Rest in Peace — 2011 — A Year of Obituaries

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As the music gets older, we have to accept that the musicians who make it also grow older, with one of the side effects of advanced age being death. While there are a number of younger-than-they-should-ever-be folks on this list, there are also a few decent ages reached. Which, if you consider the life of a musician, is pretty damn surprising, too. The general wear and tear on those in the performing arts isn't just in the partying, though that helps: it's in the rollercoaster ride that is their career.

I've broken it down as best I can. Let us not mourn, but celebrate their lives.

25) Man Who Stood Over Bruce Springsteen:

Clarence Clemons, 69, June 18

It's hard to imagine that the Big Man is gone. But complications from a stroke he suffered nearly a week earlier sent him off to that, uh, "Jungleland" in the sky. (I only use this hack form when it's obvious and cringeworthy. Admit it, it's fun!)

24) Man Who Played With The Beatles:

David Mason, 85, April 29, played on Penny Lane

He played the piccolo trumpet solo on "Penny Lane," as well as contributed to "A Day In the Life," "All You Need Is Love" and "Magical Mystery Tour." He also played classical music, which is a music that we here at List of the Day do not acknowledge as existing.

23) Obligatory Tragic Grunge Musician Death:

Mike Starr (Alice In Chains), 44, March 8 (body found on this date)

The life expectancy of a grunge musician is pretty dismal. Playing in Alice in Chains, the average is even worse. Talk about a job hazard. You'd be better off cleaning up nuclear waste than being in this band.

22) Industry Folks:

Don Kirshner, music impressario, 76, January 17

Owsley Stanley, LSD manufacturer, 76, March 13

Jim Dickson, manager of the Byrds, 80, April 19

Steve Popovich, record exec, 68, June 8

Jane Scott, Oldest Rock Critic, 92, July 4

Don DeVito, record exec, 72, November 25

Let's hear it for Owsley Stanley, the man who brought LSD to the masses. Without Stanley, rock music of the 1960s likely would've been much worse, unless, of course, you prefer an entire decade of "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter."

21) Man Who Revolutionized the Music Industry:

Steve Jobs, 56, October 5

Maybe you will remember him for the iPod, but as far as I'm concerned, Steve revolutionized the alphabet. From now on all musicians are listed under their first names. So a lifetime of filing Bob Dylan under 'D' is obsolete. He's now to be found under 'B.' Also, thankfully, I no longer have a hundred bands now listed under 'The.'

20) Blues Legends:

Pinetop Perkins, 97, March 21

Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, 75, September 16, played with Pinetop Perkins

Hubert Sumlin, 80, December 4

Maybe those grunge kids should pay attention. Notice there are plenty of old bluesmen. But then bluesmen make music because they like music. Most kids just want attention.

19) Country Music Legends:

Charlie Louvin, 83, January 26

Wade Mainer, 104, September 12, The Sons of the Mountaineers, Grandfather of Bluegrass

Ol' Wade Mainer is the oldest man on this list. I'd say we give him an award, but I don't think anything can quite compare to the gift of a long life, assuming, of course, that his last few decades were fruitful and not spent staring out a window wondering where all his friends went.

18) British Folk Legend:

Bert Jansch, 67, October 5

It seems downright impossible by today's standards that one could be a riveting acoustic guitar player and command the attention of enough people to matter. Then again, perhaps, if you lop off the top figures in entertainment and their crowds of millions, you would be left with the same core audience. Maybe not. He recorded his first album in his (c'mon in my) kitchen.

17) Miscellaneous Legends:

Mack Self, 81, June 14 Rockabilly Hall of Fame member, Sun Records

Cuddy Dudley, 87, July 15, "Britain's First Black Rock 'n' Roller"

Roger Williams, 87, October 8, Released 116 albums

Mark E. Smith still has a ways to go if he intends on catching up to Roger Williams. 116 Albums! Not everyone that died in the music biz was a household name, but few had names as good as Cuddy Dudley and Mack Self.

16) Former Four Freshman:

Bob Flanigan, 84, May 15, Founding Member of the Four Freshmen

Ross Barbour, 82, August 20, Last Founding Member of FF

The Ramones still have Tommy to fly their flag, but the Four Freshmen, who were a heavy influence on Brian Wilson, have finally run out of founding members. Does anyone else think it's odd that they never became sophomores? Were they stupid or something?

15) Soulful Folks:

Gerry Rafferty, 63, January 4, "Baker Street"

Gladys Horton, 65, January 26, The Marvelettes founder

St. Clair Lee, 66, March 8, "Rock the Boat" Hues Corporation

Phoebe Snow, 60, April 26, "Poetry Man"

Manuel Galban, 80, July 7, Cuban guitarist, Buena Vista Social Club

Gene McDaniels, 76, "A Hundred Pounds of Clay," July 29

Nickolas Ashford, 70, August 22, "Solid As A Rock"

Vesta Williams, 53, September 22, American R&B singer

Barry Llewellyn, 63, November 23, Heptones

Howard Tate, 72, December 2, Soul Singer

OK, I'm stretching the definition of soul a little bit here in spots. If you look at the ages here, things don't look good for musicians. Not a 90-year old in this batch. Now maybe you understand why your parents want you to have a regular job with benefits!

14) Krautrocker:

Conrad Schnitzler, 74, German Musician, Tangerine Dream, Kluster, August 4

At the time, much of the German music of the late-1960s and 1970s was considered too experimental to be anything but underground or a novelty. Then just as people who listened to the Velvet Underground all formed bands, so did those who listened to this freaky stuff. We have within us the ability to rewrite history at any moment. My facts become your facts and together we can create a world where the Dave Matthews Band never existed. DMB Deniers unite!

13) Loved Ones and Muses:

Suze Rotolo, 67, February 25

Barbara Orbison, 61, December 6, widow of Roy Orbison on the 23rd Anniversary of his death

Alan Styles, 75, December 8, roadie, his morning ritual inspired Pink Floyd's "Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast"

Suze Rotolo stood with Bob Dylan on the cover of the iconic The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album. Barbara Orbison spent the 23 years after Roy's death ensuring that Roy was never forgotten. Alan Styles got his claim to fame when Pink Floyd named a song after him that still causes fights between fans who can't decide if it's any good. (Me like.)

12) Musician Parents of Musicians:

Doyle Bramhall, 62, November 12, father of singer/ guitarist Doyle Bramhall II

Ross MacManus, 84, November 24, father of Elvis Costello

While everyone makes a big deal about Jakob Dylan and Julian Lennon and Rufus and Martha and Lucy Wainwright, Elvis Costello was also following up on the talents of his father, trumpeter Ross MacManus, who once recorded as Day Costello in 1970. The Doyle Bramhall connection is a little more obvious.

11) Not Ready for Prime-Time Performers:

Zoogz Rift, 57, March 22

Seth Putnam, 43, AC, June 11

Wild Man Fischer, 66, June 16

Rift's best-known album was The Island of Living Puke. Seth Putnam was in a band whose name I can't type out on a family website such as this. Wild Man Fischer was a street musician discovered by Frank Zappa, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. His song "Think of Me When Your Clothes Are Off" clocks in at 57 seconds and is not the shortest song on his double album, An Evening With Wild Man Fischer.

10) Country Singers:

Ferlin Husky, 85, March 17

Mel McDaniel, 68, March 31, Country Singer

McDaniel made Springsteen's "Stand On It" a modest country hit and he made Bob McDill's "Baby's Got Her Blue Jeans On" a #1 country hit. He had the good sense not to sing "Baby's Got Her Microfiber Slacks On."

9) Musicians Not Often Associated With Bands They Played In:

Mark Tulin (Electric Prunes, Smashing Pumpkins), 62, February 26

Carl Brunch (Buddy Holly), 71, March 26

Mikey Welsh (Weezer), 40, October 8

Bob Brunning (Fleetwood Mac), 68, October 18

Tulin was known for his work with the Electric Prunes, but Smashing Pumpkins? About as well-known as the keyboard player who died years ago. Sometimes I think Billy Corgan just says these people are in his group for the publicity. Brunch performed as the drummer on Holly's final tour and, lucky for him, didn't go on that final plane ride. Welsh was in Weezer for about ten seconds. Brunning was in the Mac when they were a blues band, but only as a placeholder for bassist John McVie who Peter Green wanted in the band so bad that it's where the "Mac" comes from. Talk about planned obsolescence.

8) Rockers From Another Era:

Jet Harris (The Shadows), 71, March 18

John Walker (The Walker Brothers), 67, May 7

Carl Gardner (The Coasters), 83, June 12

Gary Delorme (Cheech and Chong), 64, June 23

Dan Peek (America), 60, July 24

John Du Cann (Atomic Rooster), 65, September 21

Moogy Klingman (Utopia), 61, November 15

Keef Hartley, 67, November 27

Dobie Gray, 71, December 6

I'm calling them from another era because none of them had anything resembling a hit in many years. If you were a member of Atomic Rooster, you're only known to people who buy a lot of records and rarely see sunlight.

7) The Grass Roots Members Not Named Creed Bratton:

Rick Coonce, 64, February 25

Rob Grill, 67, July 11

Creed Bratton made himself the most famous member of this fine pop group as a cast member of The Office. Had it not been for that, he'd be as unrecognized as the rest of these guys. Sure, those in the know know, but that's not how you make your money in the rock 'n' roll world.

6) Songwriters:

Andrew Gold, 59, June 3, "Lonely Boy," "Thank You For Being A Friend"

Jerry Ragavoy, 80, July 13, "Time Is On My Side"

Jerry Leiber, 78, August 22, "Hound Dog," "Stand By Me"

George Green, 59, August 28, co-writer of "Hurts So Good," "Crumblin' Down"

Lee Pockriss , 87, November 14, author of "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini"

Gold was also a performer, but his writing was so sharp he belongs here. Besides, I don't have another category open. There are rules to this stuff, you know. Green was a friend and songwriter partner to John Mellencamp. Leiber was a lyricist who wrote often with Mike Stoller. As long as these gentlemen owned their publishing, they likely didn't have to work at Starbucks for the benefits.

5) Guys In Metal Bands

Gary Moore (Thin Lizzy, solo), 58, February 6

Scott Columbus (Manowar), 54, April 4

Wurzel (Motorhead), 61, July 9

Jani Lane (Warrant), 47, August 11

Scott Columbus, drummer for Manowar, did not spontaneously combust, though perhaps he did since the cause of death is said to be unknown. He played the "drums of doom." But let us not dwell on what killed these people. Surely, their accomplishments in life are far more interesting than how they died. Then again, "Cherry Pie" by Warrant ended friendships as lifelong friends argued bitterly over the value of the song to society. Choose life!

4) Punk, New Wave, New Romantics and Brit-Pop:

Mark Ryan (Adam and the Ants, Visage), 51, January 31

Poly Styrene (X-Ray Spex), 53, April 25

Martin Rushent, Record Producer (Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, The Human League), 62, June 4 Laura Kennedy (Bush Tetras), no age given, November 14

Jackie Leven, 61, November 14

I was shocked to learn that cult legend Jackie Leven had passed, while Poly Styrene died just as she released Generation Indigo, her first album in seven years. Laura Kennedy has somehow managed to keep her age off her obits. Just do what I do. Imagine what age she would admit to and add ten years. This is always true for TV stars and Cuban baseball players.

3) Rappers:

Nate Dogg, 41, March 15

Heavy D, 44, November 8

At least neither rapper died from fighting other rappers. Violence is a waste. Strokes, heart problems, pneumonia, whatever the natural causes, it's still too damn young. At least they lived with life and achieved a part of their dreams. Most of us sit around and sulk and we live forever.

2) Person Who Doesn't Like Being Associated With Rappers Though Rappers Like To Cite Him As An Influence

Gil Scott-Heron, 62, May 27

Just because he mastered the art of talking didn't mean he wanted to be known as the Godfather of Hip-Hop. He was his own man, a fascinating, weird soul with a troubled, iconoclastic streak that led him to creative heights and to crack addiction and jail. Art is complicated.

1) The One We Unfortunately Expected:

Amy Winehouse, 27, July 23

Addiction is a nasty mistress. Could perspective have saved young Amy? We'll never know. Was she living a doomed romantic fantasy that she paid for with her life? Or was it just all ugliness and hopelessness? Was there a way out that she could have lived with that didn't involve her dying? You never know who's going to find peace in sobriety and who's going to suffer. But I always feel like if these folks could just make it past thirty, they might see things more clearly. Maybe not. What do I know? I'm just a cab driver.

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