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PASSINGS: Michael Parrish, Bobby Sharp

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Michael Parrish

Former editor of the Los Angeles Times magazine

Michael Parrish, 67, who oversaw the reinvention of the Sunday magazine in the Los Angeles Times in the mid-1980s, died Friday of liver failure while under hospice care in the Los Angeles area, friends said.

When the newspaper replaced the Home magazine it had long published with the broader-interest Los Angeles Times magazine, Parrish served as its editor, from 1985 to 1989. During his tenure, the magazine's reporting and writing was repeatedly recognized by the Greater Los Angeles Press Club. (The editorial department stopped publishing the magazine in 2008.)

After moving to the Business section to report on the environment, Parrish was in Alaska on an unrelated assignment when the Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in 1989, according to his friend, Judy Irola. He soon wrote the first of nearly 40 articles on the disaster, including a 1994 front-page story that concluded "virtually all the state's residents" were suffering in its aftermath.

During widespread layoffs at The Times in 1995, Parrish lost his job. He discovered his fate when he took a source to lunch and tried to pay the bill with his credit card only to learn the card had been canceled. Irola confirmed the account.

Parrish went on to freelance for a number of regional and national publications and since 2003 had taught magazine writing and editing at USC.

He was a "committed journalist," former Times staff writer Elaine Dutka said in an e-mail, who possessed a "crusty yet sensitive soul."

Michael Udy Parrish was born Nov. 13, 1945, in Salt Lake City. He joined the Peace Corps in 1966 and lived in Niger for two years before earning a bachelor's degree in 1970 from Reed College.


FOR THE RECORD:
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Michael Parrish lived in Nigeria for two years. He lived in Niger.


In the early 1970s, he worked on magazines in San Francisco and in 1976 became editor of the Los Angeles Free Press. He joined The Times in 1977 as an assistant editor on the Editorial Pages but left after two years to freelance and returned to the newspaper in 1985.

"For the People," a history Parrish wrote about the Los Angeles County district attorney's office, was published in 2001.

Since 2006, he had put his research and reporting skills to another use, as a private investigator.

Bobby Sharp

Singer-songwriter known for 'Unchain My Heart'

Bobby Sharp, 88, a singer-songwriter best known for "Unchain My Heart," which was an early 1960s hit for Ray Charles, died Jan. 29, according to an announcement on his website. No other details were released.

In 1960, Sharp wrote "Unchain My Heart" in an hour and sold it for $50 so that he could buy the drugs that were then central to his life, The Times reported in 2004.

When he realized he wasn't receiving proper royalties for the song, he sued and engaged in a seven-year legal battle that ended with a settlement. Once the original copyright ran out, he regained ownership of the song in 1988, a year after Joe Cocker had a Top 40 hit with it.

"I had changed my life around, became a drug counselor," Sharp said 2004 in The Times, "and wasn't really thinking about music until I found out I could renew the copyright, and it really changed my life."

An Alameda, Calif., resident since 1980, Sharp worked at a mental health center in San Francisco until he retired in 1988.

Robert Sharp was born in 1924 in Topeka, Kan., and lived with his grandparents in Los Angeles before moving to New York to live with his parents when he was 12. His father was a concert tenor.

After joining the Army in 1943, Sharp served stateside and then studied at Greenwich House Music School and the Manhattan School of Music.

As a singer-songwriter, he had his first commercial success in 1956 with "Baby Girl of Mine," which was later covered by Ruth Brown. During the 1950s and '60s, his songs were recorded by such artists as Sammy Davis Jr. and Sarah Vaughan.

At 81, Sharp released his debut CD, "The Fantasy Sessions," playing piano and singing his own songs.

news.obits@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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