Musicians We Lost in 2020

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Five of the greats who have left us in 2020. From left to right: Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy, Eddie Van Halen, Neil Peart and Little Richard

The year 2020 was brutal. The Covid-19 pandemic took from us many musical greats, preying especially hard on the elders of the community. But even without the virus, it was a tough year.

Below are just some of the many artists we lost in 2020. They are arranged alphabetically, the artist’s name followed by the death date and a brief description of who they were.

If an artist’s name is highlighted in blue, you can click on it to be taken to Best Classic Bands’ full obituary of that artist.

Below the list of musical artists, we’ve also noted several other prominent figures whose lives were lost in 2020.

We will miss all of these great talents. RIP.

Rance Allen—10/31—Gospel artist

Tony Allen—4/30—Pioneering Afrobeat drummer with Fela Kuti, others

Sweet Pea Atkinson—5/5—Singer with Was (Not Was)

Frankie Banali—8/20—Quiet Riot drummer

Len Barry—11/5—Singer of the ’60s hits “Bristol Stomp” (with the Dovells) and “1-2-3.”

Bucky Baxter—5/25—Pedal steel guitarist for Bob Dylan, others

Harold Beane—2/1—played wah-wah guitar on Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By”

Ronald Bell—9/9—Kool and the Gang co-founder

Bob Biggs—10/17—Founder of Los Angeles punk label Slash Records

Martin Birch—8/9—Producer of Fleetwood Mac, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, others

Hamilton Bohannon—4/24—Drummer/percussionist for Motown artists; producer, bandleader in disco era

Claude Bolling—12/29—French jazz pianist

Julian Bream—8/14—Classical guitarist

Harold Budd—12/8—Avant-garde composer who worked with Brian Eno, others

Johnny Bush—10/16—Country artist/songwriter, wrote “Whiskey River”

Edd Byrnes—1/8—77 Sunset Strip actor and singer of “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb”

Buddy Cage—2/5—Pedal steel guitarist for New Riders of the Purple Sage

Cándido—11/7—Conga player who was named an NEA Jazz Master (full name: Cándido Camero)

Jimmy Capps—6/1—Nashville session guitarist and longtime Grand Ole Opry member

Steve Martin Caro—1/14—Vocalist with the Left Banke, of “Walk Away Renee” fame

Pete Carr—6/27—Muscle Shoals session guitarist

Paul Chapman—6/9—Guitarist with UFO

Jeff Clayton—12/17—Jazz saxophonist

Jimmy Cobb—5/24—Jazz drummer; played on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album

Freddy Cole—6/27—Jazz pianist/vocalist, brother of Nat “King” Cole

Richie Cole—5/2—Jazz saxophonist

Simon Coxe—9/8—Synthesizer pioneer with ’60s band Silver Apples

Max Crook—7/1—Keyboardist on Del Shannon’s hit “Runaway”

Charlie Daniels—7/6—Southern rock pioneer, session musician, producer

Mac Davis—9/29—Songwriter for Elvis Presley, singer of “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me”

Spencer Davis—10/19—Leader of British band that scored with the Steve Winwood-sung “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man”

Tommy DeVito—9/21—Member of the original Four Seasons

Manu Dibango—5/24—African musician known for 1972 hit “Soul Makossa”

Joe Diffie—3/29—Country singer/songwriter

Gloria Dobbins—9/21—Founding member of the Marvelettes, wrote “Please Mr. Postman”

Carl Dobkins, Jr.—4/8—Singer of 1959 hit “My Heart is an Open Book”

Terry Doran—4/18—Longtime Beatles associate

Judy Dyble—7/12—Founding member of Fairport Convention

Justin Townes Earle—8/23—Singer-songwriter, son of Steve Earle

Cleveland Eaton—7/5—Jazz bassist

Paul English—2/11—Drummer for Willie Nelson

Bent Fabric—7/28—Composer and artist behind the early ’60s instrumental dance hit “Alley Cat”

Pat Fairley—8/11—Co-founder of Marmalade; played acoustic guitar on “Reflections of My Life”

Steve Farmer—4/7—Amboy Dukes member; co-wrote “Journey to the Center of the Mind”

Majek Fashek—6/1—Nigerian reggae singer

Tom Finn—6/27—Co-founder of the Left Banke, of “Walk Away Renee” fame

Snooky Flowers—3/9—Saxophonist; was member of Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band

Wayne Fontana—8/6—Singer of 1965 British Invasion hit “Game of Love”

Andy Gill—1/1—Guitarist with the Gang of Four

Ivry Gitlis—12/24—Israeli classical violinist who played with Yoko Ono on The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus

Marty Grebb—1/1—Musician with Buckinghams, Chicago, others

Peter Green—7/25—Co-founder of Fleetwood Mac

Dave Greenfield—5/3—Keyboardist with the Stranglers

Albert Griffiths—12/15—Co-founder of reggae group the Gladiators

Henry Grimes—4/17—Jazz bassist

Steve Grossman—8/13—Jazz saxophonist

Tommy Hancock—1/1—Known as the “Godfather of West Texas music”

Andre Harrell—5/8—Music business executive

Alex Harvey—4/4—Country songwriter/musician; wrote Kenny Rogers’ “Reuben James”

Gordon Haskell—10/16—King Crimson member in 1970; later a singer-songwriter

Roy Head—9/21—Singer of 1965 hit “Treat Her Right”

Jimmy Heath—1/19—Jazz saxophonist with the Heath Brothers

Ken Hensley—11/4—Uriah Heep founding member

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert—9/11—Reggae pioneer who led Toots and the Maytals

Bones Hillman—1-7—Bassist of Midnight Oil

Rupert Hine—6/5—British musician who produced albums for Tina Turner, others

Steve Holland—8/2—Early Molly Hatchet guitarist

W.S. “Fluke” Holland—9/23—Drummer for Johnny Cash for more than four decades

Tony Hooper—11/18—Guitarist for the Strawbs

Jan Howard—3/28—Country singer

Brian Howe—5/6—Bad Company frontman in late ’80s/early ’90s

Pamela Hutchinson—9/18—Singer with the Emotions (“Best of My Love”)

Kenny Jeremiah—12/4—Co-founder of the Soul Survivors (“Expressway to Your Heart”)

Willie K—5/19—Hawaii-based guitarist/performer

Mory Kanté—5/22—Guinean singer

Ryo Kawasaki—4/13—Japanese jazz fusion guitarist

Lee Kerslake—9/19—Drummer for Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne

Hal Ketchum—11/23—Country singer

Frank Kimbrough—12/30—Jazz pianist

Astrid Kirchherr

Astrid Kirchherr—5/13—Photographer known for early Beatles images

Lee Konitz—4/15—Jazz alto saxophonist

Ivan Kral—2/2—Guitarist/songwriter, member of Patti Smith Group

Bob Kulick—5/28—Guitarist/producer who worked with Kiss, Lou Reed, others

Dave Kusworth—9/19—Member of British band Jacobites

Bunny Lee—10/6—Jamaican reggae producer

Bobby Lewis—4/28—“Tossin’ & Turnin’” hitmaker

Tony Lewis—10/20—Singer/bass guitarist for the Outfield

Buzzy Linhart—2/13—Singer/songwriter/musician whose songs were recorded by Bette Midler, others

Little Richard—5/9—Rock ’n’ roll pioneer whose influence spanned generations

Mike Longo—3/22—Jazz pianist

Trini Lopez—8/11—Singer of ’60s hits “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree”

Walter Lure—8/21—Guitarist in Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers

Vera Lynn—6/18—Veteran British singer, famous for “We’ll Meet Again”

Lynn Evans Mand—2/6—Singer with the Chordettes (“Mr. Sandman”)

Ray Mantilla—3/21—Latin percussionist

Johnny Mandel—6/29—Composer of theme from M*A*S*H

Carl Mann—12/16—Rockabilly singer who recorded for Sun Records

Benny Mardones—6/29—Singer of hit song “Into the Night”

Ellis Marsalis—4/1—New Orleans pianist; father of Wynton, Branford, etc.

Barbara Martin—3/4—Pre-fame member of the Supremes

Moon Martin—5/11—Singer/songwriter; wrote “Bad Case of Loving You”

Phil May—5/15—Frontman of England’s Pretty Things

Lyle Mays—2/10—Jazz pianist; best known for his work with Pat Metheny

Michael McBride—11/9—Raspberries drummer in 1974-75

Sid McCray—9/9—Original singer of the Bad Brains

Mickey McGee—7/20—Drummer with Linda Ronstadt, Flying Burrito Brothers, others

William McEuen—9/24—Manager/producer of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Phyllis McGuire—12/29—Member of the sibling vocal group the McGuire Sisters

Alan Merrill—3/29—Singer/songwriter; best known for writing “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”

Miss Mercy—7/27—Member of the Frank Zappa-produced group the GTOs

Ian Mitchell—9/1—Bay City Rollers bassist

Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield—12/10—Blues artist, son of Muddy Waters

Ennio Morricone—7/6—Italian film score composer (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly)

Dave Munden—10/15—Original member of the Tremeloes (“Silence is Golden”)

Todd Nance—8/19—Founding drummer of Widespread Panic

Johnny Nash—10/6—Reggae-pop singer with a #1 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now”

Bob Nave—1/28—Keyboardist for the Lemon Pipers, of “Green Tambourine” fame

Lennie Niehaus—5/28—Film composer; jazz saxophonist, arranger

Jamie Oldaker—7/16—Drummer for Eric Clapton, others

David Olney—1/18—Folk singer/songwriter

Keith Olsen—3/9—Producer of Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, others

K.T. Oslin—12/21—Country singer whose biggest hit was “80’s Ladies”

Robert Parker—1/19—R&B singer, best known for the hit “Barefootin’”

Gary Peacock—9/4—Jazz bassist who played with Keith Jarrett, others

Neil Peart—1/7—Drummer for Rush

Charli  Persip—8/23—Jazz drummer

Lucky Peterson—5/17—Blues musician

Phil Phillips—3/14—”Sea of Love” singer

Bucky Pizzarelli—4/1—Jazz guitarist

Bonnie Pointer—6/8—Member of the Pointer Sisters

Joe Porcaro—7/6—Jazz drummer

Genesis P-Orridge—3/14–British musician/composer; vocalist with Throbbing Gristle

Francis Rocco Prestia—9/30–Tower of Power bassist

Charley Pride—12/12—First Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame

Steve Priest—6/4—Bassist for the glam band the Sweet

John Prine—4/7—Singer-songwriter who’d recently received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

Helen Reddy—9/29—Singer of “I Am Woman” and “Delta Dawn”

Alto Reed—12/30—Saxophonist in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band

Harold Reid—4/24—Bass singer with country group the Statler Brothers

Al Rex—5/24—Played double bass with Bill Haley and His Comets on “See You Later, Alligator”

Emitt Rhodes—7/19—Singer-songwriter with the Merry-Go-Round and solo

Tony Rice—12/25—Influential and prolific bluegrass guitarist/vocalist

Bill Rieflin–—3/24—Drummer for King Crimson and other bands

Claudio Roditi—1/18—Brazilian jazz trumpeter

Kenny Rogers—3/22—Leader of the First Edition, then a highly successful country-pop solo artist

Wallace Roney—3/31—Jazz trumpeter

Annie Ross—7/21—Jazz singer (Lambert, Hendricks and Ross)

Rudy Salas—12/29—Tierra and El Chicano guitarist

Jorge Santana—5/14—Frontman of Latin-rock band Malo

Jan Savage—8/5—Guitarist for the L.A. ’60s band the Seeds (“Pushin’ Too Hard”)

Adam Schlesinger—4/1—Award-winning songwriter and founding member of Fountains of Wayne

Florian Schneider—5/6—Kraftwerk co-founder

Matthew Seligman—4/17—Bassist for British band the Soft Boys

Joseph Shabalala—2/11—Founder of South African vocal group Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Bob Shane—1/26—Founding member of folk group the Kingston Trio

Billy Joe Shaver—10/28—Country singer-songwriter whose songs were  covered by Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers Band and Elvis Presley

Jack Sherman—8/19—Early Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist

Jerry Slick—3/17—Drummer of San Francisco band the Great Society

Millie Small–5/5—Jamaican singer best known for “My Boy Lollipop”

Viola Smith—10/21—One of the first professional female drummers, she worked from the ’20s to the ’70s

Maynard Solomon—9/28—Founder of Vanguard Records

Mike Somerville—2/28—Guitarist and songwriter for Head East

Geoff Stephens—12/24—British songwriter whose compositions included “Winchester Cathedral,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and more

Mark Stone—9/26—Original Van Halen bassist

Chad Stuart—12/20—Half of the British Invasion-era duo Chad and Jeremy

Ira Sullivan—9/21—Jazz saxophonist and trumpeter

Doug Supernaw—9/26—Country artist

Keith Tippett—6/14—British jazz and prog keyboardist; performed with King Crimson, others

Willie Torres—8/13—Singer with the Joe Cuba Sextet

Jim Tucker—11/12—Founding member and rhythm guitarist of the Turtles

Sean Tyla—5/17—Leader of British bands Ducks Deluxe and the Tyla Gang

McCoy Tyner—3/6—Jazz pianist best known for his work with John Coltrane

“Blue” Gene Tyranny—12/12—Jazz pianist (real name: Robert Sheff) who briefly played with Iggy and the Stooges

Eddie Van Halen—10/6—Influential lead guitarist of Van Halen

Howard Wales—12/7—Keyboardist who recorded the album Hooteroll? with Jerry Garcia

Jerry Jeff Walker—10/23—Singer-songwriter, composer of “Mr. Bojangles”

Pete Way—8/14—UFO founding bassist

Steve Weber—2/7—Holy Modal Rounders member

Eric Weissberg—3/22—Multi-instrumentalist best known for “Dueling Banjos”

Leslie West—12/23—Mountain frontman and hard rock guitar hero

Ian Whitcomb—4/19—English pianist and singer known for the mid-’60s hit “You Turn Me On”

Bruce Williamson—9/6—Latter-day member of the Temptations

Hal Willner—4/7—Producer of numerous tribute albums and themed concerts

Wes Wilson—1/24—San Francisco-based rock poster artist

Bill Withers—3/30—R&B singer whose hits included “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”

Baron Wolman—11/2—Rock photographer who shot many iconic ’60s artists

Betty Wright—5/10—”Clean Up Woman” singer

Edna Wright—9/12—Singer of Honey Cone (“Want Ads”)

Eugene Wright—12/30—Bassist in the Dave Brubeck Quartet

Notable Non-Music Deaths Below the Links

Notable Non-Music Deaths

Orson Bean—2/7—Actor

Honor Blackman—4/5—Actress in James Bond classic Goldfinger  

Chadwick Boseman—8/28—Actor in Black Panther and other films

Wilford Brimley—8/1—Actor in Cocoon and Quaker Oats commercials

Kobe Bryant—1/26—Basketball great

Sean Connery—10/31—Bond. James Bond

Olivia de Havilland—7/26—Gone With the Wind actress

Kirk Douglas—2/5–Actor

Milton Glaser—6/26—Illustrator, designer of ‘I Love NY’ Logo, classic Bob Dylan poster

Ian Holm—6/19—Actor

Roy Horn—5/8—Half of the magic act Siegfried and Roy

Terry Jones—1/21—Monty Python actor

Larry Kramer—5/27—Playwright and AIDS activist

Tom Lester—4/20—Green Acres actor (Eb)

Diego Maradona—11/25—Argentinian soccer player

Curly Neal—5/15—Harlem Globetrotters basketball player

Ken Osmond—5/18—Actor known for his role as Eddie Haskell in Leave it to Beaver

Regis Philbin—7/24—TV personality

David Prowse11/28—Played Darth Vader in the Star Wars films

Carl Reiner6/29—Actor

Diana Rigg9/10—Actress best known for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers

Joel Schumacher—6/22—Film director

Tom Seaver—9/2—New York Mets pitcher

Jerry Stiller—5/11—Actor/comedian

Alex Trebek—11/8—Who was the beloved host of Jeopardy!?

Dawn Wells—12/29—Actress who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island

Fred Willard—5/15—Actor

Related: Which artists passed in 2019?

Best Classic Bands Staff

18 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. RecordSteve
    #1 RecordSteve 27 June, 2020, 12:23

    Thanks Fer remembrance & memories….

    Reply this comment
  2. Billy K.
    #2 Billy K. 27 June, 2020, 20:30

    I no clue that Willie K was even sick, until I read this yesterday. Great Hawaiian musician!!

    Reply this comment
  3. brokenweed
    #3 brokenweed 6 October, 2020, 21:24

    Not included on this list is Sid McCray of Bad Brians.

    Reply this comment
  4. Cindy Meitle
    #4 Cindy Meitle 7 October, 2020, 03:17

    Rock in Peace to my friend Eddie Van Halen. Thanks for the memories…and the firsts.

    Reply this comment
  5. Doodles
    #5 Doodles 8 October, 2020, 04:56

    I had no idea that Eddie Van Halen was 65, he looked nowhere near that. So sad. I knew he had cancer. Great axe man. R.I.P. Eddie. You will always be missed.

    Reply this comment
  6. ty
    #6 ty 8 October, 2020, 14:59

    Jymie Merrit, jazz bassist, died in April

    Reply this comment
  7. Ludo
    #7 Ludo 19 October, 2020, 04:22

    Alan Merrill was everything. Talk about a hidden treasure of Rock n Roll, despie writing the definitive song about it. Wonderful warm, generous, immensely talented man who had so much left to do. Miss him forever 🙁

    Reply this comment
  8. KK Darling
    #8 KK Darling 22 October, 2020, 11:15

    2019 and 2020….to date, has brought so much heartaches and losses to, not only the Acting World and Music Industry, the World in general.
    Most heartbreaking for me were the losses of Pete Way from UFO, Neil Peart from Rush, Martin “The Headmaster” Birch….Producer of soooo many great Rock, Hard Rock and Metal Bands.
    The hardest one of all was losing Eddie Van Halen the day after my Birthday.
    My 40+ years of playing was, is and will always be influenced so much by him.
    I cannot begin to put into words how devastating it is to me and cannot imagine how lost Wolfie, Alex and the rest of his family and close friends/Bandmates must feel.
    Rid the World of this Pandemic and the sadness the entire Planet is enduring this year.
    Flat out…..this year has really sucked!!!

    Reply this comment
  9. Foxy on the run
    #9 Foxy on the run 15 November, 2020, 07:07

    The wonderful Steve Priest from one of the most misunderstood and underrated rock bands of all time. Such character and talent and certainly not a bassist you would forget easily! Rock in heaven with Brian and Mick my darling ❤️

    Reply this comment
  10. Gringo
    #10 Gringo 28 November, 2020, 10:01

    What about Jimmy Capps? NASHVILLE — Jimmy Capps, a versatile guitarist who played on some of the biggest country hits of the 1970s and ’80s and was a member of the Grand Ole Opry’s house band for more than five decades, died here on Monday. He was 81. His son Mark confirmed the death but did not specify the cause. Jun 4, 2020

    Reply this comment
    • Jim Southern
      Jim Southern 29 December, 2020, 01:18

      Also notable was Jimmy Capps playing on so many of the “Country Family Reunion” shows. He was a favorite of the many C&W stars that showed up

      Reply this comment
  11. Ella Pera
    #11 Ella Pera 28 November, 2020, 10:33

    Viola Smith ‘Fastest Girl Drummer in the World’ Died at 107 on October 21, 2020. We should never forget the real roots of our music today!

    Reply this comment
  12. Nostaino
    #12 Nostaino 25 December, 2020, 10:51

    And no mention of Cardiacs’ Tim Smith?

    Reply this comment
  13. I Stand
    #13 I Stand 29 December, 2020, 02:32

    Let’s watch as the commentors make it about them.

    Reply this comment
  14. DG
    #14 DG 29 December, 2020, 05:16

    Tony Hooper – not just a guitarist. He’s really known for his lovely voice! One of the best in the entire folk-rock genre. He only composed about 7 Strawbs songs, but all were amazing!

    Reply this comment
  15. Java_the_Hutch
    #15 Java_the_Hutch 30 December, 2020, 15:04

    Rebecca LUKKER

    Reply this comment

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