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The Mighty Hannibal, Funk-Soul Iconoclast, Dead at 74

Outspoken Atlanta artist born James Shaw was a mentor to many, including Black Lips

picture-18276-1372868632Chris Martins // January 31, 2014

The Mighty Hannibal has died. According to Norton Records founder Billy Miller, the man born James Timothy Shaw passed away on Thursday, January 30, at the age of 74. The funk-soul singer, songwriter, and producer released precious few album in his time — 1973’s Truth, 1998’s Who Told You That, and the 2001 Norton compilation Hannibalism — but he was influential among and beloved by his fellow musicians.

His passing seems to have been quite sudden. 

“Very, very sad news,” wrote Miller on Facebook, sharing a vintage photo of the Atlanta born, raised, and based artist wearing his signature pink turban, a blue tie, and a sharp-looking suit. “Norton Records superstar The Mighty Hannibal has passed away. We do not have the full details. He called Norton HQ this morning and was his usual upbeat self and all seemed fine. This is devastating news. A true legend is gone…”

One of the earliest responses came from the Black Lips, who are on the verge of releasing their seventh album, Underneath the Rainbow. “Very sad news today,” one of the Atlanta flower-punks wrote on their Facebook page. “My dear friend, mentor and fellow Leo, The Mighty Hannibal has passed away. Gonna miss you buddy.” In 2007, the Black Lips backed the Mighty Hannibal at what was billed as his “first southern show in thirty years.”

At that same show, a city official declares January 12 “The Mighty Hannibal Day.” Watch below, and also be sure to listen to his “Hymn No. 5,” an anti-war classic recorded during the Vietnam War and banned from radio during its day.