Thanks to those who gave us such great music
by Dendy Jarrett
Music can represent so much: sadness, joy, confusion, elation. Consider the guitar pictured above: some might see a gift designed to bring joy. Others might see it as cold and abandoned, a ghost of Christmas Past. Some will want to pick that guitar up, dust off the snow, and start making music…while others will think of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
As we prepare for the end of the year and give the gift of music, I hope, as a musician, you’ll take time to reflect on how music impacted your year. Did it keep you sane? Did it remind you of a love one lost? Keep you grounded? Help heal a hurt? Or maybe it kept you fed and sheltered?
Let’s take a moment to pay homage to the musicians we lost this year who contributed so much, but let’s also remember that, in a way, these people have become immortal. They may not climb onto any more stages, but their music will live on in CDs, vinyl, the cloud, and cover versions by bands that will inject new life into their work.
It’s inevitable that musicians will die, but it’s also inevitable that music won’t. As long as we have ears to hear, music will be a vital part of living. Look up the Boudleaux Bryant song “Let’s Think About Living” that rockabilly artist Bob Luman recorded back in 1960…those words are as valid, and humorous, as ever. Happy holidays!
- Craig Strickland, the 29-year-old country singer was found dead in early January after going missing during a duck hunting trip.
- Jason Mackenroth pounded the skins with the Henry Rollins-led Rollins Band and Mother Superior. He passed away on Jan. 3 from prostate cancer.
- Rock icon David Bowie quietly battled liver cancer for 18 months, ultimately succumbing to the disease on Jan. 10 at the age of 69. He released his last album, 'Blackstar' on his birthday just two days earlier.
- Original Mott the Hoople drummer Dale 'Buffin' Griffin died on Jan. 18 at age 67. Griffin, who played on all seven of the rock outfit's records and enjoyed a successful career as a producer, had been suffering from Alzheimer's.
- Eagles founder and singer-guitarist Glenn Frey passed away at age 67 on Jan. 18. The rocker battled a myriad ailments with rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia all being contributing factors.
- Rapidfire were a little known band from Hollywood who once counted Guns N' Roses legend Axl Rose in their ranks. Lead guitarist Kevin Lawrence performed alongside Rose and died on January 20th at just 51 after suffering from two heart attacks and slipping into a coma.
- Legendary bassist Jimmy Bain, who had performed with Rainbow, Dio and, most recently, Last in Line, died suddenly on Jan. 23 at age 68. The loss came aboard Def Leppard's 'Hysteria on the High Seas' cruise, where Bain lost a battle with lung cancer.
- Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship founding guitarist Paul Kantner died on Jan. 28 at age 74. The influential icon suffered from multiple organ failure and septic shock shortly after having a heart attack earlier in the week
- Singer Jon Bunch made his name with alt rock band Sense Field, cutting five albums with the band before their breakup. He then took over as frontman for Further Seems Forever before reuniting with Sense Field in 2012. He passed away at age 45 on Feb. 1.
- Former Black Witchery guitarist Steve Childers recorded two of the most violent war metal albums in the genre's canon. He tragically lost his life in a car accident on Feb. 2 at age 49.
- Big Kap, the DJ, and a longtime staple of New York hip-hop culture, died on February 3 at age 45.
- Maurice White, A founding member of the legendary group Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away peacefully in his sleep on February 3 at age 74.
- Valleys co-vocalist Mikey Clement died on February 5th at just 23 years old in a tragic car accident. The loss hit especially heard as Valleys were just one week away from releasing their debut album, 'Experiment One: Asylum.'
- Denise "Vanity" Matthews, who fronted the group Vanity 6 but was best known for her collaboration with Prince, died February 15th at a hospital in Fremont, California. She was 57.
- Riverside guitarist Piotr Grudzinski passed away on Feb. 21 following a show with the Winery Dogs. The death was sudden and ultimately due to cardiac arrest. Grudzinski was just 40 years old.
- Singer Sonny James, who ruled the country music charts for nearly 20 years, died February 22 at age 87.
- Hammerbox bassist James Atkins died Feb. 29 at age 49. The cause of death was esophageal cancer, and the rocker was surrounded by loved ones at the time of his passing.
- Former Budgie guitarist John Thomas passed away at age 63 on March 3. He played on three of the band's albums, 'Power Supply,' 'Nightflight' and 'Deliver Us From Evil.'
- Swedish drummer Oscar Karlsson died at the young age of 39 on March 3. He played on 13 studio albums during his career, most notably cutting records with melodic death metal outfit Gates of Ishtar and the Duskfall.
- Joey Feek, the country star and one half of the Joey + Rory duo, died of cervical cancer on March 4 at age 40.
- Harvey Danger bassist and founder Aaron Huffman died on March 6 due to respiratory failure stemming from a long illness. His bass playing took the form of a lead role, which was crucial to the alt rock band's sound.
- Sir George Martin, often regarded as the "fifth member" of the Beatles, passed away at age 90 on March 8. The legendary producer signed the Beatles to their first record deal and worked together with the band to craft several of their hits.
- Emerson, Lake and Palmer keyboardist Keith Emerson tragically committed suicide on March 10. The icon suffered from nerve damage in his hand, leading to depression about whether he would be able to perform at an optimal level.
- Blue Murder keyboardist Nik Green passed away on March 13 after a battle with cancer. The news was reported by former bandmate Tony Franklin, who called Green "a gentle soul and huge talent."
- Frank Sinatra Jr., the singer and son of Frank Sinatra died unexpectedly of cardiac arrest on March 16 while on tour in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was 72.
- Malik Taylor, better known to fans as Phife Dawg of the rap group A Tribe Called Quest, died March 23 at age 45. He’d long suffered from complications of Type 1 diabetes.
- Alabama death metal up and comers Ectovoid were dealt a tragic blow when guitarist Michael Stewart passed away on March 23 at age 23. The cause of death was listed as epilepsy induced asphyxiation.
- Former Sunny Day Real Estate and Posies bassist Joe Skyward died on March 26. The four-stringer spent two years battling cancer before passing away at age 57.
- Merle Haggard, one of the most celebrated country music artists of all time died at age 79 on April 6 after battling pneumonia.
- Former King Conquer guitarist John Byrd passed away on April 6. Having spent time in and out of the band, he notably battled substance abuse and his former bandmates released a statement urging those who are doing the same to seek help.
- News that Injected guitarist Jade Lemons had died came late on April 7. The producer behind the band's standout 'Burn it Black' album released a statement implying a drug overdose was the cause of death.
- On April 21, it was announced that the legendary Prince had suddenly passed away. The musician died at age 57 at his Paisley Park home in Minnesota. He left a legacy of 39 studio albums, though most of his work still lies in the vaults of his estate.
- Papa Wemba, one of Africa’s most flamboyant and popular musicians, died after collapsing on stage at a music festival in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on April 23. He was 66.
- Texas Native and Grammy-winning songwriter Guy Clark died May 17 at age 74.
- Original Beastie Boys guitarist John Berry passed away on May 19 at age 52. Credited with giving the Beastie Boys their name, Berry was under hospice care when he succumbed to frontal lobe dementia which had gotten worse in recent months.
- Former Megadeth drummer Nick Menza tragically died onstage on May 21 at 51 years old. Menza was performing with his band OHM when he collapsed. He played on four Megadeth albums, including the classics 'Rust in Peace' and 'Countdown to Extinction.'
- The Surfer Blood guitarist, Thomas Fekete passed on May 30 after battling a rare form of cancer for a year. He had left the band the previous year to focus on his health.
- Former Municipal Waste drummer Brandon Ferrell passed away on May 31. No Cause of death was listed when the news was reported. Ferrell played on Municipal Waste's debut record, 'Waste 'Em All' and was most recently involved with Obsessor and Sarcoma.
- Adam Young, one half of the father/daughter grindcore duo. His fiancé discovered his body on June 9 after he hung himself in his basement. The band released an EP and one record after going viral with the song "I Want Pancakes."
- Christina Grimmie, the singer-songwriter and finalist on The Voice was shot while signing autographs following a concert in Orlando on June 11; the shooter killed himself after the attack.
- Singer Alttrell Courdes, known as Prince Be of the music duo P.M. Dawn, died June 17 after suffering from diabetes and renal kidney disease. He was 46
- Bluegrass music pioneer Ralph Stanley died June 23 at age 89. Already famous in bluegrass and roots music circles, the 2000 hit movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” catapulted him into the mainstream, winning him a Grammy.
- Scotty Moore, legendary guitarist credited with helping to launch Elvis Presley’s career, died at age 84 on June 28. Moore is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was ranked No. 29 of Roling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
- Legendary rock producer Sandy Pearlman passed away on July 26. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in December 2015 that left him unable to walk or talk. Having received 17 Platinum and Gold records, he produced classics from Blue Oyster Cult, the Clash, and more.
- Famous New Orleans Jazz Clarinetist Pete Fountain died of heart failure on August 6. He was 86.
- Emperors and Elephants guitarist Jeff Windisch tragically passed away after his band opened for Lynch Mob. In the crowd during the headlining set, Windisch collapsed and entered cardiac arrest on Aug. 13
- Jerry 'Cool Clyde' Pradis passed away "suddenly and peacefully" on Aug. 13. The drummer performed on the Gates of Slumber's final record, 'Wretch,' as well as two Sourvein EPs (playing guitar on one). He was most recently a member of the long-running New Orleans outfit, Graveyard Rodeo.
- Former Nine Inch Nails keyboardist James Woolley passed away on Aug. 14 at age 49. The musician suffered from neck and spine injuries, though no cause of death was provided. He also toured with Judas Priest front-man Rob Halford's 2wo outfit in 1998.
- After a three-year battle with cancer, Architects guitarist Tom Searle passed away on Aug. 20. He had valiantly fought the disease, playing as many shows with the band as possible between hospital stays and general feelings of being unwell. Searle performed on all seven of the band's releases.
- Former Threat Signal drummer Norman Killeen passed away on Aug. 25 at age 38. He performed on their second album, 'Vigilance' and was a member of the Canadian metalcore outfit from 2007 to 2010.
- Mexican music icon and Latin American music legend, Juan Gabriel died at age 66 on August 28.
- Gene Wilder, while an actor, did a great deal of singing in the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He died August 29 at age 83.
- Fred Hellerman, a singer and composer who was the last surviving member of the iconic and influential folk music quartet the Weavers, died Sept 1 at age 89.
- Original Y&T drummer Leonard Haze passed away Sept. 11 at the age of 61. He had been suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonory disease.
- Charmian Carr, best known for her role as Liesl in “The Sound of Music” died Sept 17 at age 73. She died from complications from a rare form of dementia.
- Buckwheat Zydeco (Stanley Dural Jr.) a well-loved Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist from Louisiana died on September 24 at age 68.
- Phil Chess, the co-founder of the iconic rock-and-roll and blues label Chess Records, died Oct 18. He was 95. He and his brother Leonard founded Chess Records in the late 1940s and helped spawn the careers of many popular musicians in the 1950s
- Former 3 Doors Down guitarist and founder Matt Roberts died of a possible prescription pill overdose on Aug. 20. Roberts spent 16 years in the group, leaving in 2012 citing circulation problems.
- Pete Burns, The Dead or Alive singer died on Sunday, Oct. 23, due to a "massive cardiac arrest," according to a statement. The "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)" singer was 57.
- Bobby Vee, the pop singer famous for hits like "Take Good Care of My Baby" and "Rubber Ball" and boasting 25 albums to his name, died "peacefully" on Oct. 24. The singer retired in 2011 after being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease. He was 73.
- Leonard Cohen, the prolific singer-songwriter had passed on Facebook on Nov. 10. After his funeral, it was revealed he had died in his sleep after a fall. He was 82.
- Leon Russell, who emerged as a rock ‘n’ roll star in the 1970s after working behind the scenes as a session pianist for other musicians, died November 13. He was 74.
- Sharon Jones, the powerhouse soul and Dap-Kings singer, passed on Nov. 18 due to pancreatic cancer. The funk performer died at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., and was surrounded by members of her band and other loved ones. She was 60.
- Alan Thicke was pronounced dead on December 13th after a game of hockey with his son where he suffered a heart attack. He was a Canadian born actor, singer and songwriter and also the father of pop sensation Robert Thicke. He was 69 years old.
- Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. The musician, who fronted both King Crimson and Emerson Lake and Palmer, is best known for songs such as "In the Court of the Crimson King" and "21st Century Schizoid Man."
- Status Quo's Rick Parfitt passed away on December 24th at the age of 68.
- George Michael, English singer/songwriter who sold tens of millions of albums as a member of the duo Wham! and on his own, was found dead on Sunday, December 25th at his home in Goring in Oxfordshire, England. He was 53.
- Drummer, musician, composer, arranger, producer and actor Alphonse Mouzon has passed away on December 26, 2016.
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.