On the Stairway to Heaven: Notable Deaths in February 2020

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We note with sadness the February 2020 passings of these contributors to rock and pop music of the 60s, 70s and 80s – the BEST music ever made!

February 01
Andy Gill / (Andrew James Dalrymple Gill) → British guitarist, record producer, songwriter, founder and only constant member of influential post-punk Gang Of Four (“Don’t Fix What Ain’t Broke,” Modern Rock #14, 1991), co-wrote with one or more bandmembers all tracks on the group’s first eight albums, and alone on their final two albums, in between produced albums for Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Stranglers and Michael Hutchence, among others, died from pneumonia on 2/1/2020, age 64.
Harold Beane / (Harold Dewitt Beane Sr.) → Stax Records‘ session guitarist who played on over 40 albums as a member of the Bar-Kays, the label’s house band in the 60s, later played with George Clinton‘s Parliament-Funkadelic musicians collective and in Isaac Hayes backing bands, most famous for his fuzz-tone and tremolo guitar on Hayes‘s 12-minute funk-soul cover of the Burt Bacharach classic “Walk On By” (#30, R&B #13, 1969), left music in 1987 for a mid-life career as a computer salesman but returned to Memphis in 2011 to play in various blues bands, died from an unspecified illness on 2/1/2020, age 73.

February 02
Ivan Král → Guitarist, composer and leader for teenage rock bands in Czechoslovakia before emigrating to New York City with his exiled parents ahead of the 1968 Soviet invasion, joined an early incarnation of glam rock Blondie, played bass and co-wrote songs from 1975 to 1979 for punk rock Patti Smith Group on her first four albums, chronicled the emergent New York punk scene in the mid-70s via Super 8 and 16mm cameras filming then-little known acts at rehearsals and live concert venues such as The Bottom Line and CBGB nightclub, the spliced tapes became the film The Blank Generation (1976) and a source for countless documentaries worldwide since, in the 80s did session work and contributed to songwriting for John Cale, Iggy Pop, John Waite and others, returned to his native Czech Republic in the 90s to mentor a new and thriving rock music scene in Prague, recorded his 12th studio album just prior to dying from cancer on 2/2/2020, age 71.

February 04
Buddy Cage → Longtime pedal steel guitarist for pioneering psychedelic country rock New Riders Of The Purple Sage (“Panama Red,” 1973), also toured and did session work for The Band, David Bromberg, Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir and many others, played on four Anne Murray and three Bob Dylan albums, including Blood On The Tracks (#1, 1975), founded hard-rock group The San Francisco All-Stars in 1978, continued to tour and record with NRPS until dying after an eight-year struggle with multiple myeloma (blood cancer) on 2/4/2020, age 73.
Bonnie MacLean / (Bonnie MacLean Graham) → San Francisco office manager and part-artist tapped in 1967 by then-husband Bill Graham to create posters announcing upcoming shows at his Fillmore West venue, becoming for a brief time the lone female among the top half-dozen designers of the day, her hand-drawn plumes, curved letters and stoic faces promoted concerts by Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd and many others over the next four years, divorced Graham in 1975 and relocated to Pennsylvania where she remarried and worked as a fine artist, with a focus on nudes and landscapes, until dying from undisclosed causes on 2/4/2020, age 80.

February 06
Lynn Evans / (Lynn Evans Maud) → Amateur barbershop harmony singer recruited to all-girl pop vocal The Chordettes in 1953, sang lead on their mega-hits “Mr. Sandman (#1, 1954) and “Lollipop” (#2, R&B #3, 1958) plus six other Top 20 songs, after the group dissolved in 1964 earned a master’s degree and taught special education for 25 years in the Long Island (NY) public schools, retired in 1989 and toured with a reformed Chordettes in the 90s, died following a stoke on 2/6/2020, age 95.

February 10
Lyle Mays / (Lyle David Mays) → Accomplished jazz-rock fusion keyboardist, composer and author, co-founded the Pat Metheny Group in 1977 and co-wrote most of the band’s music with frontman Pat Metheny over a 40-plus-year collaboration, won eleven Grammy Awards in the process, composed several children’s audio book and toured and recorded as a bandleader for his own jazz and fusion bands and as a sideman with others, including Joni Mitchell and David Bowie (“This Is Not America,” #32, UK #14, 1985), died from an undisclosed, recurring medical condition on 2/10/2020, age 66.

February 11
Joseph Shabalala / (Bhekizizwe Joseph Siphatimandla Mxoveni Mshengu Bigboy Shabalala) → South African musician, composer and founder/frontman of Ladysmith Black Mambo, a popular local a capella vocal group that Paul Simon tapped to back the Grammy-winning Graceland (#3, 1986) album, thereby introducing Zulu choral music (isicathimiya music) to an international audience, co-wrote “Homeless” and “Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes” with Simon, won a Grammy for his group’s follow-on album Shaka Zulu, continued to record and perform with the group on the world stage into the 2000s, turned leadership of the project over to his son, Thamsanqa, in 2008, retired in 2014 and died from an undisclosed medical condition on 2/11/2020, age 78.

February 12
Paul English → Longtime drummer for Willie Nelson‘s backing bands, started with him in 1955 and played intermittently until 1966 when he joined full-time, in between toured and did session work for Delbert McClinton and others, subject of Nelson‘s album Me And Paul (1985) and the title track thereto, joined the Board of Directors of start-up charity Farm Aid in 1985 and served as its treasurer for many years, continued to appear as a key member of Nelson‘s Family band until his death from pneumonia on 2/12/2020, age 87.

February 19
Buzzy Linhart / (William Charles Linhart) → Folk-rock musician and songwriter, initially on the early-60s Greenwich Village folk scene alongside John Sebastian, Fred Neil and others, played vibraphone on albums for Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jimi Hendrix (Electric Ladyland, 1969) and others, co-wrote Bette Midler‘s signature song, “(You Got To Have) Friends” (#40, AC #9, 1973), directed the soundtrack and appeared briefly in the cult film The Groove Tube (1974) and was a regular on Bill Cosby‘s short-lived TV show Cos (1976), issued a dozen studio albums, the last in 2015, suffered a debilitating heart attack in May 2018 and died on 2/13/2020, age 76.

February 24
David Roback / (David Edward Roback) → Guitarist, singer, songwriter and founding member of indie pop-rock duo Mazzy Star with vocalist Hope Sandoval, their lean, reverb-heavy sound and dreamy vocals became critic and cult favorites but produced only one broad hit, “Fade Into You” (#44, Modern Rock #3, 1994), prior to forming Mazzy Star played in 1980s L.A.-based “paisley underground” bands Rain Parade, Rainy Day and Opal, during a Mazzy Star hiatus in the 90s produced songs for Beth Orton and Maggie Cheung and performed with Bert Jansch, released a final EP with Sandoval as Mazzy Star in 2018, died from metastatic cancer on 2/24/2020, age 61.