David Bowie, Whitney Houston, Prince and others who helped shape the sounds of today
by Aaron Kassraie, AARP, December 31, 2019|Comments: 0
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Aretha Franklin, singer-songwriter, 76
(March 25, 1942 — Aug. 16, 2018) From child gospel singer in Detroit to the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin built a career that spanned seven decades. The singer and pianist, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and 18 Grammys(among a long list of other honors), was a trailblazer who inspired generations of music lovers.
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David Cassidy, actor and singer, 67
(April 12, 1950 — Nov. 21, 2017) Combining his love for singing and acting, Cassidy found his dream job (and became a teen idol) as Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family (1970-74). He went on to record albums and perform, though later struggled with alcohol addiction.
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Della Reese, singer and actress, 86
(July 6, 1931 — Nov. 19, 2017) Known first as an R&B singer, then as an actress, Reese rose to the top of the pop singles chart in 1959 with her biggest song, “Don't You Know?” Her greatest fame came in the 1990s, when she was cast as Tess, an angel on Touched by an Angel (1994-2003).
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Tom Petty, musician, 66
(Oct. 20, 1950 — Oct. 2, 2017) For four decades, Petty's distinctive voice led the Heartbreakers, a band he formed in 1976; the group had just wrapped up a summer tour to celebrate its 40th anniversary shortly before he died. Music stars including Willie Nelson and Jakob Dylan have just come out with a tribute album, For Real — For Tom, featuring covers of Petty's tunes.
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Glen Campbell, country singer, 81
(April 22, 1936 — Aug. 8, 2017) Over his half-century career, Campbell excelled as a singer, musician, songwriter, television host and actor. He was the voice behind “By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (1967), “Wichita Lineman" (1968), “Rhinestone Cowboy" (1975) and more. He had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.
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Chuck Berry, musician, 90
(Oct. 18, 1926 — March 18, 2017) The seminal musician is considered by many to be the father of rock ‘n’ roll, known for his incredible guitar playing, singing and stage antics. Berry's oeuvre includes such timeless hits as “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), and “Johnny B. Goode” and “Sweet Little Sixteen” (both 1958).
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George Michael, musician, 53
(Jun. 25, 1963 — Dec. 25, 2016) He was already wildly successful at age 23 as one half of British pop duo Wham!, known for their then-upiquitous 1984 hit “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” Then he went solo, winning a Grammy for his uplifting album Faith (1987). You're likely to hear his 1984 song “Last Christmas” many times during the holiday season.
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Prince, musician, 57
(June 7, 1958 — April 21, 2016) Born Prince Rogers Nelson, this music genius demonstrated stunning virtuosity on many instruments; broke stylistic barriers around R&B, rock, pop and funk; challenged racial, gender and sexuality conventions; and delivered such timeless hits as “Little Red Corvette" (1983), “When Doves Cry" (1984) and Sign o’ the Times (1987).
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David Bowie, musician, 69
(Jan. 8, 1947 — Jan. 10, 2016) An icon of 20th-century popular music, Bowie was rarely predictable and often remarkable — beginning in the late 1960s with “Space Oddity" (1969) and continuing right up until his death. Bowie released his final album, Blackstar (2016), on his 69th birthday, two days before he passed away.
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B.B. King, musician, 89
(Sept. 16, 1925 — May 14, 2015) The poor boy who lived in a sharecropper's shack grew up to become a legendary guitarist and the true king of American blues. “The Thrill Is Gone” (the title of his 1969 hit) was a note left on his website after he passed away; his countless fans agree.
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Casey Kasem, radio host, 82
(April 27, 1932 — June 15, 2014) As the host of the syndicated radio show American Top 40, Kasem offered his weekly countdown of popular hits and “long-distance dedications,” from 1970 until his retirement in 2004. Cartoon fans remember him as the distinctive voice of slacker-dude Shaggy on Scooby-Doo.
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Whitney Houston, singer, 48
(Aug. 9, 1963 — Feb. 11, 2012) From singing in her church choir in Newark, New Jersey, as a child to becoming one of the best-selling musicians of all time, Houston had a vocal talent and range that was one of a kind. Her library of number one songs includes “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (1987) and “I Will Always Love You” (1992).
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Donna Summer, singer, 63
(Dec. 31, 1948 — May 17, 2012) The “Queen of Disco,” born LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was the first artist to have three consecutive double albums reach number one on the charts. Her songs “I Feel Love” (1977), “Last Dance” (1978) and “Hot Stuff” (1979) still get people up and moving. “What I aspire to in my life, truly, is to be loving,” she said before her death. “I don't always achieve that — but that's my aspiration."
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Dick Clark, television personality, 82
(Nov. 30, 1929 — April 18, 2012) It's hard to ring in the new year without thinking of Clark leading the countdown. The host of The $10,000 and $25,000 Pyramid (1973-88) and, most notably, American Bandstand (1952-89) is credited with advancing the careers of so many performers, including Paul Anka, Barry Manilow and Madonna.
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Andy Williams, singer and television host, 84
(Dec. 3, 1927 — Sept. 25, 2012) The artist behind 43 albums, nine Top 10 hits (such as “Butterfly” and “Love Story") and the Emmy-winning Andy Williams Show (1962-71) brought his smooth voice and comedic sketches to households everywhere. And his Christmas songs remain some of the most beloved holiday classics.