Even before 2016 really went off the rails on Election Day, it was one of the worst years in recent memory, marked by violence, tragedy and toxic political divisiveness. To add insult to all that injury, we also lost so many beloved cultural figures, from Gene Wilder to Muhammad Ali, that at times it was hard to keep track. The world of music was hit particularly hard; so many toweringly influential figures died in one calendar year that next February's Grammys should probably just ditch the entire award-show thing and run a three-hour “In Memoriam” montage instead.
Through tears, depression and occasional bouts of “fuck everything” boozing, we reported the deaths, wrote the obits and tributes, and celebrated the achievements of those we lost, from the legends who were universally mourned to the local figures who never quite got the credit in life that they deserved. As this miserable year finally limps to the finish line, let's take one last moment to remember them.
We have included links to any tributes and remembrances we published over the course of 2016. But we failed to properly acknowledge many of these great people's deaths when they occurred because, apparently, we suck almost as much as 2016 did. Nor is the list below meant to be in any way exhaustive, because at a certain point this shit just gets too depressing.
So cue the waterworks and Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah.” And seriously, 2016, from the bottom of our hearts: Please fuck off.
David Bowie (Jan. 10): Glam-rock pioneer, Spider From Mars, Thin White Duke, Goblin King, hero for way more than one day.
Henry Rollins: Bowie's Blackstar Is on the Level of Low and Heroes
10 Reasons Why David Bowie Was Our Weirdest Rock Star
Norman Mayers (Jan. 13): Writer, promoter, DJ, co-founder of Strictly Social, one of L.A.'s most beloved soul/R&B club nights.
R.I.P. Norman Mayers: A Tribute From Strictly Social's Aaron Paar
Blowfly (Jan 17): Dirty-rap pioneer, costumed R&B supervillain, perverse parodist.
Glenn Frey (Jan. 18): Eagle, hitmaker, harmony vocals master, Miami Vice soundtracker, stander on corners in Winslow, Arizona.
My Nemesis Glenn Frey Is Gone and I Feel Lost
Cadalack Ron (Jan. 23): Battle rapper, freestyler, “Black Tar Rap Star.”
R.I.P. Rapper Cadalack Ron: We Just Lost a Real One (by Nocando)
Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson (Jan. 28): Co-founders of Jefferson Airplane. Anderson was replaced in 1966 by Grace Slick; Kantner would also go on to co-found Jefferson Starship. Eerily died on the same day.
Jon Bunch (Jan. 31): South Bay punk legend, Sense Field and Further Seems Forever singer.
If It Weren't for Jon Bunch, I Wouldn't Be a Music Journalist
Maurice White (Feb. 4): Earth, Wind & Fire mastermind, criminally underrated drummer/percussionist, forever dancing in “September.”
Earth, Wind and Fire Founder Maurice White Dead at 74
Dan Hicks (Feb. 6): The funniest man in the Bay Area folk scene. Singer, songwriter and charismatic frontman of the Hot Licks, who fused country, jazz, bluegrass, swing and gypsy music way before it was cool.
Vanity (Feb. 15): Singer, reformed nasty girl, Prince protégé.
George Martin (March 8): Producer, studio genius, fifth Beatle.
R.I.P. George Martin, the Most Important Producer in Rock & Roll History
Keith Emerson (March 11): The “E” in ELP, prog-rock's “Jimi Hendrix of the keyboard.”
Why We Need to Talk About Keith Emerson's Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Frank Sinatra Jr. (March 16): Crooner, Junior Chairman of the Board.
Michael Sheppard (March 17): Staple of the L.A. underground, promoter, founder of the Iridescence and Transparency labels.
Musicians Remember the Late Michael Sheppard, L.A.'s Champion of the Weird
Phife Dawg (March 22): A Tribe Called Quest rapper, Five Foot Assassin, always on point.
Nicholas “Pumpkin” Alvarado (March 25): House DJ, producer, remixer, now patron saint of the Pocket Underground.
Joe Bass (March 26): Bassist for The Posies and Sunny Day Real Estate, Short Stop bartender, coolest dad ever.
Cancer Claims Echo Park Musician Joe Bass; Public Memorial to Be Held Sunday
Merle Haggard (April 6): Country's greatest outlaw.
R.I.P. Merle Haggard, 1937-2016
Prince (April 21): Leader of the Revolution, the mercurial genius of Paisley Park.
R.I.P. Prince: Parties Weren't Meant to Last
“Love, God, Prince”: How I Met the Purple One at Tower Records on Sunset in 1985
Candye Kane (May 6): Blues singer, sex activist, tough girl.
Guy Clark (May 17): Texas country music legend, likely author of your favorite country singer's best song.
Nick Menza (May 21): Megadeth and OHM drummer. Jazz chops, heavy metal soul.
Nick Menza Defined Heavy Metal Drums for an Entire Generation of Fans
Prince Be (June 17): Rapper, singer, producer, P.M. Dawn frontman, visionary.
Bernie Worrell (June 24): Parliament Funkadelic keyboardist, greatest Minimoog player of all time.
5 Tracks That Showcase the Genius of the Late, Great Bernie Worrell
Scotty Moore (June 28): Guitarist, rock & roll innovator, the man who gave Elvis his twang.
Alan Vega (July 16): Suicide singer, synth-punk pioneer, author, artist, iconoclast.
Henry Rollins: Alan Vega Was One of the Few True Artists I've Ever Met
Juan Gabriel (Aug. 28): El Divo de Juárez, singer, barrier breaker, king of Mexican pop.
For Young, Queer Mexicans Like Me, Juan Gabriel Changed Everything
Jerry Heller (Sept. 2): N.W.A manager, industry legend, the man who brought gangsta rap and Kraftwerk to America.
Rex Thompson (Sept. 8): Summer Hits frontman, underappreciated songwriting genius.
Rex Thompson of L.A. Lo-Fi Legends The Summer Hits Has Died, Family Confirms
Alexis Arquette (Sept. 11): Cabaret artist, singer, actor, actress, trans activist, nightlife icon.
Remembering Alexis Arquette, L.A. Club Kid Turned Trans Activist
Josh Fischel (Sept. 29): Musician, promoter, Long Beach booster, founder of the Music Tastes Good festival.
Music Tastes Good Founder Josh Fischel Has Died
Pete Burns (Oct. 23): Dead or Alive frontperson, gender bender, spun us right round.
Kay Starr (Nov. 3): Distinctively swingin' big band and '50s pop singer.
R.I.P. Big Band–Era Legend Kay Starr, Who Was Much More Than a “Hillbilly Singer”
Leonard Cohen (Nov. 7): Poet, songwriter, ladies' man, Buddhist monk, eternal dweller in the Tower of Song.
Raise a Glass, Friends, to Leonard Cohen, Prophet of the Heart
Leon Russell (Nov. 13): Entertainer, songwriter, studio and touring musician extraordinaire, Elton John's favorite piano man.
David Mancuso (Nov. 14): Underground dance party pioneer, DJ, curator, tastemaker, lord of the Loft.
Don Waller (Nov. 17): Author, music critic, proto-punk rocker, L.A. Weekly contributor, master of liner notes and natty attire.
R.I.P. Don Waller, Influential Music Journalist and Imperial Dog
Sharon Jones (Nov. 18): Queen of the Dap-Kings, late bloomer, one of the great powerhouse soul singers of this or any era.
Cherushii and Nackt (Dec. 2): Underground dance music producers, taken too soon by the Ghost Ship.
100% Silk Artists Cherushii and Nackt Among Confirmed Victims of Ghost Ship Fire
And one late addition:
George Michael (Dec. 25): We're never gonna dance again.
To everyone on this list and the many musicians, singers, DJs, label owners, promoters and others we failed to include who also passed in 2016: Rest in power, and thank you for keeping the music alive. We won't miss 2016, but we will miss the hell out of you.
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