Death Race 2016: Here are the Musicians Who Died in August 2016

Matt Roberts, far right, of 3 Doors Down has shuffled off this mortal coil.EXPAND
Matt Roberts, far right, of 3 Doors Down has shuffled off this mortal coil.
United States Department of Defense/Wikimedia Commons

Even the Grim Reaper has to hang up his scythe and take a vacation once in a while, and nothing shows he was slumming it in August more than the emergence of that Indonesian dude Mbah Gotho, who both claims to be both the oldest man alive at 145 and the world's most fed-up double septuagenarian. According The Telegraph, outliving all four of his wives and all 10 of his siblings seems to have taken away whatever joie de vivre he had at, say 116. Just how long has he found living like a wrinkle-making machine unacceptable? "Oh to be 97 again," he must lament. Or how things have left him wanting since the Roaring '20s.

As a point of pride, why is someone whose job it is to take people out of this world letting this prune of a guy linger? It must surely make a Grim Reaper grimmer to be unable to cash in the chips of a man born in 1870.

But he did find the time to eliminate 30 musicians from the living, and mark my words, if ol' Mbah ever played the sax or even a set of spoons, surely colon cancer or liver failure would have already felled him a century ago.

Last month we lost an up-and-coming rapper, a key member of a '90s alternative band, and a '60s space-jazz rock band. It might've also included a founding member of a '70s jazz fusion group, but on closer inspection the John McLaughlin who died was not the one who led the Mahavishnu Orchestra but the one who led The McLaughlin Group, the political talk show where its host liked to bark "Wrong!" at the panelists and then get the last word.

Special note should also be paid to Cookie, the Australian-born cockatoo, world's oldest parrot. Technically not a musician, but he lasted 83 years before being euthanized and probably sang something his keepers did.

James Woolley, 49, American keyboardist (Nine Inch Nails, 2wo), neck injuries
In a freak accident, Woolley died from neck-related injuries after falling off a ladder in his studio. Wooley was in Nine Inch Nails at a time where you'd have to sustain being pushed around onstage like a rush-hour commuter or get doused with ice cold water by Trent Reznor in the middle of doing your job. Woolley was a key player in the band since the the 1994/95 Downward Spiral Tour, which included a set at Woodstock '94 that won the band a Grammy for Best Metal Performance Grammy (for "Happiness in Slavery" off the Woodstock '94 compilation).

Matt Roberts, 38, American rock guitarist and songwriter for 3 Doors Down (drug overdose)
Thanks to the '90s hit "Kryptonite," which Roberts co-wrote, the band's debut album went six times platinum in the U.S. alone. They continued to have high-charting albums through to 2012, when Roberts left over health issues concerning blood circulation. His cause of death was reportedly an accidental prescription pills overdose.

Rudy Van Gelder, 91, American recording engineer
Had he just recorded John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, that would've been enough to put him in the history books. But you'd be hard pressed to find a jazz giant who wasn't filtered through the infamous "Blue Note Sound," which is really the Van Gelder sound. Among his clients is a virtual who's who that includes Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, and many more. The home studio his parents built in their their Hackensack, New Jersey, home in 1946 was the site of many of his greatest works, including the aforementioned Coltrane classic. In this 1965 clip
for the BBC you can see Monk playing his piece immortalizing that studio called "Hackensack."

Kid Cali, 30, American rapper, shot
It was at a heavily promoted multi-million dollar mansion pool party in the Granada Hills section of Los Angeles that the up-and-coming rapper was shot after an altercation. There were several hundred people at the party, including gang members from different gangs. Police are hoping some of those in attendance will come forward with information.

Gillian "Gilli" Mary Smyth, 83, English singer (Gong)
In the beginning, Smythe performed poetry pieces with the English jazz-rock group Soft Machine, founded by her partner and longtime collaborator Daevid Allen. Later, the pair co-founded the psychedelic space rock band Gong, which diversified into a family of bands, including Gongmaison and Mother Gong, which Smythe formed after she left Gong in 1975 to have children. In this clip, you can hear Gong at their most accessible. The first two minutes of it, anyway.

Lou Pearlman, 62, American record producer, artist manager (Backstreet Boys, NSYNC) and convicted criminal
Someone should've convicted and sentenced Lou Pearlman to up to 25 years in prison just for orchestrating 1990s boy bands such as Backstreet Boys and NSYNC. But his real crime was masterminding Ponzi schemes that defrauded people out of more than $300 million. Nearly every act he represented sued him for fraud and misrepresentation including the Backstreet Boys, whose contract has Pearlman entitled to money as not only producer and manager but as a sixth member of Backstreet Boys entitled to a sixth of the band's income.

'NSYNC member Lance Bass tweeted that he had conflicting emotions about Pearlman's death, adding, "He might not have been a stand-up businessman, but I wouldn't be doing what I love today without his influence." Pearlman is a first cousin of Art Garfunkel, and it is said seeing Garfunkel's fame and wealth that influenced him into getting in the music business and later embezzlement. Pearlmen died in federal custody after suffering a heart attack.

Toots Thielemans, 94, Belgian jazz guitarist, whistler and harmonica player 
This Harmonica Man is recognized the world over as the premier jazz harmonica player, having started his career in 1949 playing in Benny Goodman's band. Since then, he's recorded with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie to Bill Evans to Paul Simon. It's his harmonica you grew up hearing on the Sesame Street theme and piqued your interest while pushing a cart through a supermarket listening to the harmonica breaks on Julian Lennon's "Too Late for Goodbyes" and Billy Joel's "Leave a Tender Moment Alone." In 2009, he received a Jazz Master by The National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honor you can bestow upon a jazz musician in America, and President Obama sent his widow a personal message of condolence. His playing style most certainly influenced Stevie Wonder, and you can hear them riffing together in this clip playing his 1962 classic, "Bluesette."

Pete Fountain, 86, American clarinetist
It's not every musician who can say he was fired by Lawrence Welk for jiving up a Christmas carol.

Preston Hubbard, 63, American bass player (The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Roomful of Blues)
Hubbard was the band's bassist during the band's highest profile years, scoring their only Top 40 hit, "Tuff Enuff," which was used in the movies Gung Ho and Tough Guys, which sound like movies that you know you've watched but not knowingly.

Glenn Yarbrough, 86, American folk singer ("Baby the Rain Must Fall"), dementia
Originally a member of the folk trio The Limeliters, Yarbrough scored a solo hit in 1965 singing the title song of a Steve McQueen film, Baby the Rain Must Fall. In it, McQueen plays a bastard of a rockabilly singer who goes to prison for stabbing a man during a drunken brawl. Yarbrough provided vocals for the Rankin/Bass Productions animated version of The Hobbit (1977). 

Norman Killeen, 38, American drummer (Threat Signal)
To non-believers, melodic death metal may seem like an oxymoron, but Canadian band Threat Signal manages to combine the emo and the industrial quite impressively. This is from the band's second album Vigilance, on which Killeen played so forcefully. This band managed to go through three drummers in as many albums. 

B. E. Taylor, 65, American musician ("Vitamin L"), brain cancer
This Pittsburgh musician, beloved in the tri-state area,scored a regional hit in 1984 with "Vitamin L," a song that went to #66 in 1984. Love is the drug he's singing of, but you have to admire how he managed to work the verb "synthesize" in a pop confection that's full of electronic keyboards. A devout Christian, he would later undertake a series of Christmas tours and record new holiday music every year and support a great many charities while refusing to have these donations publicized. Certainly he didn't die with a Vitamin L deficiency.

Ruby Wilson, 68, American blues, soul and gospel singer, heart attack
Known as the Queen of Beale Street, Winters had several minor pop hits in the '60s and '70s, including her duet with Johnny Thunder "Make Love to Me" (a Top 20 R&B hit) and "I Will," which was a hit for Dean Martin. Here, she performs the Ray Charles classic "Let the Good Times Roll" in 2002.


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