1 January 2020, American keyboardist, guitarist, and saxophonist Marty Grebb died age 74. He was a member of The Buckinghams in the late 1960s, who scored the 1967 US number one hit “Kind of a Drag”. Grebb later worked as a record producer and an arranger, who worked with musicians including Peter Cetera, Bill Payne, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Etta James, and Leon Russell.
2 January 2020, American soul singer, songwriter and record producer Lorraine Chandler died age 73. Chandler was one of the first black female songwriters and producers. She worked with Motown Records percussionist Jack Ashford (famous for playing the tambourine on hundreds of Motown recordings), The O’Jays recorded her song “I’ll Never Forget You”.
3 January 2020, Swedish singer and guitarist Bo Winberg died. He was a member of The Spotnicks, who together with the Shadows and the Ventures are counted as one of the most famous instrumental bands during the 1960s. The Spotnicks were famous for wearing “space suit” costumes on stage, and for their innovative electronic guitar sound.
6 January 2020, Martin Griffin former drummer of Hawkwind and spin-off project Hawklords, died following a short illness age 69. Between 1978 and 1982 Griffin drummed on albums such as Sonic Attack, Church of Hawkwind and Choose your Masques. During the seventies he ran Roche recording studios in Cornwall, recording many upcoming artists including Elvis Costello, ABC and Secret Affair.
7 January 2020, Canadian musician and writer Neil Peart died age 67 from glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer. He was best known as the drummer and primary lyricist of the rock band Rush. Peart received numerous awards for his musical performances, including an induction into the Modern Drummer Readers Poll Hall of Fame in 1983, making him the youngest person ever so honoured. His lyrics for Rush addressed universal themes and diverse subjects including science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy, as well as secular, humanitarian, and libertarian themes. Peart wrote a total of seven nonfiction books focused on his travels and personal stories.
15 January 2020, American multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Chris Darrow died of complications from a stroke age 75. He was considered to be a pioneer of country rock music in the late-1960s and performed and recorded with numerous groups, including Kaleidoscope and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Darrow played bass on Leonard Cohen’s debut Songs of Leonard Cohen.
18 January 2020, Nashville folk singer David Olney died age 71 after suffering a heart attack during a performance in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. He formed the band The X-Rays, which released two albums and opened for Elvis Costello, before splitting up in 1985. His songs have been covered by numerous artists, including Emmylou Harris, Del McCoury, Linda Ronstadt and Steve Earle.
19 January 2020, American R&B singer and musician Robert Parker died age 89. He was best known for his 1966 hit, “Barefootin'”. He played with most of New Orleans’ musicians, including Fats Domino, Irma Thomas, and Huey “Piano” Smith.
28 January 2020, American Keyboardist Bob Nave died age 75. He was a member of psychedelic rock band The Lemon Pipers who scored the 1968 US number one hit “Green Tambourine”. The song has been credited as being the first bubblegum pop chart-topper.
1 February 2020, British musician and record producer Andy Gill died age 64. He was the lead guitarist for the British rock band Gang of Four, which he co-founded in 1976. Gill was known for his jagged style of guitar on albums such as Entertainment! (1979) and Solid Gold (1981). Gill was also a record producer, and produced or co-produced all of the band’s albums. He also produced albums for artists such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Stranglers, the Futureheads, Michael Hutchence, and Killing Joke.
2 February 2020, Czech-born American musician, filmmaker, record producer and singer-songwriter Ivan Král died age 71. He played bass with Blondie, Patti Smith and Iggy Pop. His songs have been recorded by such artists as U2, Pearl Jam, David Bowie, Simple Minds and John Waite, among others.
24 February 2020, American guitarist, songwriter and producer, David Roback best known as the founding member of the duo Mazzy Star died age 61 from metastatic cancer. The American alternative rock band formed in Santa Monica, California, in 1989 from remnants of the group Opal. They were best known for the song “Fade into You” which brought the band some success in the mid-1990s and was the group’s biggest mainstream hit’.
4 March 2020, American singer, Barbara Martin died age 76. She is best known as one of the original members of Motown group The Supremes. She left the group in the early spring of 1962.
14 March 2020, English singer-songwriter, musician, poet, and performance artist Genesis P-Orridge, died age 70 after battling leukaemia for two-and-a-half years. A founding member of the cult experimental bands Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, the group played an abrasive brand of industrial rock, often combined with sexually-explicit live shows. Their 1976 exhibition at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts, titled Prostitution, scandalised the art world, and prompted UK Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn to denounce the group as “the wreckers of civilization”.
20 March 2020, American country music legend Kenny Rogers died aged 81. Rogers topped pop and country charts during the 1970s and 1980s, and won three Grammy awards. He was known for his husky voice and ballads including “The Gambler”, “Lucille” and “Coward Of The County”. Rogers charted more than 120 hit singles across various music genres, and topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone. He sold over 100 million records worldwide during his lifetime, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
22 March 2020, American-born, British-based folk recording artist Julie Felix died age 81. She had two UK Singles Chart hits in 1970, the first of several on the RAK label, produced by Mickie Most. The first was with the song entitled “If I Could (El Cóndor Pasa)”, while the second, “Heaven is Here”, was written by Errol Brown and Tony Wilson of Hot Chocolate.
24 March 2020, American musician Bill Rieflin died age 59. Rieflin came to prominence in the 1990s mainly for his work as a drummer with groups (particularly in the industrial rock and industrial metal scenes) such as Ministry, the Revolting Cocks, Swans, Chris Connelly, and Nine Inch Nails. He worked regularly with R.E.M. following the retirement of Bill Berry in 1997. He was a member of King Crimson from 2013 until his death.
29 March 2020, Grammy-winning country music star Joe Diffie died age 61 from complications of COVID-19. Diffie charted 35 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, five of which peaked at number one. He also co-wrote singles for Holly Dunn, Tim McGraw, and Jo Dee Messina, and recorded with Mary Chapin Carpenter, George Jones, and Marty Stuart.
29 March 2020, American vocalist, guitarist, songwriter Alan Merrill died age 69 after contracting coronavirus. He was the co-writer of, and lead singer on, the first released version of the song “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, which was recorded by the Arrows in 1975. The song became a breakthrough hit for Joan Jett in 1982 and has since been covered by artists ranging from Britney Spears to Weird Al Yankovic.
30th March 2020, American soul singer Bill Withers died from heart complications aged 81. His hits include “Just The Two Of Us”, “Lovely Day” and “Use Me”. On “Lovely Day”, he set the record for the longest sustained note on a US chart hit, holding a high E for 18 seconds. His ballad “Ain’t No Sunshine”, earned him his first Grammy award.
31 March 2020, American singer and writer Cristina died at age 61 after being diagnosed with coronavirus. The singer, whose full name was Cristina Monet-Zilkha, was known for dance-pop tunes such as “Things Fall Apart”, “Disco Clone” and a cover of Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is?” that were emblematic of the 1980s underground New York scene.
1 April 2020, American singer-songwriter, record producer and guitarist Adam Schlesinger, best known for his work with Fountains Of Wayne, died at the age of 52 as a result of health complications caused by COVID-19. Fountains Of Wayne formed in New Jersey in 1995 and were named after a lawn ornament store in the state. Over his career, Schlesinger earned nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, Tonys, Grammys and Emmys, winning the latter two.
4 April 2020, Patrick Gibson, died from Covid-19 age 64. As a member of The Gibson Brothers he had success during the disco boom of the late 1970s. Their best known hit singles included “Cuba” and “Que Sera Mi Vida”.
7 April 2020, US folk and country singer John Prine died aged 73 due to complications from Covid-19. He released his debut album in 1971, and put out 19 studio albums in all. While wider mainstream success eluded him for years, he earned a sizeable following, including some of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters. Bob Dylan said in 2009: “Prine’s stuff is pure Proustian existentialism. Midwestern mind trips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs.”
7 April 2020, American guitarist, composer and lyricist Steve Farmer died aged 71. He is best known for his composition with Ted Nugent in 1968, “Journey to the Center of the Mind”, performed by their group The Amboy Dukes.
17 April 2020, English bass guitarist Matthew Seligman, best known as a member of The Soft Boys, died aged 64 due to complications of the coronavirus. Seligman was also a member of the Thompson Twins, and was a sideman for Thomas Dolby and backed David Bowie at his performance at Live Aid in 1985.
27 April 2020, Guitarist Scott Taylor died at the age of 58 from a brain tumour. He was a member of the English rock band Then Jerico. “Big Area” achieved their greatest chart success, peaking at number 13 in the UK Singles Chart in 1988.
27 April 2020, American R&B, rock and roll and jazz singer and songwriter Young Jessie died age 83. He recorded as Young Jessie in the 1950s and 1960s, and was known for his solo career, work with The Flairs and a brief stint in The Coasters. He later performed and recorded jazz as Obie Jessie.
28 April 2020, American rock and roll and rhythm and blues singer Bobby Lewis died aged 95. He is best known for his 1961 hit singles “Tossin’ and Turnin'”(number 1 for seven weeks on the Billboard chart in the summer of 1961) and “One Track Mind”.
3 May 2020, The Stranglers’ keyboard player Dave Greenfield died at the age of 71 after testing positive for coronavirus. Greenfield contracted COVID-19 following a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems. He is best known as a long-standing member of the rock band and penning the music for their biggest hit “Golden Brown”.
5 May 2020, Jamaican singer Millie Small died at the age of 72 after suffering a stroke. The star was most famous for her hit single “My Boy Lollipop”, which reached number two in both the US and the UK in 1964.It remains one of the biggest-selling ska songs of all time, with more than seven million sales.
5 May 2020, American R&B singer Sweet Pea Atkinson died from a heart attack in Los Angeles, aged 74. He was best known as one of the vocalists for the band Was (Not Was). Their highest charting hit, “Walk the Dinosaur”, released in 1987 became a world-wide top-40 hit and peaked at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.
6 May 2020, Florian Schneider, co-founder of the highly influential electronic pop group Kraftwerk, died at the age of 73. The German quartet set the template for synthesiser music in the 1970s and 80s with songs like “Autobahn” and “The Model”.
9 May 2020, Little Richard has died of bone cancer at the age of 87. He had his biggest hits in the 1950s and was known for his exuberant performances and flamboyant outfits. With the likes of Chuck Berry and Elvis, he was one of the handful of US acts who mixed blues, R&B and gospel that led to the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll. He sold more than 30 million records worldwide with hits including “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Lucille”, “Tutti Frutti” and “Long Tall Sally.
10 May 2020, British bass guitarist John McKenzie died. He was a member of bands such as Global Village Trucking Company and Man; and played on numerous singles, notably for Eurythmics, The Pretenders and Alison Moyet; and was a touring musician with acts as diverse as Lionel Richie, Dr. John, Bob Dylan, Peter Green and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
15 May 2020, Phil May, the frontman of The Pretty Things, died aged 75 after suffering complications from emergency hip surgery. The Pretty Things were cited as an influence by a wide range of artists from David Bowie to Jimi Hendrix to Kasabian.
4 June 2020, Steve Priest, the bassist and co-founder of glam rock band Sweet, died at the age of 72. He was known for his playful humour and outrageous costumes when Sweet played hits like “Blockbuster”, “Teenage Rampage” and “Little Willy” on Top of the Pops. The group was originally called Sweetshop.
8 June 2020, Former Pointer Sisters singer Bonnie Pointer died from a cardiac arrest aged 69. She and her sisters rose to fame as the Grammy award-winning Pointer Sisters, who were best known for the 1984 hits “Jump (For My Love)” and “I’m So Excited”.
12 June 2020, Welsh singer Ricky Valance died at his home in Spain at the age of 84. He became the first Welshman to have a solo UK No.1 hit with the song “Tell Laura I Love Her” in 1960. The song tells the tragic story of a boy called Tommy and his love for a girl called Laura. It was was considered controversial at the time and was reportedly banned from airplay by the BBC.