Friday, December 21, 2012


2012 has been a rough year for loss. I count over 30 deaths in the world of music. Let's look back and remember some of those who are gone, first with the focus on R & B performers.

Singer Whitney Houston was the most noted loss of  2012. The 48-year old singer died tragically in an accidental drowning on February 11. Although cited by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most awarded female act of all time, Houston's long career was marred by drug use and turmoil in her personal life. In the years preceding her death, her performances had became erratic and often embarrassing. Her last appearance was in the 2012 film Sparkle.

The great Etta James died in January at age 73 after a long illness. Like Houston, James' long career was marred by drug addiction. Unlike Houston, she was the greatest singer who ever lived, mistress of every musical style from jazz to rock and roll. Here she is singing I'd Rather Go Blind.

Soul Train creator Don Cornelius committed suicide on February 1st at age 75. He had been suffering from seizures and pain following brain surgery during the last 15 years of his life. A native Chicagoan, from Bronzeville, Cornelius launched Soul Train in 1970, realizing that no television venue existed for soul music. He introduced many famous black musicians like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson to a wider audience. "We wish you love, peace, and soul."

Singer Donna Summer died in May at age 63 of lung cancer unrelated to smoking. Summer was a five time Grammy award winner who rose to fame during the disco boom of the 1970s. Her hit songs include Hot Stuff, I Feel Love, and She works Hard for the Money. Summer is scheduled to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame in 2013. Here she is singing Last Dance in 1978.

Beastie Boys co-founder, Adam Yauch, who performed as MCA and sometimes Nathaniel Hornblower,  died in May at age 47 after a long illness. He was a well-known white rap artist and part of the first white hip hop group founded in 1985. He also founded Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company based in New York.He was also a practicing Buddhist. Here is Sure Shot.
Herb Reed, the last surviving original member of the singing group The Platters died in June at age 83 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The platters was one of the great R&B groups of  the 1950's with such hits as The Great Pretender, My Prayer, and Twilight Time. Reed named the group after 1950's disc jockeys' name for records. Reed was the only group member who appeared on nearly all of the group's 400 recordings.

Finally, Johnny Otis died in January at the age of 90. He was a singer, musician, composer, and record producer known as the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues". Otis was a white man of Greek parents who grew up in an all-black neighborhood in Berkley and chose to live his entire life with African Americans. He played drums in a number of swing bands, founding his own band in 1945 which produced the hit song Harlem Nocturne. He passed just three days before Etta James, whom he discovered in the early 1950s, producing and co-writing her first hit, Roll With Me Henry.

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