by Kevin Burton
Toward the end of his life my father said it was strange getting old because many of his friends and relatives had died and he was left behind.
I understand where he was coming from. But I extend that to teachers and public figures.
Even though I don’t interact with them I still find it disheartening when my favorite musicians, sports figures and others die. It means the world I have fashioned for myself becomes misshapen.
Today we pay tribute to a few of the music industry giants who died this year. This is part of the list published by the Best Classic Bands newsletter.
I’ll start with Olivia Newton-John (died Aug. 8). I loved her early 70s stuff (Have You Never Been Mellow, “Let Me Be there”) and liked her 80’s stuff OK (“Xanadu,” “Physical”). But it was her musical and other contributions to Grease that made the biggest impression me.
Lamont Dozier (died Aug. 8) was part of the famous and prolific Holland-Dozier-Holland songwriting team behind many of the hits for Motown. He co-wrote 28 top-ten hits in the 60s, from “Heatwave” by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1963 to The Happening by the Supremes in 1969.
Ronnie Spector (Jan. 12) was the lead singer of the Ronettes and sang the groundbreaking smash “Be My Baby.” If you listen to musicians talk about their influences, you’re going to hear this song mentioned a lot.
Jerry Lee Lewis (Oct. 28) was “The Killer,” not one to emulate, but obviously a giant and a pioneer in rock and roll. He was the last of the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to pass, according to Best Classic Bands.
“Summer Breeze” and “Diamond Girl” were huge hits for one of my favorite bands, Seals and Crofts. Jim Seals died June. 6
Country singer Jody Miller (Oct. 6) was best known for her 1964 hit “Queen of the House” an answer song to Roger Miller’s King of the Road. As far as I can tell she was no relation to Roger Miller.
Some others listed by Best Classic Bands:
Jerry Allison—8/22—Drummer and founding member of the Crickets, Buddy Holly’s backing band on his earliest hits
Marilyn Bergman—1/8—Award-winning lyricist (“The Windmills of Your Mind,” “The Way We Were”)
Hal Bynum—6/2—Country songwriter; wrote “Lucille” by Kenny Rogers
Irene Cara—11/25—Singer of “Flashdance” and “Fame”
Maureen Cleave—11/6—British journalist who broke the controversial story of John Lennon claiming the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus”
Dino Danelli—12/13—Drummer of the Rascals
John Dean—3/8—Singer with the Reflections, of “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” fame
Judith Durham—8/5—Lead singer of Australian folk-rock group the Seekers (“Georgy Girl”)
John Eastman—8/9—Linda McCartney’s brother and attorney to Paul McCartney since the Beatles era
Shirley Eikhard—12/15—Writer of “Something to Talk About,” a hit for Bonnie Raitt
Mickey Gilley—5/7—Country music legend who launched the “Urban Cowboy” movement
William “Poogie” Hart—7/14—Lead singer of the R&B group the Delfonics
Rosa Lee Hawkins—1/11—Member of the Dixie Cups vocal group (“Chapel of Love”)
Ivy Jo Hunter—10/4—R&B songwriter and producer, best known for his work with Motown
Naomi Judd—4/30—Country music superstar, with the duo The Judds
Art Laboe—10/7—Los Angeles disc jockey who coined the term oldies but goodies
Michael Lang—1/8—Co-creator and producer of the Woodstock music festival; manager of Joe Cocker and others
Ramsey Lewis—9/12—Jazz keyboardist who scored a top 10 hit in 1964 with “The In Crowd”
Loretta Lynn—10/4—Country music legend
C.W. McCall—4/1—Singer and co-writer of country hit “Convoy”
Christine McVie—11/30—Longtime keyboardist/singer/songwriter of Fleetwood Mac
Sister Janet Mead—1/26—The Catholic nun earned an unlikely pop hit in 1974 with a rock version of “The Lord’s Prayer”
Meat Loaf—1/20—Singer/actor best known for his multi-platinum 1977 album Bat Out of Hell
Joe Messina—4/4—Guitarist with Motown house band the Funk Brothers
Fred Parris—1/13—Lead singer with the Five Satins (“In the Still of the Night”)
Bill Pitman—8/11—Guitarist with the L.A. studio session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew
Art Rupe—4/15—Founder/owner of Specialty Records, the label that made stars out of Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Lloyd Price and other early R&B stars
Bobby Rydell—4/5—Pop star and actor in the late ’50s and early ’60s, considered a teen idol
Jim Stewart—12/5—Founder of Stax Records
R. Dean Taylor—1/7—Singer and songwriter for Motown (the Supremes’ “Love Child”) and his own “Indiana Wants Me”
Greg Webster—1/14—Last original member of the Ohio Untouchables/Ohio Players
Bobby Weinstein—3/16—Songwriter for Little Anthony and the Imperials and others (“Goin’ Out of My Head”)