Don McLean sat down one day and wrote about the plane crash that took the lives of three rock stars when he was just a boy. The day he was referring to was February 3, 1959 when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and “The Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson perished near Clear Lake, Iowa. McLean called it “the day that music died” in his 1971 hit song “American Pie.” This year, McLean could easily rewrite that song and call it “The Year That Music Died” after all of the phenomenal musical talent that the world lost. I realize that artists die every year, but I can’t remember a time where so many have died within a 12 month span.
Here is a look back at just some of the the musical talent that we lost in 2016.
January gave us a hint as to what 2016 was going to be like in the music world. The surprising death of David Bowie (69) on the 10th sent shock waves through the rock world. A few days later, Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to his friend by playing “Rebel Rebel” during the encore of his Pittsburgh show. Who knew that eight days later, The Boss would play “Take It Easy” to honor another friend, Glenn Frey (67) of the Eagles who passed away from intestinal problems. January finally came to a close with the death of Jefferson Airplane founder and guitarist Paul Kantner (74). In just one month, three Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s were gone.
February did not get any better as another Hall of Famer, Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire lost his long time battle with Parkinson’s disease at age 74.
March saw Hall of Fame producer Sir George Martin pass away at the age of 90. Meanwhile Keith Emerson (71), one third of the progressive rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer decided to take his own life after a neurological disease made him lose the use of his hands.
April started out on sour note when we learned of the passing of country superstar Merle Haggard who died on his 79th birthday. I kick myself for not seeing him perform at the Packard Music Auditorium in the fall of 2015, which was one of his last performances. Then the passing of Prince (57) was the big one for me. He was a big part of my generation. We grew up with his music, movies and videos. Luckily, my wife and I saw him on his Musicology tour in 2005. He was charming, funny, entertaining and of course his playing and singing was spot on. A true musical genius.
Elvis Presley’s guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Scotty Moore passed away in June at the age of 84.
After a relatively uneventful summer, the Grim Reaper decided to rear its ugly head again in the fall. Starting in October, 1960s teen idol, Bobby Vee (73) passed away due to complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
November took two more Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s as Leonard Cohen (82) and Leon Russell (74) left us with a beautiful musical legacy.
December saw us lose another third of ELP as Greg Lake (69) lost his battle with cancer. Finally, on Christmas Day, the world found out that we lost ‘80s icon George Michael (53). Another artist that I grew up with, first with Wham then as a solo artist. The man could sing anything: pop, rock, soul, funk, swing, ballads, you name it, he could sing it.
If anything 2016 has taught us is to go out and enjoy the gifts of music. Buy that CD, download that song, go see a live performance.
You never know if that may be the last time you get that opportunity.