During the past year we lost many artists whose impact on rock and roll, blues, jazz and other genres of music will be powerful and enduring. Below, we pay tribute to some of those great talents.
J.J. Cale (Dec. 5, 1938 – July 26, 2013)
“People have heard my music, but all my famous songs were made famous by somebody else,” J.J. Cale once told the Chicago Sun-Times. “But that was my goal.” Indeed, a trio of Cale classics—“After Midnight,” “Cocaine” and “Call Me the Breeze”—furnished Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd, respectively, with three of the biggest hits of their careers. The Oklahoma native released over a dozen albums of his own, helping invent the trademark “Tulsa sound” in the process.
Ray Manzarek (Feb. 12, 1939 – May 20, 2013)
Like all great bands, The Doors were blessed with magical musical chemistry. That chemistry could never have existed without Ray Manzarek. The Doors keyboardist’s stunning intro for “Light My Fire”--one of the most instantly recognizable song segments in popular music—is but one example of his brilliant artistry. To his credit, Manzarek always insisted each member of The Doors was indispensable in creating their music. “It was transcendent,” Manzarek once said, of his years with the band. “Those four personalities fell in line beautifully.”
Trevor Bolder (June 9, 1950 – May 21, 2013)
British musician Trevor Bolder spent most of his 40-year musical career playing bass with Uriah Heep. For fans of ‘70s glam rock, however, he’ll always be best remembered for his work as member of David Bowie’s “Ziggy”-era band, The Spiders from Mars. “Clearly the most exciting band Bowie has ever had” is how Rolling Stone once described the Spiders. “Trevor was a wonderful musician and a major inspiration for whichever band he was working with,” Bowie said, in the wake of Bolder’s death. "But he was foremostly a tremendous guy, a great man."
Jeff Hanneman (Jan. 31, 1964 – May 2, 2013)
The world of thrash metal suffered a grave loss when guitarist Jeff Hanneman succumbed to liver disease at age 49. As a founding member of Slayer, Hanneman wrote the music (and oftentimes the lyrics) for nearly all the band’s best-known songs. The range of artists who cite his influence—both as a guitar player and as a songwriter—is staggering. System of Down bassist Shavo Odadjian went so far as to declare that "without Jeff Hanneman, there would be no System of a Down.” Slash simply called him “the king of thrash/speed metal guitar.”
Alvin Lee (Dec. 9, 1944 – March 6, 2013)
Ten Years After guitarist Alvin Lee exploded onto the world stage following his electrifying performance at Woodstock in 1969. Once called “the fastest guitarist in the West,” the British musician was often hailed as an early pioneer in the shredder movement that took hold in the ‘80s. Lee left Ten Years After in 1975 for a solo career, going on to record with George Harrison, Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and other notable figures. In total, he released more than 20 albums during a 45-year career.
Peter Banks (July 15, 1947 – March 7, 20130
No discussion of prog-rock can be complete a big tip of the hat to Peter Banks. As founding guitarist for Yes, Banks helped forge the group’s musical identity and even gave the legendary band its name. Leaving Yes in 1970, Banks went on to form Flash, a little-known quartet that released a trio of superb studio albums. “Lifetime,” from Flash’s 1972 album, In the Can, is Bank’s tour-de-force. BBC disc jockeys Danny Baker and Big George have called Banks "The Architect of Progressive Music."
Richie Havens (Jan. 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013)
Richie Havens’ iconic status was probably ensured the moment he took the stage as opening act of the original Woodstock Festival. For the next 40 decades, the Brooklyn native remained one of the most beloved figures to emerge from the ‘60s folk scene. Speaking to Billboard, he said the inspiration for songs about social change and protest came from listening to artists like Fred Neil, Dino Valenti and Tom Paxton. “Those songs … were so much different than the doo-wop kind of thing,” he recalled, “… so powerful. Finally I decided, 'I've got to do this.’”
Jim Hall (Dec. 4, 1930 – Dec. 10, 2013)
Pat Metheny, Bill Frisell and John Scofield are just a few of the notable guitarists who’ve credited jazz great Jim Hall as a prime influence. Admired for his beautiful technique and the subtle expressiveness of playing, Hall always insisted he was influenced as much by saxophone players as he was by his fellow guitarists. “Tenor saxophonists really influenced the way I play,” he told the New York Times, in 1990. “I’d try and get that lush sound of a tenor saxophone.” Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins and Itzhak Perlman are among the many musicians with whom he toured or recorded.
Magic Slim (Aug. 7, 1937 – Feb. 21, 2013)
From the time he moved to Chicago in the mid ‘50s, Magic Slim never wavered from delivering raw, unadulterated blues that reflected his Mississippi roots. In a recording career that spanned more than four decades, Slim (whose birth name was Morris Holt) earned the respect of critics and fellow musicians alike. In the wake of Slim’s death, Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records, said, "Magic Slim was a true Chicago bluesman through and through. He gloried in the rough edges of the music. He never tried to make it slick."
Lou Reed (March 2, 1942 - Oct. 27, 2013)
Assessing Lou Reed's impact on rock and roll is a bit like trying to assess Shakespeare's impact on literature. Reed's influence is that fundamental, and it's in the very fabric of the art form. Future historians seeking to assess rock and roll's visceral power--particularly during the second half of the 20th century-could do worse than start with Reed's body of work as a guide. Few artists of any stripe have been as fiercely uncompromising in the pursuit of their craft.
Other notable musicians we lost include: Phil Chevron (The Pogues), Junior Murvin (reggae great), Damon Harris (The Temptations), Jackie Lomax (singer-songwriter and Beatles associate), Alan Myers (Devo), Johnny Smith (jazz guitarist), Reg Presley (The Troggs), Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (Ohio Players), George Jones (country singer), Chi Cheng (Deftones), Hugh McCracken (session guitarist), Clive Burr (Iron Maiden), Dan Toler (Allman Brothers, others), Ray Price (country singer)
J.J. Cale Talks Guitars, Clapton and His Distinctive Sound
Ray Manzarek Talks Doors, Jim Morrison, Shamen and L.A. Woman
Prog-Rock Legend Peter Banks Talks About Yes, Flash And ES-335s