Prince’s death is arguably the most shocking one of the year. Prince’s influence on music cannot be denied. The singer-songwriter was a musical innovator, and even redefined how we think of the color purple. Known for his flamboyant dress, stage performances, and eclectic life, Prince’s life ended on April 21, 2016 at his home at Paisley Park. In the end, his death was attributed to a substance abuse problem. To the public, the last few weeks of his life were the only signals that things were going wrong. From an emergency landing to canceled shows, the public knew something was going on, but his death came as a surprise to millions of fans across the world. From songs and movies like “Purple Rain” to singles like “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss,” Prince was and still is known for his combined musical style of R&B, funk, rock, hip hop, jazz and many other styles which changed music forever.
David Bowie’s life ended from the result of an almost 2 year battle with cancer in the beginning of 2016. On January 10, 2016, the world lost a legend. The 69 year old musician, known for his influence on not only music, but fashion and art, was a visionary that knew more than anyone how to blend a terrific array of musical styles together. From rock, jazz, electronica, and dance to soul music, he created iconic songs from the 60’s to the end of his life. Songs like “The Man Who Sold The World,” that were covered by many (including Nirvana) made their mark, as did “Space Oddity,”Heroes,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Rebel, Rebel” were just of the hits that he created. His music was only one of his outlets though. He appeared in many films, including “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” and “Labyrinth,” among others.
In April of 2016, the world lost legendary country singer, songwriter, and guitarist Merle Haggard. Haggard helped create the Bakersfield sound, which can best be characterized by the twang he made from the Fender Telecaster guitar and the mix with country music. As a legend in the country music community, Haggard’s influence in music cannot be denied. With more than 35 number one country hits, and more than 70 that landed in the top 10, Haggard had a long career.
Frank Sinatra, Jr.
There’s no arguing that Frank Sinatra Jr. did not have as much musical influence or cultural influence than his father, but the son of the legendary crooner known for his ties to Las Vegas and more, still made his mark in the world. Aside from being the son of Frank Sinatra, the first signs of his influence in our world was when he was kidnapped when he was 19 in 1963. After being released, he went on to become a musician that millions of people got the pleasure of seeing throughout the years. On March 16, 2016 at the age of 72, he passed away. Aside from his musical career, he also appeared in many TV shows, including HBO’s The Sopranos.
Known as the “Fifth Beatle, ” George Martin died on March 8, 2016. As a producer, and arranger, Margin signed the Beatles to their first record contract in the early 60’s, and worked alongside the legendary group when they were developing the hit song “Love Me Do,” up until their final Abbey Road album. He also worked alongside iconic musicians like Cheap Trick, Elton John, America, and Jeff Beck.
November 13, 2016 marked the day that the world lost a true musical legend. The American songwriter and musician made his mark in many bestselling pop music records throughout his 60 year career in genres including rock, pop, country, blues, bluegrass, gospel, and many others. Having recorded 33 albums, and more than 400 songs, he collaborated with some of the best musicians in the world and was highly regarded among his contemporaries, as well as the public at large. As a pianist, he played for the Beach Boys in his early years, and went on to work with legends like Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr, George Harrison and others. The iconic Elton John even regarded Russell as a mentor and an inspiration.
November of 2016 marked the end of a spectacular career for soul and funk singer Sharon Jones. Though just 60 years old, Jones’ charisma and mark on music was one that can never be disputed. With her live performances that made you want to dance, and an energy like no other, Jones had fans worldwide. Up until the end, she made it clear through interviews that her career and life would never be defined by her cancer diagnosis. She battled it and performed up until the end. The soul and funk singer was the lead singer of Jones & The Dap-Kings, based out of Brooklyn and she was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2014 for Best R&B Album.
Leonard Cohen may not have had the name power that Prince or David Bowie did, but Cohen was easily one of the most influential songwriters, musicians, novelists, poets, and painters of our time. Inducted into both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, as well as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, his work started in the 50’s but his musical career didn’t take off until the late 60’s. The song “Hallelujah” is one of his major hits, and has been covered by hundreds of artists since it was first recorded. Other notable hits include “Suzanne,” “You Want It Darker,” and “Leaving The Table.”
As the frontman for the legendary Eagles group, Glenn Frey was an iconic singer-songwriter who passed on January 18, 2016. The musician, who was also best known as a founding member of the rock band Eagles, he went on to help the band earn 16 top 40 hits in the 70’s, and also had a successful solo career. Frey played not only the guitar, but the piano, and keyboards as well. Singing lead on songs such as “Take It Easy”, “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Tequila Sunrise”, “Already Gone”, “Lyin’ Eyes”, “New Kid in Town”, and “Heartache Tonight,” his mark on music can never be questioned.