Shortly after concluding the Heartbreakers’ 40th anniversary tour, Americana icon Tom Petty died aged 66 after suffering cardiac arrest. With his band The Heartbreakers he penned such hits as ‘Runnin’ Down A Dream’, ‘Free Fallin’ and ‘Learning To Fly’, which helped him become arguably the quintessential Americana artist and inspire generations of songwriters. He also played a vital role as part of The Travelling Wilburys, quite possibly the greatest “supergroup” ever assembled. His work is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it’s difficult to say just how far-reaching his influence was. This much-loved bastion of heartland rock will be sorely missed.
Southern rock trailblazer Gregg Allman has sadly passed away aged 69 due to complications arising from liver cancer. Gregg was the singer, keyboardist and primary songwriter of The Allman Brothers Band, alongside his brother Duane who sadly died of a motorcycle crash in 1971. With such tracks as ‘Whipping Post’, ‘Midnight Rider’ and ‘Jessica’ (better known as the Top Gear theme), Gregg was a key figure in popularising the southern rock sound in the late 60s and early 70s, and remained active in the scene until his death. The Allman Brothers are perhaps best known for their album At Fillmore East, often described as being amongst the greatest live albums ever recorded. He was a deeply influential figure in rock music and will be sorely missed.
One of the most iconic frontmen of the 90s, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden has passed away. Early reports suggest the singer tragically committed suicide. One of the most influential rock singers of his generation, he was one of the key figures in the grunge movement that defined an era. As well as releasing such acclaimed albums as Badmotorfinger and Superunknown with Soundgarden, he also fronted two short-lived yet enduring supergroups; Temple of the Dog with members of Pearl Jam, and Audioslave alongside members of Rage Against The Machine. His solo career saw him perform ‘You Know My Name’, the theme for the 2006 Bond film Casino Royale. His work inspired a whole new generation of rock bands and he will be sorely missed.
There are many artists who can deservedly be called legends, but if we were to look back through modern music history and pick out the most important and influential figure of all time, surely there is only one answer. Chuck Berry pioneered rock and roll; he took the old school rhythm and blues, injected it with a rebellious energy that was unique for the time, and changed music forever. With tracks such as ‘Johnny B Goode’ and ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, and his wild stage antics, he influenced everyone from Elvis and The Beach Boys, to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. The sheer volume of music that can trace its lineage directly back to him is simply unfathomable. This revolutionary music icon passed away aged 90, but so long as people exist and make music his legacy will carry on.
Wham! frontman and pop legend George Michael sadly died of heart failure on Christmas day. Rising to prominence with Wham! and the perennial Christmas favourite ‘Last Christmas’, then later with his solo career which featured such hits as ‘Careless Whisper’ and ‘Faith’, and with his unforgettable performance at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, he was one of the most iconic and best selling artists of the 80s. He was one of the most important voices of a generation and, despite being surrounded by controversy in the media in recent years, there is no denying the impact he made on popular music. He will be sorely missed.
I think 2016 will always be remembered as the year the music died, and the latest, and hopefully last, music legend to be taken from us is prog pioneer Greg Lake. This follows just a few months after the death of his dear friend and bandmate Keith Emerson. First gaining notoriety as part of the original line-up of King Crimson he was a key player on their landmark debut In The Court of the Crimson King, which is widely considered the first ever progressive rock album and influenced everyone from Pete Townsend to Kanye West. He later formed the prog rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer and went on to release such other successful albums as Tarkus and Brain Salad Surgery. His work had a powerful impact on the course of music and he will be sorely missed.
As if we haven’t lost enough amazing people this year it seems that 2016 has at least one more soul to take. Folk legend Leonard Cohen has passed away aged 82. Widely regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, known for his dark tones, unique humour and haunting lyrics. He has left behind an immortal body of work including such songs as ‘Suzanne’, ‘Bird on the Wire’, ‘Everybody Knows’ and most notably ‘Hallelujah’ which reached a wider audience due to Jeff Buckley’s famous cover version. His death follows just weeks after the release of his 14th studio album You Want It Darker, which received universal critical acclaim and will be remembered as his final swansong. An unparalleled artist whose influence is too expansive and densely knit to ever fully unravel, his loss comes as a keen blow to many music lovers across the globe.
Viola Beach – Viola Beach
YouTube star and former finalist on the US version of The Voice Christina Grimmie was killed following a performance in Orlando, Florida. Grimmie was shot by a gunman whilst she was signing autographs and later died of her wounds in hospital. The armed attacker apparently travelled to Orlando solely to commit the crime and died from a self inflicted gunshot wound after being heroically tackled by the singer’s brother. The ordeal has come as a horrible shock to the many fans of the talented young singer and our thoughts are with her friends and family at this terrible time.
Thomas Fekete, co-founder of American indie rock band Surfer Blood, is sadly the latest name added to 2016’s ever growing list of departed musicians. Fekete passed away after a year long battle with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. He was aged just 27, and was the second addition to the infamous ’27 club’ this year following the tragic Viola Beach crash in February. Fekete remained in high spirits despite surgeries and chemotherapy, and even carried on making music with the proceeds going towards medical expenses. He lead a promising career which was cut short far too soon, and he will be dearly missed by friends, family and fans alike.