I normally avoid these sorts of stories, but the death of legendary blues harmonica player James Cotton yesterday, following right on the heels of Sister Sledge singer Joni Sledge, forced me to take a look at 2017 so far.
This is not an exhaustive list, but I wantd to raise a glass to these folks in particular, because their music is a part of my personal past and developmental landscape. Fly on, brothers & sisters....
Chuck Berry - One of the inventors of rock-n-roll, Berry released his first single, "Maybellene", on Chess Records in September of 1955 (a year after Elvis released "That's Alright", but 4 months before Elivs had his first #1 hit with "Heartbreak Hotel"), and changed the world. The sax took a back seat in popular music, and the guitar god was born. Rock-n-Roll Hall of Famer, Rolling Stones #5 on their "100 Greatest Artists of All Time" list, composer/performer of the ONLY Rrock-n-roll song on Voyager Spacecraft Gold Record, Grammy Lifetime Achievement and Kennedy Honors...and the list goes on. But all you really need to know are the songs. He was 90.
James Cotton - played harmonica for everyone from Muddy Waters (with whom he won a Grammy in 1977) to Howlin' Wolf and also won a Grammy for his mid-1990s album as well as 10 Blues Music Awards. He was 81.
Joey Alves - original rhythm guitarist for the rock band Y&T, played on their most successful albums and toured during their most active years. He was 62.
Joni Sledge - Co-founder & singer of Sister Sledge, whose song "We Are Family" is still a mainstay in dance clubs. Multiple hits, a Grammy nomination, and world tours, their music is inescapably a part of the cultural tapestry. She was 60.
Al Jarreau - legendary jazz singer who earned 7 Grammy Awards, was a singer on "We Are the World", sang the theme song to the TV show "Moonlighting", produced numerous jazz chart topping albums, and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee School of Music. He was 76.
Larry Coryell - often called the "Godfather of Fusion", he also founded the Guitar Trio with John McLaughlin and Paco DeLucia (he was later repleaced by Al DiMeola), he released over 80 albums as band leader and played on dozens more. He was 73.
Butch Trucks - founding member of the Grammy winning, Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame inducted legendary rock band The Allman Borthers. He was 69.