With the passing of George Michael on December 26, the idea that 2016 was a curse of the music world was cemented in the minds of many. The past year has seen us lose so many musical legends, the end of the year is being welcomed by many with playful memes about how painful it’s been and comedy articles like SBS’ Celebrities who are absolutely not allowed to die in 2017. While the use of humour to grapple with the year’s losses is admirable, here at Music Australia we’ll take a more middle of the road approach to acknowledging the great musicians we have lost. There are countless lists celebrating the lives lost in various genres and roles within the industry. Here are just a few whose music we loved.
Just recently, in November, we lost soul singer, Sharon Jones. Jones passed away at just 60 years old after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Known as the frontwoman of Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Jones toured the world for 20 years, earning critical and popular acclaim. November also saw the loss of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Leon Russell, who collaborated with the likes of Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, The Ronnettes and Joe Cocker.
Also in November, the loss of the great Leonard Cohen touched many who had long appreciated his craft and poetry. Like David Bowie, who passed at the start of the year, Cohen was prolifically creative right up to the time of his death. Both released critically acclaimed albums just before they died. Clare’s article about how teachers could celebrate the life of David Bowie in the classroom is worth a read.
In January, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey died aged 67 due to complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, and co-founder ofJefferson Airplane, Paul Kantner, passed away age 74 as a result of multiple organ failure and septic shock.
In April, the death of Prince shocked the world, seeming like a harsh blow to the industry so soon after the death of Bowie. Passing away at just 57, Prince’s genre defying (and defining) work formed an incredibly successful career, with countless hits, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and seven Grammys. Andrew P Street’s piece, Bowie, Prince, George Michael: We’ve lost a triumvirate of icons who dared to do manhood differently, is worth a read.
Bowie, Prince, George Michael: We’ve lost a triumvirate of icons who dared to do manhood
Bowie, Prince, George Michael: We’ve lost a triumvirate of icons who dared to do manhood di
Also in April, country music legend, Merle Haggard, passed away at the age of 79. He died from complications due to pneumonia. Haggard had more than 35 number one country hits (and more than 70 in the top 10) during his epic career.
While the loss of so many great artists is devastating, musicians and music lovers have gathered together to celebrate the life of these legends in creative ways. At the upcoming Sydney Festival, audiences can attend ‘Let’s Dance,’ a night for Bowie fans in the Meriton Festival Village, and ‘Tower of Song,’ featuring some of Australia’s finest artists singing Cohen songs, including The Church’s Steve Kilbey, Elana Stone and more, joined by a choir put together especially for the night by Christina Mimmocchi.
Other musicians who passed away in 2016 include lead guitarist for John Denver, Pete Huttlinger; Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind & Fire; country music singer Joey Feek; musician and son of the legendary Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra, Jr.; original Beastie Boys guitarist John Berry, legendary rock producer Sandy Pearlman; and rapper Malik Taylor, better known as Phife Dawg.