Musicians We Lost in 2021

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(L-R): Phil Spector, BJ Thomas, Charlie Watts, Chick Corea, Michael Nesmith

In 2021, as in the year before, the Covid-19 pandemic continued to take from us many musical greats, preying especially hard on the elders of the community. But even without the virus, it was a tough year.  Many luminaries within the wide sphere of the music community left us.

Below are just some of the many artists and music industry influencers we lost in 2021, more than 200 in all. They are arranged alphabetically, the person’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 2021.

We will miss all of these great talents. RIP.

Richie Albright—2/9—Drummer for Waylon Jennings

Keith Allison—11/17—Member of Paul Revere and the Raiders and solo artist

Robert Altman—9/?—Rock music photographer for Rolling Stone and others

Joey Ambrose—8/9—Saxophonist with Bill Haley and His Comets

Razzy Bailey—8/4—Country singer

Chris Barber—3/2—Influential English jazz musician

Tom Beaudry (aka Kelly Green)—9/3—Lead singer for Detroit rock band Frijid Pink

Evette Benton—11/6—Vocalist on Spinners hit “Games People Play”

Byron Berline—7/10—Fiddler who was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and played on the Rolling Stones’ “Country Honk”

Jim Bessman—6/22—Veteran music journalist

Jay Black—10/23—Lead vocalist of Jay and the Americans on hits such as “This Magic Moment,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “Cara Mia”

Tim Bogert—1/13—Bassist with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Beck, Bogert & Appice

Mick Bolton—1/1—Keyboardist with Mott the Hoople and Dexys Midnight Runners

Duke Bootee—1/13—Rapper who wrote Grandmaster Flash hit “The Message”

Perry Botkin Jr.—1/18—Composer, producer, arranger, and musician who worked with Bobby Darin, Harry Nilsson, others

Sérgio Brandão—4/2—Brazilian bassist who played on recordings by George Benson, Sergio Mendes and others

Jerry Brandt—1/16—Owner of New York City concert venue The Ritz

Lizzie Bravo—10/4—Teenage Beatles fan who sang on the group’s “Across the Universe”

Leslie Bricusse—10/19—Songwriter who co-wrote lyrics to “Goldfinger”

Gil Bridges—12/8—Rare Earth saxophonist

Vic Briggs—6/29—Lead guitarist of Eric Burdon and the Animals from 1966-68

Bruce Bromberg—12/26—Blues record producer

Sheila Bromberg—8/17—Harpist on the Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home”

Steve Bronski—12/7—Co-founder of British dance trio Bronski Beat

Ed Bruce—1/8—Country singer/songwriter; author of “Mammas Don’t Let your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”

Jerry Burgan—3/30—Guitarist/vocalist with We Five (“You Were on My Mind”)

James Burke—2/19—Singer with the Five Stairsteps (“O-o-h Child”)

Ron Bushy—8/29—Iron Butterfly drummer (“In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida”)

Ron Campbell—1/22—Director of Beatles cartoon series

Ray Campi—3/11—Rockabilly singer/musician

Ralph Carmichael—10/18—Arranger for Nat King Cole

Alan Cartwright—3/4—Bassist for Procol Harum in the ’70s

Malcolm Cecil—3/28—Producer for Stevie Wonder, designer of TONTO synthesizer

Phil Chen—12/14—Bassist who worked with Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and members of the Doors

Louis Clark—2/13—Orchestrator for Electric Light Orchestra

Sanford Clark—7/4—Country and rockabilly singer, best known for  the 1956 hit “The Fool”

Maureen Cleave—11/6—British journalist to whom John Lennon stated that the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus now.”

Charles Connor—7/31—Drummer in Little Richard’s band the Upsetters

Bruce Conte—8/8—Guitarist for Tower of Power in the 1970s

Billy Conway—12/19—Drummer of Morphine

Gary Corbett—7/14—Co-writer of Cyndi Lauper hit “She Bop,” and member of Cinderella

Chick Corea—2/9—Legendary jazz keyboardist and composer

Ron Cornelius—8/18—Session musician on albums by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others

Paul Cotton—8/1—Guitarist/vocalist for Poco

Johnny Crawford—4/29—Early ’60s hitmaker (“Cindy’s Birthday” went top 10 in 1962), actor on The Rifleman and member of the Mickey Mouse Club

J.D. Crowe—12/24—Influential bluegrass banjoist

Kenny Daniel—11/21—Leader of ’60s band Kenny and the Kasuals

Sarah Dash—9/20—Member of LaBelle (“Lady Marmalade”)

John Davis—5/24—Singer with Milli Vanilli

Prince Markie Dee—2/18—Rapper with the Fat Boys

Deezer D—1/7—Hip-hop artist and actor

Little Walter DeVenne—1/16—Radio personality in the Boston area

Morris “B.B” Dickerson—4/2—Bassist and vocalist with War

DMX (Earl Simmons)—4/9—Rapper

John Drake—8/29—Lead singer on the Amboy Dukes’ early recordings, including “Journey to the Center of the Mind”

Melvin Dunlap—9/13—Bassist for the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Bill Withers and others

Graeme Edge—11/11—Co-founder and drummer of the Moody Blues

Bill Elliott—6/7—Member of Splinter duo, who recorded for George Harrison’s Dark Horse label

Pee Wee Ellis—9/24—Saxophonist for James Brown, Van Morrison and others; co-writer of “Cold Sweat”

Les Emmerson—12/10—Leader of Canada’s Five Man Electrical Band and writer of their hit “Signs”

Don Everly—8/21—Older half of the Everly Brothers, member of the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Anne Feeney—2/3—Folk singer

Related: David Bowie, Glenn Frey and Prince were among the stars we lost 5 years earlier

Vicente Fernández—12/12—Popular Mexican singer

Bobby Few—1/6—Jazz pianist

Rich Fifield—11/18—Guitarist for the ’60s surf band the Astronauts

Mike Finnigan—8/11—Hammond B-3 organist who played with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bonnie Raitt and many others

Bob Fisher—9/7—British record company executive and music journalist

Michael Fonfara—1/8—Keyboardist with Lou Reed, Foreigner, others

George “Commander Cody” Frayne—9/26—Pianist, vocalist and leader of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (“Hot Rod Lincoln”)

Denny Freeman—4/25—Austin-based roots multi-instrumentalist

Marty Fried—9/1—Drummer for the Cyrkle (“Red Rubber Ball”)

Dave Frishberg—11/17—Jazz pianist

Curtis Fuller—5/8—Jazz trombonist

Grady Gaines—1/29—Saxophonist in Little Richard’s 1950s band

Jim Gallagher—11/20—Drummer for the Astronauts (“Baja”)

Henry Goldrich—2/16—Owner of Manny’s Music retail store in New York

John Goodsall—11/11—Guitarist with Brand X, Atomic Rooster

Larry Goshorn—9/14—Guitarist/vocalist with Pure Prairie League

Milford Graves—2/12—Jazz drummer

Tom Gray—10/?—Keyboardist/songwriter of The Brains (writer of “Money Changes Everything”)

Nanci Griffith—8/13—Texas-born singer-songwriter

Sally Grossman and Bob Dylan in Albert Grossman’s Woodstock home. The location provided the cover art for Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home album

Sally Grossman—3/12—Wife of rock manager Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, etc.)

Margo Guryan—11/10—Co-writer of Spanky and Our Gang hit “Sunday Mornin'”

Tom T. Hall—8/20—Country singer and composer (“Harper Valley P.T.A.”)

Slide Hampton—11/20—Jazz trombonist

Connie Hamzy—8/21—Groupie immortalized in Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”

Larry Harlow—8/20—Salsa musician

Barry Harris—12/8—Jazz pianist

John Hartman—12/29—Original drummer for the Doobie Brothers

Jon Hassell—6/26—Trumpeter and composer who recorded with Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Ry Cooder and others

Bruce Hawes—2/17—Songwriter for the Spinners and others

Roger Hawkins—5/20—Drummer in Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a.k.a. the Swampers

Don Heffington—3/23—Drummer who worked with Lone Justice, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and others

Monte Hellman—4/20—Director of Two Lane Blacktop and other films

Tony Hendra—3/4—Actor who played the manager in This is Spinal Tap; editor/writer for National Lampoon

Herbie Herbert—10/26—Manager of Journey and other bands

Dusty Hill—7/28—Bassist of ZZ Top

John Hinch—4/29—Original drummer of Judas Priest

Billy Hinsche—11/20—Member of the ’60s pop trio Dino, Desi and Billy, musician with the Beach Boys and others

Gary “Chicken” Hirsh—8/17—Drummer of Country Joe and the Fish

Paul Jackson—3/18—Jazz bassist (Herbie Hancock, others)

Stonewall Jackson—12/4—Veteran country singer

Sandra Jaffe—12/27—Co-founder of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall

Robert “Bob” James—2/?—Singer in the band Montrose

Howard Johnson—1/11—Tuba player with the Band, Taj Mahal, others

Joey Jordison—7/26—Founding drummer of Slipknot

Mark Josephson—3/2—Founder of New Music Seminar and Rockpool

Kangol Kid—12/18—Member of hip-hop group UTFO

Julius Karpen—5/27—Manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin)

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison—7/23—Rock music journalist/author, and romantic partner of Jim Morrison

Tawny Kitaen—5/7—Model and actress who appeared in several popular ’80s rock videos

Bob Koester—5/12—Founder of Chicago jazz and blues label Delmark Records

Ken Kragen—12/14—Producer and manager who organized the “We Are the World” charity single and “Hands Across America”

Jeff LaBar—7/14—Cinderella guitarist

Rick Laird—7/4—Bassist with the Mahavishnu Orchestra

Alan Lancaster—9/26—Status Quo guitarist

David Lasley—12/9—Singer-songwriter who worked with James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, others

John Lawton—6/29—Singer with Uriah Heep, Lucifer’s Friend and other bands

James Levine—3/9—Conductor and Music Director of the New York City Metropolitan Opera

David Cutler Lewis—6/8—Keyboardist with Ambrosia (“Biggest Part of Me”)

Joe Long—4/21—Bass guitarist with the Four Seasons

Kenny Malone—8/26—Drummer on country hits by Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and others

Julian “Junior” Mance—1/17—Jazz/blues pianist

Philip Margo—11/13—Co-founder of the Tokens (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”)

Jon Mark—2/10—Singer-songwriter-guitarist with the Mark-Almond Band, John Mayall, others

Tony Markellis—4/29—Bassist in Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio’s solo band

Biz Markie—7/16—Rapper known as the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop”

Gerry Marsden—1/3—Singer with Gerry and the Pacemakers

Pat Martino—11/1—Jazz guitarist

Barry Mason—4/16—British songwriter whose hits included “Delilah,” “The Last Waltz,” “Here It Comes Again” and “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes”)

Bob Matthews—9/?—Sound engineer for the Grateful Dead

Elliot Mazer—2/7—Producer of Neil Young, others

Ellen McIlwaine—6/23—Singer-songwriter-guitarist

Fritz McIntyre—8/?—Keyboardist with Simply Red

Ali McKenzie—4/29—Lead singer of the U.K. ’60s group the Birds, which also included Ronnie Wood

Les McKeown—4/20—Lead singer of the Bay City Rollers

Marilyn McLeod—11/24—Co-writer of “Love Hangover” for Diana Ross

Robin McNamara—10/21—Recording artist who had a hit with “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me”

Bhaskar Menon—3/4—CEO of EMI Music Worldwide and Capitol Records; promoted Dark Side of the Moon, the Concert for Bangla Desh, etc.

Buddy Merrill—12/?—Guitarist on The Lawrence Welk Show and solo recording artist

Don Miller—1/11—Singer with the Vogues

Mike Mitchell—4/16—Guitarist in the Kingsmen; played the solo on “Louie Louie”

Paul Mitchell—12/20—Co-founder of the R&B group the Floaters (“Float On”)

Paddy Moloney—10/12—Leader of the traditional Irish band the Chieftains

Bob Moore—9/22—Bassist for Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, others

Misty Morgan—1/1—Country singer (“Tennessee Bird Walk”)

George Mraz—9/16—Jazz bassist

Dec Mulligan—11/2—Guitarist with the Beau Brummels (“Laugh Laugh”)

Juan Nelson—4/16—Longtime bassist with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals

Michael Nesmith—12/10—Founding member of the Monkees and pioneering country-rock artist

Sammy Nestico—1/17—Composer and arranger for Count Basie

Rupert Neve—2/12—Electronics engineer and designer of audio equipment

Ian North—2/28—Member of pop-punk band Milk ‘n’ Cookies

Paul Oscher—4/18—Blues musician who played in Muddy Waters’ band

Johnny Pacheco—2/15—Latin music musician and arranger

Melvin Parker—12/3—Drummer for James Brown

Dean Parrish—6/8—Soul singer (“Tell Her”)

Lee “Scratch” Perry—8/29—Reggae producer/artist and dub pioneer

Ralph Peterson Jr.—3/1—Jazz drummer

Dee Pop—10/8—Drummer for New York City post-punk band the Bush Tetras

Bob Porter—4/10—Jazz producer and radio personality

Nolan Porter—2/4—R&B singer

Lloyd Price—5/3—Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted R&B singer (“Personality,” “Stagger Lee”)

James Purify—1/22—Half of the James and Bobby Purify R&B duo (“I’m Your Puppet”)

Mick Rain—8/?—Drummer for Pezband

Danny Ray—2/2—Emcee and “cape man” for James Brown’s live show

Freddie Redd—3/17—Jazz pianist/composer

Rickie Reynolds—9/5—Lead guitarist for Black Oak Arkansas (“Jim Dandy”)

Mick Rock—11/17—Photographer who shot David Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen and many others

Jimmie Rodgers——1/18—Early rock ‘n’ roll singer (“Honeycomb”)

Johnny Rogan—1/21—Author of books on the Byrds, Neil Young, Van Morrison and Ray Davies, plus others

Brian Rohan—3/23—Attorney for Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and other San Francisco rock luminaries

Kal Rudman—12/1—Disc jockey and publisher of the music industry trade publication Friday Morning Quarterback

Barry Ryan—9/28—British pop singer (“Eloise”)

Julz Sale—9/22?—Lead singer of British post-punk band Delta 5 (“Mind Your Own Business”)

Phil Schaap—9/7—Jazz disc jockey and producer

Al Schmitt—4/27—Producer/engineer for Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Jefferson Airplane and many others

Ralph Schuckett—4/4—Keyboardist/songwriter who played with Todd Rundgren, Lou Reed, Carole King, others

Gary Scruggs—12/1—Bassist in the Earl Scruggs Revue, led by his father, the bluegrass banjo legend

Thione Seck—3/14—Senegalese singer and musician

Robbie Shakespeare—12/8—Prolific reggae bassist

Shock G—4/22—Rapper (Digital Underground)

Joe Simon—12/13—Soul singer with eight Top 40 hits, including “The Chokin’ Kind”

Patrick Sky—5/27—Singer-songwriter popular in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene

Dr. Lonnie Smith—9/29—Jazz organ innovator

Johnny Solinger—6/26—Singer for Skid Row

Stephen Sondheim—11/26—Giant of American musical theater

Phil Spector—1/16—Producer who worked with the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, the Crystals, the Beatles, the Ramones and others

Listen to “River Deep, Mountain High” by Ike and Tina Turner, one of Phil Spector’s classic ’60s productions

Powell St. John—8/?—Songwriter whose compositions were recorded by Janis Joplin and others; member of the band Mother Earth

Michael Stanley—3/5—Cleveland-based leader of the Michael Stanley Band

Pervis Staples—5/6—Co-founder of the Staple Singers

Robby Steinhardt—7/17—Founding member of Kansas, who played violin and sang

Jim Steinman—4/19—Songwriting collaborator with Meat Loaf (Bat Out of Hell albums), others

Tom Stevens—1/24—Bassist with the Long Ryders

Warren Storm—9/7—Cajun “swamp-pop” rocker

Gene Summers—2/17—Rockabilly singer

Sylvain Sylvain—1/13—Guitarist with New York Dolls

Greg Tate—12/7—Music critic and musician with Burnt Sugar

Ralph Tavares—12/8—Co-founder of R&B group Tavares

Gene Taylor—2/20—Pianist with the Blasters, Canned Heat, others

B.J. Thomas—5/29—Hitmaker behind such classics as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling”

Dennis Thomas—8/7—Co-founder and saxophonist of Kool and the Gang

Sue Thompson—9/23—Pop and country singer, popular in the early ’60s (“Norman,” “Paper Tiger”)

Brian Travers—8/22—Saxophonist for UB40

Ronnie Tutt—10/16—Drummer for Elvis Presley’s TCB Band, and for Neil Diamond, Jerry Garcia Band, Billy Joel, and more

U-Roy—2/17—Reggae pioneer

Hilton Valentine—1/29—Original guitarist of the Animals

Johnny Ventura—7/28—Dominican singer and salsa bandleader

Bunny Wailer—3/2—Original member of reggae legends the Wailers

Ed Ward—5/3—Music journalist who worked at Rolling Stone, Creem and other publications, and wrote books on Mike Bloomfield and rock history

Charlie Watts—8/24—Rolling Stones drummer

Jim Weatherly—2/3—Songwriter (“Midnight Train to Georgia”)

George Wein—9/13—Founder of the Newport Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Chuck E. Weiss—7/20—Singer-songwriter and inspiration for Rickie Lee Jones’ “Chuck E.’s in Love”

Tommy West—5/2—Producer of Jim Croce and recording artist

Mary Wilson—2/8—Co-founder of Motown powerhouse trio The Supremes

Ronnie Wilson—11/2—Co-founder the the funk group the Gap Band

Terence “Astro” Wilson—11/6—Founding member of UB40

Willie Winfield—7/27—Lead vocalist for the ’50s doo-wop group the Harptones

Walter Yetnikoff—8/8—President of CBS Records in the ’70s and ’80s

Gary Yoder—8/?—Member of the Bay Area psychedelic groups Kak, the Oxford Circle and Blue Cheer

Rusty Young—4/14—Poco steel guitarist

Wanda Young—12/15—Singer with Motown group the Marvelettes

Peter Zinovieff—6/?—British synthesizer pioneer

Related: Musicians who died in 2020


Hank Aaron—1/22—Baseball great

Ed Asner—8/29—Earned the most performance awards for the Primetime Emmys, as TV’s “Lou Grant”

Eve Babitz—12/17—Author and visual artist

Ned Beatty—6/13—His first of more than 160 film acting roles was in 1972’s Deliverance

Frank Bonner—6/16—Actor on WKRP in Cincinnati

Rennie Davis—2/2—Activist; member of the “Chicago 7”

Joan Didion—12/23—Author who chronicled California life

Bob Fass—4/24—Radio personality on New York’s WBAI who helped establish the concept of free-form radio

Lawrence Ferlinghetti—2/22—Renowned poet and founder of City Lights Books

Watch: Lawrence Ferlinghetti appeared at the Band’s Last Waltz concert

Siegfried Fischbacher—1/13—Half of magician duo Siegfried and Roy, who worked with wild animals

Sonny Fox—1/24—Children’s TV show host

Hal Holbrook—1/23—Actor

Larry King—1/23—Broadcasting legend

Watch Larry King interview Frank Sinatra

Cloris Leachman—1/27—Actress

Norm Macdonald—9/14—Comedian and SNL “Weekend Update” anchor

Gavin MacLeod—5/29—Actor on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat

John Madden—12/28—NFL coach and broadcaster

Jackie Mason—7/24—Rabbi-turned-comedian

Christopher Plummer—2/5—Actor

Tanya Roberts—1/4—Actress in Charlie’s Angels and James Bond film A View to a Kill

Mort Sahl—10/26—Comedian and social satirist

Willard Scott—9/4—Today‘s personable weatherman

Felix Silla as Cousin Itt

George Segal—3/23—Actor

Felix Silla—4/16—Cousin Itt on the ’60s sitcom The Addams Family

Cicely Tyson—1/28—Actress

Melvin Van Peebles—9/21—Actor and director

Jessica Walter—3/24—Actress

Watch Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me

Rusty Warren—5/26—Groundbreaking bawdy comedienne popular in the ’50s and ’60s

Betty White—12/31—Beloved actress, just days shy of her 100th birthday

Clarence Williams III—6/4—Actor on The Mod Squad

Michael K. Williams—9/6—Actor in The Wire and Boardwalk Empire

Best Classic Bands Staff

8 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. CabbyJr
    #1 CabbyJr 9 April, 2021, 19:29

    What about “Whodini rapper Ecstasy John Fletcher dies aged 56”??

    Reply this comment
  2. Da Mick
    #2 Da Mick 26 August, 2021, 22:28

    Not to be disrespectful but there’s a number of people in the music section that really belong in the non-musicians section, such as Connie Hamzy, and all the rappers and hip-hop folks who are actually more akin to street poets than they are musicians.

    Reply this comment
  3. Batchman
    #3 Batchman 9 November, 2021, 19:59

    These lists start earlier and earlier. We’re not even halfway through November yet. I hope you continue update this list by the end of December.

    Reply this comment
  4. Pete
    #4 Pete 13 December, 2021, 10:16

    Missed Billy Hinche of Dino,Desi and Billy

    Reply this comment
  5. Jack
    #5 Jack 2 January, 2022, 04:28

    And what about Janoś Kobor, the leader of Hungarian band OMEGA most popular band of Eastern Europe for 40 years…? Autor of the hit “Girl with pearls in her hair”.

    Reply this comment
  6. Nancy
    #6 Nancy 2 January, 2022, 11:32

    There are so many……..

    Reply this comment

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