Prince, Haggard, Bowie, White, Frey: Lousy year for music

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Source:   —  April 22, 2016, at 9:09 AM

That'south not to slight Kendrick Lamar, Sturgill Simpson, Beyonce or some unknown creator working in a basement to turn the sounds in their head into a file for everyone to hear and enjoy.

Prince, Haggard, Bowie, White, Frey: Lousy year for music

It'south only April and already two thousand sixteen is a terrible year for music.

That'south not to slight Kendrick Lamar, Sturgill Simpson, Beyonce or some unknown creator working in a basement to turn the sounds in their head into a file for everyone to hear and enjoy.

But any year that silences the voices behind "Sign o' the Times," "Space Oddity," "Tequila Sunrise," "Shining Star" and "The Bottle Let Me Down" can't qualify as anything other than awful.

Prince'south stunning death on Thursday adds to a tragic roll call that already included David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Maurice White and Merle Haggard. Motorhead'south Lemmy Kilmister beat the calendar'south turn to two thousand sixteen by a couple of days, Natalie Cole by mere hours.

"Running out of living musical heroes, those we measure everything against, emulate, know we won't surpass but inspire us to try," Carrie Brownstein, actress and Sleater-Kinney singer, tweeted Thursday.

While the circumstances behind Prince'south death stay unclear, most others were mundane, independent of rock 'n' roll excess. Cancer. Diabetes. Intestinal disease. Pneumonia. Parkinson'south Disease. Bowie and Frey kept their conditions private, so few exterior family saw them coming.

Merle Haggard was seventy-nine, not cheated of life, and White of Earth, Wind and Fire suffered a unhurried decline before dying at seventy-fourth. Yet others were too young — sixty-nine for Bowie, sixty-seven for Frey, forty-five for Malik Taylor, the founder of A Tribe Called Quest known as Phife Dawg.

And fifty-seven for Prince, without any obvious signs of slowing down.

All of the deaths hit love a punch to the stomach. Their careers were long sufficient to create impressive legacies, not long sufficient to hold adding accomplishments. We weren't through with them, nor they with us.

Bowie'south latest album came simultaneously with his death, the song and video for "Lazarus" full of self-awareness and humor. He was bringing his music to Broadway. Retirement held number interest, and neither did repeatedly churning out copies of songs he made when youthful and reckless.

The Eagles, a band whose carcass Frey once left by the side of the road, was back together and an ongoing creative force before he died. The band that once brought country influences into rock 'n' roll was bringing rock 'n' roll to country in its later years, appealing to a new marketplace whose stars sounded love they grew up on Eagles songs.

Even if he took it a small easier, Haggard was still working in his final years and brought his music to younger generations at the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee.

Nothing could stop Prince, could it? The man was indefatigable in concert, a whirlwind who drilled his bands until they met his exacting standards. He released four albums in the last eighteen months, and just announced he was writing his autobiography. He was in the midst of a "Piano and a Microphone" tour, which was just as it sounded — a scarce chance to look an artist strip down his best songs to their essence. It was a must-have ticket.

During some of those shows, he sat at the piano to sing "Heroes" in honor of Bowie.

"We had a tough year already," veteran Grammy Awards producer Ken Ehrlich said Thursday. "It'south really our generation now. We'd hear about past stars dying because of our parents. This time it'south our greats."

The deaths of musical heroes resonate because their work is aimed straight for the heart. These weren't celebrities. They were friends who comforted you when your heart was broken, who gave you bravery, who understood precisely what you were thinking.

As long as the music lived, so too would the person you were when you first heard it. The club where the synthesizer riff of "1999" washed over you, and who you danced with. The car radio where you thrilled to the crackle of "When Doves Cry." The bedroom where you retreated to absorb the stunning breadth of "Sign o' the Times."

Recollect that, and maybe two thousand sixteen can be a small less crummy.

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Television Writer Lynn Elber in LA contributed to this report.

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