Musicians we lost in 2019 so far

Celebrities just aren't like other people. Sure, on the whole they're more talented, better looking, and far wealthier than the average Joe Minivan or Judy Paycheck, but it's more of a perception thing. We feel like we know famous people — particularly the artists — because their work speaks to universally relatable themes, or rocks us, or moves us in some way. This is particularly true of musicians, who pour out their souls in their lyrics and craft a relatively small handful of notes into classic tunes that soundtrack important moments in our lives. Also, because their voices are permanently etched in wax, digital encoding, and whatever a CD is, it feels like they never die because their work never does. And really, isn't leaving a beloved legacy what all humans ultimately want to do with their time on this space rock?

Here are some of the most famous, notable, and influential musicians of all genres who in 2019 made a permanent break with mortality but whose work never will.

He was the Captain of the '70s

Punk rock and disco may be the most fondly remembered musical genres of the late '70s in retrospect, but during the Ford and Carter years, the soundtrack of America was provided by the bouncy, unabashedly cheesy love songs of the Captain & Tennille.

The duo behind the joyful "Love Will Keep Us Together," the bedroom jam "Do That to Me One More Time" and bonkers allegory "Muskrat Love" sang about what they knew. Pianist and keyboardist Daryl Dragon — nicknamed the "Captain" for his penchant of wearing a seafaring hat while performing — and singer Toni Tennille met in 1971, soon became romantically involved, and married in 1975, right around the time they started gently storming the pop chart. Those groovy sounds came from a guy with a solid musical pedigree: Dragon was a classical trained music student, and he got his first break backing up the Beach Boys during that group's 1960s heyday.

The Captain & Tennille's musical reign came to an end in the early 1980s, while the couple divorced in 2014. On January 3, 2019, Captain Dragon died of renal failure in an Arizona hospice at the age of 76.

Hello Dolly, Goodbye Carol

It's evolved into a niche medium whose events and individuals are known by an increasingly rarified group of grown-up theater kids and musical aficionados centered primarily in the New York area, but in the middle of the 20th century, Broadway was as broad, mainstream, and familiar to the average American as top 40 hits and box-office blockbusters. In the 1950s and '60s, cast albums from productions of My Fair Lady, West Side Story, and Hello, Dolly! were among the best-selling records of the era. That last one was thanks to the star power of one of biggest — if not the biggest — Broadway legend of them all: Carol Channing, who portrayed plucky matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi. Her stage presence, charisma, and idiosyncratic, rough-edged, talky style of singing paired well with musical theater, and Channing was never away from the Great White Way or Hello, Dolly! for long, starring in productions from the 1940s through the 1990s, including two revivals of her signature show. (She also sang her way through shows like Wonderful Town and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in addition to the occasional movie (a Golden Globe-nominated performance in Thoroughly Modern Millie), and cartoon voiceover work (Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers and an animated The Addams Family adaptation). Channing was 97.

Lorna Doom was a good kind of Germ

In 1976, Los Angeles teenagers Teresa Ryan and future Go-Go Belinda Carlisle answered a newspaper ad looking for "two untalented girls" to join a punk band. Ryan and Carlisle got the gig and were soon playing the bass and drums, respectively in the influential L.A. punk band the Germs. Singer Darby Crash christened them with stage names of their own: Carlisle became Dottie Danger and Teresa Ryan was henceforth Lorna Doom.

While Crash jumped around the stage, cutting himself up with glass bottles, starting fires, and inciting riots, Lorna Doom provided a stabilizing presence, both with her stoic stage demeanor and solid, thick bass lines. The Germs played its first show in 1977, and soon after released its first (and only) single, "Forming," which the New York Times says just might be "the first Los Angeles punk record." In 1979, the band released its one and only studio album (GI), and split up in 1980 after Crash's death from a heroin overdose. After the Germs, Ryan largely left music and worked in art galleries. On January 16, 2019, the punk icon died at age 61 in Thousand Oaks, California, according to Germs drummer Don Bolles.

The country lost a country legend

Harold Bradley was so old school country music that he played a major part in establishing his hometown of Nashville as the capital of the genre, if not a world-renowned music city. Growing up in the area's rich musical culture, Bradley first learned to play the banjo, which probably made learning to play the guitar seem like a piece of cake when his older brother, Owen, convinced him to switch instruments. In 1954 the siblings opened the Bradley Film and Recording Studios, later renamed the Quonset Hut Studio. That marked the first (of many) studios on Nashville's legendary "Music Row."

Not just the boss, Bradley was also a resident session musician at the Quonset Hut, an essential member of The A-Team, a group of studio players that backed superstars like Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton. It's the lyrical guitar of Bradley that almost steals classic tunes like Roger Miller's "King of the Road" and Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry."

Also the first president of the Nashville wing of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences — validation of country music by the rest of the industry — Bradley died at the age of 93 on January 31, 2019, "peacefully in his sleep" according to his daughters.

Hey, hey, we lost a Monkee

When TV producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were putting together a Beatles-esque band of American guys to star in a sitcom and form a band, they offered folk singer Stephen Stills a spot. He turned it down but recommended someone far more suited to the gig: his Greenwich Village folk scene buddy Peter Thorkelson. Turns out the soon-to-be-renamed Peter Tork had a natural gift for comedy suited to the zany, go-go antics of The Monkees, and he was also a talented and versatile musician who could play guitar, bass, banjo, and keyboards. (And he could sing to boot.)

During the Monkees' peak period between 1966 and 1969, Tork was a superstar and teen idol. While the tightly controlled band wasn't always allowed to play on Monkees songs, they were allowed to sing and, later, write a little. Tork contributed some of the band's most forward-leaning songs, including "Do I Have to Do This All Over Again," "Zilch," and "Words." Tork fully embraced the Monkee/man dichotomy over the decades, happily joining up for the band's monstrously successful reunion in 1986.

Tork, who had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2009, passed away on February 21, 2019, at age 77.

Yah mo be in mourning for James Ingram

After getting his start in the '70s funk band Revelation Funk (which landed a track, "Time Is On Our Side" on the soundtrack of the 1975 cult classic Dolemite), James Ingram found his niche in the music industry: as a sideman, collaborator, and duet partner. He played keyboard for Ray Charles before becoming super-producer Quincy Jones' second weapon in the 1980s. He sang on two hit singles of Jones' star-studded 1981 album The Dude — "Just Once" and "One Hundred Ways." That auspicious debut earned Ingram three Grammy nominations — Best New Artist, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance ("Just Once"), and a win for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance ("One Hundred Ways"). Ingram kept dueting and kept scoring hits and awards — his collaboration with Michael McDonald, "Yah Mo B There" won a Grammy, while he sang with Linda Ronstadt on "Somewhere Out There," the hit ballad from An American Tail, and with Patti Austin on both the Oscar-nominated song "How Do You Keep the Music Playing" from Best Friends and the #1 hit "Baby, Come to Me." In the early '90s, his smooth, silky, expressive voice was all over soft-rock radio: His breakout solo hit "I Don't Have the Heart" topped the charts in 1990. Ingram was 66.

Mark Hollis was the Talk Talk of the New Wave scene

The New Wave and synth-pop movements of the late '70s and early '80s put the keyboards and machinery first and foremost, and the quality of a lead vocalist's singing abilities were just not as important. But not for Talk Talk. Lead singer Mark Hollis didn't have the quirky, robotic, disconnected voice of peers like Ric Ocasek of the Cars or Gary Numan — he had a rich, throaty, shockingly soulful tone on par with contemporaries like Bryan Ferry or David Bowie. Hollis' pipes elevated Talk Talk's already hook-laden, earwormy, synth-driven songs into classics of the genre and of the era that still get played on '80s nights and "retro" hours everywhere.

Talk Talk (which also included drummer Lee Harris and bassist Paul Webb) scored just one top 40 hit in the U.S.: the empowering, anthemic "It's My Life" in 1984, but the group was a continuous presence on the British pop chart throughout the '80s and early '90s, the biggest successes coming with "Today," "Life's What You Make It," "Living in Another World," and "Talk Talk." (Yes, Talk Talk had a song called "Talk Talk.") On February 25, 2019, Hollis' manager Keith Aspden told NPR Music that the singer had passed away at age 64.

Keith Flint was an electronic music Prodigy

In the late '90s, music filed under the umbrella term of "electronica" was the next big thing in pop culture. The most photogenic and interesting electronic-music personalities became the rock stars of the moment and presumably of the future. Two of the biggest breakout acts of this Wild West, post-grunge period: the helmet-wearing French robots of Daft Punk, and Keith Flint, front man of the English act the Prodigy. Sporting an often garishly-dyed mohawk plus intimidating, punk-inspired street fashions and wild eyes surrounded in thick black paint, Flynn became the de facto public face of his band and his genre, bopping around the stage and delivering menacing vocal hooks on smash hits like "Firestarter" and "Breathe." Both singles originated from the Prodigy's The Fat of the Land, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard album chart in July 1997.

On Monday, March 4, Prodigy founder Liam Howlett announced Flint's death via a statement on the group's Facebook page. "It is with deepest shock and sadness that we can confirm the death of our brother and best friend Keith Flint. A true pioneer, innovator, and legend. He will be forever missed." According to Howlett via the Prodigy's Instagram account, the 49-year-old front man "took his own life" sometime over the previous weekend. 

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Janice Freeman had the Voice

The Voice did for Compton's Janice Freeman exactly what it purports to do: provide national exposure and a weekly performance platform for amazingly talented singers that were either up-and-comers or who had never quite found their big break. In 2017, Freeman competed on NBC's top-rated talent show, wowing judges in the "blind" audition phase with a soulful, crushing rendition of Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive." Two judges, Miley Cyrus and Jennifer Hudson, wanted Freeman on their team, and she ultimately chose the former. 

Freeman lasted through several episodes of the competition, showing both range and a talent for interpretation, making songs as varied as Collective Soul's "Shine" and Brandi Carlile's "The Story" all her own. The singer made it into the top 11 before her elimination after a performance of Sia's "Chandelier."

On Saturday, March 2, 2019, Freeman died after being transported to a hospital via ambulance. She'd contracted a severe case of pneumonia, and a blood clot traveled to her heart. The singer was 33 years old.

Hal Blaine probably played drums on your favorite song

After a move from Massachusetts to California in 1943, aspiring drummer Harold Belsky trained with Roy Knapp, the same guy who taught legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa. Before long, the student surpassed the teacher. Harold Belsky became Hal Blaine, and after cutting his teeth playing in big bands, Hal Blaine became one of the greatest and most celebrated drummers of all time, as the top session musicians in the business. Not only in quantity — Spin says Blaine estimates he played on more than 35,000 recordings — but quality, too. Among the songs that bear Blaine's distinctive beat-keeping: Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," Frank Sinatra's "Strangers in the Night," the 5th Dimension's "Aquarius / Let the Sunshine In," the theme song from The Brady Bunch, and various recordings by Steely Dan, Herb Alpert, and the Monkees.

Blaine sat behind that kit until the end — he played drums with a band at his own 90th birthday party in February 2019. On March 11, 2019, Blaine's family confirmed on the drummer's Facebook page that the musician had passed away at age 90. In mourning his friend and colleague, no less an authority than Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys called Blaine "the greatest drummer ever."

Dick Dale was the king of the surf guitar

In 1954, 17-year-old Richard Monsour moved to California, took up surfing and rock guitar. Nicknamed "king of the surf guitar" by fans — NPR says his single "Let's Go Trippin'" is arguably the first of the distinctly American genre of surf rock — Krupa told NPR in 2010 that he aimed to replicate the sounds and feelings of surfing in music. "When the waves picked me up and took me through the tubes, I would get that rumble sound."

He'd started out as a drummer, and he applied the staccato drumming of big band star Gene Krupa when he switched to guitar, as evidenced on his signature tune "Miserlou," a wild and impossibly fast version of a Middle Eastern folk song he'd heard his Lebanese uncles play on a stringed instrument called the oud. "I started playing it," he told NPR in 2010, "And I said, 'Oh no, that's too slow.'" Under the stage name Dick Dale, and with "Miserlou" in his arsenal, he brought instrumental surf rock to the fore. Dale experienced a major comeback in 1994, when Quentin Tarantino used "Miserlou" as the opening music to Pulp Fiction, a perfect fit for the retro crime saga.

No cause of death was immediately revealed, but in recent years Dale had fought a number of health issues, including kidney disease and rectal cancer. He died on March 16, 2019, at age 81.