2017 in Review: A Farewell to Those Who Left Us

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We lost many greats of the music world in 2017: musicians and singers, songwriters and producers, music industry giants and others who made it all happen. Here we pay tribute to some of those who’ve left us in 2017. 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 by surname, followed by the date of death and a brief description of their place in our world.)

Gregg Allman: 5/27—The singer, keyboard player, guitarist and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band was the backbone of the band since its inception in the late ’60s, a towering presence in classic rock. Gregg’s final solo album, Southern Blood, was released posthumously and is up for two Grammys.

Related: Read our previously unpublished 2015 interview with Gregg Allman

Tommy Allsup: 1/11—He was a guitarist for Buddy Holly who was a member of the backup band on “the day the music died,” Feb. 3, 1959. Like others that day, Allsup turned down a lift on the fateful flight that took Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper.

Joey Alves: 3/12—The original rhythm guitarist for hard-rockers Y&T, he performed on the band’s debut album.

Chuck Barris on The Gong Show

Chuck Barris: 3/21—Although best known as the host of The Gong Show, he had a rock connection as the composer of the 1962 Freddy Cannon hit “Palisades Park.”

Walter Becker: 9/3—The co-founder and guitarist of Steely Dan had been ill for several years and missed a few key gigs in the months preceding his passing. Becker co-wrote all of Steely Dan’s material and played on all of their albums.

Related: Steely Dan’s final concert with Walter Becker

Jimmy Beaumont: 10/8—The lead singer of the Skyliners was heard on the classic 1959 ballad “Since I Don’t Have You” and other doo-wop hits.

Chester Bennington: 7/20—The lead singer for Linkin Park also sang with Stone Temple Pilots.

Chuck Berry: 3/18—The poet laureate of rock ’n’ roll, he influenced generations of rockers via his relatable lyrics and a guitar style that defined rock ‘n’ roll. His songs—including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Sweet Little Sixteen”—were covered by thousands of artists, including the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

Watch Chuck Berry perform “Johnny B. Goode” in the amazing 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show

Related: 17 classic Chuck Berry covers

Charles Bradley: 9/23—The soul revivalist didn’t turn professional until he was nearly 50, then cut a string of fired-up recordings for the Daptone label.

Lonnie Brooks: 4/1—The guitarist and singer combined Chicago blues, rock ’n’ roll, Memphis soul, swampy Louisiana grooves and country twang into a style that his fellow musicians called “voodoo blues.”

Paul Buckmaster: 11/7—The arranger worked on landmark recordings by David Bowie, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Miles Davis, Harry Nilsson, Heart and others.

Sonny Burgess: 8/18—The Rockabilly Hall of Fame member cut several sides for Sun Records and toured with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and others.

Glen Campbell: 8/8—His music straddled the worlds of pop and country easily, and in addition to big hits like “Wichita Lineman,” “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” he was even a touring member of the Beach Boys for a short while.

Valerie Carter

Related: 13 times when Glen Campbell rocked

Valerie Carter: 3/4—A longtime member of James Taylor’s band, she also contributed to recordings by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, Ringo Starr and others.

David Cassidy: 11/21—The actor and singer was best known for his role on The Partridge Family and was a massively popular teen idol in the early ’70s. After the show folded he went solo.

Watch David Cassidy sing “I Think I Love You,” his first hit with the Partridge Family

Wayne Cochran: 11/21—The soul rocker with the oversized platinum pompadour was a wild performer who later left secular music behind to become a preacher.

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell: 5/18—The lead vocalist, primary songwriter and rhythm guitarist for Soundgarden and Audioslave was one of the architects of the grunge movement. Soundgarden hit their peak with 1994’s Superunknown album.

Larry Coryell: 2/19—The jazz-rock guitarist was sometimes called the “father of fusion.” He played psychedelic rock in the ’60s before moving into a more jazz-oriented direction.

James Cotton: 3/16—The legendary blues harmonica master not only made records and toured under his own name but also helped out everyone from Steve Miller to the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin and Santana.

Gary DeCarlo: 6/28—The singer for the classic one-hit wonder group Steam, his voice is heard on the 1969 hit song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”

Holger Czukay: 9/5—The bassist and co-founder of the experimental German band Can influenced artists like David Bowie, Radiohead, Talking Heads and John Lydon of the Sex Pistols.

Related: Our salute to those who passed in 2016

Pat DiNizio: 12/12—The lead vocalist and chief songwriter of the ’80s/’90s pop-rock band the Smithereens was best known for melodic songs like “Blood and Roses” and “A Girl Like You.”

Fats Domino: 10/24—A charter inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the New Orleans pianist and singer was known for hits such as “Ain’t That a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Blue Monday” and “I’m Walkin’.” Among the many influenced by him were the Beatles, whose “Lady Madonna” was a tribute to Domino’s style.

Watch Fats Domino perform “Blueberry Hill” on Austin City Limits

Gord Downie: 10/17—The lead singer and lyricist for the Canadian band the Tragically Hip also released six solo albums.

Bobby Freeman: 1/23—The singer was best known for the original hit “Do You Wanna Dance” (which he wrote). It was later covered by the Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys and the Ramones.

Jim Fuller: 3/3—As the lead guitarist of the Surfaris, he is remembered mainly for one song, “Wipe Out,” the most famous surf instrumental of all.

Jay Geils: 4/11: He was the guitarist and namesake of the soul-inspired Boston band known for putting on one of the most intensely fun live shows around, and for hits like “Centerfold” and “Love Stinks.”

Sonny Geraci: 2/5—He was the lead singer with two very different bands that scored two very different hits: the Outsiders (“Time Won’t Let Me”) and Climax “(“Precious and Few”).

Pentti Glan: 11/7—The drummer is best known for his work with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper.

Jack Good: 9/24—He created and produced Shindig!, the variety show that brought many ’60s rock stars to TV for the first time.

Watch Glen Campbell sing “Dream Baby” on Shindig!, with an introduction by Jack Good

Buddy Greco: 1/10—The pop singer recorded more than 60 albums over a seven-decade career. He became a Las Vegas perennial later in his life.

Johnny Hallyday: 12/6—The “French Elvis” never gained a foothold in the U.S. but in his home country he was a national hero.

Rosie Hamlin: 3/30—The singer for Rosie and the Originals had her only big hit in 1960 with “Angel Baby,” which John Lennon later covered.

Col. Bruce Hampton: 5/1—The “jam band patriarch” and former leader of the Hampton Grease Band and Aquarium Rescue Unit died onstage during his own tribute concert

Grant Hart: 9/14—The drummer/singer of the Minnesota band Hüsker Dü released several live recordings after the demise of the pioneering American alt-rock trio.

Sib Hashian: 3/22—The original drummer of Boston played on their self-titled debut and its followup, Don’t Look Back.

Dave Hlubek: 8/28—One of the founding lead guitarists of Southern rock band Molly Hatchet, he wrote their song “Flirtin’ With Disaster.”

Robbie Hoddinott: 3/6—He was the lead guitarist of Kingfish, a Bob Weir-led Grateful Dead spinoff that launched in the early ’70s.

Allan Holdsworth

Allan Holdsworth: 4/16—The jazz rock-fusion guitar great influenced such axe-slingers as Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa and Joe Satriani.

Richie Ingui: 1/13—He was a founding member of the Soul Survivors, the group that scored a hit with “Expressway to Your Heart,” an early Gamble and Huff production.

Al Jarreau: 2/12—The vocal great was the only artist to win Grammys in the jazz, pop and R&B categories, and was one of the singers on the legendary “We Are the World” single.

Related: What were the best new releases by classic rock artists in 2017?

Michael Johnson: 7/25—His biggest hit was “Bluer Than Blue” in 1978 and he also placed five other singles on the Billboard chart.

Tommy Keene: 11/22—A favorite among fans of the power pop and new wave genres, he had a hit with “Places That Are Gone” in 1984.

Robert Knight: 11/5—The singer who had the first hit with “Everlasting Love” recorded the tune in Nashville with local session musicians.

Bruce Langhorne: 4/14—The inspiration behind “Mr. Tambourine Man” also played guitar on Dylan’s Bringing it All Back Home album.

Murray Lerner: 9/2—He directed the documentary film Festival, which covered the Newport Folk Festivals of 1963-65, including Dylan’s game-changing “going electric” moment.

Tommy LiPuma: 3/13—The renowned record producer was behind the board on recordings by Paul McCartney, Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Miles Davis and many others.

Mitch Margo: 11/24—He was only 14 years old when he provided the lead vocal for the Tokens on “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.”

Goldy McJohn: 8/1—His organ was a vital component on early Steppenwolf hits like “Born to Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.”

Watch a video of Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride”

Pete Moore: 11/19—The original member of the Miracles was a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who sang on their biggest hits and wrote songs for the Temptations and others.

Junie Morrison: 1/21—He was a producer, writer, keyboardist, vocalist and founder of the legendary funk band the Ohio Players, as well as the musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic.

Related: What were the best new boxed sets and reissues of 2017?

Chuck Mosley: 11/9—He joined the funk/metal band Faith No More in 1983, singing lead and writing songs on their first two albums.

Jimmy Nalls: 6/22—The guitarist was a founding ember of the Southern rock group Sea Level.

David Peel: 4/6—The folk singer was a New York street performer who made records such as “I Like Marijuana” and the Lennon/Ono-produced album The Pope Smoke Dope.

Tom Petty: 10/2—A giant of the classic rock genre for more than four decades, he and his band the Heartbreakers updated the sound of folk-rock and then branched out, becoming one of the most consistently brilliant songwriters and dynamic performers in rock.

Watch Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform “I Won’t Back Down” on their final tour

Skip Prokop: 8/30—The drummer and leader of the popular Canadian jazz-rock group Lighthouse (and before that the Paupers, who performed at the Monterey Pop Festival) also played with Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper on their Live Adventures album.

Keni Richards: 4/8—The original drummer of the metal band Autograph, he played on the band’s only hit single, 1984’s “Turn Up the Radio,” and their Sign In Please album.

Lyle Ritz: 3/3—The bassist was a member of the Wrecking Crew studio group, who played on hundreds of hits by the Beach Boys, the Righteous Brothers, the Monkees and others.

Maggie Roche: 1/21—Along with her two sisters she was a member of the Roches, a popular vocal trio who sang on a Paul Simon album before becoming successful on their own.

Johnny Sandlin: 9/19—The producer, engineer and musician was a presence on the Southern music scene for decades, working on three Allman Brothers Band albums and others in the Southern rock genre.

Bunny Sigler: 10/6—The R&B perennial worked with songwriters-producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff to help create the “Philly Sound.”

Joni Sledge: 3/10—She was one of Sister Sledge, the four sisters behind the disco classic “We Are Family,” produced by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards of Chic.

Keely Smith: 12/16—The jazz/pop singer was the perfect foil to her musical partner/husband, Louis Prima, and then went on to success on her own. Her signature hit was “That Old Black magic.”

Rick Stevens: 9/5—The singer on the first two albums by the Bay Area funk group Tower of Power was heard on their classics “Sparkling in the Sand” and “You’re Still a Young Man.”

Clyde Stubblefield: 2/18—“The Funky Drummer” in James Brown’s band, he played on such landmark funk hits as “Cold Sweat,” “Sex Machine,” and “Say It Loud—I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

Banner Thomas: 4/10—From 1978-1983, he played on the first four Molly Hatchet albums, including the Southern rock band’s hit “Flirtin’ With Disaster.”

Butch Trucks: 1/24—One of the two drummers in the Allman Brothers Band since its inception, he also played with his own band, Butch Trucks and the Freight Train.

Watch the Allman Brothers Band perform “Whipping Post”

Guy Villari: 9/21—With his group the Regents, he sang lead on the original version of “Barbara Ann,” later a hit for the Beach Boys.

Leon Ware: 2/23—Although he recorded more than a dozen albums, his greatest success came as a songwriter for Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, the Isley Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner.

Mott The Hoople in 1974 (Photo from their Wikipedia page)

Pete Overend Watts: 1/22—The original bassist for the ’70s British band Mott the Hoople, it was he who requested a song from David Bowie, who gave them “All the Young Dudes.”

Related: Our 2017 guide to classic rock Christmas releases

Fred Weintraub: 3/5—He launched the New York club the Bitter End, which hosted early gigs by Dylan and others, including Billy Joel, Neil Diamond, Dion, Carole King and Van Morrison.

John Wetton: 1/31—The singer and bassist of the prog-rock supergroup Asia also played with UK, Uriah Heep and King Crimson, as well as working as a solo artist.

Don Williams: 9/8—The balladeer placed 50 singles and 20 albums on the Billboard country charts beginning in the early ’70s, and was a founding member of pop’s Pozo-Seco Singers in the ’60s.

George Young: 10/22—The older brother of AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, who also passed this year (see below), he not only produced many of the Australian band’s albums but was previously a member of the Easybeats, of “Friday on My Mind” fame.

Malcolm Young: 11/18—The co-founder of AC/DC and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee was hailed on his passing as one of rock’s most original guitarists and songwriters.

Related: The inside story of AC/DC’s Back in Black album

Watch AC/DC’s “Back in Black” video


Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. litsi
    #1 litsi 9 December, 2017, 17:24

    Thank you for compiling this list!

    Reply this comment
  2. Jimmy
    #2 Jimmy 15 December, 2017, 02:33

    Please do not forget John “J” Geils. Ain’t nothin’ but a house party! Rock in peace!

    Reply this comment

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