2020: That Was The Year That Was! And Music Lives Lost.

By Keith Sharp

There’s no two ways about it, 2020 was a crap year. Who could have predicted that this COVID-19 pandemic could do so much damage on a global scale? The entire live music scene shuddered to a halt, major festivals cancelled, key live venues forced to restrict their attendances and then closed altogether, musicians and music industry personnel who suddenly found themselves unemployed. Pollstar, North America’s concert tour bible has guesstimated that the live music business lost more than $30 billion dollars during the past calendar year.

Who knows what the live entertainment landscape will look like when things return to normal, how many festival promoters are going to risk planning events this summer when they will need to attract advance sales early in the year. How can soft-seat theatre organizers promote future dates when they don’t know how many seats they can sell to the general public. Canadian Indications are that wholesale vaccination will not be completed until sometime next July.

Fortunately, a lot of artists took advantage of their lull in live activity to hit the recording studios which means we can anticipate a plethora of new music in 2021.

And what about the many musicians and music industry personnel we lost in 2020. Key artists like Eddie Van Halen, Little Richard, Kenny Rogers, John Prine, Spencer Davis, Leslie West and many more (see below list) took their final bow in the spotlight.

The year started badly for the Canadian music industry with the loss of Rush drummer Neil Peart during the first week of 2020, and although this country didn’t lose too many other prominent artists we did lose Brighton Rock lead vocalist Gerry McGhee, former Alias/Cranberries keyboardist Denny DeMarchi and more recently, ex Crowbar bassist Roly Greenway.

We can only hope that people keep wearing their masks, wash their hands, practice social distancing, get vaccinated and push to return to some kind of normalcy as soon as possible.

Music Lives Lost

This year has been brutal. The COVID-19 pandemic has taken from us many musical greats, preying especially hard on the elders of the community. But even without the virus, it’s been a tough year.

Below are just some of the many artists we’ve lost thus far in 2020. They are arranged alphabetically, the artist’s name followed by the death date and a brief description of who they were.

If an artist’s name is highlighted in blue, you can click on it to be taken to Best Classic Bands’ full obituary of that artist.

Below the list of musical artists, we’ve also noted several other prominent figures whose lives were lost in 2020.

We will miss all of these great talents. RIP.

Rance Allen—10/31—Gospel artist

Tony Allen—4/30—Pioneering Afrobeat drummer with Fela Kuti, others

Sweet Pea Atkinson—5/5—Singer with Was (Not Was)

Frankie Banali—8/20—Quiet Riot drummer

Len Barry—11/5—Singer of the ’60s hits “Bristol Stomp” (with the Dovells) and “1-2-3.”

Bucky Baxter—5/25—Pedal steel guitarist for Bob Dylan, others

Harold Beane—2/1—played wah-wah guitar on Isaac Hayes’ “Walk On By”

Ronald Bell—9/9—Kool and the Gang co-founder

Bob Biggs—10/17—Founder of Los Angeles punk label Slash Records

Martin Birch—8/9—Producer of Fleetwood Mac, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, others

Hamilton Bohannon—4/24—Drummer/percussionist for Motown artists; producer, bandleader in disco era

Julian Bream—8/14—Classical guitarist

Harold Budd—12/8—Avant-garde composer who worked with Brian Eno, others

Edd Byrnes—1/8—77 Sunset Strip actor and singer of “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb”

Buddy Cage—2/5—Pedal steel guitarist for New Riders of the Purple Sage

Cándido—11/7—Conga player who was named an NEA Jazz Master (full name: Cándido Camero)

Jimmy Capps—6/1—Nashville session guitarist and longtime Grand Ole Opry member

Steve Martin Caro—1/14—Vocalist with the Left Banke, of “Walk Away Renee” fame

Pete Carr—6/27—Muscle Shoals session guitarist

Paul Chapman—6/9—Guitarist with UFO

Jeff Clayton—12/17—Jazz saxophonist

Jimmy Cobb—5/24—Jazz drummer; played on Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album

Freddy Cole—6/27—Jazz pianist/vocalist, brother of Nat “King” Cole

Richie Cole—5/2—Jazz saxophonist

Simon Coxe—9/8—Synthesizer pioneer with ’60s band Silver Apples

Max Crook—7/1—Keyboardist on Del Shannon’s hit “Runaway”

Charlie Daniels—7/6—Southern rock pioneer, session musician, producer

Mac Davis—9/29—Songwriter for Elvis Presley, singer of “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me”

Spencer Davis—10/19—Leader of British band that scored with the Steve Winwood-sung “Gimme Some Lovin’” and “I’m a Man”

Dennis Demarchi—5/15 former keyboardist with Alias and The Cranberries

Tommy DeVito—9/21—Member of the original Four Seasons

Manu Dibango—5/24—African musician known for 1972 hit “Soul Makossa”

Joe Diffie—3/29—Country singer/songwriter

Gloria Dobbins—9/21—Founding member of the Marvelettes, wrote “Please Mr. Postman”

Carl Dobkins, Jr.—4/8—Singer of 1959 hit “My Heart is an Open Book”

Terry Doran—4/18—Longtime Beatles associate

Judy Dyble—7/12—Founding member of Fairport Convention

Justin Townes Earle—8/23—Singer-songwriter, son of Steve Earle

Bent Fabric—7/28—Composer and artist behind the early ’60s instrumental dance hit “Alley Cat”

Pat Fairley—8/11—Co-founder of Marmalade; played acoustic guitar on “Reflections of My Life”

Steve Farmer—4/7—Amboy Dukes member; co-wrote “Journey to the Center of the Mind”

Majek Fashek—6/1—Nigerian reggae singer

Tom Finn—6/27—Co-founder of the Left Banke, of “Walk Away Renee” fame

Snooky Flowers—3/9—Saxophonist; was member of Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band

Wayne Fontana—8/6—Singer of 1965 British Invasion hit “Game of Love”

Andy Gill—1/1—Guitarist with the Gang of Four

Ivry Gitlis—12/24—Israeli classical violinist who played with Yoko Ono on The Rolling Stones Rock ‘n’ Roll Circus

Marty Grebb—1/1—Musician with Buckinghams, Chicago, others

Peter Green—7/25—Co-founder of Fleetwood Mac

Dave Greenfield—5/3—Keyboardist with the Stranglers

Roly Greenway—12/22 former bassist/songwriter with Crowbar

Albert Griffiths—12/15—Co-founder of reggae group the Gladiators

Henry Grimes—4/17—Jazz bassist

Tommy Hancock—1/1—Known as the “Godfather of West Texas music”

Andre Harrell—5/8—Music business executive

Alex Harvey—4/4—Country songwriter/musician; wrote Kenny Rogers’ “Reuben James”

Gordon Haskell—10/16—King Crimson member in 1970; later a singer-songwriter

Roy Head—9/21—Singer of 1965 hit “Treat Her Right”

Jimmy Heath—1/19—Jazz saxophonist with the Heath Brothers

Ken Hensley—11/4—Uriah Heep founding member

Frederick “Toots” Hibbert—9/11—Reggae pioneer who led Toots and the Maytals

Bones Hillman—1-7—Bassist of Midnight Oil

Rupert Hine—6/5—British musician who produced albums for Tina Turner, others

Steve Holland—8/2—Early Molly Hatchet guitarist

W.S. “Fluke” Holland—9/23—Drummer for Johnny Cash for more than four decades

Tony Hooper—11/18—Guitarist for the Strawbs

Brian Howe—5/6—Bad Company frontman in late ’80s/early ’90s

Pamela Hutchinson—9/18—Singer with the Emotions (“Best of My Love”)

Kenny Jeremiah—12/4—Co-founder of the Soul Survivors (“Expressway to Your Heart”)

Willie K—5/19—Hawaii-based guitarist/performer

Ryo Kawasaki—4/13—Japanese jazz fusion guitarist

Lee Kerslake—9/19—Drummer for Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne

Hal Ketchum—11/23—Country singer


Astrid Kirchherr—5/13—Photographer known for early Beatles images

Astrid Kirchherr
Astrid Kirchherr

Lee Konitz—4/15—Jazz alto saxophonist

Ivan Kral—2/2—Guitarist/songwriter, member of Patti Smith Group

Bob Kulick—5/28—Guitarist/producer who worked with Kiss, Lou Reed, others

Dave Kusworth—9/19—Member of British band Jacobites

Bobby Lewis—4/28—“Tossin’ & Turnin’” hitmaker

Tony Lewis—10/20—Singer/bass guitarist for the Outfield

Buzzy Linhart—2/13—Singer/songwriter/musician whose songs were recorded by Bette Midler, others

Little Richard—5/9—Rock ’n’ roll pioneer whose influence spanned generations

Mike Longo—3/22—Jazz pianist

Trini Lopez—8/11—Singer of ’60s hits “If I Had a Hammer” and “Lemon Tree”

Walter Lure—8/21—Guitarist in Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers

Vera Lynn—6/18—Veteran British singer, famous for “We’ll Meet Again”

Johnny Mandel—6/29—Composer of theme from M*A*S*H

Carl Mann—12/16—Rockabilly singer who recorded for Sun Records

Benny Mardones—6/29—Singer of hit song “Into the Night”

Ellis Marsalis—4/1—New Orleans pianist; father of Wynton, Branford, etc.

Barbara Martin—3/4—Pre-fame member of the Supremes

Moon Martin—5/11—Singer/songwriter; wrote “Bad Case of Loving You”

Phil May—5/15—Frontman of England’s Pretty Things

Lyle Mays—2/10—Jazz pianist; best known for his work with Pat Metheny

Michael McBride—11/9—Raspberries drummer in 1974-75

Sid McCray—9/9—Original singer of the Bad Brains

Mickey McGee—7/20—Drummer with Linda Ronstadt, Flying Burrito Brothers, others

Gerald McGhee 8/25 former lead vocalist with Brighton Rock

William McEuen—9/24—Manager/producer of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Alan Merrill—3/29—Singer/songwriter; best known for writing “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”

Ian Mitchell—9/1—Bay City Rollers bassist

Joseph “Mojo” Morganfield—12/10—Blues artist, son of Muddy Waters

Ennio Morricone—7/6—Italian film score composer (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly)

Dave Munden—10/15—Original member of the Tremeloes (“Silence is Golden”)

Todd Nance—8/19—Founding drummer of Widespread Panic

Johnny Nash—10/6—Reggae-pop singer with a #1 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now”

Bob Nave—1/28—Keyboardist for the Lemon Pipers, of “Green Tambourine” fame

Lennie Niehaus—5/28—Film composer; jazz saxophonist, arranger

Jamie Oldaker—7/16—Drummer for Eric Clapton, others

David Olney—1/18—Folk singer/songwriter

Keith Olsen—3/9—Producer of Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar, others

K.T. Oslin—12/21—Country singer whose biggest hit was “80’s Ladies”

Robert Parker—1/19—R&B singer, best known for the hit “Barefootin’”

Gary Peacock—9/4—Jazz bassist who played with Keith Jarrett, others

Neil Peart—1/7—Drummer for Rush

Lucky Peterson—5/17—Blues musician

Phil Phillips—3/14—”Sea of Love” singer

Bucky Pizzarelli—4/1—Jazz guitarist

Bonnie Pointer—6/8—Member of the Pointer Sisters

Joe Porcaro—7/6—Jazz drummer

Genesis P-Orridge—3/14–British musician/composer; vocalist with Throbbing Gristle

Francis Rocco Prestia—9/30–Tower of Power bassist

Charley Pride—12/12—First Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame

Steve Priest—6/4—Bassist for the glam band the Sweet

John Prine—4/7—Singer-songwriter who’d recently received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award

Helen Reddy—9/29—Singer of “I Am Woman” and “Delta Dawn”

Alto Reed—12/30—Saxophonist in Bob Seger’s Silver Bullet Band

Harold Reid—4/24—Bass singer with country group the Statler Brothers

Al Rex—5/24—Played double bass with Bill Haley and His Comets on “See You Later, Alligator”

Emitt Rhodes—7/19—Singer-songwriter with the Merry-Go-Round and solo

Tony Rice—12/25—Influential and prolific bluegrass guitarist/vocalist

Claudio Roditi—1/18—Brazilian jazz trumpeter

Kenny Rogers—3/22—Leader of the First Edition, then a highly successful country-pop solo artist

Wallace Roney—3/31—Jazz trumpeter

Annie Ross—7/21—Jazz singer (Lambert, Hendricks and Ross)

Jorge Santana—5/14—Frontman of Latin-rock band Malo

Jan Savage—8/5—Guitarist for the L.A. ’60s band the Seeds (“Pushin’ Too Hard”)

Adam Schlesinger—4/1—Award-winning songwriter and founding member of Fountains of Wayne

Florian Schneider—5/6—Kraftwerk co-founder

Matthew Seligman—4/17—Bassist for British band the Soft Boys

Bob Shane—1/26—Founding member of folk group the Kingston Trio

Billy Joe Shaver—10/28—Country singer-songwriter whose songs were  covered by Johnny Cash, the Allman Brothers Band and Elvis Presley

Jack Sherman—8/19—Early Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist

Jerry Slick—3/17—Drummer of San Francisco band the Great Society

Millie Small–5/5—Jamaican singer best known for “My Boy Lollipop”

Viola Smith—10/21—One of the first professional female drummers, she worked from the ’20s to the ’70s

Mike Somerville—2/28—Guitarist and songwriter for Head East

Geoff Stephens—12/24—British songwriter whose compositions included “Winchester Cathedral,” “There’s a Kind of Hush,” and more

Mark Stone—9/26—Original Van Halen bassist

Chad Stuart—12/20—Half of the British Invasion-era duo Chad and Jeremy

Doug Supernaw—9/26—Country artist

Keith Tippett—6/14—British jazz and prog keyboardist; performed with King Crimson, others

Jim Tucker—11/12—Founding member and rhythm guitarist of the Turtles

Sean Tyla—5/17—Leader of British bands Ducks Deluxe and the Tyla Gang

McCoy Tyner—3/6—Jazz pianist best known for his work with John Coltrane

“Blue” Gene Tyranny—12/12—Jazz pianist (real name: Robert Sheff) who briefly played with Iggy and the Stooges

Eddie Van Halen—10/6—Influential lead guitarist of Van Halen

Howard Wales—12/7—Keyboardist who recorded the album Hooteroll? with Jerry Garcia

Jerry Jeff Walker—10/23—Singer-songwriter, composer of “Mr. Bojangles”

Pete Way—8/14—UFO founding bassist

Steve Weber—2/7—Holy Modal Rounders member

Eric Weissberg—3/22—Multi-instrumentalist best known for “Dueling Banjos”

Leslie West—12/23—Mountain frontman and hard rock guitar hero

Ian Whitcomb—4/19—English pianist and singer known for the mid-’60s hit “You Turn Me On”

Bruce Williamson—9/6—Latter-day member of the Temptations

Hal Willner—4/7—Producer of numerous tribute albums and themed concerts

Wes Wilson—1/24—San Francisco-based rock poster artist

Bill Withers—3/30—R&B singer whose hits included “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”

Baron Wolman—11/2—Rock photographer who shot many iconic ’60s artists

Betty Wright—5/10—”Clean Up Woman” singer

Edna Wright—9/12—Singer of Honey Cone (“Want Ads”)

Orson Bean—2/7—Actor

Honor Blackman—4/5—Actress in James Bond classic Goldfinger  

Chadwick Boseman—8/28—Actor in Black Panther and other films

Wilford Brimley—8/1—Actor in Cocoon and Quaker Oats commercials

Kobe Bryant—1/26—Basketball great

Sean Connery—10/31—Bond. James Bond

Olivia de Havilland—7/26—Gone With the Wind actress

Kirk Douglas—2/5–Actor

Milton Glaser—6/26—Illustrator, designer of ‘I Love NY’ Logo, classic Bob Dylan poster

Ian Holm—6/19—Actor

Roy Horn—5/8—Half of the magic act Siegfried and Roy

Terry Jones—1/21—Monty Python actor

Larry Kramer—5/27—Playwright and AIDS activist

Tom Lester—4/20—Green Acres actor (Eb)

Diego Maradona—11/25—Argentinian soccer player

Curly Neal—5/15—Harlem Globetrotters basketball player

Ken Osmond—5/18—Actor known for his role as Eddie Haskell in Leave it to Beaver

Regis Philbin—7/24—TV personality

David Prowse11/28—Played Darth Vader in the Star Wars films

Carl Reiner6/29—Actor

Diana Rigg9/10—Actress best known for her role as Emma Peel in The Avengers

Joel Schumacher—6/22—Film director

Tom Seaver—9/2—New York Mets pitcher

Jerry Stiller—5/11—Actor/comedian

Alex Trebek—11/8—Who was the beloved host of Jeopardy!?

Dawn Wells—12/29—Actress who played Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island

Fred Willard—5/15—Actor

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