I thought my series on those we lost in 2016 was over after Part Two, but I realized afterwards I'd overlooked some important people worth noting.... and then some other icons from the music world passed on shockingly suddenly in late December... So, here I am writing on the day before New Years, continuing my look back on some of the artists and producers we lost this tragic year past.
As I explained in parts one and two, I am sharing here not only some memories and thoughts about key recordings relative to these artists, but I also created a companion playlist for you, Dear Readers, to listen to while perusing this... music to perhaps give one a bit of pause as we all inevitably find ourselves at some point contemplating life, love, music and everything else which makes our human experience unique.
The order presented here was based initially on the sequencing of my playlist. But... then with this additional article. as I learned about more icons and influencers who had passed on, I added in some more songs. So just when you think you've come full circle from Rick Wakeman's version of "Life On Mars" to David Bowie's original, the playlist will take you on another mini journey ultimately ending with another David Bowie song.
You can find the playlist by clicking on the link here.
Again, if you click on the name of each artist mentioned below there will be links to Amazon where you can find the music on line, should you decide to pursue more of their music.
Please also note that I have not included everyone because, well, there are so many.... And there are some artists who passed whom I am not familiar with, so there is no disrespect intended. Actually, it really is out of respect that I focused on those who are on my radar versus writing something hollow about someone I didn't know much about. That said, there are more than enough of them here -- sadly, way too many for one year.
We're not only touching on some of the bigger names here, but also some who were behind the scenes or who played a crucial part of the sound of a group or artist. There are so many, yet this list is far from complete. That said, on this playlist (and across these three articles) we look back on 33 artists, singers, musicians, artists and producers spanning 32 songs. Many lifetimes of melody and memories...
Ok, here we go for just a bit more...
Roye Albrighton of Nektar -- Was so sad to learn of his passing... a man who aspired and conquered much in his life, battling on after near success and life-threatening illnesses. He led a band I have long loved which I have dubbed over the years "The Little Prog Rock Band That Could," Nektar. A great guitarist, songwriter and singer, I was fortunate to finally get to see Nektar several years ago and met Roye before the show, where he and drummer Ron Howden signed my copy of Remember The Future, their breakthrough album in the United States back in 1973. For the playlist, however, I put their 1972 opus A Tab In The Ocean because I think that most encapsulates what this band was about. RIP Roye. Glad I got to meet ya! Thank you for the years of inspiration.
George Michael -- I'll admit, I wasn't a huge fan of George Michael or his original band Wham, but I respected his successes and know many people who loved -- and still love -- his music. I grew to appreciate him when he collaborated with Elton John on "Don't Let The Sun Go Down on Me" which I have included in the playlist as it was no doubt most fitting for this bittersweet occasion.
Phil Chess of Chess Records -- One of the legendary brothers who -- along with Leonard Chess -- together created a legendary record company which recorded legendary artists like Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and so many others from the dawn of Rock 'n Roll and Rhythm 'n Blues. Chess was home to "Rocket 88" by Ike Turner and his Delta Cats -- considered one of the first, if not the first, rock and roll singles (from 1951). In honor of Mr. Chess, I've included one of their earliest productions and a B-side at that, a song by saxophonist Gene Ammons called "Bless You," issued in 1950. Some of the lyrics on this song jumped out at me as poignant: "Oh, bless you. For building a new dream..."
Marni Nixon -- The average listener didn't know who she was, but they no doubt heard her voice who sang key roles for Audrey Hepburn in the film versions of My Fair Lady, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, Deborah Kerr in The King and I and many other from the classic era of Hollywood movie musicals. She was also the mother of musician, singer, songwriter, producer Andrew Gold (who many of you may know for writing and performing the song which eventually became the theme for the enormously popular TV series The Golden Girls, "Thank Your For Being A Friend"). So, thank you Marni for all your unheralded vocal contributions to the world of musical cinema.
Robert Stigwood -- Another legendary producer who was behind everyone from The Bee Gees and Eric Clapton to films like The Who's Tommy and Evita. Wow. Saturday Night Fever. Grease. He even had ties to The Beatles, working with Brian Epstein's NEMs Enterprises back in the day. Where do you start with this man's influence? For me, even though he signed and released Clapton's Cream (on the short lived Reaction Records label), Robert Stigwood will -- in my mind -- always be most noted for bringing the The Bee Gees to the universe as we know it. With that, offer up their healing song of heartbreak, "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?", which takes on new meaning in this context with lines like "Please help me mend my broken heart, And let me live again."
Dale "Buffin" Griffin of Mott The Hoople -- I just learned of his death as I was wrapping up this article, so once again I expanded it again... perhaps for the better. Mr Griffin, the original drummer for the band that became iconic almost overnight when David Bowie (a fan of the band) gave them his song "All The Young Dudes" to record. This was one of my favorite singles of 1972 when I was around 10 years old. What more can I say? I played this record to death as a little kid of 10 or 11 and it has never ever grown stale for me. Mr. Griffin's drumming no doubt has something to do with propelling along a certain raw freshness which made the song an instant hit.
This also, oddly enough, brings us full circle to where we started with David Bowie.
So I think I'll end my tribute here.
I have to stop.
Thank you, all you forever young Dudes (and Dude-ettes!) passed who will rock on for eternity...
"Boogaloo dudes... Carry the news..."