12 great musicians we lost in 2020

12 great musicians we lost in 2020

In 2020 the world lost many wonderful musicians including South African legend, Joseph Shabalala; country music superstar Kenny Rogers and 'I Can See Clearly Now' singer, reggae star Johnny Nash. East Coast Gold takes a look at 12 of the great musicians we lost in 2020.

12 great musicians we lost in 2020

11 February 2020: Joseph Shabalala

Joseph Shabalala, the legendary founder of multi-Grammy Award winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo, died on 11 February at the age of 78. He passed away in hospital in Pretoria after a long illness. Ladysmith Black Mambazo has been nominated for 19 Grammy Awards, taking home the honours on five occasions.

Shabalala, who founded Ladysmith Black Mambazo in 1960, has influenced the music of various artists in South Africa. 

20 March 2020: Kenny Rogers

Country music legend Kenny Rogers, whose career spanned six decades and helped bring the genre into the mainstream, died in March at the age of 81.

AFP reported that with hits like "The Gambler," "Lucille" and the duet "Islands in the Stream" with Dolly Parton, the three-time Grammy winner left an indelible mark on American music.

"Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family," the family said in a statement.

Tributes poured in from across the world of showbiz.

"You never know how much you love somebody until they're gone," Parton said. "I've had so many wonderful years and wonderful times with my friend Kenny, but above all the music and the success I loved him as a wonderful man and a true friend."

30 March 2020: Bill Withers

Just 10 days later, Bill Withers, the legendary performer who defined 1970s soul with timeless hits like "Ain't No Sunshine", "Lovely Day" and "Lean on Me" – died in Los Angeles at the age of 81.

The Grammy-winning artist succumbed to heart complications.

"A solitary man with a heart driven to connect to the world at large, with his poetry and music, he spoke honestly to people and connected them to each other," a family statement said.

"In this difficult time, we pray his music offers comfort and entertainment as fans hold tight to loved ones."

9 May 2020: Little Richard

In May, Little Richard, whose outrageous showmanship and lightning-fast rhythms intoxicated crowds with hits like "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally," died at the age of 87 following a battle with cancer.

With a distinctive range from robust belting to howling falsetto, Richard transfixed audiences and inspired artists including The Beatles as he transformed the blues into the feverish new style of rock 'n' roll alongside Fats Domino and Chuck Berry.

AFP reported that his raunchy 1955 song "Tutti Frutti" became a sort of opening salvo of rock 'n' roll's entry into American life, starting with his nonsensical but instantly thrilling first line: "Awop bop a loo mop / Alop bam boom."

Richard stunned buttoned-down post-World War II America with an otherworldly look of blindingly colorful shirts, glass-embedded jackets, a needle-thin moustache and a six-inch (15-centimeter) high pompadour.

A consummate entertainer, he would play piano with one leg hoisted over the keys and, in one legendary concert in Britain, played dead on stage so effectively that the venue sought medical help before he resurrected himself to an astounded crowd.

18 June 2020: Vera Lynn

World War II "forces' sweetheart" Vera Lynn, whose resonant songs helped keep up British morale, died on the 18th of June at the age of 103.

She travelled thousands of miles to the frontlines, from Egypt to India and Myanmar, to entertain British troops with a string of classics such as "We'll Meet Again" and "The White Cliffs of Dover".

A performer from the age of seven, Lynn also starred in films, enjoyed a number of post-war hits and was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1976.

Her place in Britain's social history can not be overstated. She was the subject of a Pink Floyd tribute "Vera", and sang over the end credits of the 1964 comedy war film "Dr. Strangelove".

25 July 2020: Peter Green

Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green – the English blues rock singer-songwriter and guitarist who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 – died in July at the age of 73.

Wikipedia reports that Green's songs, such as "Albatross", "Black Magic Woman", "Oh Well", "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)" and "Man of the World", appeared on singles charts, and several have been adapted by a variety of musicians. In June 1996, Green was voted the third-best guitarist of all time in Mojo magazine.

11 August 2020: Trini Lopez

American singer and actor, Trini Lopez, who had 16 Top 40 songs from 1963 to 1968 and who played one of The Dirty Dozen, died in August in Palm Springs, California at the age of 83. He died from COVID-19 complications. Among his hits were “Lemon Tree”, “If I Had a Hammer” and “This Land Is Your Land”.

Lopez was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 2003. Wikipedia reports that on May 15, 2008, his 71st birthday, Lopez was inducted into the Las Vegas Walk of Stars.

9 September 2020: Ronald Bell

Ronald Bell -- a co-founder of Kool and the Gang, the heavyweight funk group behind hits like "Celebration," "Jungle Boogie" and "Ladies' Night" -- died Wednesday. He was 68 years old.

The performer died at his home in the US Virgin Islands, the group's publicist Angelo Ellerbee told AFP, without specifying a cause of death.

Bell founded Kool and the Gang with his brother Robert and friends Dennis Thomas, Robert Mickens, Charles Smith, George Brown and Ricky West in the early 1960s, fusing a foundation of jazz with smatterings of funk, disco, R&B and pop.

The group became a major smash in the 1970s, its brassy funk putting it in a class with Earth, Wind and Fire, the Isley Brothers and Sly and the Family Stone.

Kool and the Gang scored a Grammy in 1978 for their contributions to the soundtrack for "Saturday Night Fever" starring John Travolta.

The group was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

29 September 2020: Helen Reddy

Australian-born singer Helen Reddy, whose hit "I Am Woman" became a feminist anthem in the 1970's, died in Los Angeles at the age of 78.

NPR reported that Reddy had dementia for several years before her death.

"I Am Woman" was by far Reddy's most famous song. But in the wake of its success, she released several more hits, including "Delta Dawn," "Angie Baby," "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" and "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady."

6 October 2020: Eddie Van Halen

Eddie Van Halen, the guitar virtuoso whose group is considered one of the greatest rock bands of all time, died on 6 October in Santa Monica, U.S. following a long battle with cancer.

"I can't believe I'm having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen, has lost his long and arduous battle with cancer this morning," Wolf Van Halen wrote in a message on Twitter with a picture of the rocker who was 65.

Born in the Netherlands and raised in California, Van Halen founded the rock group with his older brother Alex in the early 1970s and quickly earned a fan base. Among the group's classics are "Jump," "Panama," "Runnin' with the Devil," and the guitar solo "Eruption."

6 October 2020: Johnny Nash

Legendary reggae star, Johnny Nash, died at his home in Houston on 6 October at the age of 80. According to media reports, he died due to natural causes. His death was announced by his son.

Nash rose to fame in the 1950s. His song 'I Can See Clearly Now' became a big hit in the 1970s. The song topped the charts and became a huge success in the United States. His other hits include: 'A Very Special Love', ' Hold Me Tight', 'Let's Be Friends', 'I Dream Of You', 'Let's Get Lost', and ' I Wish I Knew'.

One of his greatest achievement was that he became the first non-Jamaican singer to record reggae music in Kingston, Jamaica. Nash worked closely with Bob Marley.

19 October 2020: Spencer Davis

Welsh singer and musician Spencer Davis – who founded The Spencer Davis Group, died on 19 October at the age of 81. Davis died from pneumonia in Los Angeles.

The band had several hits in the 1960s including "Keep On Running", "Gimme Some Lovin'", and "I'm a Man", all sung by Steve Winwood. Davis subsequently enjoyed success as an A&R executive with Island Records.

Rolling Stone reports that Davis returned to his own music in 1984 with the album Crossfire, which featured Dusty Springfield, Booker T. Jones, and others.

Take part in our music poll below, and let's settle the debate on which decade produced the best music.

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