The Month that Music Died

    More stories from Angela Weisgal

    Cannot Erase Wilson:
    March 15, 2016

    Courtesy of Mark Marek Photography

    The Motorhead icon died of a terminal cancer.

    The last few weeks have been a sad time for the music industry. Many classic rock and other musicians from different  genres have passed away, one right after the other. It almost could be said that this is the month classic rock died.


    It all started on Dec. 28 when Ian Kilmister, better known as Lemmy of Motorhead died of cancer. Only two days before his death, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, which made his death even more shocking.


    Kilmister went from being a roadie for Jimi Hendrix and the Nice to being bassist and vocalist of space rock band Hawkwind from the years 1971 to 1975. Significant contributions he made to Hawkwind include lead vocals for the 1972 UK Top-10 hit “Silver Machine.” After being fired from Hawkwind, he formed Motorhead in 1975, named after the last song he wrote for the band. They were known as pioneers of the new wave of british heavy metal and were active until Kilmister’s death. Motorhead scored a few top-40 hits in the UK with “Overkill”; “Bomber”; and “Ace of Spades.”  


    Natalie Cole died of congestive heart failure, likely from complications after a kidney transplant on Dec. 31. She was the daughter of famous jazz singers Nat King Cole and Maria Cole. She released her first album “Inseparable” in 1975, which spawned two major hits, “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” and “Inseparable.” This was the beginning of a successful career with her winning both Grammys she was nominated for in 1976, Best New Artist and Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. She remained active in film and music until her death. She is best remembered for her 1991 album “Unforgettable… with Love” going 7-times Platinum, featuring her father’s most popular song “Unforgettable,” remixed as a duet between them.


    David Bowie released his last album, “Blackstar,” on his 69th birthday, two days before his death of liver cancer. This shocked millions of fans around the world because no one outside of a small circle of people knew that he had cancer. His career lasted six decades from the 1960s to the 2010s and throughout that time he reinvented himself with various alter egos, changing his sound by taking inspirations from many diverse genres. From krautrock to soul, from glam rock to disco, this chameleon created more hit songs than stars in the sky. “Let’s Dance”; “Fame”; “Space Oddity”; “Rebel, Rebel”; “Ziggy Stardust”; “Heroes”; “Life on Mars”; and “Under Pressure” just to name a few. His androgynous and gender bending alter egos helped the LGBTQ community find acceptance and he was an outspoken advocate for racial and gender equality.


    Dale Griffin was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s when he was 58 and died in his sleep almost a decade after the diagnosis. He was a founding member of Mott the Hoople, whose best known song, “All The Young Dudes,” was written by Bowie. Mott the Hoople released their first album in 1969 and they were active through the ‘70s. Not only was Griffin also a record producer who worked with Pulp, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Carcass and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.


    Glenn Frey died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia. He was a founding member of The Eagles, a six-time Grammy Award winning rock band from California which had five No. 1 singles. He co-wrote the hits “One of These Nights”; “Take It Easy”; “Hotel California”; and “Lyin’ Eyes.” Frey additionally had a successful solo career with Top-40 hits like “The One You Love”; “The Heat is On”; “You Belong To The City”; and “True Love.”


    Jimmy Bain’s cause of death is unknown. He played bass in the hard rock band Rainbow, which was formed by former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore and heavy metal band Dio, which was formed and led by Ronnie James Dio, formerly of Black Sabbath. He also worked with famous rock musicians Phil Lynott, Brian Robertson and Gary Moore (of Thin Lizzy), John Cale (of the Velvet Underground), Kate Bush, and Jimmy McCulloch (of Wings).


    All of these musicians made fantastic contributions to music and a single paragraph does not even begin to do them justice. They will be remembered because they made art that will live forever and art transcends generations.