Remembering Musicians Who Died in 2016
A tribute to the famous and not-so-famous musicians who passed away last year
by Jeff Moehlis
The following is a list of some of the notable musicians who passed away in 2016, 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.
David Bowie – David Bowie was one of the most important musical artists of the 1970’s, when as a rock and roll chameleon his musical personas ranged from Ziggy Stardust to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke. But his success extended beyond the 70’s, reaching a commercial peak in the 1980’s and continuing right up to his final album Blackstar released just two days before he died. His songs included “Space Oddity”, “Changes”, “Life on Mars?”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Suffragette City”, “Rebel Rebel”, “Fame”, “Young Americans”, “Golden Years”, “Heroes”, “Fashion”, “Modern Love”, “Let’s Dance”, and many, many more. Bowie was also an accomplished actor.
David Bowie performed at the Santa Barbara Bowl in April, 2004.
Prince – Prince was one of the most important musical artists of the 1980’s, a one-man hit machine full of talent and style. The Purple One’s songs included “Purple Rain”, “When Doves Cry”, “1999”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Raspberry Beret”, “Kiss”, “Little Red Corvette”, and many more, including songs written for other artists such as “Manic Monday” for The Bangles, “Nothing Compares 2 U” for Sinead O’Connor, and “Jungle Love” for Morris Day and the Time. He was also the star of the film Purple Rain.
Leonard Cohen – Leonard Cohen was a singer / songwriter / poet whose voice was a deep rumble that imparted deep wisdom to his listeners. His best-known albums included his late 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen (“Suzanne”, “So Long, Marianne”) and 1988’s I’m Your Man (“Ain’t No Cure for Love”, “Everybody Knows”, “Take This Waltz”). His song “Hallelujah” became a modern classic, which he reportedly wrote 80 verses for. Cohen’s acclaimed final album You Want It Darker came out shortly before his death.
Leon Russell – Leon Russell wrote and sang classic songs including “A Song for You”, “Delta Lady”, “Tight Rope”, and “Out in the Woods”. But he arguably left his greatest mark supporting others, helping with Joe Cocker’s 1970 Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour and George Harrison’s 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, and playing keyboards on studio tracks such as The Beach Boys’ “California Girls”, Badfinger’s “Day After Day”, Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High”, The Byrds’ cover of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, and even the novelty Halloween song “Monster Mash”. His 21st-century profile got a huge boost when Elton John released an acclaimed album with him.
Paul Kantner – Paul Kantner was a co-founder, singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter for the Sixties psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane, which is best known for the hits “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit”. His songwriting credits include “Crown of Creation”, “We Can Be Together”, “Volunteers” (co-written with bandmate Marty Balin) and “Wooden Ships” (co-written with David Crosby and Stephen Stills). Kantner stayed onboard when Jefferson Airplane morphed into Jefferson Starship.
Glenn Frey – Glenn Frey was a founding member of The Eagles, and co-wrote many of their songs including “Take It Easy”, “Tequila Sunrise”, “Lyin’ Eyes”, “Best of My Love”, “One of These Nights”, “New Kid in Town”, “Heartache Tonight”, “Hotel California”, and “Life in the Fast Lane”. As a solo artist, his hits included “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City”.
The Eagles played at the Santa Barbara Bowl in 2005.
Maurice White – Maurice White was the musical mastermind behind Earth, Wind & Fire, serving as the band’s main songwriter and producer, and often as the band’s lead singer. Earth, Wind & Fire’s hit songs include “Shining Star”, “Sing a Song”, “Getaway”, “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, and “After the Love has Gone”.
Keith Emerson – Keith Emerson was a keyboard virtuoso who first found commercial success with the progressive rock band The Nice before co-founding the prog-rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer (often abbreviated ELP), which became one of the top bands in the genre. ELP’s albums included Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery. In addition to original songs, the band adapted classical pieces such as Pictures at an Exhibition and Fanfare for the Common Man to a rock format. ELP broke up in 1978, but reunited in the 1990’s.
Greg Lake – Greg Lake first made his mark as a founding member of King Crimson, for which he was lead singer and bass player. During Lake’s tenure, King Crimson released their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King, which is regularly hailed as one of the pioneering works of progressive rock, and included “21st Century Schizoid Man” and the title track. When this original line-up broke up, Lake co-founded ELP, as described under Keith Emerson’s entry. ELP’s best known songs include “Lucky Man”, “From The Beginning”, and “Karn Evil 9”, all of which were written or co-written by Lake, the latter also by Keith Emerson.
George Michael – Singer / songwriter George Michael first found fame as part of Wham! with hits “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas”. His song “Careless Whisper” was also a hit during the Wham! years. After Wham! broke up, he had solo hits including “I Want Your Sex”, “Faith”, “Freedom ’90”, “Jesus to a Child”, and “Fastlove”, and a hit duet with Elton John, “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”.
Merle Haggard – Merle Haggard was many things: a country music legend with 40 No. 1 songs, an important architect of the gritty Bakersfield sound, a notable in the outlaw country movement and a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was also an ex-convict who saw Johnny Cash perform while imprisoned at San Quentin, which inspired him to clean up his act. His best-known song, “Okie from Muskogee”, was released during the Vietnam War, and was simultaneously a denunciation of the hippie movement and a satire of the squares.
Here is a review of Haggard’s 2014 concert at the Chumash Casino.
Scotty Moore – Scotty Moore was the guitarist for Elvis Presley’s early recordings, including “That’s All Right”, “Hound Dog”, “Heartbreak Hotel”, and “Jailhouse Rock”. He returned for The King’s ’68 Comeback Special.
Dan Hicks – Dan Hicks was the drummer for The Charlatans, which is widely credited as the first psychedelic rock band and helped to pave the way for the emerging San Francisco Sound. Then in 1968, he founded Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, which went in a more eclectic acoustic direction colored by jazz, country, and swing influences. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks released several well-regarded albums before disbanding in the mid-1970’s and later reforming.
Here is an interview with Dan Hicks which previewed his 2013 concert in Santa Ynez.
Steve Young – Steve Young was a singer and songwriter whose best known song is “Seven Bridges Road”, which was covered by and became a Top 40 hit for The Eagles. He also wrote “Lonesome, On’ry And Mean”, which became a trademark song for Waylon Jennings, and “Montgomery in the Rain”, which was covered by Hank Williams, Jr.
Sharon Jones – Sharon Jones went from being a prison guard at Riker’s Island to a career as a firecracker soul singer, with her first full-length record Dap Dippin’ with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings released when she was in her 40’s. She bravely continued to perform as she fought cancer.
Jones performed several times in Santa Barbara, including an amazing opening set for the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2015 at the Santa Barbara Bowl.
Sir George Martin – Sir George Martin, often referred to as the “fifth Beatle”, is recognized as one of the top producers in the history of recorded sound. His musical arrangements and use of studio experimentation elevated many of The Beatles’ songs, with notable examples including “Yesterday”, “Strawberry Fields”, “I Am The Walrus”, and “Eleanor Rigby”. Martin also produced albums by Jeff Beck, Mahavishnu Orchestra, America, Cheap Trick, and others.
Other notable 2016 musician and music-related deaths:
Phife Dawg – founding member of hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest
Denise “Vanity” Matthews – lead singer for Vanity 6, best-known for “Nasty Girl”
Pete Burns – singer for Dead or Alive, best-known for “You Spin Me Round (Like A Record)”
Bobby Vee – teen idol pop singer
Guy Clark – singer / songwriter important to the outlaw country genre
Signe Toly Anderson – original female singer for Jefferson Airplane
Alan Vega – vocalist for electropunk duo Suicide
Blowfly, aka Clarence Reid – X-rated songwriter / vocalist
Dave Swarbrick – folk musician who played on early Fairport Convention albums
Bernie Worrell – P-Funk keyboard player who also played with the Talking Heads
Fred Hellerman – member of The Weavers, also produced Alice’s Restaurant album for Arlo Guthrie
Tony Conrad – minimalist musician who played with La Monte Young, John Cale, and Faust
Isao Tomita – Japanese electronic music composer
Mose Allison – jazz and blues musician, wrote “A Young Man Blues” and “Parchman Farm”
Gilli Smyth – singer for Gong including on the Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy
Prince Buster – Jamaican singer / songwriter / producer important for early reggae and ska
Stanley Dural, Jr. – founder of Buckwheat Zydeco Band
Pauline Oliveros – electronic music experimentalist / pioneer
Jean-Jacques Perrey – electronic music pioneer
Roye Albrighton – guitarist and singer for prog-rock band Nektar
Rick Parfitt – singer / guitarist for Status Quo
Jerry Corbetta – singer for Sugarloaf, best-known for “Green-Eyed Lady”
Joan Marie Johnson – singer from the Dixie Cups
Otis Clay – R&B / soul singer
Joey Feek – country singer from duo Joey + Rory
Nicholas Caldwell – singer for The Whispers, known for “And the Beat Goes On”, “Rock Steady”
Gary Loizzo – lead singer for American Breed, best-known for “Bend Me, Shape Me”
Glenn Yarbrough – folk singer with The Limeliters
Brett Smiley – glam rocker
Vi Subversa – singer / guitarist for anarcho-punk band Poison Girls
Sonny James – country singer known for “Young Love”
Lee Andrews – doo wop singer for Lee Andrews & the Hearts, Questlove’s father
Carlo Mastrangelo – member of doo-wop group Dion and the Belmonts
Candye Kane – blues singer
John Stabb – singer for punk rock band Government Issue
Ralph Stanley – bluegrass singer / banjo player
Oscar Brand – folk singer / songwriter
Don Ciccone – singer for The Critters
Billy Paul – soul / R&B singer, best-known for “Me and Mrs. Jones”
Pat Upton – lead singer for Spiral Starecase, best-known for “More Today Than Yesterday”
Frank Sinatra, Jr. – son of Frank Sinatra, had his own music career
Juan Gabriel – Mexican singer / songwriter
Papa Wemba – the king of Congolese rumba
Emilio Navaira – the king of Tejano music
Holly Dunn – country singer
Dennis Davis – drummer for David Bowie, including for the albums Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters
Dale “Buffin” Griffin – drummer for Mott the Hoople
Andy “Thunderclap” Newman – keyboard player for Thunderclap Newman, whose album Hollywood Dream was produced by Pete Townshend and had the hit single “Something in the Air”
Nick Menza – drummer for Megadeth
Matt Roberts – guitarist for 3 Doors Down
Eddie Harsch – keyboard player for The Black Crowes
Herb Hardesy – saxophone player for Fats Domino
Marshall “Rock” Jones – bassist for The Ohio Players
Henry McCullough – guitarist for Wings, also in The Grease Band with Joe Cocker at Woodstock
Al Caiola – guitarist who recorded theme songs to Bonanza and The Magnificent Seven, worked with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Simon and Garfunkel
Mic Gillette – brass player for Tower of Power, Cold Blood, Sons of Champlin
Alphonse Mouzon – jazz drummer
Leonard Haze – original drummer for Y&T
Rob Wasserman – upright bassist, co-founded RatDog with Bob Weir, played with Lou Reed, Rickie Lee Jones, David Grisman, and many others
John Berry – original Beastie Boys guitarist, when they were a hardcore band
Joe Skyward – bassist for Sunny Day Real Estate, Posies
Bob Cranshaw – bassist for Sonny Rollins
Pete Zorn – multi-instrumentalist who worked with Richard Thompson, Steeleye Span
Thomas Fekete – guitarist for Surfer Blood, my review of a 2012 show at Velvet Jones called him “the band’s secret weapon”, “who had his distortion effects set on mofo”
Jimmy Bain – bass guitarist for Rainbow and Dio
James Woolley – played keyboards for Nine Inch Nails
Gib Guilbeau – country rocker
Lonnie Mack – blues-rock guitarist
Phil Ryan – keyboardist and composer for Eyes of Blue, Man
Caroline Crawley – sang on This Mortal Coil’s 1991 album Blood
Wayne Jackson – trumpeter from the Mar-Keys and the Memphis Horns
Lewie Steinberg – original bassist for Booker T. & the M.G.’s, played on “Green Onions”
Clyde Grimes – guitarist for The Untouchables
Rod Temperton – from Heatwave, wrote “Thriller”, “Off the Wall”, “Rock With You” for Michael Jackson
“Sir” Mack Rice – wrote “Mustang Sally”, co-wrote “Respect Yourself”
John D. Loudermilk – wrote “Tobacco Road” and “Indian Reservation”
Bill Backer – co-wrote “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)”
Curly Putman – country songwriter, including “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E”
Pierre Boulez – conductor / composer
Steven Stucky – composer
Paul Bley – free jazz pianist who played with Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus
Nana Vasconcelos – Brazilian Latin jazz percussionist
Gato Barbieri – Latin jazz saxophonist
Bobby Hutcherson – jazz vibraphonist
Toots Thielemans – jazz harmonica player
Michael White – jazz violinist
Pete Fountain – jazz clarinetist
Patty Duke – best known as an actress, also had a top 10 single “Don’t Just Stand There”
Alan Thicke – local resident, best known as an actor, also wrote TV theme songs including Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life, co-wrote “Sara”, a solo hit for Bill Champlin
Don Buchla – modular synthesizer designer / pioneer
Robert Stigwood – manager for Cream and The Bee Gees
Giorgio Gomelsky – manager for The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds
Lou Pearlman – boy band mogul who launched Backstreet Boys and ‘NSync
Chips Moman – producer for Elvis, Willie Nelson
Sandy Pearlman – producer for Blue Oyster Cult, The Dictators, The Clash, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Pavlov’s Dog, also a manager for Blue Oyster Cult, The Dictators
Rudy Van Gelder – jazz recording engineer
Sean McKeough – co-founder of Riot Fest
Gary S. Paxton – produced “Alley-Oop”, “Monster Mash”, also “Along Comes Mary” and “Cherish” for The Association
Bob Krasnow – former head of Blue Thumb records, Elektra
Billy Miller – co-founded Norton Records, Kicks Magazine
Phil Chess – music producer, co-founded Chess Records