Well, 2009 is over, and after a rough year in which way too many music legends passed away, the final week on the calendar was no different, with several musicians tragically not making it to see 2010.
The most shocking of this week's deaths was that of wheelchair-bound singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt at age 45. The critically heralded Georgia cult rocker, who was paralyzed in a car accident at age 18 in 1983 and went on to make a series of dark folk albums for nearly three decades, had worked with admirers like Michael Stipe of R.E.M., members of Widespread Panic and Lambchop, Throwing Muses' Kristin Hersh, Fugazi's Guy Picciotto, jazz great Bill Frisell, and Van Dyke Parks. He was extremely prolific, releasing two albums in 2009 alone. Chesnutt died on Christmas Day, two days after lapsing into a coma after overdosing on muscle relaxants. The troubadour's label, Constellation Records, posted a statement on its website that read: "Vic transformed our sense of what true character, grace, and determination are all about."
While it is unclear whether Chesnutt's death was the result of an accidental overdose or a suicide attempt, the Associated Press reported that Chesnutt had recently been hit with a lawsuit by a Georgia hospital over $70,000 in surgery bills that his medical insurance did not cover. A distressed Chesnutt told the Athens Banner-Herald that this legal battle shocked his Canadian bandmates, revealing to the newspaper in an October 2009 interview: "There's nowhere else in the world that I'd be facing the situation I'm in right now. [My bandmates] cannot understand what kind of society would inflict that on their population. It's terrifying."
In other sad news, Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan, drummer for metalcore band Avenged Sevenfold (who were currently at work on their fifth album), was found dead in his Huntington Beach, California home on Monday. He was 28 years old. "It is with great sadness and heavy hearts that we tell you of the passing today of Jimmy 'The Rev' Sullivan," the band posted on its website. "Jimmy was not only one of the world's best drummers, but more importantly he was our best friend and brother." While Sullivan had a well-known reputation for rock 'n' roll debauchery, as of this writing authorities are reporting that he appears to have died of natural causes. The Orange County Coroner's Office's initial autopsy was inconclusive, and the results of additional toxicology, microscopic, and laboratory tests will not be ready for several weeks.
And sadly, there were three other musician deaths to report this week: Tim Hart, a founding member of the pioneering British folk-rock group Steeleye Span, died of lung cancer at age 61 on Christmas Eve; James Gurley, the guitarist for Janis Joplin's Big Brother band, died of a heart attack at age 69; and 50-year-old Roland S. Howard (pictured right), ex-guitarist of Nick Cave's legendary post-punk band the Birthday Party, lost his battle with liver cancer while awaiting a liver transplant.
All of the above people will be missed, and we wish their families and loved ones peace in 2010.
In lighter and fluffier music news, this week we saw the biggest music-related Taylors breakup since Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor, and John Taylor individually quit Duran Duran...when it was announced that country sensation Taylor Swift and her long-rumored boyfriend, New Moon heartthrob Taylor Lautner, had reportedly called it quits. While the Taylors never officially confirmed that they were an item, the two both jokingly spoofed their supposed romance in their respective Saturday Night Live hosting monologues. (Swift winked flirtatiously at the camera while dedicating a line in a song to Lautner; Lautner beat up a Kanye West dummy to defend Swift's honor.) Ironically, the Taylors will have to reunite--professionally, at least--in the new year, when they hit the promotional circuit for their film that comes out in February. Why is this ironic? Because that movie is titled Valentine's Day. Surely the media attention surrounding their relationship--real or rumored--will help boost this flick at the box office.
2010 is sure to be a difficult year for rapper Lil' Wayne, who pleaded guilty in October to a weapons possession charge and will serve a year in jail starting in February. But Lil' Wayne is making the most of his freedom before he starts his sentence, as this week he played a hometown show in New Orleans on his pre-prison farewell tour. "I'm nothing without you," he told enthusiastic fans at the New Orleans Arena show. Wayne is scheduled to play dates in Texas and southern Louisiana--and release a new album, Rebirth--before heading to jail next year.
In other legal news, a married couple who claim they were assaulted by Kiss bassist Gene Simmons sued the rocker for damages this week. In the lawsuit, Nathan and Cynthia Manzo said Simmons attacked them, threatened them, and took away their video camera after they started filming him at the Grove shopping mall in Los Angeles. As of this writing, Simmons has not been arrested and no charges have been filed, but the Manzos are seeking damages of more than $25,000 in civil court for assault, battery, and infliction of emotional distress.
Meanwhile, rapper Nelly announced this week that he is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the man who burglarized his St. Louis house on December 11. The suspect reportedly forced his way in through a locked window at Nelly's home and got away with electronics and other valuables. Crimestoppers.com announced the handsome reward on Monday, but as of this writing the perpetrator is still at large.
And finally, back on the subject of musical legends lost in 2009, this week it was announced that the late Michael Jackson's John Landis-directed 1983 longform music video, "Thriller," will be immortalized in the U.S. National Film Registry. The 14-minute mini-movie was among 25 films that the Library Of Congress added to the registry, along with The Muppet Movie, Dog Day Afternoon, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Once Upon A Time In The West. The Library Of Congress declared that Jackson's famous video "revolutionized the music industry"--a fitting tribute to the King Of Pop's lasting legacy, indeed.
And on that bittersweet note, we conclude our final post for this bittersweet year. See you in 2010, when we begin reporting anew on the next 365 days of bemusing, confusing, and occasionally amusing music news.
THIS WEEK'S TOP 10 STORIES:
1) Vic Chesnutt, R.I.P. - The legendary singer-songwriter dies at age 45.
2) Avenged Sevenfold's Drummer Dies - Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan was only 28.
3) A Tale Of Two Taylors - Rumored tabloid sweethearts Swift and Lautner reportedly call it quits.
4) Lil' Wayne's Long Goodbye - The troubled rapper launches his pre-prison farewell tour.
5) Kiss And Make Up? - An angry couple sues Gene Simmons for alleged assault.
6) Baby Or No Baby? - Van Morrison denies reports that he fathered a child with his manager.
7) Nelly's Dilemma - The rap star offers a $10,000 reward to find the still-at-large burglar of his home.
8) Thrilling News - Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video is added to the U.S. National Film Registry.
9) Tim Hart Passes Away - The Steeleye Span guitarist was 61.
10) James Gurley Dies - The former guitarist for Janis Joplin's Big Brother band was 69.