2018 Death of The Moody Blues Founder Ray Thomas Follows A Year Of The Passing Of Too Many Music Greats

Posted by Billyjam, January 9, 2018 03:59pm | Post a Comment

The passing of The Moody Blues founding member Ray Thomas, whose Jan 4th death was announced two days ago, follows an intense year in which we lost too many other music greats; many of whom are saluted in this Amoeblog. In 1964 flute player and vocalist Ray Thomas formed the British rock band The Moody Blues who would go onto to worldwide fame with such hits as "Go Now" (their 1965 breakout #1 hit single), "Nights in White Satin,” "Tuesday Afternoon,"  and "Question.” Coincidentally the Moody Blues will be inducted into Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April. 

In addition to Thomas, others who’ve already died in the first week of 2018 include iconic French pop singer France Gall, actor/singer Jerry Van Dyke, Black Sabbath and Judas Priest producer Chris Tsangarides, producer/songwriter Rick Hall of FAME Studios, and founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet, influential violinist and composer Robert Mann who died at age 97 one week ago on New Year’s Day. Also deceased on January 1, 2018, was 1960's soul singer Betty Willis whose tragic end, as a homeless person in Southern California, been murdered from strangulation following an attempted rape by a homeless man.

As one gets older the odds of our musical heroes dying increases proportionately with each passing year. In 2016 we lost such iconic artists as Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, George Michael and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest. Now those were some tough losses for longtime music fans like myself. But 2017 seemed even tougher since so many artist passings hit close to home since, beyond been admired artists, they were friends too. Prime examples included the two widely beloved Bay Area female DJs whose unexpectedly premature passings caught all of us by surprise: DJ Stef who died suddenly from a heart attack at age 55 in October (read DJ Stef Amoeblog tribute), and the recent passing of 51 year old DJ Pam “The Funkstress” Warren who died three days before Christmas (read Pam Amoeblog tribute here). Considering that The Coup / Prince DJ had been a frequent Amoeba Music in-store performer and friend of Amoeba for many years, Pam’s passing hit us extra hard here at Amoeba Music. Amoeba co-founder Marc Weinstein was among those to mourn the passing of the DJ known also as Purple Pam who just six months earlier had been the special guest DJ for Prince Day 2017 at Amoeba Berkeley.

In addition to the passing of Pam The Funkstress, Amoeba’s Weinstein witnessed other losses in the final month of 2017 including his own father, the legendary Buffalo NY television news anchor Irv Weinstein who died December 26th from complications of amyotropic lateral sclerosis. The iconic WKBW TV Eyewitness News television broadcaster’s death at age 87 followed a prolonged illness for which Marc was by his father’s side right up until the end. A little over a week earlier the Amoeba co-owner witnessed someone else close to him die; 61 year old artist  Ralph Carney who began his career in the 70’s via Akron band Tin Huey. In immediate response to Carney’s passing Marc posted to social media, “Can’t stop thinking about my friend and hero, Ralph Carney….. This man shall never be forgotten; he deserves no less than lifelong tributes….This guy was relentless in his bringing joy to the world.” Another artist admired by Marc was German bass player and experimental artist Holger Czukay (79); one of the founding members of the Krautrock pioneers Can and noted post-Can solo artist whose been credited for being among the pioneers in such fields as sampling, ambient and of what would become known as world music.

Among the icons to pass in 2017 were rock’n’roll pioneer and New Orleans first son Fats Domino (89) who died in October (read Fats Domino Amoeblog tribute), and rock’n’roll pioneer guitarist/singer/songwriter Chuck Berry (90) last March coincidentally within weeks of the release the excellent tribute V/A compilation album Rock And Roll Music! The Songs Of Chuck Berry.  (read Amoeblog Chuck Berry tribute here)  Of all popular music genres, rock music seemed to have suffered the loss of the most contributors over 2017.

These included Tom Petty (66) who died of cardiac arrest back in early October. Read full Amoeblog tribute to the frontman of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Singer, keyboardist, guitarist with The Allman Brothers Band, Gregg Allman (69) died in late May from liver cancer. Read more on the artist and his posthumous 2017 release here. Leader of The J. Geils Band, guitarist J. Geils (71) died last April from natural causes (read Amoeblog tribute)

AC/DC co-founder, guitarist, singer/songwriter Malcolm Young (64) died in mid November after battling dementia. Producer and founder of progressive rock, new age leaning band Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Paul O’Neill (61) died last April. Last month Pat DiNizio (62) of The Smithereens died. This Saturday (Jan 13 2018) the surviving members of DiNizio’s NJ band will perform a special dedication concert entitled Time And Time Again: A Celebration of the Life of Pat DiNizio

Singer/songwriter Tommy Keene (59) who is known for his own solo recordings as well as frequently collaborating with such artists as T-Bone Burnett the Goo Goo Dolls died in November. Keyboardist Geoff Nicholls (68) who was a longtime member of Black Sabbath (initially as bassist) from the 80s through until 2004 died late last January following a long battle with lung cancer.

As with the aforementioned Black Sabbath member, cancer was responsible for many other 2017 deaths. These included The RochesMaggie Roche (65) who died last January, the “French ElvisJohnny Hallyday (74) who passed in December following a prolonged battle with lung cancer, and Grant Hart (56); the drummer and singer of Hüsker Dü who died in September of complications from liver cancer and hepatitis. Meanwhile liver failure was cited as the cause of death of former pop teen idol David Cassidy (67) whose career was launched in the early 70’s as star of the hit television show The Partridge Family.

Another recurring cause of artist deaths seems to be suicide whether intended or accidental. These included last January’s  self-inflicted gunshot wound death of The Allman Brothers Band drummer and co-founder Butch Trucks (69), and the November 15th death of rapper Lil Peep (21) from an accidental suicide due to an overdose of fentanyl. The apparent suicide death of K-pop star Kim Jong-hyun (aka Jonghyun) resulted in huge mourning by young fans of the South Korea musical star. Similarly hard for his fans was the suicide death by hanging of Chester Bennington (41) of Linkin Park fame as well as Dead By Sunrise and Stone Temple Pilots.

The late Bennington made news over the past 24 hours when his widow and his record label, via social media, requested fans refrain from leaving flowers and momentos at the LA suburb house where he took his life since she no longer lives there and the home is now occupied by new tenants. Earlier today widow Talinda Bennington tweeted, “Please go to Warner Bros Records as a place for memorial for @ChesterBe. We will have a special memorial for his birthday [March 20] but we are still trying to figure out the details.”  Another suicide victim in 2017 was friend of Bennington’s; Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell who died by suicide last May. At Cornell’s funeral Bennington wrote a tribute and sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Among the hip-hop artists to die in 2017 were Christopher Wong Won, aka rapper Fresh Kid Ice (53) who co-founded the 2 Live Crew, and Mobb Deep’s Prodigy (42) who succumbed to sickle-cell anemia.
In the soul, RnB, and funk genres among those to die in 2017 weresinger/songwriter Pete Moore (79) of (Smokey Robinson’s) The Miracles, blue-eyed soul singer Wayne Cochran (78) who drew influence from the likes of like Otis Redding and James Brown, and JB drummer Clyde Stubblefield (73). As recording/tour drummer with James Brown from 1965 to 1971, Clyde Stubblefield’s influential percussion (on hip-hop especially) can be heard on such JB classics as  “Ain’t It Funky Now,” “Cold Sweat,” “There Was a Time,” “I Got The Feelin’,” and “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud.”

In early September multi-instrumentalist, songwriter Walter Becker (67) of Steely Dan died. Read full Amoeblog tribute here. Another artist whose music appealed to fans of rock and jazz was Allan Holdsworth (70) the jazz fusion, rock guitarist, composer who died from a heart attack last April. Jazz fusion musician/singer known as the “acrobat of scat” Al Jarreau (76) died in February from respiratory failure. That same month jazz fusion pioneer, guitarist Larry Coryell (73) died. Post-bop jazz alto saxophonist and composer Arthur Blythe (76) died in March.

Country music lost several key artists in 2017 including Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, singer/songwriter and guitarist Don Williams (79) who died in September, and country music legend Mel Tillis (85) who died in November as a result of respiratory failure. Last August crossover country star Glen Campbell (81)  died following a battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Two months earlier Campbell released what he knew would be his final album: Adiós. Read full Amoeblog tribute here.

Rest in peace to all of these artists we’ve lost over the past year.

Relevant Tags

Al Jarreau (2), Ray Thomas (2), Music In Memoriam 2017 (1), Clyde Stubblefield (1), Steely Dan (9), Allan Holdsworth (3), Stone Temple Pilots. Walter Becker (1), Dead By Sunrise (1), Linkin Park (3), Chester Bennington (1), Butch Trucks (1), Jonghyun (1), Lil Peep (4), The Allman Brothers Band (2), Moody Blues (4), France Gail (2), 2017 Musicians Rip (1), Larry Coryell (1), Arthur Blythe (2), Amoeblog Music In Memoriam (8), Amoeblog Music In Memoriam (8)