Pop-country vocalist B.J. Thomas, famous for the 1969 smash 'Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head', written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the 1969 Paul Newman/Robert Redford Western 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid', has died at the age of 78 from lung cancer. Grammy-winning singer had hits in pop, country, and gospel with songs like 'Hooked on a Feeling' and '(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song'. The New York Times looks back at his career.

Singer John Davis, the true vocal talent behind notorious pop duo Milli Vanilli, has died from coronavirus at the age of 66, Variety reports. Fronted by Fabrice Morvan and Rob Pilatus, Milli Vanilli sold more than 30 million singles, but were stripped of a Grammy Award after it emerged they lip-synced on hits they had never recorded. Davis and other fellow session singers provided vocals on Millie Vanilli's album 'Girl You Know It's True', which sold 11 million copies, but were only listed as backing singers, with Morvan and Pilatus falsely given credit. After the lip-syncing scandal, Davis and fellow original singer Brad Howell formed The Real Milli Vanilli. In later years Davis performed alongside Morvan as part of their collaborative project Face Meets Voice.

Co-founder and namesake of Vans shoe company, Paul Van Doren has passed away at age 90, NBC reports. Van Doren launched Vans in 1966 and has since built the Anaheim, California-based company into a global sneaker and streetwear brand. Last month, Van Doren released his memoir 'Authentic'.

Will Mecum, founding guitarist of long-running stoner metal outfit Karma to Burn, has died, Metal Sucks reports. Will formed Karma to Burn with bassist Rich Mullins and drummer Nathan Limbaugh in 1994 in Morgantown WV, to release six albums with the band.

Al Schmitt, one of the most revered engineers and producers in the annals of the music business, winner of record 20 Grammys, has died aged 91. In 2015, he also became the first to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Among his recordings are Henry Mancini's 'Moon River', Neil Young's 'On the Beach', Toto's 'Africa', Ray Charles' 'Genius Loves Company', and 150 other gold or platinum records by Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Miles Davis, Josh Groban, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson.

Australian musician Anita Lane, a flower of Melbourne 1980s post-punk scene, and the former member of The Bad Seeds and The Birthday Party, has died aged 62, Louder Than War reports. Lane co-wrote early Birthday Party tracks ‘A Dead Song’, ‘Dead Joe’ and ‘Kiss Me Black’, as well as Bad Seeds songs ‘From Her To Eternity’ and ‘Stranger Than Kindness’ with her then-boyfriend Nick Cave. Lane went on to have a long and distinguished career, working with the likes of Kid Congo Powers, Gudrun Gut and Einstürzende Neubauten. Lane also released a number of solo albums.

Italian chanson and pop music singer and actress Milva, very popular in the 1960s and 1970s, passed away Friday at her home in Milan, Italy, aged 81, Deutsche Welle reports. With an active career spanning decades, Milva sold some 80 million records, and recorded 173 albums. Her penchant for singing in foreign languages led to her success around the world - she released songs in English, French, Spanish, Greek, Portuguese and Japanese. She had an especially large fan base in Germany, where she gained fame with sophisticated easy listening tracks.

Jim Steinman, the composer, lyricist and record producer behind many rock and pop hits has died at the age of 73, Deadline reports. His roster of hit records began with Meat Loaf’s smash 1977 debut album 'Bat Out of Hell' (among the 35 best-selling albums in U.S. history, racking up 14 million units sold), only to be continued by Bonnie Tyler hits 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' and 'Holding Out For A Hero', Barry Manilow’s 'Read ‘Em and Weep', Celine Dion’s 'It’s All Coming Back to Me Now' and many more.

Mitchell - top right

Mike Mitchell, who recorded one of the most famous guitar solos of all time for Kingsmen’s 'Louie Louie' (a loose rendition of Richard Berry’s 1957 song), has died aged 77, Rolling Stone reports. With Mitchell’s rock’n’roll guitar solo adding a crazed energy to the three-chord recording, the song is a cornerstone of the garage rock sound. It also features a famous error by the band's vocalist Jack Ely as he comes back in too early after Mitchell’s solo. The band had a decades-long touring career with Mitchel as the permanent, and the only founding member left.

A commanding presence on the mic... effortlessly balancing raw charisma with hit-making savvy, DMX had a major impact on the sound and direction of an era in hip-hop - Rolling Stone writes presenting their selection on 16 essential DMX songs. The iconic hip-hop artist has died at the age of 50 after suffering “catastrophic cardiac arrest”. Rolling Stone expands the story on DMX with revisited articles about his debut and his identity.

Morris "B.B." Dickerson, War co-founder, bassist, and vocalist died on Friday (4/2) at a Long Beach, California hospital, "after a long, undisclosed illness", reports Billboard. Dickerson co-wrote War classics as 'Low Rider', 'Why Can't We Be Friends', 'The Cisco Kid', 'Summer', and he contributed lead vocals to their psychedelic soul masterpiece 'The World Is A Ghetto'.

Grateful Dead

Brian Rohan, the San Francisco “dope lawyer” who represented rock clients like Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Santana, Aerosmith, Boston, Jefferson Airplane, and Kris Kristofferson, has died at 84, Consequence of Sound reports. Rohan's rock career was opened by Grateful Dead in 1966 when he helped them organize their first album contract with Warner Bros. Several months later in January 1967, the police arrested nearly 100 people on charges of loitering and “being hippies” after the Human Be-In. Rohan brought the case to trial and won, getting all other charges dismissed. Rohan also co-formed the Haight-Ashbury Legal Organization that same summer and often set up a table in front of the band’s house where he offered service to live-in and walk-in clients alike who needed help. A story has it also that Rohan punched David Geffen for having his phone calls for clients ignored, earning the applause of “Jann Wenner, Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, and Leonard Cohen".

Pioneering music producer and engineer Malcolm Cecil has died at the age of 84, Consequence of Sound reports. Cecil produced plenty of big releases in his time, including numerous Stevie Wonder albums, still, he is best known as the co-creator of the TONTO — the world's largest analog synthesizer. Over the years, the TONTO has been used by the likes of the Isley Brothers, the Doobie Brothers, Joan Baez, Quincy Jones, Bobby Womack, Weather Report, Gil Scott-Heron, Diana Ross and many others. TONTO was obtained by Calgary's National Music Centre in 2013, it was fully restored by 2018 and is available for contemporary artists to use.

Thione Ballago Seck, from a family of “griot” singers, one of the West African country’s most famous musicians, alongside Youssou Ndour, Omar Pene, Ismael Lo and his own son, Wally Seck, has died at the age of 66 in Dakar on Sunday, al Jazeera reports. In the 1970s he sang in the Orchestre Baobab, known for playing a mix of Afro-Cuban salsa and traditional Senegalese music. In 1980 the singer and lyricist founded Raam Daam, which became one of the most popular purveyors of mblalax, a genre combining funk, reggae, dance music and local rhythms.

Belgium inventor Lou Ottens, who led the project of developing a cassette tape, has died at the age of 94, NPR reports. He was the head of product development at Philips’s electronics factory in Hasselt, Belgium in early 1960s when he told his team to develop an audio device that was smaller, cheaper and easier to use than the reel-to-reel tape recorder because that one was to much of a hassle. As a result, they invented the cassette tape, which went on to be sold in billions. Ottens spearheaded another advance in electronics, working on a Philips team that jointly introduced the compact disc with Sony in 1982.

Lars-Göran “L-G” Petrov of the Swedish death-metal pioneers Entombed sadly passed away on Sunday, after a battle with cancer, at the age of 49, Louder reports. Entombed formed in 1989 out of the ashes of their previous band Nihilist, to release their groundbreaking debut LP 'Left Hand Path' in 1990. They changed the trajectory of the genre once again with their third album, 1993's 'Wolverine Blues', which helped pioneer the subgenre of death 'n' roll. Petrov left the band in 2014 and formed the offshoot band Entombed A.D., who went on to release three albums.

Henry Goldrich was the man behind the music - literally, since he was the owner of Manny's Music store in New York. There, he had sold Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton their first wah-wah pedals, as well as other pieces of equipment to numerous musicians - David Gilmour, Pete Townsend, Sting, James Taylor, members of Lovin' Spoonful - helping them define their sound. The New York Times tells the nice story of the "gear guru to rock stars" who recently died.

Reggae pioneer Neville "Bunny Wailer" Livingston, has died at the age of 73 at a hospital in Kingston, Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer reports. Wailer, whose real name was Neville Livingston, was a founding member of the Wailers, which also included Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Wailer eventually left The Wailers in 1973 to find success as a solo artist, also winning three Grammys.

Michael Gudinski, the globally respected Australian music entrepreneur and founder of Mushroom Group, has died aged 68, according to Hollywood Reporter. He worked with artists including Kylie Minogue,  MacKenzie Theory, the Skyhooks, the Choirboys and many more. Today, Mushroom Group comprises a collective of independent record labels, such as Liberator Music, Liberation Records, and Bloodlines.

Đjorđe Balašević, a Serbian folk-pop singer who remained widely popular throughout the former Yugoslavia after the wars of the 1990s, has died aged 67 after contracting the new coronavirus, ABC reports. Balašević started his musical career in late 1970s, and, as an anti-nationalist and a pacifist during the wartime-era, he remained popular in ex-Yugoslav states, filling up concert halls after the wars. In 1998 he was named UN's Goodwill Ambassador. Balašević is survived by his wife, three children, and his music.

Miles Cooper Seaton, a founding member of the experimental rock band Akron/Family, has died aged 41, Stereogum reports. Seaton took a multi-instrumental role in Akron/Family releasing six albums with the band in the 2005-2013 period, continuing to make experimental music under his own name in the following years.

Prince Markie Dee, a member of the pioneering hip-hop group the Fat Boys, died aged 52 on Thursday, a day before his birthday, Rolling Stone reports. Together with Human Beatbox and Kool Rock Ski he launched Fat Boys in 1983, becoming one of rap’s premier pop culture ambassadors. The Roots' Questlove said “they were figuratively (no weight jokes) the biggest act in hip hop at some point in time. Like the first act that showed this culture might have some real international legs to it". After the band's breakup, he wrote and produced pop songs for the likes of Mary J. Blige and Mariah Carey under his birth name Mark Morales.

Pioneering Jamaican reggae vocalist and dancehall innovator, credited for pioneering the vocal style known as "toasting", U-Roy, has died at the age of 78. U-Roy is credited for pioneering “toasting,” the vocal style in which a performer talks or chants, usually in a monotone melody, over a reggae or dancehall beat, Loop Jamaica reports.

Johnny Pacheco, the legendary bandleader who cofounded Fania Records in the 1960s and became one of the leading architects of salsa, has died aged 85, NPR reports. Pacheco found success recording with his band Pacheco y Su Charanga, and also sparked a musical revolution when, in 1964, he met Jerry Masucci and together, they founded Fania Records. Fania soon became known as the Latin Motown, home to superstars like Celia Cruz, Cheo Feliciano and Héctor Lavoe, and the breeding ground for seminal artists in the genre of music that would come to be known as “salsa”, a collision of traditional Cuban song and pan-Latin rhythms with American jazz and funk.

"Very few people can claim to have changed the way we hear music. @Rupert_Neve was one of them" - Guitar Center tweeted following the news of audio equipment pioneer Rupert Neve's death at age 94, Ultimate Classic Rock reports. Neve was one of the leading pioneers in creating the analog recording equipment that many rock bands used to record their albums over the years. Neve pursued a career that he continued to enjoy for over 80 years, and at 94 he remained engaged and passionate about his work, spending most days on a perpetual series of audio electronics projects and continuing to mentor on numerous projects.

A return to forever
February 12, 2021

Jazz innovator Chick Corea dies aged 79

The keyboardist, composer, and bandleader Chick Corea - a contemporary jazz innovator - died on Feb. 9 at age 79 from a rare form of cancer, NPR reports. Corea, a virtuosic keyboardist who broadened the scope of jazz during a career spanning more than five decades, early in his career joined Miles Davis’ band and played a key role in helping the trumpeter make the transition to a more contemporary, plugged-in sound. Later, he formed his own groundbreaking electric band, Return to Forever, which played some of the most vibrant and dynamic music of the fusion era. An interesting quote by the late musician in the LA Times: You can’t create in a vacuum and just fail to relate to people. At the same time, you cannot compromise your integrity. There has to be a middle road, where some sensible balance is made between, on the one hand, pure creation, and, on the other hand, the reality is that we live with, eating and survival and money and business.

Vocalist Mary Wilson, who co-founded the Supremes as a 15-year-old in a Detroit housing project and stayed with the hitmaking Motown trio until 1977,  died on Monday night at her home in Las Vegas at the age of 76, CNN reports. Some of their biggest hits include 'Baby Love', 'Stop! In the Name of Love', 'You Can’t Hurry Love', 'You Keep Me Hanging On'. Just two days prior to her death, Wilson put up a video on her YouTube channel announcing that she was working with Universal Music on releasing solo material, including the unreleased album 'Red Hot' she recorded in the 1970s with producer Gus Dudgeon.

Ricky Powell and fan

Hip hop photographer, legendary NYC cable access host and Beastie Boys associate Ricky Powell has died aged 59, Complex reports. His relationship with Beastie Boys opened up the door to work with LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Eric B & Rakim. He also worked beyond the hip-hop scene, photographing Andy Warhol, Madonna, Sofia Coppola, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Vin Diesel and more. He hosted a TV show, 'Rappin With the Rickster', for six years during the 1990s, interviewing stars including Laurence Fishburne and Sonic Youth. Numerous books of his work were published, and a documentary, 'Ricky Powell: the Individualist', was released in 2020.

January 31, 2021

Sophie dies at 34

Electronic and experimental pop great Sophie, one of the most important figures in the last decade of underground pop and dance music, has died aged 34 after a "terrible accident" in Athens, Greece, where the artist had been living. The statement read - "true to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell", the New York Times reports.

Hilton Valentine, a guitarist in one of the most famous pop-rock bands of the 1960s - the Animals, has died at the age of 77, Rolling Stone reports. The most famous Animals song by far is 'The House of The Rising Sun', but the band scored other hits such as 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' and 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place'.

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