Arts Feature: Musicians We Lost in 2021

Roll calls of some of the notable musicians who passed away this year.

By Jason M. Rubin

The late Don Everly.

At this time of year we usually look back at what has been achieved in music over the past year. But it’s also a time to remember those whom we lost. It is customary for some of our biggest legends to pass away, and 2021 was no different. Still, to lose such pioneering figures as Phil Spector, Don Everly, Charlie Watts, Paddy Moloney, Chick Corea, and George Wein over a 12-month period is enormously sad for music lovers everywhere. I’ve assembled my list — which is by no means exhaustive. These are just the artists I personally will miss — chronologically by genre.

[Editor’s Note: Jason’s selection is followed by Tom Hull’s list of the many jazz musicians who passed in 2021, from the famous to the lesser known.]

Rock/Pop/Folk
Gerry Marsden (vocalist, Gerry and the Pacemakers), January 3
Tim Bogert (bassist, Vanilla Fudge), January 13
Sylvain Sylvain (guitarist, New York Dolls), January 13
Phil Spector (producer), January 16
Malcolm Cecil (producer), March 28
Ralph Shuckett (keyboardist, Utopia), April 4
Rusty Young (guitarist, Poco), April 14
Jim Steinman (songwriter, Meat Loaf), April 19
Roger Hawkins (drummer, Swampers), May 20
B.J. Thomas (vocalist), May 29
Robby Steinhardt (violinist, Kansas), July 17
Dusty Hill (bassist, ZZ Top), July 28
Paul Cotton (guitarist, Poco), July 31
Nanci Griffith (singer-songwriter), August 13
Don Everly (vocalist, Everly Brothers), August 21
Charlie Watts (drummer, Rolling Stones), August 24
Jay Black (vocalist, Jay and the Americans), October 22
Emmett Chapman (inventor, Chapman Stick), November 1
Graeme Edge (drummer, Moody Blues), November 11
Scott Alarik (singer/writer), December 2
Michael Nesmith (vocalist/guitarist, Monkees), December 10
Phil Chen (bassist, Jeff Beck), December 14
Billy Conway (drummer, Morphine), December 19

Reggae/World
U-Roy (vocalist), February 17
Bunny Wailer (singer-songwriter), March 2
Lee “Scratch” Perry (producer), August 29
Paddy Moloney (uilleann piper, Chieftains), October 12
Astro (vocalist, UB40), November 6
Robbie Shakespeare (bassist, Black Uhuru), December 8

Jazz
Chick Corea (keyboardist), February 9
Ralph Peterson Jr. (drummer), March 1
Curtis Fuller (trombonist), May 8
George Wein (promoter), September 13
Lonnie Smith (organist), September 28
Pat Martino (guitarist), November 1

Jason M. Rubin has been a professional writer for more than 35 years, the last 20 as senior creative associate at Libretto Inc., a Boston-based strategic communications agency where he has won awards for his copywriting. He has written for Arts Fuse since 2012. Jason’s first novel, The Grave & The Gay, based on a 17th-century English folk ballad, was published in September 2012. His current book, Ancient Tales Newly Told, released in March 2019, includes an updated version of his first novel along with a new work of historical fiction, King of Kings, about King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Jason is a member of the New England Indie Authors Collective and holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


R.I.P. 2021’s Jazz Notables

Compiled by Tom Hull

            • Lennart Aberg, Swedish saxophonist, [10/21]
            • Ron Anthony, 87, American guitarist [01/19]
            • Chris Barber, 90, British trombonist [03/02]
            • Allan Boitschinsky, 81, Danish trumpeter [11/26]
            • Juini Booth, 73, American bassist [07/11]
            • Jack Bradley, 85, American photographer [03/21]
            • Leslie Bricusse, 90, British composer [10/19]
            • Ronnell Bright, 91, American pianist [08/12]
            • Thurston Briscoe, 74, American broadcaster [08/16]
            • Baron Browne, 66, American bassist [09/02]
            • Ruth Cameron, 74, American singer [09/22]
            • Malcolm Cecil, 84, British bassist, record producer [03/28]
            • Franco Cerri, 95, Italian guitarist and bassist [10/18]
            • Chick Corea, 79, American pianist [02/09]
            • Cristián Cuturrufo, 48, Chilean trumpeter [03/19]
            • Buddy Deppenschmidt, 95, American drummer [03/20]
            • David Darling, 79, American cellist [01/03]
            • Raul de Souza, 86, Brazilian trombonist [06/13]
            • Jacob Desvarieux, 65, Guadeloupian-French singer (Kassav’) [07/30]
            • Dottie Dodgion, 92, American drummer and singer [09/17]
            • Pee Wee Ellis, 80, American saxophonist [09/23]
            • Bobby Few, 85, American pianist [01/16]
            • Dave Frishberg, 88, American pianist and singer [11/17]
            • Curtis Fuller, 88, American trombonist [05/08]
            • Burgess Gardner, 85, American trumpeter [11/20]
            • Malcolm Griffiths, 79, British trombonist [01/19]
            • János Gonda, 89, Hungarian pianist [03/10]
            • Jerry Granelli, 80, American drummer [07/20]
            • Milford Graves, 79, American percussionist [02/12]
            • Burton Greene, 84, American pianist [06/28]
            • Jonas Gwangwa, 83, South African trombonist [01/23]
            • Bernard Haitink, 92, Dutch conductor [10/21]
            • Slide Hampton, 89, American trombonist [11/18]
            • Nobuo Hara, 94, Japanese saxophonist [06/21]
            • Larry Harlow, 82, American pianist [08/20]
            • Barry Harris, 91, American pianist [12/08]
            • Teppo Hauta-aho, 80, Finnish bassist [11/27]
            • Jon Hassell, 84, American trumpeter and composer [06/26]
            • Spike Heatley, 88, British bassist [11/10]
            • Dave Hickey, 82, American critic [11/12]
            • Peter Ind, 93, British bassist and producer [08/20]
            • Duffy Jackson, 67, American drummer [03/03]
            • Paul Jackson, 73, American bassist [03/18]
            • Sandra Jaffe, 83, co-founder Preservation Hall in New Orleans [12/27]
            • Howard Johnson, 79, American tubist [01/11]
            • Josky Kiambukuta, 72, Congolese singer (TPOK Jazz) [03/07]
            • Jim Knapp, 82, American trumpeter [11/13]
            • Bob Koester, 88, American label owner (Delmark) [06/12]
            • Rick Laird, 80, Irish bassist [07/04]
            • Elliot Lawrence, 96, American pianist [07/02]
            • Janet Lawson, 80, American vocalist [01/22]
            • James Leary, 74, American bassist [03/22]
            • David Lee, 80, American drummer [08/04]
            • Alvin Lucier, 90, American composer [12/01]
            • Junior Mance, 92, American pianist [01/17]
            • Don Marquis, 88, American author and New Orleans Jazz Museum founder [07/29]
            • Pat Martino, 77, American guitarist [11/01]
            • Jerzy Matuszkiewicz, 93, Polish musician and composer [07/31]
            • Jemeel Moondoc, 75, American saxophonist [08/29]
            • Jimmie Morales, 63, Puerto Rican percussionist [03/15]
            • George Mraz, 77, Czech-American jazz bassist [09/16]
            • Shuichi Murakami, 70, Japanese drummer [03/09]
            • Sammy Nestico, 96, American composer and arranger [01/17]
            • Keith Nichols, 75, British pianist [01/20]
            • Ruth Olay, 97, American singer [09/03]
            • Johnny Pacheco, 85, Dominican-American musician and label owner (Fania) [02/15]
            • Mario Pavone, 80, American bassist [05/15]
            • Victor Paz, 88, Panamanian trumpeter [04/03]
            • Lee “Scratch” Perry, 85, Jamaican producer [08/29]
            • Ralph Peterson Jr., 58, American drummer [03/01]
            • Bob Porter, 80, American critic and broadcaster [04/10]
            • Freddie Redd, 92, American pianist [03/17]
            • Sam Reed, 85, American saxophonist [07/08]
            • Mike Renzi, 80, American pianist [09/28]
            • Ack van Rooyen, 91, Dutch trumpeter [11/18]
            • John Russell, 66, British guitarist [01/18]
            • Frederic Rzewski, 83, American pianist [06/26]
            • Phil Schaap, 70, American DJ and historian [09/07]
            • Al Schmitt, 91, American recording engineer [04/26]
            • Thione Seck, 66, Senegalese singer [03/14]
            • Robbie Shakespeare, 68, Jamaican bassist [12/08]
            • John Sheridan, 75, Amerian pianist [08/24]
            • Norman Simmons, 91, American pianist [05/13]
            • Sonny Simmons, 87, American saxophonist [04/07]
            • Len Skeat, 84, British bassist [03/09]
            • Lonnie Smith, 79, American organist [09/28]
            • Stephen Sondheim, 91, American composer [11/26]
            • Pierre Sprey, 94, French-American label owner (Mapleshade) and producer [08/08]
            • W. Royal Stokes, 90, American critic and author [05/01]
            • Greg Tate, 64, American musician (Burnt Sugar) and critic [12/07]
            • James Tatum, 90, American pianist [10/06]
            • Frank P. Tirro, 85, American educator and author [03/28]
            • Johnny Trudell, 82, American trumpeter [06/29]
            • U-Roy, 78, Jamaican singer and producer [02/17]
            • Melvin Van Peebles, 89, American composer, actor, director, novelist [09/22]
            • Bunny Wailer, 73, Jamaican singer [03/02]
            • Ed Ward, 72, American critic [06/03]
            • Charlie Watts, 80, English drummer [08/24]
            • George Wein, 95, American pianist and producer [09/13]
            • Mark Whitecage, 83, American saxophonist and clarinetist [03/08]
            • Al Young, 81, American poet and essayist, NEA Jazz Master [04/17]

          Tom Hull studied sociology and worked in engineering, but also wrote rock criticism in the 1970s, and the Village Voice’s Jazz Consumer Guide from 2005 to 2011. He continues to blog, and has over 20,000 short reviews on his website.

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1 Comment

  1. Nicole Veneto on December 30, 2021 at 10:48 am

    Absent from this list (and hands down the worst death to me in 2021) is the musician and producer SOPHIE, who pioneered the electropop genre of the 2010s. I woke up in bed the morning it was announced that she died and saw my Twitter feed and just sobbed. She was a true visionary who continued a historical legacy of transgender electronic musicians like Wendy Carlos. I miss her every day.

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