The death of Joe Cocker this past week reminded that several well-respected musical talents from the early days and hey days of rock passed on this year. While just a sampling of the rockers lost in the last 12 months, the six talents highlighted here were not solo acts or superstars, with the exception of Joe Cocker. But, they were influential for the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Green Day and other. The men here were all known for their instrument or instinct. Here are six of the top musicians who died in 2014:
Jack Bruce – The Scottish born Bruce was renowned as the bassist and singer for the seminal 60s rock group Cream, which actually only released two albums – but had several timeless hits. While Eric Clapton became known for Cream’s guitar riffs and sang the songs later in his solo act, Bruce was actually the singer and co-writer of most Cream songs including White Room, I Feel Free, Politician and Sunshine Of Your Love. Bruce was classically trained and won a cello and composition scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. He left school at 16 and journeyed to London where he joined the Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc, group, whose drummer Charlie Watts later joined the Rolling Stones, and Manfred Mann before Cream. Bruce died at age 71 of liver disease.
Joe Cocker – Three days before Christmas, John “Joe” Robert Cocker died at age 70 of lung cancer. Those who did not know his name undoubtedly knew the voice. Born in Sheffield, England, the gravelly voiced singer was known for soulful interpretations of other people’s songs. His first big success was at Woodstock where he performed an iconic cover of the Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends that later became the theme song for the TV show The Wonder Years. Other hits included versions of The Letter, Cry Me a River, You Are So Beautiful and Randy Newman’s You Can Leave Your Hat On for the film 9 1/2 Weeks. His only No. 1 hit was Up Where We Belong, which was a duet with Jennifer Warnes for the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.
Phil Everly – Everly was born in Chicago where his folksinging parents and brother Don moved from Kentucky coal-mine country. The brothers began singing country music on a family radio show in Iowa before heading to Nashville in the mid-1950s. The Everly Brothers had dozens of hits in the late 1950s and early ‘60s, including Bye Bye Love, When Will I Be Loved, Cathy’s Clown and Wake Up Little Susie. The duo influenced the Beatles, Byrds and the Beach Boys.
Bobby Keyes – Keyes is the only name here who did not write any hits. But his work is recognizable. Texas-born Keys was the saxophone player for the Rolling Stones for over 40 years. His wails are noticeable on Brown Sugar, Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, Happy and other Stones songs. Keyes also played with Cocker, Clapton, George Harrison, John Lennon, Warren Zevon and others. He died of cirrhosis at age 70 in Tennessee.
Tommy Ramone – Hungarian-born Tom Erdelyi “Ramone,” the last surviving founder of punk rock innovating band The Ramones, died in July at 65 from cancer. The Ramones racing-pulse beat and cynical lyrics influenced music away from disco sequins to groups like the Clash, the Sex Pistols and American acts like Blondie, Joan Jett and eventually Green Day. Their best known songs were Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Rockaway Beach, Wanna Be Sedated, Blitzkrieg Bop and Sheena is a Punk Rocker. Two of the other Ramones (the last name used by all four band members) died of cancer in 2001 and 2004, and the last died of a drug overdose in 2002.
Bobby Womack – Song singer and songwriter Womack died in June at age 70. An exact cause was not given but he had Alzheimer’s and had battled diabetes and cancer. Born in Ohio, Womack was the son of a gospel-singing steelworker. At 10, he and his brothers started touring as a gospel group. in 1953, Sam Cooke signed them to his label and they started having hits as The Valentinos. After Cooke was murdered in 1964, Womack married his widow. That same year, his song It’s All Over Now became the first chart-topping U.S. hit for the Rolling Stones. Womack’s Across 110th Street became a hit in 1972 and was featured in the film Jackie Brown.
By Dyanne Weiss