2016 saw the passing of some of music’s greatest legends. Here are some that especially hit home.
Remember when we were all stoked about 2016 and all the great things that would come out of it and then everyone died and the world turned into a dumpster fire?
That was cool.
But in all seriousness, we lost some really great people this year in music, film, politics, architecture…really it was a crappy year for the greats in every area. I’ve never been so happy to be mediocre, because it seems that the legends were slowly picked off.
The precursor to the year that would live in infamy, 2016, was the passing of Natalie Grant on December 31, 2015. We were sad, but we had no idea what was about to hit us.
In the year 2016, we’ve seen more than 100 famous names pass away. Here are the ones that hit me, as a music lover, right in the feels:
1. David Bowie
Just two days after his final album, Blackstar – which would turn out to be a parting gift to music lovers – David Bowie passed away after an 18-month-long battle with cancer. The first of many shocking deaths this year, the world mourned Ziggy Stardust with large-scale tributes and by donning his infamous star on their faces in the following days.
2. Maurice White
The word “legendary” comes to mind when I hear the name Maurice White. The lead singer and founder of Earth, Wind, and Fire can be credited with the proliferation of soul, funk, and R&B. Think of every party song your parents play at their get-togethers: he more than likely had something to do with them. I have a personal connection to EWF because of my father’s singing “September” every birthday (the 20th night of September, but close enough, right?) and convincing me that the song was about me. Adorable, right?
3. Phife Dawg
Malik Izaak Taylor, AKA “Phife Dawg” of A Tribe Called Quest passed away suddenly after complications due to diabetes. Phife was responsible for some of the hardest rhymes from the group, and for being one of the original members of the group. The “Five Foot Assassin” was most notable for contributing to the group’s focus on social and political issues in their lyrics.
I still don’t even wanna talk about it. Prince was not the kind of person you would think could die because, well, he didn’t really seem like a person. He was the man, the myth, the legend, all rolled into this androgynously sexy purple unicorn. He definitely proved to be “something that you’ll never understand,” and he will be sorely missed.
5. Rod Temperton
I thought I was too numb to feel anything after Prince’s passing, and I kind of checked out from celebrity news, but I follow Bryan-Michael Cox on Instagram and was super hurt to hear about the passing of Rod Temperton. Although you may not know who he is, Temperton was the English producer credited with writing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” “Off the Wall,” and “Rock With You.” It was like Michael died all over again to hear that the writer of some of the songs we love the most had also passed. Temperton also penned songs for Heatwave, James Ingram, and Donna Summer, among others, and is credited with the scores for notable films like “The Color Purple.”
6. George Michael
Last but certainly not least, the passing of George Michael proved that 2016 has absolutely zero chill. No one is exactly sure where that came from…it’s like the Grim Reaper was just being petty. My favorite song from Michael was “Faith,” simply because of the super ‘80s video where he was clad in the tight acid wash jeans with the spiked hair. I remember YouTubing that video more times than I care to admit during college, just to (jitter)bug out in my dorm room. A close second was “Careless Whisper,” simply because of the Sexy Sax Man viral video. The singer’s catalogue extends from before the “Faith” days when he was the lead singer of Wham, and past then to his latest release “Symphonica.” His passing on Christmas Day was all-too-ironic because of his famous contemporary Christmas classic, “Last Christmas.”
We will most certainly miss the legends who have passed away this year, but I hope it’s a call to all artists in every genre that this music thing is not to be played with. There are people who will be hitting Heaven and telling God that they used every ounce of talent He gave them, and they didn’t squander it on trying to make a quick buck or trying to get attention.
There aren’t many people who take music more seriously than the people who write for IATI (y’all should see the arguments in the group chat), and while we will sorely miss those who passed, we are waiting to see what’s next up, in hopes that there will be someone out there who can come even near to filling the holes in our hearts left by these legends.
This, right here, is your charge, musicians and artists: Make 2017 the best year of music you can. Don’t try to make a buck. Don’t single out any one audience and try to cater to them. Don’t try to be the “next” so-and-so. Be the first you.
And by all means, if you wouldn’t do music for free, don’t do it at all. Get a regular job and leave the masses out of it.
Rest in Peace to the musical geniuses we lost this year.
New class of artists, bring it.