On the Stairway to Heaven: Notable Deaths in July 2020


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:

July 01
Max Crook / (Maxfield Doyle Crook) → Keyboard musician and basement electronics engineer who developed the Musitron, a hybrid monophonic synthesizer featured on Del Shannon‘s “Runaway” (Worldwide #1, 1961), the song he co-wrote with Shannon and that introduced electronics to pop music, later recorded electronic, instrumental versions of contemporary pop hits and an album of gospel and spiritual music under the pseudonym Maximilian, died from natural causes on 7/1/2020, age 83.

July 05
Sharon Paige / (Sharon G. McCord) → Philly-soul female vocalist recruited to all-male, suave R&B Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, sang duets with groupmate and regular lead singer Teddy Pendergrass (“Hope That We Can Be Together Soon,” #42, R&B #1, 1975) until he left the group in 1976, departed herself in the early 80s for a moderately successful solo career, became a mother and later contracted diabetes but joined several Blue Note reunions and acted in small movie roles before dying from unspecified causes on 7/22/2020, age 68.

July 06
Charlie Daniels / (Charles Edward Daniels) → Country and Southern rock legend known for his high-speed fiddling and a long list of accomplishments over 60 years, first as a Nashville session musician on albums by Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and others, later as leader of the four-decade Charlie Daniels Band (“The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” #3, 1979 and four other Top 40 crossover hits), as founder and organizer of the Volunteer Jam concerts (1974-1996) and tours (1999-2015) showcasing fellow Southern rockers, as a mostly cameo actor in two dozen movies and TV shows, as an inductee to the Grand Ole Opry (2008) and the Country Music Hall of Fame (2016), and for his unapologetic right-wing stance on social and political issues, died from a hemorrhagic stroke on 7/6/2020, age 83.
Joe Porcaro / (Joseph Thomas Porcaro) → Jazz and pop drummer who recorded with Rosemary Clooney, Lalo Schifrin, Stan Getz, Bonnie Raitt, Madonna and dozens of others, and on six albums from 1981 to 1992 by arena rock Toto (“Africa,” #1, 1982), the band founded and fronted by his three sons, Mike, Jeff and Steve, also co-founded the academy that is now the Los Angeles College of Music, died in his sleep on 7/6/2020, age 95.

July 12
Judy Dyble / (Judith Aileen Dyble) → British singer-songwriter and founding member of influential progressive folk-rock ensemble Fairport Convention, left the band following release of their eponymous first album and before a subsequent charting single “Si Tu Dos Partir” (UK #21, 1969), joined a short-lived precursor to prog rock King Crimson but left to raise a family and perform in various folk-rock groups and Fairport reunions over the next 40 years, died from apparent lung cancer on 7/12/2020, age 71.

July 19
Emitt Rhodes / (Emitt Lynn Rhodes) → Two-time one hit wonder pop-rock musician, first as a member of L.A. garage/psych-rock The Merry Go-Round (“Live,” #63, 1967) and later as a solo, folky-power pop singer-songwriter (“Fresh As A Daisy,” #54, 1970) and four albums in the early 70s, developing a cult following before ceasing recording and becoming an engineer and producer for Elektra Records for over 30 years, subject of the 2009 documentary film The One Man Beatles about his life and music, recorded his fifth and final album, Rainbow Ends in 2016, 43 years after its predecessor, died in his sleep on 7/19/2020, age 70.

July 21
Annie Ross / (Annabelle Macauley Allan Short) → British jazz, pop and bebob singer-songwriter with “Twisted” (1952), one of the earliest and best known examples of “vocalese” where lyrics are added to previously recorded jazz instrumental solos to create a new song, later became one third of the highly-popular jazz-pop vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and recorded seven albums with many vocalese tracks, left in 1962 and opened a London night club in 1964 but suffered from heroin addiction and financial troubles, dropped out of sight in the 70s, re-appeared on stage and screen in the 80s and resumed her singing career as a cabaret singer/actor/comedienne until dying from emphysema and heart disease on 7/21/2020, age 89.

July 25
Peter Green / (Peter Allen Greenbaum) → Respected British blues-rock guitarist and songwriter, replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1966, co-founded Fleetwood Mac in 1967 as a blues-rock band, wrote “Albatrosss” (UK #1, 1969) and other early hits, left the band in 1970 and suffered psychiatric problems for decades while participating in various, limited collaborations and sessions through the 90s, ranked #38 on Rolling Stone magazine’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, died in his sleep from undisclosed causes on 7/25/2020, age 73.

July 27
Denise Johnson → Manchester-based backing and guest vocalist on albums by New Order, Johnny Marr, the Smiths and others, best known for her stint with alt. rock Primal Scream (1990-1995) and for a 25-year association with post-punk A Certain Ratio, recorded solo over the years and had a debut album due for release in September, died following a brief but unspecified illness on 7/27/2020, age 56.

July 28
Bent Fabric / (Bent Fabricius-Bjerre) → Danish pianist and composer with the Grammy-winning, worldwide instrumental pop hit “Alley Cat” (#7, AC #2, 1962), a simple but infectious earworm released in Denmark in 1961 as “Omkring et Flygel” (“Around a Piano”), also credited with scoring more than 70 films and TV shows, plus theater and ballet music, died following a short illness on 7/28/2020, age 96.

July 31
Alan Parker / (Sir Alan William Parker) → Highly-decorated British filmmaker and producer known for directing some of the the most successful musical films of the late 20th Century, including Fame (1980), Pink Floyd – The Wall (1982), The Commitments (1991) and the Madonna vehicle Evita (1996), plus other films with more controversial subjects, Midnight Express (1978), Mississippi Burning (1988), The Life of David Gale (2003) among them, died following a lengthy but undisclosed illness on 7/31/2020, age 75.


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