Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in March 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 last month:

March 01
Leon Hughes → R&B tenor vocalist and founding member of three 50s R&B/doo wop groups, the Lamplighters (1952-1953), the Hollywood Flames (“Buzz-Buzz-Buzz,” #11, R&B #8, 1956), and the original line-up of The Coasters (“Down In Mexico,” R&B #8, 1956), left before The Coasters’ big hits in the late 50s and collaborated with several R&B vocal groups in the 60s and 70s, later fronted his own version of The Coasters on the oldies circuit and mentored young musicians, last surviving member of the original Coasters at his death at home from natural causes on 3/01/2023, age 92.

March 02
Wayne Shorter → Twelve-time Grammy-winning jazz/fusion saxophonist and composer, played in influential Art Blakey‘s Jazz Messengers in the 50s and the Miles Davis Quintet in the 60s, co-founded jazz/rock fusion Weather Report (“Birdland,” 1977) and played in the group through 1985, participated in marquee collaborations with singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell, guitarist Carlos Santana and jazz-pop Steely Dan, including his tenor sax solo on “Aja” (1977), issued nearly 30 albums as bandleader or co-leader from 1959 through 2016 and appeared on several dozen more as a sideman or group member, awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014 and a Kennedy Center Honors Award in 2018, died from unspecified causes on 3/2/2023, age 89.
Steve Mackey / (Stephen Patrick Mackey) → Bass guitarist and producer for alt rock/Britpop Pulp, joined the band just before it rose to prominence during the so-called Cool Britannia era in the 90s with multiple dance-pop hits, including “Common People” (UK #2, 1995) and eight other UK Top 10 hits in the latter half of the decade, left when the band dissolved in 2001 and began a multi-faceted career as a fashion photographer, a cameo TV and film actor, and a producer and songwriter for groups including indie rock Arcade Fire, former Pulp-mate Jarvis Cocker, avant garde Dean Blunt, and a slew of other acts, reunited with Pulp from 2010 to 2013 but declined a scheduled tour with the group in 2023, spent three months in a hospital with an undisclosed illness before dying on 3/2/2023, age 56.

March 03
David Lindley / (David Perry Lindley) → Top-rated, sought-after L.A. session musician and recognized master of nearly every stringed instrument, co-founded 60s American eclectic folk-rock cult band Kaleidoscope, recorded with Warren Zevon, Curtis Mayfield, Dolly Parton, Ry Cooder, Linda Ronstadt, Rod Stewart and others in the 70s, key member of Jackson Browne‘s recording and touring band from 1971 to 1981 (and best known for his lap steel guitar work on the 1979 album Running On Empty), went solo in 1981 as frontman for El Rayo-X (“Mercury Blues,” Mainstream Rock #34, 1981) and recorded and performed in various studio and live performances through the 10s, died from complications of pneumonia and kidney disease caused by Long COVID-19 on 3/03/2023, age 78.

March 04
James “Owl” Walsh / (James Walsh) → Keyboardist and vocals for Minneapolis-based progressive rock Gypsy (“Gypsy Queen Part 1,” #62, 1970), which served as the house band at the popular Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles for two years in the late 60s, continued the group in various incarnations and as The James Walsh Gypsy Band (“Cuz, It’s You Girl,” #71, 1978), released five albums through 2021 and remained a stalwart on the Minnesota music scene for five decades, died from congestive heart failure following a long period of declining health on 3/4/2023, age 74.
SPOT / (Glenn Michael Lockett) → Record producer best known for working at influential indie punk label SST Records under the stylized name SPOT (with a dot inside the O), between 1979 and 1986 recorded, mixed, produced or co-produced most of the label’s top acts, including Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, Meat Puppets and Minutemen, among dozens of other punk acts from the 80s, relocated to Texas and focused on his photography work, published a book titled Sounds of Two Eyes Opening (2014), died following a stoke while waiting for a lung transplant as a cure for pulmonary fibrosis on 3/4/2023, age 71.
Michaedl Rhodes → Nashville country and rock session bass guitarist, appeared on hundreds of top albums by Dolly Parton, Bob Seger, Jim Messina and many dozens of others, joined various country-pop artists in several collaborations over the decades, including Rodney Crowell’s backing band, The Cherry Bombs off-and-on over 20 years, toured and recorded with blues-rock guitarist Joe Bonamassa in the 10s, died from pancreatic cancer on 3/4/2023, age 69.

March 05
Gary Rossington / (Gary Robert Rossington) → Guitarist and founding member of raunchy Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, noted for his slide guitar work on the anthemic “Free Bird” (#19, 1974) and for co-writing “Sweet Home Alabama” (#8, 1974), survived the 1977 plane crash that killed three members of the band, founded hard rock Rossington-Collins Band (“Welcome Me Home,” Mainstream Rock #9, 1988) with other Skynyrd alumni, co-fronted a reconstituted Lynyrd Skynyrd with former bandmates, the group toured extensively and issued ten studio albums from 1991 to 2012, retired from performing in 2021 and was the last surviving member of the original band at his death from heart trouble on 3/5/2023, age 71.

March 09
Rob Lumley / (Robin Lumley) → Member of former neighbor David Bowie’s touring band in the early 70s during the Ziggy Stardust tour, then in 1974 co-founded influential jazz-rock fusion group Brand X alongside drummer Phil Collins, in the late 80s produced albums for Rod Argent, Orleans and others and participated in several jazz-rock bands, published a 2013 book on the 1879 Tay Bridge (UK) disaster, admitted to a UK hospital for scheduled surgery but died from heart failure on 3/9/2023, age 75.

March 10
Napoleon XIV / (Jerrold Laurence Samuels) → One hit wonder songwriter, singer, and recording engineer whose silly, unlikely Top 10 hit “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” (#3, 1966) sold over a million copies and spawned an album of songs with mental-health-based themes, played piano on the night club and senior center circuit in the Philadelphia area for years before starting a business booking lounge acts in the Delaware Valley region, retired in 2021 and died from dementia and Parkinson’s disease on 3/10/2023, age 84.

March 13
Jim Gordon / (James Beck Gordon) → Top session drummer in the 60s and 70s, co-wrote “Layla” (#10, UK #7, 1972) with Eric Clapton and was a member of Derek & The Dominos as well as Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen touring band, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, and the elite group of L.A. session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, which led to work with The Byrds, The Everly Brothers, The Monkees, Steely Dan, Frank Zappa and many others, appeared on hundreds of hit singles and albums over 20 years before developing paranoid schizophrenia and murdering his mother in 1984, sentenced to life in prison where he died from natural causes on 3/13/2023, age 77.

March 14
Bobby Caldwell / (Robert Hunter Caldwell) → Smooth jazz/blue-eyed soul crooner and accomplished songwriter with multiple Top 100 hits, including his biggest as an artist, “What You Won’t Do For Love” (#9, R&B #6, 1979), co-wrote Grammy-nominated “The Next Time I Fall”(#1, AC #1, 1986) for Peter Cetera and Amy Grant, moved to a Big Band sound in the 90s and continued tour and record into the 10s, suffered from long-term effects of antibiotics taken for undisclosed illnesses, died at home on 3/14/2023, age 71.

March 16
Fuzzy Haskins / (Clarence Eugene Haskins) → Founding member, guitar and vocals for 50s/60s doo wop The Parliaments (“(I Wanna) Testify,” #20, R&B #3, 1967), then co-founded the Parliament-Funkadelic (“P-Funk“) collective of soul/funk bands and their flamboyant costumes (“One Nation Under A Groove,” #31, 1978), toured and recorded with the group through the 70s, then left in a dispute over group finances, released two solo albums with other former P-Funk members, formed a new version of Funkadelic in 1981 with several bandmates and toured with Original P, another P-Funk spin-off, in the 90s, died from complications of diabetes and a stroke on 3/16/2023, age 81.

March 17
Mick Slattery → Original guitarist and 1969 co-founder of space rock pioneers Hawkwind (debut single “Hurry On Sundown,” 1970), left the group by 1970 and passed out of the spotlight until resurfacing decades later to perform and record with former Hawkwind musicians in hard rock Space Ritual and bassist Alan Davey’s Hawkestrel project, died at home following a short, unspecified illness on 3/17/2023, age 77.

March 18
Bobbi Ercoline / (Barbara du-Wan Kelly) → Unintended poster girl for the Woodstock generation when photographed at dawn during the 1969 festival hugging her then-boyfriend in an early morning embrace caught on camera and subsequently used as the iconic cover photo for the Woodstock soundtrack album (#1, CAN #1, 1970), married her hug-mate in 1971 and became an elementary school nurse, died from leukemia on 3/18/2023, age 73.

March 22
Tom Leadon → Older brother of former Eagle Bernie Leadon and teenage co-founder with Tom Petty of early 70s country-rock Mudcrutch (“Depot Street,” no charts, 1975), left before the group dissolved in late 1975, moved to Los Angeles and joined Linda Ronstadt’s backing band and, in 1976, country-rock Silver (“Wham Bam,” #16, 1976), moved to Nashville, taught guitar and played in pop-blues band The Bayjacks for decades, reunited with Petty and Mudcrutch in 2004 to release a “debut” album and perform live until Petty’s death in 2017, appeared in several Petty memorial concerts in Gainesville, Florida, Mudcrutch’s hometown, in the 10s and early 20s, died from natural causes on 3/22/2023, age 70.

March 23
Keith Reid / (Keith Stuart Brian Reid) → Non-musical chief lyricist with prog/psych rock Procol Harum, wrote the lyrics to “A Whiter Shade Of Pale” (#5, UK #1, 1967) and every other Procol Harum original song from the band’s inception in 1966 to its dissolution in 1977, and on two reunion albums The Prodigal Stranger (1991) and The Well’s On Fire (2003), moved to the U.S. in 1986 and founded a theater management company, wrote all of the lyrics and produced two albums by The Keith Reid Project with session musicians performing the recordings, the second, In My Head in 2018, died from colon cancer on 3/23/2023, age 76.

March 27
Howie Kane / (Howard G. Kirschenbaum) → Original member and vocalist for clean cut pop-rock Jay & The Americans (“Cara Mia,” #4, 1965) and nine other Top 30 hits in the 60s, left after the band dissolved in 1973, continued to perform as a solo artist but suffered from alcoholism for years, went sober and reunited with other Jay & The Americans bandmates in 2006 and performed on the oldies circuit with a reformed group until his death from undisclosed cause on 3/28/2023, age 77.
Peggy Scott-Adams / (Peggy Stoutmeyer) → R&B/soul singer and teenaged vocalist backing Ben E. King on tour, scored four charting singles in the late 60s as a duet with Jo Jo Benson, including “Pickin’ Wild Mountain Berries” (#27, R&B #8, 1968), left the music industry around 1972 and dropped into relative obscurity before returning with a single, “Bill” (#87, 1996) and a “debut” solo album, Help Yourself (#72, R&B #9, 1996), issued eight more studio albums with moderate success before hanging up the microphone for good in 2012, died from undisclosed causes on 3/27/2023, age 74.

March 28
Ryuichi Sakamoto → Japanese musician, composer, actor and holder of a Masters degree in electronic and ethnic music, which led to the 1978 co-founding of pioneering electronic music trio Yellow Magic Orchestra (“Computer Game,” #60, UK #17, 1979), the band broke up in 1983 but influenced techno, synthpop, J-pop and hip hop artists in the 80s, 90s and 00s, later as a solo artist created the haunting score and starred alongside David Bowie in the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), composed other film scores, including the Oscar-winning music to The Last Emperor (1987) and the Brian DePalma film Femme Fatale (2002), collaborated with others in a variety of groups, session work and recordings, scored the music for the 2022 Netflix horror series Exception just before his death after years-long battle with cancer on 3/28/2023, age 71.

March 29
“Sweet” Charles Sherrell / (Charles Emanuel Sherrell) → Nashville-born bass guitarist in an early 60s garage band with Jimi Hendrix and later with Aretha Franklin’s touring band, in 1968 joined soul/funk legend James Brown’s backing band, The JB’s, on tour and in the studio from then through 1996, played on all of JB’s albums and hits during the time, including “My Thang” (#21, R&B #4, 1974), played bass in several collaborative groups in the 90s and issued two solo albums, the last in 2017, suffered from emphysema and died from heart failure at home in the Netherlands on 3/29/2023, age 80.

March 30
Ray Shulman / (Raymond Shulman) → Scottish bass guitarist and violinist with older brothers Ray and Derek in 60s psych-pop/rock Simon Dupree & The Big Sound (“Kites,” UK #9, 1967), then co-founding member with his brothers in innovative 70s Brit prog rock Gentle Giant (LP Free Hand, #48, 1975), left in 1980 and thereafter produced albums in the 80s and 90s for the Sugarcubes, the Sundays, Ian McCulloch and others, created video game soundtracks and released two trance EPs as Head-Doctor, died at home after a long illness on 2/20/2023, age 73.
Mark Russell / (Joseph Marcus Ruslander) → Stand-up comedian and political satirist known for his red, white and blue pianos and songs employing well-known pop melodies with new lyrics skewering politicians and current affairs in Washington, hosted bimonthly comedy specials on PBS-TV from 1975 to 2004 and appeared on other network TV variety shows over the years, retired from performing in 2016 but continued to write humor for various publications until his death from prostate cancer on 3/30/2023, age 90.

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