Every year, the world loses a great artist, be it a musician, actor, writer, etc. 2016 is a particularly harsh year for losing artists. Particularly, musicians.
George Michael died today at the age of 53 and when we look back on the rest of 2016 he is added to the list of the following musicians who also died:
- David Bowie
- Glenn Frey
- Leonard Cohen
- Merle Haggard
George Michael is often considered to be just a “pop star,” but Michael was not only a gifted singer, but he was also a pretty good musician. Michael wrote and produced every song on his smash album ‘Faith’ except for one, which he co-wrote. Michael also played almost all of the instruments on the album. George Michael’s career had its hits and misses but it never diminished is talent, and it’s sad that he only lived to be 53. Here’s one of my favorites from Michael when he was with Andrew Ridgeley, and they were known as Wham!
David Bowie was a legend. His career spanned four decades. Singer, songwriter, actor, musician and a marketing genius. Bowie knew how to tap into the kind of music people had an appetite for at the time but never came across as somebody who was trying too hard the way some acts did to sell records. Bowie even collaborated with Bing Crosby to do a Christmas song. A perfect example of where Bowie reached popular and commercial success was his 1983 release, ‘Let’s Dance.’ I love the song, ‘Modern Love.’ Here it is:
Prince was another legend. Prince like many artists could be strange at times and release music that was just off the wall. But he could take chances like that because his talent level was amazing. Prince too was considered a “pop star, ” but he was he was an outstanding musician and as a guitarist? Not out of bounds to say he was one on the best. Here are two videos from Prince. One is his song, ‘Let’s Go Crazy.’ Prince plays that guitar solo at and end and the other is his performance of a tribute to George Harrison where an ensemble is playing ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps.’ Prince’s solo is so good at one point George Harrison’s son is amazed by what he’s seeing.
I’ve included just the guitar solo portion of ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ for the sake of time.
Glenn Frey was part of one of the great rock bands of all time. I know there are music snobs who think The Eagles were an overrated band who wrote bland songs and blah blah blah blah. Whatever. We are aware you who are. You’re Barry, Dick, and Rob from ‘High Fidelity’ and none of us mere mortals know what good music is. Got it? Good. Now run along while I talk about Glenn Frey and how he and others in The Eagles created some of the most memorable songs of all time. They just did. They were great musicians, songwriters and they could harmonize better than most bands. Frey was a founding member and one of the primary songwriters. Here is one of my favorite that mixes rock with a little bit of country, ‘Take It Easy’ (co-written by Jackson Browne)
Leonard Cohen is known as one of the most famous songwriters of the 20th century. Most people know the song ‘Hallelujah,’ but don’t know Cohen wrote it. One of my favorite songs of his, I was introduced to in a movie called ‘Pump Up The Volume’ with Christian Slater. Slater was a shy high school kid who hosted a raunchy pirate radio station out of his basement. One of the songs he played was ‘Everybody Knows’ by Cohen:
Merle Haggard is one of the country music legends in the vein of Johnny Cash. I’m not the biggest country music fan, but Haggard wrote the kind of country songs that told a story. It wasn’t that garbage “bro country” that we heard all over the airwaves these days. One of my favorite Haggard songs is ‘Are The Good Times Really Over?’
Enough, 2016. Enough.