Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in March 2022

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

March 01
Warner Mack / (Warner Hensley McPherson Jr.) → Country music singer-songwriter, penned his first song at age 13 and scored a Country Top 10 hit with it at age 19, “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)” (#61, Country #9, 1957), added sixteen other Country Top 40 hits, including “The Bridge Washed Out” (Country #1, 1965) and two minor crossover singles through 1970, suffered injuries in an early 70s car accident that led to decades of health issues and largely ruined his career, issued a final album in 2020, his first in 49 years, and died in a Nashville hospital on 3/1/2022, age 86.
Richard Pratt → Founding member and bass vocals for 70s smooth Philly soul Blue Magic and their big early disco hit “Sideshow” (#8, R&B #1, 1974) plus six other R&B Top 10 hits, stayed with the group through several break-ups through the 90s, led revival “new” Blue Magic in the late 2000s in competition with two other former bandmates until his death from cancer on 3/1/2022, age unreported..

March 05
Jeff Howell / (Jeffrey Leonard Howell) → Journeyman bass guitarist for multiple hard rock bands over a decades-long career touring with Foghat, Savoy Brown, Outlaws and others, fronted his own rock groups and taught music in Upstate New York schools in his later years, battled chronic Lyme disease for two decades and succumbed to its effects on 3/5/2022, age 60.

March 09
Richie Podolor / (Richard Allen Podolor) → Teenage session musician and member of pop- and surf-rock L.A. bands The Pets (“Chu Hua Hua,” #9, 1958) and his own Richie Allen And The Pacific Surfers, co-wrote with drummer Sandy Nelson “Teen Beat” (#4, 1959) and “Let There Be Drums (#7, 1961), started American Recording Co. – one of the first independent studios in Hollywood – and eventually engineered albums and hits by The Monkees, The Turtles, Steppenwolf and others, shifted to producing in 1970 and worked with Three Dog Night (“Joy To The World,” #1, 1971) on nine albums and over a dozen Top 20 hits, plus sets by The Dillards, Alice Cooper, 20/20 and many others into the 20s (the studio remains in business under the management of long-time business partner Bill Cooper), died from undisclosed causes on 3/9/2022, age 86.

March 10
“Little Sister” Bobbie Nelson / (Bobbie Lee Nelson) → Longtime pianist in country music’s Willie Nelson & Family, the act fronted by her legendary younger brother with whom she’d been playing music since childhood, first in churches and neighborhood gatherings and later with her first husband Bud Fletcher and Willie in country-grass The Texans, following divorce, dissolution of the band in 1955 and Fletcher‘s death in 1961, left the music industry and worked for a time at the Hammond Organ Company, returned in 1973 to join Willie in the Family Band for nearly 50 years, from 1973’s Shotgun Willie to 2021’s The Willie Nelson Family, issued a lone solo album, Audiobiography in 2008 at age 76, co-authored with her brother and writer David Ritz the autobiography Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of the Family Band (2020), died of natural causes on 3/10/2022, age 91.

March 11
Timmy Thomas / (Timothy Earle Thomas) → One hit wonder R&B/soul singer, songwriter and keyboardist, his anti-war “Why Can’t We Live Together” (#3, R&B #1, 1973) ranks as a key protest song in the Vietnam War era, continued to record with only a few minor hits and produce records for other artists for several decades until his death from cancer on 3/11/2022, age 77.

March 12
Barry Bailey → Session guitarist for various Georgia (USA) recording studios, then co-founder and lead guitarist for acclaimed Southern rock Atlanta Rhythm Section and a string of 70s hits, including “Imaginary Lover” (#7, 1978), toured and recorded with the band until leaving in 2006 to care for his cancer-sick wife (who died later that year}, performed sporadically with the band until dying from complications of multiple sclerosis on 3/12/2022, age 73.

March 14
Eric Mercury / (Eric Alexander Mercury) → Canadian soul and blues musician, songwriter and singer with Toronto bands The Pharoahs and The Soul Searchers in the 60s, left for New York and recorded the album Electric Black Man in 1969, a commercial disappointment but a critical success that earned him the nickname “Electric Black Man,” followed with four more LPs before moving to production, songwriting for Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and others, appearing in the film American Hot Wax (1978) and other stage and screen shows, and singing the jingle for Gatorade‘s successful “Be Like Mike” advertising campaign starring basketball superstar Michael Jordan, remained relevant in the Toronto music industry and retired just a few years before his death from pancreatic cancer on 3/14/2022, age 77.

March 24
Bert Ruiter / (Albertus Clemens Ruiter) → Bass guitarist and backing vocals for Dutch progressive rock band Focus from 1971 to 1978, played on six albums and the band’s international hit “Hocus Pocus” (#9, 1973), joined symphonic- then pop-rock Earth & Fire (“Weekend,” Dutch #1 and others in Europe, 1979) through the 80s, worked with E&F bandmate and frontwoman Jerney Kaagman on her two solo albums in 1984 and 1987 (in addition to a long romantic relationship), rejoined Focus for a brief stint in the 90, remained active in the Dutch music industry as an arranger and producer until his death from undisclosed causes on 3/24/2022, age 75.

March 25
Taylor Hawkins / (Oliver Taylor Hawkins) → Spirited, surfer-good-looks drummer for Alanis Morissette‘s touring band, in 1997 joined Grammy-winning alt-rock Foo Fighters (“Learn To Fly,” Mainstream #2, 1999), drumming on nine studio albums through 2021 and earning a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with his bandmates, voted “Best Rock Drummer” in 2005 by the British drumming magazine Rhythm, released three albums as a side project called Taylor Hawkins And The Coattail Riders, including Get the Money (2019) featuring guest appearances by Joe Walsh (Eagles), Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders), Nancy Wilson (Heart) and Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), while on tour with the Foo Fighters was found unresponsive in a Bogotá, Colombia hotel and died from a suspected drug overdose on 3/25/2022, age 50.

March 29
Tabby Diamond / (Donald Orlando Shaw) → Co-founding member and vocals in Rastafarian-following, roots reggae Jamaican harmony trio Mighty Diamonds, the group released over 40 studio and live albums from its formation in 1969 and was a major force in driving roots reggae from the streets of Kingston to the international stage in the 70s with the classic reggae hits “Pass the Kouchie” (1981, banned in the UK) and “I Need a Roof” (1976), received the Jamaican national Order of Distinction award along with his groupmates in 2021, died in a drive-by shooting (later linked to his son’s criminal activity) on 3/29/2022, age 66.

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