Gone But Not Forgotten:
An Overview of 2007's Biggest Losses
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2008, Volume 15, #1
Written by John Metzger
Mon January 14, 2008, 06:35 AM CST
On January 6, "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow passed away in a Petaluma, California nursing home. Kleinow not only had been the steel guitarist for the Flying Burrito Brothers, but he also had performed on Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life and John Lennon’s Mind Games. In addition, Kleinow was an accomplished stop-motion effects artist who had worked on Gumby. Kleinow had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, the complications of which took his life.
Jazz artist Alice Coltrane passed away on Friday, January 12. She suffered from respiratory failure and died while hospitalized near Los Angeles. She was 69. Coltrane’s most recent outing Translinear Light was released in 2004. She also was responsible for overseeing the archive and estate of her late husband John Coltrane, who had died in 1967.
Grammy-winning saxophone player Michael Brecker passed away on Saturday, January 13. He was 57. Brecker had been hospitalized to receive treatment for leukemia, which developed after a long battle with myelodysplastic syndrome. Over the course of his career, he won 11 Grammys, with Wide Angles scoring a pair of the prestigious awards in 2004. He also had performed with the likes of Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, and James Taylor. As 2006 drew to a close, Brecker completed work on new material.
On Friday, January 19, Denny Doherty, singer with The Mamas and The Papas, passed away at the age of 66. Doherty died of an abdominal aneurysm, and he also had been on dialysis to treat his kidney problems. He passed away at his home in Mississauga, Ontario. The Mamas and The Papas (which, in addition to Doherty, included John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, and Cass Elliot) became a major player in California’s music scene after scoring a Top 10 hit with California Dreamin’ in 1966. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. More recently, Doherty had written Dream a Little Dream, an autobiographical musical. With Doherty’s death, the only surviving member of the band is Michelle Phillips. Elliot passed away in 1974, while John Phillips died in 2001.
On February 2, Motown pianist Joe Hunter succumbed to diabetes at the age of 79. First discovered by Berry Gordy in 1958, he subsequently performed on countless Motown hits, including Martha and the Vandellas’ Heatwave, Marvin Gaye’s Pride and Joy, and Smokey Robinson’s Shop Around.
Billy Henderson, a founding member of the Spinners, passed away on February 2 at the age of 67. He died as the result of complications from diabetes. With the Spinners, Henderson helped to craft the million-selling single I’ll Be Around.
Folk artist Eric von Schmidt passed away on February 2 at the age of 75. Von Schmidt was, perhaps, best-known musically for teaching Bob Dylan how to play Baby, Let Me Follow You Down. In recent years, he had gained accolades for painting murals that depicted scenes from American history.
Boston’s lead singer Brad Delp passed away on Friday, March 9 at the age of 55. He was found dead in his home after police responded to a call for help. Police Lt. William Baldwin issued a statement that referred to Delp’s death as "untimely," though he also said there was no indication of foul play. On March 14, Delp’s death was ruled a suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning.
On April 30, The Platters’ lone female vocalist Zola Taylor passed away. Taylor was 69. At the age of 15, Taylor was asked by Platters’ founder Herb Reed to join the outfit. She subsequently sang on The Great Pretender and remained with the group from 1955 until 1964.
On June 18, record producer and performer Hank Medress passed away at the age of 68. His family stated that the cause of his death was lung cancer. Medress was a member of The Tokens, which topped the pop charts in 1961 with its arrangement of The Lion Sleeps Tonight. Medress also co-produced the Chiffons’ He’s So Fine.
On July 4, The Drifters’ Bill Pinkney passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 81. Pinkney joined the band in 1953, but after a dispute over money, he departed before the group became successful.
Jazz legend Max Roach passed away on August 16. His cause of death was not known. Roach was instrumental in fueling the development of bebop, and he got his start performing behind Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The drummer was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995, and he was 83 at the time of his death.
Hilly Kristal passed away on August 29. Less than a year earlier, his legendary New York City club CBGB was forced to close its doors after losing a lengthy legal battle to avoid eviction. Punk rock was birthed within CBGB’s dark interior, and acts like The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith, and Talking Heads got their start performing on its small stage. Kristal had been in attendance at the venue’s final show, which featured a scorching set from Smith. He was in the process of opening a new incarnation of CBGB in Las Vegas. Kristal had been undergoing treatment for lung cancer, which is what eventually took his life. He was 75.
On September 6, Luciano Pavarotti succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was 71. He had been diagnosed with the disease while on tour in 2006. Pavarotti was a world-renowned opera singer who also had achieved mainstream success. Not only had he made an appearance on Saturday Night Live, but he also sang with U2 on the group’s 1995 tune Miss Sarajevo.
Jazz-fusion pioneer Joe Zawinul passed away on September 11 in Vienna, Austria. He had received treatment in August for a rare form of skin cancer that eventually took his life. Zawinul is best-known for his work with Miles Davis as well as his own outfit Weather Report, in which he performed with saxophonist Wayne Shorter. The legendary keyboard player and composer was instrumental in helping Davis to create Bitches Brew and In a Silent Way. Zawinul was 75, and he will be buried in Vienna, the town in which he grew up and still made his home.
On October 18, Lucky Dube was slain in his hometown of Rosettenville, near Johannesburg, South Africa. He was the victim of an attempted carjacking. The reggae star was in the process of dropping his children off at a family member’s house when he was accosted. He had begun his career playing traditional Zulu music, but he soon turned to reggae, despite the South African government’s apartheid-era ban on the genre. He recorded 22 albums and enjoyed international success.
Country music star Porter Wagoner passed away on Sunday, October 28 in a Nashville hospice. He was 80. Wagoner had been hospitalized earlier in the month due to complications from lung cancer. Until recently, it seemed as if Wagoner’s best days were behind him. Although he hosted a popular television program and helped to launch Dolly Parton’s career, he spent years without a recording contract. His comeback began in June when he issued Wagonmaster, his first album for ANTI- Records.
Honky-tonk legend Hank Thompson passed away on November 6. He died of lung cancer at the age of 82. With The Wild Side of Life, Thompson scored his first #1 single in 1952, and over the course of his career, he sold more than 60 million records and placed 29 singles in the Top 10 of the country music charts.
On November 25, Quiet Riot’s Kevin DuBrow was found dead in his Las Vegas home. He was 52. His cause of death was unknown. The group, which was formed by DuBrow and guitarist Randy Rhoads in 1975, stood at the forefront of the hair metal craze in the 1980s, and its best known hits include Cum on Feel the Noize and Metal Health (Bang Your Head).
On December 12, Ike Turner passed away at his home in San Marcos, California. He was 76. In January 2008, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's office revealed that Turner's death was caused by an overdose of cocaine.
In recent years, Turner had made a comeback of sorts by leading his band the Kings of Rhythm on tours that spanned the globe. Most of his accomplishments, however, had been overshadowed by his addiction to drugs, which led to an arrest in 1989, and by the allegations of abuse that had been levied at him by his former wife Tina Turner. He repeatedly had denied her claims.
Turner long had been credited with recording the first rock record (Rocket 88) in 1951, but it was the work he did with his then-wife Tina that made him a star. Some of the duo’s biggest hits included A Fool in Love, It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, River Deep, Mountain High, and Proud Mary. The latter song won the couple a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group.
On December 16, singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg passed away at his home in Maine. He was 56. In 2004, Fogelberg revealed that he had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which is what took his life. Fogelberg was a mainstay on pop radio in the 1970s and early 1980s, during which time he scored a number of hits, including Leader of the Band, Same Old Lang Syne, Dancing Shoes, The Power of Gold, and Longer. His most recent effort Full Circle was issued in 2003.
On December 17, Grammy Award-winning producer Joel Dorn suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 65. Between 1967 and 1974, Dorn worked for Atlantic Records, where he helped shape 10 gold and five platinum albums. He also scored Grammys for his work on Robert Flack’s hits The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face and Killing Me Softly with His Song. He also produced outings for the Allman Brothers Band, Max Roach, and Bette Midler. Later in his career, Dorn was involved in the formation of 32 Records, Night, and Hyena, and he consulted on projects for Rhino, Columbia, and GRP.
On December 23, jazz pianist Oscar Peterson died of kidney failure at his home in Mississauga, Ontario. He was 82. Fifteen years ago, Peterson had suffered a stroke, which initially paralyzed the left side of his body. Nevertheless, he fought back and recovered enough to resume touring. Over the course of his career, Peterson won seven Grammy Awards, and a decade ago he was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. A similar honor was bestowed upon him by BBC Radio in 2005, and next year, he will receive the Founders Award from the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.
On December 23, Evan Farrell, a former member of Rogue Wave, died after inhaling a massive amount of smoke from an apartment fire. The blaze was caused by a space heater. Farrell was in Oakland to perform with the Japonize Elephants. He had toured with Rogue Wave in 2005 and had appeared on the group’s sophomore effort Descended Like Vultures. Farrell had departed the band in early 2007 to pursue his own projects.
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