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2010 Year in Review: Music

Getty / Michael Ochs Archive / Richard McCaffrey

2010 Year in Review: Music

Solomon Burke (AP Photo) Renowned as one of the greatest soul singers of the 1960s, Solomon Burke had 15 hits during the span of a five-decade career that saw him perform blues, gospel, R&B and soul. Despite never reaching the kind of commercial success of contemporaries James Brown or Marvin Gaye, he was widely acclaimed as having one of the best male voices in pop music, and was praised by legendary Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler as “the best soul singer of all-time.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and won a Grammy in 2003 for the Best Contemporary Blues album. Over the course of his long career, he sold more than 17 million albums. Burke died on October 10, 2010 while on a plane from Los Angeles to Amsterdam. He was 70 years old.

Ronnie James Dio (AP Photo) Though he began his musical career in the late 1950s, Ronnie James Dio first rose to fame as the lead singer for Rainbow, a band formed with former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in 1975. When that band dissolved, he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in hard rock behemoth Black Sabbath in time to record “Heaven and Hell,” considered one of the best heavy metal albums of all-time. Between stints with Black Sabbath, he enjoyed a solo career with hits like “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver.” In 1985, he created the Hear’n Aid project, heavy metal’s version of Live Aid, to raise money for charity. A year before his death, his wife announced that he was battling stomach cancer. He died on May 16th, 2010 at the age of 67.

Lena Horne (AP Photo)While still only 16, Lena Horne became a night club performer, joining the chorus at the fabled Cotton Club in Harlem, New York. She became one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, was the first to play the Copacabana, and by 1938 had already appeared in a couple films before Hollywood talent scouts “discovered” her. She made her MGM debut in 1942’s Panama Hattie and starred in 1943’s Stormy Weather (the hit title song would become one of her signature tunes). She would experience – and combat – racial discrimination throughout her lifetime. Her marriage to white bandleader Lennie Hayton was kept secret for years. She participated in the March on Washington and worked on behalf of the National Council for Negro Women. Due to the limited roles available for black women in Hollywood, she returned to the stage, performing at clubs and having a late-career hit on Broadway with Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, which won a special Tony Award and received two Grammys for its soundtrack. Lena Horne died of heart failure on May 9, 2010. She was 92 years old.

Teena Marie (AP Photo) Born Marie Christina Brockert in 1956 in Santa Monica, California, Teena Marie would grow up listening to the Motown classics and performing music from a young age. At 19 years old, she became the first white performer ever signed to the Motown label – a fact the label tried to obscure by issuing her first album, Wild and Peaceful, without her image, fearing she would not be well-received by black audiences. Those reservations proved unfounded. A protégé of Rick James – who sang with her on her first hit, the duet “I’m a Sucker for Your Love” – she became a multi-instrumentalist proficient on keyboards, the guitar and congas and by her third album, Irons in the Fire, she was handling all the writing, arrangement and production herself. Known as “The Ivory Queen of Soul,” she became one of R&B’s most respected acts of the 1980s and would continue performing up to 2009. Teena Marie died December 26, 2010 at the age of 54.

Teddy Pendergrass (AP Photo) Teddy Pendergrass grew up in a tough neighborhood in Philadelphia, and his father was murdered when Teddy was 12 years old. He first started singing in church, and was reportedly ordained as a minister at the age of 10. By 17, he had dropped out of high school to play drums with local groups, which is what he was doing when spotted by Harold Melvin of the Blue Notes. Melvin soon discovered Pendergrass’ singing ability and handed over vocal duties to him. The group scored hits with “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Wake Up Everybody.” Pendergrass left the group and went on to a hugely successful solo career, becoming renowned for his raw, sensual voice and emotive performances that turned him into a sex symbol. His life and career suffered a sharp setback in 1982, when a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. He continued recording, but would not perform live again for 19 years. After his injury, he spent much of his time doing charity work for the Teddy Pendergrass Alliance, a group he founded to help those suffering from spinal cord injuries. Teddy Pendergrass died on January 13, 2010 at the age of 59.

Don Van Vliet (AP Photo) Don Van Vliet, better known by his stage name Captain Beefheart, was born in 1941 in Glendale, California. As a teenage dropout growing up on the outskirts of the Mojave desert, he developed a friendship with Frank Zappa based on their mutual interest in Delta blues musicians like Son House, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf. After stints as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman and manager of a Kinney’s shoe store, Van Vliet relocated to Rancho Cucamonga to reconnect with Zappa. In 1965, he formed Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, who had a regional hit with “Diddy Wah Diddy.” They were signed to A&M Records, but were dropped before they completed their first album, Safe As Milk. Their third album was recorded over a period of 8½ months in Laurel Canyon during which musicians were not allowed to leave the studio and Van Vliet exercised dictatorial control, a situation one musician compared to being in a Charles Manson-like cult. The finished product, the double album Trout Mask Replica, would combine elements of rock, free jazz, blues, deliberately primitive musicianship and surreal lyrics to become a masterpiece of avant garde rock. It would be named to Rolling Stone’s Top 500 albums of all time. Though commercial success largely eluded him, Captain Beefheart continued playing and recording into the 1980s (before retiring from music to become a sculptor and painter), and his music has been cited as an influence by countless and diverse acts like Talking Heads, Devo, The Minutemen, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Beck, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Don Van Vliet died on December 17, 2010, at the age of 69.

Other music notables:

Fred Anderson – Prominent Chicago jazz saxophonist

Roxana Briban – Romanian opera star

Alex Chilton – Topped the charts as a teen with The Box Tops, became a cult hero with Big Star

Hank Cochran – Songwriter of classic country hits "Make the World Go Away" and "I Fall to Pieces"

Jimmy Dean – Country music legend and entrepreneur

Mike Edwards – Former member of the Electric Light Orchestra

Eddie Fisher – Pop singer whose clear voice brought him a devoted following of teenage girls in the 1950s

Herman Leonard – Jazz scene photographer famous for his smoky, backlighted black-and-white photos

Abbey Lincoln – Jazz singer and songwriter known for her phrasing and uncompromising style

Kate McGarrigle – Folk singer-songwriter and mother of musicians Rufus and Martha Wainwright

Malcolm McLaren – Former manager of the Sex Pistols

Mitch Miller – Orchestra leader and host of popular "Sing Along With Mitch" TV show and records

James Moody – Jazz saxophonist who recorded more than 50 solo albums

MaLinda Sapp – Wife and manager of gospel singer Marvin Sapp

Joan Sutherland – One of the most celebrated opera singers of all-time