Knockin’ on Heavens Door: Notable Deaths in January 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:

January 06
Calvin Simon / (Calvin Eugene Simon) → Founding member and vocals for R&B/doo wop The Parliaments (“(I Wanna) Testify,” #20, R&B #3, 1967) which morphed into the Parliament-Funkadelic (“P-Funk”) collective of several dozen musicians in the two influential soul/funk bands and their flamboyant costumes, the two entities released 41 charting singles between 1969 and 1981, including “One Nation Under A Groove” (#31, R&B #1, 1978), left the act by 1980, fought through a bout with cancer, recorded several Gospel albums as a solo artist, inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 as one of the 16 key members of the collective, toured with various P-Funk lineups and with the P-Funk All-Stars, died from unspecified causes on 1/6/2022, age 79.

January 08
Michael Lang / (Michael Scott Lang) → Concert promoter, music producer and graphic artist, co-produced the 1968 Pop & Underground Festival in Miami, then as organizer and frontman of the instantly-legendary, pop culture-defining Woodstock Music & Arts Festival in 1969 (with follow-up shows in 1994 and 1999, and an unsuccessful attempt to stage a 50th-anniversary concert in 2019), later formed a record label, Just Sunshine, through his Michael Lang Organization managed Woodstock ’69 veteran Joe Cocker, Rikki Lee Jones and other artists, produced movies, organized live events and oversaw the Woodstock brand and legacy, died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma on 1/8/2022, age 77.

Marilyn Bergman / (Marilyn Bergman nee Katz) → With her husband Alan in Grammy-winning songwriting duo whose lyrics were often set to music by Lew Spence, Marvin Hamlisch and Michel Legrand, best known among their hundreds of lyric works are two Oscar-winning songs, “The Windmills of Your Mind” (from The Thomas Crown Affair, 1968) and “The Way We Were” (title song to the 1974 movie), also wrote the lyrics to the movie score to Yentl (1983) and the words to theme songs to hit TV sitcoms Maude (1972), Good Times (1974) and Alice (1976), compilations of their songs include Barbra Streisand‘s What Matters Most (2011) and Sinatra Sings Alan & Marilyn Bergman (2019), first woman president of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), serving from 1994 to 2009, received a Trustees Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in 2013 jointly with Alan, died from respiratory failure on 1/8/2022, age 93.

January 09
James Mtume / (James Forman) → Jazz percussionist with the Miles David Group in the early 70s, smooth R&B songwriter in the 80s (including Stephanie Mill‘s disco “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” #6, R&B #5, 1980), bandleader for eponymous group Mtume with the oft-sampled hit “Juicy Fruit” (#45, R&B #1, 1983) and “You, Me and He” (#83, R&B #2, 1984), produced albums and songs for multiple R&B and hip hop artists, hosted talk radio programs from New York from 1998 to 2013, died from an unspecified form of cancer on 1/9/2022, age 76.

January 10
Burke Shelley → Co-founder, bass guitarist, frontman and the only member to have played on all releases by early and influential heavy metal Budgie, the Welsh power trio never achieved the stardom of fellow hard rockers Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath but lasted years thirty years (including two breaks) until disbanding for good in 2010, co-wrote most of the bands songs, including “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” (1971) and “Keeping A Rendezvous” (UK #71, 1981), suffered three aortic aneurysms after 2010 and died in his sleep in a hospital on 1/10/2022, age 71.

January 11
Rosa Lee Hawkins → With her older sister Barbara Ann and cousin Joan Marie Johnson, youngest member of quintessential teen girl group The Dixie Cups and five charting hits in the early 60s, including the sweetly memorable “Chapel Of Love” (#1, CAN #1, 1964) and a hit recording of the New Orleans R&B classic “Iko Iko” (#20, R&B #20, 1965), after Joan Marie left for a gospel career in the 70s, continued to perform with her sister and revolving third singers on the oldies circuit for over 50 years until her death following an unspecified surgical procedure on 1/11/2022, age 77.

Jerry Crutchfield → Award-winning country-pop songwriter, record producer and music executive with a 60-year presence in the industry, starting as a member of gospel-pop The Escorts in the 50s, then as a songwriter with more than 150 compositions recorded by Elvis Presley, Linda Ronstadt and Peggy Lee (“My Whole World Is Falling Down,” #24, AC #8, 1963) among others, produced records for Glen Campbell, The Gatlin Brothers, Dave Loggins (“Please Come To Boston.” #5, EZ#1, 1974), Lee Greenwood (“God Bless The U.S.A.,” Country #7, 1984 and #16, 2001) and others, launched MCA Music Publishing in Nashville in the late 60s and built the business into an industry powerhouse, left in 1992 for a stint as the top executive manager at Capitol Records, served as a trustee for The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), died from undisclosed causes on 1/11/2022, age 87.

January 12
Ronnie Spector / (Veronica Yvette Bennett) → Lead singer and frontwoman (ahead of sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley) in quintessential 60s pop “Wall of Sound” girl group The Ronettes and the anthemic “Be My Baby” (#2, 1963), married the band’s brilliant but troubled producer Phil Spector in 1968, largely locked from the public eye save for rare occasions until divorcing him in 1974, rebuilt her career and image singing duets, among them Southside Johnny (“You Mean So Much To Me,” 1976) and Eddie Money (“Take Me Home Tonight,” #4, 1986) as well as solo work, married her new manager, raised two sons, successfully sued Spector for back royalties, continued to record in collaborations and perform as Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes until dying from cancer on 1/12/2022, age 78.

January 13
Fred Parris / (Frederick Lee Parris) → Founder, frontman and vocals for long-running R&B/doo wop The Five Satins, wrote the classic 50s ballad “In The Still Of The Night” (#24, R&B #3, 1956), the now-signature song of the doo wop era and #90 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, recorded into the 80s and had a final charting single with “Memories Of Days Gone By” (#71, 1982), a retro-medley of doo wop hits, thereafter appeared on the oldies circuit with various Five Satins lineups for the next three decades, died after a short illness on 1/13/2022, age 85.

Sonny Turner → Frontman for Ohio-based 50s R&B vocal group The Metrotones, successfully auditioned in 1959 against 100 others and replaced departing Tony Williams in the lead vocal spot in 50s doo wop The Platters (“The Great Pretender,” #1, 1955), led a resurgence of the group in the 60s with three hit singles, “I Love You 1000 Times” (#31, 1966), “With This Ring” (#14, 1967) and “Washed Ashore” (#56, 1968), left the group in 1970 amidst internal disputes and toured for decades as a solo act and with his own incarnations of The Platters, often competing with other splinter groups using the Platters name, died from throat cancer on 1/13/2022, age 83.

January 14
Greg Webster / (Gregory Allen Webster, Sr.) → Founding member, drummer and co-songwriter for important R&B/funk Ohio Players, the band known for fluid lineups, horn-driven grooves and erotic album covers, plus eight Top 10 hits in the mid-70s, including “Fire” (#1, R&B #1, 1974) and “Love Rollercoaster” (#1, R&B #1, 1975), left the band by 1975 for a career as a sessionman for funk and jazz artists, played in his church ensemble in hometown Dayton (Ohio) for decades, wrote the 2001 biography of the band, The Early Years/The Ohio Players, last original member of the band at his death following a short illness on 1/14/2022, age 84.

Dallas Frazier / (Dallas June Frazier) → Country-pop musician and prolific songwriter, penned and recorded his first single, “Space Command” (no charts, 1954) at age 14 and followed with 10 charting singles between 1966 and 1973, best known for writing country-pop “Elvira” for himself (no charts, 1966) and the Oak Ridge Boys (#5, Country #1, 1981), novelty-pop “Alley Oop” (#1, R&B #3, 1960) for the Hollywood Argyles, “There Goes My Everything” (#65, Country #1, 1966) for Jack Greene, and “Beneath Still Waters” (Country #1, 1980) for Emmylou Harris, left the music industry for the ministry in the Nashville area in 1988, suffered two strokes in mid-2021 and died on 1/14,2022, age 82.

January 15
Ralph Emery / (Walter Ralph Emery) → The “Dick Clark of Country Music,” tireless multi-media promoter and pre-eminent broadcaster of country music over six decades, first as the overnight DJ from 1957 to 1972 on clear-channel WSM in Nashville, the station’s nighttime signal reached across the Eastern and Central states and drew top country stars for interviews on the program, started a concurrent TV program in the late 60s, left radio and went full-time on morning TV from 1972 through 1991, hosted various country-themed TV programs into the 2000s, including a final stint as host of retro-view Ralph Emery’s Memories on cable from 2007 to 2015, died in a Nashville hospital after a brief illness on 1/15/2022, age 88.

January 18
Dick Halligan / (Richard Bernard Halligan) → Founding member, keyboardist, songwriter and backing vocalist in innovative jazz-pop-rock fusion band Blood, Sweat & Tears and their major hits in the late 60s and early 70s, including “Spinning Wheel” (#2, 1969) plus “And When I Die” (#2, 1969), co-wrote several of the bands lesser hits, including “Lisa Listen To Me” (#71, 1971), left in 1972 to pursue a long and varied career penning film scores, recording jazz-rock pieces and conducting orchestras at Carnegie Hall in New York City, died from natural causes on 1/18/2022, age 78.

January 20
Meat Loaf / (Michael (nee Marvin) Lee Aday) → Hard-edged actor and iconic pop-rock singer best known for the phenomenally successful Bat Out Of Hell trilogy of albums, the operatic rock hit “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” (#11, 1978) and Grammy-winning ballad “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” (#1, 1993), cast member in the theater and film versions of cult-classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starred in the film Fright Night (1999) and had varying roles in dozens of other films, died from a reported COVID-19 illness on 1/20/2022, age 74.

January 22
Don Wilson / (Donald Lee Wilson) → Co-founder and rhythm guitarist for pioneering instrumental rock ‘n’ roll band The Ventures, the group simultaneously launched the surfer-rock sound and guitar-based instrumental rock music with “Walk-Don’t Run” (#2, R&B #3, 1960), “Hawaii-Five-O” (#4, AC #8, 1968) and 21 other charting singles through 1971 and influenced countless future rock guitarists with their innovative fuzz box, twangy guitars simple but catchy riffs, appeared on over 250 albums and performed with the band for over sixty years until retiring in 2015, died of natural causes on 1/22/2022, age 88.

January 26
Sister Janet Mead / (Janet Mead) → Australian Catholic nun, lifelong supporter of the homeless and disadvantaged known globally for her upbeat pop-rock rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer” (#4, 1974), an improbable Top 10 hit in most English-speaking countries and one of a very few mainstream pop-rock songs with words taken directly from the Bible, eschewed the limelight but issued two albums of uplifting, spiritual music (including covers of Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens) and donated all of the earnings to charity, died from cancer on 1/26/2022, age 83.

January 29
Sam Lay / (Samuel Julian Lay) → Virtuoso Chicago blues, jazz and rock drummer and vocalist, perfected the “double-groove shuffle” mimicking hand claps and tambourines heard in church as a youth, performed and recorded with many blues greats, including Little Walter, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters, joined The Butterfield Blues Band in the mid-60s, recorded and toured with Bob Dylan and the Chess Records All-Stars and issued several albums of his own since 1969, his home movies of fellow blues performers in various Chicago venues in the 50s and 60s were featured in the PBS special History Of The Blues (2003), subject of the biographic film Sam Lay In Bluesland (2014), moonlighted in later years as a security guard and died in a nursing home from undisclosed causes on 1/29/2022. age 86.

Howard Hesseman / (George Howard Hesseman) → Improvisational comedian and TV/film actor best known for his portrayal of Dr. Johnny Fever, the boozy, pot-smoking, disco-loathing, rock-loving washed-out DJ on TV sitcom WKRP In Cincinnati (1978-1982) and later as history teacher Charlie Moore on Head Of The Class (1986-1991), also made several dozen small-role appearances on screen and on stage over five decades, including TV programs That 70s Show (2001), Boston Legal (2006-07) and Saturday Night Live (host in 1979, 1982 and 1983), died from complications of an earlier colon surgery on 1/29.2022, age 81.

January 30
Pig Robbins / (Hargus Melvin Robbins) → In-demand member of Nashville‘s so-called A-Team of elite session musicians, played piano and other keyboards on hundreds of hits and albums by top county and rock artists, including innovative work on Bob Dylan‘s LP Blonde On Blonde (#9, 1966) and country crossover singles by Patsy Cline (“I Fall to Pieces,” #12, Country #1, 1961) and Kenny Rogers (“The Gambler,” #16, Country #1, 1978) among many dozens of others, issued eight studio albums and two charting singles as a solo artist, memorialized in Robert Altman’s 1975 movie Nashville, became a key player in the development of the smooth “countrypolitan” sound of the 80s and 90s, continued to record in the studio and tour with various artists into the 00s, died from heart and kidney failure on 1/30/2022, age 84.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here