Musicians Who Died In 2024

Every year, the world of music brings us joy and pain in equal measure. For every new release from a beloved artist that blows our minds, another beloved artist will leave the music business forever; for every amazing concert we're able to see, there will be one that sells out before we even know tickets are on sale; for every long-awaited, highly anticipated project that really turns our cranks, another will let us down. Most tragically of all, for every new artist who bursts onto the scene, another will shuffle off this mortal coil for all time.

As musicians themselves have reminded us since time immemorial, everybody dies, and that blows. When those musicians inevitably pass on, though, it can be the ultimate double-edged sword. Their music may live on forever, but it can leave an empty space inside their fans knowing that it's all they're ever going to get — and even for those artists who have been out of the scene for years, there will be heartache for those fans who made their artistic expression a part of their lives. Here are the musicians who have left us in 2024.

David Soul

David Soul achieved his greatest level of fame as an actor; he is, of course, the man who played the handsome and hip Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson on the iconic '70s cop series "Starsky & Hutch." If he hadn't made it as an actor, though, he had a couple of other avenues to fame; he turned down an entreaty from the Chicago White Sox to come and play some baseball for them, opting instead to attend college in Mexico. Upon his return, he fashioned himself as a folk singer, playing Mexican tunes in coffee houses, and he even managed to get on the bill opening for such legends as Frank Zappa, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Byrds. 

His music career didn't really take off until he rose to fame on television, however — and when it took off, it did so with a vengeance. In 1976, he released his debut album, a self-titled affair that yielded the No. 1 hit single "Don't Give Up on Us." A talented writer and singer, Soul dropped four more albums and toured the world with his backing band, although his later work didn't enjoy the success of that monster debut. Soul continued to appear on the stage and screen throughout the '90s and '00s; his last feature appearance was in the James McAvoy-starring "Filth" in 2013. He passed away on January 4 from natural causes; he was 80 years old.

Larry Collins

Larry Collins shot to fame in the '50s as half of the duo the Collins Kids with his sister Lorrie; he was only 9 years old when the pair became regulars on the country variety series "Town Hall Party," and while 11-year-old Lorrie was ostensibly the star of their act as the vocalist, it was guitar prodigy Larry who was known to wow audiences. A livewire bundle of energy, he bopped around the stage slinging hot licks with his double-necked guitar, which had been gifted to him by his mentor, "King of the Strings" Joe Maphis. So energetic was Collins' style that the punk rock website Please Kill Me credits him with recording the first punk record, "Whistle Bait," as a 13-year-old in 1958.

A songwriter and composer as well, Collins' best-known tune is "Delta Dawn," which he co-wrote with songwriting partner Alex Harvey; the song became a signature tune for Tanya Tucker, notched a No. 1 hit for Helen Reddy, and was covered by the likes of Bette Midler and Waylon Jennings. After the Collins Kids disbanded in 1965, Collins semi-retired from the stage, although he got together with his sister to perform again on a few occasions; Lorrie passed away in 2018, and on January 5, her brother followed her. He was 79 years old.

Del Palmer

A bassist, guitarist, and self-taught recording engineer, Del Palmer deployed his talents on records by the likes of Roy Harper, Midge Ure, and Doors guitarist Robby Krieger — but by far, the most sizable chunk of his discography was devoted to the work of Kate Bush, one of the most idiosyncratic and beloved recording artists of all time. It was he who (again, using skills he taught himself) engineered Bush's 1985 album "Hounds of Love," which yielded the single "Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God)," which — thanks to its prominent placement in the fourth season of "Stranger Things" in 2022 — improbably raced up the charts that summer, entering the Top 10 in 34 countries. 

A gifted bassist and songwriter, Palmer even released a solo album, "Leap of Faith," in 2007 — but he saved most of his best work for Bush, with whom he was also romantically linked for a time. He played bass, sat behind the boards, or both for Bush for over a quarter-century, working on every one of her albums from "Lionheart" in 1978 until "50 Words for Snow" in 2011. On January 5, Palmer passed away from undisclosed causes at the age of 71, and Bush was quick to eulogize her friend on her website. "He was a big part of my life and my work for many years," she wrote. "It's going to take a long time to come to terms with him not being here with us ... I'm going to miss him terribly."

James Kottak

The consummate rock drummer, James Kottak came up on the Louisville, Kentucky, scene, playing drums in local bands as a teenager. Upon moving to Los Angeles, his skills got him gigs pretty quickly; he latched on with Kingdom Come, playing on their first two albums, and briefly joined hard rock legends The Cult. Soon, though, he found his home — as a member of the Scorpions, one of the most successful, hard-rockingest bands to ever come out of Germany. Kottak became the first American to join their ranks in 1996, and he played with the band for two decades, departing in 2016 due to alcohol-related issues.

Kottak had struggled with those issues for years; in 2014, he spent a month in jail for Dubai for drinking without a license and allegedly making derogatory remarks toward Muslims (which he denied). After his sentence was completed, he said, he vowed to "stop drinking once and for all" — but, while it is not known whether he ever achieved the sobriety he sought, it's likely that the rock and roll lifestyle was a drag on Kottak's health. On January 9, the Scorpions announced via Facebook that the drummer had passed away at the age of 61. "James was a wonderful human being, a great musician and loving family man," the band's statement read. "He was our 'Brother from another Mother' and will be truly missed ... Rock 'n Roll Forever RIP James."

Luis Vasquez

Post-punk act the Soft Moon was every bit as dangerous, aggressive, and hardcore as its name suggested it was not, and it was the brainchild of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Luis Vasquez, its only constant member and sole creative force. Vasquez had made no secret of the fact that his childhood, spent primarily in East Los Angeles and a village in the Mojave desert, was a rough one; in an interview with Metal magazine, he said, "We were poor and my family was pretty violent. I grew up in bad neighborhoods, so I was exposed to a lot of dark realities ... that's why my music sounds the way it does." Indeed, Vasquez' hard-edged tracks, while at times oddly beautiful, could be the stuff nightmares are made of — which is why they have often shown up in violent or disturbing scenes in TV series such as "Mr. Robot," "How to Get Away with Murder," and "American Horror Story."

Vasquez spent time living and recording in Venice, Berlin, and Joshua Tree, California, before returning to LA in 2023, and it was there that he met his untimely end. On January 21, it was reported by the Los Angeles Times that the previous week, Vasquez had been found dead of an apparent fentanyl overdose along with DJ and producer John "Silent Servant" Mendez and his partner, visual artist Simone Ling; he was only 44 years old. 

Mary Weiss

The Shangri-Las were part of a wave of girl groups that took the pop charts by storm in the '60s, and they made their mark largely on the strength of the skills of producer Shadow Morton — who gave their tunes a dramatic, cinematic sound — and the vocals of lead singer Mary Weiss (pictured above, center), whose emotion-drenched, borderline operatic style was a perfect fit for the group's teen anthems. In just a couple of years between 1964 and 1966, they scored four Top 20 hits — and one immortal classic, the No. 1 smash "Leader of the Pack."

Despite being only 15 when the song reached the top of the chart, Weiss projected a bad-girl image quite unlike her girl group peers, and she and her group would later be cited as an influence by the likes of Amy Winehouse and The Ramones. Of her unpolished yet dramatically expressive vocal style, Morton once said that he required her to be "an actress, not just a singer" (via Billboard), a task that she handled admirably well, particularly at such a young age. The Shangri-Las last performed together in 1989, and Weiss went to work for an architecture firm, finding time to release a solitary solo effort, "Dangerous Game," in 2007. On January 19, Weiss passed away due to obstructive pulmonary disease; she was 75 years old.

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Toby Keith

Toby Keith was the very definition of a rough-and-tumble, take-no-crap country singer; although he rose to fame in the '90s, his aesthetic was much more reminiscent of the likes of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings than peers like Garth Brooks. As a teenager in Oklahoma, he worked as a rodeo hand and in the oil fields, plying his musical trade in the local honky tonks. He managed to get a demo tape to Alabama producer Harold Shedd, who got Keith into the studio to record his debut, self-titled 1993 album. That record, featuring hit singles like "Should've Been a Cowboy" and "A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action," went double-platinum — but that was just the beginning of his success.

Rejecting the efforts of his label, Mercury, to push him in a poppy direction, Keith bolted for DreamWorks Records in 1999. There, his first three albums with the label sold a combined ten million copies. Keith's politics, which he did not shy away from publicly embracing, kept him in the headlines; a public dust-up with The Chicks and controversy over his post-9/11 single "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" did nothing to damage his well-earned image as a straight-shooting symbol of the working class. Keith announced in 2022 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer, and on February 5, 2024, it was announced on his website that he had passed away at the age of 62.

Aston Barrett

When reggae music began to emerge on the international scene in the late '60s and early '70s, it was defined in large part by its rhythm section — booming, syncopated drums and the bass guitar beats capable of rattling windows and shaking the walls of the clubs and dancehalls where its popularity exploded. That sonic signature came about when legendary artist and producer Lee "Scratch" Perry decided to loan out the rhythm section of his studio's house band, bassist Aston Barrett and his brother Carlton on drums, to an up-and-coming new band: Bob Marley and the Wailers.

Aston Barrett, known by his nickname "Family Man," became the bandleader of the iconic unit and remained with the band throughout its many lineup changes and jump to Island Records in the '70s. After Bob Marley's death in 1981, Barrett continued on, working with the likes of Burning Spear, Alpha Blondy, and Bob Marley's wife, vocalist Rita Marley. In a 2023 Guitar World interview, Barrett described his approach to his instrument in terms that should bring a smile to the face of any bassist: "I call it the Earth Sound," he said. "Reggae music is the heartbeat of the people ... So the bass have to be heavy and the drums have to be steady." On February 3, Barrett's son shared via social media that his father had passed away while hospitalized for an undisclosed illness; he was 77.

Wayne Kramer

Founded in Detroit in 1964, the MC5 (or "Motor City Five") were, at the time, a rock band unlike nearly any other. Only their Detroit brethren The Stooges, led by the famously iconoclastic Iggy Pop, compared to the band's wildly aggressive, ultra-loud, anti-authoritarian proto-punk. At the center was the twin guitar attack of Fred "Sonic" Smith and Wayne Kramer, whose innovative implementation of feedback and distortion during the band's early years squeezed some of its more pop-minded members. During the late '60s, the band positioned itself as the radical arm of the peace movement; its incendiary, profanity-laden live shows (featuring Kramer rocking an ironically star-spangled Fender Stratocaster) became the stuff of Detroit legend. After three albums between two labels, though, the band flamed out, disbanding after a New Year's gig in 1972.

Its influence, though, persisted. The MC5 would be credited as a strong influence on the development of punk, with bands like the Ramones, Sex Pistols, and the Clash following in their anarchic wake. Kramer periodically reconvened the band over the years, and in 2022, he announced the MC5's first new album in over 50 years, dropping a single featuring Rage Against the Machine's Tom Morello. Unfortunately, this project may now be in limbo; on February 2, Kramer passed away from complications of pancreatic cancer. On Instagram, he was eulogized by Morello, who wrote, "Brother Wayne Kramer was the best man I've ever known. He possessed a one of a kind mixture of deep wisdom [and] profound compassion ... the MC5 basically invented punk rock music."

Melanie

Vocalist Melanie Safka, known professionally simply as Melanie, began her career as a struggling singer-songwriter in the late '60s, paying her dues in small venues and releasing two unsuccessful singles for Columbia Records. Then, in 1969, everything began to change for the singer: She hooked up with a new manager and dropped her debut album, "Born to Be," and in August that year, she found herself taking the stage at Woodstock. Inspired by that experience, she released "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" in 1970, a tune that became her first top 10 single. She quickly followed this up with more successful singles, and by the summer of 1971, she was riding high on the success of the ultra-catchy, whimsical single "Brand New Key" — her first U.S. No. 1.

In an interview, Melanie would later recall of the somewhat controversial hit, "It was a time when people were reading things into lyrics. Some said it was sexual innuendo ... I was just having a romp through my memory of learning how to ride my bike and roller skating," (via The New York Times). While she never again topped the charts, Melanie continued to record and perform well into her later years, maintaining a complicated relationship with the tune that made her household name; speaking with Where Music Meets the Soul, she lamented that "Brand New Key" was "the song that doomed me to be cute for the rest of my life." On January 23, her children confirmed via Facebook that Melanie had passed away from undisclosed causes the day prior; she was 76.