If the year 2020 had a background score, it would be a morbid and melancholic one. Not only did the pandemic shake the basics of our lives, it also put an end to music production, tours, and concerts albeit for a while.
Music has been a rescue for many when stuck in undesirable circumstances. Musicians share their ideas and feelings through their lyrics and melodies that makes us relate to the songs. All of us have some personal likes and dislikes vis-a-vs music and artists. Some musicians are entrenched in our lives with their even though their last major record release was decades back.
As a result, their deaths are always difficult to process. What makes it trickier is the fact that some of them have been around for as long as we can remember, and a world without them would be lesser place. If we lose a rising star during or even before their prime, it hurts to think about all the wonderful music they never got to make.
2020 has taken from us many musical greats, in this article we feature some of the many legends we have lost so far this year.
The “true original” died on May 9 at 87 of bone cancer. Richard Penniman, better known as Little Richard, merged the music of the black church and the sounds of the blues to create some of the world’s first and most influential rock ’n’ roll records. Though he did not invent rock ‘n’ roll, the image of him pounding the piano furiously and screaming as if for his very life, raising the energy level sky high was not quite like any music that had been heard before then.
Little Richard’s music will be remembered as ‘something new, thrilling and more than a little dangerous’. He is definitely a pioneer whose influence spanned generations.
Easily one of the greatest rock drummers of all time and certainly the most technically proficient one, Rush’s Neil Peart bid us ado on 7th January earlier this year.
Peart’s precise pounding on the kit for Rush propelled the band and made them heroes to a legion of devoted fans. He is considered a prime reason for the band to earn them a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Peart’s tricky, complicated, unpredictable rhythms got him termed as ‘The Professor’ of the drumming world, Peart was meticulous with his set up and technique. His playing style was melodic and his drum kit huge. Instead of attacking the drums, Peart had his own, may be scientific, style of playing.
In 2018, Rogers, cut short his farewell ‘Gambler’s Last Deal’ tour to spend more time with his family. Almost two years later, ‘The Gambler’ died on March 20, 2020, in his sleep, he was 81.
Rogers was the first country artist to consistently sell out arenas, playing to millions of fans around the world. He has sold more than 120 million records worldwide, making him one of the Top 10 best-selling male solo artists of all-time. There isn’t a musician more synonymous with the late ’70s and early ’80s than Kenny Rogers. In the late ’60s, his psychedelic rock band, the First Edition, before embarking on a solo career. His such popular songs as “The Gambler,” “She Believes in Me,” “Coward of the County,” “Lady,” and “Islands in the Stream,” are still played globally.
Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen, guitarist for the classic rock band Van Halen, lost his battle with throat cancer on October 6, 2020. Hardly any guitarist played the electric guitar as masterfully as Eddie did. He was also the chief creative force for his band.
Eddie with his band wowed the masses with his two-handed “tapping” guitar technique that brought speed, precision along with melody to their music. His unique style of playing and amazing technique seemed effortless because he made it look so easy. Eddie was also fascinated by the use of synthesisers and was far sighted. A true showman, Eddie would light up his cigarette, blowing some smoke rings and soloing for close to six minutes. And his cigarette stays lit until the very end.
In 1982, he contributed the guitar solo to Beat It, for Michael Jackson‘s Thriller, which became the biggest selling album of all time
Pandit Jasraj, a doyen of Hindustani classical music, passed away due to a cardiac arrest on 17th August. He was 90.
The foremost exponent of the ‘Mewati gharana’ was not only a master of ‘Dhrupad’ but also added elements of devotional singing to ‘Khayal’ by employing ‘harkats’ and ‘murkis’ that are usually associated with semi classical music. Panditji started as a tabla player before turning to classical singing. The Padma Vibhushan awardee was a master of ‘haveli sangeet’ and also one of those rare classical musicians who loved to share his knowledge. He enthralled audiences across the world with his soulful performances for more than seven decades.
The Sangeet Martand also wrote music for some Bollywood films but he will mostly be remembered for making Indian classical music popular across the world. Always active, moving and in touch with the times, Panditji was performing and teaching online until the end with a remarkably robust, age-defying voice.
Renowned Indian singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, a Guinness world record holder for his more than 40,000 songs over 50 years, died following Covid-19 complications on 25 September 2020 aged 74.
SPB, as he was popularly known, began his career in Tamil and Telugu cinema in southern India and became the first crossover singer who gained success in Bollywood. From romantic hits to popular dance tracks, he sang some of Indian cinema’s best-known numbers, spanning 16 languages. His versatile voice lent itself to romantic and classical songs. He was also a flamboyant yodeller and sang bouncy dance tracks.
Balasubrahmanyam received two of India’s top civilian honours, Padma Shri in 2001 and Padma Bhushan in 2011.
Many other legends who left us during 2020. The prominent ones been, Ronald Bell, Kool and the Gang co-founder, Peter Green, co-founder of Fleetwood Mac, Brian Howe the Bad Company frontman in late ’80s/early ’90s, Johnny Nash, Reggae-pop singer with a #1 hit, “I Can See Clearly Now”, Florian Schneider, who co-founded the cult band Kraftwerk, Bill Withers, R&B singer whose hits included “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine”.
It is always difficult to say final goodbyes to people who we have adored and being inspired from. Their songs and albums will last forever, and so will their legacy. There surely would have been tears in heaven as well when these legends reached there for a Gig in the sky.
- 2021.02.19How has music programming on TV, radio and streaming platforms changed during the pandemic
- 2021.02.18Interview of the Week – Berges Y. Malu, Director, ShareChat
- 2021.02.13Are these the greatest love songs?
- 2021.02.12Interview of the Week – Padmanabhan NS, Head of Artist and Label Partnerships, Spotify