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


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:

May 01
Ric Parnell / (Richard John Parnell) → Journeyman English drummer with a variety of bands in the 70s and 80s, including prog rock Atomic Rooster, Italian pop-rockers Tritons and jazz-fusion Nova, session work in both decades led to drumming on Toni Basil‘s “Mickey” (#1, UK #2, 1981), best known for portraying drummer Mick Shrimpton in the “mock-rock” parody band Spinal Tap from the movie This Is Spinal Tap (1984), the only real musician in a fake band of otherwise comic actors, continued to tour and record with Spinal Tap as a working band before relocating to Montana in the 90s and hosting an overnight radio program featuring eclectic music, suffered organ failure after a blood clot formed in his lungs and died on 5/1/2022, age 70.

May 04
Howie Pyro / (Howard Kusten) → Longtime figure in the New York punk and underground scenes, teenage founder and bassist in punkers The Blessed in the late 70s, created proto-grunge Freaks in the 80s and co-founded glam-punk D Generation (“One Way Out,” 1993), left New York for L.A. in 2000 to play bass heavy metal Danzig, start a private party DJ business, host an internet radio program and collect music and movie ephemera, underwent a liver transplant in late 2021, contracted COVID-related pneumonia during recovering and died on 5/4/2022, age 61.

May 07
Mickey Gilley / (Mickey Leroy Gilley) → Traditional country and western singer with 15 Country Top 10 hits in the 70s, including “Window Up Above” (Country #1, 1975), shifted to a country-pop sound after issuing the crossover single “Stand By Me” (#22, Country #1, 1980) from the soundtrack to Urban Cowboy (1980), the film inspired by his honky-tonk Texas nightclub he started in 1971 as a dive bar that grew into an iconic, 48,000 square foot warehouse with multiple stages, a mechanical bull, mud-wrestling and impromptu brawls, closed the club in 1989 and opened music theaters in the 90s in soon-to-be country boomtown Branson, Missouri and two other locations, acted in TV roles and recorded sporadically, including a final solo album, Kickin’ It Down The Road, in 2016, died from undisclosed causes on 5/7/2022, age 86.

May 13
Ricky Gardiner → Scottish guitarist and songwriter best known for recording with David Bowie on his Low album (1997), for co-writing two tracks on Iggy Pop‘s classic album Lust For Life (1977), including the memorable opening riff on “The Passenger” (1977, UK #22 on its re-release in 1998), recorded multiple albums with various rock and ambient groups over the years, released a number of solo albums featuring mostly guitar and electronic instrumentals, battled a rare neurological condition for his last 12 years and succumbed to the disease on 5/13/2022, age 73.

May 17
Vangelis / (Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou) → Greek keyboardist, electronic and progressive rock music composer best known for writing and recording the synth-driven, Oscar-winning “Chariots Of Fire” (#1, 1982) and other movie theme songs, started with seminal prog rock Aphrodite’s Child (“Rain And Tears,” UK #29, 1968), auditioned with Yes and collaborated with Jon Anderson in pop-rock Jon & Vangelis (“I’ll Find My Way Home,” #51, 1982) before turning to film and a 40-year career composing scores to Blade Runner (1982), Missing (1982) and other films, plus music for major sporting events and NASA space missions, died of COVID-related heart failure on 5/17/2022, age 79.
Rick Price / (Richard Gordon Price) → Bassist in various Birmingham (England) rock bands including psych-rock The Move (“Blackberry Way,” UK #1, 1968), briefly with pop-rock Electric Light Orchestra, then in ELO bandmate ‘s eccentric jazz-pop Wizzard with two UK top hits (“See My Baby Jive,” UK #1, 1973, and “Angel Fingers (A Teen Ballad)”), UK #1, 1973) plus the Christmas classic “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” (UK #4, 1973), toured extensively with wife Dianne Lee and participated in multiple collaborations over 40 years, died unexpectedly from undisclosed causes on 5/17/2022, age 77.

May 18
Bob Neuwirth / (Robert John Neuwirth) → Folk singer, guitarist and songwriter with five solo albums and multiple collaborations, best known as Bob Dylan‘s friend, road manager and a key member of Dylan‘s early 60s entourage through to the touring band Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975-76, co-wrote Janis Joplin‘s “Mercedes Benz” (#1, 1971), the last song she recorded just days before her 1970 death, recorded with and produced albums for others over forty years until his death from heart failure on 5/18/2022, age 82.

May 19
Nard Wright / (Bernard Wright) → Godson of soul diva Roberta Flack and child prodigy jazz and funk keyboardist, joined jazz fusion Lenny White‘s touring band at age 13 and released his debut solo album ‘Nard (Jazz #7, 1981) at age 18, followed with another three solo albums and the oft-sampled hit “Who Do You Love” (R&B #6, 1985, co-written with White) through the 90s, played in various R&B/funk bands and mentored young musicians in North Texas in the 00s and 10s, died after being hit by a passing car while crossing a Dallas street on 5/19/2022, age 58.

May 26
Alan White → Drummer for the Plastic Ono Band (“Instant Karma!,” #3, 1970) and John Lennon (“Imagine,” #3, Easy #7, 1971), played with George Harrison and later joined Ginger Baker’s Air Force, replaced Bill Bruford in 1972 in archetypal, pioneer progressive rock band Yes (“Owner Of A Lonely Heart,” #1, 1983), becoming the longest serving member of the band and playing on every Yes album (17 studio albums, 43 in total) from 1972 through 2016, when he backed away from playing and touring due to health issues, died after a brief but undisclosed illness on 5/26/2022, age 72.
Andy Fletcher / (Andrew John Fletcher) → Co-founder, constant member, business manager, chief keyboardist and subtle but de facto leader of influential 80s-90s electro-dance/synth-pop Depeche Mode, the band placed nearly 50 singles on the UK Top 40 charts (eight of which charted on the Top 40 in the US), including “Enjoy The Silence” (#8, UK #6, 1990), his quiet control kept the band in the spotlight for nearly 40 years and a 2020 election to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, died from undisclosed causes on 5/26/2022, age 60.

May 29
Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins / (Ronald Cornett Hawkins) → Arkansas-born, Canadian-American rockabilly singer and frontman for 50s-60s rockers The Hawks (early members later became The Band), issued 16 charting singles in Canada from 1959 to 1995 (five of which were also minor hits in the US), including “Mary Lou” (#26, R&B #7, CAN #6, 1959), enjoyed a mostly under-appreciated touring career south of the border but found acclaim in Canada from the 70s to the 10s with his signature mix of Deep South blues, country and rowdy rock ‘n’ roll along with a raucous stage presence, suffered a recurrence of pancreatic cancer 15 years after remission of the first and died on 5/29/2022, age 87.
Steve Broughton / (Stephen Alex Broughton) → Multi-instrumentalist but primarily lead percussionist in his older brother’s British 60s blues then 70s prog rock Edgar Broughton Band, co-wrote one of the band’s two hit singles in the UK, “Out Demons Out” (UK #39, 1970) and drummed for the band thorough every one of four incarnations from 1968 through the final dissolution in 2010, died from undisclosed but rumored natural causes on 5/29/2022, age 72.

May 30
Paul Vance / (Joseph Paul Florio) → Pop music songwriter best known for co-writing (with Lee Pockriss) the hit songs “Catch A Falling Star” (#3, 1957) for crooner Perry Como and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (#1, 1960) for teen pooper Brian Hyland, also known as the target for an imposter who claimed to have written “Itsy Bitsy” but sold his rights as a young man, erroneous obituaries about the faker (Paul Van Valkenburgh) circulated in 2006 and reached the real Paul Vance through numerous media sources and his family, forcing him to deny his death and submit royalty payment receipts to prove himself the true co-writer, continued to write and produce for others into the 80s, owned over 150 harness=racing horses in his later years, died from natural causes on 5/30/2022, age 92.


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