2016 in Review: Saying Farewell to So Manyby Best Classic Bands Staff
It’s not just your imagination—2016 was truly one of the most brutal years in music. We’ve lost so many great artists of all types since early January. Of course there were the giants who helped to define our culture—David Bowie, Prince, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey and producer George Martin among them—but then there were also the sidemen, the “one-hit wonders,” the influences and those who worked behind the scenes.
This following list is far from comprehensive and, with a month left to go in the year, it’s probably, unfortunately, not yet complete. Here we pay tribute to some of the artists who’ve left us in 2016. While it’s a cliché it’s also true that although they are gone, their music will always remain with those who are still here to listen.
(The names are listed alphabetically, followed by the date of death and a brief description of their place in our world.)
Roye Albrighton: 7/26—The founding guitarist and vocalist of the prog-rock band Nektar, best known for their 1973 album Remember the Future, he was the sole original member still performing with the band.
Mose Allison: 11/15—The blues and jazz vocalist/pianist/songwriter was a huge influence on everyone from Van Morrison to Elvis Costello, the Clash and John Mayall.
Signe Anderson: 1/28—The original female singer of Jefferson Airplane, she appeared on the band’s first album. Leaving due to her pregnancy, she was replaced by Grace Slick.
Lee Andrews: 3/16—The leader of the 1950s doo-wop group Lee Andrews and the Hearts (“Long Lonely Nights,” “Try the Impossible”), he was also the father of the Roots’ Questlove.
Jimmy Bain: 1/23—The Scottish bassist was known primarily for his work with hard-rockers Rainbow and Dio.
Blowfly: 1/17—The R&B/soul/funk vocalist/songwriter/producer (real name: Clarence Reid) wrote for and produced artists including Betty Wright, Sam and Dave, and KC and the Sunshine Band.
David Bowie: 1/10—A trendsetting, chameleonic, beloved British rocker, he was not only one of the genre’s all-time greats but one of the most important artists of the 20th century. He first came to our attention in 1969 with “Space Oddity” and continued to enthrall us for the rest of his life, particularly in the ’70s and ’80s. His death came unexpectedly, just days after the release of his final album, Blackstar.
Watch the official video for Bowie’s “Space Oddity”
Oscar Brand: 9/30—The 96-year-old was a folk singer, recording artist, songwriter, guitarist, bawdy song balladeer, sea chantey performer, radio broadcaster, television program host and much more.
Buckwheat Zydeco: 9/24—The Louisiana accordionist, born Stanley Dural Jr., helped popularize the genre from which he took his nickname. Among his fans were Eric Clapton, U2 and Robert Plant, each of whom performed with Dural.
Pete Burns: 10/23—The lead singer of the Liverpool-based dance-pop band Dead or Alive, who were best known for their 1985 #11 hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record).”
Al Caiola: 11/9—Best known for his recordings of the themes to Bonanza and The Magnificent Seven, the guitarist, who was 96, also worked with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel and others.
Phil Chess: 10/19—His Chess Records label released classic recordings by Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Etta James and other giants of early rock ’n’ roll, blues and R&B.
Don Ciccone: 10/8—The lead singer behind the Critters’ two big ’60s hits, “Younger Girl” and “Mr. Dieingly Sad.” He later sang falsetto on the Four Seasons’ hit “December 1963 (Oh What a Night).”
Guy Clark: 5/17—The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was a key figure in the progressive country and outlaw movements of the 1970s and a respected eminence grise in the current Americana music scene.
Leonard Cohen: 11/7—Just two weeks after the release of his newest album, You Want It Darker, the Canadian singer-songwriter-poet passed at age 82. Along with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and a handful of others, he’s been considered for decades one of our most visionary artists. His songs, particularly “Hallelujah” and “Suzanne,” have been covered dozens of times and his appeal and influence spans generations.
Watch the 2017 Academy Awards “In Memoriam” segment with a beautiful performance by Sara Bareilles. Though as The Hollywood Reporter noted on February 27, the picture intended for costume designer Janet Patterson who died in October 2016 was actually that of her friend / producer Jan Chapman who is “very much alive”…
Jerry Corbetta: 9/16—The former lead vocalist of Sugarloaf, best known for the top 10 singles “Green-Eyed Lady” (1970) and “Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You” (1974), went on to join Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
Patty Duke: 3/29—The beloved actress won an Oscar for her portrayal of Helen Keller in 1962’s The Miracle Worker. She then starred in her own sitcom, The Patty Duke Show. In 1965, she had a top 10 single, “Don’t Just Stand There.”
Keith Emerson: 3/11—The keyboardist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer brought theatricality to virtuosity. He first came to prominence with the British group the Nice, before splitting to form the progressive-rock trio with bassist/singer Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer. Fusing classical music elements with ambitious improvisation and bold showmanship, they became one of the most popular live music acts of the ’70s.
Glenn Frey: 1/18—One of the two primary vocalists and songwriters with the Eagles, he sang lead on the band’s 1972 breakthrough hit, “Take It Easy,” as well as “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Already Gone,” “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Tequila Sunrise” and “Heartache Tonight.” The group’s Hotel California album has sold over 32 million copies worldwide. Their first greatest hits collection has sold over 42 million copies.
Mic Gillette: 1/17—The brass virtuoso was a member of Bay Area bands Tower of Power, Cold Blood and the Sons of Champlin. He contributed to recordings by the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart and others.
Giorgio Gomelsky: 1/13—Producer, manager, songwriter, record label head, filmmaker and more, he was best known for his production work with the Yardbirds, Rod Stewart, John McLaughlin and others.
Dale “Buffin” Griffin: 1/17—A founding member of England’s Mott the Hoople, the drummer remained with the band until its demise, then produced bands like Hanoi Rocks and the Cult.
Merle Haggard: 4/6—One of the all-time great country music singer-songwriters, he was the personification of the genre’s outlaw movement, having done prison time earlier in life. His songs, including “Mama Tried,” “Working Man Blues,” “Sing Me Back Home” and, especially, “Okie from Muskogee,” defined the ’60s, in their own way, as much as any rock tune, and he influenced not only other country artists but rock bands such as the Grateful Dead and the Byrds.
Bill Ham: 6/18—Best known as the manager and producer of ZZ Top, he also operated a large country music publishing company.
Eddie Harsch: 11/4—The longtime Black Crowes keyboardist was scheduled to make his debut with the Magpie Salute, a spinoff band.
Dan Hicks: 2/6—After first impacting the Bay Area rock scene as drummer with the Charlatans, he switched to singing, songwriting and guitar playing and led the Hot Licks, one of the most innovative and enjoyable acoustic-based bands of the early ’70s. Hicks’ often sardonic humor (“How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away”) was tempered with gorgeous ballads (“I Scare Myself”). He continued to create and perform until late in his life.
Watch Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks play “By Hook or By Crook”
Bobby Hutcherson: 8/15: One of the most celebrated vibraphonists in jazz, he recorded a series of popular albums for the Blue Note label.
Wayne Jackson: 6/21—As trumpeter in the Mar-Keys and (along with saxophonist Andrew Love) the Memphis Horns, he played on hundreds of classic soul/R&B and rock/pop recordings.
Joan Marie Johnson: 10/5—An early member of the New Orleans girl group the Dixie Cups, she sang on hits like “Chapel of Love” and “Iko Iko.”
Sharon Jones: 11/18—A dynamic soul and funk singer in the mold of the ’60s and ’70s greats like Tina Turner and James Brown, she made her first recordings in her 40s, leading her band the Dap-Kings. Her struggle with cancer was documented in the film Miss Sharon Jones.
Paul Kantner: 1/28—A co-founder of Jefferson Airplane, he served as that band’s rhythm guitarist and one of its primary vocalists and songwriters, before going on to form the spinoff group Jefferson Starship. Among his co-writing credits were classic rock staples “Wooden Ships” and “Volunteers.” Kantner’s songs tended to explore areas such as sci-fi, space travel and political issues, but he also penned many romantic tunes.
Greg Lake: 12/7—The singer and bassist for the original King Crimson, he co-formed the massively popular prog-rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer in 1970. The group released nine albums in the ’70s. Lake also performed briefly with the band Asia and as had some success as a solo artist.
Gary Loizzo: 1/16—The lead vocalist for the American Breed, he sang on the 1968 top 5 single “Bend Me, Shape Me.”
John D. Loudermilk: 9/21—The songwriter behind such hits as “Indian Reservation” (Paul Revere and the Raiders), “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (the Casinos) and “Tobacco Road” (Nashville Teens) was also covered by everyone from Jefferson Airplane to Norah Jones.
Lonnie Mack: 4/21—The guitarist and singer was one of the first to demonstrate that virtuosic soloing has a place in rock music. His hits “Memphis” and “Wham!” influenced Stevie Ray Vaughan, Keith Richards and the Doors, with whom he recorded.
George Martin: 3/8—Whether or not he was the greatest record producer ever, he produced the Beatles, and that was enough. Martin drew out the best music that the quartet could possibly muster, always driving them to try new things, to use the studio as a creative tool. He did produce other artists, but it’s his work with the Beatles, from their early, simpler pop compositions through Revolver and Sgt. Pepper and beyond, that will always define his genius.
Henry McCullough: 6/14—The guitarist was best known for his work with Paul McCartney and Wings, Joe Cocker’s Grease Band and Spooky Tooth.
Gayle McCormick: 3/1—The singer for the one-hit group Smith, she was the voice powering the top 5 1969 cover of “Baby, It’s You,” originally a hit for the Shirelles.
Nick Menza: 5/21—The Germany-born, L.A.-based drummer for metal band Megadeth from 1989-98 and then again in 2004 and 2014, he recorded on four of the band’s ’90s albums.
George Michael: 12/25—The British pop singer first enjoyed 1980s success in the duo Wham! He then established superstar status with his solo debut, Faith. His huge hits include “Careless Whisper,” “I Want Your Sex” and “Father Figure.”
Billy Miller: 11/13—As singer with the bands the Zantees and the A-Bones, as co-operator of Norton Records and the fanzine Kicks, he was a tireless promoter of rockabilly, vintage R&B, ’60s garage bands and contemporary music celebrating those genres.
Chips Moman: 6/13—The producer of such Elvis Presley classics as “Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain” also produced the Box Tops, the Highwaymen, Dusty Springfield, Bobby Womack, Wilson Pickett, Willie Nelson, Mark Lindsay, Carla Thomas and others. He also wrote hit songs for Aretha Franklin and others.
Scotty Moore: 6/28—He will forever be known for one thing he did: playing guitar behind Elvis Presley on the singer’s early Sun Records sides (and some of his RCA hits as well). He later reunited with Elvis for the latter’s 1968 “comeback” TV special.
Watch Scotty Moore perform with Elvis on The Milton Berle Show in 1956
Andy Newman: 3/29—A member of the Pete Townshend-created band Thunderclap Newman (who took their name from his own nickname), he was on that band’s sole big hit, “Something in the Air,” in 1969.
Rick Parfitt: 12/24—He was the guitarist of the British blues-rock legends Status Quo, best known in the U.S. for 1968’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”
Billy Paul: 4/24—The soul singer best known for his 1972 #1 smash, “Me and Mrs. Jones,” he was among the stable of artists on the hugely successful Philadelphia International roster overseen by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
Gary S. Paxton: 7/16—The producer of the #1 hits “Monster Mash” (Bobby “Boris” Pickett) and “Alley Oop” (Hollywood Argyles), he also produced hit records for Tommy Roe and served as half of the duo Skip and Flip (“It Was I”).
Sandy Pearlman: 7/26—Best known as the producer of seven Blue Öyster Cult albums, he also produced the Clash, the Dictators and other bands.
Prince: 4/21—Along with that of Bowie, his death was the most unfathomable of 2016. His facility at mixing rock, funk and soul into something all his own captivated listeners from the beginning of his career in the late ’70s. He would ultimately become one of the biggest selling recording acts of all-time with album sales in excess of 100 million. Prince was exceedingly prolific and never less than innovative—he was a virtuosic musician, tirelessly creative songwriter, a visually arresting performer and wholly original.
Prince Buster: 9/8—One of the most important figures in Jamaican ska and rocksteady, he was a major influence on British bands like Madness and the Specials.
Debbie Reynolds: 12/28—In addition to her remarkable acting career, she was also a recording artist. She had a #1 hit in 1957 with “Tammy.”
Matt Roberts: 8/20—A founding member of 3 Doors Down, the guitarist had left the band in 2012 after 16 years.
Leon Russell: 11/13—His legacy is that of both a musician and songwriter. Rock Hall of Famer Russell played with a who’s-who of musicians during his accomplished career, including fellow legends Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Glen Campbell and the Rolling Stones. He organized Joe Cocker’s legendary 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour and also performed at George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh. (Scroll down to the bottom for a great video of the Bangladesh rehearsal.)
Frank Sinatra Jr.: 3/16—Although never a popular recording artist like his father, he was a consistent draw as a concert performer and also appeared on TV programs, including The Sopranos.
Ralph Stanley: 6/23—As half of the Stanley Brothers and on his own, the singer and banjoist was one of the names most synonymous with bluegrass music.
Lewis Steinberg: 7/21—The original bassist for Memphis’ Booker T. and the MG’s, he was replaced by Donald “Duck” Dunn, but only after he played on the group’s first and best known hit, “Green Onions.”
Robert Stigwood: 1/4—He is best known as the manager of the Bee Gees but before that he also managed Cream (and then Eric Clapton solo). He also created the RSO Records label.
Dave Swarbrick: 6/3—One of the most influential fiddlers of the British folk revival, he was best known for his tenure in Fairport Convention.
Rod Temperton: 10/5—The British songwriter penned Michael Jackson’s massive hits “Thriller,” “Off the Wall” and “Rock With You,” and was a member of the R&B group Heatwave.
Toots Thielemans: 8/22—Perhaps the greatest harmonica player in jazz, his music was also used in movies and TV, and on recordings by Billy Joel, Paul Simon and others.
John Thomas: 3/3—He was a former guitarist of the Welsh hard rock band Budgie, described as a cross between heavy metal and prog-rock.
Pat Upton: 7/27—He was the former lead singer of the band Spiral Starecase, best known for their 1969 hit “More Today Than Yesterday.”
Vanity: 2/15—The lead singer of the group Vanity 6, she was a protégé of Prince, who produced their biggest hit, “Nasty Girl.”
Bobby Vee: 10/24—A teen idol singer of the ’60s, his big hits included “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Rubber Ball” and “Come Back When You Grow Up.”
Alan Vega: 7/16—Half of the punk/electronics duo Suicide, he was prominent on the early CBGB scene in New York City. Suicide’s influence extended from Henry Rollins to Bruce Springsteen to Daft Punk.
Rob Wasserman: 6/29—The Grammy-winning bassist collaborated with a long list of artists, including Bob Weir, Van Morrison, Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Jerry Garcia, Brian Wilson, Neil Young and Jackson Browne.
Maurice White: 2/4—The founder and leader of R&B giants Earth, Wind and Fire, he shaped the band’s distinctive brass-heavy sound and helped them sell over 100 million records and win seven Grammys. Before forming the group, he recorded with Muddy Waters, the Impressions and Fontella Bass, among others. He also played drums with the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Among EWF’s biggest hits were “Shining Star,” “After the Love Has Gone” and “September.”
Watch Earth, Wind and Fire performing “September”
James Woolley: 8/14—The keyboardist was a member of Nine Inch Nails for a brief period, 1991-94.
Bernie Worrell: 6/24—The keyboardist was best known for his work with Parliament-Funkadelic and Talking Heads. He also collaborated with Keith Richards, the Pretenders, Les Claypool, Fela Kuti and others.
Glenn Yarbrough: 8/11—He first came to prominence as one-third of folk’s Limeliters, then enjoyed a top 20 single in 1965 with “Baby the Rain Must Fall.”
Pete Zorn: 4/19—Adept on six-string and bass guitar as well as mandolin, saxophone, flute and tin whistle, plus as a backing vocalist, he was a longtime accompanist of guitarist/singer Richard Thompson.
Bonus video: Leon Russell with George Harrison and Eric Clapton at the Bangladesh concert rehearsal
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