The recently-departed year perhaps wasn’t as tough on Makers of The Music as its predecessor, but there were some major musical passages during 2017.
You’ll recall 2016, which saw the likes of David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Keith Emerson, Glenn Frey, Dale Griffin, Paul Kantner, Greg Lake, Prince, Leon Russell and Maurice White shuffle off that mortal coil. Last year’s significant departures included five I blogged about, Greg Allman, Walter Becker, Chuck Berry, J. Geils and Tom Petty.
But I missed a few, too, most notably Fats Domino, who died Oct. 24 at the age of 89. The singer and pianist recorded early rock and roll classics like “Ain’t It a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and influenced artists like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, and others.
Also escaping my notice at the time of his passing was Butch Trucks, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, who committed suicide on Jan. 24. Trucks was considered by some to be one of the greatest rock n’ roll drummers of all time.
(It was a tough year for that now-disbanded band. Besides, Greg Allman and Trucks, 2017 claimed Johnny Sandlin, who played in a band that merged with the Allman Joys to become the Allman Brothers Band. Sandlin switched to the studio side of the music business, producing albums for the Allmans and a number of other groups.)
He wasn’t a rock superstar, but Glen Campbell - who died Aug. 8 at 81, from Alzheimer’s — was a country music phenom who crossed over and had a big impact on pop music. He was also a good enough guitar picker to work as a session musician, playing with the likes of Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Nancy Sinatra, Elvis Presley and Phil Spector. He had a string of Hot 100 hits, as well as a TV variety show and success in motion pictures.
AC/DC co-founder Malcolm Young died Nov. 18 at the age of 64, after suffering from dementia for some time. He and his brother Angus started the band in 1973; AC/DC was a bit too much head-banger for my tastes, but they sold more than 200 million records worldwide, and Malcolm Young’s guitar is credited as being the driving force behind their sound.
Also a victim of dementia was actor and singer David Cassidy, who died Nov. 22 at the age of 67. Born into a actual show business family, he found fame as a member of a fictional performing family. TV’s Partridge Family had some success in pop music, and the show helped launch Cassidy as a solo artist and actor; he and his TV family had several Top 40 hits.
Also leaving the planet were several musicians who weren’t stars, but were fixtures in successful 1960s and ’70s rock groups: Skip Prokop, co-founder of the Canadian jazz-rock fusion group Lighthouse, who died Aug. 30 from heart complications at age 73; Boston drummer Sib Hashian, 67, victim of a heart attack March 22 while performing on a ship sailing to the Bahamas; John Wetton, singer and bassist with King Crimson and Asia, who passed Jan. 31 apparently as the result of colon cancer; and 68-year-old Black Sabbath keyboard player Geoff Nicholls, who died Jan. 28 after a long battle with lung cancer.
Some early influences on rock, rhythm and blues and soul music departed last year. Albert “Sonny” Burgess, early pioneer of rockabilly music, died Aug. 18 in Little Rock, Ark., at 88. Blue-eyed soul singer Wayne Cochran passed Nov. 21 at the age of 78; inspired by soul artists like Otis Redding and James Brown, his showmanship and flashy attire influenced Elvis Presley.
Singer and actress Della Reese, who died Nov. 19 at age 86, had a hit single, “Don’t You Know,” in the 1950s. Leon Ware, who died Feb. 23 at the age of 77, was a singer, songwriter, producer and artist who influenced soul, funk, disco, R&B, jazz and hip-hop. Ware worked with Motown Records early on, wrote songs for the Isley Brothers, Martha & the Vandellas, the Jackson 5 and Ike and Tina Turner, later producing albums for the likes of Michael Jackson, Isaac Hayes, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the Miracles and the Temptations.
Passing on April 15, at age 78, was another notable Motown figure, Sylvia Moy. One of Motown’s first female songwriter/producers, she collaborated on Stevie Wonder’s breakthrough hits, including “My Cherie Amour” and “I Was Made to Love Her.”
Clyde Stubblefield, who died Feb. 11 at age 73, was best known as the drummer for James Brown. But he also was an influence later on hip-hop, his drum beats sampled into hits by Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Rum-D.M.C.
(to be continued)