Musicians Who've Died In 2022

Amazing musicians should be celebrated throughout their lives, but a great musician's death is an occasion to honor them and perhaps remind everyone why their legacy is worth passing on. In 2022, a myriad of acclaimed musicians passed away. Some were well into their 80s, while others met untimely deaths.

Of course, a musician's death is a shock not just to their fans, but to their bandmates and friends. When Dave Grohl organized a tribute concert for Foo Fighters' late drummer, Taylor Hawkins, he got emotional as he said (via E.T. Canada): "You know that no one else could make you smile or laugh or dance or sing like he could." And when Coolio passed away in September 2022, as BBC reports, a number of fellow rappers and musicians wrote about their shock as well as their deep admiration for a talented artist and a kind person. MC Hammer tweeted: "One of the nicest dudes I've known. Good people. R.I.P. Coolio."

Let's explore the lives, careers, and legacies of the well-known musicians who've died in 2022.

Calvin Simon (May 22, 1942 – January 6, 2022)

Calvin Simon's journey as a funk godfather started early in his life, as Rolling Stone reports. It was in the late 1950s that Simon joined forces with vocalists Fuzzy Haskins and Grady Thomas in George Clinton's R&B group the Parliaments, which eventually merged with Funkadelic to form the famous group Parliament-Funkadelic, which is still active today.

As Simon's official website states, he brought funk, gospel, and R&B to new heights with Parliament-Funkadelic, and even laid the groundwork for hip hop. But this wasn't an easy journey — all the while, Simon was struggling with trauma: "The thing that means the most to me is how I handled the PTSD from my service in the Vietnam War," he once said. As the situation between the increasing number of band members grew tense in the late 1970s, Simon departed. He explained his decision: "People need to realize that if you don't like a situation, you have the choice to walk away and do something else."

Simon went on to have a prolific solo career as a gospel musician, and he also released albums with former P-Funk bandmates under the names Funkadelic and The Original P. Before releasing his 2016 album "It's Not Too Late," Simon was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He received treatment and seemed to be doing fine when his wife succumbed to cancer. Then, in January 2022, Simon died at the age of 79. The cause of death has not been made public.

Wavy Navy Pooh (1994 – January 14, 2022)

Miami-based rapper Wavy Navy Pooh was born Shandler Beaubien in 1994, as the Miami Herald confirms. Beaubien was quite familiar with gun violence — his most famous song is called "M.I.A.M.I. (Murder Is a Major Issue)." It's always a discussion topic whether hip-hop lyrics and videos showing guns, police confrontations, and violence are reflections of the rappers' real lives or creative bluffs. In Beaubien's case, his songs were reflections of his life. Back in May 2020, he was shot twice in his legs while driving, and he fired back at the attacker.

It seems like Beaubien was heavily involved in the Miami tit-for-tat gun violence. He was reportedly involved in several shootings in 2021, with the Miami Police aware of the activity and apprehensive about possible gang wars. As per NBC Miami, on January 14, 2022, Beaubien was in his car with a woman and two children, 1 and 5 years old. While he was stopped at a light, their car was ambushed, and Beaubien was fatally shot. He had yet to turn 28. His companions were not harmed ... at least, not physically.

News of Wavy Navy Pooh's untimely death surfaced on the internet before the police confirmed his identity. It's a sad and ironic twist that his most famous song perfectly exemplifies the issue of gun violence in Miami, and how the eye-for-an-eye mindset only brings more death and suffering.

Meat Loaf (September 27, 1947 – January 20, 2022)

As Biography reports, the source of Meat Loaf's famous nickname is still a mystery. He was born Marvin Lee Aday in Dallas, Texas, and he had a pretty rough start in life. He lived on and off with his grandmother, while his father's alcoholism took a violent turn at home. Then, he purposely gained 60 pounds to escape being drafted, but he still received a notice. That's when he ran to LA and got work as a bouncer. Soon enough, he had his own band, Meat Loaf Soul. It was while performing in the musical "Hair," however, that he found recognition, both as an actor and a musician.

In the mid-1970s, he achieved worldwide fame in both sectors. In 1975, Meat Loaf starred in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," a cult film that grossed $112 million in ticket sales. In 1977, he released his hit album "Bat Out of Hell." As CNN Entertainment reports, he received a Grammy in 1993 for best solo rock vocal performance for the song "I'd Do Anything for Love."

In November 2021, Meat Loaf spoke out about his struggle with back pain and multiple back surgeries (via Facebook): "I couldn't hit high notes because of back pain. Not a slight back pain. Pain that would bring you to your knees." He urged people not to get back surgery, as it had only made things worse for him. Two months later, Meat Loaf died at the age of 74, surrounded by his wife and two daughters.

Syl Johnson (July 1, 1936 – February 6, 2022)

Syl Johnson was part of the groundbreaking wave of Black musicians who moved from the South to Chicago in the mid-20th century. Without this wave, it can be argued that rock 'n' roll, funk, and blues wouldn't be what they are today. According to NPR, Johnson was born in 1936 in Mississippi, but between the late 1940s and 1950, his whole family moved to Chicago after his father found work there. It was through his 13-year-old neighbor, Sam Maghett (later known as Magic Sam), that Johnson discovered music. In 1959, as The Guardian reports, Johnson released his first song.

In 1975, he released the hit song "Take Me to the River," written by Al Green. Johnson's fame and influence in the musical world only seemed to increase, as the developing hip-hop scene sampled several of his songs. Johnson's song "Different Strokes" was sampled by the Wu-Tang Clan, Kanye West and Jay-Z, De La Soul, and Public Enemy, just to name a few.

Johnson is not just recognized for his music, but also for his politically engaged lyrics. For instance, his song "Is It Because I'm Black?" contains social commentary from the civil rights era that's still relevant today. In February 2022, Johnson died at the age of 85. His family wrote: "He lived his life as a singer, musician and entrepreneur who loved black music ... A fiery, fierce, fighter, always standing for the pursuit of justice."

Betty Davis (July 26, 1944 – February 9, 2022)

With Betty Davis following Calvin Simon and Syl Johnson, it might seem like the early months of 2022 marked the end of funk. When Rolling Stone called Davis "the trailblazing queen of funk," they did so because Davis started recording funk songs as early as 1964. During this time, she was a model, going by her birth name, Betty Mabry. But four years later, Mabry married Miles Davis and took his name. Their marriage ended after just one year, but each left a musical mark on the other — Rolling Stone credits Betty with introducing Miles to the rock genre, which can be heard on albums such as 1969's "In a Silent Way." And of course, his song "Mademoiselle Mabry" is a direct ode to her.

As both The Guardian and The New Yorker point out, Davis was primarily known for her raw, powerful voice and her openly sexual lyrics — something that may be the norm today but was quite groundbreaking in the early 1970s. Janelle Monáe, who is known for her feminist-futurist and Black-empowering music, said of Davis (via Complex): "She's one of the godmothers of redefining how black women in music can be viewed. I respect her a lot and she's opened up a lot of doors for artists like myself."

Davis left the music scene in the 1970s, but she made a surprising comeback in 2019 with her song "A Little Bit Hot Tonight." In February 2022, Davis died of natural causes. She was 77 years old.

Mark Lanegan (November 25, 1964 – February 22, 2022)

Mark Lanegan's career was much less tumultuous than his life. As The Guardian reports, he had a crippling alcohol addiction at the age of 12, which he then tried to curb by using heroin. And in 1984, the same year he co-founded the grunge band the Screaming Trees, Lanegan was hit by a tractor. As per BBC, the Screaming Trees released eight studio albums but split up in 2000, after several conflicts within the band. Soon after, Lanegan achieved further fame when he became a vocalist for Queens of the Stone Age, alongside frontman Josh Homme.

Lanegan left QOTSA after a few years, but he went on to have an admirable solo career. During the last years of his life, Lanegan also became a published author. He wrote poetry collections ("Plague Poems" and "Leaving California") and published two heartbreaking memoirs, "Sing Backwards and Weep" and "Devil in a Coma." Per The Guardian, his autobiographies describe years of struggles with drug abuse and losing friends to overdoses (and one friend to a serial killer).

Sadly, Lanegan's 2021 memoir "Devil in a Coma" describes his last few months, during which his health was further affected by COVID-19. The virus made Lanegan lose his hearing, then his ability to walk. Finally, he was in and out of comas. He was 57 in February 2022 when he succumbed to the illness.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Taylor Hawkins (Feb 17, 1972 – March 25, 2022)

Soon after Mark Lanegan passed away came another untimely death. Taylor Hawkins joined the Foo Fighters at a time when Dave Grohl was already an illustrious drummer and musician. Hawkins told Rolling Stone that he felt intimidated by Grohl's talent: "There's the best drummer in the world again, and I'm the little dumb s*** behind him that just ... does whatever I'm told and tries to play 'Everlong' as good as him and I can't." This wasn't true — Grohl and Hawkins became very good friends, and Hawkins soon proved his talent and raw power to Grohl and Foo Fighters fans alike.

But another Rolling Stone article paints a grim picture of Hawkins' last days. Reportedly, he was increasingly exhausted from the constant touring with Foo Fighters. Before a Bogota, Colombia, show on March 25, 2022, emergency responders were called to Hawkins' hotel when he experienced chest pain. When the paramedics arrived, he had already died. Several drugs were found in his system, but the cause of death has not been made public.

Foo Fighters immediately canceled their tour, and Grohl went on to organize a huge tribute concert for Hawkins in the summer of 2022 (via BBC). The line-up included legends Paul McCartney and Queen. According to E News, several of Hawkins' friends deemed the Rolling Stone article misleading and insisted that Hawkins was a positive, energetic person, and that his death was a shocking end to the musician's life.

Alan White (June 14, 1949 – May 26, 2022)

Playing the drums in a progressive rock band is no easy feat. But playing the drums for Yes and two Beatles is even more impressive — such was the career of Alan White. As per White's official website, he began playing the piano at age 6, and his uncle, noticing his percussive style, bought him a drum kit. In 1969, when he was about 20 years old, White received a call from John Lennon. The Beatles frontman wanted White to play the drums with his fresh Plastic Ono Band (via The Guardian): "I was sure it was somebody playing a joke, so I hung up." But Lennon called again, and so White became a prominent figure in the rock scene.

A year later, White played the drums on George Harrison's album "All Things Must Pass." In 1972, he replaced the already-famous original Yes drummer, Bill Bruford. The Yes line-up went through a series of high-profile changes, but White stuck with the band to the very end, making him the longest-serving member. He was there for the intricate and at times cryptic progressive albums of the 1970s and for the hit 1983 album "90125" (comprising the No.1 song "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and other, lighter pop tunes). In 2017, White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame alongside his Yes bandmates.

In May 2022, White succumbed to a short illness. He was 72 years old, and the 2022 Yes tour would have marked his 50-year anniversary with the band.

Olivia Newton-John (September 26, 1948 – August 8, 2022)

Olivia Newton-John had a prolific career as a singer-songwriter and actress, but a pretty tragic personal life, as Biography points out. She began singing as a teenager and found her big break in 1973 when she won a Grammy Award for best country female vocal performance for the title track on her third solo album, "Let Me Be There." The following year, Newton-John received a Grammy for record of the year for "I Honestly Love You."

Then, she achieved movie stardom as John Travolta's co-star in the 1978 musical "Grease." During the early 1980s, Newton-John remained on the charts with "Xanadu" (the soundtrack to a not-so-successful movie) and "Physical." But in 1992, when she was only 44 years old, Newton-John was diagnosed with breast cancer. What followed was decades of treatment, surgeries, and relentless activism. Newton-John donated to cancer research, spoke about surviving the illness in her more recent songs, and even built the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre in Melbourne.

In 2017, Newton-John spoke to Today after surviving cancer a second time: "I'm not going to be one of those statistics. I'm going to be fine ... I think that you can live with cancer like you can live with other things — if you take care of yourself," she said. However, a year later, she'd been diagnosed with cancer for a third time. On August 8, 2022, Newton-John passed away at the age of 73.

Ramsey Lewis (May 27, 1935 – September 12, 2022)

Ramsey Lewis was a world-renowned pianist, acclaimed both in the jazz and pop genres. As per NPR, he earned his first Grammy in the mid-'60s, for best instrumental jazz performance on his Dobie Gray cover, "The 'In' Crowd." He went on to have a myriad of Top 10 songs, five gold records, and three Grammy awards. And, as The Guardian suggests, he had a huge influence on British musicians, from Britfunk bands to club DJs and rappers who sampled his tunes.

Lewis credited his parents with giving him a very early musical sense (per ): "I lucked out because both my parents loved classical and gospel music," Lewis once told the Chicago Sun-Times (via NPR). "My dad loved jazz as well. So, I was hearing this music around the house since I was born." During his lifetime, Lewis released more than 80 albums. In 2007, he was honored as a Jazz Master by the National Endowment for the Arts in the U.S. He announced his retirement in 2019, although he kept recording. He passed away in September 2022 at the age of 87.

Coolio (August 1, 1963 – September 28, 2022)

Coolio (real name Artis Leon Ivey Jr.) became a prominent figure of the West Coast rap scene in the late 1980s but was overshadowed by his LA neighbors Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube, as The Guardian reports. However, in 1995, he achieved worldwide fame with the hit "Gangsta's Paradise," which he wrote for the "Dangerous Minds" film, starring Michelle Pfeiffer. His first two albums sold millions of copies around the globe, but his musical career slowly wilted, and Coolio turned his eyes toward reality TV and movies.

As per BBC, Coolio was also a kind person and quite a heroic figure — he was once a volunteer firefighter in San Jose. Coolio was found unconscious on the bathroom floor of a friend's house in September 2022. The paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene, possibly a result of cardiac arrest. No drugs were found in his system. He was 59 years old.

Several friends and former collaborators spoke about Coolio's kindness. Pfeiffer wrote (via Instagram): "A life cut entirely too short. I remember him being nothing but gracious." MC Hammer tweeted: "One of the nicest dudes I've known."

Jerry Lee Lewis (September 29, 1935 – October 28, 2022)

Jerry Lee Lewis is quite the controversial character, as The Conversation shows. On the one hand, he was part of the golden rock 'n' roll generation, alongside Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame. On the other hand, he was a notorious addict and womanizer with anger problems.

As BBC confirms, Lewis married his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown, when he was 22. This was outrageous even for the norms of the 1950s, and so it stopped Lewis' ascension in the music world. As Los Angeles Times reports, at 14, Brown became a mother, and at 17, she lost her child. Brown commented that Lewis was in fact the child in the marriage, but people saw it differently: "When I look back on it," she said, "how can you defend yourself when you're 13 years old? I mean there's no excuse good enough for that to be OK."

Lewis was married seven times, accidentally shot a fellow musician, and once crashed his car into Presley's gates. He was 87 years old when he died in October 2022, outliving pretty much everyone in his rock 'n' roll generation and leaving a questionable legacy behind.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).