I was originally not going to do a tribute column for Mic Gillette because I think of the entire horn section for Tower Of Power and not just one individual. And in doing this tribute, I can’t say that I remembered Mic’s name, but you had better believe that I remember the original Tower Of Power horn section that I grew up on during the time period of 1970 through 1974. So, instead of waiting for a few more members to pass on, I am going to do this right now because I love them so much.
Tower Of Power was a band of seismic strength for those of us who grew up in the Bay Area during the ’70-’74 time period. While all of the attention, even in the wake of the immediate post-’60s period, was being paid to San Francisco, those of us who really knew our stuff knew that the East Bay gave us some equally great music too. In the ’60s and the very early ’70s, we got Creedence Clearwater Revival. Tower Of Power was the other huge band which came from the East Bay that any serious music fan identified with back then. Just like the title of their first album would suggest, they were my East Bay Grease guys. They brought the Funk with their brand of Soul and they pushed hard With all due respect to so many other bands throughout the nation, you looked to Tower Of Power for where to get a blueprint and then go from there. They had respect from fans and they had it from musicians from around the world. If you were a name and you needed a horn section to bring the goods, then they were the ones to help you back up your good name.
Mic Gillette was a member of the band that brought us “Sparkling In The Sand” from East Bay Grease, “You’re Still A Young Man” and “What Is Hip?”, “Down To The Nightclub” from Bump City and “So Very Hard To Go” from the self-titled Tower Of Power. Gillette played on the latter two albums I’ve mentioned. This was the golden era of Tower Of Power. A lot of pride emanated from this band during this time period. They became the musical identity of the East Bay and they went hand in hand with the rise of the Oakland Raiders football club. Between the both of them and the incredible amount of great Soul singles I was listening to on the radio during this time, this all became one in my eyes. I didn’t just look at San Francisco with a glimmer in my eye. I always had room in my heart for my East Bay grease guys too. A ton of us were smart to never turn our backs on the East Bay musicians. They were giving it their all and with as much of the sense of being special as any of the San Francisco and South Bay bands.
Tower Of Power defined the word diversity in my eyes. They were a multi-ethic band. Though they still exist as a band to this very day, they have undergone a ton of permutations over the years. For those of us who grew up back then and listened to those great singles of theirs from the ’70-’74 period, they were one of the faces of people who used to say that diversity in a band and among the fan community was a great thing. It made us better. They were one of those bands who reminded us that snobbery had no place in great music. That East Bay strength, man. It gave me strength down in the South Bay because, as far as I was concerned, there was no North, South, East or Western Peninsula. There was the Bay Area and we were all connected. We were all one. It was the only thing I cared about back then. If you were giving me some great music, you got my support. Tower Of Power was the real deal and Gillette was one of the ones who gave us such a strong band. When I listen to “You’re Still A Young Man”, I am listening to the definition of great horns. The same thing goes for whenever I listen to the terrific East Bay Grease album. Whenever I get the news that one of the great Bay Area musicians has passed on, I feel like I’ve lost one of my own kin. Gillette is no exception. Those first few permutations of Tower Of Power could not be topped.