Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in December 2023


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

December 03
Myles Goodwyn / (Myles Francis Goodwyn) → Co-founder, guitarist, frontman and chief songwriter for the Nova Scotia garage rock band that eventually became multi-platinum Canadian rockers April Wine, wrote most of the band’s big hits, including “Just Between You And Me” (#22, CAN #11, UK #51, 1988), and produced or co-produced 14 of their 16 studios albums, issued two solo albums and a Canada Top 20 single, “My Girl” (CAN #18, 1988), fronted the band for five decades before a final performance in March 2023, abused alcohol for most of his adult life and died from undisclosed causes on 12/3/2023, age 75.

December 05
Denny Laine / (Brian Frederick Arthur Hines) → Co-founding member and original lead guitarist in pop-rock The Moody Blues, sang lead on “Go Now” (#10, UK #1, 1965) and co-wrote several other early songs, left in late 1966 to work solo and in several short gigs, including jazz-rock Ginger Baker’s Air Force, joined Paul McCartney‘s new band, Wings, in 1971 as an equal member with McCartney and his wife, Linda, appeared on all seven Wings albums, co-wrote “Mull Of Kintyre” (UK #1, 1977) and claimed to have co-written “Band On The Run” (#1, 1974), issued three solo albums during his Wings tenure and nine more after resuming a solo career in 1981, toured and performed until shortly before his death from lung disease on 12/5/2023, age 79.

December 10
Jimmy Ayoub / (James Ayoub) → Co-founding member and original drummer for Canadian rock group Mahogany Rush, played with the band from its formation in 1970 through the first nine albums and several minor hits, including “A New Rock And Roll” (CAN #70, 1974), left in 1982 for a career as a touring and session drummer with Aerosmith, Kansas, Ted Nugent, Queen, and many others, died from undisclosed causes on 12/10/2023, age 70.

December 11
Jeffrey Foskett → Falsetto singer, rhythm guitarist and member of The Beach Boys backing and touring bands from 1981 to 1990, played on the band’s comeback hit “Kokomo” (#1, 1988) and two albums, joined Brian Wilson’s band in 1998 as musical director, guitarist and occasional lead vocals, rejoined The Beach Boys live band in 2012 for the 50th Anniversary Tour and alternated with Brian Wilson’s band through 2019, died from anaplastic thyroid cancer on 12/11/2023, age 67.
Essra Mohawk / (Sandra Elayne Hurvitz) → Singer and prolific songwriter with 14 mostly unremarkable albums over a 50 year career starting in 1964, briefly played in Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention in 1966, missed her scheduled slot on stage at the 1969 Woodstock festival’s first night when her driver made a wrong turn, wrote “Change Of Heart” with Cyndi Lauper (#3, 1986) and penned songs for the Shangri-Las and Vanilla Fudge, worked as a session musician for John Mellencamp, Carole King, Jerry Garcia and Kool & The Gang, moved to Nashville in 1993 and advocated for peace and environmental causes, died from cancer on 12/11/223, age 75.

December 15
Bob Johnson / (Robert Johnson) → Computer programmer recruited to guitars, vocals and songwriting for Brit folk-rock revival Steeleye Span during the band’s 70s heyday and two hit singles, “Gaudette” (UK #14, 1972) and “All Around My Hat’ (UK #5, 1975), left for a brief gig elsewhere but returned in 1980 for two decades, during the same time completing a master’s degree in clinical psychology and working a side gig as an occupational therapist, left again in 2002 for health reasons but continued to contribute songwriting and vocals to the band’s studio albums, the last being Wintersmith (2013), suffered from declining health in his later years and died on 12/15/2023, age 79.

December 16
Colin Burgess / (Colin John Burgess) → Australian rock drummer, first with blues and beat band The Masters Apprentices from 1968-1972 and several hits, including “Turn Up your Radio” (AUS #7, 1970) and “Because I Love You” (AUS #12, 1971), recruited as drummer at the 1973 formation of hard rock legends AC/DC but was fired after just four months for on-stage drunkenness, formed hard rock His Majesty in 1983 with brother Denny Burgess and performed with him in HM and other bands into the 90s, rejoined his Masters bandmates for two reunions in the late 80s and early 00s, played with Dead Singers Band dedicated to the music of dead Australian singers in the 10s, died from undisclosed causes on 12/16/2023, age 77.

December 17
Jim Ladd → Pioneering “free format” radio disc jockey in the 70s and a major presence in the greater Los Angeles market for nearly 40 years, one of a very few radio personalities with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, also distinguished for having been fired from four different stations during format changes, the final time in 2011 from KLOS after a fourteen year run hosting a highly-rated free-form rock music program, moved to SiriusXM satellite radio thereafter and hosted the Deep Tracks channel until his death from a heart attack on 12/17/2023, age 75.
Mike Maxfield / (Michael William Maxfield) → Lead guitarist and songwriter for an early line-up of British Invasion pop-rock Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas, penned the band’s guitar instrumental “The Cruel Sea” (UK #18, 1963, as The Dakotas) and played on the follow-up hit “Little Children” (#7, UK #1, 1964) and others, left in 1965 to pursue a songwriting career but returned in the late 80s for touring the oldies circuit, suffered a stroke in 2006 and retired from music, died from undisclosed causes on 12/17/2023, age 79.

December 18
Ronnie Caryl → Rock guitarist and teenaged bandmate of drummer Phil Collins on a 1969 tour backing John Walker of the Walker Brothers, later formed Flaming Youth with Collins, the band was unsuccessful but the two remained friends and associates for decades, gigged in various groups and issued two solo albums in the 80s and 90s, joined Collins’ backing band in 1996 and did session work for two decades, fronted his own rock band in France before dying from an unspecified illness on 12/18/2023, age 70.
Amp Fiddler / (Joseph Anthony Fiddler) → Detroit soul, funk and electronic music keyboardist, first with the local band Enchantment and later with George Clinton’s Parliament and Funkadelic groups from 1985 to 1996, credited with introducing young rappers J Dilla and Q-Tip to the sampling drum machine and changing the course of rap music in the 90s, issued a dozen solo and collaborative albums over years, including a final solo album, Basementality, in 2021, died after a long battle with cancer on 12/18/2023, age 65.

December 19
Russ Hunter / (Barry Russell Hunter) → Brit drummer, percussionist and vocalist in a number of garage, psychedelic, shock, punk, glam and hard rock bands in the London underground music scene of the 60s and 70s, starting with schoolmates in beat cover band The Mob in 1964 and later in loud, anarchist the Deviants, joined a second incarnation of influential proto-punk Pink Fairies in 1970 to drum on their first three album and tour extensively, left in 1977 and found steady work beginning in the early 80s as a driver for London Transport but gigged with various rock bands, including three different Pink Fairies reformations, until retiring in 2017 due to ill health, entered a hospital with breathing problems and died the following day, 12/19/2023, age 77.

December 22
Laura Lynch / (Laura Caroline Lynch) → Founding member, upright bass guitarist, co-lead singer and occasional songwriter for country-rock “cowgirl” group Dixie Chicks (known as The Chicks since 2020), pushed out of the band in 1996 prior to their rise to stardom with three Pop Top 10 and fourteen Country Top 10 hits, including “Landslide” (#7, Country #2, 2002), started a second career in public relations for a Dallas hospital, later sold real estate and renovated commercial buildings in West Texas, died in an automobile crash on 12/22/2023, age 65.

December 24
John Cutler → Record producer, audio engineer and music archivist best known for his long association with jam band Grateful Dead, including advance work for the group’s historic 1978 trip to Egypt and concert at the Great Pyramids, co-producing LPs In The Dark (#6, 1987) and Without A Net (1990), and mixing archival releases from the Dead’s vast catalogue of live recordings, also served as audio engineer for Jerry Garcia and produced several albums for him, and worked with Warren Zevon, Gov’t Mule and others, died following an unspecified illness on 12/24/2023, age 73.

December 26
Tom Smothers / (Thomas Bolyn Smothers III) → Comedian, musician and, with his younger brother Dick, one half of the musical comedy duo Smothers Brothers and co-host of the light comedy program The Smothers Brothers Show in 1965-66, the duo came back with the controversial, groundbreaking The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour from 1967 to 1969, the irreverent, politically-charged satirical skewering of mainstream America was cancelled by the network but laid the groundwork for Saturday Night Live and others, left his goofy, naively buffoonish onstage persona from the SBCH behind in later years, appearing in various feature films and TV ads, most often with his brother, owning a California vineyard and championing civil liberty causes, died from lung cancer on 12/26/2023, age 86.

December 28
Tommy Talton / (Frank Thomas Talton) → Fifteen-year-old guitarist in Florida-based garage rock We The People, the band had several singles that charted regionally, including “Mirror On The Wall” (1966), left in 1969 to co-found country-rock Cowboy, which attracted the attention of Duane Allman who recommended them to Capricorn Records, leading in turn to a position with the label’s house band after Cowboy dissolved, played sessions and toured with The Allman Brothers Band and on ABB members Gregg Allman and Dicky Betts’ solo albums, also worked with The Marshall Tucker Band, Wet Willie and other Capricorn acts before the label folded, issued six solo albums, fronted his own band and gigged with others until just prior to his death following a multi-year bout with lung cancer on 12/28/2023, age 74.

December 29
Les McCann / (Leslie Coleman McCann) → Jazz pianist and singer known for his smooth piano jazz in the early 60s, then an innovative mix of R&B, soul, funk and jazz-rock fusion in the late 60s and 70s, scored a minor crossover hit with a cover of the anti-war protest song “Compared To What” (#96, R&B #35, 1969) and several multi-chart albums, including Swiss Movement (#29, R&B #2, Jazz #1, 1970), thereafter went fully soul-jazz with world rhythms and vocals on twenty albums into the 90s, suffered a debilitating stroke in 1995 but returned to music in 2002, released three albums before a swan song LP, 28 Juillet, in 2018, died from pneumonia in a Los Angeles hospital on 12/29/2023, age 88.


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