All genres, across the musical spectrum, are included here. Any tribute covering a year that saw so many shocking losses requires being mindful of inclusion. In my guise as a music journalist, the specialty is acoustic music, and that gravitates to Folk-Americana in its vast multiplicity of forms and to Classical. But that is only a small part of this.
In a mere 365-day span, we lost far too many consummately talented individuals. Many, many more than you think. Guaranteed.
There’s a hole in our collective creativity from 2016. People uniquely blessed with different ways of seeing things are lost to us.
There’s a hole in our collective creativity from 2016. People uniquely blessed with different ways of seeing things are lost to us.
There’s a hole in our collective creativity from 2016. People uniquely blessed with different ways of seeing things are lost to us. We needed them because they could communicate to the rest of us, conveying contexts we hadn’t sensed and would not have known to expect. At their best, artists enable us to see what we can’t recognize without them. And in the space of a mere year, many of the best artists of an entire era are gone.
This compilation is the most complete thing of its kind, anywhere. We resolved that the many good people whose passings were eclipsed from mainstream news should share the same space with the big names — somewhere other than the cemetery.
We begin with a short bit that covers our Folk-Americana roots. Don’t worry — things quickly get expansive and make the rounds of your favorite entertainment niches and pay homage.
That damn year is finally gone. Rewind twelve months, and we knew to expect some manageable amounts of sadness. We knew, going in, that GARRISON KEILLOR was retiring from “A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION,” by far, radio’s best-known Folk-Americana weekly radio show. And most of us figured that ROZ LARMAN was close to retirement from radio’s longest-running folk music show, and the one that’s always mixed a long form performance-interview hour plus thematic sets of recorded tracks. But we didn’t expect her to leave us in death.
Fortunately, both those iconic shows continue. The first by advance plan, with Garrison happily retired and CHRIS THIELE capably at the helm in Minnesota – though without the denizens of Lake Woebegone and many of the trappings we all knew and loved. For “FolkScene,” things were and are less certain, given the precarious path of the show’s home station, KPFK, and the similarly uncertain fate of the station’s owner, Pacifica. From the standpoint of the show and its dedicated production team, there has come invocation of the old maxim, “the show must go on!”
And so there are changes among the music bringers, and fortunately, mitigations that will keep the broadcast signals and web simulcasts flowing.
But among the music makers? There are incomprehensibly huge absences.
CNN proclaimed, “Move over, 1959. Step aside, 1970. When it comes to the deaths of musical icons, 2016 may be the worst year ever.
“It might be the deadliest era for pop music legends since 1970-71, when we lost JIMI HENDRIX, JANIS JOPLIN, JIM MORRISON and LOUIS ARMSTRONG in a sorrowful span of 11 months.”
They continued, “February 3, 1959, when young rockers BUDDY HOLLY, RITCHIE VALENS and J. P. ‘THE BIG BOPPER’ RICHARDSON were killed in a plane crash, has been called ‘the Day the Music Died.’ [in DON McLEAN’s song, ‘American Pie’ – ed.] This may become known as the YEAR the Music Died.”
Their next line was, “And it’s not even over.”
Sadly, it wasn’t. After they ran their story in mid-December, CARRIE FISHER died, and a day later, we lost her mother, DEBBIE REYNOLDS, one of the biggest movie musical singing and dancing stars ever. On Christmas Day, a music icon died and an entire internationally renowned musical ensemble were killed in a plane crash. We’ll get to all of that.
It wasn’t just the music makers. In 2016, we lost astronaut hero JOHN GLENN, who also numbered among the rapidly diminishing veterans of World War II and the Korean War. In 2016 we said goodbye to three of our most inspirational sports heroes, boxing champion MUHAMMAD ALI, women’s basketball coach PAT SUMMITT, and golf legend ARNOLD PALMER.
Major and influential literary figures of our time left us. We lost novelist HARPER LEE, whose classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” helped two generations of high school students understand America’s dysfunctional race relations and give them the resolve to do something to make it better. We lost iconic writer-historian ELIE WIESEL, 87, the Romanian-born Holocaust survivor whose classic “Night” became a landmark testament to the Nazis’ crimes and launched his career as one of the world’s foremost witnesses and humanitarians. He died July 2 of an unspecified cause. We lost ALVIN TOFFLER, 87, the literary guru of the post-industrial age, whose “Future Shock” and other books anticipated the transformations brought about by digital technology. He died June 27 after an illness. UMBERTO ECO, 84, the Italian author who intrigued, puzzled, and delighted readers worldwide with his best-selling historical novels “The Name of the Rose,” Foucault’s Pendulum,” and many other great reads, died Feb. 19 of pancreatic cancer.
EARL HAMNER JR., 92, the prolific writer who drew upon his Depression-era upbringing in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia to create one of television’s most beloved family shows, “The Waltons,” died March 24 of bladder cancer.
A quick homage to prominent actors that we lost likewise requires multiple paragraphs.
We saw the curtain drop on delightful film actor GENE WILDER of “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Silver Streak,” and half-a-dozen other films. GARRY MARSHALL left the stage, though his 40+ year-old TV shows are still wildly popular in reruns. We lost actor ALAN RICKMAN, 69, the classically trained British stage star and sensual screen villain in the “Harry Potter” saga and other films. He died of pancreatic cancer Jan. 14. Comedian GARRY SHANDLING, 66, who pioneered comedic fake documentaries and fake latenight-style chat shows, is gone. He died March 24 of a blood clot, following a heart attack.
ABE VIGODA died at age 94, decades after one of the most notable false death reports ever to be widely believed. A band bearing his name even arose to capitalize on that notoriety. He was a character actor whose leathery, sad-eyed face made him ideal for playing over-the-hill detective Phil Fish in the 1970s TV series “Barney Miller” and the doomed Mafia soldier in “The Godfather.” He died Jan. 26 in his sleep.
2016 brought the tragic deaths of promising young stars ANTON YELCHIN and CHRISTINA GRIMMIE.
Film and stage singer FLORENCE HENDERSON left us as a beloved TV parent, as did Canadian-born actor ALAN THICKE, who also died in 2016. ALAN YOUNG, 96, the amiable straight man to “Mister Ed” the talking horse, died May 19 of natural causes. GEORGE KENNEDY, 91, the tough-guy actor who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a chain-gang convict in the 1960s classic “Cool Hand Luke,” died Feb. 28 of cardiovascular disease. DAN HAGGERTY, 74, the rugged, bearded actor who starred as 19th century mountain man Grizzly Adams died Jan. 15 of a spinal tumor. PAT HARRINGTON JR., 86, actor and comedian, died from complications of Alzheimer’s on Jan. 6.
THERESA SALDANA, 61, the “Raging Bull” actress who survived a stalker’s brutal attack and became a crime victims’ advocate, went on to reclaim her entertainment career with “The Commish” and other TV shows. She died of pneumonia, June 6.
In the final hours of 2016, we lost actor WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER, who will forever be the slightly nerdy priest, Father Francis Mulcahy. On all those episodes of M*A*S*H, Christopher gently and surreally portrayed a ray of hope amidst all the insanity of war. He died following a battle with lung cancer. It does not seem possible that he was 84, since he is forever young beneath the tent flaps, with menacing explosions rattling the ground in Hollywood’s Korea.
Of course, time and human mortality are unstoppable. We will be saying goodbye to people in the arts, even in the best of times. But no one could have expected the Grim Reaper’s 2016 toll could be so high among superbly talented musicians, actors, artists, and people who could connect when they told a story.
The latter included two of America’s best journalists. GWEN IFILL, 61, of the PBS “News Hour” knew how to ask the right questions and bring a strong, positive presence to her hosting of the respected “Washington Week in Review.” And, just days after an on-air retirement tribute, we lost MORLEY SAFER, 84, the veteran “60 Minutes” correspondent. As the Oakland Press noted, Safer “was equally at home reporting on social injustices, the Orient Express, and abstract art,” and it was he “who exposed a military atrocity in Vietnam that played an early role in changing Americans’ view of the war.” He died May 19 of pneumonia. Someone who both those journalists covered, JANET RENO, the first woman to serve as attorney general, died Nov. 7 at age 78 after a years-long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
Another figure in the political press, JOHN McLAUGHLIN, 89, described as the “conservative commentator and host of a long-running television show that pioneered hollering-heads discussions of Washington politics,” died Aug. 16 of prostate cancer. There was real entertainment value in the way the host ran “The McLaughlin Group.” It was frequently parodied by “Saturday Night Live,” and derisively referred to by columnist George Will as “Professor McLaughlin’s Gong Show.” (To which point, you expect him to rise from the grave to explosively shout, “WRROONG!”)
Even when most of the TV news and entertainment-gossip show “final tribute” packages were assembled in the waning days of 2016, we repeatedly saw broadcasting’s equivalent of “stop the presses!” to add more names and images.
As we observed the obituaries outnumbering other news topics, we found that it occasioned shared experiences. It became clear that acknowledging the passing of essential individuals, outside our focus on those in music, was necessary for cultural context. Thus, we included what you have read to this point. We’ll conclude this portion by noting the death of Thailand’s longtime king BHUMIBOL ADULYADEJ, who died at age 88. Though he spent his last years in a Bangkok hospital, he was a symbol of unity and stability in a region where those qualities cannot be taken for granted. Plus, Thailand is a place where the average citizen will tell you they are happy, at a much greater rate than in the U.S.
From here forward, we focus our homage on the musicians whose art has been the soundtrack of our lives.
The story on the “Ranker” site (http://www.ranker.com/list/musicians-who-died-in-2016/ranker-death-lists) opens with words that speak for all of us: “When a musician dies it’s always sad. No matter what they were like in their personal lives, their music probably helped at least one person get through a hard time. Because of this, we often feel very close to our favorite musicians and our heart breaks when we hear of recent deaths. Many of the names on this list of musicians who died in 2016 will be shocking. Even when we hear about the recent deaths of older musicians, it feels strange because you think of them as forever being the age that they were when you first heard their music.”
As we surveyed and compared many sources, we found that none were complete, or even close to it. We resolved to fix that.
Here is our list of those whose music or related creative endeavors inspired us when they were here, often had us anticipating their next performance, and will continue to be heard in recordings after they left their mortal coils in 2016.
LEONARD COHEN, 82, baritone-voiced Canadian singer-songwriter, and author, blended spirituality and sexuality in songs like “Hallelujah,” “Suzanne,” and “Bird on a Wire” – died during his sleep after falling during the night 11/7/16.
DAVID BOWIE, 69, singer, songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist, actor – died of cancer 1/10/16.
PRINCE, 57, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, actor – died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl 4/21/16.
GLENN FREY, 67, guitarist, pianist, singer, co-founder of the Eagles – died of rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis, and pneumonia 1/18/16.
RALPH STANLEY, 89, bluegrass legend, also known as Dr. Ralph Stanley, known for his distinctive singing and banjo playing. He began playing music in 1946, originally with his brother Carter as part of The Stanley Brothers, and most often as the leader of his band, The Clinch Mountain Boys. – died 6/23/16.
MERLE HAGGARD, 79, singer, songwriter, guitarist, fiddle player – died of complications from pneumonia 4/6/16.
PETE FOUNTAIN, 86, clarinetist whose Dixieland jazz virtuosity and wit endeared him to his native New Orleans, earned him national television fame and global renown – died of heart failure 8/6/16.
GUY CLARK, 74, the quintessential Texas singer-songwriter who essentially mentored a generation of songwriters while writing hits like “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” charmers like “Homegrown Tomatoes,” and gave great interviews to music journalists – died of cancer 5/17/16.
BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO, 68, aka Stanley Joseph Dural, Jr., was one of the very few Cajun-Zydeco musicians to achieve mainstream success. An ambassador of Louisiana roots music, champion of Creole culture, and accordion king, he played several Presidential Inaugurations – died of lung and throat cancer 9/24/16.
SIR GEORGE MARTIN, 90, English record producer, arranger, composer, conductor, audio engineer and musician – died of undisclosed causes 3/8/16.
GREG LAKE, 69, bassist, guitarist, vocalist, co-founder of King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer – died after a prolonged battle with cancer 12/7/16.
HOLLY DUNN, 59, country singer-songwriter – died of ovarian cancer 11/15/16.
KASEY JONES (aka Gail Zeiler), 66, comedic folksinger-songwriter, producer and humorist; co-wrote the Mickey Gilley hit “I’m the One Mama Warned You About”; Ethel & The Shameless Hussies; co-founded Kinkajou Records label with Kinky Friedman; she released eight CDs and produced music for both the theatrical comedy “Nipples to the Wind” and the movie (and TV series) “Sordid Lives” – died of cancer 9/1/16.
LEON RUSSELL, 74, pianist, guitarist, trumpet player, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, session player – died in his sleep 11/13/16.
PETE HUTTLINGER, 54, guitarist best known as lead guitar for John Denver, also toured with John Oates and LeAnn Rimes – died after a stroke 1/15/16.
MAURICE WHITE, 74, singer, drummer, songwriter, producer, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire – died after battling Parkinson’s 2/4/16.
SHARON JONES, 60, soul and funk singer – died of pancreatic cancer 11/18/16.
PATTY DUKE, 69, won an Oscar as a teen for playing Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” then worked a long show biz career, including singing on Broadway, all while battling personal demons. Her music hits include “Don’t Just Stand There” – died from sepsis 4/29/16.
KEITH EMERSON, 71, keyboardist, composer, founder of Emerson, Lake & Palmer – died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound 3/10/16.
BERNIE WORRELL, 72, “Wizard of Woo,” his amazing array of keyboard sounds helped define the Parliament-Funkadelic musical empire and influenced many genres – died of lung cancer 6/24/16.
PAUL KANTNER, 74, guitarist, vocalist in Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, K.B.C. Band and solo – died of multiple organ failure after suffering a heart attack 1/28/16.
RICK PARFITT, 68, guitarist, singer, songwriter in Status Quo – died of a severe infection following shoulder surgery 12/24/16.
LONNIE MACK, 74, rock and blues guitarist and vocalist – died of natural causes 4/21/16.
“TOOTS” THIELEMANS, 94, preeminent jazz harmonica player – died in his sleep 8/22/16.
DAN HICKS, 74, singer-songwriter, acoustic centered folk/jazz/county blend, Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks – died of liver cancer 2/6/16.
WAYNE JACKSON, 74, trumpet player on rock ’n’ roll, soul, R&B and pop mainstays along with Memphis Horns partner and tenor saxophonist Andrew Love – died of congestive heart failure 6/21/16.
HYMAN PAUL BLEY, 83, Jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader – died of natural causes 1/3/16.
PIERRE BOULEZ, 90, composer and conductor – died of undisclosed causes 1/5/16.
DENISE KATRINA MATTHEWS (aka VANITY), 57, singer, songwriter, dancer, actress and model – died of renal failure 2/15/16.
FRANK SINATRA, JR., 72, singer, songwriter, arranger – died of cardiac arrest 3/16/16.
JOEY FEEK, 40, country singer, duo Joey + Rory, co-host w/ husband of CMT show “Can You Duet?” – died of cervical cancer 3/4/16.
SONNY JAMES, 87, country singer, recorded romantic ballads like “Young Love,” and turned pop songs into country hits – died of natural causes 2/22/16.
WAYNE SLATER-LUNSFORD, 65, folk acoustic singer-songwriter, guitarist, festival and concert promoter, sound specialist, and prose writer – died of cancer 11/4/16.
ROBERT STIGWOOD, 81, managed Cream and Eric Clapton, launched the career of the Bee Gees – died 1/4/16 (cause of death unknown).
GILBERT KAPLAN, 74, American conductor and Wall St. millionaire who turned himself into a noted scholar of mahler – died of cancer 1/1/16.
JIMMY BAIN, 67, bassist with Rainbow, Dio, and Last In Line – died of lung cancer 1/24/16.
DALE “BUFFIN” GRIFFIN, 67, drummer for Mott The Hoople – died after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease 1/17/16.
SCOTTY MOORE, 84, longtime Elvis Presley guitarist – died 6/28/16.
JUAN GABRIEL, 66, aka Alberto Aguilera Valadez, was a Mexican singer-songwriter and Latin music legend. Colloquially nicknamed “Juanga” and “El Divo de Juárez,” Gabriel was known for a flamboyant style that broke barriers within the Latin music market – died 8/28/16.
BOBBY VEE, 73, ’60s pop singer whose career began as a teenager, filling-in after the 1959 plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson. Hits included “Take Good Care of My Baby” and “Run to Him.” – died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
PHIL CHESS, 95, co-founded legendary Chess Records label – died 10/19/16.
OSCAR BRAND, 96, Canadian folk singer and radio host – died of pneumonia 9/30/16.
FRAN JEFFRIES, 79, silky voiced nightclub singer, actress who performed provocative samba dance in 1963’s “The Pink Panther” – died 12/15/16.
ALPHONSE MOUZON, 68, legendary jazz drummer, including band Weather Report. – died of rare cancer neuroendocrine carcinoma 12/25/16.
JEAN-JACQUES PERREY, 87, French composer, pioneer of electronic music including co-write of “Baroque Hoedown,” used as “Main Street Electrical Parade” at Disney theme parks – died of lung cancer 11/4/16.
LÉO MARJANE, 104, French music hall star in n the 1930s and ’40s, whose heart-wrenching ballad “Alone Tonight” became a signature song of occupied France. A retrospective CD of her music, “Alone Tonight,” was released in France in 2004 – died of a heart attack 12/25/16.
JOE LIGON, 80, energetic lead singer of 3-time Grammy-winning gospel group Mighty Clouds of Joy – died 12/8/16.
MARK GRAY, 64, country music singer-songwriter co-wrote No. 1 hit songs for Alabama – died 12/2/16.
TONY MARTELL, 90, record label exec, signed ELO and Joan Jett; founded T.J. Martell Foundation for leukemia research – died 11/27/16.
JOE ESPOSITO, 78, Elvis Presley’s close friend and road manager – died 11/23/16.
MENTOR WILLIAMS, 70, music producer and songwriter of “Drift Away” – died 11/16/16.
NEVILLE MARRINER, 92, renowned conductor who founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields – died 10/2/16.
ROD TEMPERTON, 66, legendary songwriter behind Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” – died 10/5/16.
MOSE ALLISON, 89, jazz and blues pianist, singer, and songwriter – died of natural causes 11/15/16.
CLAUDE “CURLY” PUTMAN, 85, songwriter wrote classic country songs including “The Green, Green Grass of Home” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – died 10/30/16.
DON CICCONE, 70, singer-songwriter, member of the Four Seasons, the Shondells, and the Critters – died Saturday 10/8/16.
JOAN MARIE JOHNSON FAUST, 72, founding member of the New Orleans girl group the Dixie Cups – died 10/5/16.
AL CAIOLA, 96, versatile session guitarist – died 11/9/16 in a nursing home in Allendale, New Jersey.
KAY STARR, 94, pop and jazz singer popular in the ’50s – died 11/3/16.
PAUL BLEY, 83, Canadian jazz pianist – died 1/3/16.
NICK CALDWELL, 71, R&B singer, member of The Whispers – died 1/5/16.
TROY SHONDELL, 76, singer, best known for 1961 hit “This Time (We’re Really Breaking Up).” Tommy James renamed his band after Shondell – died of complications from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease 1/7/16.
KITTY KALLEN, 94, best known for the 1954 hit “Little Things Mean a Lot” – died 1/7/16.
OTIS CLAY, 73, Hall of fame R&B singer known as much for his big heart and charitable work in Chicago as for singing internationally. Ironically, his songs brag about all sorts of heart-taxing habits from smoking five packs of cigarettes a day and drinking excessively to chasing women around – died of a heart attack 1/8/16.
RED SIMPSON, 81, country singer whose heart couldn’t have been helped with his stressful admission, “I’m a Truck” – died of a heart attack 1/8/16.
ALLAN WILLIAMS, 86, the first manager of The Beatles– died 12/30/16.
ANDREW DORFF, 40, songwriter wrote No. 1 hits for country stars Blake Shelton, Kenny Chesney, others – died of undisclosed cause 12/19/16.
BOB COBURN, 68, longtime host of nationally-syndicated radio show “Rockline” and a genius of conducting the memorable performance-interview – died of cancer 12/17/16.
BOB ELLIOTT, 92, half of the enduring TV / radio comedy team Bob and Ray – died of head and neck cancer 2/2/16.
DEBBIE REYNOLDS, 84, actress, singer, businesswoman, film historian, humanitarian, and one of the biggest movie musical singing and dancing stars ever, lit up the screen in “Singin’ in the Rain,” “How the West was Won,” “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” and a dozen other roles. Her performance of the song “Tammy” from her role in the 1957 “Tammy and the Bachelor” reached number one on the Billboard music charts – died of a broken heart 12/28/16, the day after the death of her daughter, CARRIE FISHER.
FLORENCE HENDERSON, 82, Broadway singing and dancing star who became one of America’s most beloved television moms in “The Brady Bunch” – died of congestive heart failure 11/24/16.
GLORIA DeHAVEN, 91, vivacious star of Hollywood musicals and comedies of the 1940s and ’50s. Daughter of vaudeville stars who earned her own career – died of stroke 7/30/16.
MARNI NIXON, 86, star singer as the Hollywood voice double whose singing was heard in place of the leading actresses in such movie musicals as “West Side Story,” “The King and I,” and “My Fair Lady” – died of breast cancer 7/24/16.
JOHAN BOTHA, 51, operatic tenor whose light but muscular voice dazzled audiences at the world’s top opera stages – died of cancer 9/8/16.
LADY CHABLIS, 59. Transgender performer who became an unlikely celebrity for her role in the 1994 best-seller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” and played herself in the film version – died of pneumonia 9/8/16.
CHARMIAN CARR, 73, actress best known for sweetly portraying the eldest von Trapp daughter in “The Sound of Music” – died of complications from dementia 9/17/16.
JEAN SHEPARD, 82, “The grand lady of the Grand Ole Opry” who had a long recording career in country music – died of Parkinson’s disease 9/25/16.
BILLY PAUL, 80, jazz and soul singer best had the No. 1 hit ballad “Me and Mrs. Jones,” a “Philadelphia Soul” classic – died of pancreatic cancer 4/24/16.
SIGNE TOLY ANDERSON, 74, vocalist, original member of Jefferson Airplane for one record, then replaced by Grace Slick – died of COPD 1/28/16.
BOBBY HUTCHERSON, 75, bricklayer’s son who became one of the most inventive jazz vibraphonists to pick up a pair of mallets – died of emphysema 8/15/16.
And, on Christmas Day, we lost icons and an entire musical performing troupe:
GEORGE MICHAEL, 53, singer, songwriter, producer – died of heart failure 12/25/16.
ALEXANDROV ENSEMBLE, celebrating its 90th anniversary year, had 64 of its members killed in a plane crash on Christmas Day.
HERE’S A SPECIAL FOCUS MINI-FEATURE ON THE FINAL BIG TRAGEDY OF 2016
Since US corporate mainstream media reported almost nothing about this, we must. Among the foreign press news stories is one with the headline, “‘Tremendous loss’: NYPD mourns Alexandrov Ensemble deaths.”
Russia’s famed and globally acclaimed ALEXANDROV ENSEMBLE lost most of its chorus members and some of its top-flight instrumental musicians and dancers in the Christmas Day crash of a Tu-154 jetliner into the Black Sea. A total of 92 passengers and crew perished when the Russian military Tupolev-154 transport plane crashed into the Black Sea off Sochi (home to the recent Winter Olympics) on Sunday, Dec. 25th. Among them were 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, including their director and conductor, VALERY KHALILOV. The crash is being investigated.
The New York Police Department is prominent among those mourning the death of members of the Alexandrov Ensemble. NYPD’s “Ceremonial Unit” of musicians performed with the legendary Russian choir in a moving 2011 10th anniversary tribute to 9/11 victims. (Video: https://www.rt.com/usa/372087-nypd-alexandrov-ensemble-condolences/)
“It was a wonderful group of musicians and great ambassadors from Russia,” Lieutenant Tony Giorgio, director of the NYPD Ceremonial Unit, told the US television audience on RT America last Wednesday. He described their deaths as a “tremendous loss for Russian culture” and a “great loss to the world.”
Giorgio recalled how the famed Red Army Choir teamed up with the NYPD’s famed musicians to sing “God Bless America” at the “Quebec City Military Tattoo” in 2011, a decade after the 2001 terrorist attacks that struck on New York and Washington, DC. The joint performance was part of the International Festival of Military Music (FIMMQ), which was held annually between 1998 and 2013.
Giorgio recalls that, as the choir sang, he accepted a single white rose presented him by a little boy on behalf of the Ensemble and in memory of the lives lost on 9/11. The NYPD’s Giorgio also recalled soloist GRIGORY OSIPOV, who led the Quebec performance. Ospirov was among those who perished in the Christmas Day plane crash.
The loss of these musicians In their home country is beyond anything we can employ for comparison, since we have no similar-sized performing organization of beloved music stars in the US. Think of a plane crashing into a backstage area and ending the lives of all the headliners of a music festival, and you’ll have some idea of the extent of mourning in Russia. A major Russian bank decided to erase the debts of all the victims of the Tu-154 plane crash. The state-run Sberbank simply wrote-off all loans taken out by the victims of the crash, according to Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov.
In addition to New York, the impact goes beyond the Russian border. You can watch a video (https://www.rt.com/news/372344-serbs-mourn-tu154-crash/) of thousands of Serbs – a whole basketball arena in Serbia – singing a folk song in memory of, and to mourn members of, the Alexandrov Ensemble.
Officially known as the “A. V. Alexandrov Academic Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Russian Army,” the choir was established in 1926 and named after the legendary composer Alexander Vasilevich Alexandrov, its first director.
The choir was on its way to Syria, accompanied by several humanitarian workers and news crews. They were due to take part in New Year’s and Christmas celebrations in a nation just now finding peace through a nationwide cease fire.
It wasn’t just America that lost a lot of music luminaries and fabulously talented performers in 2016. Even if the usual ethnocentrism and 48-state myopia of US corporate mainstream media didn’t, and won’t, bother to tell you about anything in the rest of the world, we hope you have a sense of that here.
Humanity has a shared love of music craftsmanship and artful live performance. It can be enough to transcend languages and distance. Happy melodies can dance in our memories if not in our ears. Meaningful lyrics can inspire us to dream. And the inspiration of music can bring shared hope in the most challenging of times. Including the hope that the Grim Reaper stays away in 2017.
You might also be interested in a resource we used…
Other than this feature – which is the most complete information anywhere on the musicians we lost in 2016 – the best roster/homage covering the deaths of a wider range of celebrities, including short informative blurbs on each, is the month-by-month chronology in the Oakland Press. (http://www.theoaklandpress.com/arts-and-entertainment/20170101/music-arts-lost-many-luminaries-in-2016)