Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in April 2021


We note with sadness the following contributors to rock and pop music from the 50s through the 80s – the BEST music ever made! – who passed away last month:

April 02
B .B. Dickerson / (Morris De Wayne Dickerson) → Bassist and vocalist for laid-back R&B/soul-funk War, sang lead on “The World Is A Ghetto” (#7, R&B #3, 1972) and co-wrote “The Cisco Kid” (#2, R&B #5, 1972) and three other Top 10 singles for the band, left in 1979 after 12 albums and later co-founded spin-off Lowrider Band, touring and performing through to a long, undisclosed illness which led to his death on 4/2/2021, age 71.

April 04
Ralph Schuckett / (Ralph Dion Schuckett) → Composer, keyboard player and founding member of Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, played on Carole King‘s first three albums, including the landmark Tapestry and did session work for James Taylor, The Monkees, Whitney Houston and dozens of others, co-wrote “Another World,” the 1987 country #4 hit by Crystal Gayle and Gary Morris as well as the theme song to the TV soap opera of the same name, produced albums for Belinda Carlisle, Clarence Clemons and others, since 1999 composed music for Pokémon and other animation projects plus hundreds of TV commercials, died from unspecified causes on 4/4/2021, age 73.

April 07
Bill Owens / (Billy Earl Owens) → Country music songwriter and mentor to his niece, superstar Dolly Parton, from her pre-teens through her entire career, arranged for her first radio performance at age 10, encouraged her to practice her guitar, co-wrote with Parton her first single “Puppy Love” (1959) and the Country Top 10 hit “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” (1966) for Bill Phillips, penned over 800 other songs recorded by Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs, Kris Kristofferson and many more and performed as a session musician in Nashville over the years, died from undisclosed causes on 4/7/2021, age 85.

April 14
Rusty Young / (Norman Russell Young) → Virtuoso pedal steel guitarist credited with bringing the instrument to the forefront in the merger of country and rock sounds in Southern California in the late 60s, co-founded and later fronted country- and roots-rock Poco, wrote the band’s biggest hit, “Crazy Love” (#17, AC #1, 1979) and led various Poco incarnations as the only continuous member of the band over five decades, issued a lone solo album, Waitin’ For The Sun, in 2017 and died following a heart attack on 2/14/2021, age 75.

April 15
Pat Rizzo / (Patrick Rizzo) → Saxophone and flute for early 60s rock band The Clovers, then from 1970 in groundbreaking, mixed race soul/funk Sly & The Family Stone (“Family Affair,” #1, R&B #1, 1971), left in 1975 and later joined funk-rock War (“Galaxy,” #39, R&B #5, 1978), did session work in the 80s for crooner Frank Sinatra and Latin jazz-pop great Tito Puente, performed in his own clubs and around the Palm Springs (CA) area before succumbing to cancer on 4/15/2021, age 77.

April 16
Mike Mitchell → Founding member and guitarist for legendary one hit wonder garage rockers The Kingsmen, played the jangly solo on the enduring hit “Louie Louie” (#2, 1963) and lead guitar in various incarnations of the band over nearly 60 years before dying from unspecified causes on his birthday, 4/16/2021, age 77.
Barry Mason / (John Barry Mason) → Five-time Novello Award-winning English musician and songwriter, wrote or co-wrote thousands of songs, including over 60 charting, mostly MOR pop hits, many in collaboration with songwriter Les Reed, their best known include “The Last Waltz” for Engelbert Humperdinck (#25, AC #6, UK #1, 1967) and “Kiss Me Goodbye” for Petula Clark (#15, UK #50, 1968), also co-wrote “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)” for Edison Lighthouse (#5, UK #1, 1971) with Tony Macaulay, another Reed/Mason composition became “Marching On Together,” the anthem for English football club Leeds United, since sung by LUFC fans at every match for nearly 50 years, died from undisclosed causes on 4/16/2021, age 85.

April 19
Jim Steinman / (James Richard Steinman) → Multi-genre piainist, singer, composer and record producer best known for writing all of the songs on Meat Loaf‘s hugely successful, operatic Bat Out Of Hell LP (#14, 1977), among other music and theatrical achievements wrote and produced hit singles “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” (Bonnie Tyler, #1, 1983), “Read ‘Em And Weep” (Barry Manilow, #14, AC #1, 1983) and “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All” (Air Supply, #2, 1983), continued to write and produce through the 90s, 00s and 10s, (including an aborted, heavy metal version of Tchaikovsky‘s The Nutcracker in 2012), suffered a second stroke in 2017 and died after four years of declining health on 4/19/2021, age 73.

April 20
Les McKeown / (Leslie Richard McKeown) → Lead vocals for Scottish teen-pop, tartan-clad boy band Bay City Rollers, joined in 1973 and helped the obscure local band achieve worldwide popularity in 1974 with two UK number ones (“Bye Bye Baby” and “Give a Little Love”) and a re-recorded, McKeown-led, US #1 version of “Saturday Night” (#1, 1975), left for a solo career as the band’s fortunes descended and issued nine solo albums through 2016, was scheduled to tour in July 2021 with a post-COVID Rollers incarnation but died at home from unspecified causes on 4/20/2021, age 65.

April 21
Joe Long / (Joseph Louis LaBracio) → Classically-trained bassist recruited to play electric bass guitar for Top 40 pop vocals group The Four Seasons (“Let’s Hang On!,” #3, 1965) between 1965 and the mid-70s when he left to form his own rock and jazz bands, died from complications of the COVID virus on 4/21/2021, age 79.
Bob Fass / (Robert Morton Fass) → Irreverent, opiniated, freewheeling and well-connected baritone-voiced radio DJ with WBAI in New York over nearly 50 years, widely credited with pioneering free-format programming on rock music radio in major markets across North America the 60s and early 70s, co-founded the Yippie movement and hosted many “sit-ins” gathering listeners to protest various social injustices, his “Radio Unnameable” broadcast in some form from 1963 until his death from congestive heart failure on 4/21/2021, age 87.

April 26
Al Schmitt / (Albert Harry Schmitt) → Apprentice in the 1950s for the legendary recording engineer Tom Dowd, rose to become a twenty-time Grammy-winning record producer and sound engineer with RCA, Capitol, United and East/West Studios, among others, along the way engineering over 150 gold and platinum albums and producing albums for Hot Tuna, Neil Young, Jefferson Airplane, Jackson Browne and dozens of other top artists, died from natural causes on 4/26/2021, age 91.

April 29
John Hinch / (John Frederick Hinch) → Birmingham rock drummer in various local bands, recruited in 1973 to the earliest line-up of heavy metal superstars Judas Priest (“Take On The World,” UK #14, 1978) but left after two years due to differences with the band’s direction, pursued a career managing local bands mostly outside of the limelight generated by Judas Priest, died following a short illness on 4/29/2021, age 73.


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