2021 has seen the loss of quite a few musicians. I won’t mention all of them because there are too many to mention. Below are just a few of them.
January 3 Gerry Marsden, British rock vocalist and TV personality (Gerry & Pacemakers – Ferry Cross The Mersey), dies at 78
Eponymous Gerry and the Pacemakers star Gerry Marsden died on 3rd January 2021 aged 78 following a brief illness. The Pacemakers were rivals and friends of The Beatles in their native Liverpool in the 1960s and they scored a string of huge hits including ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’, ‘How Do You Do It?’, ‘I Like It’ and their defining cover of the show tune ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, which became the anthem of Liverpool FC and Celtic. Paul McCartney said: “Gerry was a mate fr
om our early days in Liverpool. He and his group were our biggest rivals on the local scene. His unforgettable performances of You’ll Never Walk Alone and Ferry Cross the Mersey remain in many people’s hearts as reminders of a joyful time in British music…”
February 8 Mary Wilson, American pop vocalist (Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go?”), died at 76
Former Procol Harum bassist Alan Cartwright died on Thursday 4th March 2021 from stomach cancer aged 75. Born in London on 10th October 1945, Cartwright first met Procol Harum singer and keyboardist Gary Brooker in 1966 and he joined the band five years later when bassist Chris Copping decided to focus solely on his organ work. Cartwright’s debut release was 1972 orchestral album ‘Procol Harum Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’ and he contributed to three studio albums: 1973’s ‘Grand Hotel’, 1974’s ‘Exotic Birds and Fruit’ and 1975’s ‘Procol’s Ninth.’ Gary Brooker said upon Cartwright’s death: “Looking back, he was always a very solid, musical, and reliable bass player, and a good bloke who gave of his best both in the studio and on the extensive tours Procol did when he was with us.”
April 20 Leslie McKeown, Scottish pop vocalist (Bay City Rollers – “Saturday Night”), dies at 65
Early Judas Priest drummer John Hinch died on Thursday 29th April 2021 aged 73. Prior to joining Judas Priest, Hinch was a member of the band Hiroshima from 1972 to 1973 alongside Rob Halford. The pair were recruited by K.K. Downing and Ian Hill to join Judas Priest in 1973 and John Hinch went on to perform on just one studio album, Priest’s 1974 debut ‘Rocka Rolla.’ He exited the band soon afterwards due to musical differences. Paying tribute to Hinch, Rob Halford said: “His style was strong, direct and unique. I’ll be blasting ‘Rocka Rolla’ today!” K.K. Downing said: “There are so many memories of crazy and fun times we all shared together. John was always so dependable and did everything to the best of his ability, including his drumming which looking back can only be described as faultless. The fact that he continued to play to his very last day is testimony to his ability and dedication to his love of the drums.”
May 29 B.J. Thomas, American singer (“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”; “Hooked On A Feeling”; “Growing Pains Theme”), dies of lung cancer at 78
Former Uriah Heep vocalist John Lawton died on Tuesday 29th June 2021 aged 74. Lawton fronted Uriah Heep from 1976 to 1979 and lent his distinctive voice to three studio albums – ‘Firefly’ (1977), ‘Innocent Victim’ (1977), and ‘Fallen Angel’ (1978). He also fronted the hard rock band Lucifer’s Friends and represented Germany at Eurovision 1976 performing ‘Sing Sang Song’ with the Les Humphries Singers. Breaking the news of Lawton’s death, Uriah Heep wrote: “It is with deep regret that we share the devastating and tragic news of the sudden and totally unexpected passing of John Lawton on 29. June 2021. Contrary to reports, there was no illness involved, which makes his passing incomprehensible. He went peacefully with his wife at his side. John will be greatly missed. A private funeral service to celebrate John’s life will be held following his wishes, with only family and close friends attending. We would appreciate that the family’s privacy is respected during this difficult time.”
Dusty Hill – bassist, co-vocalist, and one third of ZZ Top – passed away on 28th July aged 72, with the band confirming the sad news in a statement on their official Facebook page; accompanied by a photo of the always-sunglassed Dusty in a typically cool pose.
“We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’ You will be missed greatly, amigo. Frank & Billy.”
August 24 Charlie Watts, British rock and jazz drummer (Rolling Stones), dies at 80.
September 5 Sarah Harding, British pop singer (Girls Aloud – “Sound of the Underground,” “Love Machine), dies of breast cancer at 39
October 21 Nils Einár Grönberg, Swedish rapper (“Första klass”; “Katten i trakten”), shot to death in suspected gang-related incident at 19
Nov 6 Astro [Terence Wilson], British reggae-rock vocalist (UB40 – “Red Red Wine”), dies at 64.
Rock musician John Miles, best known for achieving a Top 3 single in 1976 with ‘Music’, died on 5th December 2021 aged 72. Alongside his own career, Jarrow born John Miles toured with Tina Turner, Stevie Wonder and Jimmy Page as a session musician. His manager Cliff Cooper said in a statement: “The UK has lost one of its most talented musicians. John famous for his worldwide hit ‘Music was my first love and it will be my last’ died peacefully in his sleep with his family at his bedside. John played alongside a plethora of artists from Tina Turner, Jimmy Page, Joe Cocker to Andre Botticelli amongst many others. As John’s manager and friend for over 50 years, John was not only so kind and gentle but a brilliant musician and songwriter on the world stage. John leaves behind his wife Eileen married 50 years, two children and two grandchildren. Grief is the price we pay for love. He will be greatly missed, but his music will live on forever.”
Dec 8 Robbie Shakespeare, Jamaican reggae bassist (Sly & Robbie – “DJ Riot”), dies of kidney failure at 68
Dec 10 Michael Nesmith, American rock guitarist (The Monkees), and singer-songwriter (“Different Drum”), dies of heart failure at 78