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Pam Bricker

Born: 1954 in Richmond, VA
Died: February 21, 2005 in Takoma Park, MD

Jazz and electronica vocalist

by Todd S. Jenkins
Copyright © 2005 Todd S. Jenkins

Pam Bricker, whose talents ranged from jazz guitar and singing to the innovative edge of electronica, committed suicide at her home in Takoma Park, MD, on February 21, 2005. She was fifty years old. Ms. Bricker's husband, Gareth Branwyn, stated that his wife had been clinically depressed for some time.

Bricker was born in Richmond, VA, and brought up in Summit, NJ. Her father and stepfather were both trombonists; her mother suffered mental illness and was institutionalized while Pam was still young. Pam and all her siblings grew up playing instruments, hers being clarinet and piano. She later expanded her musical knowledge at Massachusetts' Hampshire College. Intrigued by the notion of utopian societies, Bricker took some time off from college to join the Twin Oaks commune in Virginia. Eventually, however, the desire to play music changed her direction in life.

She had an intriguing, often difficult professional career that began when she was 25 years old, in 1980. After being dismissed by a record executive as already past her prime, she suffered a nervous breakdown. Bricker returned to the commune, where she met her future husband, Gareth.

Bricker avoided the music business for some time before coming back, first as a guitarist (she developed a friendship with country-folk singer Mary Chapin Carpenter) and then as a singer. Jazz writer W. Royal Stokes, following one of her early performances, lauded Bricker's "remarkable range, excellent control and impressive rhythmic surety."

From about 1982 to 1987 she was a member of the swing group Mad Romance. That led to a long professional relationship with founder Rick Harris, whom she had met after one of her gigs at Charlie's Georgetown. In 1993, her work with Harris resulted in the first of her five Washington Area Music Association awards. Charlie Byrd, the guitarist and Georgetown proprietor, was also a common partner.

Bricker recorded several albums and was on the jazz studies faculty at George Washington University. A few years ago she began feeling constrained by jazz and opted for another change, joining the electronica group Thievery Corporation. In 2004 their song "Lebanese Blonde" was used in the Grammy-awarded soundtrack of Garden State. She was overjoyed by the popularity and career security which Thievery Corporation offered, but eventually Bricker sank back into depression.

Pam Bricker is survived by her husband, Gareth Branwyn of Arlington, VA; a son, Blake Maloof of Arlington; her father, brother and sister.

Todd S. Jenkins
Todd S. Jenkins is a member of the JJA, author of Free Jazz and Free Improvisation: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2004) and I Know What I Know: The Music of Charles Mingus (Praeger, 2006), and a contributor to Down Beat, All About Jazz, American Songwriter and Route 66 Magazine.

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With 1 reader comment, posted February 14, 2006