Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in February 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:

February 02
Tim Quy / (Timothy Graham Quy) → Sound engineer and back-up bassist for English indie prog/pop-rock Cardiacs in the late 70s, became full-time percussionist in 1981 and a key part of the band’s classic sextet lineup, performed on all releases through the band’s 1990 dissolution, including “Is This The Life?” (UK #80, 1988), in 90s and 00s became an IT consultant, data analyst and real estate developer until a 2018 cancer diagnosis, died from the disease on 2/2/2023, age 61.

February 05
Phil Spalding / (Philip Trevor Spalding) → English child advertising model turned session bass guitarist, appeared on dozens of albums by Mick Jagger, Elton John and many others over a 40-year career, played in Mike Oldfield’s progressive rock band, with Steve Howe and Steve Hackett in album rock supergroup GTR, on the Lion King film soundtrack LP (1994), and with The Who at their acoustic concerts in London 2020, died from unexplained causes on 2/5/2023, age 65.
Lillian Walker / (Lilian Walker-Moss) → Co-founding member and soprano vocals in 60s one hit wonder doo wop quartet The Exciters and the debut single “Tell Him” (#4, R&B #5, 1963), left the group in 1970 to attend college and earn a Masters of Education, served as a guidance counselor in New York City schools for several decade, died from a rare form of skin cancer, angiosarcoma, on 2/5/2023, age 78.

February 08
Burt Bacharach / (Burt Freeman Bacharach) → Jazz-pop-easy-listening pianist, arranger, producer and master songwriter widely considered in the pantheon of late 20th century popular music, wrote over 70 Top 40 hits, often in collaboration with lyricist Hal David, including “(They Long To Be) Close To You” by the Carpenters (#1, 1970) and “Walk On By” for Dionne Warwick (#6, 1964), won two Oscars for film score to Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) and for “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” from the soundtrack (B. J. Thomas, #1, 1969), with then-second wife Carol Bayer Sager wrote “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” with Christopher Cross (#1, 1981) and Peter Allen, among other 80s hits, occasionally appeared on TV programs in the 70s and had cameo roles in all three Austin Powers movies (1997-2002), toured as a solo act and with others over the decades and until 2015, continued to write and record new material until 2020, died of natural causes at home on 2/8/2023, age 94.

February 13
Huey “Piano” Smith / (Huey Pierce Smith) → New Orleans session pianist for Little Richard, Lloyd Price and others in the mid-50s, then became a pivotal figure in the early rock ‘n’ roll era with several “good time” R&B hits, including “Rockin’ Pneumonia” (R&B #5, 1957), also wrote and played on Frankie Ford‘s version of “Sea Cruise” (#14, 1959), fell into financial hardship in the 80s due to unpaid royalties but later recovered some of his due through lawsuits, received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 2000, died at home from undisclosed causes on 2/13/2023, age 89.

February 16
Chuck Jackson / (Charles Benjamin Jackson) → R&B/pop-soul singer with doo wop The Del-Vikings, “Come Go With Me” (#4, 1957), then launched a successful solo career with 33 charting singles from 1961 to 1980, including the Burt Bacharach/Bob Hilliard tune “Any Day Now (My Wild Beautiful Bird)” (#23, R&B #2, 1962) and nine other R&B Top 20 hits, enjoyed continuing popularity on the Northern soul scene in the UK long after his hits ended in the US, died from undisclosed causes on 2/16/2023, age 85.

February 17
Gerald Fried → Award-winning music composer and oboist, wrote the scores for five of Stanley Kubrick‘s earliest films and followed with the music for TV shows in the 60s and 70s, including Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Gilligan’s Island and dozens of others, collaborated with Quincy Jones on the score for the 1977 miniseries Roots, wrote music for over 300 films and TV episodes in all, died from pneumonia on 2/17/2023, age 95.

February 18
Tom Whitlock / (Thomas Ross Whitlock) → Songwriter and musician best known for co-writing “Take My Breath Away” (#1, UK #1, 1986) and “Danger Zone” (#2, UK #45, 1986) from the film Top Gun, among other collaborations with composer Giorgio Moroder, also wrote original songs for Ray Charles, Graham Nash, Diana Ross and many others, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on 2/18/2023 the age of 68.

February 19
Davis Causey / (Davis Eugene Causey) → Guitarist with blue-eyed soul Athens, Georgia-based The Jesters from 1964 through 2014, at varying times moonlighted in Gregg Allman’s solo band, as a member of Southern rock Sea Level, and a songwriting partner and touring musician with Randall Bramblett for over 50 years, and in sessions and tours for Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings and many others, died unexpectedly from unspecified causes on 2/19/2023, age 74.

February 20
Bruce Barthol → Original bassist for country-rock Country Joe & The Fish, left the band in London in 1968 at the conclusion of a European tour and co-formed folk-rock Formerly Fat Harry, returned to San Francisco in 1972, founded Energy Crisis and in 1976 became musical director for the Tony Award winning San Francisco Mime Troupe, participated in occasional Fish reunions before retiring from the Mime Troupe in 2009, died from unspecified causes on 2/20/2023, age 75.
Lewis Largent → Intern, then full-time DJ and music director for alternative rock KROQ in Los Angeles during the 80s, left in 1992 to become VP of Music Programming at MTV and host of the network’s hugely successful, Sunday evening program 120 Minutes, left MTV in 1999 to become head of A&R for Island Def Jam records, left the label in 2004 and, seven years later, returned to college to earn a BA in creative writing and an MFA in 2015, died after a long, undisclosed illness on 2/20/2023, age 58.

February 21
Ron Altbach / (Ronald Steven Altbach) → Co-founding member and keyboardist in one hit wonder pop-rock King Harvest (“Dancing In The Moonlight,” #1, 1973), when the band dissolved in 1976 joined The Beach Boys as a touring musician, then co-produced the M.I.U. Album (1978), co-wrote several Beach Boys songs, and joined former Beach Boy Mike Love in pop-rock Celebration with the lone hit “Almost Summer” (#28, 1978), participated in occasional King Harvest reunions over the years, joined his bandmates to release a final album Old Friends (2015) and a non-charting single, “Our Old Friends” (2016), died from undisclosed causes on 2/21/2023, age 76.
Jesse Gress → Rock guitarist known for his extreme technical proficiency and over 30 years as an education writer, content creator and music editor for Guitar Player magazine, wrote six reference books on guitar techniques and over a hundred transcriptions of recordings by The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others, did session work and tours with Todd Rundgren, the Tony Levin Band, ex-Yardbird Jim McCarty and others, suffered through several illness in the early 20s and died on 2/21/2023, age 67.


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