Charles Robert Watts (June 2, 1941 – August 24, 2021) was an English drummer, best known as a member of the Rolling Stones since 1963. Originally trained as a graphic artist, he started playing drums in London’s rhythm and blues clubs, where he met Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards. In January 1963, he joined their fledgling group, the Rolling Stones, as drummer, while doubling as designer of their record sleeves and tour stages. Watts was the only Rolling Stones member other than Jagger or Richards to have been featured on all of their studio albums. He cited jazz as a major influence on his drumming style. He toured with his own group, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and appeared in London at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club with the Charlie Watts Tentet.
In 2006, Watts was elected into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame; in the same year, Vanity Fair elected him into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame. In the estimation of noted music critic Robert Christgau, Watts was “rock’s greatest drummer.” In 2016, he was ranked 12th on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time” list.
On August 5, 2021, it was reported that Watts had elected to sit out the resumption of the U.S. No Filter Tour due to rehabilitation from heart surgery, and that Steve Jordan will temporarily replace Watts on drums. He died on August 24, 2021, at the age of 80.
Thomas T. Hall (May 25, 1936 – August 20, 2021), nicknamed “The Storyteller”, was an American country music singer-songwriter and short-story author. He wrote 12 No. 1 hit songs, with 26 more that reached the Top 10, including the No. 1 international pop crossover hit “Harper Valley PTA” and “I Love”, which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. He is included in Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Songwriters.
Tom Hall was married to bluegrass songwriter and producer Dixie Hall from 1968 until her death on January 16, 2015. Dixie Hall was born Iris Lawrence in the West Midlands, England, in 1934 and emigrated to the U.S. in 1961. They lived in Franklin, Tennessee. Tom and Dixie met at a 1965 music industry award dinner she was invited to for having written (as Dixie Deen) the song “Truck Drivin’ Son-of-a-Gun” which became a hit for Dave Dudley.
Hall had a son, Dean Hall, from his 1961 marriage to Opal “Hootie” McKinney from Grayson, Kentucky. In the early 1980s Dean Hall, who is a singer, musician, and songwriter, worked for his father, first as a roadie and then as a guitar player, before joining Bobby Bare’s band.
Hall died at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, on August 20, 2021 at the age of 85.
UB40 saxophonist Brian Travers has passed away. The British band reports this on social media . Travers, who had cancer, turned 62.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our friend, co-founder and legend Brian David Travers,” the band members wrote. “He passed away last night in front of his family after a long battle.” Two years ago, Travers had surgery for a double brain tumor. He said afterwards that he felt better than ever. Dozens of concerts by the reggae group are planned abroad in the coming months. It is not yet known whether they will continue.
Travers founded UB40 in 1978 with some school friends. A number of them lived on benefits and the band’s name is taken from the form used to apply for such benefits, ‘Unemployment Benefit 40’. UB40 is known for hits like Red Red Wine and Falling in Love With You . The group has sold 100 million albums worldwide.
The Everly Brothers were an American country-influenced rock and roll duo, known for steel-string acoustic guitar playing and close harmony singing. Consisting of Isaac Donald “Don” Everly (February 1, 1937 – August 21, 2021) and Phillip “Phil” Everly (January 19, 1939 – January 3, 2014), the duo was raised in a musical family, first appearing on radio singing along with their father Ike Everly and mother Margaret Everly as “The Everly Family” in the 1940s. When the brothers were still in high school, they gained the attention of prominent Nashville musicians like Chet Atkins, who began to promote them for national attention.
They began writing and recording their own music in 1956, and their first hit song came in 1957, with “Bye Bye Love”, written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant. The song hit No. 1 in the spring of 1957, and additional hits would follow through 1958, many of them written by the Bryants, including “Wake Up Little Susie”, “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, and “Problems”. In 1960, they signed with the major label Warner Bros. Records and recorded “Cathy’s Clown”, written by the brothers themselves, which was their biggest selling single. The brothers enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve in 1961, and their output dropped off, though additional hit singles continued through 1962, with “That’s Old Fashioned (That’s the Way Love Should Be)” being their last top-10 hit.
Long-simmering disputes with Wesley Rose, the CEO of Acuff-Rose Music, which managed the group, a growing drug usage in the 1960s, as well as changing tastes in popular music, led to the group’s decline in popularity in its native U.S., though the brothers continued to release hit singles in the U.K. and Canada, and had many highly successful tours throughout the 1960s. In the early 1970s, the brothers began releasing solo recordings, and in 1973 they officially broke up. Starting in 1983, the brothers got back together, and would continue to perform periodically until Phil’s death in 2014. Don died seven years later.
The group was highly influential on the music of the generation that followed it. Many of the top acts of the 1960s were heavily influenced by the close-harmony singing and acoustic guitar playing of the Everly Brothers, including the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, and Simon & Garfunkel. In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked the Everly Brothers No. 1 on its list of the 20 Greatest Duos of All Time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class of 1986, and into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Don was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2019, earning the organization’s first Iconic Riff Award for his distinctive rhythm guitar intro to the Everlys’ massive 1957 hit “Wake Up Little Susie”.
Nanci Caroline Griffith (July 6, 1953 – August 13, 2021) was an American singer, guitarist, and songwriter, raised in Austin, Texas, who lived in Nashville, Tennessee. Griffith appeared many times on the PBS music program Austin City Limits starting in 1985 (season 10). In 1990, Griffith appeared on the Channel 4 programme Town & Country with John Prine, where she performed at The Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, along with Buddy Mondlock, Robert Earl Keen, and Barry “Byrd” Burton.
Griffith won the 1994 Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album for Other Voices, Other Rooms. Griffith was awarded the Kate Wolf Memorial Award by the World Folk Music Association in 1995. In 2008, the Americana Music Association awarded her its Americana Trailblazer Award. Lyle Lovett, who contributed backing vocals to some of “The Blue Moon Orchestra’s” recordings, had won it before her.
Griffith died in Nashville on August 13, 2021, at the age of 68.
Joseph Michael “Dusty” Hill (May 19, 1949 – July 28, 2021) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter, best known as the bassist and secondary lead vocalist of the American rock group ZZ Top; he also played keyboards with the band. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of ZZ Top, in 2004.
Hill, his brother, and future fellow ZZ Top member Frank Beard played in local Dallas bands the Warlocks, the Cellar Dwellers, and American Blues. From 1966 to 1968, American Blues played the Dallas-Fort Worth-Houston circuit. In 1969, Hill was a member of a fake version of the British band The Zombies with Beard.
In 1968, the band decided to leave the Dallas–Fort Worth area and relocate to Houston. At this time, however, Rocky Hill wanted to focus on “straight blues”, while Dusty wanted the band to rock more. Rocky left the band and Dusty and Beard moved to Houston, joining guitarist/vocalist Billy Gibbons of Houston psychedelic-rockers Moving Sidewalks in the recently formed ZZ Top just after they released their first single in 1969. Hill played bass and keyboards the bad and was secondary lead vocalist.
Hill’s on-screen appearances include Back to the Future Part III, Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme, WWE Raw and Deadwood, and as himself in the 11th-season episode of King of the Hill, “Hank Gets Dusted”, in which Hank Hill is said to be Dusty’s cousin. He also made an appearance on The Drew Carey Show as himself auditioning for a spot in Drew’s band, but is rejected because of his attachment to his trademark beard which he refers to as a ‘Texas Goatee’.
In 2000 he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, and as a result, ZZ Top canceled their European tour. Hill resumed work in 2002.
Hill was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as a member of ZZ Top, in 2004.
On July 28, 2021, Hill died in his sleep at his home in Houston, Texas, aged 72. His death was announced by his ZZ Top bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard.
Nathan Jonas “Joey” Jordison (April 26, 1975 – July 26, 2021) was an American musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of the metal band Slipknot as well as guitarist for horror punk band Murderdolls.
Jordison grew up in Des Moines, Iowa with his parents and two sisters, and was given his first drum kit at the age of 8. He performed with many bands early in his career; then in the summer of 1995, he joined the group The Pale Ones, which would later change their name to Slipknot. Jordison played in Slipknot since their formation until his departure from the band in December 2013. Of Slipknot’s nine-member lineup, which lasted from 1999–2010, Joey was the third to join the band. He was the drummer and founder of Scar the Martyr, which formed in 2013 and disbanded in 2016.
With Slipknot, Jordison performed on four studio albums, and produced the live album 9.0: Live. Outside his major projects, Jordison performed with other metal groups such as Rob Zombie, Metallica, Korn, Ministry, Otep, and Satyricon. Jordison was also known for his session work, which includes performances on many albums for many artists. Jordison used several drum brands including Pearl and ddrum. Before his death, he was playing for the band Sinsaenum.
In a January 2018 interview (later published in the March 2018 edition of Rhythm magazine) Jordison talked about suffering from acute transverse myelitis with symptoms starting in 2010, but not being diagnosed for a long time. This progressed to the loss of use of his left leg. The neurological disease had temporarily cost him the use of his legs and caused him to be unable to play the drums before rehabilitation. He recovered with the aid of medical help and intensive work in the gym.
On July 26, 2021, Jordison died in his sleep at the age of 46.
Marcel Theo Hall (April 8, 1964 – July 16, 2021), better known by his stage name Biz Markie, was an American rapper, singer, DJ, record producer, actor, comedian, and writer. He is best known for his 1989 single “Just a Friend”, which became a Top 40 hit in several countries. In 2008, “Just a Friend” made No. 100 on VH1’s list of the 100 greatest hip hop songs of all time.
Markie has been called the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop”.
In April 2020, he was hospitalized due to complications from Type 2 diabetes. As of July 2020, his wife and family have not commented publicly on his condition. In December 2020, it was reported that Markie was staying in a rehabilitation facility as a result of a stroke he had suffered after going into a diabetic coma.
On July 1, 2021, rumors of his death circulated on Twitter. His representative told Rolling Stone, “The news of Biz Markie’s passing is not true, Biz is still under medical care, surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best healthcare possible.”
Jeffrey Philip LaBar (March 18, 1963 – July 14, 2021) was an American guitarist most famous for playing in the glam metal band Cinderella, in which he replaced original guitarist Michael Schermick.
During Cinderella’s temporary break-up in the mid-1990s, LaBar supported himself by running a pizza shop with his brother and by doing assorted construction jobs.
The musician’s son first shared news of the death on Instagram Wednesday. “So i just got the call… Jeff LaBar, my father, my hero, my idol, passed away today. I’m currently at a loss for words. I love you pop! … If you could, please share pictures or video of all the fun times we all had with my dad. It would be greatly appreciated.”
TMZ reported that LaBar’s first wife, Gaile LaBar-Bernhardt, told the outlet she had found the musician dead Wednesday inside his apartment in Nashville after no one had been able to reach him for several days.
“Heavy hearts cannot begin to describe the feeling of losing our brother Jeff,” former Cinderella band members Tom Keifer, Eric Brittingham and Fred Coury said in a joint statement. “The bond between us over decades of creating music and touring the world is something that we as a band uniquely shared. Those memories with Jeff will be forever alive in our hearts. It’s unimaginable that one of our band brothers has left us. We’re sending his wife Debinique, his son Sebastian, family, and friends our deepest condolences. Jeff’s memory and music will be with us forever. We all — band, family and management — appreciate the overwhelming outpouring of love.”
Billy Joe Thomas (August 7, 1942 – May 29, 2021) was an American singer widely known as B. J. Thomas for his pop, country, and Christian hits of the 1960s and 1970s. He made popular recordings of “Hooked on a Feeling” (1968), “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” (1969) and “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” (1975).
During the 1980s, his success on the pop charts began to wane, but many of his singles reached the upper regions on the country singles chart, including two 1983 chart toppers, “Whatever Happened to Old-Fashioned Love” and “New Looks from an Old Lover”, as well as “Two Car Garage”, which reached number three on the country charts. In 1981, on his 39th birthday, Thomas became the 60th member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Thomas scored another hit, recording “As Long as We Got Each Other”, the theme to the television series Growing Pains. The first-season theme was a solo for Thomas, but was re-recorded as a duet with Jennifer Warnes for the second and third seasons. It was re-recorded again for the show’s fourth season with British singer Dusty Springfield, but the Thomas/Warnes version was reinstated for season five and some of season seven. Thomas first released this track on his 1985 album Throwing Rocks at the Moon (Columbia Records).
Thomas also authored two books including the autobiography Home Where I Belong, and starred in the movies Jory and Jake’s Corner. Several commercial jingles, including Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Bell Telephone, have featured his singing voice and music. On December 31, 2011, Thomas was the featured halftime performer at the 2011 Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
On April 2, 2013, Thomas released The Living Room Sessions, an album with acoustic arrangements of well-known hits. It features guest appearances with established and emerging vocalists accompanying Thomas on seven of the album’s twelve tracks.
On December 3, 2013, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that his 1969 single “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Thomas among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Thomas was married to singer-songwriter Gloria Richardson since December 1968. They have three daughters: Paige (born 1970), Nora (adopted from North Korea in 1978), and Erin (born in 1979). Shortly after Thomas’s career began, he became dependent on drugs and alcohol, which led to his marriage nearly ending. On January 28, 1976, Thomas became a Christian, less than a month after Gloria did. Most press sources indicated that Thomas had been sober since he and Gloria reconciled in 1976.
On March 23, 2021, Thomas announced on his official Facebook page that he had stage IV lung cancer and was being treated in Texas. He died approximately nine weeks later on May 29 at his home in Arlington, Texas, at the age of 78.
Lloyd Price (March 9, 1933 – May 3, 2021) was an American R&B vocalist, known as “Mr. Personality,” after his 1959 million-selling hit, “Personality.” His first recording, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” was a hit for Specialty Records in 1952. He continued to release records, but none were as popular until several years later, when he refined the New Orleans beat and achieved a series of national hits. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Price was born and raised in Kenner, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. His mother, Beatrice Price, owned the Fish ‘n’ Fry Restaurant. Price picked up lifelong interests in business and food from her. He and his younger brother Leo were both musical.
He had formal training on trumpet and piano, sang in his church’s gospel choir, and was a member of a combo in high school.
Price and his wife resided in Westchester County, New York. He died on May 3, 2021, aged 88.
James Richard Steinman (November 1, 1947 – April 19, 2021) was an American composer, lyricist, record producer, and playwright. He also worked as an arranger, pianist and singer. His work included songs in the adult contemporary, rock and roll, dance, pop, musical theater and film score genres. Beginning his career in musical theater, Steinman’s most notable work in the area included lyrics for Whistle Down the Wind and music for Tanz der Vampire.
His work included albums such as Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell (which is one of the best selling albums of all time) and Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell, and producing albums for Bonnie Tyler. His most successful chart singles include Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All”, Meat Loaf’s “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”, the Sisters of Mercy’s “This Corrosion” and “More”, Barry Manilow’s “Read ‘Em and Weep”, Celine Dion’s cover of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now” (originally released by Steinman’s project Pandora’s Box) and Boyzone’s “No Matter What” (the group’s first and only single to be popular and chart in the US). The album Bad for Good was released in his own name in 1981.
Jim Steinman is credited with book, music, and lyrics for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, which, following a successful preview run in Manchester, had two runs on London’s West End, two runs in Toronto’s Ed Mirvish Theatre, a German-language production in Oberhausen, and a short run at the New York City Center.
Responding to an interviewer’s assertion that his songs are tragic, Steinman said he has “never been stomped on literally. Figuratively, I am stomped on every day … anyway, that is the way I feel sometimes. I’ve never had my heart broken the way you are talking about. I’ve never been dumped… but probably because I don’t allow myself to be dumped.”
At the time of his death, Steinman lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Steinman had a stroke in 2004 and temporarily lost the ability to speak. He died from kidney failure at a hospital in Danbury, Connecticut, on April 19, 2021, at age 73.
Earl Simmons (December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021), known by his stage name DMX (“Dark Man X”), was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. He began rapping in the early 1990s and released his debut album It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot in 1998, to both critical acclaim and commercial success, selling 251,000 copies within its first week of release. He released his best-selling album, … And Then There Was X, in 1999, which included the hit single “Party Up (Up in Here)”. His 2008 single “X Gon’ Give It to Ya” was one of his most popular.
DMX was featured in films such as Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Cradle 2 the Grave and Last Hour. In 2006, he starred in the reality television series DMX: Soul of a Man, which was primarily aired on the BET cable television network. In 2003, he published a book of his memoirs entitled, E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.
On April 2, 2021, at approximately 11:00 pm, Simmons was rushed to a hospital in White Plains, New York, where he was reported to be in critical condition following a heart attack at his home possibly resulting from an overdose.
On April 3, his attorney, Murray Richman, confirmed Simmons was on life support. Later that day, Richman stated he was off life support and breathing on his own, but he clarified that evening that Simmons remained on life support and he had “been given wrong information”. That same night, tabloid journalism outlet TMZ, who first reported on the hospitalization, stated that Simmons had suffered oxygen deprivation to his brain as paramedics attempted to resuscitate him for 30 minutes. On April 4, Simmons’ former manager, Nakia Walker, stated he was in a “vegetative state” with “lung and brain failure and no current brain activity”. On April 7, his manager, Steve Rifkind, stated Simmons was comatose and that he was set to undergo tests to determine his brain’s functionality which would allow his family to, “determine what’s best from there”.
Simmons was pronounced dead at age 50 on April 9, 2021, according to a statement released by his family.
Michael Stanley Gee (March 25, 1948 – March 5, 2021) was an American singer-songwriter, musician, and radio personality. Both as a solo artist and with the Michael Stanley Band (MSB), his brand of heartland rock was popular in Cleveland, Ohio and around the American Midwest in the 1970s and 1980s.
The Michael Stanley Band was formed by Stanley in 1974 with singer-songwriter–lead guitarist Jonah Koslen, former Glass Harp bassist Daniel Pecchio and drummer Tommy Dobeck from the band Circus. There were several personnel changes over the years and by 1982 the group had evolved into a seven-piece band.
Nicknamed MSB by their fans, the band set several attendance records at Cleveland area venues including a record 20,320 at the Richfield Coliseum on July 20, 1979 and a record 40,529 for two Coliseum concerts on December 31, 1981 and January 1, 1982. The band’s greatest achievement was a total attendance of 74,404 during a four-night stand at Blossom Music Center on August 25, 26, 30 and 31, 1982.
The group reached the peak of their popularity nationally in 1981 when the single “He Can’t Love You” from the album Heartland (written and sung by keyboardist Kevin Raleigh) made the Top 40 (#33 Billboard, #27 Cash Box) and “In the Heartland” from the album North Coast went to #6 on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart. Their video for “He Can’t Love You” was the 47th video ever played on MTV. The band’s last Top 40 hit was “My Town” in 1983.
The band dissolved in 1987 with a series of 12 farewell shows at the Front Row Theater in Highland Heights, Ohio (suburban Cleveland) during the 1986–87 holiday season. Since then, Stanley performed regularly throughout Northeast Ohio with former members of MSB and with the Resonators and as Michael Stanley and Friends.
In 2004, the sketch comedy troupe Last Call Cleveland produced Michael Stanley Superstar: The Unauthorized Autobiography of the Cuyahoga Messiah, a play which parodied Stanley’s status as a local celebrity.
On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Michael Stanley among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.
Stanley died in his sleep on March 5, 2021, after suffering for seven months with lung cancer.
Sophie Xeon (September 17, 1986 – January 30 2021), better known mononymously as Sophie (stylized in all caps), was a Scottish musician, record producer, singer, songwriter, and DJ. Known for a brash and “hyperkinetic” take on pop music, Sophie worked closely with artists from the PC Music label, including A.G. Cook and GFOTY, and produced for acts such as Charli XCX, Vince Staples, Kim Petras, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, and Namie Amuro.
Sophie, who initially remained anonymous and later came out as a trans woman, came to prominence with singles such as “Bipp” (2013) and “Lemonade” (2014), which were collected on the 2015 compilation Product. Sophie’s debut album Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides followed in 2018, earning a nomination for the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. After Sophie’s accidental death in 2021, Pitchfork called Sophie “the influential British producer who molded electronic music into bracingly original avant-garde pop”.
Sophie was described as a reclusive figure, and remained anonymous for some time, concealing Sophie’s identity in interviews by masking Sophie’s voice or covering parts of Sophie’s body. Early in Sophie’s career, Sophie’s real-life identity was the subject of press speculation. Prior to coming out as a trans woman, some commentators accused Sophie of “feminine appropriation”, on the assumption that Sophie was a man using a female stage name. In a 2013 Pitchfork e-mail interview, when asked about the choice of Sophie as a stage name, Sophie responded: “It tastes good and it’s like moisturizer.”[ At one Boiler Room show, drag performer Ben Woozy was recruited to mime a DJ set while Sophie pretended to be a bodyguard.
The music video for “It’s Okay to Cry”, released in October 2017, was the first time Sophie’s voice and image were used in a release, with Sophie appearing nude from the bust up against a backdrop of clouds. This was widely interpreted as a coming out announcement as a trans woman. Sophie confirmed a trans identity in subsequent interviews, also speaking of feeling boxed-in by labels and describing music as Sophie’s “chosen method of communication” and self-expression. Representatives informed Pitchfork that Sophie preferred not to use gendered or nonbinary pronouns.
Sophie died at around 4 AM local time aged 34, at home in Athens, Greece. Sophie’s death was reportedly caused by slipping and falling from a balcony after climbing up to watch the full moon.