On the Stairway to Heaven: January 2020

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We note with sadness the following artists, luminaries and other persons of note who died in January 2020 after contributing – in some meaningful way – to rock and pop music of the 60s, 70s and 80s – the BEST music ever made!

January 01
Marty Grebb / (Martin Joseph Grebb) → Multi-instrumentalist musician, played keyboard for Chicago-based pop-horn-rock The Buckinghams (“Kind Of A Drag,” #1, 1967) in 1966-1968, later toured with Leon Russell, Elton John, Chicago, and most notably Bonnie Raitt as a member of her band for 25 years, appeared on over 30 albums as a sessionman and issued two of his own in the 90s, most recently played in The Weight Band, a collection of former members of The Band, with whom he cut two albums in the 90s, developed cancer in ca. 2015 and died from an apparent suicide on 1/1/2020, age 74.

January 07
Neal Peart / (Neal Ellwood Peart) → One of the most accomplished rock music drummers of all time, incomparably proficient, virtuoso percussionist and principal lyricist with Canadian progressive rock/power trio Rush, his complex, sophisticated lyrics and the band’s richly layered music created eleven Mainstream Rock Top 10 singles, including “New World Man” (#21, Main #1, 1982) and 19 well-regarded studios albums between 1974 and 2012, retired from music in 2015 and died from glioblastoma (brain cancer) on 1/7/2020, at age 67.

January 14
Steve Martin Caro / (Carmelo Esteban Martin Caro) → Founding member and lead singer for two hit wonder, baroque-pop The Left Banke, their twin hits “Walk Away Renee” (#5, 1967) and “Pretty Ballerina” (#15, 1967) featured flutes, harpsichords and other baroque-style strong arrangements and are considered the primary examples of “Bach rock,” recorded two albums with the band before their initial split in 1969, participated in various short-lived Left Banke reunions over the ensuing 50 years, died from heart disease on 1/14/2020, age 71.

January 15
Chris Darrow / (Christopher Lloyd Darrow) → Highly-skilled and sought-after multi-instrumentalist L.A. session musician and country-rock pioneer, co-founded 60s American eclectic folk-rock cult band Kaleidoscope, replaced Jackson Browne in country-rock the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (“Mr. Bojangles,” #9, 1971), worked in Linda Ronstadt‘s backing band, recorded several solo albums and did studio work for James Taylor, Helen Reddy and many others, continued to record and produce folk- and country-rock music into the 10s, died from complications of a stroke on 1/15/2020, age 75.

January 18
David Olney / (David Charles Olney) → Folk and roots-rock songwriter, fronted the band The X-Rays in Nashville in the 70s and 80s as a vehicle for his songs, after dissolution in 1985 released nearly 35 LPs as a solo singer and guitarist, his songs were covered by Linda Ronstadt, Emmy Lou Harris, Steve Earle and many others, died onstage from a heart attack while performing at a Florida festival on 1/18/2020, age 71.

January 19
Robert Parker → New Orleans R&B/soul and rock ‘n’ roll singer and saxophonist, worked as a sessionman for Fats Domino, Ernie K-Doe and others, well-known in NOLA clubs and festivals for decades, but best known around the world for his one hit wonder solo career and the classic 60s R&B/soul hit “Barefootin'” (#7, R&B #2, 1966), inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2007, died from natural causes on 1/19/2020, age 89.

January 21
Terry Jones / (Terence Graham Parry Jones) → Welsh comedian, screenwriter, cultural historian and late-in-life social commentator, best known as a co-founding member of the absurdly satiric, extremely entertaining British comedy troupe Monty Python’s Flying Circus (“Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life,” UK #3, 1991), their highly successful 60s-80s UK TV sketch program became a phenomenon in the US when introduced in 1974, continued to write and produce as a Python member, comedian, playwright, screen writer and political activist for 40 years until contracting and dying from degenerative dementia on 1/21/2020, age 77.

January 24
Wes Wilson / (Robert Wesley Wilson) → Graphic artist and a leading designer of 60s psychedelic posters promoting rock concerts in the San Francisco Bay-area at venues such as Bill Graham‘s Fillmore West and the nearby Avalon Ballroom, his LSD-inspired artwork introduced fluid typesets, curved block lettering, loud colors and provocative imagery for shows by Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and other top acts, with one Grateful Dead poster appearing on the cover of Life magazine in 1967, left for the Ozarks in the 70s and painted until dying from unspecified causes on 1/24/2020, age 82.

January 26
Bob Shane / (Robert Castle Schoen) → Founding member, baritone vocals and guitar for legendary folk-pop The Kingston Trio, the close harmony vocal group at the vanguard of the folk music revival of the 50s and 60s and a seminal force in bringing acoustic music to a dominant place in American pop music, the success of their first single, a version of “Tom Dooley” (#1, 1958) led to five straight #1 albums (of 14 total), including a five-week stretch in late 1959 with four albums in the Top 10, and was voted a “Song of the Century” by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), after the band dissolved in 1967 continued to tour as The New Kingston Trio with various sidemen and as the real thing after buying the rights to the name in 1976, forced into retirement by a 2004 heart attack, died in an Arizona hospice on 1/26/2020, age 85.

January 28
Harry Harrison / (Harry Harrison, Jr.) → Affable, mildly corny but venerable New York City radio personality known as the “Morning Mayor” and the only one to broadcast on three of the market’s top music stations, WMCA-AM (1959-1968 as one of the “Good Guys” on-air team), WABC-AM, WABC-AM (1968-1979 as a member of its “All-American” team) and WCBS-FM (1980-2005), inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2019, died from undisclosed causes on 1/28/2020, age 89.