Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Notable Deaths in September 2021


We note with sadness the following contributors to rock and pop music from the 50s through the 80s – the BEST music ever made! – who passed away last month:

September 05
Ricochet Reynolds / (Rickie Lee Reynolds) → Original guitarist for Southern raunch-rock Black Oak Arkansas with a lone Top 40 hit, “Jim Dandy To The Rescue” (#25, CAN #12, 1973), but three gold-certified albums in 1971-1973, left in 1977 but returned in 1984 to record and perform with the band into the 10s, hospitalized with COVID-19 and died from heart and kidney failure on 9/5/2021, age 72.
Sarah Harding / (Sarah Nicole Hardman) → Singer in English-Irish pre-fab Euro-pop girl group Girls Aloud with twenty consecutive UK Top 10 hits (and four Number Ones) beginning with their debut single “Sound Of The Underground” (UK #1, 2002) and continuing for eight years into 2009, during the group’s hiatus to 2012 acted on BBC TV and contributed vocals to a one-off project, issued a solo EP in 2017 and a solo single (“Wear It Like a Crown”) in March 2021 that reached the #1 on iTunes, died from breast cancer on 9/5/2021, age 39.

September 10
Michael Chapman → Critically acclaimed but commercially underrated Brit folk singer, songwriter and guitarist best known for his “Postcards Of Scarborough” (1970) and a seven-decade career and catalog featuring nearly 50 albums, former late-60s UK cult hero fusing jazz, rock, Indian and ragtime styles, continued to record and perform into the 10s before dying from a heart attack on 9/21/2021, age 76.
Roger Newell → Bass guitarist in English pop-rock band Rainbow Ffolly (“Drive My Car,” 1968), later joined Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman in his acclaimed prog-rock backing band English Rock Esemble, battled cancer for several years but died from an aortic aneurysm on 09/10/2021, age 73.

September 11
María Mendiola / (María Eugenia Martínez Mendiola) → Former Spanish television dancer and, with partner Mayte Mateos, one-half of the Latin/disco girl duo Baccara and “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” (UK #1, 1977), their debut single, a Europe-wide chart topper and the highest selling single by a female group in history, the duo spilt in the early 80s as disco waned and their audience moved on, leaving the pair to feud over song content and lead vocals, each tried unsuccessful solo careers before retarting separate Baccara-styled and -named duos, competing for over 25 years and remaining friendly but never performing together again, died from complications of a two-decades long blood defficinecy on 9/11/2021, age 69.

September 21
Sara Dash → Founding member of 60s doo wop girl group The Bluebelles, which morphed into 70s disco-funk Labelle, (“Lady Marmalade,” #1, 1975 and several other mid-70s disco hits), went solo in 1976 and released four albums and another dance/pop hit, “Sinner Man” (#71, Dance/Club #9, 1978), later worked as a session singer for Laura Nyro, The Marshall Tucker Band, The Rolling Stones and others, toured in Keith Richards‘ band in the 90s but kept a low profile through the 10s, died from unexplained causes two days after a Labelle reunion live performance on 9/20/2021, age 76.

September 22
Sue Thompson / (Eva Sue McKee) → Youthful-voiced 50s country-pop singer, issued over a dozen non-charting singles in a decade-long recording career before shifting to novelty pop songs for mostly teen audiences in the early 60s, findng immediate success with “Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)” (#5, AC #1, 1961) and “Norman” (#3, 1961), both written by songwriter John D. Loudermilk, returned to her country roots in the 70s and recorded “Big Mable Murphy” (Country #50, AC #40, 1975) and eight other singles before moving to the Las Vegas nightclub circuit, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on 9/23/2021, age 96.
Pee Wee Ellis / (Alfred James Ellis) → Jazz-rooted saxophonist, songwriter and music arranger, worked as musical director for R&B/funk master James Brown‘s backing band in the latter 60s and co-wrote more than 25 songs with Brown, including “Cold Sweat” (#7, R&B #1, 1967) and the anthemic “Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud” (#10, R&B #1, 1968), later hired on at jazz label CTI Records as arranger for the likes of George Benson, Shirley Scott and Sonny Stitt until joining Van Morrison‘s backing and recording a dozen albums with Morrison through 1999, over the years fronted his own bands blending jazz and R&B/funk and collaborated with others. including in the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion and Still Black Still Proud, a James Brown tribute tour, suffered from heart trouble in his later years and died from heart failure on 9/23/2021, age 80.
Richard H. Kirk / (Richard Harold Kirk) → Pioneering experimental/electronic musician and founding member of post-punk industrial music trio Cabaret Voltaire, the group recorded with a tape recorder and crude instruments in the 70s, then gradually added dance-pop elements and stronger instrumenation in the 80s, scoring six UK Indie Top 10 hits and ten UK pop minor hits, including “Here To Go” (Dance #16, UK #88, 1987), following dissolution in 1994 pursued a solo career using an array of aliases and collaborted with multiple electonic musicians over 25 years, revived Cabaret Voltaire as a solo venture in 2009 and released three albums over six months in 2020-2021 before dying from undisclosed causes on 9/21/2021, age 65.

September 26
Commander Cody / (George William Frayne IV) → Frontman, lead vocals and occasional songwriter for highly regarded but commercially overlooked country-rock/boogie band Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen, their lone Top 40 hit, a cover of “Hot Rod Lincoln” (#9, 1972) belied their worthy status as a quintessential 70s goodtime rock ‘n’ roll and Texas swing party band, following dissolution in the late 70s continued to perform nationaly and record as Commander Cody, including the 1980 minor hit, “2 Triple Cheese (Side Order of Fries),” the music video for which is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art, spent many years painting portaits before dying following a long battle with esophageal cancer on 9/26/2021, age 77.
Alan Lancaster / (Alan Charles Lancaster) → Founding member (as a young teen), bassist, songwriter and occasional lead vocals for long-lived Brit psych-boogie rock band Status Quo, the group charted over 50 UK Top 40 singles, including “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” (#12, UK #7, 1968), moved to Australia and later left the band in 1985 after a falling out with co-founder Francis Rossi, joined Aussie rockers The Party Boys and formed his own band The Bombers in the 90s, toured with a reformed Status Quo in 2013 and 2014, died of complications from multiple sclerosis on 9/26/2021, age 72.

September 28
Barry Ryan / (Barry Sapherson) → Singer with his identical twin brother in pop duo Paul & Barry Ryan, scored eight UK Top 50 hits in two years in the mid-60s, including “Don’t Bring Me Your Heartaches” (UK #13, 1965), when his brother quit to avoid the stress and concentrate on songwriting, started a solo career and released his biggest hit, “Eloise” (#86, UK #2, 1968) along with another five UK Top 40 singles, left the music business in the 70s for a successful career as a fashion photographer and has six portraits in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London, occasionally performed on the oldies circuit and died from complications of a lung disorder on 9/28/2021, age 72.
Dr. Lonnie Smith / (Lonnie Smith) → Much heralded jazz keboardist and recognized master of the Hammond B3 organ, leading exponent of the rhythmic genre known as soul-jazz, pushed musical boundaries in a multi-decade career starting with George Benson in the 60s and following with dozens of his own albums and collaborations over 40 years, mostly with Blue Note records, his virtuousity was recognized in multipal awards, including as an NEA Jazz Master in 2017, died from pulmonary fibrosis on 9/28/2021, age 79.


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