2016 has been a tough year in many respects; Brexit, Trump, Syria, terrorist bombings, Snooper's Charter. The same has been true for celebrities, with a large number of musicians in particular having been sent to the great gig in the sky this year. This post is not meant to state the obvious but to highlight some of the artists who perhaps didn't get as much screen time as others and to remind us all of the losses of these cultural icons.
David Bowie - 10/01/2016 - 69
A multitude of different hits and never afraid to reinvent himself and his sound, David's death came hot on the heels of Motorhead's Lemmy in the past December and caught everyone by surprise. Staying musically active right up to his death and having only just released his last album, a sort of musical farewell, it seemed incredulous that Bromley's own wonder boy had really been taken too early - another victim of a cancer he hadn't made public. I was most familiar with his 90s work on the soundtrack for "Buddha of Suburbia" and had fond memories of all his popular singles, though it was only in the candlelit vigils around London that I realised how he was so consistently strong across multiple decades.
Glenn Frey - 18/01/2016 - 67
Even though The Eagles were very much before my time, everyone and their mum knows the single Hotel California. Their work is an unmistakeable part of the 70s and even listening to some of their other well-known singles has the effect of taking me back to the days of four piece rock bands, Fleetwood Mac and all the rest.
Sir George Henry Martin CBE - 08/03/2016 - 90
A prolific record producer and audio engineer, George Martin helped inspire an entire generation of recording engineers. His most famous productions are undoubtedly the works he made with The Beatles, often being credited as the fifth Beatle responsible for the arrangements and experimental nature of some of their many hits, though he also worked in television and film scoring. A true trailblazer who could record, arrange and compose, I am glad that he managed to reach a ripe old age to enjoy the fruits of his colourful career in stark contrast to some of the other people on this list.
Keith Emerson - 11/03/2016 - 71
One third of Emerson Lake & Palmer and the first player to haul a Moog Modular on stage to play virtuoso pieces, Keith Emerson very much took synthesiser playing to the next level and broke new ground. His death was made all the more tragic in that it was caused by suicide: a cocktail of depression from drinking and the pressure of dissapointing his fans at upcoming concerts. A really unfortunate tale and I am glad I got to enjoy a couple of their opening songs when they played Victoria Park in London. Sadly, this wouldn't be the only time ELP would be in the news in 2016.
Frank Sinatra Jr - 16/03/2016 - 72
While to a certain extent riding the coattails of his father, Sinatra Junior continued to keep alive the timeless sound of the Rat Pack / Big Band records and his rigorous attention to detail in the bands that he played with demonstrated his commitment to show business.
Prince - 21/04/2016 - 57
Like Bowie only three months earlier, April saw another giant of pop bite the dust and a glut of nostalgia for his singles. I remember reading the stories where it was reported he was found slumped over in an elevator, unresponsive, and that he had died of a fairly common illness. A great funk / pop crossover, I am mostly familiar with him through his singles (in particular Kiss via its inclusion in the Radio Soulwax Volume 2 mix album), though like many others I was perplexed about the fact that he changed his name to a symbol. Regardless, 57 is far too young to lose his talent and especially over something so mundane.
MC Tenor Fly - 17/06/2016
This artist might be slightly obscure, but anyone who is into their reggae and drum and bass will recognise this name as one of the more prolific names in the 90s dance music scene. Younger audiences will recognise his work on the Pendulum single Tarantula and with The Freestylers' debut album, but his real talents come to the fore with live performances and MC toasting. A real loss to the UK scene, for sure.
Prince Be - 17/06/2016 - 46
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, another loss occurred in the form of hip hop group PM Dawn's lead singer Prince Be. I have a particularly strong connection to their sophomore The Bliss Album? as this was played regularly when my mum drove me around as a kid in the early 90s and gave me an appreciation for hip hop that was melodic and in some ways experimental. It was only in the last few years that I realised that they had sampled Spandau Ballet's True for their debut single and it was only by chance that I even heard of his death after reading YouTube comments in August. While not musically active, this one really hurt.
Bernie Worrell - 24/06/2016 - 72
A real funky mother who played with George Clinton to develop the P-Funk sound as "The Wizard of Woo", I got to know Bernie not only through his music but also the numerous product demos at NAMM of Moog Music's latest synthesisers. Another victim to cancer, Bernie has been one of my inspirations in terms of how to get the most out of simple monosynths by encouraging expressive play and adding phaser effects to give the impression of movement with sustained notes.