While I've previously alerted the public to the musicians who are turning 70 this year and still going strong, it's time now to reflect on those who didn't make it to 70. It's an unlucky 13, though one could argue it's not the quantity of life lived but the quality and surely spending years taking in the adulation of fans across the globe counts for something, especially compared to working for the big boss man here at Y! Music, who doesn't allow his employees to wear pants.
Let's not get too down about this. Instead, let's break out their fine records, grab our dearest loved one and a case of Schlitz! If I'm not making much sense by the end of this, you'll know I forgot my safe word!
Clarence Clemons [Photo: Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images]
13) Clarence Clemons -- January 11 / June 18, 2011: The "Big Man" who anchored the band. Even if his actual usage in the E Street Band was down to fewer numbers, his presence was what mattered. He was Bruce's biggest foil, a sweet-natured bad-ass who was ready for a laugh. There might be four guitar players and two keyboardists in the group, but there was only one sax man.
Died: complications from a stroke.
12) Edwin Starr -- January 21 / April 2, 2003: Best known for "War," a tune that despite its title is against war. Like many musicians, he'd been making music for decades when he finally broke through, having sung in doo-wop groups. His list of hits is impressive, even if classic rock and oldies radio have reduced his output to a chosen few.
Died: heart attack
Brian Jones [Photo: Chris Walter/WireImage]
11) Brian Jones -- February 28 / July 3, 1969: Jones had already been showing the Rolling Stones that he was no longer a fit with their organization. The band's early leader, he'd been relegated to also-ran status by the future Glimmer Twins, Mick and Keith, who were on to bigger and badder things. Jones was found dead in his swimming pool just weeks after having left the group to pursue other endeavors. I don't think this is what he meant.
Died: by misadventure
10) Nickolas Ashford -- May 4 / August 22, 2011: Yet another music veteran whose biggest hit as a performer, "Solid" in 1984, came after he'd already made decades worth of fine, fine music. Those born early enough more accurately remember him as the powerhouse who along with Valerie Simpson wrote and/ or produced a string of hits for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, including "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Now I have to dig up those Valerie and Nick singles from the early 1960s.
Died: complications from throat cancer
9) Tammy Wynette -- May 5 / April 6, 1998: One of country music's most famous singers, Tammy Wynette lived a difficult life that included an eye-popping amount of surgeries. Not yet 56 when she died, Wynette was known for "Stand By Your Man," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E" and for being married to George Jones, which was surely a lot of "fun."
Died: In her sleep after a life of illness
8) Ian Dury -- May 12 / March 27, 2000: If you could transport yourself back to the late 1970s and view all the talent available in the New Wave market at the time, there's a good chance you would put your money on Ian Dury, who as a member of the "Live Stiffs" tour looked to have a bright, promising and commercial future. Perhaps he was too British, or maybe it was just bad business, but he and his Blockheads never made that deep an impression on U.S. music fans. Not that Dury cared, but he would've liked our money.
7) Curtis Mayfield -- June 3 / December 26, 1999: While Super Fly is consistently ranked as one of the greatest albums of all-time, it's only a taste of Curtis Mayfield's greatness. His work with the Impressions and his solo career features quite a bit of supergreat music that's given him legendary status. Like most artists of the 1960s-1970s, his career went from vital young artist to elder statesman in quick time. In 1990, he was paralyzed from the neck down after a stage lighting scaffold fell on him during a concert in Brooklyn.
Died: ill health
6) Ronnie James Dio -- July 10 / May 16, 2010: Give him the devil horns and let him rest in peace, RJD was a rock 'n' roll lifer who began his career in the 1950s and stuck around long enough to see his dream actualized through endless toil in endless bands. By the time he replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath, he was viewed almost as a scab crossing a picket line. However, fans willing to give him a fair shot heard a man who brought Sabbath back from the dead. As far as I'm concerned, us short people gotta stick together. Rock on, Ronnie!
5) Isaac Hayes -- August 20 / August 10, 2008: Known to the younger generation as Chef from South Park, Isaac Hayes also had a little music career going on the side. A key player at Stax Records, Hayes went from behind the scenes to a solo career as the distinctive bald lover-man who took "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" and turned it into an 18-plus minute trip to Phoenix. Lots of people know he did the soundtrack for Shaft, but if you've never made out to his Hot Buttered Soul album, then you've never really made out.
Died: complications from stroke
4) Frankie Lymon -- September 30 / February 28, 1968: Lymon's first hit with the Teenagers, "Why Do Fools Fall In Love," was also his biggest hit. When your career peaks at age 13, life gets frustrating quick. But then, back in those days who foresaw a time when rock 'n' roll musicians would have careers that lasted decades?
Dead: heroin overdose
3) Harry Chapin -- December 7 / July 16, 1981: Lite-FM would have not been the same without "Cat's In the Cradle" and "Taxi" being played everyday for years on end. Chapin's heartwarming story-songs made him a natural for English majors the world over. Music runs throughout the entire family and it isn't unusual to see someone named Chapin performing somewhere near you at any given time. Chapin did not like hunger.
Died: heart attack, traffic accident
2) Paul Butterfield -- December 17 / May 4, 1987: His band was known for backing Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when Bobby went electric, but Paul wasn't part of the onslaught. He was, however, a key component to the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, whose first two albums are generally considered the ones to keep, courtesy of Mike Bloomfield's electric guitar.
1) Robert Quine -- December 30 / May 31, 2004: Quine played a lyrical style of guitar that prompted critics to overuse the word "angular," due to Quine's ability to attack the song in question from unexpected perspectives. He often sounded like he was assaulting the music as much as he was playing it. His work with Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Lou Reed and Matthew Sweet made all those artists more interesting. Not a heroin addict by trade, he used the drug to commit suicide while deeply depressed over the passing of his wife the previous year.
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