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A Dark Year In The Music History Books


Its december and the new year is closing in on us. Michael Buble has emerged from hibernation to serenade us all with his unholy christmas cheer. Looking back on the year I feel the one thing that stands out is the amount of great musicans we have lost in 2016. What is happening to the music industry? It feels as though we are only a few years away from the complete iradication of artists that we can actually be happy to say are doing they’re own thing. It has been a very rough year for music fans indeed. Since January, we have lost so many greats, including Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey, Sir George Martin, A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Parliament-Funkadelic’s Bernie Worrell, ELP’s Keith Emerson, Suicide’s Alan Vega, Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns, Leonard Cohen, and, most shockingly, David Bowie and Prince. One of the names listed above that will most certainly catch the attention of younger readers is Phife Dawg. Any reader with a keen interest in rap will know that Phife Dawg played a pioneering role in the style that he created, that was immitated by so many that came after him, an elaborate blend of relaxed flow and intellegent ryhmes. Malik Taylor died at 45 years old. The cause of death is unknown, but the musician struggled with diabetes for decades, receiving a kidney transplant in 2008. He was a co-founder of the legendary hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest, along with high school classmates Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. While his health issues preventing him from recording much solo material beyond Ventilation: Da LP, Phife Dawg appeared on all five A Tribe Called Quest albums, contributing smart, philosophically inclined rhymes to hits such as “Scenario,” “8 Million Stories,” “Award Tour,” and the phenomenally successful “Can I Kick It?”.

News of Leonard Cohen’s passing was confirmed by his label, Sony, on November 10, 2016. He was 82. No exact date or cause of death was given. Born in Montreal, Cohen rose to prominence in the same wave that carried Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Neil Young. Yet Cohen’s dark, somber music and lyrics, deep, sorrowful voice, and unexpected influences make him perhaps more similar to Johnny Cash than any of those artists. His most beloved songs include “Suzanne,” “I’m Your Man,” and, of course, “Hallelujah,” which was famously covered by Jeff Buckley. He released his final album, You Want It Darker, just weeks before his death.

After an 18-month battle with cancer, legendary musician/artist/fashion visionary David Bowie passed away surrounded by his family. He was 69. Bowie’s knack for blending musical styles like rock, jazz, cabaret, dance, electronica, and soul helped him create some of the most beloved and iconic songs in history. His first album, David Bowie, was released in 1967, followed by beloved offerings like Space Oddity (1969), The Man Who Sold the World (1970), Hunky Dory (1971), and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972). In 1975, he achieved international success with his album, Young Americans and the single, “Fame.” Other memorable songs from his 40 year career include: “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Changes,” “Under Pressure,” “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” “Rebel, Rebel,” “All the Young Dudes,” “Panic in Detroit,” and “Fashion.” In addition to his musical prowess, Bowie found another artistic outlet in film, starring in movies like The Man Who Fell to Earth, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Labyrinth. Just a month before his death, Bowie’s rock musical, Lazarus opened on Broadway. His final album, Blackstar, was released January 8, just two days before he passed away. For me, 2016 will be a year to remember, but for all the wrong reasons.

By John O’Doherty

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