As if we haven’t lost enough wonderful people already this year, musical icon, innovator and visionary Prince has sadly died aged 57. The cause of his death has not yet been released but he was rushed to hospital last week for severe, flu-like symptoms. Prince had an unparalleled career that influenced countless people and spanned nearly 40 studio albums. His eclectic and eccentric catalogue included such massive hits as ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Little Red Corvette’, ‘1999’, ‘Kiss’, ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’ and his signature song ‘Purple Rain’. A mysterious and secretive figure he was one of the most imaginative creative forces in music combining rock, soul, funk, R&B and electronica. He had an incredible vocal range, was a peerless multi-instrumentalist and was among the best guitarists ever to walk the Earth. He has left a remarkable legacy and will be sorely missed.
Country legend Merle Haggard has passed away on his 79th birthday due to complications of pneumonia. After a misspent youth landed him in prison, one of Johnny Cash’s famous sets for inmates inspired him to take up country music and turn his life around. His troubled past became an inspiration for his music and his image and he went on to pioneer the “Bakersfield Sound” whose rough around the edges approach was a big contrast to most country music at the time. His big hits such as ‘Okie from Muskogee’ and ‘The Fightin’ Side of Me’ contrasted the popular anti-Vietnam sentiments of the time and made him a household name. He had a massive impact on Country music and the whole genre is reeling from his sad loss.
There has been yet another tragic loss to the world of music as prog legend Keith Emerson has sadly passed away aged 71. Rising to fame through Emerson, Lake & Palmer he was one of the most talented and innovative keyboardists in music history. Known for his flamboyant performances and wide array of equipment, he pioneered the use of synthesizers and was the first ever artist to tour with a Moog as part of his setup. He made a lasting impact on music history and our thoughts are with his family and friends.
Legendary producer Sir George Martin has passed away aged 90. Commonly referred to as the “fifth Beatle”, he signed the fab four to Parlophone after other labels had turned them down. He produced all but one of their albums, played piano on a number of tracks and constantly pushed them to be as innovative as possible on albums such as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The most famous and most successful music producer in history, he has also worked with Cilla Black, Elton John and Jeff Beck and has produced two Bond themes. Few people have ever contributed so much to our culture and yet not be in the limelight. His work will live on as the lasting legacy of a great man.
This bleak January has taken yet another beloved figure from us in the form of broadcasting legend Sir Terry Wogan. After nearly 50 years as BBC Radio 2’s most popular presenter, he passed away aged 77 after a short battle with cancer. He was well known for his warm and witty broadcast style and his steadfast dedication to his loyal fans. He was the UK’s voice of Eurovision for many years and has been involved with Children In Need since the appeal’s inception in 1980. He was one of the greatest radio presenter ever to grace a microphone and Britain mourns the loss of such a national treasure.
One of music’s greatest ever icons David Bowie has sadly passed away aged 69 after a battle with cancer. This follows only a few days after release of his latest critically acclaimed album Blackstar. Bowie was a visionary artist that redefined music. His charismatic stage personas and his fearlessly innovative music made him quite frankly one of the coolest people ever to walk the Earth. He leaves behind an unparalleled legacy including his song being used in the first ever music video in space. I think actor Simon Pegg sums it up best in his tweet: “If you’re sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie”. It is the end of an era and the world will be a very different place without him.
Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister has died aged 70. A statement from the band stated that he died from ‘an extremely aggressive cancer’ which he had only learned about two days prior to his death. Lemmy, who started out as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and as bassist for Hawkwind before forming his own band, was well known for his outrageous rock and roll lifestyle and is said to have drunk an entire bottle of Jack Daniels every day. However his health had rapidly deteriorated in recent years, leading to several cancelled shows. He was a singular rock icon and will be sorely missed.
The former lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots and rock supergroup Velvet Revolver has died. Scott Weiland was found dead in his tour bus aged 48. He is said to have died in his sleep. Although no official cause of death has been announced, Weiland had a history of drug abuse and a member of his backing band the Wildabouts was arrested for cocaine possession. With hits such as ‘Plush’, ‘Vasoline’ and ‘Interstate Love Song’, Weiland was a talented but troubled soul who helped influence the next generation of rock bands in the US.
Legendary blues guitarist BB King has passed away at age 89 after a recent battle with diabetes related illness. He was one of the first trailblazers of blues music and has outlasted all his contemporaries. Up until recently he would play over 100 shows a year with his signature black Gibson ES 355, nicknamed ‘Lucille’, which in his gifted hands has become one of the most famous guitars in music history. He is second only to Robert Johnson as the greatest and most influential blues musician and has inspired such other great guitarists as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, Joe Walsh, Peter Green and Gary Moore. He was a figurehead for his genre, the last of his generation and he will be sorely missed.