30 Dec 2017

R.I.P: rock in peace - musicians we lost in 2017

From RNZ Music, 4:05 pm on 30 December 2017

Many great musicians died this year. We pay tribute to the major musical figures that left the stage in 2017.

Clockwise from bottom left: Tom Petty, Fatz Domino, Christ Cornell, Celia Mancini, Malcom Youn, and Joni Sledge.

Clockwise from bottom left: Tom Petty, Fatz Domino, Christ Cornell, Celia Mancini, Malcom Youn, and Joni Sledge. Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Supplied


Butch Trucks (69)

Trucks was the original drummer for the Allman Brothers. With his death and that of Gregg Allman in May the Allman Brothers Band was finally laid to rest.


Chuck Berry (90)

If not the inventor of rock’n’roll, he certainly created its rallying cry with the lines Hail hail rock’n’roll / deliver me from the days of old, while his guitar laid the foundations for successive generations of rockers to build on.


Deke Leonard (72)

Leonard was a Welsh rock musician best known as a member of the progressive rock band Man.


Jaki Liebezeit (78)

One of two Can founding members who died this year (multi-instrumentalist Holger Czukay in September ), drummer Liebezeit had remained musically active since Can's break-up in the 90s.


Junie Morrison (62)

Morrison was a member of the Ohio Players in the early 1970s. He went on to become musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic. Junie was the inspiration and namesake of Solange's song on A Seat at the Table.


Ronnie Davis (66)

Davis was a Jamaican reggae singer who was a member of The Tennors, The Itals, and Ronnie Davis & Idren.


Overend Watts (69)

Watts was a splendidly-named bass player for British rockers Mott The Hoople.


William Onyeabor (70)

Onyeabor was a Nigerian synth-funk pioneer and successful businessman. Here's a really great short doco about his life:


Al Jarreau (76)

Jarreau was a jazz singer known as the ‘acrobat of scat’.


Clyde Stubblefield (73)

Stubblefield, may not have been a household name, was the original ‘Funky Drummer’. As long-serving drummer for James Brown he was one of the most sampled musicians in history, though he never received royalties for his signature beats.


David Axelrod (85)

Another much sampled, behind-the-scenes figure was the American producer and composer David Axelrod. He produced jazz hits for Cannonball Adderley, wrote psych-rock epics for The Electric Prunes, along with two William Blake-inspired albums of his own.


Larry Coryell (73)

Coryell was a pioneering jazz fusion guitarist.


Arthur Blythe (76)

Blythe was an acclaimed jazz saxophonist and composer.


Joni Sledge (60)

One-quarter of soul-singing sisters Sister Sledge, best known for ‘We Are Family’.


Phil Garland (75)

Garland was a local folk singer and songwriter. He won Folk Album of the Year three times and was awarded the Queen's Service Medal in the 2014 Queen's Birthday Honours for services to folk music. He recorded 19 albums throughout his career.


Ikutaro Kakehashi (87)

Kakehashi was not a household name, but the sounds of his inventions made their way into almost every home. He was the founder of Roland and inventor of the TR-808 drum machine.

The 808 is heard on more hit records than any other drum machine. It entered the mainstream consciousness when it was used on Marvin Gaye's 'Sexual Healing', and appeared on Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance with Somebody', and Phil Collins 'In The Air Tonight'.

Related - RIP Ikutaro Kakehashi: founder of Roland and inventor of the TR-808


J Geils (71)

Geils was an American guitarist and leader of The J. Geils Band, best known for their number one hit 'Centrefold'.


Chris Cornell (52)

Singer and founder of grunge pioneers Soundgarden.

Read RNZ's tribute to Chris Cornell here.


Greg Allman (69)

Seminal southern rockers The Allman Brothers Band had long retained the plural in its name in honour of Duane Allman who founded the group with his brother Gregg, and died in a motorcycle accident in 1971. Bass player Berry Oakley was also killed on a motorcycle, just three blocks from where Duane had his fatal accident, a year later.

But with the deaths this year of both Gregg Allman and original drummer Butch Trucks, the Allman Brothers Band was finally laid to rest.


Kevin Garcia (41)

Garcia was the co-founder and bassist of indie darlings Grandaddy.


Kevin Stanton (61)

Originally from Hamilton, Kevin Stanton was a founder and guitarist of Mi-Sex, and co-writer of their biggest Australasian hits, including ‘Computer Games’ and ‘Space Race’.

In the group’s early days he was renowned for his on-stage theatrics, including cartwheels while playing guitar. He died after suffering for many years from a severe spinal condition.


Marcus Intalex aka Marcus Kaye (45)

Kaye was a legendary Manchester drum’n’bass pioneer.


Robert Miles

Miles was an Italian musician and DJ best known for his massive 1996 dance hit 'Children'.


Albert Johnson aka Prodigy (42)

Johnson was one half of hip hop duo Mobb Deep.


Chester Bennington (41)

Bennington was the lead singer of rap-rockers Linkin Park.


Dr G. Yunupingu (46)

Rolling Stone called Yunupingu 'Australia's most important voice' when he graced its cover in 2011. He was the highest selling indigenous artist from Australia, selling over half a million copies of his albums worldwide.

Yunupingu was born blind and was credited with giving voice to the marginalised people of his home, Arnhem Land. He sang in both Yolŋu and English.

Read RNZ's tribute to Yunupingu here.

Roi Colbert (68)

Colbert - widely referred to as the 'Godfather of the Dunedin Sound' - was beloved by musicians and listeners alike, as the long-time proprietor of Dunedin used records store Records Records. He was also a local pioneer of music journalism and contributed to international publications such as Rolling Stone as well as local media.

Read RNZ's tribute to Colbert here.


Sam Shepard (73)

Shepard was best known as a playwright and screen actor but also had a significant musical history, including a stint as drummer with freak-folk pioneers The Holy Modal Rounders (their song ‘If You Want To Be A Bird’ was memorably featured in the Easy Rider film) and co-writer of Bob Dylan’s epic ballad ‘Brownsville Girl’.


Terry King

King was a veteran New Zealand music producer.   He worked with The Chills, The Verlaines and countless other bands, facilitating the dreams of young artists at his Progressive Music Studios in Auckland.

Related - Terry King: the Progressive years


Glen Campbell (81)

Campbell is best remembered for his mellifluous voice and hits like ‘Witchita Lineman’ and ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ that found the sweet spot between country and metropolitan pop.

But he was also a superb guitarist who, prior to solo fame, had played on thousands of sessions, including Frank Sinatra’s ‘Strangers In The Night’ and The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album.


Larry Marshall (75)

Veteran reggae crooner who recorded hits with the famous Studio One label.


Celia Mancini (50)

Real name Celia Patel, and occasionally known as Celia Pavlova, Mancini had lent her volatile personality and mischievous imagination to many New Zealand bands, most notoriously King Loser who Rip It Up’s Donna Yuzwalk described  as “an unwholesome mix of primitive rhythm, mesmeric guitar solos and off-kilter vocals”.

Though by the mid-1990s the group’s collective excesses had led to its breakup, they had briefly reunited for gigs just last year.

Related - King Loser's Celia Mancini has died

Related - King Loser's Chris Heazlewood pays tribute to his bandmate Celia Mancini


Charles Bradley (68)

Bradley was a soul singer from Brooklyn who was signed to Daptone Records who called himself "the screaming eagle of soul". His first album No Time For Dreaming wasn't released until he was 62 years old.


Don Williams (78)

Williams was a gentle-voiced country star, dubbed the ‘Gentle Giant’ who topped the US country singles charts 17 times and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.


Grant Hart (56)

Hart was one of the two singer-songwriters of groundbreaking Minneappolis trio Husker Du, whose music stood out for their combination of hardcore punk and lyrical and melodic sensitivity.


Holger Czukay (79)

One of two Can founding members who died this year (drummer Jaki Liebezeit died in January), Czukay has remained musically active since Can's break up in the 90s.


Phil Whitehead

Whitehead was a member of one of New Zealand's great progressive rock bands, Think, best known for their classic We’ll Give You A Buzz LP, a record that sells for big money around the world now.

Read AudioCulture's profile of Think.


Walter Becker (67)

Becker was the guitar-playing half of Steely Dan's songwriting team. With Donald Fagen, Becker infiltrated pop radio with sophisticated songs that nodded to both bebop and beat culture - ‘Riki Don’t Lose That Number’, ‘Kid Charlemagne’ and ‘Deacon Blues’ and dozens more.

It was hard to tell which of the partners wrote what. They shared a dark, sardonic sense of humour. In interviews, they would finish each other’s sentences.

In September, Fagen vowed to “keep the music we created together as long as I can with the Steely Dan band.” In November he filed a lawsuit against Becker’s estate to retain ownership of the band.


Fats Domino (89)

Another influential figure in rock n roll – particularly in Jamaica. The New Orleans pianist and singer inspired both Elvis and The Beatles, while his distinctive rhythms, with their accent on the offbeat, had a formative influence on ska and reggae.


George Young (70)

Brother of ACDC's Malcolm Young, who died in November, George was a founding member of The Easybeats. He wrote (with Harry Vanda) such classics as ‘Friday On My Mind’ and ‘Yesterday Was Just The Beginning Of My Life’ (a 1975 chart-topper for New Zealand soul singer Mark Williams).


Grady Tate (85)

Tate was an American hard bop and soul-jazz drummer and singer with a distinctive baritone voice.


Maureen Gordon (85)

Gordon was the publican at much-loved Auckland venue the Kings Arms Tavern from the mid-1980s until her death, though she had sold the building last December.

At this point it looks like the venue will only just outlast its owner, as it is scheduled to finally close its doors at the end of February.


Tom Petty (66)

He's been called ‘the last great American rock icon’. If that overlooks living legends like Bob Dylan (with whom he collaborated in the Travelling Wilburys supergroup) he certainly had an iconic presence, and anthems to match. Emerging at the time of punk and new wave, his music harked back to the jangling rock of the 60s – the Byrds, the British invasion bands – to which the Florida native added a southern accent of his own.

Ten of Tom Petty's best


Fred Cole (69)

Founder of Portland punk legends Dead Moon.

Going South - Dead Moon in NZ 1992


Lil Peep aka Gustav Elijah Åhr (21)

Åhr was an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. He was described as a 'cloud rapper', 'SoundCloud rapper', and most recently an 'emo rapper'.


Malcolm Young (64)

Malcolm formed AC/DC in 1973 with younger brother Angus and co-wrote such rock anthems as ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’, ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock’n’Roll)’ and ‘Highway To Hell’. Malcolm and Angus's older brother (by six years), George Young of the Easybeats died in October.


Paul Buckmaster (71)

Buckmaster was an English classically-trained cellist whose orchestral arrangements were the icing on many great pop and rock records. Hear David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’ and The Rolling Stones’ ‘Moonlight Mile’, for just three examples of his brilliance.


Johnny Hallyday (74)

Known as 'the French Elvis' Hallyday released 79 albums and sold more than 80 million records across his 57 year career.

Read Hallyday's obituary by The Economist's Ann Wroe


Pat DiNizio (62)

Lead singer and songwriter of the New Jersey rock group The Smithereens.


Ron Kane

Kane was a larger-than-life American who was obsessed with NZ music at a time when many of us didn't even value it ourselves.

Read AudoiCulture's profile on Ron Kane.


Sunny Murray (81)

Murray was a pioneer of the free-jazz style of drumming.