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Artists we lost in 2017

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It seems every year is more difficult than the last when musicians who pass away. Maybe it’s just the ever-compounding list of deceased that grows more daunting as time goes on. Perhaps, too, it’s the fact that many of the artists responsible for the songs that defined a generation in the ’70s and ’80s (and subsequently led to millions of millennials like myself being raised on said songs thanks to their parents) are now at ages where death is not uncommon.

We said goodbye to some true musical legends this year: artists who made some of the most recognizable songs in music history. Chuck Berry (1926-2017), Fats Domino (1928-2017) and Glen Campbell (1936-2017) enjoyed long, storied careers, and their influence on the music to follow them cannot be overstated.

There was an unsettling amount of artists in the middle-to-late age bracket who also passed. Storied groups such as AC/DC, Steely Dan and the Allman Brothers Band saw spikes in album sales and digital streams as pivotal members’ passings brought many fans to seek nostalgia and reminisce on the songs that defined a generation. And while most would agree that these artists were past their primes of creating new music, the influence of their music was still finding new ears as many had spent the months of 2017 prior to passing on tour.

Tom Petty (1950-2017), Walter Becker (1950-2017) of Steely Dan, Malcolm Young (1953-2017) of AC/DC, J. Geils (1946-2017) of the J. Geils Band, Gregg Allman (1947-2017) and Butch Trucks (1947-2017) of the Allman Brothers Band, and just this month Pat DiNizio (1955-2017) of The Smithereens all were laid to rest.

Legendary rap groups were hit too. Tributes to Mobb Deep’s Prodigy (1974-2017) and 2 Live Crew’s Fresh Kid Ice (19664-2017) were plentiful when news of their passings broke.

For those of us in the millennial generation, some of the hardest goodbyes were to artists who defined the ‘90s and the 2000s in which we grew up. After a long battle with terminal brain cancer, Gord Downie (1964-2017) of Canadian national treasures The Tragically Hip passed away. In May we lost Chris Cornell (1964-2017), whose powerful vocals fueled many rock hits from his bands Soundgarden and Audioslave. Only two months later his close friend and noted lead vocalist for Linkin Park Chester Bennington (1976-2017) followed him. He’s another singer whose impassioned vocals served as the soundtrack to millions of kids’ coming-of-age in the first decade of the millennium.

Gone even sooner still were some musicians who had yet to finish their 20s. Lil Peep (1996-2017), the emo-rap pioneer on the cusp of a burgeoning career, was barely of legal drinking age when he passed late in the year. Jessi Zazu (1989-2017), the lead singer of indie-country group Those Darlins, succumbed to a lengthy fight with cervical cancer. Trey Gruber (1991-2017) of Chicago-based band Parent was laid to rest in November.

A difficult loss in its own right, the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” Charles Bradley (1948-2017) may not have been young but his professional music career was in its infancy. Discovered by Daptone Records after years as a James Brown impersonator, Bradley didn’t release his debut album until 2011 at the age of 63. He passed away after a battle with stomach cancer.

These are far from the only losses to music in 2017 but merely the most public representations of the music world’s mourning. Each passing year sees the death of fans, friends, artists and more who leave incalculable yet indelible marks on the music in ways small and large. And so, to all those we lost in 2017, to those mentioned here and to the many gone far too unappreciated in their day, I offer the sincerest of thank yous. Music is about people. All those who have come before, all those to come after and all those doing their best to live out today. Let’s not forget that.

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