Cheerful as ever Stuart Smith makes a list of musicians that have died in 2016 and asks, was this the year that the music really did die?

Anytime you have looked at the news this year it seems as though another musician or recording artist has died. Of course there were the big names; Leanord Cohen, Prince, George Michael… but there were many more than these too. Look through the list here (and it’s by no meansd exhaustive) and you’ll see that there are names you know, names you don’t, names you may be familiar with if you knew the bands they were in and names that even if they came and rattled their ghostly chains at the bottom of your bed next Christmas Eve you’d still be none the wiser.

It looks a long list doesn’t it? Some were old, some were young, and some were middle aged. Some died of disease, some were shot, Viola Beach and their manager were killed in a car crash and then some died of old age.

Take a look and see the names you recognise. In researching this article I’ve looked and said to myself… “No, surely not!”…Dj Spank Spank, Gilli Smyth being cases in point.

Here you go…

George Michael, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, John Berry, Phife Dawg, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Joey Feek, Denise Matthews, Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey, Dale “Buffin” Griffin, Pete Huttlinger, David Bowie, Bunny Walters, Keith Emerson, Daddy Cool, Micky Fitz, Bernard Zaslav, Knut Kiesewetter, Ben Xi, Alphonse Mouzon, Rick Parfitt, Mick Zane, Ruud Merx, Abdul Gafur Hali, Mohamed Tahar Fergani, Allan Zavod, Ray Columbus, Jeff White, Johnny P, Craig Gill, Bob Walsh, David Mancuso, Jean-Jacques Perrey, Bob Cranshaw, Bobby Vee, Pete Burns, Caroline Crawley, Bored Nothing, Thomas Round, Shawty Lo, Jerry Corbetta, Trisco Pearson, Qiao “Kimi” Renliang, Clifford Curry, Bobby Ramirez, Bob Bissonnette, DJ Spank Spank, Prince Buster, Fred Hellerman, Matt Roberts, Tom Searle, Lou Pearlman, James Woolley, Glenn Yarbrough, Ab Tamboer, Gilli Smyth, Alan Vega, Allan Barnes, Sandy Pearlman, Steven Young, Bernie Worrell, Ralph Stanley, Wayne Jackson, Prince Be (Attrell Cordes), Dave Swarbrick, Vladislav Yankovsky, Thomas Fekete, Nick Menza, Marlene Marder, Candye Kane, John Stabb, Prince, Richard Lyons (aka Pastor Dick), Merle Haggard, Harrison Calloway, Pete Zorn, Karl Broadie, Gib Guilbeau, Jimmie Van Zant, Getatchew Mekurya, Jeff McLaren, Sir George Martin, Aaron Huffman, Joey Feek, Bankroll Fresh, Larry Payton, Andy Newman (Thunderclap Newman), Ali Ahmed Hussain Khan, Nik Green, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, John Thomas, Viola Beach (The whole band), Shan Johnson, Mikey Clement, Maurice White, Jon Bunch, Jim Reeves, Lennie Baker, Chris Finley, Sonny James, Vi Subversa, Paul Gordon, Berre Bergen, Signe Toly Anderson, Jimmy Bain, Dale Griffin, Blowfly, Giorgio Gomelsky, Jason Mackenroth.

So, on paper 2016 looks like the old Grim Reaper has been pretty busy on the music scene. What’s he got against all these musos? Most were I’m sure lovely people, many will have had demons and excesses they’ve had to cope with and will have contributed to their deaths and surely every single one will be missed by their family, friends and fans.

However, musicians (and people in general) die every day of the year and when they do we find ourselves looking back at their achievements and in this case their music.

When David Bowie died the mainstream media was awash with people declaring undying love for their idol and I understand this I really do, I was devastated when Lemmy passed last year. However, for every big name artist like Bowie, Prince, Keith Emerson and George Michael that ‘(Top Of The) Pops their clogs’ there are many, many thousands more artists and musicians looking to be heard and have their shot at five minutes of fame…or just wanting to express themselves through their art.

I was having a chat with someone a while ago and he made the comment (and I’ve mentioned this previously) that many audiophiles tend to look to the past and listen pretty much exclusively to the music that they remember from growing up, forsaking pretty much all new artists and new music… and I get this, I really do; we love what we know and are comfortable with. However, look through the list above again and, as I said, you’ll not know all the names, or even most of the names And the point here is that unless we support new artists and buy their music they will not have the opportunity to be heard and prosper in this already difficult business.

So what, you may ask. What I’m getting at is musicians don’t get by on fresh air, they need support, they need financial input…which is unlikely to come from governments in these times of apparent “austerity” where the arts are the first to come under the scrutiny of the bean counters and have their financial lifeblood severed.

What can you do?

If you make one New Year’s resolution this year (above the ones you know you’re not going to keep up for more than a month or so like stopping drinking, going to the gym, stopping smoking and helping old ladies across the road) I urge you to make a resolution to seek out one, just one, new musician or band that you are not familiar with every month and buy their album or go support them at a live gig.

2016 isn’t the year the music died by any stretch of the imagination, it’s just that there were a few big names that caught the attention of the mainstream media that made it look a bit like that!

The dead we can do nothing about, but the future of the music is in our hands!

Happy New Year!

Stuart Smith

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