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

May 01
Richard Tandy → Long-time keyboardist in pop-rock Electric Light Orchestra (“Don’t Bring Me Down,” #4, UK #3, 1979), joined as bass guitarist in 1971, switched to keyboards a year later and provided the lush orchestral instrumentation for the band’s power pop sound, worked with bandmate/frontman Jeff Lynne in the studio and co-arranged ELO strings, formed his own bands and issued two albums and two singles in the late 80s, joined Lynne on special ELO projects, on one of his solo albums, and in co-composing soundtrack music, died from unspecified causes on 5/1/2024, age 76.

May 07
Steve Albini / (Steven Frank Albini) → Punk rock guitarist, founder and frontman for influential 80s and 90s post-hardcore punk bands Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac, then moved behind the mixing board and engineered alt rock albums by the Pixies (Surfer Rosa, 1988), PJ Harvey (Rid Of Me, #110, UK #3, 1993) and Nirvana (In Utero, #1, UK #1, 1993), among hundreds of other albums by top rock and alternative acts, opened Electrical Audio studios in Chicago in 1997 and spent decades railing about the music industry’s financial exploitation of artists, died following a heart attack on 5/7/2024, age 61.

May 08
John Barbata → Pop-rock drummer in multiple, influential rock bands, first with The Sentinels (1961-1965), then The Turtles (“Happy Together,” #1, 1967 and other big hits) and a stint with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (“Ohio,” #14, 1970), joined Jefferson Airplane in 1972 and remained through 1978 and the rebranding to Jefferson Starship (“Miracles,” #3, 1975), left the music industry in the late 70s, became a born-again Christian and CCM musician, lived outside the limelight with his family in Oklahoma until his death from undisclosed causes on 5/8/2024, age 79.
Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson / (Dennis Andrew Tomich) → Teenaged co-founding member and hard-hitting drummer in influential Detroit proto-punk/garage rockers MC5 (“Kick Out The Jams,” #82, 1969), their radical, left-wing politics and obscenity-laced recordings spawned widespread controversy with record labels and radio stations, after breakup in the early 70s gigged with several lesser-known rock bands, then left the industry for a career as a metal-working machinist, joined various MC5 bandmates for occasional reunions over the decades, suffered a heart attack in April 2024 and died in a rehabilitation clinic on 5/8/2024, age 75.

May 12
David Sanborn / (David William Sanborn) → Influential jazz-pop saxophonist with a long career that started with blues-rock The Butterfield Blues Band and an appearance at Woodstock 1969, included stints with jazz-rock fusion The Brecker Brothers (“Sneakin’ Up Behind You,” #58, Disco #3, 1975), with the Saturday Night Live house band, hosting his own syndicated radio and TV music programs, and session work for David Bowie (sax solo on “Young Americans,” #28, 1975), Bruce Springsteen, Eagles and dozens more, toured with Stevie Wonder and collaborated with Eric Clapton and others in special recording projects, all the while issuing 25 solo albums from 1976 to 2017 and winning six Grammy awards, diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018 but continued to tour until just before dying from the disease on 5/12/2024, age 78.

May 14
Jimmy James / (Michael James) → R&B/soul and ska singer, frontman and only constant member in Jamaican dance band The Vagabonds, the group relocated from Kingston to London in 1964 and released six albums through 1977, including “Now Is The Time” (UK #5, 1976) and three other charting singles, after the group’s initial break up in 1970, nearly 50 different musicians performed in the group at one time or another during the ensuing decades, continued to tour and appear at festivals around the UK until Parkinson’s disease and heart trouble forded his retirement in 2021, died in a London hospital on 5/14/2024, age 83.

May 15
John Hawken / (John Christopher Hawken) → Keyboards for British Invasion pop-rock The Nashville Teens and their big hit “Tobacco Road” (#14, UK #6, 1964), left the band in 1968 to become a co-founding member and keyboardist for the first incarnation of folk-rock Renaissance, joined English rockers Spooky Tooth for a brief time in 1971, then gigged with other bands and did session work until joining folk-rock/prog rock The Strawbs (“Part Of The Union,” UK #2, CAN #48, 1973) in 1973, left in 1975 to form Renaissance Illusion with former bandmates, moved to the U.S. in 1979 and largely dropped out of the music world to work on sketch artistry and crossword puzzles for two decades, returned to join Renaissance Illusion for a one-off album and a Strawbs reincarnation for two, performed at the 50th anniversary Strawbs concert in 2019, died from melanoma on 5/15/2024, age 84.

May 16
Randy Fuller / (Randall J. Fuller) → Singer, songwriter and bassist with his older brother Bobby and two others in 60s rock ‘n’ roll the Bobby Fuller Four (“I Fought The Law,” #9, UK #33, 1966, and the lesser hits but infectious “Let Her Dance,” #133, 1965), the band had moved from El Paso to L.A. seeking a recording contract and was on the cusp of national stardom when brother Bobby died under mysterious circumstances in July 1966, causing the band to splinter, kept on as frontman for the Randy Fuller Four for a short period and several unremarkable singles, periodically reunited with former BFF members on the oldies circuit and co-authored I Fought The Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller (2015), died from undisclosed causes on 5/16/2024, age 80.

May 18
Frank Ifield / (Francis Edward Ifield) → London-born, Australia-raised country-pop and easy listening US one hit wonder singer with six UK Top 10 singles during Beatlemania, including “I Remember You” (#5, UK #1, 1962), kept recording and performing in the 70s and 80s until contracting pneumonia in 1986 and having a lung removed with resulting vocal cord damage, recovered his singing voice and issued a dance remake of an earlier hit, renamed “The Yodeling Song” (UK #40, 1991), his 16th and final charting single in the UK over a 30-year career, died from pneumonia on 5/18/2024, age 86.
“Spider” John Koerner / (John Koerner) → Hugely influential 60s folk revival guitarist, singer and songwriter, as part of the blues-folk trio Koerner, Ray & Glover and six albums, including the highly-regarded Blues, Rags and Hollers (1963), as a solo artist with seven albums from 1965 to 2013, and as a collaborator with other prominent folk and blues artists in varying projects over the years, known for his friendship with Bob Dylan, whom he mentored at the University of Minnesota and performed with in the early 60s Minneapolis folk scene, died from bile duct cancer on 5/18/2924, age 85.

May 24
Doug Ingle / (Douglas Lloyd Ingle) → Founding member, keyboards, vocals and primary songwriter for 60s psychedelic-rock Iron Butterfly, crafted the 17-minute, iconic “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (#30, 1970), left the group in 1971 and managed an RV park and painted houses for 25 years, joined occasional Iron Butterfly reunions after 1996 and was the last surviving original member of the group upon his death from unspecified causes on 5/24/2024, age 78.

May 25

Richard Sherman / (Richard Morton Sherman) → Prolific composer of musical film soundtrack songs, primarily with his older brother Robert and under contract for the Walt Disney Company from 1958 to 1967, the two crafted more song scores than any other songwriting team in history and were responsible for the Oscar-winning “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and Oscar-nominated “Chim Chim Cher-ee” from the movie Mary Poppins (1964), best known for the classic “It’s A Small World (After All)” from the Disney exhibit at the 1964 World’s Fair and rides at Disney theme parks worldwide (the song is considered the most-publicly performed song of all time), also co-wrote music for Broadway shows and “You’re Sixteen”, a Top 10 hit for Johnny Burnette (#8, 1960) and Ringo Starr (#1, 1974), continued to compose film scores for Disney and others until a few years before his death from an age-related illness on 5/25/2024, age 95.


May 31

Ed Mann / (Edward L. Mann) → Percussionist best known for a long association with art-rock virtuoso Frank Zappa in the studio and on tour from 1978 through Zappa’s death in 1993, appeared on 25 albums through 1993 and another seven posthumous releases through 2010, toured with various Zappa backing bands in the 80s, issued five solo albums in the 90s, collaborated with numerous Zappa alumni and other artists into the 10s, died from undisclosed causes on 5/31/2024, age 69.

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