Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in January 2024

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

January 02
Chris Karrer / (Christoph Karrer) → Multi-instrumentalist German musician and composer, pioneer of “krautrock” in the 60s and 70s as co-founder of a student-led, radical art commune that begat prog rock Amon Düül II, fronted the band for 12 years and fourteen albums, after dissolution collaborated with jazz-rock/world music Embryo on tour and in the studio, issued five solo albums and recorded as a sideman on seven others through 2009, spent his later years painting and writing an autobiography, contracted COVID-19 and died from complications of the virus on 1/2/2024, age 76.

January 04
David Soul / (David Richard Solberg) → Folk singer turned 70s TV actor and one-half of the crime-fighting stud duo Starsky & Hutch, (1975-1979), returned to pop music with “Don’t Give Up On Us” (#1, UK #1, 1977) plus four other UK Top 20 hits and two UK Top 10 albums, moved to the UK in the 90s, became a citizen and continued his stage and TV acting career in the UK into the 10s, died from COPD on 1/4/2024, age 80.

January 05
Larry Collins / (Lawrence Collins) → Child prodigy rockabilly guitarist and falsetto singer, with his older sister, Lorrie, one half of the pre-teen rockabilly duo The Collins Kids, their flashy Western wear and gyrating stage antics were well-suited to early TV variety shows in the 50s and earned them a spot on Tex Ritter‘s weekly Town Hall Party, after she eloped in 1961 turned to writing country-pop songs, including “Delta Dawn for Tanya Tucker (#72, Country #6, 1972) and Helen Reddy (#1, AC #1, 1973), The Collins Kids‘ multiple rockabilly and country-pop songs did not chart but are nonetheless appreciated by enthusiasts and still available, reunited in 1992 and performed with Lorrie at rockabilly festivals until her death in 2018, died from natural causes on 1/5/2024, age 79.

January 07
Tony Clarkin / (Anthony Michael Clarkin) → English guitarist, frontman and songwriter for progressive/melodic hard rock Magnum, wrote all of the material on the band’s 23 studio albums, including a final album released in January 2024 and two LPs by spin-off group Hard Rain during a hiatus in the early 90s, Magnum had ten charting singles in the UK, four of which were in the UK Top 20, died from complications or a rare spinal condition on 1/7/2024, age 77.

January 09
James Kottak → Journeyman drummer with numerous rock bands in the 80s and 90s, including hard rock Kingdom Come and glam rock Warrant, in 1996 became the first American to join German hard-rock Scorpions (“Wind Of Change,” #4, UK #2, 1991) and drummed for the band until being fired for excessive drinking in 2016, also fronted his own punk rock Kottak and was married to Athena Lee, sister of rocker Tommy Lee, died from a suspected but unconfirmed heart attack on 1/9/2024, age 61.

January 11
Annie Nightingale / (Anne Avril Nightingale) → British music journalist in the 60s in print and on TV, joined BBC Radio 1 in 1970 and became the longest serving D.J. ever at the station, and, for a time in the 10s, the longest career female radio personality, hosted weekly music programs including The Old Grey Whistle Test and Sounds of the 70s, documentaries, holidays specials, and live music events over a 50-plus year career ending with a final broadcast in December 2023, died after a brief illness on 1/11/2024, age 83.

January 12
Bill Hayes / (William Foster Hayes III) → Screen and TV actor, and country-pop singer with the memorable “The Ballad Of Davy Crockett” (#1, 1955) and three other minor hits in the late 50s, acting credits included dozens of films and TV drama series. best known for portraying con artist Doug Williams in over 2,100 episodes of the daytime drama TV show Days Of Our Lives from 1970 until just prior to his death from undisclosed causes on 1/12/2024, age 98.

January 16
Peter Schickele / (Johann Peter Schickele) → Four-time Grammy-winning composer, educator and musical parodist best known for a five-decade run of recordings and performances of his own music but credited to his fictitious alter ego P.D.Q. Bach, the “forgotten son” of the Bach family, in an elaborate web of farce, fiction and musical genres around a core of classical music, invented several unusual instruments including the “tromboon,” the “left handed sewer flute” and the “dill piccolo,” in a parallel career composed over 100 original works of serious classical music for orchestras and other groups, died from complications of infections on 1/16/2024, age 88.

January 19
Mary Weiss / (Mary Louise Weiss) → Lead vocals for quintessential girl group The Shangri-Las, scored four Top 20 hits in 1964-65 while still in her teens, the biggest, “Leader Of The Pack” (#1, 1964) promoted their “bad girl” image and remains a genre classic, left in the late 60s for a career in architecture and interior design, rejoined her group mates in occasional Shangri-Las reunions at oldies festivals but largely stayed out of the music world until resurfacing with a solo album in 2007, was working on a stage musical about the group on her death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on 1/19/2024, age 75.

January 22
Frank De Vito → Drummer and percussionist with a long career as a jazz and pop band member and session musician, worked with Charlie Parker, Buddy DeFranco, Frank Sinatra, and several big bands, in the 60s joined the acclaimed group of Hollywood studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew and drummed on numerous albums and hit songs, including “Surfin’ U.S.A.” (#3, 1963) by The Beach Boys and “I Got You Babe” (#1, 1965) by Sonny & Cher, also created several percussive instruments beginning in 1970 under his company Danmar, died from undisclosed causes on 1/22/2024, age 93.

January 23

Melanie Safka / (Melanie Anne Safka Schekeryk) → “Gentle hippie goddess” and 60s flower power singer/songwriter with a career-defining first-night performance at Woodstock 1969 and the event-inspired hippie-paean “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)” (#6, CAN #1, 1970), scored a bigger hit with the sunny, squeaky “Brand New Key” (#1, CAN #1, UK #4, 1971) and had several other, minor hits in the 70s, continued to release studio albums through 2010 and enjoyed a following in Europe when touring until dying from undisclosed causes on 1/23/2024, age 76.
Frank Farian / (Franz Reuther) → German-born singer with an unremarkable solo career before releasing the minor European hit “Do You Wanna Bump” in 1975 under the pseudonym Boney M., later created a singing troupe to record and tour as Boney M., best known for fabricating the hugely popular R&B/dance duo Milli Vanilli (Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus) in the late 80s and orchestrating the duo’s rise to the top of the charts and a Grammy award in 1990, scandal erupted later that year when the duo were outed as imposters who never sang on their recordings and lip-synced live performances, continued to create new singing groups, produce albums and write music for others until his death from unspecified causes on 1/23/2024, age 82.

January 30

Chita Rivera / (Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero) → Beloved, three-time Tony Award-winning Latina actress, singer and dancer on Broadway, TV and screen over a six decade career, had memorable starring roles West Side Story (1957), Bye Bye Birdie (1960), Chicago (1975) and Kiss Of The Spider Woman (1993), received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 and a Tony for Lifetime Achievement in Theater in 2018, died following a brief illness on 1/30/2024, age 91.

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