2021 Grammys in memoriam

Ahead of the Grammy Awards on March 14, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the stars from the music world who’ve passed away over the last year, starting with Van Halen co-founder Eddie Van Halen, who died on Oct. 6, 2020, at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, following a lengthy battle with tongue, throat and, ultimately, lung cancer. Son Wolfgang and Hollywood mourned the music star, with everyone from Lenny Kravitz, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Kenny Chesney to Brian Wilson, ex-wife Valerie Bertinelli and Jimmy Kimmel taking to social media to celebrate the Grammy winner’s life. He was 65. Keep reading to see other music stars we’ve lost over this last year…

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The world lost a music superstar on March 19, 2020, when country singer Kenny Rogers passed away at 81, his family announced with a statement on his official Twitter account. The three-time Grammy winner “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family,” they wrote.

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R.I.P., Little Richard. The rock ‘n’ roll pioneer, born Richard Wayne Penniman, died of bone cancer on May 9, 2020, in Nashville. He was 87.

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Two members of The Supremes — who were known as Motown’s most successful act in the 1960s and the No. 1 female recording group of all time — died in the last year. Barbara Martin (left), an original member of The Supremes, died on March 4, 2020. The singer was 76. “Our hearts go out to Barbara’s family and friends. Once a Supreme, always a Supreme,” the 1960s Motown vocal group’s official Facebook page shared. Less than a year later, another member passed on…

On Feb. 8, 2021, The Supremes founding member Mary Wilson “passed away suddenly” at her home in Henderson, Nevada, friend and longtime rep Jay Schwartz told CNN on Feb. 8. She was 76. Fellow Supremes singer Diana Ross tweeted in part, “I have so many wonderful memories of our time together. ‘The Supremes’ will live on, in our hearts,” while Motown Records founder Berry Gordy called Mary “a trailblazer” and “quite a star in her own right.”

Famed country and folk music singer-songwriter John Prine passed away on April 7, 2020, at 73. The talented musician, who famously worked as a mailman before embarking on a five-decade career as a musician and storyteller, died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville from complications related to COVID-19.

On Feb. 9, 2021, jazz pianist Chick Corea — a 23-time Grammy winner — died at 79. The wildly talented musician passed away “from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently,” his team shared on his website.

Country music star Charley Pride died from complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 12 in Dallas. He was 86. The Grammy winner received a lifetime achievement award at November’s 2020 Country Music Association Awards, honoring his contributions as a pioneer for Black artists in the genre. He was also the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Grammy-winner Bill Withers, who famously sang “Lean on Me,” “Just the Two of Us,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” died in Los Angeles on March 30, 2020, from heart complications, his family announced days later. He was 81.

Fountains of Wayne frontman Adam Schlesinger, a Grammy-winner, passed away due to complications of the coronavirus on April 1, 2020. Adam, who was nominated for an Oscar writing the theme song for the film “That Thing You Do!,” was 52.

We lost Country Music Hall of Famer Charlie Daniels in 2020 as well. He died of a hemorrhagic stroke in Hermitage, Tennessee, on July 6 at 83. He fused traditional country and Southern rock as the founder of the Charlie Daniels Band and will likely be best remembered for his hit 1979 single “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which hit No. 1 on the country chart but was also a crossover pop hit that sold 1 million copies and won a Grammy Award.

Bunny Wailer (real name: Neville Livingston), who founded the group the Wailers, passed away on March 2, 2021. The reggae legend, 73, had been in declining health since suffering a second stroke in 2020.

Broadway star Nick Cordero died in a Los Angeles hospital following a lengthy battle with the coronavirus and ensuing complications on July 5, 2020. He was just 41 years old.

Country music star Joe Diffie passed away on March 29, 2020, due to complications of the coronavirus. The musician, who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry, was 61.

Legendary music producer Phil Spector died on Jan. 16, 2021, while serving a lengthy prison sentence for the murder of Lana Clarkson. He was 81. TMZ reported that he died of COVID-19-related complications and had been hospitalized with the virus four weeks earlier.

Frederick Hibbert, who was best better known as Toots, the leader of legendary Grammy-winning ska and rocksteady pioneers Toots and The Maytals, died on Sept. 11, 2020, at the University Hospital of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. He was 77. It had been reported earlier that month that the singer-songwriter, who’s long been credited as the “Father of Reggae,” was in intensive care awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test. After his death — which was later reportedly confirmed to be caused by complications of the coronavirus — music stars from Mick Jagger to Ziggy Marley mourned him on social media. 

Country music singer-songwriter Mac Davis — who famously wrote songs for Elvis Presley including “In the Ghetto” and “A Little Less Conversation” — died in Nashville on Sept. 29, 2020, following heart surgery. He was 78.

Legendary jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. died from complications of the novel coronavirus on April 1, 2020. He was 85.

Grammy-nominated Scottish electronic and avant-garde pop artist SOPHIE died at 34 on Jan. 30, 2021. The trans performer, producer and DJ, who notably worked with artists including Charli XCX and Madonna, passed away in a “terrible accident,” according to her music labels, at her home in Athens, Greece, after falling off the roof of her apartment building while looking at the moon.

Harold Reid (left), a founding member of the quartet the Statler Brothers, died on April 24 in Staunton, Virginia. The band put out a statement explaining Harold had “bravely endured a long battle with kidney failure.” The three-time Grammy winner was 80.

Bonnie Pointer, one of the Grammy-winning co-founders of the Pointer Sisters, passed away on June 8, 2020, at 69. Her sibling and former bandmate Anita Pointer confirmed the news, adding in a statement, “Bonnie was my best friend and we talked every day. We never had a fight in our life. I already miss her and I will see her again one day.” In July, TMZ reported that Bonnie’s death certificate revealed she died of cardiopulmonary arrest with liver disease and cirrhosis of the liver as underlying causes.

Tommy DeVito died in a Las Vegas area hospital from complications of the coronavirus on Sept. 21, “Casino” actor Alfredo Nittoli confirmed on Facebook. Tommy had been a founding member of famed doo-wop group The Four Seasons, playing lead guitar and lending vocals, and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was 92.

Season 1 “American Idol” contestant Nikki McKibbin passed away on Oct. 31, 2020, after suffering from an aneurysm on Oct. 28 at age 42.

Helen Reddy, who was best known for her hits like “I Am Woman” and the 1970s chart-toppers “Delta Dawn” and “Angie Baby,” passed away on Sept. 29, 2020, under the care of the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s Samuel Goldwyn Center for Behavioral Health in Woodland Hills, California. She was 78 years old. Helen, who was diagnosed with dementia in 2015, was the first Australian to win a Grammy — and a feminist icon.

Former Broadway performer and Dream Street member Chris Trousdale passed away on June 2 at 34. The talented musician died from complications of COVID-19. He was remembered by Dream Street bandmate Jesse McCartney, who shared a lengthy statement that noted, “Although we were a band for only three years, at that age, it felt like a lifetime and we built a real brotherhood… RIP Chris. I’ll never forget your smile.”

On May 8, 2020, DJ D-Nice announced that Andre Harrell, the music executive who founded Uptown Records and later led Motown Records, died at his West Hollywood home of heart failure. He was 59. Before working behind the scenes and helping launch the careers of stars like Sean “Diddy” Combs and Mary J. Blige, Andre was in the rap group Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

Electronic music pioneer Florian Schneider from the German band Kraftwerk died “from a short cancer disease just a few days after his 73rd birthday,” the Grammy-winning group’s co-founder, Ralf Hütter, confirmed on May 6, 2020.

Kool & the Gang co-founder, singer and saxophonist Ronald “Khalis” Bell died on Sept. 9, 2020, at his U.S. Virgin Islands home, Rolling Stone confirmed. His music group was one of the most celebrated funk bands of the 1970s. He was 68.

Country music singer Cady Groves passed away on May 2, 2020, from complications of chronic ethanol abuse. The star, who was best known for her songs “The Little Girl” and “Forget You,” was 30.

Variety confirmed that Oscar- and Grammy-winning songwriter Johnny Mandel — who famously wrote the “M*A*S*H” theme song — died on June 30, 2020. The 94-year-old had worked with vocalists including Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole and scored more than 30 films during his Hollywood career.

Former Temptations lead singer Bruce Williamson died from complications of the coronavirus at his Las Vegas home on Sept. 6, 2020. He was 49. He joined the iconic group in 2006 and performed with them until 2015.

On Aug. 23, 2020, reps for Justin Townes Earle revealed that the singer-songwriter was dead at 38. Months later, authorities confirmed he’d passed away from an accidental drug overdose. The musician was the son of country rocker Steve Earle.

Singer Jimmie Rodgers, best known for his late-’50s hits like “Honeycomb” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” died from kidney disease in Palm Desert, California, on Jan. 18, 2021. He’d also tested positive for COVID-19, publicist Alan Eichler told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.

Legal representatives for Peter Green confirmed he’d died “peacefully in his sleep” at the age of 73 on July 25, 2020.The musician co-founded Fleetwood Mac with drummer Mick Fleetwood in 1967.

Up-and-coming rapper Pop Smoke was shot and killed on Feb. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles in what at first appeared to be a home invasion robbery. TMZ later reported that the rapper (real name: Bashar Jackson) was the victim of a targeted hit and not a robbery gone wrong. He was 20 years old.

Guitarist and producer Andy Gill, who co-founded the influential post-punk band Gang of Four, died in a London hospital on Feb. 1, 2020, of pneumonia. He was 64.

Five-time Grammy winner McCoy Tyner, an influential jazz pianist who was the last surviving member of the John Coltrane Quartet, died on March 6, 2020. He was 81.

On July 6, 2020, reports confirmed that Oscar- and Grammy-winning Italian composer Ennio Morricone — the man who scored more than 500 films over seven decades and was known to many simply as “Maestro” — died in a hospital in Rome. He had fractured his femur in a fall at 91.

Benny Mardones — who wrote music for Brenda Lee and Three Dog Night but is most famous for his ’80s radio ballad “Into the Night” — died on June 29, 2020, at his home in Menifee, California. He was 73. Benny passed away following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Founder and director of Ladysmith Black Mambazo Joseph Shabalala died on Feb. 11, 2020, of natural causes. The Grammy-winning South African music star was 78.

Saxophonist, arranger and composer Lennie Niehaus, who was best known for playing with Stan Kenton’s band and collaborating with old Army buddy and fellow jazz enthusiast Clint Eastwood on more than two dozen films, died on May 28, 2020. The 90-year-old music talent was under hospice care in Redlands, California.

Former KISS guitarist Bob Kulick passed away on May 28, 2020, brother Bruce Kulick — who’s also played guitar for the rock band — announced on social media. Bob was 70.

On May 24, 2020, jazz drummer Jimmy Cobb passed away. He was the last surviving member of the sextet that played on Miles Davis’s 1959 album “Kind of Blue.” The musician died of lung cancer at his New York City home at age 91.

Phil May, the frontman for rock band Pretty Things, died on May 15, 2020, from complications following an emergency hip surgery at a hospital in England’s Norfolk region. Phil, 75, had fallen off his bike earlier in the week.

Soul, funk and R&B singer Betty Wright, whose songs have been sampled by everyone from Beyonce and Color Me Badd to Chance the Rapper, died on May 10, 2020. The 66-year-old Grammy winner passed away at her home in Miami. She had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer the previous fall.

Singer Brian Howe, who was the frontman for the British rock band Bad Company for eight years after he replaced singer Paul Rodgers, died on May 5, 2020. He passed away in his Florida home from cardiac arrest at age 66.

David Roback, the co-founder of the popular ’90s alt-rock band Mazzy Star and a member of influential groups like Rain Parade and Opal, died on Feb. 24, 2020, at 61. His mother told The New York Times he passed away from metastatic cancer.

Bronx-based rapper Fred The Godson died on April 23, 2020, from complications of the coronavirus following a lengthy hospitalization. The performer (real name: Frederick Thomas) was 35.

On Jan. 13, 2021, New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain died at 69. His widow, Wanda O’Kelley Mizrahi, posted on Facebook that he passed following a two-and-a-half-year cancer battle.

Former Motown musician Hamilton Bohannon died on April 24, 2020. The percussionist, songwriter and leader of the disco movement — whose music has been sampled by artists including JAY-Z, Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige and Snoop Dogg — was 78.

Derek Jones, the guitarist for post-hardcore band Falling In Reverse, died in April 2020. The news was announced by bandmate Ronnie Radke on Instagram. Reports revealed that Derek, whose cause of death has not been reported, passed away several months after losing his fiancée to cancer.

Manu Dibango, who was best known for playing the saxophone and vibraphone, died on March 24, 2020, from COVID-19 complications. He was 84.

Gerry and the Pacemakers frontman Gerry Marsden, whose band was a rival to The Beatles in Liverpool’s early ’60s music scene, died on Jan. 3, 2021. The musician passed away in a hospital in England from complications of a heart infection, according to British media. He was 78.

Legendary jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz — an early and much admired player of the cool jazz style — died in New York City from complications of the coronavirus on April 15, 2020. He was 92.

On Feb. 17, 2020, DJ-producer Andrew Weatherall, who was known for his work with bands and artists including New Order, Björk, My Bloody Valentine, Beth Orton, and more, died in a London hospital of a pulmonary embolism. He was 56.

On Feb. 18, Mark “Prince Markie Dee” Morales of The Fat Boys died from a cardiovascular issue in a Miami hospital, TMZ reported. He would have turned 53 the following day.

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Alan Merrill died from complications of the coronavirus on March 29, 2020. Alan wrote and performed the original version of “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” as a member of the Arrows in 1974. The song famously blew up when it was covered by Joan Jett. The 69-year-old performer was also known as the first Western musician to reach pop star status in Japan.

Famed jazz guitarist John “Bucky” Pizzarelli died on April 1, 2020, at 94 at his home in Saddle River, New Jersey. He had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and his family believe he died from complications of COVID-19.

Grammy-nominated gospel singer Troy Sneed died at a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, on April 27, 2020. He passed away from complications of the coronavirus at age 52.

On March 28, 2020, Jan Howard, who often performed at Grand Ole Opry and famously sang “Evil on Your Mind,” passed away in Gallatin, Tennessee.

On Jan. 29, 2021, ABKCO Music & Records announced that guitarist Hilton Valentine had died at 77. He was a founding member of the rock band The Animals.

Jazz trumpeter Wallace Roney died from complications of COVID-19 on March 31. He was 59. The Grammy winner famously studied with Miles Davis from 1985 until Miles’ passing in 1991.

On April 8, 2020, rapper-model Chynna (born Chynna Rogers) died at her home in Philadelphia. She was 25. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health revealed the cause of death was an accidental drug overdose.

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