Five Major Musicians Who Left Us in 2011

Each year, we regretfully feel obligated to make this list. Musicians that touch our hearts and change our lives come and go.

Some of these musicians had long, fruitful careers, while others seemed like they were just getting started.

Gil Scott-Heron

Poet-musician Gil Scott-Heron left a lasting impact on the music industry, whether you're familiar with his name or not. His style of spoken word, mixed with jazz and blues made him one of the forefathers of truly thoughtful rap. More recently, Kanye West sampled Scott-Heron's poetry on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, on both "Who Will Survive in America" and "Lost in the World." West later performed both songs at his funeral. Though the cause of his May 27 death has not been announced, the 62-year-old revealed that he was HIV positive in a New York Magazineinterview.

Here are a four more musicians who made a lasting impact before passing away in 2011.

Amy Winehouse

After battling drugs and alcohol for a good chunk of her adult life, the vocal powerhouse died on July 23. Though Winehouse repeatedly became the butt of alcohol and drug related jokes in the media, even her mother only knew it was a matter of time until Amy left the planet. At age 27, her blood alcohol level was five times the legal limit and she died leaving only two studio albums in her memory.

Clarence Clemons

On June 12, the "Big Man" suffered a stroke. He was expected to recover, but in the days following, died from complications on July 18. He was Bruce Springsteen's right hand man, but the saxophonist also lived out a rather successful career in his own right. He was a guest musician, performing with The Grateful Dead and Ringo Starr and His All-Star Band, and he also fancied himself a bit of an actor, perhaps most memorably in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Heavy D

In October, Heavy D performed live for the first time in 15 years at the BET Hip-Hop Awards. Mere days after, it would prove to be his last performance. On November 8, the rapper collapsed outside of his Los Angeles home and was later pronounced dead thanks to a bout with pneumonia. He leaves behind a solid repertoire of studio albums and a lasting legacy with the hip-hop community.

Nate Dogg

After a three month series of stokes and one heart attack, singer Nate Dogg died from complications on March 15 at age 41. In 1990, he formed 213 with Snoop Dogg and Warren G. Their demo was eventually heard by Dr. Dre, which helped the careers of all three members take off. After collaborating with artists like Eminem, Ludacris, Mobb Deep and more, the death of hip-hop's soulful voice was heavily mourned in 2011.

Follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Christina Caldwell