From David Bowie to Prince and Leonard Cohen, demise has cast a long darknes over “the worlds” of popping and boulder. But, as more innovators reach a certain age, its something well have get used to

Trying to predict how record will adjudicate an era in dad is a famously tough bawl. Nostalgia spins and distorts what actually happened. Stuff that seemed enormously important then isnt always what seems important times on: idols get forgotten, strikes fade from recall, emphasis is subtly shifted to reflect precede the changing nature of experiences or to shape a wider narrative that wasnt evident at the time. Even so, it seems a fairly safe bet to say that when people look back on 2016, they are able to think about death.

Death was its first year big breakout virtuoso. The charts were full of it: posthumous stumbles strangled up the Top 40; the success of its first year most unexpected No 1 album Viola Beachs eponymous debut was down to the band and their directors deaths in a gondola gate-crash five months previously. No meticulously contrived stealth liberate, with its carefully cultivated air of astonish and obscured blow time, was as surprising as David Bowie or Princes death. Decembers traditional dad storey about the race for the Christmas number one was absolutely overshadowed by the death of George Michael. It was what people talked about: more column inches were occupied, more encompass to be delivered, more social media posts posted and blogs blogged about dad stars dying than about those who lived, even Beyonc or Kanye West.

There were clauses publicly mourning dead pa hotshots and sections examining the nature of publicly mourning dead pop whizs that posited beliefs that people were mourning 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 neighbourhood disco or if they were too young to recollect the late stellars glory periods firsthand for a mythic, imaginary, perfect popping past they never knew: the strange decision of rock music obsession with its own record over the past 25 years.

A traditional pop narration of knack 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 beings to stop publicly sorrowing dead popping whizs. The grain of fact in said parts that some of the tributes were schmaltzy and overblown, and others smack-dab of nothing more than a frantic desire to join in( We salute 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 various kinds of correspondent who obviously loves no music as much as the racket of their own voice.

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

For all the talk of 2016 as an extraordinary year for popping demises, there is an debate that it was more or less ever thus. Death has tower over pop nearly from the time that pop began: rocknroll had been a mainstream phenomenon for barely 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 papa superstars took on bizarre fleshes. There is a theory that the late 50 s/ early 60 s fad for death discs made sungs in which the protagonist or their partner or both died, such as Tell Laura I Love Her, Johnny Remember Me, Teen Angel was a sublimated lament of Holly, Valens, Eddie Cochran et al.

There was another spasm of morbidity in pop in the early 70 s, its first year immediately after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison, when the charts played host to a succession of latterday fatality discs from Bloodrocks DOA to Hot Chocolates Emma and some of the 60 s originals became ten-strikes again. You might have supposed the Twitter eulogies and the vigils and the wonky Bowie murals were a little bit de trop and obscene, but they look like the height of held good taste are comparable to, say, going out and buying Danny Mirrors I Remember Elvis Presley, a Europe-wide hit on which a rotund Dutchman in a fringed coat did an impersonation 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 deaths felt extraordinary, and not simply in their profusion. Plenty of famed creators 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 cocktail of fame and epoch-defining affect to that possessed by Bowie and Prince.

Their fatalities, and the manner in which they were mourned, seemed markedly different to Jacksons, perhaps because they were strengthened with social media, still in its relative infancy when Jackson died( Facebook had 305 m customers in 2009 and more than 1.6 bn in early 2016; Twitters servers crashed on the evening of Jacksons death because more than 100,000 tweets were communicated in an hour containing his appoint, but by the time of Princes death, an average of 21 m tweets were cast per hour on a ordinary period ). Or perhaps it was because Jacksons living and job appeared to have been falling apart for years followers had suffered for the passing of the exuberant kid who sang ABC and the genius who stole the evidence peforming Billie Jean at Motowns 25 th commemoration long before he actually died while Bowie and Prince were in the midst of renaissances.

Rumours about the government of Bowies health had circulated for some time the Flaming Lips had even registered a carol titled Is David Bowie Dying ? in 2012 but “theyve been” strenuously repudiated when he returned to recording with The Next Day in 2013. He had also precisely liberated 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 secreted a studio book since 2004, but who died at the time of year when Last-place Christmas by Wham! is becoming a unavoidable spirit on the radio and blaring out of shops ). There had never been any suggestion that anything was incorrect with Ruler: his live pictures in 2015 seemed like the work of an creator among the priorities of his tournament , not a being in chronic anguish who had become addicted to opioids as a result.

In detail , nothing in dad record “wouldve been” prepare you for the room Bowie died. In the past, rock-and-roll starrings who knew they were dying manufactured music that addressed the fact before they did Queens Innuendo is jam-pack with ballads that seem to allude to the fact that Freddie Mercury is not long for this soil; Warren Zevons final book The Wind ends with a hymn called Keep Me In Your Heart. But unless youre the various kinds of person who belief the conspiracy beliefs about the very existence of Tupac Shakur, Elvis Presley or Jim Morrison , no one had stage-managed their death fairly like this: the hugely acclaimed, but apparently impenetrable new album, the contents of which abruptly attracted into focus three days after its release with the bulletin of his death; the line of clues left in the accompanying videos and the albums sleeve; the style love were forcing them detective work, proposing different intends for Blackstars title. His death would have been an incident regardless, but Bowie carefully realise it a bigger happening still, without turning it into a circus. There was something almost 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 scandalou, and Bowies the most spectacular, then Leonard Cohens travel in November was the most indicate. The traditional narrative of a pop-star death is the language of George Michael: of expertise brutally grasped away by a premature collapse, usually accompanied by lurid supposition about what had been going on in their private lives. The one thing popping whizs never did was die of ageing. But Cohen was 82, a pretty good innings by anyones standards: a few weeks before he passed away in his sleep, he told an interviewer he was ready to die. And thats the kind of daddy ace deaths among which were going to see more. Were 60 years away from the rocknroll blowup as far away from 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 pivotal time in the development of 60 s pop.

It seems faintly miraculous that any of the inventors of the former are living, but the objective is: Little Richard is 83, Jerry Lee Lewis is 81, Chuck Berry is 90, and his first book in 36 times is due for liberate in 2017. The inventors of the latter are now into their 70 s: you didnt have to be a cynic or improbably gruesome to sense that impending mortality was a factor in people compensating 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 occurrence, remains to be seen.

As the leader of Earth, Wind& Fire not just a vocalist, but a songwriter, arranger, farmer and bandleader Maurice White has a claim to be one of the most important point people in pop biography, leading his stripe to the forefront of successive gestures 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 compare, 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 descend into Laurel Canyon introspection, but considered the plight of fighting acting Americans to a hard-country backing that obliged him a geographically distant but artistically close cousin of the prohibit country artists in Texas. Haggard died on 6 April, his 79 th birthday.

Equally important in their own subjects were the innovators of ska and prog. Prince Buster ( above ), who died on 8 September at the age of 78, was one of the large legends of Jamaican music, and someone whose music gained a second life where reference is became one of the brainchildren for the 2 Tone movement in the late 70 s. Not only was Madnesss gigantic early pop One Step Beyond a Prince Buster cover, the band too called 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 bestride 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) entered 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 area of its first year fallen greats. Congolese music lost a monster 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 Smacks( 1971 -1 975) is the sixth-bestselling book of all time, passed on on 18 January, aged 67; Rod Temperton , who departed from working in a frozen food plant in Grimsby to writing megahit after megahit for Michael Jackson, been killed in October, aged 66.

Every kind of music lost heroes. Hip-hop discovered 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 died on 8 January, aged 73, his death altogether overshadowed by Bowies two days later. Funk lost the great Bernie Worrell of Parliament/ Funkadelic( 24 June, 72) and kinfolk read the difference of the bright fiddler Dave Swarbrick of Fairport Convention whose obituary had first been published, much to his surprise, years earlier, on 3 June, aged 75. Mose Allison , one of the large of jazz, was 89 when he passed on on 15 November.

Let us recollect, more, those figures from the edges and the backrooms who contributed so much better to music. Parties such as Alan Vega of Suicide, who showed the punks what confrontational certainly made( 16 July, 78 ). Or Scotty Moore , the guitarist on those enormous early Elvis gashes( 28 June, 84 ). Or David Mancuso , whose flawless savour and mode influenced generations of DJs and clubbers alike( 14 November, 72 ). Or Chips Moman , the producer who likewise co-wrote two of spirits greatest ballads: 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, happy time for music.

Michael Hann


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