Won’t you spare me over ‘til another year
-- “O Death,” Ralph Stanley
It’s a list that is much too long. Musicians, producers, legendary songwriters, voices that defined a generation, worldwide celebrities and local legends, we lost many during the past 12 months.
The year got off to a bad start when David Bowie’s death was announced on Jan. 10. The Ziggy Stardust, 1980s MTV generation trendsetter was still pushing the musical envelope. January also took horn player Mic Gillette from the group Tower of Power, Glenn Frey from Eagles fame and Paul Kantner, who co-founded Jefferson Airplane in 1965.
In February we lost Maurice White from Earth Wind & Fire and Denise Matthews, who is known better as Vanity from the Prince-founded Vanity 6.
In March, it was the legendary Beatles producer, George Martin, who had the intuitive vision to see what those four lads from Liverpool were capable of and to capture it on tape for the world to hear. We also said goodbye to keyboard legend Keith Emerson in March. His progressive-rock work with the Nice and Emerson Lake & Palmer created a sound that helped to define a genre.
On April 6, country-music icon Merle Haggard died. We also lost Gib Gilbeau from The Flying Burrito Brothers, “Me & Mrs. Jones,” singer Billy Paul and the artist known as Prince during the month. One of the toughest blows in April was the news of the death of Greenwood music legend, Hack Bartley. Bartley who played with The Swinging Medallions and with his group, Shuffle, is missed by many and will be remembered for a rich musical and family legacy.
In May, it was Nashville songwriter Guy Clark, and John Berry from The Beastie Boys.
In June, we lost Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention), Henry McCullough (Wings), Attrell Cordes (P.M. Dawn), Wayne Jackson (The Mar-Kays), Bernie Worrell (Parliament-Funkadelic) and legendary guitarist for Elvis, Scotty Moore.
In July, it was Danny Smyth (The Box Tops), Lewie Steinberg (Booker T. & the M.G.’s), and Sandy Pearlman who founded Blue Oyster Cult in 1967.
August saw the deaths of jazz clarinetist, Pete Fountain, Glenn Yarbrough (The Limeliters) and jazz harmonica player, Toots Thielemans.
In September, it was producer Lew Merenstein who recorded the “Astral Weeks” and “Moondance” albums for Van Morrison, Jerry Corbetta (Sugarloaf) and songwriter John D. Loudermilk who wrote “Indian Reservation” made famous by The Raiders.
Chess Records label co-owner and legendary producer Phil Chess died in October along with “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record Baby)” singer Pete Burns from Dead or Alive and 1960s teen idol, Bobby Vee.
In November, it was iconic songwriter, Leonard Cohen. We also lost a host of stellar musicians including jazz and session bassist Bob Cranshaw (Sonny Rollins), Victor Bailey (Weather Report), and guitarist Al Caiola who played on everything including the theme to Bonanza. We also said goodbye to Leon Russell and the soulful Sharon Jones (Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings).
The year ended with the deaths of Greg Lake (ELP, King Crimson), Rick Parfitt (Status Quo) and George Michael (Wham!) on Christmas Day.
Nick Serpell, the celebrity obituary writer for the BBC, said celebrity deaths might be a trend we continue to see in 2017. In an interview with the network, he said baby boomers are now entering their 70s and there are more famous people now than ever before thanks to social media.
Let’s remember those who have gone and may you have a safe and prosperous new year.
Paul Crutcher is the broadcast specialist and XLR Radio general manager at Lander University. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at@PaulCrutcher.