Jimmy King; James Glader; Kevin Winter/WireImage
2016 may go down in history as the year the music died, because of the seemingly inordinate number of esteemed and influential artists who passed away. Among the biggest names who we lost in 2016 were a trio of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers: David Bowie, the Eagles‘ Glenn Frey, and Prince.
Bowie’s unexpected death came just 10 days into the New Year, just two days after his 69th birthday — the same day his latest studio album, Blackstar, was released. The groundbreaking singer and songwriter died after a long battle with cancer, although he’d kept his illness a secret to all but his closest confidantes.
Bowie’s impact can be heard in the music of nearly every modern artist, from U2 and Madonna to Kanye West and Lady Gaga. Through the decades, his music encompassed pop, glam-rock, R&B, funk, dance, soul, progressive rock, hard rock, jazz and more. His influence can be felt in punk rock, new wave and alternative music, ambient, dance, electronic music and beyond.
Following Bowie’s death, Blackstar shot to #1 on the Billboard 200, becoming his first-ever record to top that chart. David also became the subject of countless tribute events, including a special performance on the Grammy Awards by Lady Gaga, and a pair of star-studded benefit shows at the famous New York City venues Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. Meanwhile, in December, Blackstar garnered Bowie five posthumous Grammy nominations, including Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for the album’s title track.
Frey’s death, which came just eight days after Bowie’s, also shocked music fans. The singer/guitarist, who co-wrote most of the Eagles best-known songs, died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia at the age of 67. The surviving Eagles teamed up with Glenn’s good friend Jackson Browne for a special tribute performance at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Frey also was honored posthumously, along with the rest of the Eagles, in December during the 2016 Kennedy Center Honors. Eagles co-founder Don Henley has said in a number of interviews that Glenn’s passing likely means the end of the band.
One of 2016’s most shocking deaths was that of Prince, who was just 57 when he died on April 21 from a fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park estate in Chanhassen, Minnesota. The prolific artist could do it all — sing, write, play amazing guitar, dance, act and more.
Once news broke of Prince’s death, scores of fans and fellow artists took to social media to express their grief and send condolences, including President Obama, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Jon Bon Jovi, KISS‘ Gene Simmons, The Jacksons, Cyndi Lauper and Nile Rodgers.
Among the tribute events scheduled to honor the Purple One were a series Minneapolis shows in September featuring a reunion of Prince’s former backing band, The Revolution, and an October concert at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota that included Wonder, Christina Aguilera, Anita Baker and other stars.
As the year wound down, the music world suffered the unexpected and tragic loss of one more music legend, former Wham! singer George Michael, who was found dead at his U.K. home on Christmas Day. He was only 53. As Wham!’s frontman, Michael topped the charts three times in 1984, with “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go,” “Careless Whisper” and Everything She Wants.” He found even bigger success as a solo artist, scoring a string of #1 hits in the late ’80s that included “Faith,” “Father Figure,” “One More Try,” “Monkey” and “Praying for Time.”
Here is a list of the many music figures who died in 2016, in chronological order:
Robert Stigwood — announced January 4 — manager for legendary bands such as Cream and The Bee Gees and producer of blockbuster musical films like Saturday Night Fever and Grease. He was 81.
David Bowie — January 10 — rock icon. He was 69.
Giorgio Gomelsky — January 13 — music promoter, producer, manager of The Yardbirds. He was 81.
Gary Loizzo — January 16 — lead singer of the 1960s pop-rock band The American Breed, longtime Styx engineer. He was 70.
Dale “Buffin” Griffin — January 17 — drummer for Mott the Hoople. He was 67.
Mic Gillette — January 17 — trumpet player with Tower of Power. He was 64.
Glenn Frey — January 18 — singer/guitarist who co-founded the Eagles and also had a successful solo career. He was 67.
Paul Kantner — January 28 — founding member of Jefferson Airplane and spinoff group Jefferson Starship. He was 74.
Signe Anderson — January 28 — Jefferson Airplane’s original female vocalist. She was 74.
Maurice White — February 3 — Earth, Wind & Fire founder. He was 74.
Dan Hicks — February 6 — leader of the roots-rock group Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks. He was 74.
Vanity (Denise Matthews) — February 15 — Lead singer of Prince protégés Vanity 6. She was 57.
Lennie Baker — February 24 — singer and saxophone player for Danny and the Juniors and Sha Na Na. He was 69.
Gayle McCormick — March 1 — lead singer of Smith. She was 67.
Sir George Martin — March 8 — famed Beatles producer. He was 90.
Keith Emerson — March 11 — one-third of the pioneering progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He was 71.
Frank Sinatra Jr. — March 16 — singer, son of legendary crooner Frank Sinatra. He was 72.
Andy Newman — March 30 — keyboardist of Thunderclap Newman, “Something in the Air.” He was 73.
Carlo Mastrangelo — April 4 — member of Dion and the Belmonts. He was 78.
Merle Haggard — April 6 — country music legend, “Okie From Muskogee,” “Sing Me Back Home.” He was 79.
Dennis Davis — April 6 — session drummer who played on several albums by David Bowie and Stevie Wonder. He was 66.
Prince — found dead at his home on April 21 — influential musician, “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry.” He was 57.
Lonnie Mack — April 21 — musician known for instrumental recordings that influenced guitar greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was 74.
Billy Paul — April 24 — jazz and soul singer best known for the song “Me and Mrs. Jones.” He was 81.
Brian Rading — June 8 — founding bassist of Canadian rock act Five Man Electrical Band. He was 69.
“Chips” Moman — June 13 — Memphis producer, musician and songwriter, worked with Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, among others. He was 79.
Henry McCullough — June 14 — guitarist in Wings. He was 72.
Bill Ham — June 20 — longtime manager of ZZ Top. He was 79.
Wayne Jackson — June 21 — trumpet player with Stax Records house band The Mar-Keys. He was 74.
Bernie Worrell — June 24 — founding Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist, also played with Talking Heads. He was 72.
Scotty Moore — June 28 — guitarist who backed Elvis Presley during the first part of his career. He was 84.
Rob Wasserman — June 29 — acclaimed bass player, former co-leader of RatDog. He was 64.
Danny Smythe — July 6 — drummer of The Box Tops. He was 67.
Lewis Steinberg — July 21 — former bassist of Booker T. & the M.G.’s. He was 82.
Sandy Pearlman — July 26 — producer and songwriter for Blue Öyster Cult. He was 72.
John D. Loudermilk — September 21 — songwriter, “Tobacco Road,” “Indian Reservation,” He was 82.
Don Ciccone — October 8 — former member of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Tommy James and the Shondells. He was 70.
Rod Temperton — October 5 — songwriter and keyboardist of the 1970s R&B, funk and disco band Heatwave, “Boogie Nights,” “Always and Forever.” He was 66.
Joan Marie Johnson — October 5 — original member of the ’60s girl group The Dixie Cups. She was 72.
Phil Chess — October 19 — co-founder of Chess Records, the Chicago-based label that featured greats like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. He was 95.
Pete Burns — October 23 — lead singer of Dead or Alive. He was 57.
Bobby Vee — October 24 — early-’60s pop idol, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Run to Him.” He was 73.
Leonard Cohen — November 7 — singer, songwriter, “Hallelujah,” “Bird on the Wire,” “Suzanne.” He was 82.
Leon Russell — November 13 — singer, songwriter, “This Masquerade,” “A Song for You,” “Tightrope,” “Delta Lady.” He was 74.
Jer Bulsara — November 13 — mother of late Queen singer Freddie Mercury. She was 94.
Mose Allison — November 15 — influential, blues and jazz pianist, singer and songwriter, “Young Man Blues.” He was 89.
Greg Lake — December 7 — singer/bassist with Emerson, Lake & Palmer and King Crimson. He was 69.
Rick Parfitt — December 24 — founding guitarist and singer with Status Quo. He was 68.
George Michael — December 25 — lead singer of British pop duo Wham! and solo artist. He was 53.
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