Each year, our reflections on the past 12 months tend to focus mostly on its best and brightest moments. But there’s also a sadder side to assessing the past year, such as remembering the music legends who left us this year.
In 2022 we lost some huge icons, from Fleetwood Mac’s Christine McVie to Migos member Takeoff, and a wealth of pioneering talent who’ve made modern music what it is today.
Calvin Simon (May 22, 1942 – January 6, 2022)
A founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic, Calvin Simon helped steer the legendary collective through R&B, funk, acid-rock and much more, contributing to some of their most revered albums along the way. He featured on Parliament’s classic ‘Mothership Connection’ and Funkadelic’s ‘Cosmic Slop’ as a singer, before he parted ways with the collective in 1977. 20 years later, he reunited with Parliament-Funkadelic during their Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame induction speech. Simon died in January at the age of 79.
Ronnie Spector (August 10, 1943 – January 12, 2022)
An icon of pop, Ronnie Spector co-founded the seminal ‘60s girl group The Ronettes, launching a career that continues to hold great influence over pop music (the late Amy Winehouse in particular cited Spector as her hero). The Ronettes toured with and supported The Rolling Stones and The Beatles in their prime, while five tracks from their 1964 debut album charted in the US. They split in 1967 but reformed in 1973, with Spector leading them throughout. She died in January at the age of 78 following a battle with cancer.
Meat Loaf (September 27, 1947 – January 20, 2022)
Meat Loaf’s 1977 debut LP ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ is one of the best-selling albums of all-time: it remains so popular that it still sells an estimated 200,000 copies annually worldwide. Little surprise, then, that it spawned two equally fiery sequels (1993’s ‘Back Into Hell’ and 2006’s ‘The Monster Is Loose’). Rock fans were treated to his powerhouse, larger-than-life vocal performances throughout his recording career, the same that he’d utilise in his appearances in musicals like Hair and the film adaptation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Meat Loaf died in Nashville, Tennessee in January at the age of 74. TS
Jamal Edwards (August 24, 1990 – February 20, 2022)
At the age of 16, Jamal Edwards launched the online music platform SB.TV and kickstarted a music media giant that would give many future superstars their start. Ed Sheeran, Stormzy, Dave, Jessie J, AJ Tracey and many more got early exposure after going on SB.TV, giving new artists, particularly in the fields of grime and UK hip-hop, an important space to be celebrated and nurtured. Edwards died in February, aged 31.
Mark Lanegan (November 25, 1964 – February 22, 2022)
A cult hero to many in the alternative music world, Mark Lanegan began his music career as a member of the grunge band Screaming Trees, a favourite of Kurt Cobain’s. Although the band didn’t reach the same commercial highs scaled by Nirvana, Lanegan was held in high esteem for his work with Screaming Trees – a foundation he built on with a series of solo albums and, later, collaborations with the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age, Duke Garwood and more. After surviving a terrifying encounter with COVID-19 that left him deaf and unable to walk, Lanegan passed away in February at the age of 57. No cause of death was announced.
Taylor Hawkins (February 17, 1972 – March 25, 2022)
In March, news came that truly shocked the music world: Foo Fighters’ loveable and legendary drummer Taylor Hawkins had died while the band were on tour in South America. Only 50 years old, Hawkins had long cemented his position as an icon of rock, both as Foos’ grinning stickman and the go-to drummer for the likes of Slash, Brian May, Elton John, Ozzy Osbourne and more, all of whom he played with over the years. Two massive, star-studded tribute concerts in September highlighted the huge love musicians from all genres had for Hawkins, and the sizeable void his death had left.
Jordan (June 23, 1955 – April 3, 2022)
Fashion icon and punk legend Pamela Rooke’s first act of rebellion was changing her name to Jordan at just 14 years old, years before she became an integral figure of London’s underground scene in the ‘70s and was dubbed the “Queen of Rock”. She modelled for Vivienne Westwood, crafting the W10 London punk look alongside Johnny Rotten, Soo Catwoman and Siouxsie Sioux. Rooke was also a mainstay at Sex Pistols gigs, appearing with them on stage during their first televised performance of ‘Anarchy In The UK’ in 1976. She was recently immortalised on screen by Maisie Williams, who played Jordan in the band-inspired TV series Pistol. Rooke died in April at the age of 66 after a battle with a rare form of cancer. EC
Naomi Judd (January 11, 1946 – April 30, 2022)
One day before she was due to be inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame, icon of the genre Naomi Judd died, aged 76. She made her mark on country music as one half of The Judds, the band she formed with her daughter Wynonna, scoring five Grammys and enjoying a years-long victory streak at the three major country music awards shows in the US. The Judds stopped performing together in 1991 after Naomi was diagnosed with hepatitis C, before reuniting in 2000 for a massive tour and a handful of new material.
Ric Parnell (August 13, 1951 – May 1, 2022)
Although he performed as the drummer in bands like Horse, Atomic Rooster, Nova and Stars, Ric Parnell was best known for his role as Mick Shrimpton in This Is Spinal Tap. He joined Spinal Tap in blurring the lines between reality and fiction when they went on a real-life tour, positioning himself as Shrimpton’s “brother” Ric, and contributed to their 1992 album ‘Break Like The Wind’. Parnell died in May at the age of 70.
Vangelis (March 29, 1943 – May 17, 2022)
A largely self-taught musician, Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou – AKA Vangelis – was widely considered to be one of the most renowned composers in the world. He was behind the soundtracks of Blade Runner and Chariots Of Fire – he won an Oscar for his work on the latter film – while becoming a pioneer for electronic music in the process. He died from heart failure in May at the age of 79.
Andy Fletcher (July 8, 1961 – May 26, 2022)
While Dave Gahan and Martin Gore pushed Depeche Mode forward with their public personas, Andy Fletcher – a founding member of the band – quietly drove their momentum from the back. The keyboardist took on business duties for the group, keeping them going over the years and helping them maintain their position as one of the most influential acts in electronic music. Fletcher died in May at the age of 60 after suffering an aortic dissection.
Ronnie Hawkins (January 10, 1935 – May 29, 2022)
Rowdy Canadian rockabilly musician Ronnie Hawkins was known not only for his own music and larger-than-life stage presence, but for the acts he nurtured. He formed The Hawks in the early ‘60s and mentored his backing musicians, which included Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko and Garth Hudson. They went on to travel to the US, eventually backing Bob Dylan and forming one of rock’s most influential acts, The Band. When they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, they thanked “The Hawk” for bringing them together and teaching them the “code of the road”. Hawkins died in May at the age of 87 after an illness. EC
Julee Cruise (December 1, 1956 – June 9, 2022)
Julee Cruise operated mostly as a cult figure whose name bubbled beneath the mainstream, but was fiercely beloved by those who knew her. A frequent collaborator of composer Angelo Badalamenti and director David Lynch, she was best known for her 1989 single ‘Falling’, an instrumental version of which became the theme tune to Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Cruise often appeared in the show as a singer, while over her career she also served as a touring member of The B-52s and worked with Moby. She died in June at the age of 65.
Paul Ryder (April 24, 1964 – July 15, 2022)
A founding member of the Happy Mondays, Paul Ryder was integral to the group’s music; his funk-laced basslines helping craft the band’s distinctive sound. Although he left the band in 2001, he rejoined them for their 2012 reunion and toured with them until his death. Between his Happy Mondays duties, Ryder toured with Tom Tom Club, wrote scores for TV shows and appeared in films including 24 Hour Party People. He died in July at the age of 58.
Olivia Newton-John (September 26, 1948 – August 8, 2022)
Best known for playing Sandy in Grease, Olivia Newton-John had already been pursuing her dual passions of singing and acting long before that role came up. She released her first single ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’ on Decca Records in 1966, formed the touring duo Pat And Olivia, joined the ill-fated group Toomorrow, kickstarted a solo career and represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest before Grease took her to even headier heights in 1978. After playing Sandy, she continued to release records and take on parts in TV and film before reuniting with her co-star John Travolta on the festive album ‘This Christmas’ in 2012. Newton-John died in August at the age of 73 following a battle with cancer.
Darius Campbell Danesh (August 19, 1980 – August 11, 2022)
When he appeared on Popstars in 2001 performing a cover of Britney Spears’ ‘Baby One More Time’, Darius Campbell Danesh became an instant star. He built on the public’s evident love for him by taking part in Pop Idol a year later, where he finished third behind Will Young and Gareth Gates. He then scored his own success by shunning Simon Cowell’s talent show-to-pop star pipeline: after turning down a record deal from the judge, Danesh hit Number One with his debut single ‘Colourblind’ as his first album ‘Dive In’ landed in the Top 10. He died in August at the age of 41 after accidentally inhaling chloroethane.
PnB Rock (December 9, 1991 – September 12, 2022)
Rakim Hasheem Allen, better known as rapper PnB Rock, was on the up at the time of his death in September. After getting signed by Atlantic in 2015 following the release of a mixtape he’d written while in jail, the 30-year-old star had been building momentum with tours with Lil Baby, features with Lil Wayne and Quavo, and a huge collaboration with Chance The Rapper and Ed Sheeran in ‘Cross Me’. Shortly before his death, he launched his own label, New Lane Entertainment, hinting at a future focused on giving himself and other rising rappers artistic control.
John Hartman (March 18, 1950 – September 22, 2022)
John Hartman helped form the Doobie Brothers in 1970 as their then-sole drummer. A year later, Michael Hossack was added as the second sticksman, playing in tandem with Hartman until the latter left the band in 1979. Before he departed the group, though, the legendary drummer contributed to a series of hit singles and albums, from ‘Listen To The Music’ to ‘What A Fool Believes’. Hartman later rejoined the band in 1987, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame with his former bandmates in 2020. He died in September at the age of 72.
Coolio (August 1, 1963 – September 28, 2022)
LA rapper Coolio first rose to fame as a member of the rap collective WC And The Maad Circle, before splintering off as a solo artist in 1994 with his debut album ‘It Takes A Thief’. That record scored him instant success, peaking at number eight on the Billboard 200 and setting him up for even bigger acclaim a year later when he released the enduring, iconic hit ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’. The track was the biggest hit in the US in 1995 and the second best-selling single in the UK that same year, while it also earned Coolio his first Grammy. He released a further seven albums in his career, including his final one, ‘From The Bottom 2 The Top’, in 2009. He died in September aged 59 following a cardiac arrest.
Jerry Lee Lewis (September 29, 1935 – October 28, 2022)
Billed as “rock’n’roll’s first great wild man”, Jerry Lee Lewis was known for his high-energy performances which helped rock’n’roll become a force to be reckoned with in the US in the ‘50s. After making his mark with the likes of ‘Great Balls Of Fire’ and becoming embroiled in scandal surrounding three of his marriages – including one to his 13-year-old cousin – Lewis switched lanes to country music, where he enjoyed great success. He died in October aged 87.
Takeoff (June 18, 1994 – November 1, 2022)
Migos’ quietest member Takeoff was also arguably the rap trio’s most instrumental, helping perfect their triplet flow. Over the course of the group’s many hit releases, he showed maturity, growth and undeniable, irresistible talent, while his solo album, 2018’s ‘The Last Rocket’, gave him his real opportunity to shine – and shine he did. Numerous guest features with the likes of Calvin Harris, Roddy Ricch, Pop Smoke, Lil Wayne and more further highlighted his lyrical dexterity, marking him out as a go-to name for those looking for smart, slick guest verses. Shortly before his death, he teamed up with his Migos bandmate Quavo for the joint album ‘Only Built For Infinity Links’, which only added to his growing momentum – something that was tragically halted in November when Takeoff was fatally shot, taking a modern hip-hop hero from the world.
Mimi Parker (September 15, 1967 – November 5, 2022)
A singer and drummer for Low, Mimi Parker joined the band shortly after its inception, using a kit comprised of just one snare, one cymbal and one floor tom, with brushes instead of drumsticks. Vocally, her voice intertwined with her husband’s, Alan Sparhawk, combining to create a mesmerising tapestry that added to the band’s quiet, mysterious feel. As Low continued, Parker’s confidence grew as she took on lead vocals on more songs, including ‘Shame’ – her first time in the spotlight. She died in November at the age of 55 from ovarian cancer.
Aaron Carter (December 7, 1987 – November 5, 2022)
Aaron Carter began performing and releasing music as a child star, releasing his debut album in 1997 at the age of nine. His older brother Nick had a starring role in the Backstreet Boys, and Carter’s first public solo performance was supporting the inimitable boyband in Berlin. The remainder of his short life was impacted by financial and legal issues, alongside battles with his mental health. He died in his California home in November aged 34. TS
Nik Turner (August 26, 1940 – November 10, 2022)
A symbol of musical experimentalism, Nik Turner picked up his passion of expression over expertise from free jazz and decided to incorporate that attitude into rock. His first opportunity to do so was with Hawkwind, who invited him to join on saxophone while he was working for them as a roadie. Later, he formed and was integral to the bands Sphynx, Inner City Unit and Space Ritual, never losing sight of his love of invention. Turner died in November, aged 82.
Keith Levene (July 18, 1957 – November 11, 2022)
Levene first came to prominence as a founding member of The Clash. Despite being responsible for recruiting Joe Strummer from The 101’ers, the north London guitarist’s tenure in the band lasted a matter of months before he was dismissed, and he was credited with just one song, ‘What’s My Name’, on The Clash’s self-titled debut album (“I wrote more than I got credited for on the record,” Levene later claimed. “It was me and Mick [Jones] that wrote those tunes”). Following the break-up of the Sex Pistols, its singer John Lydon joined forces with Levene in 1978 to form Public Image Ltd (PiL). The band’s debut single ‘Public Image’ broke into the UK top 10, but, three albums later, Levene departed PiL after falling out with Lydon over their fourth album. Levene, who also operated as a solo artist and later worked with Red Hot Chili Peppers, died in November at the age of 65 following a battle with liver cancer. SM
Christine McVie (July 12, 1943 – November 30, 2022)
Before she joined Fleetwood Mac in 1970, Christine McVie was already making moves in the British music scene, most notably as a member of the blues band Chicken Shack. After she married John McVie, though, she left the latter group to join the band she would become most commonly associated with, later moving to the US with them where they became one of rock’s most infamous and influential acts. Outside of Fleetwood Mac, she released three solo albums and 2017’s ‘Lindsey Buckingham Christine McVie’ with her FM bandmate. She died in November aged 79 after a short illness.
Wilko Johnson (July 12, 1947 – November 21, 2022)
John Andrew Wilkinson might not have been well-known by his birth name, but mention his stage name – Wilko Johnson – and an image of a revered musician will instantly be conjured. A member of pub-rockers Dr. Feelgood, the guitarist developed an inimitable style on his instrument that later influenced the likes of Paul Weller and Franz Ferdinand’s Alex Kapranos. Later, Johnson joined Ian Dury’s The Blockheads and formed his own act, The Wilko Johnson Band, keeping his influence going for decades to come. He died in November at the age of 75.
Jet Black (August 26, 1938 – December 6, 2022)
In 1974, Jet Black – AKA Brian John Duffy – formed The Stranglers, leaving behind a life in the ice cream and off-licence businesses in favour of punk. He formed the backbone of the band on drums and came up with the idea for their biggest hit, ‘Golden Brown’, alongside keyboardist Dave Greenfield. In 2015, he stopped performing after suffering from chest problems and arrhythmia. He died in December, aged 84.
Angelo Badalamenti (March, 22 1937 – December 11, 2022)
A prominent composer and arranger, Angelo Badalamenti was best known for his collaborations with David Lynch. The New Yorker first worked with the director on the 1986 movie Blue Velvet before then scoring Lynch’s cult classic TV series Twin Peaks (as well as the 2017 reboot Twin Peaks: The Return) and his 2001 film Mulholland Drive. Badalamenti would later describe his creative partnership with Lynch as “my second-best marriage”. His long career also featured collaborations with the likes of David Bowie, Paul McCartney (who apparently informed him at Abbey Road that the Queen was a Twin Peaks fan) and Pet Shop Boys, while he also composed the ‘Torch Theme’ for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. Badalamenti passed away at the age of 85 in December from natural causes. SM
Terry Hall (March 19, 1959 – December 18, 2022)
The leader of The Specials, Terry Hall was a singer who became synonymous with sharing stories of Britain’s working classes and, in the band’s early years, its disenfranchised youth. With The Specials, Hall became a pioneer of 2 Tone, while he would also expand his musical palette with Fun Boy Three, The Colourfield, Vegas, a bright solo career and more. In 2001, he appeared as a guest on Gorillaz’s single ‘911’, while other collaborations with the likes of Lily Allen, D12 and Tricky highlighted the respect and influence that surrounded the musician. Hall died in December aged 63 following a short illness.
Martin Duffy (May 18, 1967 – December 18, 2022)
Martin Duffy lived most of his life in the music world, joining indie band Felt when he was just 18 years old in 1985. He remained with them until they disbanded in 1989, after which he joined Primal Scream, with whom he had already contributed keyboards on their first two albums. He would also perform with The Charlatans after the tragic death of their keyboardist Rob Collins, while he also collaborated with the likes of Paul Weller and The Chemical Brothers. Duffy died in December at the age of 55.
Additional words: Erica Campbell, Sam Moore, Thomas Smith