Earth, Wind, & Fire as of 2015. Founding member Maurice White, not pictured here, died last month.EXPAND
Earth, Wind, & Fire as of 2015. Founding member Maurice White, not pictured here, died last month.
Randee St. Nicholas

Eighteen Musicians Who Died in February 2016

After the carnage that was January 2016 when we lost David Bowie AND Glenn Frey and two members of the Jefferson Airplane on the same day, media outlets felt it was their duty to tell us that since they ain't making classic rock musicians anymore, we'd better get used to losing more and more musicians from the '60s and '70s every month.

Feeding into this fear, it was widely reported that Fred Schneider of The B52s died (a hoax) and that octagenerian Yoko Ono suffered a stroke (she didn't, although son Sean clarified that the only stroke she had was a stroke of genius. Haw. Hold on a sec. If,  as Beatle Dad John once declared, "Genius is pain," maybe there was something to worry about.)

Statistically speaking, we didn't lose nearly half as many greats as we did last month, in fact most of the names here are head-scratchers even to music writers who supposedly know this stuff. Clearly the Grim Reaper was aiming for diversity this month, claiming one singer as young as 12 and another as old as 107! This month we have at least one murder victim and one musician in a band of the undead. Read this and find out!

Jan 31: Jon Bunch, 45, singer of Sense Field and Further Seems Forever
Just squeaking in the last hours of January, this death was reported the first of  February. Bunch formed 
Sense Field  in 1991 and before anyone ever coined the term "emo," bands like this one was actually 
 categorized as "post hardcore." Now "post hardcore " just applies to any music that sells more than original hardcore ever did.  The reason for this, and the cause of Bunch's death, remain unknown at this time.

Feb 3: Big Kap, (Keith Carter), 45, New York hip hop DJ (Tunnel), heart attack
Kap is best known for the 1999 album he did with Funkmaster Flex called The Tunnel, which featured verses from Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Sadly what he is a lot more widely is a viral video where Biggie chews him out onstage at the KMEL Summer Jam in 1995. This clip, needless to say, is not for the weak of heart.

Feb 3: Brad Kent, 61, Canadian musician (D.O.A., Avengers, Victorian Pork), pneumonia
Kent was an accomplished guitarist who was at the very beginning of Canadian punk with D.O.A., which was an influence and ally to touring US punk bands like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. Kent is seen here busking on the streets of Vancouver, proving his point that money wasn't the incentive behind a musical career.

Feb 4: Joe Dowell, 76, early-'60s pop singer, heart attack
One of those three-in-one death days for musicians. In the first of his truly awful movies, G.I. Blues (1961), Elvis sang a pastiche German folk song "Wooden Heart" to a Fräulein puppet. RCA had the good sense not release it as a single here in America. But Joe Dowell did and went straight to number one with it. A few middling hits followed by long bouts of obscurity. Sadly it was Dowell's decidely non-wooden heart which gave out on this day. "Sei mir wie du wirklich sollst" indeed!

Feb 4: Jimmie Haskell, 79, American composer, arranger and orchestrator
Best known as an arranger, dating as far back as Rick Nelson's early records. He won a Grammy for his arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which Haskell misnamed on his orchestral score "Like a Pitcher of Water." Simon reportedly had the score framed and hung in his home. Haskell also won Grammys for his work on Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" and wrote the  skin-crawling string arrangement of Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe."

Feb 4: Maurice White, 74, Earth, Wind & Fire co-lead singer, producer and songwriter, complications from Parkinson's disease
Black power gave way to pyramid power as White led the funk and soul (and Egyptian obsessed) octet through over a dozen Top 40 hits like the chartopping "Shining Star," "After the Love Has Gone," "Boogie Wonderland," and "September." I don't know what pharaohs the band were praying to in 1978,
but they appear to be the only band whose career was not adversely affected after appearing in the career holocaust Sgt Pepper movie starring the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton. Quite the contrary. EWF's cover version of "Got to Get You Into My Life" won the group its only Grammy.

Feb 6: Dan Hicks, 74, American singer-songwriter, died of liver cancer
Hicks began his career as a member of the influential San Francisco group The Charlatans, which contained future Grateful Dead lyricist George Hunter. With his band Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, he popularized Western Swing, a genre which had been in a slump since Spade Cooley stomped his wife to death in 1961.

Feb 9: Quan Minyu, 12, Chinese singer and dancer, died from DIPG
Included here because you should always feel REALLY REALLY BAD bad when reading these death roundups even if you don't know who the people in them are. Quan Minyu, also known as Little Psy, was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), a highly aggressive and difficult to treat brain tumor that is known as "childhood cancer." Jeez.

Feb 10: Asami Nagakiya, 30, Japanese musician, strangled
Nagakiya may have not been a world renown musician but her death made headlines everywhere when she was found strangled to death in Port of Spain. This Japanese steel pan player's body was found under a tree and dressed in a carnival costume at the time of death because she often played in carnival bands  in Trinidad and Tobago. Port of Spain Mayor Raymond Tim Kee was forced to resign after comments he made about how "vulgarity and lewdness" helped lead to her death. Actual quote: "Women have a responsibility to ensure they are not abused during the Carnival season...You have to let your imagination roll a bit and figure out was there any evidence of resistance? Or alcohol control and therefore involuntary actions were engaged in and so on." Shaming and blaming, it's not just an American phenomenon. The more you know...

Feb 11: Kim Williams, 68, Nashville songwriter
Williams wrote hits for Joe Diffie, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and Randy Travis, whose "Three Wooden Crosses" which won Country Music Association's Song of the Year award and earned him being named ASCAP's Country Songwriter of the Year in 1994. His life is something of a country song, the old kind when someone just barely triumphs over tragedy. Badly burned in a fire at a glass plant in 1974 , he required more than 200 reconstructive procedures. Still about ten less than Michael Jackson, you say? You're incorrigble!

Feb 15: Denise Katrina Matthews a.k.a. Vanity, 57, singer, renal failure
As a performer, Vanity gyrated her wares but could actually sing and write songs which made Prince take notice. He noticed anyway,  reportedly renaming her Vanity and said he saw his female reflection in her. She fronted his girl group Vanity 6 (reportedly named for the six breasts in the group - wouldn't Count von Count be proud?). When Williams left the group in 1983, it evolved into Apollonia 6 with the addition of two new breasts. Williams was spared from having to purify herself in the cold waters of Lake Minnetonka in Purple Rain but didn't fare too badly in films, appearing with Carl Weathers in Action Jackson, as well as The Last Dragon and 52 Pick-Up. She left stardom to become an evangelist, something her former mentor threatened to do but released a shitload of albums instead.

At various times in the '80s, Vanity was romantically linked to Adam Ant, Billy Idol,  and Nikki Sixx, who she was even engaged to (in her defense she was addicted to crack cocaine at the time). She is best remembered for the hit "Nasty Girl" where she emphatically stated "I need seven inches or more!" She wasn't talking about 45 rpm releases or pre-cut tiles.

Feb 18: Paul Gordon, 52, keyboardist, guitarist (New Radicals, The B-52's)
Rumors of a Fred Schneider death hoax overshadowed the real life death of Gordon who died in Nashville, Tennessee. In addition with touring and playing The B-52s, his other credits include Natasha Bedingfield, Goo Goo Dolls, New Radicals, Prince, Jennifer Nettles, Lisa Marie Presley, Nona Hendryx, and Chaka Khan. He also composed for television and films such as Digimon :The Movie, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Power Rangers Wild Forces, and Stripperella.

Feb 18: Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan, 107, Indian Hindustani musician
Khan was an Indian vocalist of Hindustani music and is the oldest person ever to be conferred a Padma award. He was also given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Government of Delhi. In 2013. Which begs the question, how long do you have to live before the Government of Delhi gives you a Lifetime Achievement Award? 

Feb 19: Vi Subversa, 80, British musician (Poison Girls)
How is this for punk rock? At age 44 and a mother of two , she made her first public appearance in 1975 playing feminist punk songs with Poison Girls. She is a featured subject in the 2007 documentary film She's a Punk Rocker.

Feb 19: Rusty Burns, 63, guitarist for Point Blank, died from cancer
This Texas band had a Top 40 hit in 1981 with a song called "Nicole." The left-handed guitarist played with Stevie Ray Vaughan in a pre-fame band called Blackbird. He also toured with ZZ Top and worked as a guitar tech for Billy Gibbons at one time. Not sure if his claim that he would be buried with his guitar happened, but he did die in a hospital bed with a guitar strapped around his neck.

Feb 22: Sonny James, 87, American country singer-songwriter
James was country music's first crossover star, scoring a pop hit with "Young Love" (Tab Hunter's competing version bested its performance by going to number one) in 1957. As "The Southern Gentleman," James accrued 72 country and pop charted releases from 1953 to 1983. During one five-year streak from 1967 to 1971 , he had 16 straight Billboard number one country singles added to his 26 number one overall hits. This is a record that no solo recording artist has bested. He was the first country star to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show and was the first country artist whose music went into space when he made a special music recording for the crew of Apollo 14. How his death got seemingly no press coverage is baffling and speaks volumes about how country music today is no country for old men.

Feb 24: Lennie Baker, 69, Sha Na Na sax player and singer
Baker played sax with doo woppers Danny & the Junior before joining Sha Na Na in the Seventies. Baker would sing lead on "Blue Moon" which Sha Na Na also performed in the movie version of Grease (as "Johnny Casino and the Gamblers").

Feb 27: Gordon Ranney, 53, bassist (The Gomers, Zombeatles), died of lung cancer
Ranney toiled in two seriously jokey bands: The Gomers, who had an album called Sofa King Good, and The Zombeatles, who play undead versions of Fab Four hits like "I Want to Eat Your Brain" and, of course, "A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead." Sadly they never got around to starting a "Paul is Undead" rumor.

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