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

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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 died last month:

June 01
Cynthia Weil → Multiple Grammy-winning Brill Building songwriter, often as collaborator with her husband, Barry Mann, the pair were instrumental in shaping rock and pop music in the 60s in particular, wrote or co-wrote dozens of hits for varied artists, including “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (#1, 1965) for The Righteous Brothers and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place” (#13, UK #2, 1965) for The Animals, the pair were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010 and the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011, was married to Mann for 62 years at her death from unspecified causes on 6/1/2023, age 82.

June 04
George Winston / (George Otis Winston II) → Grammy-winning, New Age light jazz pianist with a soothing, melodic-sound and three platinum-selling albums in succession in the early 80s, including the triple-platinum December (#54, Holiday #2, 1982), eventually started his own record label, Dancing Cat Records, to release his eclectic records and others by Hawaiian slack-key guitarists and Appalachian fiddlers, suffered from several forms of cancer in his later years and died from the disease on 6/4/2023, age 74.

June 05
Astrud Gilberto / (Astrud Evangelina Weinert) → Brazilian samba and bossa nova singer who rocketed to global acclaim with the Grammy Record of the Year in 1965, “The Girl From Ipanema” (#5, AC #1, 1964), fueling the 60s bossa nova craze in the U.S. and leading to over 30 albums and a dozen singles in multiple languages through the 80s, composed her own recordings in the 90s and 00s, retired following the album Jungle (2002), died at home from undisclosed causes on 6/5/2-023, age 83.

June 06
Tony (“T.S.”) McPhee / (Anthony Charles McPhee) → Lead guitarist, vocalist, co-founding and sole constant member of Brit rock and blues band the Groundhogs from 1962 through 2015, usually as a power trio, the band got its first big break opening for bluesman John Lee Hooker on his 1964 UK tour and followed with supporting roles with other American blues acts on tour in the UK during the blues craze in the 60s, the Groundhogs issued three UK Top 10 albums in the early 70s, including Split (UK #5, 1971) and another 25 studio and live albums, plus five solo albums through 2004, suffered several strokes after 2009 and a fall in 2022 before dying on 6/6/2023, age 79.

June 20
John Waddington → Started his own punk band at age 17, then co-founded influential Brit post-punk The Pop Group for two singles including “Where There’s A Will There’s A Way” (UK Indie #2, 1980) and two albums before the group split in 1981, joined post-punk Maximum Joy for a two-year stint and later German electro group UBahnX for a short time, largely dropped for the limelight in the later 80s and performed as a session musician for years, died from undisclosed causes on 6/20/2023, age 63.

June 23
Lee Rauch / (William Lee Rauch) → Then-19-year-old drummer hired by ex-Metallica lead guitarist Dave Mustaine to fill a vacancy in his new thrash metal band, Megadeth, played with the band on stage and on demo tapes until the end of 1984, then joined another California thrash metal band, Dark Angel, through 1986, then replaced Wargod drummer Gene Hoglan (who went to Dark Angel) for under a year when frontwoman Michelle Meldrum dissolved Wargod to form a new, all-female thrash metal band, Phantom Blue, in 1987, joined short-lived Grimace in the late 80s, continued to perform in local northwest Ohio bands and was the drummer for his church’s band when he died unexpectedly from undisclosed causes on 6/23/2023, age 58.
Sheldon Harnick / (Sheldon Mayer Harnick ) → Lyricist and songwriter best known for his 12-year collaboration with composer Jerry Bock on Tony-winning musicals such as Fiorello! and the then-record-setting Fiddler on the Roof, the pair split in the late 60s but their collaborations kept on for many decades, continued to write Broadway shows and author books into the 00s, released a compilation album in 2014 of demos and cuts from his private collection of recordings from his shows, died from undisclosed causes on 6/26/2023, age 99.

June 26
Dick Biondi / (Richard Orlando Biondi) → Seven decade Top 40 and oldies radio D.J. on over a dozen stations in markets large and small from Boston to Los Angeles, including two stints in Chicago, was among the first D.J.’s anywhere to play Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and other early rockers, credited as being the first D.J. in the U.S. to spin a Beatles record on-air while at WLS in Chicago in February 1963, launched a new oldies station in Chicago, WJMK-FM, in 1984 and was its mainstay air personality for 21 years, inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1998 and was honored with a street named “Dick Biondi Way” in Chicago in 2010, hung up his mic for a final time in May 2017 and died from undisclosed causes on 6/26/2023, age 90.

June 27
Bobby Osborne / (Robert Van Osborne Jr.) → With his younger brother, Sonny, mandolinist and one half of the groundbreaking, highly-influential bluegrass duo The Osborne Brothers, their “Rocky Top” (Country #33, 1967) was voted the official state song of Tennessee and another, “My Old Kentucky Home” (Country #69, 1970), the official state song of Kentucky, their band was the first top-level bluegrass act to include drums, electric bass and string sections in their instrumentation, and pop and rock influences in their songs, after Sonny retired in 2005, performed regionally with his band Rocky Top X-Press until his death from natural causes at home outside Nashville on 6/27/2023, age 91.

Monte Cazazza → American artist and composer best known for coining the phrase “Industrial Music for Industrial People” in the 70s and for shaping industrial music through recordings with the London-based Industrial Records in the mid-1970s, the genre flourished in the post-punk, early 80s, issued eight solo albums and several dozen collaborative albums through 2010, died from undisclosed causes on 6/27/2023, age 74.

June 28
Donald Robert “Don Bob” Shannon / ( Donald Keith Bombard Jr.) → Teenaged FM radio DJ and later programmer for three different stations in Syracuse, NY from 1965 thru 1977, moved to WKTQ in Pittsburgh, PA, then to New York and flagship station WCBS-FM, where he held various air slots from 1982 thru a format change in 2005, over the years produced and hosted several nationally-syndicated music programs, including Keeping The ’70s Alive and the online Behind the Hits, retired from broadcasting and died after a long battle with respiratory disease on 6/28/2023, age 74.


June 29
Anita Wood Brewer / (Anita Marie Wood ) → Singer, TV actress and one-time “No. 1 Girl” to rock royalty Elvis Presley from 1957 to 1962, recorded several unremarkable singles for Sun and ABC-Paramount in the late 50s, married NFL footballer Johnny Brewer in 1965 for 46 years, raised a family and taught pre-school children for decades, remarried again after Brewer’s death, succumbed to pneumonia in a Mississippi hospital on 6/29/2023, age 85.

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