Here Are All The Famous Musicians Who Died in March 2016

George MartinEXPAND
George Martin
David Train/Creative Commons 2.0

March came in like a lion and went out like a light for 16 notable musicians. The latest in the Reaper Ranks for the past 31 days include a knighted record producer, a prog rock maverick, and an actress turned pop star of whom we know that "a hot dog makes her lose control."

Here are musicians, some famous and others lesser-known, that died during March 2016. 

March 1
Gayle McCormick, 67,  lead singer of Smith; cause of death — cancer

Any oldies radio fan remembers this group called Smith's passionate and despondent cover of The Shirelles' "Baby It's You," also featured in Quentin Tarantino's film Death Proof. When it was first released and reached the Top 5 in 1969, it reminded some people of Janis Joplin, had Janis Joplin lived to die of cancer at 67. 

Joey is on the left.EXPAND
Joey is on the left.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Tiffany Addair/Released

March 4
Joey Feek, 40, American country singer (Joey + Rory); cause of death — cervical cancer 

Joey was part of the husband-wife country duo Joey + Rory who scored a 2008 Top 40 country hit with "Cheater Cheater." (Sample putdown - "Where did you meet that no good white trash ho?")

March 6
Aaron Huffman, 43, American rock bassist (Harvey Danger); cause of death — respiratory failure

This Seattle pop band's unforgettably catchy 1998 single "Flagpole Sitta" had the chorus tag "I'm not sick but I'm not well." The group's sick and not-at-all-well bassist played a distinctive distorted bass on that hit, and bandmate Sean Nelson acknowledged  Huffman's bass as a "a melodic lead instrument" and "the signature element of the band’s sound."

Here Are All The Famous Musicians Who Died in March 2016EXPAND
David Train/Creative Commons 2.0

March 8
Sir George Martin, 90, British Hall of Fame record producer (The Beatles)

It's not every producer and arranger who can say they changed the landscape of pop, and in the avalanche of tributes to the Beatles' producer (including my own appreciation of his hand in the Beatles' development), something overlooked was that Martin produced another British institution. He helmed the two best-ever and highest-charting Bond themes, Shirley Bassey's seismic "Goldfinger" and Sir Paulie's "Live and Let Die." The latter film featured Martin's original score throughout.

The cover for Ray Griff's Expression album.
The cover for Ray Griff's Expression album.

March 9
Ray Griff, 75, Canadian country music singer; cause of death — aspiration pneumonia as a complication from surgery 

In case you ever wondered what Canadian country singers sound like, back when country music told sad stories that made crying in your beer a national pastime.

March 10
Gogi Grant, 91, American pop singer

She was the first female singer to knock Elvis Presley off the top of the charts in 1956, with her classic recording of "The Wayward Wind". She is also the last woman on Earth to be named Gogi. Believe me, I Googled "Gogi."

March 10
Keith Emerson, 71, English progressive rock and rock keyboardist (The Nice; Emerson, Lake & Palmer); cause of death — suicide

Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's over-the-top progressive rock was an easy target of ELP's punk contemporaries,  but Emerson was certainly a kindred spirit, what with stabbing his keyboards with Nazi-era daggers and rigging his pianos with more explosives than Wile E. Coyote might employ in a single Road Runner cartoon. Plus, he managed to get banned from the Royal Albert Hall for desecrating an American flag while performing "America" from West Side Story. In latter years, Emerson suffered nerve damage in his hand, which adversely affected his playing. It has been suggested that some of the nasty trolling about his recent appearances hurt him greatly. It makes me feel doubly worse about any cruel comments I ever made about Love Beach. 

 

Here Are All The Famous Musicians Who Died in March 2016

March 11
Ben Edmonds, 65, American rock journalist and editor (Creem, 1971–1975)

His name in the Creem masthead marked the greatest period of "America's Only Rock N Roll Magazine" and ensured you could nurse a copy of Creem for weeks and still find something buried in a photo caption or an editor's note to chortle at. Edmonds also discovered and signed the band Mink DeVille to Capitol Records and was a crucial supporter of Iggy and the Stooges and The MC5.

March 12
Tommy Brown, 84, American R&B singer

Bron made his mark as a member of The Griffin Brothers in the early 1950s, but in 1949 he recorded "Atlanta Boogie" as Tommy Brown and Orchestra on the Regent label and made one of the earliest references to rock 'n' roll in an R&B record.

March 16
Lee Andrews, 79, American doo-wop singer (Lee Andrews & the Hearts)

Lee Andrews & the Hearts' timeless late-'50s hits include "Teardrops," "Long Lonely Nights," and "Try the Impossible." In addition to being a mainstay on the doo-wop nostalgia circuit, Andrews was the father of The Roots' Ahmir Khalib Thompson (Questlove to you).

Frank Sinatra, Jr.
Frank Sinatra, Jr.

Frank Sinatra, Jr., 72, American singer; cause of death — cardiac arrest
The Son of The Chairman of the Board never got much respect. A 1963 kidnapping left him with a stigma when the kidnappers tried passing the crime off as a stunt Junior was in on meant to jump start his singing career. In latter years, when Frank Sr. needed a TelePrompter to get through songs, Frank Jr. served as his dad's bandleader. Prior to his death, Frank Jr. was quoted in the Daytona Beach News-Journal about his decision to  sing standards of the American Songbook in the swinging '60s: "I was trying to sell antiques in a modern appliance store."

March 17
Steve Young, 73, American outlaw country music singer-songwriter

For Eagles fans whose world was rocked by the recent death of Glenn Frey and the unsettling domestic drama of Randy Meisner, now they have to process the death of the writer of "Seven Bridges Road," the song The Eagles practiced harmonizing to before going out and fighting on stage.

A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg at Club Red.
A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg at Club Red.
Benjamin Leatherman

March 22
Phife Dawg, 45, rapper (A Tribe Called Quest); cause of death — complications from diabetes

Dawg was a co-founder of A Tribe Called Quest, one of the standard bearers of alternative hip-hop in the '90s. Dawg had a lifelong struggle with type 2 diabetes, which he hinted at in the 1993 cut “Oh My God": "When was the last time you heard a funky diabetic?"

March 23
Jimmy Riley, 61, Jamaican reggae musician; cause of death — cancer

In 1983, Riley topped the UK reggae chart with his version of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing." There's an inappropriate cancer joke in there somewhere.

March 29
Patty Duke, 69, American actress and singer; cause of death — sepsis

In 1962, she won an Oscar at the tender age of 16 for portraying Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. She would prove to be similarly tone deaf when United Artists spun her off as a teen pop idol as the star of The Patty Duke Show. After all, the show's opening theme did say, "Patti loves to rock 'n' roll / a hot dog makes her lose control, " didn't it? She did rack up several top 50 hits, none charting higher than "Please Don't Just Stand There," an attempted rewrite of Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" devoid of any self-respect or semblance of pitch.

March 30
Andy Newman, 73, British pianist (Thunderclap Newman)

I was sad to learn of the death of this gifted pianist (you can hear his magic fingers in this summer of '69 UK chart topper "Something in the Air"). But then I looked up Thunderclap Newman and learned that the group's vocalist and songwriter, Speedy Keen (and writer of The Who Sell Out's opening track "Armenia City in the Sky"), had also passed away — in 2002.


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