to begin to develop: the ability to channel something magical and musical, and to deliver a special sense of feeling that connected with people and moved them to the core on a fundamental level through music.”

On Monday, Keane posted about Karp’s death.

“I am beyond saddened to report that Charlie Karp passed away last night. He died peacefully, surrounded by family,” the post read. “They told me that he was able to hear your many expressions of love which they read to him before he passed. Thank you all for doing that. I know that meant so much to him.”

Amanda Cuda|Monroe reporter/Sunday breaking news reporter/general assignment

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