Remembering Musicians Who Died in 2011
A tribute to famous and not-so-famous musicians who passed away this year
The following is a list of some of the notable musicians who passed away in 2011, including a few who performed in the Santa Barbara area in recent years. Some are well-known, many are not, but all are worthy of our respect. R.I.P. — Rock In Peace.
» Amy Winehouse became the latest to join the “27 Club,” the group of popular musicians who died at age 27 that includes Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain. Winehouse’s 2006 album Back to Black is considered by many to be a modern-day classic, but she never overcame her demons to live up to her full potential.
» Jerry Leiber co-wrote numerous classic songs with Mike Stoller, including “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” (both hits for Elvis Presley), “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown” (both hits for The Coasters, whose Carl Gardner also passed away this year), “Stand By Me” (a hit for Ben E. King, who was also a co-writer), “Is That All There Is?” (a hit for Peggy Lee), “Kansas City” (which was covered by The Beatles and many others), and “On Broadway” (also with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil). Leiber was primarily the lyricist in the collaboration with Stoller.
» Clarence Clemons played saxophone with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, beginning in 1972 during sessions for Springsteen’s debut Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. Affectionately known as “The Big Man,” he also played with many other artists over the years, and can be heard on today’s pop radio on Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory.”
» David “Honeyboy” Edwards was a Delta bluesman who was with legendary fellow-bluesman Robert Johnson on the night in 1938 that Johnson drank the poisoned whiskey that led to his premature death. Edwards was first recorded in 1942 by folklorist Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress, was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1996, won the 2008 Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album and in 2010 received a Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy. Edwards performed here earlier this year as part of the “Blues at the Crossroads” tour.
» Hubert Sumlin was best known as the guitarist for Chicago bluesman Howlin’ Wolf, contributing riffs to classic songs such as “Killing Floor,” “Back Door Man,” “Smokestack Lightning,” “Spoonful” and “Wang Dang Doodle.” He was recently ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. Sumlin was along for the Blues at the Crossroads tour mentioned above, and was also part of the Experience Hendrix concert that visited town in 2010.
» Heavy D was the rapper and frontman for Heavy D & The Boyz, whose albums Big Tyme and Nuttin’ But Love hit No. 1 on the R&B charts in the United States. Their biggest hit single was 1991’s “Now That We Found Love.” Heavy D also performed the theme song for the TV show In Living Color and was an actor on television and film.
» Bert Jansch was a Scottish folk guitarist who was part of the British folk music revival during the 1960s. He was a huge influence on other guitarists such as Jimmy Page (who reworked Jansch’s arrangement of “Blackwaterside” into “Black Mountain Side” on Led Zeppelin’s debut album) and Neil Young. Jansch was also an original member of the folk rock band Pentangle.
» Gil Scott-Heron was a street poet and musician whose lyrics often dealt with timely social and political issues. His music was influential on the hip hop genre, and he has been called “The Godfather of Rap” and “The Black Bob Dylan.” His best-known song is “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”
» Max Mathews was a computer music pioneer who wrote the first widely used computer music program, and whose 1961 arrangement of “Daisy Bell” inspired Arthur C. Clarke to have HAL sing it in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mathews gave a lecture at UCSB in 2009.
» Eugene (Gene) McDaniels had two hits (“A Hundred Pounds of Clay” and “Tower of Strength”) in the early 1960s, and wrote Roberta Flack’s 1974 hit “Feel Like Making Love.” But his classic is the 1971 black power album Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, which reportedly prompted Vice President Spiro Agnew to call Atlantic Records to complain.
» Jerry Ragovoy was a songwriter whose songs were recorded by The Rolling Stones (“Time Is on My Side”), Janis Joplin (“Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby,” “Try (Just a Little Harder),” “Get It While You Can,” “My Baby”), Jimi Hendrix (“Stop”) and others.
» Don Kirshner was a music publisher and producer who worked with artists including Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Gerry Goffin and Carole King. He also worked with local songwriter and producer Jeff Barry on The Monkees and The Archies. Later, he was host of the TV show Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, which included performances by the likes of Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols, New York Dolls, T. Rex, The Ramones and Genesis.
» Mark Tulin was the bass guitar player for The Electric Prunes, which is best known for 1966′s psychedelic garage-rock classic single “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night).” The Prunes’ original lineup also released 1968′s psych obscurity Mass in F Minor, a Catholic mass sung in Latin — the track “Kyrie Eleison” from this album was on the soundtrack for the generation-defining movie Easy Rider. A few years ago Tulin visited Santa Barbara as part of The Spirits In The Sky, and he played on some recent Smashing Pumpkins tracks. Click here for an interview with Tulin.
» Poly Styrene was the singer and songwriter for the English punk rock band X-Ray Spex, which was formed in the wake of the Sex Pistols. Their album Germ Free Adolescents and single “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” are considered to be among the highlights of the original wave of punk rock.
» Joe Yamanaka was the vocalist for Flower Travellin’ Band, considered by many to be Japan’s greatest rock band from the 1970s. In his book Japrocksampler, Julian Cope says Yamanaka “was in possession of a scream from the bowels of Hell itself,” and calls the Flower Travellin’ Band’s 1971 album Satori “one of the all-time great hard-rock rages to have been unleashed upon the world,” whose “magical results were regally exultant and wantonly barbaric simultaneously.”
» Conrad Schnitzler was a German electronic/experimental musician who contributed to the debut album by Tangerine Dream, was a founding member of Kluster and released a staggering number of solo recordings.
» David Bedford was a composer and musician who made contributions to progressive rock music, including Kevin Ayers’ first two albums and Roy Harper’s Stormcock and Valentine albums. He also arranged an orchestral version of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
Other notable 2011 musician deaths:
» Phoebe Snow (best known for “Poetry Man”)
» Rob Grill (lead singer of The Grass Roots)
» Gary Moore (guitarist for Thin Lizzy and many solo albums)
» Dan Peek (from the band America)
» Nate Dogg (performed with Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, many others)
» Charlie Louvin (from The Louvin Brothers)
» Marv Tarplin (guitarist from The Miracles and co-wrote “The Tracks of My Tears”)
» Jim Sherwood (played saxophone with Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention)
» James “Curley” Cooke (played guitar with Steve Miller Band)
» Mike Starr (original bassist in Alice in Chains)
» Mikey Welsh (bassist for Weezer)
» Gerard Smith (bassist for TV on the Radio)
» Carl Gardner (from The Coasters)
» Jet Harris (bassist for The Shadows)
» Michael “Wurzel” Burston (guitarist for Motorhead)
» Gladys Horton (sang “Please Mr. Postman” in The Marvelettes)
» Marshall Grant (played bass with Johnny Cash)
» Barry Llewellyn (founding member of The Heptones)
» George Shearing (jazz pianist)
» Joe Morello (jazz drummer)
» Cory “Flattus Maximum” Smoot (from GWAR)
» Nick Ashford (co-wrote “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”)
» Joseph Brooks (wrote “You Light Up My Life”)
» Larry “Wild Man” Fischer (outsider musician)
» Jani Lane (from Warrant)
» Pinetop Perkins (blues pianist)
» Mark Klingman (founding member of Utopia)
» John Walker (frontman of Walker Brothers)
» John Barry (composer for the movies Born Free, Out of Africa, Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and From Russia With Love)