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2011 Year in Review: Music

Getty / Dave Benett

2011 Year in Review: Music

Many greats of the music world died in 2011. Some of the deaths were unexpected and shocking; others brought back fond memories of favorite songs from the distant past.

Heavy D (Associated Press Photo)Fans of R&B, soul, and hip-hop were surely saddened by the large number of artists who died this year. Perhaps the biggest shock was the death of Heavy D.Only 44 years old, the rapper was still making music and interacted with his fans regularly on Twitter. Even younger was Amy Winehouse, just 27 years old when she died in July. The troubled singer's R&B, infused with jazz and blues, made us dance and there is a hole in the charts now that she's gone. Nick Ashford, half of legendary songwriting duo Ashford & Simpson, stirred thousands of fans to sign his Guest Book and remember his many hits, including "Solid." And Sylvia Robinson was loved by fans of soul, thanks to her timeless hits "Pillow Talk" and "Love is Strange," and by fans of hip-hop, as well, who knew her as the "Mother of Hip-Hop," thanks to her groundbreaking label Sugar Hill Records. Also lost from the R&B and soul worlds this year were Carl Gardener, original lead singer of The Coasters; Gladys Horton, co-founder of The Marvelettes; Gene McDaniels, singer and songwriter who topped the charts with "A Hundred Pounds of Clay"; Vesta Williams, diva singer of "Don't Blow a Good Thing"; Howard Tate, a Philly star of the 1960s and '70s whose career enjoyed a recent resurgence; and Esther Gordy Edwards, who helped her brother Berry build legendary Motown Records.

Clarence Clemons (Associated Press Photo)Rock 'n' roll suffered a number of losses in 2011. The Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons, inspired many saddened fans to sign his Guest Book as they remembered his long career with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, as well as his solo career and '80s hit "You're a Friend of Mine." Eighties music fans are also missing Jani Lane, lead singer of glam-metal fave Warrant. And classic rockers are missing quite a few greats: Rob Grill, lead singer of The Grass Roots who brought us hits like "Temptation Eyes"; Gerry Rafferty, who sang "Stuck in the Middle With You" with Stealers Wheel and "Baker Street" as a solo artist; Dan Peek, a founding member of America who played and sang high harmonies on songs like "A Horse With No Name" and "Sister Golden Hair"; Gary Moore, former guitarist for Thin Lizzy; and Mike Starr, original bassist for Alice in Chains who played on hits like "Would?" and "Rooster."

Ferlin Husky (Associated Press Photo)Country music lost legend Ferlin Husky, the pioneer who topped the charts in the 1950s and '60s. He was one of the earliest country artists to play what came to be known as the Nashville Sound. Also lost from the country world this year were Charlie Louvin, half of the Louvin Brothers and a Grand Ole Opry member; Johnny Wright, singer with Johnny and Jack and manager – and beloved husband – of "queen of country music" Kitty Wells; and Billie Joe Spears, chart-topping singer of "Blanket on the Ground."

Delois Camobell (Associated Press Photo)Two notable gospel singers died in 2011: Jessy Dixon, the singer and songwriter who toured with Paul Simon and released hits like "I Am Redeemed," which spent five years on Billboard's gospel chart; and Delois Campbell, a Chicagoan like Dixon who sang with the Barrett Sisters, called by one critic "the greatest female trio in gospel history."


Pinetop Perkins (Associated Press Photo)In jazz and blues, some of the musicians lost this year include Grammy winner David "Honey Boy" Edwards, who was believed to be the oldest surviving Delta bluesman; Joe Morello, the legendary jazz drummer who played with the Dave Brubeck Quartet; and Mississippi bluesman Pinetop Perkins, who played with Muddy Waters and in 2011 became the oldest Grammy winner ever.


Phoebe Snow (Associated Press Photo)Phoebe Snow was a folkie whose 1974 hit "Poetry Man" brings back fond memories to children of the '70s. Roger Williams’ virtuosic piano stylings made his "Autumn Leaves" the only piano instrumental ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts. And last but certainly not least, one of the most recent deaths in the music world was that of Cesaria Evora, the "Barefoot Diva" who brought the music of her Cape Verde Islands home to the world and won a Grammy for her work.

Written by Linnea Crowther