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


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:

September 01
Jimmy Buffett / (James William Buffett) → Beloved country-folk-pop-rock singer, songwriter, perpetual beach bum and chief Parrothead, as his legion of fans were dubbed, created and celebrated a mythical, tropical beach escapist lifestyle with frozen cocktails, breezy sunshine and the enduring calypso-pop “Margaritaville” (#8, 1977) in the background, parlayed the brand into a hugely successful business empire of Margaritaville-themed resorts, restaurants, retirement communities, and licensed merchandize, authored three #1 best-selling books starting with “Tales From Margaritaville” in 1989, wrote music for several feature films and appeared on TV shows, including the Hawaii Five-O remake in the 10s, continued to tour and record until dying from skin cancer on 9/1/2023, age 76.

September 04
Gary Wright / (Gary Malcolm Wright) → New Jersey child actor turned singer, songwriter and keyboardist, moved to London in the 60s and in 1967 joined blues-rock Spooky Tooth (“Feelin’ Bad,” #132, 1969), left after three albums for a solo career, collaborated with buddy George Harrison on his All Things Must Pass (1970) triple album and shared Harrison’s interest in Indian religion and mysticism, which led to writing the keyboard-heavy, early synth-pop “Dream Weaver” (#2, 1976) and “Love Is Alive” (#2, 1976), plus five other charting hits, in the 80s through the 00s alternated between his family, penning music for films, issuing solo albums, touring on his own and with Spooky Tooth reunions, and gigging with others, including Ringo Starr, Dave Mason and Rick Derringer in the 10s, battled Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia for six years before dying at home from the diseases on 9/4/2023, age 80.
Steve Harwell / (Steven Scott Harwell) → Rapper in the California group F.O.S. (Freedom Of Speech), in 1991 co-founded neo-garage/quirky alt rock Smash Mouth, sang, played guitar, and scored two big hits with the band, “Walkin’ On The Sun” (Modern Rock #1, 1997) and “All-Star” (#4, Mainstream #1, 1999), the latter featured in the animated film Shrek (2001), lived and played hard for two decades and collapsed on stage in 2016 during a Smash Mouth concert, retired from the band in 2021 due to congestive heart failure, died from liver failure on 9/4/2023, age 56.

September 06
Larry Chance / (Lawrence Figueiredo) → Lead vocals and frontman for vocal quartet The Earls, an early, rare, all-white, and ultimately durable doo wop group formed in the Bronx borough of New York City in 1957, sang lead on most of the group’s hits, including the doo wop classic “Remember Then” (#24, 1963), performed with The Earls for nearly 65 years, since the 70s in a genre “flame keeping” role on the oldies circuit, recorded for a final time in mid-2022 and appeared on stage for a last time three months before dying of lung cancer on 9/6/2023, age 82.
Bobby Schiffman / (Robert Lee Schiffman) → Music promoter and impresario who followed his father’s footsteps to transform the vaunted Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City from a seedy vaudeville stage in the 1920s to a world-renowned showcase for mostly black entertainers in the 1960s, nearly every major R&B and soul artist played at the Apollo at least once during their rise to prominence, and several important albums were recorded there during its heyday, including James Brown’s Live At The Apollo (#2, 1963), sold the theater in 1977 and managed a suburban New York City theater before retiring to Florida in the mid-90s, died at home in his sleep on 9/6/2023, age 94.
Richard Davis → Child prodigy bassist who rose to become a genre-fluid session, touring, and solo bass guitarist on over 600 albums by classical, jazz and rock artists, including those by Van Morrison (Astral Weeks, 1969), Bruce Springsteen (Born To Run, 1975) and Rickie Lee Jones (It’s Like This, 2000), plus two dozen of his own solo releases, from 1977 to 2016 taught university-level music in Wisconsin and mentored aspiring bassists, awarded a Jazz Master title by the National Endowment for the Arts in 2014, entered hospice care in 2021 and died from undisclosed causes on 9/6/2023, age 93.

September 08
Mylon LeFevre / (Mylon Rae LeFevre) → Christian rock singer, songwriter, guitarist, and Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee, started at age 12 in his parent’s legendary, 50-year Southern gospel vocal group The LeFevres, wrote his first song “Without Him” at age 17, the song has been covered by Elvis Presley and scores of other artists over the years, played in several rock bands in he 60s and 70s, lived the rock star lifestyle and kicked an addiction to heroin by 1973, left the music industry but returned in 1981 as frontman for Contemporary Christian music (CCM) band Broken Heart (“Crack The Heart,” Rock #1, CHR #1, 1987), went solo in 1992 and issued two further albums of lighter CCM, turned to preaching and teaching the gospel until dying from cancer on 9/8/2023, age 78.

September 10
Brendan Croker → English singer, songwriter and guitarist with several solo albums, occasionally with his amorphous backing band The Five O’Clock Shadows, best known as a member of country-rock The Notting Hillbillies alongside pal Mark Knopfler on the one-off album and follow-up tour in 1990, also played with legendary Brit cowpunk band The Mekons in the late 80s and full-time with Mekon-spinoff Sally Timms & The Drifting Cowgirls in the 90s, reunited for a second Hillbillies album in 1997 and wrote and performed again as a solo artist into the 00s, died from leukemia on 9/10/2023, age 70.

September 13
Roger Whittaker / (Roger Henry Brough Whittaker) → Widely-acclaimed, internationally-renowned British light pop/folk baritone singer and songwriter with a six-decade run of mostly sunny pop songs, best known for the worldwide hit “The Last Farewell” (#19, AC #1, UK #2, 1972) and later appearances on TV variety shows in the US, UK and Europe, recorded and performed until 2013, died in his retirement home in southern France at the end of a long, unspecified illness on 9/13/2023, age 87.

September 16
John Marshall / (John Stanley Marshall) → English drummer and sideman in blues-rock Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated in the early 60s, then sideman for several jazz-rock fusion bands before co-founding Nucleus in 1969, left in 1971 to join psych-rock Soft Machine (“Soft Space,” 1978) and work as a touring drummer and sessionman with dozens of leading rock and jazz artists, including Jack Bruce, Larry Coryell and Sarah Vaughan, joined Soft Machine bandmates in various projects in the 90s and 00s, toured with a reformed Soft Machine from 2015 until his death from undisclosed causes on 9/16/2023, age 82.

September 20
Katherine “Kat” Anderson / (Katherine Elaine Anderson Schaffner) → Joined fellow high school glee club members to co-found teenage Motown quintessential girl group The Marvelettes, the group notched ten Top 40 singles in six years beginning with the debut hit “Please Mr. Postman” (#1, R&B #1, 1961) and disbanded in protest in 1970 when Motown issued a Marvelettes covers album without using any of the actual members on the recording or on the album cover, left the industry altogether when Motown moved Los Angeles in 1972, raised a family largely out of the limelight in suburban Detroit, died from congestive heart failure on 9/20/2023, age 79.

September 23
Terry Kirkman / (Terry Robert Kirkman) → Founding member, multi-instrumentalist musician and songwriter for clean-cut, sunshine pop vocal group The Association, wrote “Cherish” (#1, 1966) and “Everything That Touches You” (#10, CAN #8, 1968), plus several other minor hits for the group, sang backing vocals on his and others Association songs, left in 1972 but participated in reunions in the 80s and 90s, in later years served as a counselor in a California addictions center, died from congestive heart failure on 9/23/2023, age 83.


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