2016 has been a sadly brutal year as far as high profile rock and roll deaths go. As we exit this year, we have provided this tribute to some of those we lost during the past year and how they will be missed in the future.
David Bowie (1/08/47 – 1/10/16)
Early in the year we lost we lost this legendary musician and visionary just two days after he released his excellent final album, Blackstar. Born David Jones, this artist adopted the surname “Bowie” with his debut in 1967 and through the years was incredibly original in blending diverse musical styles as well as multiple reinventions of his stage persona. Along the way, Bowie became one of the most influential musical artists ever.
Glenn Frey (11/06/48 – 1/18/16)
Co-founder and one of the primary singers and songwriters of The Eagles, Glenn Frey wrote or co-wrote some of the bands biggest hits. Frey also played guitar, piano, and keyboards and had a smooth vocal delivery which worked well with the band’s rich harmonies. In the 1980s, Frey launched a successful solo career and even dabbled in some acting.
Paul Kantner (3/17/41 – 1/28/16)
Paul Kantner was the co-founder, guitarist and band leader of the Jefferson Airplane, helping to create the “San Francisco sound” of the late sixties. Kantner also helped form the soft-rock spin-off band Jefferson Starship, which had several more hits throughout the 1970s. Sadly and coincidently, Kantner died on the same day as original (albeit very short term) Jefferson Airplane vocalist Signe Anderson.
Maurice White (12/19/41 – 2/04/16)
The founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, Maurice White, was a singer, drummer, and producer for the funk-soul group. More importantly, he was also the group’s producer, composer, arranger and bandleader, shepherding Earth, Wind & Fire to great success with multiple pop hits and Grammy awards through the late seventies and early eighties.
Sir George Martin (1/03/26 – 3/08/16)
Often referred to as the “Fifth Beatle”, George Martin was there for every Beatles recording (save the Let It Be sessions) throughout their spectacular career. Originally a producer of comedy and novelty records in the 1950s, Martin stepped in with some of the most inventive rock recordings of the 1960s, which have had countless influence on music worldwide.
Keith Emerson (11/02/44 – 3/11/16)
A keyboard master, Keith Noel Emerson found his first commercial success with the sixties group, The Nice, before founding the supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer in 1970. This commercially successful group became one of the most highly regarded progressive rock groups of the era.
Merle Haggard (4/06/37 – 4/06/16)
Known as the “Okie From Muskogee”, Merle Haggard had more than 35 number one country hits during the heart of his career from the 1960s though the 1980s. A singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler, Haggard helped forge the “Bakersfield sound” with the distinctive twang of his Fender Telecaster electric guitar topped on a traditional country music arrangement.
Prince (6/07/58 – 4/21/16)
A pioneering musician of his distinct Minneapolis scene, Prince combined soul, funk, rock, R&B, hip hop, disco, jazz, and many other styles into an incredibly successful and critically acclaimed career. Born Prince Rogers Nelson, this composer, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and actor reached peak success in the 1980s.
Billy Paul (12/01/34 – 4/24/16)
Paul Williams, who became known professionally as Billy Paul, was a Grammy Award-winner and popular soul singer who helped forge the “Sound of Philadelphia” in the 1970s. Paul was best identified by his diverse vocal style which ranged from raspy to soulful.
Scotty Moore (12/27/31 – 6/28/16)
Winfield “Scotty” Moore III was an American guitarist and recording engineer, best known for backing of Elvis Presley during the height of his popularity in the 1950s. An innovator on guitar, Moore is credited with inventing (or discovering) the power chords, which have long since become conventional for rock guitarists.
George Wesley (6/11/54 – 7/19/16)
Pennsylvania reggae rocker George Wesley got his start at a very young age by playing alongside his father in a country band. He eventually branched out to compose and perform his original music with several groups including the Wesley-Roger Band, The Irietations, and The George Wesley Band.
Leonard Cohen (9/21/34 – 11/07/16)
Originally from Canada, poet-turned musician Leonard Cohen rose to prominence in New York in the late 1960s with a unique counterculture message delivered with a distinctive and exquisite voice. Cohen’s career continued for nearly fifty years with his final album released just weeks before his death in November 2016.
Leon Russell (4/02/42 – 11/13/16)
Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and well known collaborator Leon Russell started as a highly demanded session musician as member of the Wrecking Crew in Los Angeles. Here he played on countless classic records and collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and Elton John before launching a successful solo career of his own.
Greg Lake (11/10/47 – 12/07/16)
Sadly, Greg Lake became the second member of Emerson, Lake and Palmer to lose his life in 2016. Lake composed one of the group’s most successful hits, “Lucky Man”, at the age of 12 and was the front man for King Crimson before helping form the successful supergroup for which he provided vocals, guitars and bass.
George Michael (6/25/63 – 12/25/16)
On Christmas day, singer George Michael died at a young age. Born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, he rose to fame as a member of the music duo Wham! in the early eighties before launching and even more successful solo career later in the decade. Michael racked up many hits and won various music awards throughout his 30-year career.