From David Bowie to Prince and Leonard Cohen, extinction has cast a long shadow over “the worlds” of dad and rock-and-roll. But, as more pioneers reach a certain age, its something well have get used to

Trying to predict how history will judge an epoch in pop is a famously tough call. Nostalgia twistings and distorts what actually happened. Stuff that seemed enormously important then isnt always what seems important years on: virtuosoes get forgotten, strikes vanish from remembering, emphasis is subtly shifted to reflect precede changes in preferences or to fit a wider narrative that wasnt apparent at the time. Even so, it seems a reasonably safe bet to say that where individuals look back on 2016, they are able to think about death.

Death was the years big breakout star. The maps were full of it: posthumous punches suffocated up the Top 40; the success of the years most unexpected No 1 album Viola Beachs eponymous introduction was down to the band and their directors deaths in a automobile accident five months previously. No meticulously schemed stealth secrete, with its carefully raised breeze of astound and obscured wallop year, was as surprising as David Bowie or Princes death. Decembers traditional dad floor about the race for the Christmas number one was wholly overshadowed by the death of George Michael. It was what people talked about: more column inches were filled, more treats given over, more social media berths posted and blogs blogged about pa adepts succumbing than about those who lived, even Beyonc or Kanye West.

There were clauses publicly mourning dead papa virtuosoes and articles examining the nature of publicly mourning dead pop aces that posited speculations that people were grieving not for the stars themselves or even for what they represented, but for their own lost youth, transfixed by Starman on Top Of The Pops or snogging to Careless Whisper at a local disco or if they were too young to recollect the late idols glory epoches firsthand for a mythic, imaginary, perfect popping past they never knew: the bizarre ensue of rock music obsession with its own history over the past 25 years.

A traditional papa narration of ability callously snatched away by premature demise … George Michael at the Live Aid concert in 1985. Photograph: PA/ PA Wire

There was even a mini-industry in pieces telling parties to stop publicly sorrowing dead daddy stars. The grain of fact in mentioned patches that some of the salutes were mawkish and overblown, and others smacked of nothing more than a desperate desire to join in( We honour you Rocket Man !!! offered Ticketmaster UKs Twitter feed during the course of its Brits Bowie tribute) was overwhelmed by the fact that they were always the work of the kind of correspondent who evidently desires no music as much as the voice of their own voice.

No one needs to hear Station to Station twice, snorted Giles Coren, as if Station to Station were a legendarily cruel Bowie album, rather than one made at the meridian of his the authority and that most people consider to be among his best: the feeling that Coren hadnt actually discovered Station to Station once, let alone twice, was difficult to avoid.

For all the talk of 2016 as an extraordinary year for pop deaths, there is an dispute that it was more or less ever thus. Death has loomed over popping virtually from the hour that pop embarked: rocknroll had been a mainstream phenomenon for scarcely two years when Buddy Holly and Richie Valens died in February 1959. In a world-wide without social media as an store, public bereavement for dad idols took on spooky models. There is a theory that the late 50 s/ early 60 s furor for extinction discs punched carols in which the exponent or their development partners or both died, such as Tell Laura I Love Her, Johnny Remember Me, Teen Angel was a sublimated mourn of Holly, Valens, Eddie Cochran et al.

There was another convulsion of morbidity in pop in the early 70 s, the years immediately after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison, when the following chart played host to a succession of latterday fatality discs from Bloodrocks DOA to Hot Chocolates Emma and some of the 60 s originals grew stumbles again. You might have thought the Twitter honours and the vigils and the wonky Bowie murals were a bit de trop and rude, but they look like the height of restrained good taste compared with, read, used to go and buying Danny Mirrors I Remember Elvis Presley, a Europe-wide hit on which a rotund Dutchman in a fringed casing did an parody of Presley a matter of weeks after his death in 1977.

Prince, 7 June 1958 21 April 2016. Photograph: Richard E. Aaron/ Redferns

Still, 2016 s extinctions seemed outstanding, and not simply in their profusion. Plenty of legendary artists have died in recent years from Lemmy to Lou Reed, Whitney Houston to Amy Winehouse but you would have to elongate back to the death of Michael Jackson in 2009 to find a comparable concoction of stardom and epoch-defining affect to that is in possession of Bowie and Prince.

Their extinctions, and the manner in which they were mourned, seemed markedly different to Jacksons, perhaps since this is bolstered by social media, still in its relative infancy when Jackson succumbed( Facebook had 305 m useds in 2009 and more than 1.6 bn in early 2016; Twitters servers crashed on the evening of Jacksons demise because more than 100,000 tweets were sent in an hour containing his epithet, but by the time of Princes death, an average of 21 m tweets were sent per hour on a ordinary era ). Or perhaps it was because Jacksons living and vocation appeared to have been falling apart for years devotees had mourned for the lead of the exuberant girl who sang ABC and the genius who plagiarized the testify peforming Billie Jean at Motowns 25 th commemoration long before he actually succumbed while Bowie and Prince were in the midst of renaissances.

Rumours about the regime of Bowies health had run for some time the Flaming Lips had even recorded a ballad named Is David Bowie Dying ? in 2012 but they had been strenuously disavowed when he returned to recording with The Next Day in 2013. He had also exactly released his best album in decades and seemed very present in favourite culture at the time of his death( as, curiously, did George Michael, who hadnt released a studio book since 2004, but who died at the time of year when Last-place Christmas by Wham! becomes an unavoidable proximity on the radio and blaring out of stores ). There had never been any suggestion that anything was wrong with Ruler: his live testifies in 2015 seemed as though the work of an master at the top of his game , not a guy in chronic sting who had become addicted to opioids as a result.

In knowledge , good-for-nothing in pop record has actually prepare you for the course Bowie died. In the past, stone suns who knew they were dying induced music that addressed the fact before they did Queens Innuendo is parcelled with lyrics that seem to allude to the fact that Freddie Mercury is not long for this clay; Warren Zevons final album The Wind ends with a lyric called Keep Me In Your Heart. But unless youre the kind of person who conceives the scheme ideologies about the very existence of Tupac Shakur, Elvis Presley or Jim Morrison , no one had stage-managed their demise fairly like this: the hugely acclaimed, but apparently impassable brand-new book, the substance of which suddenly plucked into focus three days after its release with the word of his death; the course of evidences left in the accompanying videos and the albums sleeve; the way followers were forced into detective work, proposing different intends for Blackstars title. His death would have been an occurrence anyway, but Bowie carefully obliged it a bigger episode still, without returning it into a circus. There was something nearly joyful about it.

Leonard Cohen, 21 September 1934 7 November 7 2016. Photo: Antonio Olmos for the Observer

But if Princes death was the most sickening, and Bowies the most spectacular, then Leonard Cohens overtaking in November was the most disclose. The traditional narration of a pop-star fatality is that of George Michael: of flair brutally grasped away by a premature downfall, typically be complemented by lurid speculation about what had been going on in their private lives. The one thing popping wizards never did was die of old age. But Cohen was 82, a pretty good innings by anyones criteria: a few weeks before he passed away in his sleep, he told an interviewer he was ready to die. And thats the kind of pop adept death of which were going to see more. Were 60 years away from the rocknroll blowup as far from being Heartbreak Hotel and Blue Suede Shoes as they were from the premiere of La Bohme and Mahlers Third Symphony and half a century has passed since 1966, arguably the decisive year in the development of 60 s pop.

It seems faintly miraculous that any of the designers of the former are alive, but the objective is: Little Richard is 83, Jerry Lee Lewis is 81, Chuck Berry is 90, and his first album in 36 times is due for exhaust in 2017. The designers of the latter are now into their 70 s: you didnt have to be a cynic or unbelievably gruesome to sense that impending mortality was a factor in beings paying up to $1,599 for tickets to this years Desert Trip festival that brought together the Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Pink Floyds Roger Waters, the Who, Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. Whether we become increasingly immune to pop myths passing away, or whether 2016 s outbursts of heartbreak become a regular presence, remains to be seen.

As the leader of Earth, Wind& Fire not just a vocalist, but a songwriter, arranger, producer and bandleader Maurice White has a claim to be one of the most important beings in pop record, resulting his stripe to the forefront of successive flows in black music: funk, disco, electronic R& B. He died on 4 February, aged 74.

Maurice White, 19 December 19 1941 4 February 2016. Photograph: Rob Verhorst/ Getty Images

And let us not forget

Merle Haggard , by contrast, offered little in accordance with the rules of good times, lyrically at least. He pioneered the Bakersfield sound, a Californian take on country that didnt tumble into Laurel Canyon introspection, but considered the plight of fighting operating Americans to a hard-country endorsement that attained him a geographically distant but artistically close cousin of the proscribe country artists in Texas. Haggard expired on 6 April, his 79 th birthday.

Equally important in their own lands were the colonists of ska and prog. Prince Buster ( above ), who died on 8 September at persons under the age of 78, was one of the great legends of Jamaican music, and someone whose music gained two seconds life when he becomes one of the brainchildren for the 2 Tone movement in the late 70 s. Not simply was Madnesss immense early thump One Step Beyond a Prince Buster cover, the band too reputation themselves after one of his songs.

The theatrical excess of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, meanwhile, might have been one of the causes of punk, but they bestrode prog like cape-wearing, knife-wielding, concept-developing superheroes, and even those who never cared for them should consider the work of Keith Emerson ( who died on 11 March, aged 71) and Greg Lake ( 7 December, 69) recorded with the Nice and King Crimson respectively before filing them in the not-for-me pile.

George Martin, 3 January 1926 8 March 2016. Photograph: John Dove/ Abbey Road Studios

And that is still barely scratching the surface of the years descended greats. Congolese music lost a giant in Papa Wemba ( 24 April, 66 ); Sir George Martin , who was so crucial to the Beatles, died on 8 March, aged 90; Glenn Frey of the Eagles, whose Their Greatest Hits( 1971 -1 975) is the sixth-bestselling book of all time, passed away on 18 January, aged 67; Rod Temperton , who ran from working in a frozen foods mill in Grimsby to writing megahit after megahit for Michael Jackson, been killed in October, aged 66.

Every kind of music lost heroes. Hip-hop determined the tragically early deaths of Phife Dawg ( above ) of A Tribe Called Quest( 22 March, 45) and Prince Be of PM Dawn( 17 June, 46 ). R& B legend Otis Clay croaked on 8 January, aged 73, his death completely overshadowed by Bowies two days later. Funk lost the great Bernie Worrell of Parliament/ Funkadelic( 24 June, 72) and tribe checked the deviation of the brilliant fiddler Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention whose obituary had firstly been reproduced, much to his stun, years earlier, on 3 June, aged 75. Mose Allison , one of the large of jazz, was 89 when he passed away on 15 November.

Let us remember, extremely, those figures from the leading edge and the backrooms who contributed so much to music. People such as Alan Vega of Suicide, who showed the punks what confrontational actually symbolized( 16 July, 78 ). Or Scotty Moore , the guitarist on those enormous early Elvis slice( 28 June, 84 ). Or David Mancuso , whose flawless experience and mode influenced generations of DJs and clubbers alike( 14 November, 72 ). Or Chips Moman , the producer who too co-wrote two of feelings greatest chants: Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and The Dark End of the Street( 13 June, 79 ).

And all this without mentioning Sharon Jones or Vi Subversa or Paul Kantner or Colin Vearncombe or Pete Burns or Bobby Vee, or many, many more. It was a sad, pathetic year for music.

Michael Hann


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