The year that was 2016 will long be remembered for the music artists that we lost. With so much talent taken by the hands of time, tonight’s Jukebox will celebrate a small handful of the superstars whose lights were dimmed in 2016.
- David Bowie: Bowie died on January 10th after a long battle with cancer. He did gift the world one last album in the days preceding his death. Blackstar was released on his 69th birthday on January 8th to overwhelmingly positive reviews (Rolling Stone called it an anti-pop masterpiece; Pitchfork ironically opened their review with “David Bowie has died many deaths yet he is still with us. He is popular music’s ultimate Lazarus: Just as that Biblical figure was beckoned by Jesus to emerge from his tomb after four days of nothingness, Bowie has put many of his selves to rest over the last half-century, only to rise again with a different guise.”) But rather than focus on Mr. Bowie’s final opus, I’m going to go back in time to the 80’s–the playground of my adolescence–and pick the song of his that I loved forever and a day: “China Girl.”
“China Girl” by David Bowie, from the album Let’s Dance.
2. Glenn Frey: Frey, one of the founding members of The Eagles who went on to have a robust solo career as well, succumbed at the age of 67 to a combination of rheumatoid arthritis, colitis, and pneumonia on January 18th. While the Dude Lebowski wasn’t an Eagles fan, I grew up loving songs like “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” and “Lyin’ Eyes.” Frey and Henley were the face of The Eagles for me, and they both peppered my high school years with great solo songs, including this jukebox pick.
“You Belong to the City” by Glenn Frey, written specifically for Miami Vice.
3. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake: Keith Emerson, age 71, died on March 11th (self-inflicted gunshot wound, depression, nerve degenerative disease) and Greg Lake, age 69, (cancer) followed his long-time band mate on December 7th. In less than nine months, two-thirds of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer was gone. And while I wasn’t a huge ELP fan, I find their music influential–and I do like their ballads. So here’s my favorite ELP song.
“C’est La Vie” by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer from Works, Volume 1.
4. Merle Haggard: Growing up in central Oklahoma with a country music-loving father, the “Okie from Muskogee” was a mainstay on rides in the truck with my dad. My dad considered Haggard one of the greats. He died on his 79th birthday on April 6th from complications with pneumonia, but this member of the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame made a lasting impact on the genre. Toby Keith even played with the Country Legend in one of his last concerts in Las Vegas, NV.
“Today I Started Loving You Again” by Merle Haggard from his album The Legend of Bonnie & Clyde.
5. Prince: Prince Rogers Nelson featured regularly on the soundtrack of my high school years. My cousin loved Prince so much that he bought all his music on vinyl, cassette, and CD, as well as going to see him multiple times in concert. My friends loved Purple Rain (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Song Score) and 1999 so much that we the words to the songs by heart. I liked some of Prince’s songs, but I was never the fanatic that my friends and cousin were. I still appreciated his talent, his influence, and his energy. I honored how he would always push the envelope innovating along the way. And I was utterly shocked when he died at age 57 from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs on April 21st. “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss” are among my favorites, but my first favorite song of his was this one.
“Little Red Corvette” by Prince from 1999. (Not the original sexy video…sry.)
6. Leonard Cohen: Leonard Cohen has been featured on my jukebox before. His influence reaches far and wide, and his lyrics are incomparable in their beauty and complexity. The folk legend died in his sleep after a fall in the middle of the night on November 7th. He was 82 years old. For tonight’s jukebox, I’ve selected a song from 1967 that was originally published as a poem and has been covered by many artists like Judy Collins and Nina Simone.
“Suzanne” by Leonard Cohen from Songs of Leonard Cohen.
7. George Michael: Another icon from the soundtrack of my high school years has fallen too soon. At only age 53, George Michael died in his sleep from heart failure on Christmas Day. I vividly remember “Careless Whisper” from my sophomore year of high school–it was the first Wham! song I liked. And then my sophomore year of college, he blazed new trails with his solo efforts “I Want Your Sex” and “Faith,” not letting controversy stand in his way. Despite his trouble with drugs and the law over the years, his music transcended conflict and strife. For tonight’s final jukebox selection, I’ve selected his song that spoke most to me (and no, it’s not “Teacher” even though that’s what I am).
“Freedom! ’90” by George Michael from Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1.
We lost many, many more artists through the year, but the few represented here show just how devastating the losses have been to the world of music. May they all rest in peace, and may 2017 be kinder to our icons.