Well here we are, the end of the road, the final entry in this series. I'm sure there will be some important deaths in 2017, one hopes that it's not such a rough year that I need to do a 5 part series, and one that doesn't include so many people who were world changing musicians.
Jean-Jacques Perrey - Date: November 4th. Cause of death: Lung cancer. Age: 87.
Perrey was a important figure in the development of electronic music. In 1959 he effectively created the first sequencer and loop machine with scissors, tape, and a tape recorder. Friends with Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesiser, Perry became one of the first to synth musicians. He recorded an album in 1965 titled "The In Sound From Way Out", the title, and the concept for the cover art, would later be used by the Beastie Boys on their instrumental album "The In Sound From Way Out!"(Note the exclamation point at the end).
Leon Russell - Date: November 13th. Cause of death: Complications from heart surgery. Age: 74.
Russell is an often overlooked song writer and musician. He has played with such widely varied artists as The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, and The Rolling Stones. Elton John has called him a mentor and stated that when his Greatest Hits album came out he cried and was angry at how much Russell has been forgotten. Pixies singer Black Francis named him as the inspiration for his own singing style. He won a Grammy for record of the year in 1977 for "Make Love to the Music" an album that surprisingly has not even reached silver status in sales. Russell had 5 gold records, six if you include The Union going gold in Canada.
Sharon Jones - Date: November 18th. Cause of death: unknown, but she had bile duct cancer in 2013 and several strokes after the presidential election results, jokingly claiming Donald Trump winning caused it. Age: 60.
A great story for those that want to try something in their later years. She showed that not everyone needs to be as young Taylor Swift to make it. Sharon had been singing all her life in talent shows and church, but she didn't release her first single until 1996 at the age of 40. A funk/soul revivalist she was often called "James Brown in heels" because of her electric and energetic stage presence. In 2013 she was diagnosed with bile duct cancer and during chemotherapy she still continued to perform. Towards the end of 2016 she had discussed wanting to keep performing despite her cancer reemerging in 2015 saying that she has cancer but cancer doesn't have her. She played with Lou Reed, Phish, Prince, David Byrne and many other artists of varied styles. Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings won a grammy in 2014.
Colonel Abrams - Date: November 24th. Cause of death: unknown, possibly diabetes. Age: 67.
Abrams was a successful 80s pop/dance/R&B artist who had multiple #1 hits during that period. Sadly, despite even releasing a single as recently as 2008 and performing a concert in 2011, he was homeless, without medical coverage or medicine for his diabetes in 2015. Some musicians had banded together to try help him during this period of time, most notabley House dj Marshall Jefferson.
Greg Lake - Date: December 7th. Cause of death: cancer. Age: 69.
Lake was 1/3rd of the band Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, a band that earlier this year lost another member to suicide, Keith Emerson. On top of his work with ELP, Lake also played guitar, sung, and composed some parts of one of the greatest Prog Rock albums of all time, In The Court of the Crimson King.
George Michael - Date: December 25th. Cause of death: inconclusive. Age: 53.
A pop icon and an important figure for the LGBT community. George Michael performed dozens of major hits, mostly with the band Wham! but solo as well. With over 100 million records sold George was one of the most successful artists in history. Ten of his albums were in the top 200 for billboards and he won 2 Grammys with 6 nominations and has dozens of other accolades.
Debbie Reynolds - December 28th. Cause of death: stroke. Age: 84.
Debbie may not have been a looming figure in music the way George Michael was, but she had a number of top 25 hits, including the #1 hit "Tammy" from her film "Tammy and the Bachelor" a song that remained in #1 for 5 weeks and was the best selling single for a female artist in 1957. The song also was sampled in The Avalanches' song "A Different Feeling." Debbie died one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher, her final words reportedly were "I want to be with Carrie." Try and not tear up a little after reading that.
Carrie Fisher - Date: December 27th. Cause of death: drowned in moonlight strangled by her own bra. Age: 60.
Carrie is not remotely an important musical figure, but with all this dourness I simply wanted to end on a happy and fun note. Here is Carrie singing the Life Song in the absolutely horrible Star Wars Holiday Special.
That's it, we're done, no more of this sad story."Artists of the Year Special Obituary Edition: 2016 Year That Music Died" has concluded. Enjoy 2017!