Below are brief tributes to some recent losses from across the world of music
Born: 14 August, 1941
Died: 18 January, 2023
A founder of two separate groups who made the Hall of Fame. He was with The Byrds for their first five albums, but eventually fell out with them - his on-stage performances didn't always endear him to the other Byrds. By the time he left he was a good songwriter, and in 1968 he founded Crosby, Stills and Nash. Their debut album was an instant hit, they played their second gig at Woodstock, and later added Neil Young which resulted in the subliminal Déja Vu. CSNY first split in 1974, but were an on-and-off fixture for the next 40+ years. Eventually, Crosby fell out with his erstwhile bandmates - he was never shy about voicing his opinion, as The Doors had found out. But no-one doubted his contribution to the success of two great bands.
Born: 24 June, 1944
Died: 10 January, 2023
One of the three great guitarists (with Page and Clapton) who came from a small corner of Surrey, he is probably beyond categorisation - "Jeff Beck" was his category. After getting into R&B and playing with a number of London/Surrey bands, Page (a friend from his teenage years) recommended him to the Yardbirds as Clapton's replacement. They had most of their hits during his short tenure, before he was fired. A perfectionist, he was never to play again in any major band but his own, and ploughed his own musical furrow, playing everything, with everybody. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame both with The Yardbirds and as a solo artist.
Born: 26 November, 1946
Died: 24 March, 2022
He joined Focus as their bassist in 1971 and stayed with the group till its initial dissolution in 1978. He participated in two short-lived reunions in the 90s, but from 1978 onwards his main outlet was Earth & Fire, and then his collaboration with real-life partner and fellow Earth & Fire alumna Jerney Kaagman, who survives him.
Born: 17 February, 1972
Died: 25 March, 2022
Not the original Foo Fighters' drummer, but he was so obviously the Foo Fighters' drummer. He learned his business playing with Alanis Morissette, and then made the transition to the Foo Fighters after a phone call to Dave Grohl. If getting in was easy, staying in was a little harder, as the reality of being the drummer in a band led by one of the best 20th century drummers sunk in. But he got there. He had had more than one scrape with his addiction before (a heroin overdose in London in 2001 nearly did for him), but the world was genuinely shocked at his untimely passing while on tour in South America, gone way, way too soon.
Born: 24 October, 1929
Died: 6 February, 2022
A prodigious composer while still at school, he became one of America's leading avant garde composers, almost as famous for the beautiful and original calligraphy of his scores as for the quiet beauty of his music. Not that it couldn't be occasionally scary - David Bowie admitted that Black Angels (1970), Crumb's lament on the Vietnam War, "scared the bejabbers" out of him. A prolific explorer of new sounds, and of new instruments from which to source them, he was at his most popular in the late 60s and through the 70s.
Born: 25 November, 1964
Died: 22 February, 2022
He found initial success as the singer with Screaming Trees, and then later with Queens of the Stone Age and The Gutter Twins. In parallel he had a strong solo career, and an impressive track record of collaborations, most notably with Belle & Sebastian's' Isobel Campbell. An addict since his pre-teen days, he later found sobriety, and had recently moved to Killarney where last year he was seriously ill with COVID, described in his recent book Devil In A Coma.
Born: 29 May, 1945
Died: 19 February, 2022
News of Gary Brooker's sad passing sent me rooting for my barely-surviving copy of Playpower by Richard Neville which records a brief interview Gary did with the BBC on A Whiter Shade of Pale. Find it on the web; the spirit of '67 indeed, it reveals a man with no airs and graces, supremely relaxed about his legacy. Which, as it happens, is substantial - the result of a 60 year career that was far more than just AWSOP, even if that was one of the most remarkable singles of my youth. He led Procol Harum (whose Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame membership is severely overdue), and he played with Ringo Starr, George Harrison, Bill Wyman and many others. A musician's musician.
Born: 25 June, 1946
Died: 9 February, 2022
He co-wrote all of the music on the LP that, for many of us, started prog rock, In The Court of The Crimson King. His keyboards (especially Mellotron) and woodwinds gave King Crimson a distinctive sound; their musicianship, which he epitomised, was widely marvelled at by their peers. Later, he was a founding member of Foreigner. His versatility was the product of five years as an army bandsman - it left him relaxed about genre definitions, and he just wanted to play music - he was always a team player, his goal was to contribute to the making of the group's music. Think we can agree that he certainly did that.
Born: 10 August, 1943
Died: 12 January, 2022
Veronica Bennett had the voice that Phil Spector had been looking for. Together, they made the record (Be My Baby) that Brian Wilson thought was the best record ever made. But her group, the Ronettes (with sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley) was short-lived, unable to survive Phil Spector's jealous close control of his now-wife. She fled the marriage in 1972. In the 80's she re-married happily, and properly restarted her career, later presenting an annual Christmas show on American TV, and continuing to influence many, including Amy Winehouse.
Born: 22 October, 1945
Died: 23 December, 2020
The mountain in Mountain started out in a 1960s R&B band The Vagrants, but was looking for something meatier. Thus Mountain was born, blending West's practised tone and stunning vibrato on guitar with Felix Pappalardi's melodies and bass. A heavier Cream, often confused with heavy metal, Mountain provided a home for West on-and-off for 40 years; in between he worked with a Who's Who of rock's finest, and fronted his own band.
Born: 8 February, 1943
Died: 7 December, 2020
A versatile keyboard player and an R&B session musician in the 1960s, he failed an audition for The Grateful Dead. Shortly afterwards he contributed to the Dead's classic American Beauty (listen to the spare but exactly right organ on Candyman). He played a lot with Jerry Garcia, primarily at The Matrix, the club founded by Marty Balin of the Airplane in San Francisco, a collaboration that produced both a studio and a live album. After that he had a solo career, playing mainly free-form acid jazz, recording till as recently as 2018.
Born: 14 September, 1939
Died: 18 November, 2020
A guitarist and founder member of the Strawbs, he quit after eight years and six albums, fearful of a drift towards pop stardom, and away from folk authenticity. Just over a decade later, and by now an electronics engineer, he joined the now-defunct Strawbs for a one-off reunion gig. It was so successful the band reformed, and Tony stayed with them for another ten years, before quitting again, this time to become the author of a wide range of children's educational books.
Born: 24 August, 1945
Died: 4 November, 2020
Like many great guitarists born in the 40s he taught himself using the Bert Weedon book. He'd already learned piano, and his keyboards were an essential part of the classic Uriah Heep sound. I saw them just once; they were supporting The Groundhogs (who were strangely off form that night), at a theatre in Bromley (it might have been the only time it was used for a rock gig). Both bands were loud, Heep were loudest. Never the critics' favourites, they had - and still have - a loyal and dedicated following. Ken was wise enough to step back from the rock'n roll lifestyle before it claimed him, and had a full and rewarding life away from the band whose reputation he helped forge.
Born: 20 April, 1945
Died: 26 September, 2020
It would be unfair to say he was only in the group because his dad owned a pub which offered the nascent Small Faces a rehearsal space. More true to say the Small Faces was merely a diversion on the way to his preferred acting career. The owner of both a guitar and an organ, he played the latter, letting Steve Marriott major on the former. When he tried to upstage Marriott, the acknowledged front man, the group wanted him gone, and their manager Don Ardern made him an offer he couldn't refuse. He ought to be better known for the single he later wrote and made with Winston's Fumbs, Real Crazy Apartment, with future Yes member Tony Kaye on keyboards.