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," placing Soul on the elist list of famous actors who scored Top Ten pop hits. 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. (For a fascinating dive into music history, read Grunge's roundup of other artists who helped invent punk.)

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 and earning Bush a tidy sum in streaming revenue.

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.

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 10 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."


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.

Henry Fambrough

The legacy of Detroit R&B group the Spinners is secure as, somewhat ironically, one of the first outfits to help define the sound of Philly Soul. The group had a few minor hits with Motown in the late '60s and early '70s, but their career took off after a move to Atlantic in 1972; the decade saw them notch major hits with tunes like "It's a Shame," "Rubberband Man," and "Working My Way Back to You." Key to their sound were intricate harmonies, anchored by lead vocalist Philippe Wynne on the top end and the booming baritone of Henry Fambrough on the bottom. In the decade from 1972 to 1982, the band notched seven Top 10 hits and six Grammy nominations.

Of course, time took its toll on the group, and as of 2013, Fambrough was leading the way as the only surviving original member. He didn't seem much interested in slowing down; in 2021, the Spinners released their first studio album in decades, "Round the Block and Back Again." Fambrough saw his group inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2023, and in February 2024, he passed away at the age of 85. At his memorial in the Motor City, he was remembered not just as a musical icon, but as a man of unimpeachable integrity and character, not to mention a top-notch cook. ""The world knew him for his voice," said fellow Spinner Jessie Peck, "but his family and friends knew him for his heart" (via Detroit Free Press).

Jimmy Van Eaton

James "Jimmy" Van Eaton may not be a household name, but without him, early rock and roll may have sounded a lot different. As a teenager in Memphis in the '50s, he first played the trumpet before taking up the drums; his first band, the Echoes, happened to cut their first demo at the world famous Sun Records, whose proprietor Sam Phillips had an unerring ear for artists who were propelling the new genre forward. His driving style of playing caught that ear, and Phillips first paired the drummer up with vocalist Billy Lee Riley before introducing him to another artist with the same middle name: legendary piano-pounder Jerry Lee Lewis, who enlisted Van Eaton to play on his seminal recordings.

Van Eaton was soon one of a handful of musician entrusted by Phillips to help mold the label's signature sound, and he went on to play with such legends as Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, and Carl Mann, to name just a few. He retired from the music business in the '80s in favor of a quieter life selling municipal bonds, but he briefly came out of retirement a time or two — to contribute his indelible style of drumming to the soundtrack for the Lewis biopic "Great Balls of Fire," and to release a solo album, "The Beat Goes On," in 1998. Van Eaton passed away on February 9, at the age of 86. 

Cat Janice

The story of Cat Janice could be the stuff of Hollywood melodrama; if only it actually were. Janice, a talented singer-songwriter with a unique sound that blended EDM grooves with a rock sensibility, seemed to be on the precipice of breaking through to the mainstream when, in 2022, she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. She responded to the turn of events the only way she knew how: by writing music. In 2023, she released the resulting album, "Modern Medicine" — but later that year, she got the news that the cancer had spread to a lung, and her prognosis was not good.

Even more tragically, Janice knew that she would be leaving behind the loves of her life — her husband, Kyle Higginbotham, and her 7-year-old son, Loren. Janice entered into hospice care in January 2024, and just a few days later, she released the song that would sadly serve as both her introduction the world at large, and as her swan song: "Dance You Outta My Head," which caught fire after fans on social media learned of her health outlook. Janice shared that all of the songs' streaming proceeds would go to Loren, and thanks in part to signal boosting by the likes of Jason DeRulo and Charli D'Amelio, the tune went viral online and cracked the Billboard dance charts. Janice passed away on February 28, and Higginbotham told The New York Times the one thing he wanted to know about his wife: "Cat's a real-deal artist," he said, "and [she] poured every minute of her life into it, right up until the end."

Lichelle Boss Laws

In the early '90s in Los Angeles and throughout much of the U.S., gangsta rap was a hot commodity — and in that world, Lichelle "Bo$$" Laws was a bit of an outlier. Laws was born and raised in Detroit, and by all accounts had a very comfortable middle-class upbringing; she would later tell the Los Angeles Times, however, that all of the family outings and ballet classes just weren't really her speed. "I didn't start living till I got out of that proper s***," she said. "That's when the real me got out of the cage."

The real Laws liked to spit profane, rugged, hardcore rhymes that could match any of her male peers, with a level of skill that outshone a good many of them. Her startlingly on-point delivery earned her the attention of legendary mogul Russell "Rush" Simmons, who promptly signed her to his Def Jam West label; Laws dropped her debut album, "Born Gangstaz," in 1993, moving north of 400,000 copies. Laws was widely respected in the rap community, but unfortunately, she found herself dogged by health problems in later years; in 2011, she was diagnosed with renal disease, and she suffered a stroke in 2017. She never fully recovered, and on March 11, Laws passed away in the hospital at the age of 54. She was mourned on Instagram by a slew of fellow rappers including UGK legend Bun B, who wrote, "Rest in peace to my big sis Lichelle Laws AKA Boss. One of the best female MCs and a dear friend."

Eric Carmen

As the lead singer for the Raspberries, Eric Carmen helped to establish the genre of power pop in the early '70s; his clear, bright vocals and earworm-y melodies were a unique complement to the band's heavy sound. It was as a solo artist later in the decade, though, that Carmen really made his mark. In 1975, he released his debut, self-titled solo album, which yielded one big hit single — "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again," which peaked at No. 11 — and one absolutely massive one, the No. 2 smash "All by Myself."

Carmen continued dropping albums throughout the late '70s and early '80s, but never managed to duplicate that early success — until he was tapped to provide a single for the soundtrack to a 1987 film about a young girl who falls for a dance instructor at a Catskills resort, a film nobody really expected to do much. Of course, "Dirty Dancing" became a cultural phenomenon, and Carmen's tune, "Hungry Eyes," raced all the way up the chart to No. 4; his follow-up single, "Make Me Lose Control," peaked one slot higher at No. 3 the following year. Carmen essentially disappeared from the music industry after a final album, "Winter Dreams," in 1998, but his legacy as a power-pop powerhouse is more than secure. In March, his wife Amy announced that he had died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 74, writing on his website, "It brought him great joy to know, that for decades, his music touched so many and will be his lasting legacy" (via Chicago Sun-Times).

Dickey Betts

The Allman Brothers Band has undergone its fair share of lineup changes since its formation in 1969, but lead guitarist Dickey Betts — whose virtuosic interplay with fellow lead axeman Duane Allman set a template for many, many guitar-rock bands to follow — was a mainstay of the outfit for over three decades. After famously and tragically losing Duane Allman and bassist Berry Oakley to eerily similar motorcycle accidents in 1971 and 1972, Betts and lead singer and keyboardist Gregg Allman anchored the band throughout the rest of the decade and into the '80s. While their live shows were the stuff of legend, they achieved only limited chart success, notching just three Top 40 hits over their career — the most successful of which, the iconic No. 2 smash "Ramblin' Man," was written and sung by Betts.

A freakishly talented guitarist, Betts more than held his own with the Allmans, a trio whose insanely complex guitar-and-keys jammings were known to hold their concert audiences spellbound. While Betts was let go from the band in 2000 (due to "creative differences," although his well-publicized issues with drugs and alcohol may have played a part), he will forever be a part of the Allman Brothers legacy. In recent years, he had continued to perform with his own outfit, the Dickey Betts Band. On April 18, Betts passed away at his home in Florida; he was 80 years old.

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Chris Cross

British outfit Ultravox were not exactly the top-selling band of the '80s; their lone charting U.S. single, "Reap the Wild Wind," stalled out at No. 71. They were, however, a towering influence on their peers, crafting the kind of lovelorn, synth-heavy tunes that would influence a legion of New Wave bands in their wake. The band enjoyed a bit more commercial success in their native U.K., where they scored a No. 2 smash with "Vienna" in 1981 — a tune co-written by bassist Christopher Allen, known to fans by the whimsical moniker of Chris Cross.

Cross was a founding member of the band when it was still known as Tiger Lily in the early '70s, and his rock-steady bass anchored the unit throughout their decade-plus run, which arguably peaked with their well-received set at the legendary 1985 benefit concert Live Aid (an event which the band's lead singer, Midge Ure, helped to organize). Ure was the first to eloquently eulogize Cross when he passed away in March at the age of 71; "We were instant friends as well as Ultravox comrades," he wrote on his Facebook page. "You were the glue that held the band together. You were the logic in the madness and the madness in our lives. It was great to know and grow with you. You are loved and missed old friend."

Michael Ward

Guitarist Michael Ward broke into the music industry with a short-lived project that seemed destined for more success than it actually achieved: the indie rock band School of Fish, whose 1991 single "3 Strange Days" garnered enough airplay to send it into the upper reaches of Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The tune shoved the band briefly into the limelight, but when their sophomore effort failed to make a splash, they disbanded. Ward, though, was not without a gig for long — in the mid-'90s, he joined Jakob Dylan's Wallflowers for their second LP, "Bringing Down the Horse," a No. 4 success that scored the band a Grammy for the single "One Headlight." 

Ward contributed to the outfit's 2000 LP "Breach," another Top 20 effort, before departing in 2001. He continued to perform and record with the likes of John Hiatt, Gogol Bordello, Ben Harper, Avril Lavigne, and many others; his distinctive sound is featured on dozens of recordings spanning three decades. Unfortunately, diabetes slowed the guitarist down in recent years, and on April 2, his sister Tracy Ward Hartfiel announced on her Facebook that he had died at the age of 57 from complications of the disease (via NME). The Wallflowers posted a poignant tribute on the band's Facebook, writing, "Michael's role and talents will forever remain a crucial part of the band's history. His contributions to music began before his time with the Wallflowers and continued long after his time with the band ... Much love to his family and his two children."

Keith LeBlanc

Back in the very early days of rap music, the genre's formative recordings were laid down using recreations of popular breakbeats, or hot tunes of the day; the seminal Sugarhill Gang tune "Rapper's Delight," for example, features a near-perfect reproduction of Chic's "Good Times." Since samplers weren't really a thing yet, though, these recreations had to be performed by actual musicians — and none were better at that than Sugarhill Records' in-house band, anchored by legendary drummer Keith LeBlanc. Along with bassist Doug Wimbish and guitarist Skip McDonald, LeBlanc put down the tracks for a slew of the label's hit recordings, including many for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

LeBlanc went on to session work with a laundry list of iconic artists; his crack drumming can be heard on recordings by the likes of Annie Lennox, the Rolling Stones, Peter Gabriel, Stone Roses, and The Cure, and his work with the experimental groups Tackhead and Little Axe in the '80s and '90s was highly influential on the burgeoning industrial and electronica scenes. (LeBlanc is even credited as a producer and engineer on Nine Inch Nails' explosive 1989 debut "Pretty Hate Machine.") LeBlanc passed away on April 4 after an illness; he was 69. Producer Adrian Sherwood, who worked with LeBlanc, Wimbish, and McDonald in Tackhead, eulogized his friend in a statement (via Billboard). "Keith was a major, major talent," he wrote. "We enjoyed some of the most creative times together that shaped my musical life. Thank you Brother Keith."

C.J. Snare

Pop-rock outfit Firehouse enjoyed their greatest success with their first release: their 1991 self-titled effort yielded a No. 5 hit single, "Love of a Lifetime," and landed another, "Don't Treat Me Bad," inside the Top 20. That LP peaked just outside the Top 20 and went platinum, with their follow-up, 1992's "Hold Your Fire," performing similarly well. The band was anchored since their inception by lead singer C.J. Snare, whose immediately recognizable vocal stylings kept Firehouse consistently popular (especially in Japan) after that early peak. After planned abdominal surgery last year, Snare appeared on the road to recovery, and was ready to hit the road with his band once again this summer; in late March, he posted on Instagram that he would "be back on stage with Firehouse before you know it" (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Unfortunately, that was not to be. Not even two weeks later, on April 7, Firehouse announced on their Facebook page that Snare had suddenly passed away at his home; he was only 64. "We are all in complete shock with CJ's untimely passing," the post read. "CJ was arguably one of the best vocal talents of a generation ... You will be forever missed by family, friends, fans and your band mates. You're singing with the angels now."

Calvin LeBrun, aka Mister Cee

DJ Calvin "Mister Cee" LeBrun was a New York legend, and not just because his skills behind the turntables could be heard across the five boroughs seemingly forever; his shows on iconic radio station Hot 97 and WXBK "The Block" were as much a mainstay of the Big Apple as excellent pizza. His contributions to the world of rap music, though, are formidable; he is strongly associated with not one, but two MC's widely regarded to be among the greatest of all time. He served as the DJ for the insanely influential Antonio "Big Daddy Kane" Hardy on the rap legend's debut album, and is credited with discovering Brooklyn icon Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace.

In recent years, LeBrun had brought his penchant for creating dope mixes to an even larger audience as the host of the "Set It Off Show" (named after a classic Big Daddy Kane tune) on SiriusXM's Rock the Bells Radio channel. On April 10, it was reported by Hot 97 that LeBrun had unexpectedly passed on; he was just 57. The hip hop community reacted with shock and sadness; on X (formerly Twitter), the equally iconic DJ Premier wrote, "Damn! Endless memories ... rest peacefully to The Finisher ... Love you bro," while Public Enemy's Chuck D simply wrote, "Rest In Beats my man. A good dude to the fullest."

Duane Eddy

When it comes to true pioneers of rock and roll, there is perhaps just one name that stands alongside Chuck Berry: Duane Eddy, who alongside Berry was among the very first to popularize the use of the electric guitar in the then-budding genre during the '50s. Not only that, he was the first to play the instrument with his own distinct sound — a growling, reverb-drenched twang that came to be the defining characteristic of the subgenre known as surf rock.

Just how much of a legend was Eddy? His first Billboard Hot 100 appearance was on the first ever Billboard Hot 100, which posted on August 4, 1958. He notched two top-10 rock hits — "Rebel Rouser" and "Forty Miles of Bad Road" — before the '50s were even out; by the end of 1963, he had scored an astonishing 15 top-40 hits, all of them instrumentals. His iconic theme to the classic TV series "Peter Gunn" also landed him a Grammy award.

In March 2024, just months before his death on April 30 at the age of 86, he scored his first No. 1 hit on the Rock Digital Song Sales chart as a credited artist on Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler's Guitar Heroes "Going Home (Theme from Local Hero)." His signature twang and mastery of his instrument didn't just inspire generations of artists, it inspired the entire genre of rock; in a statement, his representative said (via Variety), "He was the first rock and roll guitar god, a truly humble and incredible human being. He will be sorely missed."

Richard Tandy

The brainchild of front man and songwriter Jeff Lynne, the Electric Light Orchestra (or "ELO") tore off a remarkable string of hits in the '70s and '80s, with smash tunes like "Hold On Tight," "Don't Bring Me Down," and "Mr. Blue Sky" becoming modern standards. Much of their success was due to longtime keyboardist Richard Tandy, whose synthscapes helped to give the band its unique sound — one that, while heavily and obviously influenced by the Beatles, went in directions that even that legendary band never explored. John Lennon himself once said of ELO (via Far Out), "It's a nice group. I call them Son of Beatles, although they're doing things that we never did, obviously."

Originally the band's bassist, Tandy switched to keys early in ELO's run, and it was a fortuitous switch. Perhaps his greatest work came on the 1981 concept album "Time," on which his keys evoked everything from gentle, twinkling raindrops ("Rain is Falling") to rollicking pianos ("Hold On Tight") to futuristic craziness that virtually no bands this side of Devo were even approaching ("Yours Truly, 2095"). 

Tandy's death in April at the age of 76 was announced on X (formerly Twitter) by Lynne, who wrote, "It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of my long-time collaborator and dear friend Richard Tandy. He was a remarkable musician & friend and I'll cherish the lifetime of memories we had together."

Steve Albini

When musician and producer Steve Albini died on May 7 at the age of 61, the coolness quotient of the entire world went down a notch. As a member of grimy underground bands Shellac and Big Black, Albini was a prominent figure in the world of underground rock since the early '80s — but as a producer (although he himself preferred the term "engineer"), his status went far beyond "prominent" and into the realm of "towering."

Albini sat behind the boards for dozens of albums by bands both crazily obscure and truly iconic; albums he produced for the likes of Helmet, the Pixies, Bush, and PJ Harvey are uniformly standouts in the discographies of their respective artists. One album in particular, though, may be his defining work: "In Utero," Nirvana's final studio album, which he produced after the band sought him out.

Albini's proposal letter to the band, in which he extensively outlined his flexible, band-friendly creative process and flatly refused to accept any royalties, went viral in the wake of his death. Another of his legendary writings, the 1993 industry-skewering essay "The Problem with Music," should be required reading for anyone hoping to enter the music business. Albini's untimely death at such a relatively young age was due to a heart attack, and while it's safe to say that his legacy is more than secure, it's also certain that the music world will sorely miss his singular talent.

Dennis Thompson

In February 2024, following the death of guitarist Wayne Kramer, Detroit proto-punk outfit the MC5 was officially down to one surviving member: drummer Dennis Thompson, whose powerful style helped to define the band's sound. As Thompson explained to the Detroit Free Press in 2003, though, it wasn't his drumming that drove the band to ever-greater peaks of loudness — rather, it was the other way around. 

In their early days of playing parties, he said that the band's tendency to crank their amps threatened to drown him out; "Wayne was always telling me, 'Dennis, you need to play harder and stronger,'" he said. "The drums weren't miked, but the amps were cranked on 10 ... So I started hitting them harder and harder. I had to play as powerfully as I could to break through that wall of sound."

Thompson had suffered a heart attack in April, but appeared to be on the road to recovery, and was looking forward to the MC5's impending Rock Hall of Fame induction in October. Becky Tyner, widow of MC5 singer Rob Tyner, said, "Dennis was thrilled with [the honor], so excited and happy." Unfortunately, that was not to be. He never fully bounced back from his cardiac episode, and he died in a Detroit hospital on May 9, at the age of 75. 

Charlie Colin

The rock band Train had a pretty good run from the late '90s to the late aughts, and for much of that run, their rhythm section was anchored by bassist and founding member Charlie Colin. His nimble bass work could be heard on the band's first three albums, including their sophomore effort, the one that made them a household name: "Drops of Jupiter," with its No. 5 charting, Grammy-winning title track. 

Colin had been friends with the band's guitarist, Rob Hotchkiss, since they were middle schoolers. After departing Train in 2003 to deal with substance misuse issues, he continued to play with his old friend in an outfit called Painbirds, and also lent his talents to Slipknot, Puddle of Mudd, and others.

Colin had been living in Belgium, and according to TMZ, he had been housesitting for a friend in May when he suffered a fatal slip and fall in the shower; he was only 58. The band posted a heartfelt tribute to their fallen founder on Instagram, writing, "He was THE sweetest guy and what a handsome chap ... His unique bass playing and beautiful guitar work helped get folks to notice us in SF and beyond ... You're a legend, Charlie. Go charm the pants off those angels."

Doug Ingle

Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" was one of the defining anthems of the '60s, and would have been titled "In the Garden of Eden" had singer Doug Ingle — who had reputedly consumed a gallon of wine — been capable of articulating that phrase at the time it was recorded. Likewise, according to legend, the song was never intended to be a 17-minute epic — it became so because the band was waiting around for the producer while recording it, and just kept on playing until he arrived.

The tune, of course, has gone on to be an immortal piece of the '60s pop culture lexicon, but the band themselves did not have the same amount of staying power; they had broken up by 1971. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ingle spent time managing an RV park and painting houses after his retreat from the limelight, though Iron Butterfly briefly reconvened in the mid-'90s. At that time, Ingle lamented to the Times that his lack of business savvy had contributed to the group's demise: "I didn't involve myself at the business level at all. I just went out and performed," he said. "It was, 'Isn't life great?' Then everything crashed down." 

On May 25, Ingle's son reported on Facebook that he had died peacefully at home; he was 78. 

Mark 'Brother Marquis' Ross

Perhaps the pre-eminent vocalist of golden age rap outfit 2 Live Crew, Mark "Brother Marquis" Ross was certainly the most capable rapper in a group that didn't exactly place a premium on lyrical prowess, and didn't need to. He featured on Ice-T's iconic tune "99 Problems," and appeared on cuts by the likes of 69 Boyz and King B; he also released a solo effort, "Bottom Boi Style," in 2003. 

Formed in California but associated most strongly with their adopted home state of Florida, 2 Live Crew were known primarily for two things: being the most visible artists to carry the banner of the Miami Bass movement of the late '80s and early '90s, and being so over-the-top sexually explicit and vulgar that they became the first act to have an album, their 1989 effort "As Nasty as They Wanna Be," declared obscene by a federal judge. While this did not stick, it did constitute a notable low point in the government's war on explicit lyrics during that time period — one which still didn't prevent the album's lead single, "Me So Horny," from becoming a No. 26 pop hit.

In June, it was announced via the group's Instagram account (via TMZ) that Ross had died from unknown causes; he was only 57.