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Looking Back: Artists We Lost In 2021

Posted by James Duncan on

After losing music luminaries in 2020 ranging from Charlie Daniels, Little Richard and Neil Peart to John Prine, Kenny Rogers and Eddie Van Halen, 2021 was also not a kind one for many. This past year many beloved music artists, instrumentalists, songwriters and arrangers, producers and engineers were also lost.

Here’s a look at some of the notable music talents that left us in 2021, along with the date they passed (where known) and a brief description. Compiled with the help of website and other sources. If you know of any notable figures that might be missing here, please add a comment at the bottom of the page:

  • Richie Albright, 2/9, Drummer for Waylon Jennings
  • Keith Allison, 11/17, Member of Paul Revere and the Raiders and solo artist
  • Joey Ambrose, 8/9, Saxophonist with Bill Haley and His Comets
  • Razzy Bailey, 8/4, Country singer
  • Chris Barber, 3/2, Influential English jazz musician
  • Tom Beaudry (aka Kelly Green), 9/3, Lead singer for Detroit rock band Frijid Pink
  • Byron Berline, 7/10, Fiddler who was a member of the Flying Burrito Brothers and played on the Rolling Stones track “Country Honk”
  • Biz Markie, 7/16, rapper/DJ, Juice Crew
  • Jay Black, 10/23, Lead vocalist of Jay and the Americans on hits such as “This Magic Moment,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “Cara Mia”
  • Tim Bogert, 1/13, Bassist with Vanilla Fudge, Cactus, and Beck, Bogert & Appice
  • Mick Bolton, 1/1, Keyboardist with Mott the Hoople and Dexys Midnight Runners
  • Duke Bootee, 1/13, Rapper who wrote Grandmaster Flash hit “The Message”
  • Perry Botkin Jr., 1/18, Composer, producer, arranger, and musician who worked with Bobby Darin, Harry Nilsson, others
  • Sérgio Brandão, 4/2, Brazilian bassist who played on recordings by George Benson, Sergio Mendes and others
  • Gil Bridges, 12/8, Rare Earth saxophonist
  • Vic Briggs, 6/29, Lead guitarist of Eric Burdon and the Animals from 1966-68
  • Steve Bronski, 12/7, Co-founder of British dance trio Bronski Beat
  • Ed Bruce, 1/8, Country singer/songwriter; co-writer of “Mammas Don’t Let your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”
  • Jerry Burgan, 3/30, Guitarist/vocalist with We Five (“You Were on My Mind”)
  • James Burke, 2/19, Singer with the Five Stairsteps (“O-o-h Child”)
  • Ron Bushy, 8/29, Iron Butterfly drummer (“In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida”) (below, second from left in 1969)Iron Butterfly 1969
  • Françoise Cactus, 2/17, Stereo Total, Lolitas
  • Ron Campbell, 1/22, Director of Beatles cartoon series
  • Ray Campi, 3/11, Rockabilly singer/musician
  • Alan Cartwright, 3/4, Bassist for Procol Harum in the ’70s
  • Malcolm Cecil, 3/28, Producer for Stevie Wonder, designer of TONTO synthesizer
  • Phil Chen, 12/14, Bassist who worked with Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart and members of the Doors
  • Louis Clark, 2/13, Orchestrator for Electric Light Orchestra
  • Sanford Clark, 7/4, Country and rockabilly singer, best known for the 1956 hit “The Fool”
  • Charles Connor, 7/31, Drummer in Little Richard’s band the Upsetters
  • Bruce Conte, 8/?, Guitarist for Tower of Power in the 1970s
  • Billy Conway, 12/19, Drummer of Morphine
  • Jason Cope, 1/16, The Steel Woods
  • Gary Corbett, 7/14, Co-writer of Cyndi Lauper hit “She Bop,” and member of Cinderella
  • Chick Corea, 2/9, Legendary jazz keyboardist and composer (below, in 1966)
Chick Corea in 1976
  • Ron Cornelius, 8/18, Session musician on albums by Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and others
  • Cedric "Swab" Cotton, 2/9, Ideal (R&B quartet from Houston)
  • Paul Cotton, 8/1, Guitarist/vocalist for Poco
  • Johnny Crawford, 4/29, Early ’60s hitmaker (“Cindy’s Birthday” went top 10 in 1962), actor on The Rifleman and member of the Mickey Mouse Club
  • Stefan Cush, 2/4, co-lead vocalist for The Men They Couldn't Hang
  • DMX (Earl Simmons), 4/9, Rapper
  • Kenny Daniel, 11/21, Leader of ’60s band Kenny and the Kasuals
  • Sarah Dash, 9/20, Member of LaBelle (“Lady Marmalade”)
  • John Davis, 5/24, (actual) singer with Milli Vanilli
  • Prince Markie Dee, 2/18, Rapper with the Fat Boys
  • Deezer D, 1/7, Hip-hop artist and actor
  • Garth Dennis, 12/9, founding member of reggae artist Black Uhuru 
  • Morris “B.B” Dickerson, 4/2, Bassist and vocalist with War
  • David Donato, 2/2, vocalist for Black Sabbath, White Tiger
  • Double K, 1/30, People Under The Stairs
  • John Drake, 8/29, Lead singer on the Amboy Dukes’ early recordings, including “Journey to the Center of the Mind”
  • Drakeo the Ruler (Darrell Wayne Caldwell), 12/19, Rapper
  • Melvin Dunlap, 9/13, Bassist for the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Bill Withers and others
  • Graeme Edge, 11/11, Co-founder and drummer of the Moody Blues
  • Bill Elliott, 6/7, Member of Splinter duo, who recorded for George Harrison’s Dark Horse label
  • Pee Wee Ellis, 9/24, Saxophonist for James Brown, Van Morrison and others; co-writer of “Cold Sweat”
  • Les Emmerson, 12/10, Leader of Canada’s Five Man Electrical Band and writer of their hit “Signs”
  • Don Everly, 8/21, Older half of the Everly Brothers, member of the inaugural class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (below, right, in 1965)
The Everyly Brothers in 1965
    • Anne Feeney, 2/3, Folk singer
    • Vicente Fernández, 12/12, Popular Mexican singer
    • Bobby Few, 1/6, Jazz pianist
    • Rich Fifield, 11/18, Guitarist for the ’60s surf band the Astronauts
    • Mike Finnigan, 8/11, Hammond B-3 organist who played with Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bonnie Raitt and many others
    • Bob Fisher, 9/7, British record company executive and music journalist
    • Michael Fonfara, 1/8, Keyboardist with Lou Reed, Foreigner, others
    • George “Commander Cody” Frayne, 9/26, Pianist, vocalist and leader of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen (“Hot Rod Lincoln”)
    • Denny Freeman, 4/25, Austin-based roots multi-instrumentalist, played with Bob Dylan, Stevie Ray Vaughan
    • Marty Fried, 9/1, Drummer for the Cyrkle (“Red Rubber Ball”)
    • Dave Frishberg, 11/17, Jazz pianist
    • Curtis Fuller, 5/8, Jazz trombonist
    • Grady Gaines, 1/29, Saxophonist in Little Richard’s 1950s band
    • John Goodsall, 11/11, Guitarist with Brand X, Atomic Rooster
    • Larry Goshorn, 9/14, Guitarist/vocalist with Pure Prairie League
    • Milford Graves, 2/12, Jazz drummer
    • Tom Gray, 10/?, Keyboardist/songwriter of The Brains (writer of “Money Changes Everything”)
    • Nanci Griffith, 8/13, Texas-born singer-songwriter
    • Tom T. Hall, 8/20, Country singer and composer (“Harper Valley P.T.A.”)
    • Slide Hampton, 11/20, Jazz trombonist
    • Sarah Harding, 9/5, Girls Aloud (UK pop group)
    • Larry Harlow, 8/20, Salsa musician
    • Barry Harris, 12/8, Jazz pianist
    • Jon Hassell, 6/26, Trumpeter and composer who recorded with Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, Ry Cooder and others
    • Bruce Hawes, 2/17, Songwriter for the Spinners and others
    • Roger Hawkins, 5/20, Drummer in Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, a.k.a. the Swampers
    • Don Heffington, 3/23, Drummer who worked with Lone Justice, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris and others
    • Skilyr Hicks, 12/6, singer/songwriter who appeared on America's Got Talent season 8
    • Dusty Hill, 7/28, Bassist of ZZ Top (below left)
      Dusty Hill of ZZ Top in 2010
      Photo credit: aaronHwarren/
      • John Hinch, 4/29, Original drummer of Judas Priest
      • Billy Hinsche, 11/20, Member of the ’60s pop trio Dino, Desi and Billy, musician with Beach Boys and others
      • Gary “Chicken” Hirsh, 8/17, Drummer of Country Joe and the Fish
      • Mike Howe, 7/26, lead singer, Metal Church
      • Leonard "Hub" Hubbard, 12/16, bass player of The Roots
      • Paul Humphrey, 4/4, Blue Peter (Canadian new wave/synth pop band)
      • Paul Jackson, 3/18, Jazz bassist (Herbie Hancock, others)
      • Stonewall Jackson, 12/4, Veteran country singer
      • Robert “Bob” James, 2/26, Singer in bands Montrose, Swan and Magnet
      • Howard Johnson, 1/11, Tuba player with the Band, Taj Mahal, others
      • Phil Johnstone, 5/21, guitarist/keyboardist, Robert Plant
      • Joey Jordison, 7/26, Founding drummer of Slipknot
      • Timo Kaltio, 9/2, bassist for Hanoi Rocks, Cheap & Nasty, Cherry Bombz
      • Anna Kast, 2/28, Little Big (Russian rave group)
      • Barby Kelly, 4/15, The Kelly Family
      • Kangol Kid, 12/18, Member of hip-hop group UTFO
      • Richard H. Kirk, 9/21, Cabaret Voltaire (UK electronic group)
      • Jeff LaBar, 7/14, Cinderella guitarist
      • Rick Laird, 7/4, Bassist with the Mahavishnu Orchestra
      • Alan Lancaster, 7/4, Status Quo guitarist
      • Anita Lane, 4/28, The Birthday Party, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
      • David Lasley, 12/9, Singer-songwriter who worked with James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, others
      • John Lawton, 6/29, Singer with Uriah Heep, Lucifer’s Friend and other bands
      • Robin Le Mesurier, 12/22, Guitarist, Rod Stewart, The Wombles
      • James Levine, 3/9, Conductor and Music Director of the New York City Metropolitan Opera
      • David Cutler Lewis, 6/8, Keyboardist with Ambrosia (“Biggest Part of Me”)
      • Lew Lewis, 4/17, Eddie and the Hot Rods
      • Lil Loaded (Dashawn Maurice Robertson), 5/31, Rapper
      • Joe Long, 4/21, Bass guitarist with the Four Seasons
      • Kenny Malone, 9/2, Drummer on country hits by Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard and others
      • Julian “Junior” Mance, 1/17, Jazz/blues pianist
      • Philip Margo, 11/13, Co-founder of the Tokens (“The Lion Sleeps Tonight”)
      • Jon Mark, 2/10, Singer-songwriter-guitarist with the Mark-Almond Band, John Mayall, others
      • Carlos Marin, 12/19, baritone vocalist, Il Divo
      • Tony Markellis, 4/29, Bassist in Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio’s solo band
      • Biz Markie, 7/16, Rapper known as the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop”
      • Gerry Marsden, 1/3, Singer with Gerry and the Pacemakers
      • Pat Martino, 11/1, Jazz guitarist
      • Barry Mason, 4/16, British songwriter whose hits included “Delilah,” “The Last Waltz,” “Here It Comes Again” and “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes”)
      • Bob Matthews, 9/?, Sound engineer for the Grateful Dead
      • Elliot Mazer, 2/7, Producer of Neil Young, others
      • Ellen McIlwaine, 6/23, Singer-songwriter-guitarist
      • Fritz McIntyre, 8/24, Keyboardist with Simply Red
      • Ali McKenzie, 4/29, Lead singer of the U.K. ’60s group the Birds, which also included Ronnie Wood
      • Les McKeown, 4/20, Lead singer of the Bay City Rollers
      • Will Mecum, 4/29, lead guitarist with Karma to Burn, Year Long Disaster
      • Buddy Merrill, 12/5, Guitarist on The Lawrence Welk Show and solo recording artist
      • John Miles, 12/5, British rock singer/musician ("Music")
      • Don Miller, 1/11, Singer with the Vogues
      • Mike Mitchell, 4/16, Guitarist in the Kingsmen; played the solo on “Louie Louie”
      • Paul Mitchell, 12/?, singer with The Floaters
      • Paddy Moloney, 10/12, Leader of the traditional Irish band the Chieftains
      • Bob Moore, 9/22, Bassist for Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, others
      • George Mraz, 9/16, Jazz bassist
      • Dec Mulligan, 11/2, Guitarist with the Beau Brummels (“Laugh Laugh”)
      • Phil Naro, 5/3, singer for Talas, Peter Criss
      • Ronnie Nasralla, 1/20, producer of reggae group Byron Lee and the Dragonaires
      • Juan Nelson, 4/16, Longtime bassist with Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
      • Michael Nesmith, 12/10, Founding member of the Monkees and pioneering country-rock artist (below, bottom right in 1966)
      The Monkees in 1966
      • Sammy Nestico, 1/17, Composer and arranger for Count Basie
      • Rupert Neve, 2/12, Electronics engineer and designer of audio equipment
      • Ian North, 2/28, Member of pop-punk band Milk 'n' Cookies
      • Paul Oscher, 4/18, Blues musician who played in Muddy Waters’ band
      • Johnny Pacheco, 2/15, Latin music musician and arranger
      • Melvin Parker, 12/3, drummer for James Brown
      • Doug Parkinson, 3/15, Fanny Adams, The Life Organisation
      • Dean Parrish, 6/8, Soul singer (“Tell Her”)
      • Alvin "Seeco" Patterson, 11/1, percussionist with the Wailers
      • Lee “Scratch” Perry, 8/29, Reggae producer/artist and dub pioneer
      • Ralph Peterson Jr., 3/1, Jazz drummer
      • Scott Pettersen, 2/21, Original drummer for Backwater
      • Florian Pilkington-Miksa, 5/20, Curved Air, Kiki Dee
      • Dee Pop, 10/8, Drummer for New York City post-punk band the Bush Tetras
      • Bob Porter, 4/10, Jazz producer and radio personality
      • Nolan Porter, 2/4, R&B singer
      • Lloyd Price, 5/6, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted R&B singer (“Personality,” “Stagger Lee”)
      • James Purify, 1/22, Half of the James and Bobby Purify R&B duo (“I’m Your Puppet”)
      • Mick Rain, 8/14, Drummer for Pezband
      • Lars Ratz, 4/18, Metalium (German metal band)
      • Freddie Redd, 3/17, Jazz pianist/composer
      • Rickie Lee Reynolds, 9/5, guitarist for Black Oak Arkansas
      • Sonny Rhodes, 12/14, American blues singer and lap steel player
      • Jimmie Rodgers, Early rock 'n roll singer (“Honeycomb”)
      • Barry Ryan, 9/28, British pop singer (“Eloise”)
      • Julz Sale, 9/20, Lead singer of British post-punk band Delta 5 (“Mind Your Own Business”)
      • Toni Santagata, 12/5, stage name "Antonio Morese", Italian folk singer/songwriter
      • Phil Schaap, 9/7, Jazz disc jockey and producer
      • Al Schmitt, 4/27, Producer/engineer for Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Jefferson Airplane and many others
      • Ralph Schuckett, 4/4, Keyboardist/songwriter who played with Todd Rundgren, Lou Reed, Carole King, others
      • Gary Scruggs, 12/1, Bassist in the Earl Scruggs Revue, led by his father, the bluegrass banjo legend
      • Thione Seck, 3/14, Senegalese singer and musician
      • Robbie Shakespeare, 12/8, reggae bassist, Sly and Robbie
      • Shock G, 4/22, Rapper (Digital Underground)
      • Örs Siklósi, 2/5, AWS (Hungarian metal-core band)
      • Joe Simon, 12/13, Soul singer with eight Top 40 hits, including “The Chokin’ Kind”
      • Patrick Sky, 5/27, Singer-songwriter popular in the 1960s Greenwich Village folk scene
      • Toby Slater, 12/13, lead singer of U.K. pop group Catch
      • Dr. Lonnie Smith, 9/29, Jazz organ innovator
      • Johnny Solinger, 6/26, Singer for Skid Row
      • Stephen Sondheim, 11/26, Giant of American musical theater
      • Sophie, 1/29, Scottish musician, singer, producer, DJ
      • Phil Spector, 1/17, Producer who worked with the Ronettes, the Righteous Brothers, the Crystals, the Beatles, the Ramones and others
      • Powell St. John, 8/?, Songwriter whose compositions were recorded by Janis Joplin and others; member of the band Mother Earth
      • Bill Staines, 12/5, folk singer/songwriter from New Hampshire
      • Michael Stanley, 3/5, Cleveland-based leader of the Michael Stanley Band
      • Pervis Staples, 5/6, Co-founder of the Staple Singers
      • Robby Steinhardt, 7/17, Founding member of Kansas, vocals and violin (below in 1976)
      Robby Steinhardt of Kansas in 1976
      • Jim Steinman, 4/19, Songwriting collaborator with Meat Loaf (Bat Out of Hell albums), others
      • Corey Steger, 2/17, guitarist for Underoath
      • Tom Stevens, 1/24, Bassist with the Long Ryders
      • Warren Storm, 9/7, Cajun “swamp-pop” rocker
      • Gene Summers, 2/17, Rockabilly singer
      • Sylvain Sylvain, 1/13, Guitarist with New York Dolls
      • Greg Tate, 12/7, Music critic and musician with Burnt Sugar
      • Ralph Tavares, 12/8, Co-founder of R&B group Tavares
      • Gene Taylor, 2/20, Pianist with the Blasters, Canned Heat, others
      • B.J. Thomas, 5/29, Classics such as “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and “Hooked on a Feeling” (below, in 1972)
      B.J. Thomas 1972
        • Dennis Thomas, 8/7, Co-founder and saxophonist of Kool and the Gang
        • Sue Thompson, 9/23, Pop and country singer, popular in the early ’60s (“Norman,” “Paper Tiger”)
        • Brian Travers, 8/22, Saxophonist for UB40
        • Ronnie Tutt, 10/16, Drummer for Elvis Presley’s TCB Band, and for Neil Diamond, Jerry Garcia Band, Billy Joel, and more
        • U-Roy, 2/17, Reggae pioneer
        • Terry Utley, 12/?, bass guitarist of Smokie
        • Hilton Valentine, 1/29, Original guitarist of the Animals
        • Johnny Ventura, 7/28, Dominican singer and salsa band leader
        • Eric Wagner, 8/23, heavy metal singer, Trouble, The Skull, Probot
        • Bunny Wailer, 3/2, Original member of reggae legends the Wailers
        • Ed Ward, 5/3, Music journalist who worked at Rolling Stone, Creem and other publications, and wrote books on Mike Bloomfield and rock history
        • Charlie Watts, 8/24, Rolling Stones drummer and co-founder (below in 1965)
          Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones in 1965
          • Jim Weatherly, 2/3, Songwriter (“Midnight Train to Georgia”)
          • Chuck E. Weiss, 7/20, Singer-songwriter and inspiration for Rickie Lee Jones’ “Chuck E.’s in Love”
          • Mary Wilson, 2/8, Co-founder of Motown powerhouse trio The Supremes (below, center, in 1966)The Supremes in 1966 with Mary Wilson
            • Ronnie Wilson, 11/2, Co-founder of the funk group the Gap Band
            • Terence “Astro” Wilson, 11/6, Founding member of UB40
            • Willie Winfield, 7/27, Lead vocalist for the ’50s doo-wop group the Harptones
            • Wondress, 5/1, Mantronix, 80s hip hop/electro funk group
            • Gary Lee Yoder, 8/7, Member of the Bay Area psychedelic groups Kak, the Oxford Circle and Blue Cheer
            • Young Dolph (Adolph Robert Thornton, Jr.), 11/17, Rapper
            • Rusty Young, 4/14, Poco steel guitarist
            • Wanda Young, 12/15, Singer with Motown group the Marvelettes
            • Peter Zinovieff, 6/23, British synthesizer pioneer


              Photos: Public domain, except as indicated

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