© Anthony Behar

Rock Blog: 2016 - Heroes

December 12, 2016

With each passing week, 2016 became probably the most brutal year for the world of music. We lost an Eagle, a Prince, the 5th Beatle and The Thin White Duke. In no particular order, a rolecall for a great party in heaven.

 

David Bowie. The Thin White Duke. Bowie never let mainstream trends dictate his sound and vision. He was an enigma. With each passing phase, he zigged left, then right. So brilliant and so original. He wrapped himself in tremendous producers and musicians, including a young Stevie Ray Vaughan. David Bowie inspired countless musicians and millions of fans worldwide. He was a true rock icon, whose impact will never leave us.

 

Leon Russell. Producer, musical director, writer, piano player extraordinaire. The dude played with everyone from Sinatra to Dylan, The Beach Boys to The Stones. Piano greats like Elton John and Bruce Hornsby prayed at his alter. Leon Russell made contributions to the last 50 years of music far too great to list

 

Ornette Coleman. If Hendrix played Sax, he would be Ornette Coleman. Coleman created Free Jazz in the early 60s, and one of the last of the old school jazz greats.

 

Glenn Frey. The Eagles might be the most polarizing band ever. I’m not a fan, but even the most jaded can’t deny the fact that they were one of the most successful American bands ever. With 150 million albums sold, there were certainly quite a few fans. Frey gave us “Peaceful Easy Feeling”, “Lyin' Eyes”, “Tequila Sunrise” and “Heartache Tonight”. And he graced the TV screen in Miami Vice.

 

Merle Haggard. From a criminal youth to winning every award an artist could win, Merle Haggard was a true American Country Outlaw.

 

Sharon Jones. Not a household name, but sadly should have been. A soul revivalist, releasing her first album at 40, and leaving us at 60. She was every bit a 1960s style of soul artist, whose live show was reminiscent of James Brown and Tina Turner.

 

Keith Emerson / Greg Lake. Emerson, Lake and Palmer were my favorite band in Junior High. They were the kings of prog rock, at the time when prog rock was king. During the ride of Brain Salad Surgery, they were the biggest band in America, and played for 250,000 people at the California Jam in LA. They did everything big: the most equipment on stage, the longest solos, a triple live album, painfully long recreations of classical pieces and some of the most self-indulgent show-off musicianship ever. It crashed when they took a full orchestra on the road, which almost bankrupt the band. 2016 saw the loss of both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. Sad.

 

Leonard Cohen. He’s the guy whose obit caused many to say, “Who was that guy?" He was a poet, a writer, an artist, a Jew who became a Buddhist, and a seriously depressed, seriously brilliant songwriter. This cat wrote some of the most painful songs about suicide, sadness and lost love. His biggest song “Hallelujah” has been covered over 300 times. If you're unfamiliar, grab a bottle of whiskey and listen to a few albums, including this year's “You Want it Darker”, released just a couple weeks before his death at age 82. 

 

Paul Kantner / Signe Anderson. Signe Anderson was the original lead singer of the Jefferson Airplane, but left after one album. Paul Kantner was the vision of the Airplane, who wrote songs of protest and freedom. Sadly, they died on the same day this year, January 28th.

 

Prince. I bought Prince's “Dirty Mind” album a week after it came out in 1980. I read about his first two albums and was intrigued enough to buy the album, after never hearing a note of his music. Everyone on my floor in college looked at me like I was nuts, because I played it nonstop. Prince wrote, produced, sang, engineered and played all the instruments on many of his albums. He started his own record label, and started a few music careers, too. He secretly gave away songs and played uncredited on hit records. He made movies and he made albums. He did funk, rock, soul, jazz and pop. And played a killer guitar. A musical giant who at 57 died way, way too young.

 

Phil Chess. Chess records founder. Without him, we wouldn’t have Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf, Chuck Berry and America's Greatest Blues Label.

 

Phife Dawg. The MC from one of the greatest hip hop collectives ever passes away this year just before the release of A Tribe Called Quest's first album in 18 years.

 

George Martin. The 5th Beatle. There never was, nor will there ever be a band as important as The Beatles. Period. But without George Martin, there would have been songs just as good, but the music, maybe not. He was way ahead of his time, using the studio as an instrument. From the early to mid-60s pop, through the tapestry of psychedelic later years, George Martin simply did magic with the tunes of the Beatles.

 

 

There were many others who served, and served us well. Goodbye 2016.  

 

- Sergeant Hairclub AKA Dave Richards