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

October 01
Ron Haffkine / (Ronald Haffkine) → Producer, composer and band manager known his novelty-pop musical and film collaborations with comedian Shel Silverstein over a 30-year partnership, and as a Grammy-winning writer and producer for 70s pop-rock Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show, co-wrote their hits “Sylvia’s Mother” (#1, 1967) and the classic “Cover Of The Rolling Stone” (#1, 1972), later produced albums for Waylon Jennings, Lou Rawls, Mac Davis, Helen Reddy and many others, scored multiple film soundtracks over the decades, died from leukemia and kidney failure at his home in Mexico on 10/1/2023, age 84.

October 08
Ritchie Routledge / (Richard Routledge) → 16-year-old junior reporter for Brian Epstein’s variety paper Music Echo, recruited to Brit beat The Cryin’ Shames in late 1965 and in time for recording the band’s first single, “Please Stay” (UK #22, 1966), reorganized the band in mid-1966 with bandmate Charlie Crane to form Paul And Ritchie And The Crying Shames, released the single “September In The Rain” (UK #40, 1966) and gigged in the 70s with prog rock Blackwater Park and novelty-pop Grimms, dropped from sight in the 80s and died in Nashville from unknown causes on 10/8/2023, age 74.


October 09

Buck Trent / (Charles Wilburn Trent) → Award-winning country-pop instrumentalist, played on the radio as a pre-teen and in bluegrass legend Bill Monroe’s band in the early 60s, then an eleven year stint in Porter Wagoner’s band before joining Roy Clark on his TV show Hee Haw from 1974 to 1982, toured the Soviet Union with Clark in 1976 as the first U.S. country group to do so, over the years played as a sessionman on many hit records, including two Dolly Parton hits, “Jolene” (#60, Country #1, 1973) and “I Will Always Love You” (AC #20, Country #1, 1974), moved to country music mecca Branson, Missouri, and hosted one of its first and longest running morning theater shows from 1991 to 2019, released a final album, Spartanburg Blues in 2018 and died from undisclosed causes on 10/9/2023, age 85.

October 11
Rudy Isley / (Rudolph Bernard Isley) → Harmony and occasionally lead vocals for six-decade, multi-generation R&B/soul family group The Isley Brothers, co-wrote several of the group’s top hits, including the first, “Shout!” (#47, 1959), and later “It’s Your Thing” (#2, R&B #1, 1969), “That Lady, Part 1” (#6, R&B #2, 1973) and “Fight The Power” (#4, R&B #1, 1975), left the group in 1989 to pursue a career in the ministry and as a solo gospel artist, issued a religious album Shouting For Jesus: A Loud Joyful Noise in 1996, died at home following an apparent heart attack on 10/11/2023, age 84.

October 17
Carla Bley / (Lovella May Borg) → Free Jazz composer, keyboardist and bandleader with a 60-year career, her songs have been recorded by many of modern jazz’s top artists from the 60s on, in the 70s co-founded the New Music Distribution Service to promote and support artist-owned independent record labels, wrote all of the songs on the debut solo album, Nick Mason’s Fictitious Sports (1981) by the former Pink Floyd drummer, recorded over the years with Gary Burton, Jack Bruce, The Jazz Composer’s Orchestra, and many others, all the while fronting her own big band and issuing nearly 30 albums of modern jazz, received the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters award in 2015, released a final album, Life Goes On, in 2020 and died from brain cancer on 10/17/2023, age 87.

October 18
Dwight Twilley → Singer, songwriter and guitarist with Phil Seymour in 70s power pop Dwight Twilley Band and the Top 20 hit “I’m On Fire” (#16, CAN #57, 1975), disbanded and went solo in 1978, released a second power pop hit, “Girls” (#16, CAN #27, 1984) and became a leading figure in the power pop genre but never enjoyed widespread acclaim or commercial success, continued to record and perform through the 10s before suffering a cerebral hemorrhage and crashing his car, died several days later on 10/18/2023, age 72.

October 22
Gregg Sutton → Songwriter and musician in a short, mid-80s stint with L.A. country-rock/cowpunk Lone Justice and the hit “Shelter” (#16, Rock #23, 1986), left in 1978 and started a long, multi-faceted career as a sessionman, supporting musician and songwriter for others, wrote or co-wrote dozens of songs, including “Stop!” for Brit blue-eyed soul Sam Brown (#65, UK #4, 1988) and “Tonight” for jazz-pop Curtis Stiger (#98, UK #6, 1992), toured with Bob Dylan in the 80s, musical director for comedian Andy Kaufman from 1978 until Kaufman’s death in 1984, recorded on scores of albums by dozens of artists and participated in various projects in the 90s and beyond, died at home from undisclosed causes on 10/22/2023, age 74.

October 24
Steve Riley → Drummer in three 80s seminal L.A. heavy metal rock bands, including a 1981 stint in Keel (drummed on the album The Right To Rock, 1985), then core metal W.A.S.P. for a few tours before joining glam-metal L. A. Guns in 1987, played and recorded with the group in various incarnations through three decades, fronted his own version of L. A. Guns from 2019 to 2021, appeared as Billy The Bartender in the slasher film Blackstock Boneyard (2021), died from pneumonia on 10/24/2023, age 67.
Paul Harris → Versatile keyboardist, session and supporting musician with numerous credits, including the orchestral arrangements for The Doors album The Soft Parade (1969), performed as a member of King Harvest, Stephen Stills’ Manassas, The Southern Hillman Furay Band and Todd Rundgren’s Utopia, also recorded as a session musician for ABBA, Judy Collins, Bob Seger and Joe Walsh, among many others, died from unspecified causes on 10/24/2023, age 78.

October 28
Bill Rice / (Wilburn Steven Rice) → Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee with six charting singles in the 70s, including “Travelin’ Minstrel Man” (Country #33, 1971), best known for penning original songs for Elvis Presley (“Girl Next Door Went A’Walkin’,” 1960), Jerry Lee Lewis (”Would You Take Another Chance On Me,” Country #1, 1972), and dozens of Country Top 10 hits, many of which were co-written with partner Jerry Foster (“Here Comes The Hurt Again,” Mickey Gilley, Country #9, 1978) or wife Sharon Rice (“Lonely Too Long,” Patty Loveless, Country #1, 1996), at one point in 1974 ten different Foster/Rice songs were in the Country Top 10, died at home in Florida on 10/28/2023, age 84.

October 29
Warren Gradus → Session musician and recording engineer before joining doo wop The Belmonts in 1963 and singing and recording with the group for over 50 years, became President of Laurie Records, in the 70s, opened Phantom Power recording studio outside New York City in the 1980s, in the 90s returned to college and graduate school, earning a Physician Assistant degree and subsequently working at Riker’s Island prison in this role for 23 years, retired and started an Internet radio station, Belmonts Blues Radio in his last years, died after a protracted battle with cancer on 10/29/.20923, age 78.

October 31
Lawrence Cohn / (Larry Cohn) → Leading blues music authority, blues record collector, label executive, author and music critic, started as a federal attorney before heading Playboy Records in the early 60s, then joined Columbia Records in 1968 and later became vice-president of the Epic Records division, in the early 90s created Legacy Recordings under the Sony banner and produced the award-winning Roots ‘n’ Blues series of reissues, authored several music album liner notes and a handful of books on music in general and blues music in particular, including the Grammy-winning Nothing But The Blues: The Music and the Musicians (1993), died from natural causes on 10/31/2023, age 91.

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