This is a tribute to the musicians who left this place in 2017 to venture into the great wide open. Although 2017 was not as bad as 2016, we still have lost a great number of musical legends. In fact the numbers were so great that I won’t be able to mention all of them in this blog.
Chuck Berry, a pioneer of rock and roll, died at age 90 on March 18. Berry was a guitarist, singer, and songwriter who is often called the “father of rock and roll.”
Berry starting playing music when he was just a kid. When he was sent to a juvenile detention facility in high school, he formed a signing quartet. When he was released at 21, he began performing in clubs while working odd jobs. Eventually he catapulted to fame with his hit “Maybellene” and “Roll Over Beethoven.”
Known for his signature sound that mixed blues, jazz, and rhythm, Berry also personified what it meant to be a rock star. He received multiple music awards – including several grammys – and is considered one of the best musicians of all time.
Singer songwriter Chris Cornell – best known as the front man for Soundgarden and Audioslave – died unexpectedly after a concert in Detroit. He was 52.
Cornell was born and raised in Seattle. As a young musician, he performed with his siblings but suffered from severe depression which made it hard for him to leave his house. He eventually discovered music helped him cope and joined a local cover band before forming Soundgarden in 1984. The band became huge in the Seattle grunge alt-rock scene, writing hits like “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.” The band broke up in 1997, but came back together in 2010 for a reunion tour, which included headlining Lollapalooza.
During Soundgarden’s hiatus, Cornell had a brief solo career before forming Audioslave. Audioslave was a huge success, and Cornell penned most of the band’s songs himself. Cornell left the band in 2006 to pursue a solo career, but habitually performed with the band – including at the Anti-Inaugural Ball to protest President Donald Trump.
Cornell was on tour at the time of his death. He had performed a show in Detroit before his death. The Wanye County Medical Examiner ruled Cornell’s death was a suicide by hanging.
Chester Bennington – the frontman for alt rock band Linkin Park – hung himself at a Los Angeles County home on July 20. He was 41.
Bennington was born in Arizona and struggled with drugs and alcohol most of his life. He also suffered from depression, a result of being sexually abused by an older boy as a kid. He didn’t address his abuse until he was an adult, and as a child channeled his emotions over it into poetry and songs.
After high school, he pursued a career in music. In 1993, he recorded several songs with a few bands in Arizona. His big break came in 1998 when he was asked to audition for Linkin Park – then called Xero. The group released several hit albums, including Hybrid Theory and Meteora.
Between his work with Linkin Park, Bennington worked with the Stone Temple Pilots, Death by Sunrise, and with musician Chris Cornell. Bennington and Cornell – who also committed suicide in 2017 – were very close friends.
Singer and pianist Fats Domino died on October 24 at the age of 89. He made his mark on the music world with hits like “Ain’t It a Shame,” “Blueberry Hill,” and “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
The New Orleans-born Antoine Domino began playing in local bars as a teenager, and soon dropped out of school to pursue his music career full time. His signature style went on to influence the burgeoning rock and roll scene; artists like Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney cited him as an influence. His nickname came from bandleader Billy Diamond, partly in reference to Fats Waller, and party as a joke about Domino’s appetite.
In his later years, Domino kept to himself more, but remained a beloved presence in New Orleans. He contributed greatly to the relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina.
AC/DC co-founder and guitarist Malcolm Young died on November 18 at the age of 64. He had been living with dementia; the condition forced him to retired from his band.
The Glasgow-born, Sydney-raised Young and his brother Angus founded AC/DC in 1973. The band is widely considered one of the greatest rock outfits of all time, and Young is frequently cited as the driving force behind its success.
The original vocalist for Faith No More, Chuck Mosley, has died on November 9th at the age of 57. His family wrote, “After a long period of sobriety, Charles Henry Mosley III lost his life, on November 9th, 2017, due to the disease of addiction. We’re sharing the manner in which he passed, in the hopes that it might serve as a warning or wake up call or beacon to anyone else struggling to fight for sobriety. He is survived by long-term partner Pip Logan, two daughters, Erica and Sophie and his grandson Wolfgang Logan Mosley. The family will be accepting donations for funeral expenses.”
Grant Hart, the drummer and singer of Hüsker Dü, died on September 13. The 56-year-old had been battling cancer.
Hart and Hüsker Dü rose to fame in the 1980s, and enjoyed success as part of the era’s wave of independent rock groups. The band had a bitter break up in 1988; Hart continued making music both solo and with groups like Sugar and Nova Mob.
Jessi Zazu, the lead singer of the Nashville alt-rock group Those Darlins, died on September 13. The 28-year-old died of cervical cancer, which she had been fighting since 2016.
Those Darlins released three albums with Zazu since their 2009 debut. The band quickly won a following thanks to their one-of-a-kind blends of punk, garage rock, and country, but broke up in December 2015. Zazu was diagnosed with cancer a few months later.
Zazu’s bandmate Linwood Regensburg released a statement on her passing:
“She maintained a sense of humor and a commanding presence up until and through her final moments. She was in the company of those who cared deeply about her and who she cared deeply about.”
In June 2011, Campbell announced he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six months earlier.According to his family, symptoms of the disease had been occurring for years, becoming increasingly evident as time progressed. “When you first begin to see signs, you just chalk things up to the normal aging process,” said his wife, Kim.
Campbell went on to perform at the 2012 Grammy Awards ceremony, and did a final “Goodbye Tour” in 2011 and 2012 with three of his children joining him in the backup band.
He became a patient at an Alzheimer’s long-term care and treatment facility in 2014.
On March 4, 2015, Associated Press reported that two of Campbell’s children, Debby and Travis, had sought legal action against Campbell’s wife Kim, with the assertion she “secluded” the singer and prevented them from “participating” in Campbell’s medical care.
On March 8, 2016, Rolling Stone reported that Campbell was in the “final stages” of his disease. He was unable to communicate with people or understand what people said to him. However, his family stated he was receiving good care and was “happy” and “cheerful”. In May 2016 his wife confirmed that Campbell was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
He died in Nashville, Tennessee on August 8, 2017 at the age of 81 and was buried in the Campbell family cemetery at Billstown, Arkansas.
Campbell excluded daughter Kelli and sons William and Wesley (from his second marriage) from receiving anything directly from his estate.
Gordon Downie, the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, died on October 17 at the age of 53. The musician had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2015.
The Tragically Hip was incredibly popular in their native Canada and beyond. The majority of their albums topped the charts, and they won 16 Juno awards, the most of any single band. After Downie’s diagnosis, the Hip went on one last tour to say farewell to their fans.
A statement released by his family read in part, “Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious time as he always had – making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss… on the lips.”
Grammy award-winning Jazz musician Al Jarreau died on February 12 at a Los Angeles hopsital. The singer was 76.
On February 8, 2017, after being hospitalized for exhaustion in Los Angeles, Jarreau cancelled his remaining 2017 tour dates. On that date, the Montreux Jazz Academy, part of the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, announced Jarreau would not return as a mentor to ten young artists, as he had done in 2015.
On February 12, 2017, Jarreau died of respiratory failure, at the age of 76, just two days after announcing his retirement.
He is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills).
Singer Tom Petty died on October 2 after going into massive cardiac arrest. He was 66.
Petty was born in Gainsville, Florida where he met future bandmates Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench. They formed a banged called Mudcrutch, and when the band dissolved, Petty went off to start a solo career. He reunited with Campbell and Tench – then called the Heartbreakers – and became Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1976.
The group released several albums and hits before briefly disbanding again in 1988 to work on solo projects. Petty played with George Harrison’s band the Traveling Wilburys – which also featured Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison – and released several solo albums, most notably “Free Fallin'” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
The band reformed and continued recording and touring right until Petty’s death.
Ending this blog with one of Tom Petty’s classics and the title of this blog
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