This year saw the passing of a number of musicians. From huge stars and influential pioneers who shaped music as we know it to lesser-known but nonetheless talented artists, the year saw profound loss in the music industry. The following are some of those who left their mark on music.
Berry was one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, refining rhythm and blues into a new sound. Some of his biggest hits include “Johnny B. Goode,” “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven.” Berry was also one of the first musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it opened in 1986. Berry died March 18 at 90 years old.
Petty led his group Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, performing lead vocals and rhythm guitar. In his career as part of the Heartbreakers and as a solo artist, Petty sold more than 80 million records worldwide. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. He was also a member of the late ’80s supergroup The Traveling Wilburys, with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne. Petty died Oct. 2 of cardiac arrest at 66 years old.
Allman and his brother Duane formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, with Gregg on Hammond organ and vocals. The group was an innovator in the Southern rock and jam-band genres. Allman also had a successful solo career. He was a Grammy-winning artist, and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. Allman died of liver cancer May 27 at 69 years old.
Cornell was the lead vocalist of Soundgarden, which became popular in the grunge scene of the ’90s with albums such as Badmotorfinger and Superunkown. He was also a member of Audioslave, which featured members of Rage Against the Machine. Cornell’s Temple of the Dog project was a one-album tribute to his late friend Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone. He also had hits as a solo artist, including “You Know My Name,” the theme from the James Bond film Casino Royale. He was nominated for 15 Grammys, winning twice. Cornell committed suicide May 18 at 52 years old.
Stubblefield was best known as the drummer for James Brown, in whose band he provided a blueprint for funk drumming on tracks such as “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and on the Sex Machine album. His rhythm pattern on Brown’s “Funky Drummer” is one of most-sampled musical segments ever, though he was never credited for the use of the samples. Stubblefield lived in Madison from 1971 until his death, and was a staple of the local music scene there, playing with The Clyde Stubblefield Band. Stubblefield died Feb. 18 of kidney failure at 73 years old.
Becker was the co-founder and guitarist of jazz-rockers Steely Dan. The group was popular throughout the ’70s with hits like “Reelin’ In the Years,” “Hey Nineteen,” “Peg,” “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” and “FM,” but broke up in 1981. Steely Dan later reunited, and its comeback album Two Against Nature won four Grammy Awards in 2000, one being Album of the Year. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. Becker also released two solo albums, 11 Tracks of Whack in 1994 and Circus Money in 2008. He died Sept. 3 of esophageal cancer at 67 years old.
Born in Milwaukee and the son of a minister, Jarreau was a jazz and R&B vocalist. His most commercially successful album was 1981’s Breakin’ Away, which featured the hit “We’re in This Love Together,” for which he won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, one of seven Grammys he received over the course of his career. He also took part in the 1985 USA for Africa charity song “We Are the World.” Jarreau died of respiratory insufficiency Feb. 12 at 76 years old.
Malcolm Young was the co-founder, rhythm guitarist, backing vocalist and songwriter for the Australian band AC/DC. The group released a host of platinum albums, including Highway to Hell and Back in Black. His brother, lead guitarist Angus, has received most of the attention for the group, but Malcolm was considered the driving force of the band. He and AC/DC were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. Young died Nov. 18 after years of suffering with dementia. He was 64 years old.
Albert Johnson, who was better known by his stage name Prodigy, was a rapper and one half of the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep. The group released a number of albums throughout the ’90s and early ’00s, including the The Infamous and the platinum Murda Muzik. Prodigy also put out five albums as a solo artist. He battled sickle-cell anemia for most of his life, even addressing the fact in his track “You Can Never Feel My Pain.” Johnson died June 20 from sickle-cell complications. He was 42 years old.
Cassidy was an actor and singer, well known for his role as Keith Partridge in the ’70s sitcom The Partridge Family. After a song from the series, “I Think I Love You,” became a hit, Cassidy began to work on solo albums and became a teen idol, selling out arenas with his live performances, even selling out New York’s Madison Square Garden in one day. He also performed in musical theater later in his career and continued acting. Cassidy died of liver failure Nov. 21 at 67 years old.
Bennington was a vocalist for the rock band Linkin Park, whose 2000 debut Hybrid Theory was certified diamond in the United States, selling over 11 million units and making it the best-selling debut album of the decade. He was also briefly the lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots on the 2013 EP High Rise, as well as his own side project Dead by Sunrise, which released one album, Out of Ashes, in 2009. Bennington committed suicide July 20 at 41 years old.
Campbell sold more than 45 million records worldwide, and had 12 gold albums, four platinum albums, and one double-platinum album throughout his long music career. He won four Grammys in 1967 alone, as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. Some of Campbell’s hits include “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Gentle on My Mind.” He was an actor as well, and played a supporting role in the 1969 film True Grit, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. He also hosted a music and comedy variety show — The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS in the early ’70s. Campbell died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease Aug. 8. He was 81 years old.
Country music singer Mel Tillis saw his biggest success in the ’70s, with hits such as “I Ain’t Never” and “Good Woman Blues.” He was awarded the National Medal of Arts for his contributions to country music by President Barack Obama in 2012. Tillis was also known for his speech impediment, which ironically never affected his singing voice. He died Nov. 19 at 85 years old.
Singer Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr. was an early purveyor of rock and roll music, with ’50s hits such as “Ain’t that a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” and “I’m Walkin’.” Domino sold more than 65 million records throughout his career, and both John Lennon and Paul McCartney named him as a major influence on their early work. He was one of the first R&B artists to gain popularity with white audiences. Domino died Oct. 24 at 89 years old.
Other GREATS we lost in 2017
J. Geils, guitarist, J. Geils Band, April 11, 71 years old, natural causes.
John Wetton, vocalist and bassist, King Crimson, Asia, Roxy Music, and more, Jan. 31, 67 years old, colorectal cancer.
Allan Holdsworth, jazz-fusion and rock guitarist, April 15, 70 years old, heart disease.
Grant Hart, drummer, Hüsker Dü, Sept. 13, 56 years old, liver cancer.
Joni Sledge, vocalist, Sister Sledge, March 10, 60 years old, natural causes.
Butch Trucks, drummer, Allman Brothers Band, Jan. 24, 69 years old, suicide.
Robert ‘P-Nut’ Johnson, vocalist, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band, March 12, 69 years old.
Jaki Liebezeit, drummer, Can, Jan. 22, 78 years old, pneumonia.
Peter Overend Watts, bassist, Mott the Hoople, Jan. 22, 69 years old, laryngeal cancer.
David Peel, folk singer and guitarist, April 6, 74 years old, heart attack.
Larry Coryell, jazz guitarist, Feb. 19, 73 years old, congestive heart failure.