It’s that time of the year when we take a look back at some of music most iconic, controversial or otherwise notable artists who passed away in 2012…
Donna Summer– She was the Queen of Disco music. Her voice will be forever linked to an era in music where sex, drugs and good music ruled the nightlife in infamous clubs like Studio 54. Summer’s sultry hits included Bad Girls, Hot Stuff, Love To Love You and Heaven Knows.
Dave Brubeck-He was a legendary figure amongst his contemporaries and known for his progressive style of Jazz music. His song Take Five is perhaps the one Jazz song most identified with images of New York City and its constant pace. That Alto Sax riff accompanied by the piano and string bass under those and dusty drums is iconic to say the least. Take Five was featured on one of the top jazz selling albums of all time Time Out. More than a few artist from hip hop to dance music sampled Brubeck’s music.
Chris Lighty-was a legend in hip hop circles not as a rapper or producer but as business man. His Violator Management company helped artist achieve much success beyond the booth and album sales, just ask Nas, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and 50 Cent. Lighty was a marketing genius and one of the pioneers of the branding of products with mainstream artists. Chris Lighty was one of the caretakers of the culture; having been through the building, explosion and re-definitions of the Hip Hop universe. His name was prominent from Bronx River Zulu Nation Days to the present. RIP
Adam MCA Yauch-One Third of the pioneering Hip Hop group The Beastie Boys, MCA was the gravely voiced Brooklyn MC that gave the Beastie’s their swag and street cred. He was also a dope videographer and later in his life a champion human rights. MCA was a practicing Buddhist and vocal voice for woman’s rights and woman’s issues. But it was MCA’s voice with the Beasties that we will forever miss. No Sleep Till Brooklyn..
Skipp Pitts-Charles ‘Skip’ Pitts is a relatively unknown music great to most people. That is until you put on the title score from Shaft. That ‘wah wah’ you here in the track was him and part of what made Issac Haye’s 1971 hit song a classic. Most of us heard his work on Dr. Dre’s Explosive track. This signature guitar riff that is featured throughout the entire song is courtesy of Mr Charles’ Skipp’ Pitts.
Whitney Houston-Where do you even start with Whitney. She was so accomplished as a singer and actress. Her voice and her beauty simply stunned the world. Clyde Davis is credited with discovering so much talent over the years but I think he would even admit Whitney was greatest. Her death still leaves you numb. It ruined a Grammy Weekend last year that was full of anticipation. Whitney’s an angel now but her voice and music will be with us forever.
Dick Clarke-His American Band Stand show was iconic and the longest running variety show of its type on TV. In its 30 year run, the show not only showcased Rock n Roll but the powerful Soul and Funk musicians of the time. It helped to break the racial barrier through music on television. American Band Stand also helped to define the ‘Youth Cutlture’. But most of us know Dick Clarke for his infamous New Years Eve parties that he threw in Time’s Square with a million revelers and even millions more all over the globe watching on TV.
Etta James– Etta James had one of the voice’s you could never forget. Her song ‘At Last’ has been featured in films, commercials and all over TV shows. Etta’s life was filled with heartache and pain but it was this pain that made her songs so heart felt. Rolling Stone has her listed 22 on a list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
Michael Davis– He played bass for the band MC5. MC5 was band that emerged in the late 60’s out of Michigan. Their style was very revolutionary at the time and the are credited as being innovators in the early American Punk Rock movement that would totally shook the 70’s.
Don Cornelius– was The God Father of Black Television. He created Soul Train which gave African Americans of the late 60’s and early 70’s a chance infect the world with groove, soul and culture. Cornelius’s voice was as mellow and cool as his signature Afro and glasses. He wasn’t a fan of early hip hop but Cornelius’s rhyming catchphrases were as original and iconic as his soul train line.
Davy Jones-Jones was the lead singer of the British Pop Band The Monkees. Davy Jones and his band were formed strictly for TV purposes but grew to be television and pop superstars. So that reality TV formula of A&Ring acts to the mainstream that The Voice, Whose Got Talent, and X Factor use isn’t so groundbreaking just remixed. Davy Jones. and his band The Monkees though were the teenage phenoms of their time.
Robert Sherman– Have you ever heard ‘It’s A Small World After All” ? Of course you have and it’s composer Robert Sherman was well known for his music scores in animation. His work was featured in The Great Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Mr Sherman was also a war hero from The Greatest Generation and served in WWII where he earned a slew of honors including a Purple Heart.
Robin Gibb – was one that voice that we all recognized in the British Pop Group The Bee Gees. You can’t even think about the Disco Era without mentioning the Bee Gees. Gibbs signature voice was what authenticated the group from other artists who tried to re-invent their careers through the 70’s music fad.
Chuck Brown-He was The Godfather of DC’s Go Go music. If you’ve ever been to a party in the DC area within the last 25 years then you understand how sacred the ‘ Go Go scene is. Mr Brown pioneered it’s sound and help introduce it to other forms of urban music. Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s Shake Your Thang and Amerie’s One Thing are example of how Go Go musics influenence.
Joseph Lil Jo Jo Coleman – He was a young aspiring Hip Hop artist who was murdered a few months back. At the time of his death Jo Jo was said to have been beefing with several local Chicago artists. His untimely death retched up rumors of the dangerous intersections of Hip Hop and the mean streets of Chi Town.
Natina Reed– She was a singer, songwriter and rapper in the group Blaque. She was the MC on all of their big singles including 808 and Bring It All To Me. Reed was once the protege’ of the late Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and sadly died eerily similar. Just like Left Eye’s death, Reeds involved and automobile accident.
Winston Riley Riley – was the most successful reggae producer of all time. His Stalag Riddim is the most sampled Riddim ever and can be heard in iconic Reggae song Ring The Alarm. Riley also had a hand in launching the careers of Sister Nancy, Buju Banton and General Echo. Riley had been in a coma since a shooting that injured him ex- in late 2011. He died from his wounds earlier this year.
Jimmy Castor – was one of the funkiest musicians to ever grace music. The culture of Hip Hop owes a great debt to Mr. Castor. If James Brown is the most sampled artist, then Jimmy Castor is easily in the top 5 maybe even top 3. His smash hit ‘It’s Just Begun’ was chopped and sampled in arguably the most classic of all Break Beats. You could never call yourself a B Boy if you haven’t battled to the sounds of the legend Jimmy Castor.
Miss Melodie – she was the ex- wife of Boogie Down Production God MC KRS One. At a time of tremendous self consciousness and black pride in Hip Hop music, KRS proudly featured his wife as apart of their legendary BDP Crew. Ms Melodie was a dope MC in her own right who held it down with positivity for the ladies. She was a featured in MC on the late 80’s Stop The Violence classic Self Destruction and on Queen Latifah’s Ladies First.
Lil Phat –was another upcoming rapper who was cut down in hail of bullets near Atlanta. He was lablemate to fellow Trill Entertainment rapper Webbie. Phat was featured on Webbie’s song Independent.
KMG – If you were a kid in the early 90’s, then you remember how West Coast hip hop was as big or even bigger then the Southern movement now. Above The Law was one of the most important groups of that era. KMG The Illustrator was the laid back vocal to Cold 187um’s amped rhyme style. Their song Untouchable is a west coast Hip Hop classic that displays the duos wordplay at it’s finest.
Alori Joh – She was songstress affiliated with Kendrick Lamar and his Black Hippy Crew. Her voice was incredible. This sexy soul sister was definitely on her way to creating a bigger name for her career.
Tyrone Scratch Scott – He was popular figure amongst locals in the NYC hip hop music scene especially back to 90’s. Scratch was an artist, DJ, manager and long time protege to the legendary Ralph McDaniel’s of Video Music Box.
Ravi Shankar Ravi – was one of the most well known musicians to ever come from India. He played an instrument called the Sitar that he made famous to the western world due to his style of play with classical orchestras. He would influence The Beatles George Harrison who became interested in Indian classical music and the Sitar itself. A documentary film of Shankur and Harrison’s relationship propelled Ravi to worldwide acclaim. His influence on the song ‘Within You Without You’ helped The Beatles win a Grammy for their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Jenni Rivera – She was a singer, songwriter who made her mark in the genres of banda and norteno latin music. Rivera was not only an accomplished musician who was nominated multiple times for Grammy’s and whose singles ruled the charts, she was a Brand Couture, starting numerous successful companies. Rivera was a producer of several successful TV shows as well before she tragically was killed in a plane crash earlier this month.
Fontella Bass – if you never knew who she was, you knew her sweet soulful voice singing ‘Rescue Me’. As a singer she had the talent to make history but numerous label disputes unfortunately slowed down a promising career before Bass left mainstream music all together. Bass had a few more songs that that gained some noteriety, one eerily titled ‘You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone.’ But it was Rescue Me that made Fontella Bass a musical legend.
Capital Steez – he was apart of the dope new phenomenal clique of Brooklyn MC’s known as Pro Era. Most people have probably never heard of this kid until his unfortunate passing on Christmas Eve but Steez was an MC was truly on his was. Peep the track below Survival Tactics which features PE front man Joey Ba$$ and Capital Steez doing what brought him fame…