2012 Passings

19 Musicians to Remember

They were singers, composers, producers and more

Whitney Houston, 48

Her recording success is the stuff of legend, with an unprecedented seven straight No. 1 hits; "I Will Always Love You" is the best-selling single by a female artist. Her tumultuous life ended when she drowned in a Beverly Hills bathtub. 

1988: David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Davy Jones, 66

Was he the cutest of the Monkees? He certainly was the only one to be nominated for a Tony award, for his pre-Monkee role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! The English-born former jockey died of a heart attack at his horse farm in Florida.

1967: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Andy Williams, 84

The popular silky-voiced crooner and variety show host began singing professionally at age 8, touring with his three older siblings as "The Williams Brothers." In 1962, he helped launch another group of singing brothers: the Osmonds. 

1962: Gerald K. Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Etta James, 73

Despite an often-troubled personal life, the singer celebrated love with her signature "At Last" and embraced a variety of styles — winning entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. 

ca. 1965: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Earl Scruggs, 88

The banjo superstar helped bring bluegrass music to the mainstream, along with his guitar-playing partner Lester Flatt. Among the pair’s best-known songs: "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and the theme song for The Beverly Hillbillies.

1982: AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Hal David, 91

With Burt Bacharach, he wrote a raft of pop songs in the 1960s and 1970s — big hits then, standards now. The pair won a 1969 Oscar for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” and penned songs for many artists — most notably Dionne Warwick.

2000: JMEnternational/Redferns

Donna Summer, 63

The Queen of Disco got her start singing in church — and her first break singing backup for Three Dog Night. She had a string of saucy hits ("Hot Stuff," "Bad Girls") in the 1970s, and then rediscovered Christianity. She died of lung cancer.

1976: John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

Levon Helm, 71

Lone U.S.-born member of The Band — a group that reveled in melding rock with traditional American forms of music — he later had feature roles in the films Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Right Stuff. He’s buried in Woodstock, N.Y.

ca. 1968: Elliott Landy/Redferns/Getty Images

Dory Previn, 86

Feted for her work for the screen (three songs nominated for Oscars; one an Emmy winner) she also wrote and performed raw personal ballads (some based on her struggle with mental illness) and songs laced with biting social commentary. 

1970: Everett Collection

Robin Gibb, 62

One of the British-born, Aussie-raised brothers Gibb — the Bee Gees — he cowrote the group’s hit ballads (such as "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart") as well as the disco hits from the wildly popular soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever.

1989: Neal Preston/Corbis

Doc Watson, 89

The Grammy-winning virtuoso was a towering figure in bluegrass and traditional folk music, popularizing the "flatpick" style of guitar playing. Blind since shortly after birth, he also excelled at the banjo and harmonica.

1964: David Gahr/Getty Images

Scott McKenzie, 73

A one-hit wonder as a solo act — but that hit, "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)," was the pop anthem of the Summer of Love. He later toured with The Mamas & the Papas and cowrote the Beach Boys hit "Kokomo."

ca. 1967: GAB Archive/Redferns

Kitty Wells, 92

Born in Nashville (where else?), she became country music’s first female star with her 1952 chart-topper, "It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" — banned by many radio stations and, for a while, by the Grand Ole Opry.

ca. 1950: GAB Archive/Redferns

Robert B. Sherman, 86

With his brother Richard, he wrote many beloved movie songs of the 1960s and 1970s — for Mary Poppins, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book and other films. The brothers also deserve the praise, or blame, for the earworm "It’s a Small World." 

2005: Mychal Watts/WireImage

Bob Welch, 66

An early member of Fleetwood Mac who left the band before its superstardom, he nonetheless penned the group’s haunting "Hypnotized" — and his own signature song, "Sentimental Lady." In pain from spinal surgery, he committed suicide.

1978: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Marvin Hamlisch, 68

His first hit was Lesley Gore’s “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows,” but his soundtrack music (The Sting and countless others) won him the most acclaim: three Oscars, four Emmys, a Tony, four Grammys — and a Pulitzer Prize.

1982: Evans Caglage/Dallas Morning News/Corbis

Ravi Shankar, 92

His ragas inspired not only the Beatles, but also saxophonist John Coltrane — who named his only son Ravi. The father of singer Norah Jones, Shankar had been told, before his death, that he'd receive a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2013.

ca. 1955: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Dave Brubeck, 91

His quartet’s infectious "Take Five" remains the best-selling jazz single ever — more than 50 years after its release. The versatile and tireless ambassador for American music continued to play and compose until shortly before his death.

ca. 1950s: Bettmann/CORBIS

Johnny Otis, 90

Born to Greek immigrant parents in California, "The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues" immersed himself in African American culture from a young age. The biggest hit for the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (Class of 1994)? "Willie and the Hand Jive." 

ca. 1973: GAB Archive/Redferns

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