England’s Queen Elizabeth 11 once described the year 1992 as “annus horribillis” in reference to a series of negative domestic events. As far as pop culture is concerned, the same could be said for 2016 with respect to a number of high profile deaths in pop music.
It was almost to be expected that a year which started with the loss of notables such as David Bowie, Prince and The Eagles’ Glenn Frey would end with the loss of George Michaels on Christmas Day and even Star Wars’ Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) on December 27th.
Add to this, the departure of Status Quo’s guitarist/songwriter Alan Parfitt on December 24th and you have a totally depressing year and the totally discouraging thing is that it’s only going to get worse in future years.
Many rock icons who were the foundation of the world’s music scene in the 60’s and 70’s are now in their 70’s including ; The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (73), Paul McCartney (74), Bob Dylan (75), Eric Clapton (71) and The Who’s Pete Townshend (71), so just on age alone, some of these artists aren’t long for this world and when you consider that David Bowie battled cancer for some 18 months, who is to know what shape some of these artists are in.
It’s a scary thought but one that baby boomers who grew up worshipping these artists are going to have to live with. That Memorial section of the Grammies (and Academy Awards) will soon be a major component of the telecast.
Canada lost Leonard Cohen November 7th, Bobby Curtola June 4th and Doug Edwards (the co-writer of “Wildflower” for Victoria B.C-based Skylark) November 11th . And then there was the tragic announcement, May 24th that The Tragically Hip’s Gord Downie had been stricken with terminal brain cancer, a medical condition which didn’t prevent the band’s farewell 15-show tour from happening, the release of the band’s ,`Man Machine Poem’ record and his own poignant `Secret Pain’ release which threw his support behind native residential school victims.
In relationship to Pop/Rock’s latest casualties, it is sad to hear of the sad circumstances of George Michael’s passing, dying alone in bed on Christmas Day, a victim of a heart attack triggered by his heroin addiction.
Michael truly was a superstar, first with Wham partner Andrew Ridgeley who debuted `Fantastic’ in 1983 and then later as a solo artist who sold 20 million copies of his debut `Faith’ album in 1987, Michael later fell afoul of a contractual dispute launched by his U.S label Sony, which put him out of commission for six years and killed off the momentum he had created.
Music Express can take credit for being the first North American-based magazine to interview Wham prior to the launch of the duet’s 1983 `Fantastic’ debut. Kerry Doole and myself were in London in early May of that year, promoting our magazine to the British record companies when a promo rep for Columbia Records wanted to know if we were up for interviewing some of their latest artists whose records had yet to be released. We were offered two interviews at the same time in their Soho office, Wham and Fastway. I was aware of Fastway’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke from his Motorhead connection so I met with Clarke and former UFO bassist Pete Way who were promoting their self-titled debut.
Meanwhile, next door, Kerry was chatting with two amicable young lads; Georgio Kyraios Panayiotou, now known as George Michael and his partner Andrew Ridgeley who’s “Wham Rap”, “Young Guns”and “Club Tropicana” tracks would eventually launch their `Fantastic’ debut to a great response in North America – and Music Express ran the first story promoting Britain’s newest pop sensations.
The success of “Careless Whisper” ended Wham in 1986 with Michaels launching a successful solo career with his `Faith’ release in 1987, which sold over 20 million records, But when his follow-up `Listen Without Prejudice’ failed to match previous sales, Michaels unsuccessfully sued to get out of his contract with Columbia and was frozen out for six years. A move that stalled future momentum and he would record only two more albums; `Older’ in 1996 and `Patience’ in 2004 although he was planning to record a new album in 2017.
The death of Status Quo’s Rick Parfitt in Marbella Spain from sepsis, came as no surprise as had suffered a heart attack June 14th while performing with the band in Turkey and had survived a previous bout with throat cancer.
Quo are one of those British r&b boogie bands whose only U.S success was their 1967 psychedelic “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” which was not really their style. More akin to the likes of Savoy Brown and Foghat, Status Quo have toured tirelessly throughout Britain. Europe and Australia, enduring numerous personnel changes and several ‘final tours’.
Probably, their most famous appearance was July 13th 1985 when Status Quo opened Live Aid at Wembley Stadium with a stunning cover of John Fogerty’s “Rockin All Over which had 100,000 fans clapping in unison and totally set the tone for the rest of what was a historic concert.
Ironically, both Status Quo and George Michael were also famous for popular television appearances. Quo were central characters in an entertaining programming arch on famous British series, Coronation Street while Michael’s popped up for a cameo on another British comedy series, ‘Little Britain’
Here is a recap of key musical artists and industry figures who we lost in 2006.
Dec. 31 2015: Natalie Cole, age 65, Heart Attack.
Jan.10: David Bowie, age 69, Liver Cancer.
Jan.15: Rene Angelil (Husband and manager of Celine Dion) age 73, Throat Cancer.
Jan.17: Dale (Buffin) Griffin (Mott The Hoople) age 67, Alzheimer’s Disease.
Jan. 18: Glenn Frey (The Eagles) age 67, Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Jan. 28: Paul Kantner (Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship, age 74, Heart Attack.
Feb.4: Maurice White (Earth Wind And Fire) age 74, Parkinson’s Disease.
Feb 6: Dan Hicks (And His Hot Licks), age 74, Cancer.
Feb.15: Vanity, age 57, Renal Failure.
March 8: George Martin (Beatles’ producer), age 90, Heart Attack.
March 11: Keith Emerson (Emerson Lake & Palmer), age 71, Suicide.
March 16: Frank Sinatra Jr, age 72, Heart Attack.
March 22: Pife Dawg (A Tribe Called Quest), age 45, Diabetes.
April 6: Merle Haggard, age 72, Lung Cancer.
April 21: Prince, age 57, Fentanyl Overdose.
April 24: Billy Paul, age 81, Pancreatic Cancer.
May 21: Nick Menza (Megadeth) age 51, Heart Attack.
June 4: Bobby Curtola age 73, Undisclosed.
July 16: Alan Vega (Suicide), age 78, Heart Attack.
Sept.16: Jerry Corbetta (Sugarloaf) age 68, Pick’s Disease (form of Dementia).
Sept.24: Buckwheat Zydeco, age 68, Lung Cancer.
Oct.24: Bobby Vee, age 73, Alzheimer’s Disease.
Oct. 23: Pete Burns (Dead Or Alive) age 57, Heart Attack.
Nov.4: Eddie Harsch (The Black Crowes), age 59. Heart Attack.
Nov.7: Leonard Cohen, age 82, Fall/Cancer.
Nov.11: Doug Edwards (Skylark/Chilliwack) age 70, Cancer.
Nov.13: Leon Russell, age 74, Heart Attack.
Dec.7: Greg Lake (Emerson Lake & Palmer) age 69, Cancer.
Dec.24: Rick Parfitt (Status Quo) age 67, Septicaemia.
Dec.25: George Michael, age 53, Heart Attack.
Saturday night Keith performed a tribute to some of the great artists that we lost in 2016. Watch it below:
Posted by Keith Urban on Sunday, January 1, 2017