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2021: The Year In Death

I made some enemies with my grading people’s death, a sort of instinctive mish mash of age, form of death and life, to be taken as part serious and part tribute with a dash of cynicism. The thing about death is it is something that is as much pain as indifference and not to be taken as a litmus test for moral decency. For the record, if I dropped dead right now:

Iman Lababedi – part of a dying piece of linear TV advertising sales and a music critic from 1979 – 1989 and 2009 – 2022 – C

Anyway, although Covid made me feel like death I made it through and so here is the rest of the world…

Betty White – the television entertainer was still peaking at weeks away from the century – A+

Biz Markie – a one hit wonder, “Just A Friend”, but it was a rap and hip hop gamechanger and still hugely loved – C+

B.J. Thomas – raindrops keep falling on my head guy – C

Black Rob – the “Woah” guy – C+

Bunny Wailer – helped invent reggae – A

Charlie Watts – Rolling Stones drummer – A

Chick Corea – helped create jazz fusion with Miles Davis and wrote some classic jazz by himself – B

Christopher Plummer – portrayed Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound Of Music” and gave the sappy masterpiece an edge it wouldn’t have had – B

DMX – New York rapper DMX with that dog off the leash rasp and the well spit spirited rap , found him even in great voice on stage in 2019 (here) and though his final release had too many features, he will still be missed. He was 50 – B+

Don Everly – The Everly Brothers influence on modern pop, from Paul Simon to Paul McCartney, can not be overstated – A

Drakeo the Ruler – Drakeo spent his life in and out of prison, so much so that he is one of only two rappers I’ve ever heard record an album over the phone from prison (2020’s Thank You For Using GTL). A huge loss – A-

Dusty Hill – bassist for the oddest sex symbols of the 80s -ZZ Top – B-

Emani 22 – the Cali R&B singer was just getting started (she has appeared on a coupla Trippie Redd tracks) and was killed by a hit and run driver at the sadly ironic age of 22 – B

Gerry Marsden – ferried across the Mersey at the birth of the Brit Explosion – B

Jimmie Rodgers – sang “Honeycomb” – C

Jim Steinman – wrote Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell – C-

Johnny Pacheco – the founder and musical director of Fania Records – A

Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry – all but invented dub – A

Les McKeown – The lead singer for the Bay City Rollers, whose life reads like a major tragedy – C+

Lloyd Price – I know you think you’re smart just going around breaking lover’s hearts – one reason Lennon was a huge fan – A-

Mary Wilson – a third of the Supremes – A-

Michael Nesmith – two months after I saw him with Micky Dolenz at the Town Hall (here), the lanky Texan left us with “Sunny Girlfriend” ringing in our ears – A

Paddy Moloney – An original member of the Chieftains, I interviewed him in the 80s and the man breathed and represented Irish folk – B+

Phil Spector – the insanely talented and insane pop producer – A

Ralph Tavares – I had the pleasure of catching Tavares back in 2019 (here), and concur with Keith Shockley -this is the sound of blackness – B

Robbie Shakespeare – half of the Jamaican rhythm duo and producers, Sly and Robbie, who worked with everyone from Gregory Isaacs to Bob Dylan – B

Sophie – the top practitioner of hyperpop where the art and the mainstream frolic. The biggest loss of the year in pure musical terms – A+

Stephen Sondheim – The last of a dying breed – the Broadway musical composer as popular genius, up there with Porter, Gershwin, Richard Rodgers… – A+

Steve Bronski – Half of Bronski Beat – C+

Tom T. Hall – the country master songwriter is responsible for “Harper Valley P.T.A.” – B

Vicente Fernandez – Regional Mexican giant – A-

Wanda Young – Puhleeeeez Mr. Po-wo-wost-man – the great Marvelette – B

Young Dolph – another man who went from prison to hospital wards and back. A great rapper and still growing – A

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