On the Stairway to Heaven: Notable Deaths in June 2020

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We offer a final salute to these contributors to rock & pop music of the 60s, 70s and 80s – the BEST music ever made – who died during June 2020:

June 02
Jimmy Capps / (James Dixon Capps) → Nashville A-Team session guitarist and 50-plus-year member of the Grand Old Opry house band dubbed the “master of smoothness” by his peers, played on hundreds of iconic country music singles as well as crossover hits by Tammy Wynette (“Stand By Your Man,” # 19, Country #1, 1968), Kenny Rogers (“The Gambler,” # 16, Country #1, 1978) and Oak Ridge Boys (“Elvira,” #5, Country #1, 1981), averaged more than 500 recording session per year at his peak and appeared on stage at the Opry on weekends for five decades, worked with contemporary stars in the 90s and 00s, published the 2018 autobiographical The Man In Back covering his career as a backing musician, died from undisclosed causes on 6/2/2020, age 81.

June 04
Steve Priest / (Stephen Norman Priest) → Founding member, bass guitarist and later lead vocalist for campy glam pop-rock The Sweet, scored a hit with “Ballroom Blitz” (#5, 1975) and three other mid-70s Top 10 singles before leaving in 1982 for an on-again-off-again solo career, several reunions and other projects, died from undisclosed causes on 6/4/2020, age 72.
Rupert Hine / (Rupert Neville Hine) → English musician with eleven albums as a solo artist and as frontman for mid-70s pop-rock Quantum Jump, whose ”The Lone Ranger” did not chart in 1976 but reached UK #5 on re-release in 1979, best known as a producer and songwriter for synth-pop The Fixx (“One Thing Leads To Another.” #4, 1983), R&B diva Tina Turner (“Better Be Good To Me,” #5, R&B #6, 1984), and numerous tracks and albums for Bob Geldof, Howard Jones, Stevie Nicks and many others, along with a variety of politically- and environmentally-conscious projects over the years, suffered from renal cancer in the early 10s and died from undisclosed causes on 6/4/2020, age 72.

June 08
Bonnie Pointer / (Patricia Eva Pointer) → With her co-founder/sister June in 1969 as a duo, and then with siblings Ruth and Anita, vocals in retro-40s R&B/skat-pop-swing-funk-disco-bebob The Pointer Sisters and several charting hits in the 70s (“Yes We Can Can,” #11, R&B #12, 1973), left the group in 1977 for Motown Records and a moderately successful solo career (“Heaven Must Have Sent You,” #11, Dance #8, 1979), the others continued on as a dance-pop trio with a string of huge hits in the 80s, “Slow Hand” (#2, 1981) and “Neutron Dance” (#6, Dance #4, 1984), reunited with her sisters for two performances in the 90s and toured Europe in 2008, died from cardiac arrest on 6/8/2020, age 69.

June 09
Paul “Tonka” Chapman / (Paul William Chapman) → Welsh rock guitarist best known for his stints with hard rock band UFO in the 70s and 80s (“Young Blood,” UK #36, 1980), in the interim forming hard rock Lone Star, after leaving UFO for a second time in 1983 co-founded hard rock Waysted with ex-UFOPete Way and recorded two albums, from the early 90s toured or recorded with numerous bands, released several solo albums and taught music in his relocated home in Florida, died from unspecified causes on his birthday, 06/09/2020, age 66.

June 12
Ricky Valance / (David Spencer) → Welsh one hit wonder pop singer with a cover of Ray Peterson‘s hit “Tell Laura I Love Her” (UK #1, 1960), the teenage tragedy song written by Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh, became the first UK #1 by an artist from Wales but had only two other minor singles, spent his later years on the oldies circuit in the UK and US, and on cruise ships, hospitalized with dementia in the months leading up to his death on 6/12/2020, age 84.

June 14
Keith Tippett / (Keith Graham Tippett) → British modern jazz, jazz-rock and progressive rock pianist on over 50 albums as a solo artist or bandleader and on dozens of albums as a session musician for free improv group Company, prog rock King Crimson and many others, in duets with Stan Tracey and with his wife, Julie Driscoll, and as the keyboardist in progressive jazz quartet Mujician in the 90s and 00s, continued to record and release his own material, including a final album just months before his death from undisclosed causes on 6/14/2020, age 72.

June 18
Hux Brown / (Lynford Brown) → Jamaican record producer and session guitarist on dozens of records by multiple rocksteady and reggae bands in the 60s and 70s, including “Bangarang” by Lester Sterling (1969, considered by many to be the first reggae single), “Rivers Of Babylon” by the Melodians (1970) and “The Harder They Come” by Jimmy Cliff (1972), also played lead guitar on Paul Simon’s “Mother And Child Reunion” (#4, 1972), joined groundbreaking reggae musical group Toots & The Maytals as their touring guitarist, appearing in hundreds of shows over 35 years, died in a shopping center parking lot from an apparent heart attack on 6/18/2020, age 75.

June 27
Pete Carr / (Jesse Willard Carr) → Guitarist in early Southern rock The Hour Glass with Gregg and Duane Allman, later became a standout session musician and member of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section (also known as The Swampers), the renowned studio ensemble that recorded hundreds of songs and albums at Muscle Shoals Studio in Alabama, including hits by Aretha Franklin, The Staple Singers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and countless others, recorded with Lenny LeBlanc in the soft rock duet LeBlanc & Carr (“Falling,” #13, 1977), played lead guitar on and co-produced Grammy-nominated albums by Bob Seger (Against The Wind, #1, 1980) and Paul Simon (There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, #2, 1973), died from unspecified causes on 6/27/2020, age 70.
Tom Finn / (Thomas Joseph Finn) → Founding member, bass guitarist and vocals for baroque-pop The Left Banke and two hit singles, “Walk Away Renee” (#5, 1966) and “Pretty Ballerina “ (#15, 1967), after then group disbanded became an engineer at Bell Sound Studios and then stage manager at Buddy Rich’s New York jazz nightclub, in the 80s worked as a DJ in various New York clubs before founding his own company and developing an upscale clientele, including Bill Clinton’s 1999 White House Millennium Gala, died following a period of ill health on 6/27/2020, age 71.

June 29
Benny Mardones / (Ruben Armand Mardones) → One hit wonder blue-eyed soul singer, “Into The Night” (# 11, 1980 and #20, 1989), one of only 10 artists to have charted the same song in the Top 20 on two separate occasions, recorded sporadically in the 80s and had an Adult Contemporary Top 30 hit in 2003, but mostly toured and performed in clubs, particularly in his adopted home of Central New York State for thirty years before Parkinson’s disease forced his retirement and subsequent death on 6/29/2020, age 73.
Johnny Mandel / (John Alfred Mandel) → Journeyman jazz and Big Band musician in the 50s who became a Grammy-winning jazz and pop music composer, arranger and conductor for movie soundtracks after 1958, including “The Shadow Of Your Smile” from The Sandpiper (1964) and “Close Enough For Love” from Agatha (1969), best known for penning the melody and music to “Suicide Is Painless” (1970), the theme song from the movie and TV show MAS*H (and a surprise #1 hit in the UK) and the updated arrangement to “Unforgettable” (#14, AC #3, 1991) for Natalie Cole and her late, dubbed-in father, Nat King Cole, died from a heart ailment on 6/29/2020, age 94.