Musicians, songwriters, and singers can’t live forever, but their music lasts a lifetime. This is a list of 19 musicians, songwriters, and singers that have pasted away, and my thoughts on their work.
1. Glenn Frey – Born November 6th, 1948, Died January 18th, 2016
Glenn Frey and his band (Eagles) in general have had the biggest impact on my music interests. I stand by my theory that after you hear the Eagles sing “Seven Bridges Road” by Steve Young, you will be hooked to their jaw-dropping harmony. Frey is the first Eagle to pass away, and if it wasn’t for him and his song writing partner Don Henley, the Eagles would have never made as big of an impact on 70s American and Southern California music as they did. If there was a word to describe how Frey and Henley wrote music, you could say they were masterminds, or that they were just plain good at what they were doing. The Eagles song that means the most to me is without question “Desperado.” It just so happens to be that “Desperado” is the first song that these two I call masterminds, co-wrote on their 2nd studio album of the same name. From hanging out in Detroit with Bob Seger, to Longbranch Pennywhistle with J.D. Souther, collaborating with Jackson Browne, backing Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles, a solo career, and a little acting under his belt, Frey was an important piece to the Eagles’ puzzle.
Eagles performing “Peaceful Easy Feeling” with Frey on lead vocals
2. Warren Zevon – Born January 24th, 1947, Died September 7th, 2003
Warren Zevon, he certainly knew a thing or to about writing entertaining music. Just watching him perform was also entertaining. Zevon had a fair share of appearances on David Letterman, and he was also a favorite of Lettermans. During his last appearance on Letterman, Letterman asked Zevon if he had a different approach to life and music after his diagnosis, Zevon responded by saying “You put more value on every minute, you know I always kinda thought I did that. I really always enjoy myself. But it’s more valuable now. You’re reminded to enjoy every sandwich and every minute.” Without question the Zevon song that means the most to me is “Keep Me In Your Heart.” “Keep Me In Your Heart” came off his last album “The Wind,” released just about two weeks before he passed. Whether it’s jamming out to “Werewolves of London” with my Dad, or comprehending the fact that “Bad Luck Streak At Dancing School” is the title of a song and album, I will always be playing Zevon music.
There is also an all-star cast of musicians who did session work for his last album “The Wind”
Link to an article on ultimateclassicrock.com about Zevon’s history on David Letterman
“Keep Me In Your Heart” by Warren Zevon
3. Brad Delp – Born June 12th, 1951, Died March 9th, 2007
Boston has been doing it since 2007, but if you ask me, Boston is not Boston without Brad Delp. There’s songs such as “Amanda,” “More Than A Feeling,” “Foreplay/Longtime,” and “We’re Ready,” that are never going to be the same live, as long as it’s not Brad Delp on lead vocals. Boston is more often than not, associated with their first studio album which is their self titled album. surprisingly, no song on that album became a number one hit. It was not until 1986 and their 3rd studio album “Third Stage,” when the song “Amanda” became Boston’s first number one hit. Delp will always be one of my favorite voices in rock.
Boston performing “More Than A Feeling” with Brad Delp on lead vocals
4. Karen Carpenter – Born March 2nd, 1950, Died February 4th, 1983
Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard made the group, The Carpenters. A couple songs you could have found The Carpenters performing are “(They Long To Be) Close To You,” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.” One thing I notice about Karen Carpenter is her stage presence. I don’t mean someone who is dancing around and putting on a wild show (like the next person), but someone who looks as if they are confident at what they are doing. Singing and playing the drums is tough, and that’s what she did from time to time. She looked enthusiastic as she played the drums as well. Her outfits, and hair style more than likely appealed to the audience, but more importantly she had a great voice.
The Carpenters performing “Help!” by The Beatles. With Karen on drums.
5. Freddie Mercury – Born September 5th, 1946, Died November 24th, 1991
Freddie…now if I ever had the privilege of witnessing him on stage at a concert, I assume I would have been blown away. His stage persona was one of a kind, and that goes without saying the fact that Queen’s pockets are full of great songs. Songs in this pocket include “Leaving Home Ain’t Easy,” “It’s Late,” and “Killer Queen.” As someone who very much enjoys listening to harmonies, Queen is right up my ally, and Mercury is part of the reason I’ll never hesitate to press play on a Queen song.
“Somebody To Love” by Queen, with Freddie Mercury on lead vocals
6. Michael Jackson – Born August 29th, 1958, Died June 25th, 2009
Michael Jackson, if you’ve never danced to one of his songs, you’re missing out. I’m not saying you can dance just as well as him, because you most likely can’t. That’s just one reason Jackson is who he is. From “I Want You Back” with Jackson 5, to “Thriller” during his solo career, he had hit songs after hit songs. Not to mention, The King of Pop also has some entertaining music videos.
Music Video for “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson.
7. Tom Fogerty – November 9th, 1941, Died September 6th, 1990
Creedence Clearwater Revival, talk about a band that played hit music but hit rock bottom with their relationship, and broke up with no sign of ever playing together again. Tom is the older brother of the lead singer, John Fogerty. The band broke up in 1972 after members Doug Clifford and Stu Cook were not getting as much say as they wanted in business and artistic matters. Tom left a year prior in ’71. In the late 70s Tom was part of a group called Ruby, and they released three albums in ’76, ’78, and ’84. When I said they played hit music, that was not an exaggeration. I could name a grocery store list of hit songs but i’ll just leave it to a few. So there’s “Fortunate Son,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Proud Mary,” “Some Day Never Comes,” and “Hey Tonight.” Being around from 1967 to 1972, this band did not shy away from their Vietnam era music, and I highly suggest you look into the meaning behind their song’s lyrics. Tom wasn’t just the rhythm guitarist for CCR, he was the rhythm guitarist for an American band important to its time.
CCR performing “Fortunate Son.” Tom is on the far left side of the stage playing rhythm guitar.
8. Dan Peek – Born November 1st, 1950, Died July 24th, 2011
With Daniel Peek being the son of a father that was in the U.S. Air Force, you could say his career flew high in the sky as a member of America. He lived with his Dad who was stationed on a U.S. Air Force Base in London, and meet his soon to be band mates in a London high school. Their Dads were stationed on the same base, and these band mates were Dewey Bunnell, and Gerry Beckley. Two songs Peek sings lead vocals for are “A Horse With No Name,” and “Venture Highway.” Aside from co-writing a few songs, and singing lead vocals, Peek could be found playing guitar and bass. My Uncle and I can be found listening to Peek’s work with America on the turntable.
“Lonley People” by America, with Dan Peek on lead vocals.
9. Songwriting Collaborator: Janna Allen – Born May 12, 1957 – Died August 25th, 1993
Janna Allen is the sister of Sara Allen. For many years Sara was dating Darryl Hall of Hall & Oates, until they broke up in 2001. Sara is in fact the Sara behind the hit song “Sara Smile.” The Allen sisters contributed to writing many of the Hall & Oates songs we know and love. The Hall & Oates song “Someone Like You” is about Janna.
A few songs co-wrote by Janna are “Kiss on My List,” “Method of Modern Love,” and “Guessing Games.”
A few song co-wrote by Sara are “You Make My Dreams,” “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), and “Maneater.”
A few songs co-wrote with both Allen sisters are “Private Eyes,” “Going Thru The Motions,” and “Possession Obsession.”
Video on Janna Allen and her contribution to Hall & Oates
10. John Panozzo – September 20th, 1948, Died July 16th, 1996
Until John Panozzo passed, there was only one person who could say “I’m the drummer for the unique sounding band Styx.” That one person…John Panozzo. The Styx are a band from Chicago, and released their first album in 1972 titled “Styx.” Panozzo’s fraternal twin brother Chuck, was a founding member, and is still in the band today. Founding member Dennis DeYoung who is currently not in the band, was a neighbor of the Panozzo twins growing up. in 1961, the three of them formed a band, and called themselves the Tradewinds. Eventually in 1968, James “J.Y.” Young and John Curulewski (later replaced by Tommy Shaw) would join them, and once they signed with Wooden Nickel Records they changed their name to Styx. What drawls my attention to the Styx is their style of music and sound. Plus, whether it was DeYoung on keyboards or their current keyboardist, Lawrence Gowen, they will entertain you. After John’s passing, the Styx wrote the song “Dear John.” John was one piece of the Styx’s “Grand Illusion,” and wherever he is, i’m sure he’s “Rockin The Paradise.”
Styx “To Much Time On My Hand” music video, with John on drums.
11. Dennis Wilson – Born December 4th, 1944, Died December 28th, 1983 – 12. Carl Wilson Born December 21st, 1946, Died February 6th, 1998
Brothers Dennis and Carl Wilson were co-founders of The Beach Boys, along with their brother Brian. Dennis was the drummer, and middle brother of the three. He was also the only brother of the three that was actually a surfer. Carl was the youngest of the three, and the lead guitarist. The Beach Boys recorded several hits (enough to make my Mom a big fan), and I know I’ve sung along to several of these hits. Some of my favorites are “Rock and Roll Music,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Good Timin,” “Good Vibrations,” and “Angel Come Home.”
Dennis Wilson on lead vocals performing “Angel Come Home.” (also once recorded by Mick Fleetwood’s group Mick Fleetwood’s Zoo)
Brian Wilson on far left guitar as The Beach Boys perform “Good Vibrations”
13. Andrew Gold – Born August 2nd, 1951, Died June 3rd, 2011
Andrew Gold, this California native was known for his session musician work, and he had a solo career as well. Artists he did session work with include Neil Diamond, Linda Ronstadt, Dianna Ross, Ringo Starr, Don Henley, James Taylor, and many others. He was also a multi-instrumentalist, so odds are, if you needed him to play a certain instrument, he could do it. His solo career saw success with four billboard charting songs, “Lonely Boy,” “Thank You For Being A Friend,”Never Let Her Slip Away,” and “That’s Why I Love You.” If you know a thing or two about the 80s/90s sitcom “The Golden Girls,” then “Thank You For Being A Friend” might sound familiar. It is the theme song for the sitcom, with Cynthia Fee haven been recorded singing. “Thank You For Being A Friend” also found its way into a 2013 Super Bowl ad. Now that’s definitely cool!
“Lonely Boy” by Andrew Gold
“Thank You For Being A Friend” 2013 Super Bowl ad.
14. Maurice White – Born December 19th, 1941, Died February 3rd, 2016
Maurice White – Earth, Wind & Fire – “September,” “Lets Groove,” “That’s The Way of The World,” what isn’t there to enjoy about this band and it’s founder Maurice White? When the group first started, his brother Verdine White was a member as well. Forming in 1969, they screamed into the 70s with their funk, jazz, and R&B style of music. They made their way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by the year 2000. If it’s September, October, November, or any of the other 9 months, I will be grooving to Earth, Wind & Fire.
Maurice White performing his song “I Need You”
15. Jerry Garcia – Born August 1st, 1942, Died August 9th, 1995
The Grateful Dead and their lead guitarist Jerry Garcia. This psychedelic jam band who started in the mid 60s as The Warlocks, knows a thing or two about defining an era of music, as they are a very popular American band among some. Their most devoted fans are refereed to as Deadheads. Garcia was a co-founder of the band, and with them for their entire 30 year career. He was also part of a few other bands he started, such as the Saunders-Garcia band with Merl Saunders. The first Grateful Dead song I was introduced to was “Casey Jones” (Garcia on lead vocals), and the second I heard that song, I was hooked to the rest of their music. Other favorites are “Sugar Magnolia,” “Uncle Johns Band,” “Truckin, “The Music Never Stopped,” and “Rosemary.” Although I do not consider myself a Deadhead, I fully understand why anyone would be dedicated to this band Jerry Garcia co-founded.
ultimateclassicrock.com has an article on how The Warlocks became The Grateful Dead.
Grateful Dead performing “Casey Jones” with Jerry Garcia on lead vocals
16. Gram Parsons born November 5th, 1946, Died September 9th, 1973
At the young age of 27, Gram Parsons left the world, and left behind what was a respectable career in country rock. He is one of the pioneers of country rock music, and it all started as a member of a band called International Submarine Band. He co-formed the band while he was a student at Harvard University. As 1968 came around, the next step in his career was a short stint with The Byrds after David Crosby and Michael Clarke had left. At a point in his career with The Byrds, he came to befriend Keith Richards and Mick Jagger of The Rolling Stones. At a point in 1968, Parsons and band-mate Chris Hillman, left The Byrds to form The Flying Burrito Brothers. On the album “Burrito Deluxe,” The Flying Burrito Brothers recorded a cover version of Jagger and Richards’ song “Wild Horses,” before it’s official release with The Stones on their album “Sticky Fingers.” The final step in his career came after he left The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1970. He would go solo, and also work with Emmylou Harris, plus a group called the Fallen Angels.
The Flying Burrito Brothers performing “Hot Burrito #1,” with Gram Parsons on lead vocals
17. JP Richardson born October 12th, 1930, 18. Buddy Holly born September 7th, 1936, 19. Richie Valens born May 13th, 1941 – Died February 3rd, 1959
You’re reading that correctly, JP Richardson died at the age of 28, Buddy Holly at 22, and Richie Valens at 17. These three men who’s careers ended short, died in what is known as the American Pie Plane Crash (The Day The Music Died) on 2/3/1959. JP Richardson aka “The Big Popper” was most known for his song “Chantilly Lace.” Richie Valens’ well known song was “La Bamba,” and Buddy Holly’s most known song could arguably be “Everyday” or “That’ll Be The Day.” Between the three, they all played rock and roll, with Holly and Richardson known for rockabilly as well, and Valens known for playing chicano rock. The song “American Pie” by Don McLean, is known for being about this plane crash, and coining the term The Day The Music Died. There is so much to analyze about this song that I’ll shorten it by saying, the premise of this song was to celebrate the lives of these men, and make sure people remembered the music of the 50s even after everything that was happening in the 60s. I also think about how if music actually died, my life would turn a 180.
Richardson performing “Chantilly Lace” until 2:25. Holly performing “Peggy Sue” until 4:11. Valens performing “Ooh My Head” after Holly.
Being that this is only a list of 19, there are many other musicians, songwriters, and singers that have passed away after spending their life showing the world their talents. To these 19 on the list, and the others that I have not listed, thank you for everything you have done for the music industry.