Musicians We’ve Lost in 2021

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(L-R): Phil Spector, BJ Thomas, Charlie Watts, Chick Corea, Mary Wilson

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.

So far, we are sad to say, 2021 isn’t looking much brighter. Already, many luminaries within the wide sphere of the music community have left us.

Below are just some of the many artists we’ve lost thus far in 2021. 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 2021.

We will miss all of these great talents. RIP.

Richie Albright—2/9—Drummer for Waylon Jennings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”

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

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

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

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

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”

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 ago

Bobby Few—1/6—Jazz pianist

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

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”)

Curtis Fuller—5/8—Jazz trombonist

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

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

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

Milford Graves—2/12—Jazz drummer

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.)

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

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

Larry Harlow—8/20—Salsa musician

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

Dusty Hill—7/28—Bassist of ZZ Top

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

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

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

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

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

Jeff LaBar—7/14—Cinderella guitarist

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

Alan Lancaster—7/4—Status Quo guitarist

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—9/2—Drummer on country hits by Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and others

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

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

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

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

Don Miller—1/11—Singer with the Vogues

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

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

George Mraz—9/16—Jazz bassist

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

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

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

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

Nolan Porter—2/4—R&B singer

Lloyd Price—5/6—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

Jimmie Rodgers—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

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

Thione Seck—3/14—Senegalese singer and musician

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

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

Johnny Solinger—6/26—Singer for SKid Row

Phil Spector—1/17—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

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

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”

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

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

Peter Zinovieff—6/?—British synthesizer pioneer

Related: Musicians who died in 2020

Non-Musicians

Hank Aaron—1/22—Baseball great

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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3 Comments so far

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  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

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