I feel like the list gets longer every year. And by that I mean the list of musicians who pass away too soon and during the same 365-day span. This year was no different as the music world lost several powerful rock and rollers including two pioneers of the genre, a southern rock legend, a grunge frontman who sang for three influential grunge bands, a co-founder of one of the hardest rocking bands in history, a voice that rocked an entire decade and filled a new genre, and the unparalleled Tom Petty – a singer I’ve been a fan of for twenty years. Here are few of the losses that hit the hardest:
Malcolm Young – The co-founder, songwriter, and rhythm guitarist for rock and roll force AC/DC passed away in November due to complications from dementia. As a fan since high school, I’ve run, danced, and sang to so many of their classics including “If You Want Blood,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and “Shoot To Thrill.” In 2008, I was lucky enough to see them live in Denver – a show I will never forget.
Fats Domino – One of the founders of rock and roll died in October at the age of 89. During his career, Domino had 35 records in the U.S. Billboard Top 40 and 1949’s “The Fat Man” is considered the first million-selling rock and roll record.
Tom Petty – How to describe one of the greatest rock frontmen in the history of the genre? Shortly after finishing his 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers, Petty passed away in October from cardiac arrest. Five months before his unexpected death, I saw him live at Red Rocks where he was as amazing as he was when I saw him at the same venue fifteen years prior. Since October, I’ve been listening to Tom Petty radio every day and I have no intention of stopping. Favorites include “You Wreck Me,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and “Running Down A Dream” but I could go on for the rest of the page.
Chester Bennington – In July the Lincoln Park singer shocked and saddened the music world when he committed suicide at the age of 41. Bennington first gained distinction as a vocalist following the release of the band’s 2000 debut album, Hybrid Theory, which was certified Diamond making it the best-selling debut of the decade.
Gregg Allman – A southern rock staple, Allman was the rhythm guitarist, singer, and pianist for the Allman Brothers Band. Songs like “Whipping Post,” “Midnight Rider,” and “Statesboro Blues” have become classics because of his soulful sound. Seeing them live in 2004 is something I’ll always remember. Allman died in May due to complications from liver cancer.
Chris Cornell – As the distinctive voice behind Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog, and Audioslave, Cornell will always be remembered for his intensity and nearly four-octave vocal range. He sold over 30 million records worldwide, was nominated for fifteen Grammy Awards, and won twice. Cornell’s tragic death was ruled a suicide after he was found unresponsive in his hotel room after performing with Soundgarden.
Chuck Berry – No one is more legendary than Chuck Berry – the singer, songwriter, musician, and pioneer of rock and roll. Songs like “Maybellene,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and, of course, “Johnny B. Goode” will forever be staples because of Berry’s musicianship and the race barriers he smashed with his guitar. He was also among the first musicians to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was cited for having “laid the groundwork for not only a rock and roll sound but a rock and roll stance.”
I hope these artists rest in peace knowing the enormous impact they made on the world.