Music’s Greatest Losses, Remembered

Today’s musicians pay tribute to the people that inspired them, who are sadly no longer with us.

40 Chas Chandler

Even if Bryan James Chandler had ‘only’ been a pivotal member of The Animals, he’d still have merited a place here. His networking skills in the late ’60s, however (most notably managing the ferocious talents of one Jimi Hendrix) are what confirm his position in rock history. After working with farm-glam rockers Slade, how did he live out his years? Married to a former Miss United Kingdom and helping with the conception and building of the Newcastle Arena.

39 Andrew Wood

MARK ARM, MUDHONEY: “He used to be in a band called Malfunkshun, who lived a ferry ride away from Seattle, and had long hair in 1983 when all bands were hardcore with skinheads and mohawks. They opened for Discharge and Andrew had white face make-up on, and was throwing grapes in the air and catching them in his mouth. The audience stayed with him. I don’t know exactly what his gift was. I also saw them play with White House – an ear-piercing industrial band dressed like Nazis. Malfunkshun played before and they were much more intense. After, White House seemed like a joke.”

38 Mitch Mitchell

BILL WARD, BLACK SABBATH: “Mitch was a drummer I always wanted to meet. He was using a lot of jazz and rock with The Experience. I would listen and learn from him. He was a drummer among drummers. There were a great armada of drummers at that time, and Mitch was the cherry on the top. And of course he worked with one of the greatest, if not the greatest, lead guitar player ever in the fucking world. He carried a hard standard of music. I finally got to meet him two years ago and he was everything I’d hoped he’d be.”

37 Randy Rhoads

Randy Rhoads was famed for bringing classical arrangements and scales into heavy metal. If you go back to his work on Ozzy Osbourne’s fantastic first solo albums, ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ and ‘Diary of a Madman’ (the only two Rhoads played on before he died), it doesn’t feel pretentious, just purely exciting. If only he’d been around to keep metal in check, rather than become a victim of rock star idiocy when the plane his was in ‘buzzed’ the Osbourne tour bus and crashed.

36 Eazy-E

If some dude called Eric hadn’t been so damn good at selling drugs, rap might not have happened – at least in the way it did. Mr Wright, aka Eazy-motherfuckin’-E, used the proceeds from his enterprise to start Ruthless Records, which provided a vehicle for NWA. He died while feuding with the likes of Dre and Suge Knight, and was a huge contributor to the birth of West Coast gangsta rap. NWA were a bullet to the cranium of late-’80s everything. And Eazy was the craziest of all the crazy motherfuckers in LA.

35 Cliff Burton

MAREK STEVEN, INVASION: “Despite dying before most of us had a chance to see him play, Cliff Burton is the most missed person in metal. When Metallica saw his playing in 1982 they fired their bassist and moved the whole band to San Francisco so he could join. Cliff was confident but quiet, a no-nonsense guy who was all about playing music with no compromise. He was older than the rest of the band and I don’t think he would have put up with a lot of the stuff Lars has done to Metallica. It’s painful to think about how good that band would have been had he survived the coach crash.”

34 D. Boon

When Minutemen’s van careered off the road in the Arizona desert, flinging D Boon out of the back door to have his neck snapped, it was the end of American hardcore’s most promising musician. Dennes Dale Boon and current Stooges bassist Mike Watt were childhood friends who formed Minutemen in California. Their first gig was supporting Black Flag, but D Boon’s jazzy guitar playing and sly wit set them apart from the hardcore fare.

33 Bon Scott

In the ‘70s the members of AC/DC shared a house in Melbourne, and they all caught gonorrhea. The day they found out, they wrote a song about it. That night they played the song and singer Bon Scott pointed to each of their lady friends in turn. “She’s got the Jack!” he bellowed. “And she’s got the Jack!… And she’s…” The ladies turned and fled. With Bon, rock was just rock.

32 Jerry Garcia

If Jerry Garcia hadn’t died, chances are he would still be on the road improvising an endless guitar solo. As The Grateful Dead’s guitarist and singer, he notched up an incredible 2,314 shows and his style – a mix of rock’n’roll, bluegrass, country and jazz – lights up classic albums ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Workingman’s Dead’. He lived the San Francisco hippy dream and in 1986, after spending five days in a diabetic coma thanks to his heroin use, claimed to have been in “a sort of futuristic, spaceship vehicle with insectoid presences”.

31 Jeffrey Lee Pierce

Jeffrey Lee Pierce’s punk take on Delta blues makes Jack White look like Newton Faulkner’s hairless testicles. Cut from the same psychobilly cloth as The Cramps – who actually nicked their guitarist Kid ‘Congo’ Powers – The Gun Club were dirty, raucous, and darkly spiritual. Pierce’s voodoo incantations were about demons and sexual rapture, and as ‘She’s Like Heroin To Me’ indicates, the drugs that would slow, and eventually end his career. A true lost hero.

30 Ron Asheton

It’s fitting that shortly before he died, Ron Asheton was getting his dues after The Stooges finally reunited to huge acclaim. This was a man who was sidelined after the break-up of the band in the early ‘70s and forced to return on bass after frontman Iggy Pop hired someone else. His nerve shredding, lurching riffs were a template for pretty much any decent guitar music which followed, particularly punk and indie. Iggy might not have realised it back then, but he’d surely agree now that we have so much to thank him for.

29 Patsy Cline

Before The Crystals ‘He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)’ and way before Florence’s ‘Kiss With A Fist’ came one of life’s true hopeless romantics. A country singer with a sassy pop sensibility who immortalised the kicks, bruises and bitter swelling of a breaking heart caused by her experiences – if claims of an abusive relationship with third and final husband Charlie Dick are to be believed. Some swear that it’s better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

28 John Bonham

ANTHONY STASSI, HOCKEY: “John Bonham was unbelievably intuitive. He had a way of playing different time signatures while maintaining that straight-ahead rock feel. Of course, the same genius for intuition that drove his best work on the drums also seemed to manifest itself in his reputation as a man of insane excess. He was always living in the moment. He had no self-control. On the night he died he drank 40 shots of vodka. He once ate 20 bananas in a single sitting. He would go into these half-hour drum solos.”

27 Lux Interior

BOBBY GILLESPIE, PRIMAL SCREAM: “Lux was a living testament to the power of rock’n’roll, it flamed through him. He was a preacher, one of the great rock’n’roll showmen/shamen –up there with Iggy, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jim Morrison. He seemed to want to burst free from his body and explode out of this world and transport himself to other planes, taking his audience with him. The Cramps kept the beautiful, feral, ecstatic, raging, diseased spirit of rock’n’roll alive during a time of nothingness.

26 Phil Lynott

Thin Lizzy’s most famous song – ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ – evokes better than any other the beery picture of a group of super-regular guys stepping out of line. The guy who sang it was far from super-regular. The child of an Irish mother and an afro-Brazilian father, he was raised by his grandmother in Dublin, at a time when non-white faces were not common. If rock and roll is a refuge of the outsider, then given his start Lynott had a greater right to entry than most. He made a survivor’s choice: to hit back harder than anyone else.

25 Sam Cooke

It’s hard to equate the horrific death of Sam Cooke with the beautiful voice on his records. It’s hard to understand how a man who could write a protest song as poignant as ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ would be hanging out at a sleazy LA motel with a prostitute who stole his clothes and wallet, prompting him to run, naked, to the office and bang on the manager’s door. The manager claimed she thought Cooke – the man who sang ‘Cupid’ for God’s sake – was trying to rob her and shot him.

24 Steve Marriott

Forever destined to be mentioned behind the Big Four, The Small Faces still had as much influence as any of the ‘60s groups. Although the stylish Marriott was the true King of the Mods, it’s his quirky, emotional, British songs which are their legacy. With their witty lyrics, and rambunctious arrangements, they’re bursting with character. No Steve Marriott, no Blur and no Arctic Monkeys. Oh, and he’s twice the singer that Jagger is.

23 J Dilla

PAUL SMITH, MAXIMO PARK: “I loved his solo records. His stuff was based on old soul samples. They’re instrumental for the most, but every now and then he’d get a guest rapper on. I’d recommend the record he did with Madlib, ‘Champion Sound’. It’s constantly inventive, especially the beats. It feels fresh. The best hip-hop reaches beyond its genre.”

22 Amy Winehouse

Of all this century’s solo artists, Amy Winehouse was one of the few who burned the brightest but whose star fizzled out too soon. Though Winehouse was plagued by the tabloids over drug and alcohol problems, her decreasing weight and tempestuous relationship with ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil, it was her voice that saw her through. Bringing a new take on soul to the populist masses,’Frank’ and most notably 2006’s ‘Back To Black’ were works that could surpass any amount of media gossip.

21 Jeff Buckley

Since drowning in 1997, age 30, the singer-songwriter has become less a gifted musician, more an eerie Death Cult. Let’s not allow Buckley to be claimed by that. There’s something so un-hoary about Buckley, something so crystalline about the way he sang and played, that defies the fusty depredations of rock heritage. The adjective “Jeff Buckley-esque” has become a rock-journo cliché, deployed to describe any bell-end who can hit a high-C. Buckley sang like no-one else, with an extraordinary purity. A Led Zeppelin-worshipper, he rocked too.

20 Ludwig Van Beethoven

TEITUR: “He was a virtuoso on his instrument and would have outplayed anyone. His output would make anyone’s royalty cheque look poor and he could out-drink the best of them. That’s why I love Beethoven – he must have heard more sound than most producers in today’s recording industry and he kept on doing it tirelessly, even after he became deaf. I read that, in order to listen more closely, he would bite his teeth into a stick attached to his grand piano. Beethoven’s music sells more records and concert tickets daily than most bands do in a lifetime.”

19 Brian Jones

TOM MEIGHAN: “Brian Jones is my favourite Stone. He was so iconic in his white jeans and bowl haircut. He oozed cool. He was the driving force behind the songs and he was the one who was pushing them. He was the first rock’n’roll bad boy – before Jagger and Richards. There were two sides to him. He was very insecure. They said he used to beat the shit out of his girlfriends. When ‘Paint It, Black’ came along that was the moment they changed everything. George Harrison was using the sitar at the time, but Brian Jones made it into something powerfully dark.

18 Ella Fitzgerald

Growing up in pre-Civil Rights movement America was never going to be easy for a young black woman with aspirations to be a dancer and sound like her idol Connee Boswell. Lady Ella’s tale of rags to riches is one of supreme hope. To think that the only reason she made her singing debut at the Harlem Opera House at the tender age of 17 was because she was too intimidated to dance is extraordinary. To know that her beguiling be bop siren and scat vocal was able to unify a race torn country is simply a phenomenal testament to the power of music.

17 Jim Morrison

The Doors would have been ignored without him. Jim Morrison was a god in his world of bohemia, dancing through the imaginations of stoners and hippies with his psychedelic poetry and outlandish vocals. His death in a Paris bath at the age of 27 still hasn’t been explained. Drugs were probably involved, and a girl, but it’s that sweaty brew of sex and danger that follows his incense-fugged memory that continues to reach out to a generation of students who want to expand their minds.

16 Otis Redding

Otis Redding’s career was defined by a series of accidents – and then tragically ended by one when he was just 26. He recorded his first solo single ‘These Arms Of Mine’ to use up some free time at the end of someone else’s session; he won over a (white) rock audience with an unforgettable performance at Monterey. ‘(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay’ was inspired by Dylan and The Beatles and recorded just three days before his death – the famous whistling part was where an uncompleted verse should have been. This wasn’t just soul music, it was something else entirely.

15 Johnny Cash

Growing up during the Depression, and his subsequent battles with alcoholism, drug addiction, the law, and his wives gave his none-more-black songs almost physical weight. But Christ, just that voice alone did it, so deep and raw it seems to carry all the sorrow in the world. It’s still the early Sun recordings which show his genius best. It’s a cliché, but we really won’t ever see his like again.

14 Frank Sinatra

The ‘Chairman Of The Board’ began his musical career in the swing era, and managed to weather the changing tastes in popular music right up until his final years. He even retired in 1971, only to return a couple of years later when it became clear how much he was missed. His debauched, well-connected lifestyle (particularly with his Rat Pack buddies) and his Oscar-nominated portrayal of a smack addict in ‘The Man With The Golden Arm’ make him the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll.

13 Fela Kuti

JACK STEADMAN, BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB: “There’s something very human about his songs, because they go on for so long but they’re all recorded in one take. He died of AIDS in 1997. He was very promiscuous – he had 27 wives. I think his death hasn’t sprung into a cult as much as Western rock musicians, but in Nigeria he’s seen as a martyr. He was so politically active. I was watching this documentary where they asked taxi drivers, people by the side of the road and everyone loved him. He took on the Nigerian government.

12 Elliott Smith

It was a tale that seemed destined to end in tragedy. Although the singer-songwriter’s body of work spoke of Smith’s many troubles with unflinching candor, it didn’t make his death any less shocking. It’s never been made clear what happened on the day – whether Smith did stab himself in the heart or whether someone else was responsible. But in the six years since, his fans have focused more on what he left behind rather than dwelling on his final hours.

11 Dusty Springfield

The girl who was born Mary O’Brien was an amazing ambassador for American music: she explored folk and country with The Springfields before going solo and finding her soul with ‘Dusty In Memphis’. She didn’t just borrow from her inspirations; she persuaded TV bosses to let her present a show The Sound Of Motown which introduced Detroit’s finest to a UK audience. Years of trying to reconcile her Catholic faith with her closet homosexuality mean that’s real heartbreak you can hear in that voice.

10 Richey Edwards

Though no one still knows to what extent Manic Street Preachers’ iconic guitarist Richey Edwards is really gone, it’s now been two decades since anyone last saw the troubled musician. Though the Manics were officially fronted by singer James Dean Bradfield, it was Richey who was the tortured genius of the group, the one who provided the band with some of their most dark and acerbic lyrical genius and who peered out from photos in all his damaged, angelic beauty. Though the band continued on after his disappearance, his influence never faded.

9 Buddy Holly

He might’ve been inspired by Elvis, but the man born Charles Holley blazed a trail all of his own. Singles such as ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘That’ll Be The Day’ and the ever-enervating ‘Oh Boy!’ might have captured the imagination of teens interested in the nascent sound birthed in diners and dance clubs over half a century ago but they still sound electric. His family-friendly image covered a multitude of pureblood rock’n’roll licks, and influenced The Beatles, Dylan, the Stones and Springsteen.

8 George Harrison

DANIEL JOHNSON: “You can’t deny that it was George Harrison who took The Beatles in a different direction and kept them ahead of everybody else. As well as making them go to India, George would fill in the gaps and bring it all together. His solo albums proved him as a great songwriter. ‘All Things Must Pass’ was a real classic There was also a side of him away from music. He was involved with great movies including ‘Monty Python’s Life Of Brian’. He had a great sense of humour.”

7 Syd Barrett

ROBBIE FURZE, THE BIG PINK: “There was a special calm excitement about Syd. He had this intrigue to his face – a sense of mystery, as though he were guarding some secret. He was the coolest. His era was when Pink Floyd was at its most inspirational. With The UFO Club, they created their own environment. His end – dying of diabetes in mid-life – isn’t really integral to his story, but his breakdown and disappearance certainly add a sadness to it. I definitely believe in the line between madness and genius.

6 Freddie Mercury

Born on September 5, 1946, there has never been a frontman more in love with performance than Freddie Mercury. Just ask David Bowie, who sparred with him on ‘Under Pressure’: “Freddie took it over the edge. And of course, I always admired a man who wears tights.” The band’s performance at Wembley Stadium’s Live Aid in 1985 sets the bar for the kind of emotional interaction every rock band should aspire to. Not that Mercury was just a peacock. There are moments within Queen’s back catalogue where the singer laid himself as bare as any bruised soul.

5 Elvis Presley

TOM JONES: “Me and him used to spend a lot of time together in Las Vegas and he was a great guy. We’d be up all night singing with each other and sometimes he’d even bring in vocal groups. He loved music more than anything. I’m really pleased I got to know him so well. He liked what I did and he would ask me how I learned to sing that way. I would just laugh and say, ‘Well, you’re partly responsible’. If you didn’t have sex appeal, he wouldn’t be interested and he couldn’t understand why anyone would like you.”

4 Jimi Hendrix

MATT BELLAMY, MUSE: “There was a sense of wild, reckless danger about him, which was captured when he famously smashed his guitar at the end of his 1967 Monterey festival performance, then set it on fire. Hendrix is not about melodies, he’s about energy, the way his whole psychedelic, drugged-up personality bleeds through into what he’s playing. He’s got so much mastery of his instrument that you forget he’s playing an instrument at all. He was a pioneer in using the studio as an instrument – wringing out unusual sounds until the environment was another extension of his creativity.

3 Ian Curtis

PETER HOOK: “The most important thing Ian Curtis brought to Joy Division was passion. He was one of our biggest fans. He thought we were fucking fantastic, and to get that confidence from your lead singer made you feel like you could take on the world. Whenever we’d be down, Ian rallied us. He used to take his inspiration from what we played. Ian could spot riffs and orchestrate us. I never listened to his lyrics because I couldn’t hear them. When I did hear them I nearly fell over they were so good. Ian was gracious. He was very reluctant to be separated from Joy Division.

2 Kurt Cobain

KRIST NOVOSELIC: “Kurt had an ethic towards his fans that was rooted in the punk rock way of thinking. No band is special, no player royalty. But if you’ve got a guitar and a lot of soul, just bang something out and mean it. You’re the superstar. Plugged in the tones and rhythms that are uniquely and universally human: music. Heck … use your guitar as a drum, just catch the groove and let it flow out of your heart. That’s the level Kurt spoke to us on: in our hearts. And that’s where he, and the music, will always be, forever.”

1 John Lennon

LIAM GALLAGHER: “John Lennon means everything to me. I wouldn’t say he’s a better songwriter than McCartney, I’d say they’re both different but great. But I like Lennon’s stuff more because it’s a bit more beautiful, and it’s more mad. Lennon was twisted and I like that kinda shit. His voice is the main thing I love. I like his speaking voice! That’s pretty fucking mega. But his voice when he sings is the one. His singing voice, his songs, and his words – means the world to me.”