In Memoriam 2015

By Julie Cappotto, Andrew Stone, Mindy Wolfle and Paul Wolfle

As this year ends and another begins, musicinterviewmagazine.com looks back at the artists who passed away in 2015. Some of the names on the list may be familiar and others not so recognizable. But the biggest, as well as the smallest, deserve to be remembered for their greatness. With that in mind, the collective influence of these departed musicians remains immeasurable.

Here are some of those whom we remember for the contributions they made to the world of music and beyond. The tributes are listed chronologically.

Andraé Crouch was a giant among contemporary gospel singers. With more than a dozen solo albums, Crouch was a Grammy Award winner several times over. His secular achievements include creating music for 1985’s Academy Award winning film, The Color Purple. The California-born singer and pianist collaborated with a number of pop stars during his career, including Elvis Presley and Madonna. Andraé Crouch, 72, died of a heart-attack on Jan. 8…

Leslie Gore had no reason to cry, even if it was her party. The Brooklyn-born singer charted several times throughout the 1960s with songs like “Judy’s Turn To Cry,” “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows” and “California Nights.” She had the knack and the voice for creating success. Also a songwriter, Gore’s last album was 2005’s Ever Since. Leslie Gore, 68, died of lung cancer on Feb. 15…

This is no shortage of untimely deaths in the world of popular music. Jeremy Brown is no exception. A guitarist for Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, Brown died on Mar. 30 at the age of 34, one day prior to the release of the band’s debut album Blaster. Weiland was quoted as saying that Brown came up with most of the disc’s riffs. Brown’s death preceded band mate Weiland’s by roughly eight months. The two worked together since 2008; they hit the road for the Purple to the Core tour in 2013, which led to the studio. Brown is survived by his wife, sisters and mother…

Percy Sledge, renowned for his classic, heart-wrenching “When a Man Loves a Woman,” died on Apr.14 at the age of 74 after a yearlong battle with cancer. The tune made its way into movies ranging from The Crying Game and The Big Chill to Platoon and the film of the same name. Sledge was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. Featured in the 2013 documentary Muscle Shoals, he also was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007…

Jack Ely was the lead singer on The Kingsmen‘s monumental 1963 smash, “Louie, Louie.” It is Ely’s voice that listeners will forever hear on one of the most famous songs in rock and roll history. Written by Richard Berry, Ely never equaled the achievement of “Louie, Louie” again. But he didn’t have to. Though performed by countless bands, Ely and The Kingsmen’s rendition of Berry’s classic remains the definitive version of the song. Jack Ely died on Apr. 28 of an undisclosed illness. Ely was 72…

Hearing the tunes “Stand by Me,” ”There Goes My Baby” and “Spanish Harlem,” one inevitably recalls the lush baritone of Ben E. King, who died in New Jersey of natural causes on Apr. 30 at the age of 76. His fame began as lead singer of the Drifters, with whom he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. According to Billboard, he had 21 songs in the top 100 between 1961 and 1975. “Stand by Me,” a reworked gospel number co-written by King, Leiber and Mike Stoller, was chosen as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America…

B.B. King is one of the pioneers of electric blues music. With his trusted Gibson® 335 semi-hollow body, affectionately known as “Lucille,” King created blues-rock history using sharp but quick bends and smooth single string runs up the neck. But it was not just the guitar. King was a skilled singer who could be funny as well as deep. Once, King appeared as himself on the popular 1970s sitcom “Sanford and Son.” B.B. King, 89, passed away on May 14. King had been suffering from several illnesses including diabetes and Alzheimer’s…

Celebrated jazzman Ornette Coleman, an alto saxophonist and composer whose influence changed the course of the genre, died in New York City at the age of 85 on Jun. 11. From his Texas roots, with an alto saxophone his mother gave him when he was around 14, Coleman’s career spanned eight decades and countless collaborations, even including a “Saturday Night Live” performance in 1979. As reported in The New York Times, “Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire”…

Chris Squire was a founding member, singer and bass player for British prog-rock maestros, Yes. Having written many of Yes’s songs, Squire was the core of the band. Enduring a laundry list of personnel over the years, Chris is the only one in the group who appears on all of Yes’s studio albums. He was the bass player for Yes for almost 50 years. Without Squire, the essence of Yes is gone. Chris Squire, 67, died on Jun. 27 from acute erythroid leukemia…

Lynn Anderson never promised anyone a rose garden, but she sure could sing and write remarkable songs. The country-pop flavored vocalist recorded a string of successful albums and singles spanning the 1960s through the 2010s. Besides her studio work, Anderson continued to be a popular draw at live shows. A platinum selling artist and Grammy Award winner, Lynn Anderson, 67, passed away on Jul. 30 after a bout with pneumonia…

A native of Liverpool, England, singer and television presenter Cilla Black scored major hits in the 1960s with number one singles “Anyone Who Had a Heart” and “You’re My World.” While a hat check girl (as they were known in those days), she struck up a friendship with The Beatles during their early years playing at the Cavern. In fact, Lennon and McCartney penned tunes to help launch her career as a singer and she shared a manager, Brian Epstein, with the Fab Four. Black, who died at the age of 72 on Aug. 1 in Spain, gained additional fame hosting British television hits “Blind Date” and “Surprise Surprise”…

Steve Mackay is the saxophone player on Iggy Pop and The Stooges’ 1970 seminal proto-punk collection, Fun House. Though Mackay quickly exited Iggy’s legendary band, he became an industry favorite as a solo talent, working with Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen, the Violent Femmes and a slew of others. Mackay eventually returned to Iggy’s crew in 2003. Steve Mackay lost his battle with sepsis on Oct. 10; he was 66. According to wenmd.com, “Severe sepsis affects more than a million Americans each year. Up to half of these people will die from this condition.” Steve was one of them…

As posted Oct. 11 on Camera Obscura’s Facebook page, “It is with the greatest sadness, that we must share the news that Carey passed away peacefully this morning after her illness with cancer. We have lost our friend and band mate.” Carey Lander, 33 year old keyboardist of the Scottish indie pop band, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2011, prompting her to fundraise for Sarcoma U.K. while continuing her musical career. Lander joined the band in 2002, playing on four of five albums released from 2003 to 2013, also contributing vocals on a number of songs…

Phil Taylor is best known for his work with the long running British heavy metal thrashers, Motorhead. Called “Philthy Animal” by his closest friends, Taylor is the drummer on some of Motorhead’s best work, including 1979’s Overkill and 1980’s Ace of Spades. Phil did two stints with the late Lemmy Kilmister and company. Phil Taylor passed away on Nov. 11 from liver failure. He was 61…

She was the co-founder and trumpet player of the psychedelic-funk-soul group Sly and The Family Stone, memorably heard on such 1960s classics as “Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” Cynthia Robinson succumbed to cancer on Nov. 23 at the age of 69. Robinson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with her bandmates in 1993 and continued her career as a member of the funk band Graham Central Station. She also worked with George Clinton and Prince and the reunited Family Stone, which included her daughter with Sly Stone, Sylvyette Phunne Stone…

Scott Weiland, lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver and his most recent project, Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts, was found dead on his tour bus in Bloomington, Minnesota. His death at the age of 48 on Dec. 3 was attributed to toxic mix of drugs along with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, a history of asthma and multi-substance dependence. Weiland’s former STP bandmates posted a statement on Facebook that read in part, “Let us start by saying thank you for sharing your life with us. Together we crafted a legacy of music that has given so many people happiness and great memories”…

Lemmy Kilmister was the founder, frontman and bassist for British heavy metalists, Motorhead. Kilmister formed the group in 1975 after being ousted from Hawkwind. Known for his mutton chop sideburns, Kilmister and Motorhead won a Grammy Award in 2004. Lemmy was an immovable force in both music and life. Lemmy Kilmister, 70, died on Dec. 29, only days after being diagnosed with an undisclosed yet aggressive form of cancer. Kilmister’s passing comes just weeks after drummer Phil Taylor’s death in November…and the band played on…

Photos: Cilla Black – Joost Evers/Anefo/Nationaal Archief/Creative Commons (CC);Chris Squire – Rdikeman/CC; Snaggletooth design for Motorhead by Joe Petagno/Lemmy Kilmister/CC; Jim Ed Brown – Royalbroil/CC; Ornette Coleman – Davide Leonardi/CC; BB King – Gabinete de prensa de BB King -Road Manager Paco Martin/CC; Ben E King – annulla/CC; Percy Sledge – Carol M. Highsmith/CC; Leslie Gore – ABC TV, public domain; Scott Weiland – Michael Dornbierer/Creative Commons (CC); Lemmy Kilmister – Alejandro Paez (Molcatron on Flickr)/CC; usage does constitute endorsement by the authors.

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