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William Maginnis


1938 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
William Maginnis Obituary
William Richard Maginnis

November 15, 1938 - November 12, 2016

Bill was born to Elma and William Maginnis in Yreka, California, but spent the war years in Glendale. It was a formative time in his young life. He never forgot when the coast of Los Angeles could once again turn lights on after dark, following the war. He even learned a bit of Yiddish, which he continued to use throughout his life.
The family returned to Yreka and Bill reconnected with the many friends he made during his school years. He studied music, especially percussion, and was working as a professional drummer by the age of 14. His last "gig" was in October 2016.
After two years at Chico State, he transferred to San Francisco State with other musician friends; he was a composition major who continued to work professionally through college, making friends and music with Stu Dempster, Paul Gemignani, Joseph Weber, and Robert Moran.
He met Anna (Ruth) May there, and they were married in 1963. He was a medic in the California National Guard until 1968, but simultaneously played jazz at Pier 23 and many other locations, while working at the San Francisco Tape Music Center. The Center produced concerts that including many composers who later became world famous, including Morton Subotnik, Ramon Sender, and Pauline Oliveros (founders of the Center), John Cage, Terry Riley, David Tudor, Folke Rabe, Arne Melnes, Steve Reich, and Jan Bark, and performed Bill's own compositions.
When the Tape Center moved to Mills College to become the Center for Contemporary Music, Bill joined the faculty.
At the same time, he was close to many in the so-called "hippie" musical community, including Phil Lesh, Janis Joplin, and Darby Slick, and performed in a folk-rock group entitled Gentle Dance, which toured the West Coast. He worked with Bruce Conner in a band called The Hard Core, which included Michael McClure, Victor Moscoso, and David Meltzer (it did not last). Simultaneously, he performed in jazz, classical (Oakland and San Francisco Symphonies), and rock areas, and many other genres and musical groups, including the noted Rose and Thistle Jazz Band.
He was an essential element in the ground-breaking Trips Festival, the Fillmore Auditorium, and the Avalon Ballroom (all of this with short hair because of the National Guard requirements).
During and after that, he played drums in many locations on Broadway, Haight St., and Fillmore Street, playing with many of the local and international greats, including Burt Bales, Taj Mahal, Thelonious Monk, Lightnin' Hopkins, and Bo Diddley. He worked with Jules Irving on theatrical works in the theater group that became ACT.
Bill and Ruth had a daughter, Sarah, in 1970. He built a recording and computer music studio in his home, and continued composing music from classical to electronic. Bill worked with Ray Dobard and other recording studios as an electronic technician and "sound engineer." He also worked on Don Buchla's first "Buchla Box," a music synthesizer that had a large impact on the music world.
In the 1970s, he began to work as a musician on the Pacific Far East Line (PFEL) cruise ships, sailing the Pacific on six-week jobs, seeing Hawaii, Polynesia, Australia, and New Zealand. Following that, he worked on the American President Line (APL) lines around South America, visiting every country except Bolivia, and having dangerous adventures during the Falklands War, and the military coup in Chile and an uprising in Ecuador.
He traveled to Japan with Don Burnam's country western band Lost Weekend, played with a klezmer group, Latin music groups, and be-bop groups. Bill, Ruth and Sarah loved to travel, and went to France, England, and Hong Kong when Sarah was young. Bill and Ruth had a marathon trip through most of Europe, linking up with friends and relatives. They later traveled to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, with plans to visit more places around the world.
He returned to work with classical jazz musicians like Bob Neighbor, Barbara Dane, Bob Parlocha, Jim Rothermel, Richard Hadlock, Bob Mielke, Ernie Figueroa, Bob Minger, Barbara Lashley, Manny Funke, and Bill Barden. He joined Scott Anthony's Golden Gate Rhythm Machine and played at major jazz festivals throughout the United States and jazz cruises to most of the Caribbean and the Pacific Coast of Mexico. Turk Murphy often said that if he ever had to hired a drummer, it would be Bill.
He was a life member of the Musicians' Union, working steadily from 1952 until 2016, as well as a long-time member of the Forth Computer Group. Bill also worked with the Zakros performing group, with Randall Packer, Pamela Z, and a bevy of talent of all types. They produced a series of shows with electronics, dancers, musicians and actors, pushing forward the art of multimedia.
He never retired, playing his last "gigs" at Yoshi's (sold out house) and Mills College. He deeply regretted not being strong enough to vote in this year's election.
After a major struggle this year with lung cancer, which he was determined to win, he passed away nearly painlessly in his home, after saying goodbye to his wife, daughter Sarah, beloved grandson Daniel, and son-in-law Dennis Willis.
He was visited and called by a huge number of friends, relatives, neighbors, and co-workers and "held court" with large groups of friends every day during his last two weeks.
The family wishes to express a huge debt of gratitude to his medical team, to his great friends Ramon Sender, Kent Bowman, Scott Anthony, Pat Caffrey, Loren Means, David Cohen-Tzedek, "Dudley" Ackerman, Janice McIntosh, Sue Anthony, the Levin Family, Verna and Moe Franchi, Shelley Denny, Rabbis Katie Mizrahi and Mi'irah Illinsky and Bill's cousins Patricia, Ann, "Ham," and Mike.
Bill was very interested in all aspects of science, ancient history and literature, and religion. After dabbling in Zen Buddhism and various types of Christianity throughout his life, he identified most as Jewish, and will have a memorial at Sinai Memorial Chapel in San Francisco on Sunday, November 20, at 2:00 PM.


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Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Nov. 16, 2016
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