Sunday, January 6, 2013

2012 Review: Notable Deaths in Music

Remembering the accomplishments of 6 stand-out musicians who passed away in 2012, from Ravi Shankar,
Etta James and Whitney Houston to Donna Summer.

Etta James (25 January 1938 – 20 January 2012)
Etta James, who has died aged 73 after suffering from leukaemia, was among the most critically acclaimed and influential female singers of the past 50 years, even if she never achieved huge popular success. From her first R&B hit, in 1955, the risqu̩ Roll With Me Henry Рcut when she was only 15 Рthrough a series of
classic 1960s soul sides (the lush ballad At Last, the raucous house rocker Tell Mama and the emotional agony of I'd Rather Go Blind), then a series of critically acclaimed 1970s and 1980s albums that won her
a broad rock audience, to more recent albums of jazz vocals, James proved capable of developing and changing as an artist.

Whitney Houston (9 August 1963 – 11 February 2012)
Few pop singers have been gifted with a voice as glorious as Whitney Houston's, and even fewer have treated their talent with the frustrating indifference she did toward the end of her life. She sold more records and received more awards than almost any other female pop star of the 20th century, but spent most of her last years mired in a drug addiction that sapped her will to sing and left her in a shambolic state.

Donna Summer (31 December 1948 – 17 May 2012)
Though she will be remembered for disco classics such as Love to Love You Baby and I Feel Love, Donna Summer, who has died of cancer aged 63, notched up many achievements in a career lasting more than 40 years. She recorded three multi-platinum albums and three consecutive double albums topping the US chart. She reached a commercial peak in the late 1970s with a string of chart-topping singles, including a duet with Barbra Streisand on No More Tears(Enough Is Enough), and was able to bounce back from a subsequent slump with hit records in succeeding decades. She also branched out into television, with appearances on America's Got Talent and the reality show Platinum Hit.

Robin Gibb (22 December 1949 – 20 May 2012)
Robin Gibb, who has died aged 62, was one of the three brothers who made up the international
chart-topping group the Bee Gees. They were best known for their disco hits of the 1970s, which included Stayin' Alive, Night Fever and Jive Talkin', but enjoyed success in every decade from the 1960s to the 2000s. Robin also charted intermittently as a solo artist. He released six solo albums between 1970 and 2006, and scored a British No 1 single as recently as 2009 with a new version of the Bee Gees' song Islands in the Stream, for Comic Relief.

Ravi Shankar (7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012)
Ravi Shankar, who has died aged 92 after undergoing heart surgery, was the Indian maestro who put the sitar on the musical map. George Harrison called him "the godfather of world music" and it was Shankar's vision that brought the sounds of the raga into western consciousness. He was thus the first performer and composer to substantially bridge the musical gap between India and the west.

Timeless and transcendent. Those are two key qualities that describe the music of truly great artists, no matter their chosen genre. Sadly, a significant number of such greats passed away in 2012. Happily, their music will spring forth anew, each time a neophyte listener discovers their work and revels in it with the same delight as a longtime fan.

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