2016 is going out the way it came in with the deaths of more major league musicians: George Michael
and Rick Parfitt
of Status Quo. George was only 53 and Rick 68, which goes to show that the Grim Reaper is now scything down music people from an era post dating that of my musical heroes.
Ten years ago the joy of Christmas Day was shattered by the death of the godfather of soul, James Brown. This time it was George Michael
, a superstar who had enormous success both as one half of Wham!, as a solo singer and on duets with other big names like Aretha Franklin. I was never a great fan of George Michael's music - I have nothing by him in my record collection - but by all accounts he was a modest man who rather regretted the enormous success that he enjoyed both before and after his outing as being gay. That success was due to his undoubted talent as a songwriter and singer and his ability to turn adversity into personal triumph.
A North London boy from a Greek Cypriot family, he made it big in partnership with Andrew
Ridgeley in Wham! with Wake Me Up Before You Go Go making number one in the UK and US. As a solo singer he had huge success with Careless Whisper and Faith among many others. He wrote and produced all the tracks on his Faith album. Another number one was Jesus To A Child, a tribute to his lover Anselmo Feleppa, who died in 1993. He bounced back from his humiliation after being charged with 'engaging in a lewd act' in Los Angeles with Outside, a satirical video making fun of the event. Other successful albums included Ladies and Gentlemen, Songs From The Last Century and Patience and the Wham! single Last Christmas, released in 1985, has become a Christmas standard. Drugs issues and odd behaviour dogged George in recent years, but his death from 'heart failure' at such a young age is a shock. No doubt more information will emerge.
Only a day earlier we heard that Rick Parfitt
of Status Quo had died following complications arising from a shoulder injury. Rick, along with Francis Rossi, was the centre of the band for five decades and enjoyed enormous success with their fairly basic, but rocking approach. After their first hit, the psychedelic Pictures of Matchstick Men in 1967, they settled into a straight ahead hard rocking groove and the sight of Rick's long blonde hair flopping about as he played his guitar became one of the band's trademarks. Hits such as Rockin' All Over The World, Whatever You Want and Down Down were hugely successful and they were among the most recognisable rock bands of all time. Rick led the rock and roll lifestyle of drugs, drink and smoking and had a heart bypass operation in 1997, so perhaps his early demise wasn't too surprising. But for all Quo fans, of which I am not really one, his loss will be considerable.
Everyone says 2016 has been a particularly bad year for music, with loads of high profile deaths including David Bowie, Prince and Leonard Cohen, as well as this latest Christmas pairing. But someone made the point the other day that there are more famous people in the world today that there have ever been, so it's probably no surprise that they seem to be dropping like flies. The Vinyl Word raises a glass to all those who have passed on and I can only hope that there is less bad news in 2017. Don't forget that we still have four of the giants of fifties music with us, even if in most cases they are no longer performing, namely Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.