2018 in Review: A Farewell to Those Who Left Us

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We lost many greats of the music world in 2018: musicians and singers, songwriters and producers, music industry giants and others who made it all happen.

They span all genres, from the soul of Aretha Franklin to the great guitar work of Roy Clark, early Fleetwood Mac member Danny Kirwan and the Ventures’ Nokie Edwards; to classic rock voices like Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin and The Cranberries‘ Dolores O’Riordan. We’ll miss the blues of Otis Rush, the jazz of Hugh Masekela and Nancy Wilson, and the swamp-rock sound of Tony Joe White. 

Here we pay tribute to some of those who’ve left us in 2018. 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.

Of course, we couldn’t get to everyone, and we’d also like to salute those outside of the music world whose lives touched us: actors and actresses like Burt Reynolds and Margot Kidder and director Bernardo Bertolucci; food artist Anthony Bourdain; comic book visionary Stan Lee; playwright Neil Simon; authors Tom Wolff and Philip Roth; and even a brilliant physicist, Stephen Hawking.

(The names are listed alphabetically by surname, followed by the date of death and a brief description of their place in our world.)

Maartin Allcock—9/16—The multi-instrumentalist played with Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull and others.

Barbara Alston—2/16—As one of the singers with the Crystals, produced by Phil Spector, she sang lead on hits like “Uptown.”

Charles Aznavour—10/1—One of the most popular singers in France, his career spanned 70 years.

Marty Balin—9/27—The co-founder of Jefferson Airplane, he sang lead along with Grace Slick and later joined the spinoff group Jefferson Starship.

John Perry Barlow—2/7—A writer, rancher, Internet pioneer and more, his rock connection was via the Grateful Dead, as the lyricist for many of Bob Weir’s songs.

George Cameron—6/24—He was an original member of the Left Banke, of “Walk Away Renee” fame. 

Leon “Ndugu” Chancler—2/3—The drummer worked within jazz, R&B and pop, providing the beat for Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Tina Turner and many others.

Jerry Chesnut—Dec. 15—The songwriter was responsible for such hits as “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” (Elvis Presley) and “Good year for the Roses” (Elvis Costello) 

Roy Clark—11/15—A stunning guitarist and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, he was best known as a regular on the country TV program Hee Haw

“Fast” Eddie Clarke—1/10—The last surviving member of Motörhead’s classic lineup, he played on the metal band’s most popular albums.

Eddy Clearwater—6/4—A mainstay on the Chicago blues scene since the 1950s, he played with Magic Sam, Otis Rush and others.

Buzz Clifford—1/26—The singer was best known for his 1961 novelty hit “Baby Sittin’ Boogie.”

Lorrie Collins—8/4—The older half of the sibling rockabilly act the Collins Kids, she once played Ricky Nelson’s girlfriend on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

Peter “Mars” Cowling—3/20—The English bassist was best known as a member of Canada’s Pat Travers Band.

Vic Damone—2/11—Frank Sinatra was known to say that the easy-listening singer had “the best pipes in the business.”

Dennis Edwards—2/3—He replaced David Ruffin in the Temptations in 1968 and sang on hits such as “Cloud Nine.” 

Nokie Edwards—3/12—The lead guitarist of the Ventures, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, had a huge influence on other would-be rockers in the ’60s. 

Geoff Emerick—10/2—He worked as the Beatles’ engineer on such landmark recordings as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road.

Paul McCartney and others paid tribute to Geoff Emerick after his death

Terry Evans—1/20—The blues singer and guitarist collaborated with Ry Cooder, John Fogerty, Boz Scaggs and others.

Jimmy Farrar—10/29—The Molly Hatchet singer appeared on two of the band’s albums in the early 1980s.

DJ Fontana—6/13—The drummer on Elvis Presley’s seminal Sun Records releases and in the early RCA years, his influence was enormous. 

Sonny Fortune—10/25—The popular jazz saxophonist worked with Nat Adderley, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders and under his own name.

Clarence Fountain—6/3—A founding member and longtime leader of the gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama, he remained with them for nearly seven decades. 

Hardy Fox—10/30—Although the avant-garde group the Residents remained anonymous throughout their multi-decade run, it was assumed (and later confirmed) that Fox was a core member. 

Aretha Franklin—8/16—She was the undisputed Queen of Soul, one of the most beloved figures in popular music of the past five decades. 

Read the tributes that poured in following Aretha’s passing

Norman Gimbel—12/19—He wrote the lyrics for such hit songs as “Killing me Softly With His Song” and “The Girl From Ipanema,” as well as the themes from several hit TV shows.

Rick Hall—1/2—The co-founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala., and a legendary producer, he worked on countless R&B hits.

Here are the people we lost in 2017.

Billy Hancock—1/22—For more than 50 years, the singer and multi-instrumentalist worked primarily in the rockabilly genre.

Roy Hargrove—11/2—The Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter combined multiple genres but played primarily in the hard bop style.

Mike Harrison—3/25—The singer of the British band Spooky Tooth appeared on their key 1970s albums.

Freddie Hart—10/27—The popular country singer was best known for his 1971 hit “Easy Loving.”

Edwin Hawkins—1/15—The leader of the gospel group that bore his name enjoyed a top 10 hit in 1969 with “Oh Happy Day.” 

George Hawkins Jr.—date unknown—The bassist played with Fleetwood Mac, John Fogerty, Loggins and Messina, and others.

Jon Hiseman—6/12—The drummer was a founding member of the English prog-jazz group Colosseum, and also played with John Mayall and others.

Read our obituary of Jon Hiseman

Dave Holland—1/16—The English drummer was best remembered for his work with Trapeze and Judas Priest.

Tab Hunter—7/8—Although better known as an actor, he was also a popular singer and had a chart-topping ballad in 1957 with “Young Love.” 

Dan Ingram—6/24—One of the great New York City AM radio disc jockeys of the 1960s, he reigned on WABC during the peak of the Top 40 era.

Mickey Jones—2/7—He later became a prolific character actor but his brush with rock included playing drums for Bob Dylan during the latter’s famous 1966 tour.

Ed King—8/22—He was the guitarist for Strawberry Alarm Clock (“Incense and Peppermints”) before joining a new Florida band called Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Danny Kirwan—6/8—Back in 1968, when Fleetwood Mac was a fledgling British blues band, he joined them as a guitarist, singer and songwriter, staying on board until 1972.

Read our obituary of Danny Kirwan

Nick Knox—6/15—The drummer of the “psychobilly” favorites the Cramps, he toured with them for more than a decade.

Honey Lantree—12/23—One of few female drummers in the early days of rock, she played on the Honeycombs’ 1964 Top 10 hit “Have I the Right?”

Denise LaSalle—1/8—The blues and R&B singer was best known for tracks like “Trapped by a Thing Called Love” and “Down Home Blues.”

Lazy Lester—8/22—The blues musician, who played harmonica and guitar, enjoyed a career of more than six decades.

Alan Longmuir—7/2—A co-founder of the Scottish pop group the Bay City Rollers, he later recorded under his own name. 

Galt MacDermot—12/17—He composed the music for the groundbreaking Broadway musical Hair, which produced several top-selling hits

Craig MacGregor—2/9—The longtime Foghat bassist joined the band in 1976 and stayed for six years.

Vince Martin—7/6—The American folk singer recorded with the group the Tarriers before making records with Fred Neil and on his own.

Hugh Masekela—1/23—The South African jazz trumpet legend had a rock connection: he played on the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star,” had a #1 hit of his own with “Grazing in the Grass” and performed at the Monterey Pop Festival. 

Hugh McDowell—11/6—The cellist performed with Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) at their early gigs and on their first recordings.

Read our farewell to Hugh McDowell

John McElrath—6/9—A co-founder of the Swingin’ Medallions, he was a singer and keyboardist on their big hit “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love).”

Big Jay McNeely—9/16—The saxophonist was a fixture on many early R&B and rock ’n’ roll recordings.

Matt “Guitar” Murphy—6/15—Best known for his role in the Blues Brothers in the late ’70s and ’80s, he was already a professional musician for three decades by that time. 

Charles Neville—4/26—The saxophonist was the second oldest member of New Orleans’ funky Neville Brothers.

Dolores O’Riordan—1/15—The singer for the Irish band the Cranberries, which enjoyed major success in the early 1990s, was known for her lush, emotive style. 

Joe Osborn—12/14—The bassist was a member of L.A. famed Wrecking Crew, playing on hundreds of hit records of the ’60s and ’70s.

Vinnie Paul—6/22—The drummer for metal’s Pantera co-founded the group in 1981 and remained on board through their most successful period, the 1990s.

Eugene Pitt—6/29—The lead singer of the Jive Five led such hits as “My True Story” and “I’m a Happy Man.”

Bob Plotnik—11/29—The proprietor of New York City’s famed Bleecker Bob’s Records was a colorful character who made shopping for music an adventure.

Tom Rapp—2/11—Best known as the leader of the ’60s/early ’70s folk/psychedelic group Pearls Before Swine, he later became a solo artist.

Jim Rodford—1/20—He went from playing bass in Argent to the Kinks and then the reconstituted Zombies. 

Otis Rush—9/29—One of the last of the Chicago blues greats from the classic era, he influenced the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and others.

Conway Savage—9/2—The Australian keyboardist spent a few years in the ’90s as a member of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Ray Sawyer—12/31—He sang the lead vocal on Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show’s big 1972-73 hit “The Cover of Rolling Stone.”

Glenn Schwartz—11/2—The original guitarist of the James Gang, he then joined the band Pacific Gas & Electric.

Randy Scruggs—4/17—The Grammy-winning son of bluegrass great Earl Scruggs served as a producer, songwriter and artist.

Pete Shelley—12/6—One of the leading figures in British punk, he was the lead singer of the Buzzcocks throughout the band’s run and then went solo. 

Peter Simon—11/18—The photographer brother of Carly Simon shot rock artists prolifically and was especially renowned for his photos of the Grateful Dead.

Mark E. Smith—1/24—The founder, singer and songwriter of the British band the Fall released more than 30 albums beginning in 1979.

Russ Solomon—3/4—He founded the worldwide Tower Records chain.

Yvonne Staples—4/10—The youngest sibling member of the Staple Singers, she joined the gospel/R&B group in 1970.

Cecil Taylor—4/5—The renowned jazz pianist was a leader of the genre’s avant-garde wing, working with poets and dancers as well as a variety of musicians.

Ray Thomas—1/4—A composer, flutist and singer with the Moody Blues, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. 

Pat Torpey—2/7—The drummer was a founding member of Mr. Big, still with the band when it released its ninth album in 2017.

Wah Wah Watson—10/24—The guitarist played for virtually every major Motown act, including the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5 and Marvin Gaye.

Randy Weston—9/1—The New York City-born jazz pianist specialized in bridging African musical concepts with the American art form.

Tony Joe White—10/24—The “swamp-rock” singer behind the 1968 hit “Polk Salad Annie” also wrote the song “Rainy Night in Georgia” and many others.

John Wicks—10/7—He was the lead vocalist and co-songwriter for the British power pop band the Records, known for their 1979 hit “Starry Eyes.”

Eddie Willis—8/2—The guitarist was an original member of Motown’s in-house Funk Brothers band, playing with Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops and others.

Nancy Wilson—12/13—She preferred to call herself a song stylist but is recognized mainly for her recordings in the jazz category, including the 1964 top 20 hit “How Glad I Am.”

Read our obituary of Nancy Wilson

Jimmy Wisner—3/13—A songwriter, arranger, conductor and producer for dozens of artists, he also scored a top 10 single of his own with “Asia Minor” in 1961.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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