EntertainmentMusic2016, a tragic year for music

2016, a tragic year for music

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On Christmas day we went to bed with the news of the death of George Michael, an eighties pop star with more than 100 million records sold. Another front-line singer, another superstar in the music world, was leaving us.

The year 2016 was ending, and it could not end in any other way: with the death of an artist. A particularly tough year for music, with important and shocking deaths. From the first days of January to the very 25th of December, throughout the year we lost great singers who had left their mark on the history of music. In this article we remember those who stopped singing and composing in 2016, and who will never stop playing.

January: David Bowie

The year could not have started worse. On January 10 we received the news of the death of David Bowie, one of the most important musicians of the 20th century, an innovative icon, a popular figure for more than five decades. Also, composer of some of the most famous songs of the seventies and eighties. His international fame began in 1969 with the publication of his hit ‘Space Oddity’, which today remains his most famous and covered song.

He traveled the musical universe stopping at the planets of glam rock, pop rock, psychedelic pop, art pop, electronics and new wave, always leaving indifferent and setting trends. Scandalous and great, his death was a social shock of global reach. Thousands of tributes began to appear on social networks and from all corners of the world. In the first weeks of 2016, only the music of David Bowie was heard.

In 1972 he created one of the most important characters in popular culture of the early seventies, a symbol of the experimental and space: Ziggy Stardust, who appeared on the famous album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. ‘. «That astronaut with stories of distant galaxies and apocalypse, motivated in part by the heroin highs of his creator, brought pop to the fable dimension more than ever. The theatrical representation of him, loaded with symbolism, clashed with the tradition of  rock’n’roll  and the counterculture, so committed to the present and its environment. Taking inspiration from  2001: A Space Odyssey, by Stanley Kubrick, and mixing elements of science fiction with autobiographical passages, Bowie heralded the future of pop music» writes Fernando Navarro.

Bowie turned 69 on January 8, 2016 and celebrated by releasing his twenty-fifth album: ‘Blackstar’. Two days later he passed away. Liver cancer diagnosed 18 months earlier (and not made public during his illness) could defeat the star man. The main theme of his last album was the song ‘Lazarus’, a song that Bowie planned as his epitaph. The video clip for the song was David Bowie’s farewell to all his fans.

Enero: Glenn Frey

Perhaps the least known to the general public of those mentioned here, but undoubtedly the one who has sold the most records and who has had the most successes of all. One of the founding members of the Eagles, a legendary rock band, Glenn Frey is the author of some of the group’s biggest hits: ‘Take It Easy’, ‘Already Gone’, ‘Tequila Sunrise’, ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, ‘ Peaceful Easy Feeling’… His country-folk style was one of the two halves that enriched the Eagles (the other half was more rock, led by Don Henley).

Glenn Frey died on January 18, 2016 due to complications derived from intestinal surgery he had received at the end of 2015. His death also meant the end of the Eagles’ career, who announced their final retirement. The band’s history had been characterized by commercial success and internal problems. Frey himself had had important arguments with other members, going so far as to punch guitarist Don Felder. At the Glenn Frey tribute concert, Felder was not invited.

Despite the controversies and negative stories that may surround him, the truth is that Glenn Frey left us some of the best songs composed in the seventies, and they left their mark on millions of people at the time, helping to shape rock and develop new genre types. Bruce Springsteen paid tribute to him at the first concert he performed after his death, singing ‘Take It Easy’.

Glenn Frey’s death, just eight days after the death of David Bowie, heralded that 2016 was going to be a tough year for music. Two great ones left us in the first days of the year, and they would not be the only ones.

January: Paul Kantner and Sign Toly Anderson

January 28, 2016 was a strangely tragic day. If several musicians had already been taken this month, January ended its days with the simultaneous news of two more deaths. And from two co-founding musicians of the same group! On January 28, 2016, Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson, founders of Jefferson Airplane, a famous sixties band, died at the same time.

The psychedelic melodies that drove millions of young people crazy in the late sixties were signed by Paul Kantner and the voice of Signe Toly Anderson. Both were born in 1941, and as a symbol of the brotherly spirit of the hippie movement, both left the world hand in hand, on a bloody January 28, 2016.

February: Maurice White

The group ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ had been one of the most successful of the seventies. Icons of funk, soul and disco music, they began their journey in 1969. Maurice White, born in Memphis in 1941, was the founder of the band. He worked as the main songwriter, as well as their producer and singer. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late 1980s, and had to stop performing at Earth, Wind & Fire concerts in 1994. Even so, White remained active in the music business. He passed away on February 4, 2016 while sleeping at his home, at age 74.

April: Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson was born in Minnesota in 1958, and died in Minnesota on April 21, 2016. His body was found lifeless in his residence, after having taken too many painkillers for a hip pain that was afflicting him. Terrible news for the millions of fans who had followed him since 1978, when he released his first album: ‘For You’.

Prince had started his career in a very productive way, publishing records in 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981 and 1982, but it was finally in 1984 that he hit the key and ‘Purple Rain’ elevated him to the pinnacle of musical success. The ‘Purple Rain’ single we all know was actually a song from the soundtrack of the movie of the same name ‘Purple Rain’, the script for which Prince had written himself. Both the movie and the song were tremendous hits. Prince took three Grammys and the Oscar for Best Original Score.

Much given to controversy, his next album baffled critics and his followers. ‘Around the World in a Day’ (1985) was a radical change in his style: Arabic sounds, psychedelic tones and existentialist lyrics. Prince never wanted to receive fixed labels: he wandered through the lands of funk, pop, new wave, rock, disco, dance, R&B… An example of his restless personality is his stage from 1992 to the year 2000 , when he stopped calling himself ‘Prince’ and all the material he published and all his activity he signed with an unpronounceable symbol. Unable to pronounce this new name, people began calling him “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince.” In 2004, Prince was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The official cause of his death was an overdose of opioid painkillers. In early April he performed a concert in Atlanta, under sick conditions. As he said, he was “fighting the flu.” The next day, during the flight back to Minnesota, his private plane had to make an emergency landing: Prince needed medical treatment. There was a lot of confusion, interest and speculation. Finally, the tragic outcome that ended with the death of the singer showed that it had not been a simple flu. Prince had died at the age of 57, after a long career full of shocks and marked by one color: the purple of the rain.

April: Manolo Tena

The month of April also left us one of the Madrid rock icons of the eighties. Manolo Tena died of liver cancer after a forty-year musical career. After being part of the group Alarma!!! (1983-1986), where he moved closer to funk, he began his solo career, focusing on rock and roll. In 1992 came his great sales success with the album ‘Sangre española’, which sold more than 800,000 copies and made him play at all hours. Some of his most famous songs are ‘Sangre española’ or ‘Tocar madera’.

August: John Gabriel

150 million records sold, 45-year career, the Mexican artist with the most views on YouTube, more than 15,000 concerts around the world, the Latin artist with the most tickets sold to his performances in the United States, holder of a star on the Paseo of Hollywood Fame… even the city of Los Angeles established October 5 as “Juan Gabriel Day”. After Glenn Frey, from the Eagles, surely the most successful of all in this list of deceased in 2016 is Juan Gabriel in terms of sales.

El Divo de Juárez explored different genres such as ballads, rancheras, boleros, pop, northern music, flamenco rumba, huapango, Chicano music, salsa, mariachi sons, a Sinaloan band, disco… He began in 1971, and did not stop singing until a A heart attack stopped his heart on August 28, 2016. That was how his voice faded, the voice of a country, a region, a language. One of the greatest artists in Spanish. His death was a shock for Mexico and for Latin America.

November: Leonard Cohen

The year 2016 continued to progress calmly from August. Too many stars in the musical firmament had gone out. The deaths of David Bowie, Juan Gabriel or Prince had left millions of fans without their idols. In November another news hit us: Leonard Cohen, the great Canadian singer-songwriter, died.

The legendary author of ‘Hallelujah’ (one of the most covered songs in history), the singer with a deep voice, the one to whom so many would have wanted to give the Nobel Prize for Literature, the one who had been active since far away 1956, the great Leonard Cohen left us at the age of 82.

Born in Montreal, Cohen began writing poems in 1951. For all his literary output, he was awarded the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters. Disappointed by what he considered a lack of success as a writer, he dared to turn to music. He chose folk as his background and being a singer-songwriter as his form. Thus, alone, he reaped his first hit: ‘Suzanne’.

During the 1960s and 1970s, he toured extensively and produced several albums. He let his pen fly and surrounded himself with good musicians. In the eighties he had great successes, mainly thanks to the album ‘Various Positions’ (1984), which included songs like ‘Dance Me to the End of Love’ or ‘Hallelujah’. In the nineties he only published one album, which contained the great ‘Democracy’.

From the year 2000 he returned to producing, and released five albums. The last one, ‘You Want It Darker’, in the same 2016. This final touch closed an exceptional musical-literary career, in which Leonard Cohen explored deep themes such as personal relationships, religion, isolation, politics, sexuality … After his death, critics again agreed on what they had been saying for five decades: that Leonard Cohen had been one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. We will always have his fantastic lyrics and his unique voice.

November: Sharon Jones

On November 7, Leonard Cohen, the broken voice of ballads, had left, and on the 18th of the same month, Sharon Jones, one of the voices of American soul and funk, died. Born in Georgia in 1956, Jones was nominated for her first Grammy in 2014. Her career had started late, releasing her first album in 2002. She had spent years singing under the nickname ‘Miss Lafaye’ at the Desco funk nightclub in NY. Her later works tried to recover the sounds of the soul of the sixties, as shown in the song ‘100 Days, 100 Nights’. She died from cancer that she had been fighting for several years.

December: Greg Lake

2016 also destroyed the legendary group ‘Emerson, Lake & Palmer’ (ELP), very successful during the seventies with its fusion of progressive rock with hints of jazz. On December 7, he died at the age of 69 after suffering from cancer. The worst thing is that months before, also in March 2016, his bandmate Keith Emerson committed suicide at home at the age of 71, due to severe depression caused by degenerative problems in the nerves of one hand, which would have prevented his interpretive ability. ELP had left us jewels like ‘Lucky Man’ or ‘From the Beginning’.

December: George Michael

The year was coming to an end, it was December 25, a day of celebrations all over the world, when a last hour woke us all up from the Christmas dream: George Michael died suddenly. Winner of two Grammys and with one hundred million records sold, the London singer had been one of the biggest stars of the eighties and nineties.

George Michael, born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, had been part of the group Wham! (1981-1986), with which he released hits like ‘Last Christmas’ or ‘Wake me Up before You Go’. The success of Wham! it was such that they became the first band from the West to play in China. His first solo venture, the album ‘Faith’ (1986), couldn’t have gone better: 20 million copies sold and an absolute success. A star was born. The data does not lie: between 1984 and 2004 the artist who sounded the most on British radio was George Michael.

A musical career full of successes could not hide a private life full of scandals. Arrested for drug possession, stopped several times by the police, involved in traffic accidents, imprisoned… His life made many tabloid headlines, from his sexual orientation to his drug problems, through his clashes with the industry. record company

At the time of writing this article, the official causes of death for George Michael were unclear. The death of the singer at the age of 53 was a last shock for the world of music before the end of the tragic 2016.

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