2020 Deaths Playlist
For the last 5 or 6 years or so, I’ve been keeping a “xxxx deaths” playlist in iTunes. Whenever I hear of some musician I know and like something from, I’ll add a song for them to my playlist. As today is the 31st of December, it struck me as a good time to put some detail. I did also notice in 2020 that when I looked back at my earlier lists, I had forgotten why some of them are on the list, so this time I kept a concurrent text file explaining why some people are on there. So I decided to turn that text list into this article, detailing songs that I liked from people I listened to who have died this year.
One comment though – I’ve had a few people tell me this idea is creepy, and that I shouldn’t do that. I have no idea why – I see it as a celebration of great music. I get a lot of enjoyment of listening to the playlists later on.
Before I get to the blog-ified list, I wanted to provide links. You can listen to the whole playlist on Apple Music and Spotify where I’ve created playlists..
1) The Spirit of Radio – Rush
Why: Neil Peart – Drummer/Lyricist
The first of the year, and the most annoying one for me, I think. We lost Neal Peart, who I know from so many songs, but since I could just pick one, I went with “The Spirit of Radio”, as it’s probably my favorite individual Rush song.
2) Where Have All the Flowers Gone – The Kingston Trio
Why: Bob Shane – Vocalist
The Kingston Trio is one of those founding bricks that I don’t think of a lot. The song in particular is one I always knew from the past, but I can’t tell you were I picked up on it. But it’s solely in my memory.
3) Fishin in the Dark – The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Why: Christopher Darrow – Guitarist
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is one of those bands that I never owned anything from, but I always liked, perhaps it was just the sound of their band name. Was mostly country, but not fully. I could easily see Garth Brooks having sung lead for this band. I originally had their cover of Mr. Bojangles on here, but given the guy who actually wrote that song also died later in the year, I switched songs for NGDB.
4) Clean My Wounds – Corrosion of Conformity
Why: Reed Mullin, Drummer
This isn’t a band I knew a lot of stuff from, but when it came across my news wire that he had died, I looked into their stuff, and found this song which I quite liked. So onto the list it goes.
5) Diamonds on The Souls of Her Shoes – Paul Simon
Why: Joseph Shabalala
When Paul Simon came out with his Graceland album, there was a distinct flavor on several of the songs, one of which was this one. That was due to the influence of the African band “Ladysmith Black Mambazo”, which was led by Joseph Shabalala. Always liked this song.
6) Afro-Blue – John Coltrane Quartet
Why: McCoy Tyner, Coltrane’s pianist
John Coltrane is a jazz legend, as well he should be. But no band is just one guy, and this is no different. McCoy Tyner was Coltrane’s pianist, and is part of that Coltrane sound. I included Afro Blue here, as I thought it leans into Tyner a bunch.
7) Promises in the Dark – Pat Benatar
Why: Keith Olson, the album’s producer
Pat Benatar is an artist that I’ve always loved, and this particular song is one of the more underrated ones from earlier in her career. Keith Olson, the album’s producer died, and that’s enough for me to put something on this list.
8) The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
Why: Kenny Rogers
The Gambler by Kenny Rogers almost defines “signature song”. I doubt anyone knows of Kenny Rogers and doesn’t know this song.
9) Supernaut – 1,000 Homo DJs
Why: Bill Rieflin, drummer
This song is a cover of the old Black Sabbath track, Superanut. Bill Rieflin was a chameleon, playing with a ton of different bands, including KMDFM, Ministry, and Nine Inch Nails to mention a few. When he was with Ministry, they did this song, and it ended up on a Black Sabbath tribute album.
10) Pickup Man – Joe Diffie
Why: Joe Diffie
I’m not a huge country person, and when I am, the big “dog died, truck broke down” stuff isn’t my thing. But for some reason, this song works. But it really shouldn’t. :)
11) I Love Rock & Roll – The Arrows
Why: Alan Merrill, Songwriter
I first ran into this song from Joan Jett in 1982, and I really loved her rendition of the song. But what I didn’t know is that the song was a cover. The original was by the Arrows, and the song was written by Alan Merrill. This is the original version of the song.
12) Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne
Why: Adam Schlesinger, Songwriter
The song is “ok”. It’s a pretty standard pop song, but the video.. It’s got some extreme eye candy in the person of Rachel Hunter as “mom”. However, the gold for me here is them parodying the movie “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” – specifically the Phoebe Cates pool scene.
13) Bookendz – Wallace Roney
Why: Wallace Roney
Another Philly jazz guy that I remember from years gone by. I’m always up for some good jazz, and Wallace played a mean trumpet. He was a protege of the legend Miles Davis.
14) Lean on Me – Bill Withers
Why: Bill Withers
I really struggled here. While Lean on Me is an excellent song, I really wanted to include Lovely Day, which is also an amazing as hell song, but I’m forcing myself to just one. Both are amazing.
15) She Blinded Me With Science – Thomas Dolby
Why: Matthew Seligman, bassist
This song has always been in my head since it was new. IT was a massive hit, and I know for Dolby fans, they’d probably wish I’d dig deeper. But the song has always worked for me.
16) Flowers on the Wall – The Statler Brothers
Why: Harold Reid, bassist
This is a song that I can’t tell you where I ran into it – probably radio in the past. But it’s an ear worm for me.
17) Tutti Frutti – Little Richard
Why: Little Richard
We lost Little Richard in 2020, he was I think one of (if not the) last remaining foundation stone on the church of Rock and Roll. While he’s solely not the only one, all of rock owes him for what he did way back when.
18) Bond on Bond – “Bond”
I love this band called “Bond“. It’s a quartet of girls playing string instruments. But why it’s on my list, I can’t remember. If it’s on here someone connected to the band died, but I cannot remember who it is or why. Shrug.
19) Clean Up Woman – Betty Wright
Why: Betty Wright
This is another one of those songs that by rights shouldn’t be on a metal head’s list of songs, but here we are. I like this tune, has a nice beat that I can get into, and the voice works for me. I can still hear the beat even after the song ends.
20) Chainsaw Charlie – W.A.S.P.
Why: Bob Kulick, Guitar
Bob Kulick is someone who has played with a ton of bands (WASP, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Meat Loaf, etc)… However, he at this time played with Blackie Lawless in WASP and appeared on their seminal album “The Crimson Idol”. From it was this song, “Chainsaw Charlie”. It’s metal. It’s violent. If you’re sampling my songs, and aren’t into metal, you probably won’t like this.
But it is a great song. It also features on drums someone else who appears later in this list for another reason.
21) Ballroom Blitz – Sweet
Why: Steve Priest, bassist
Ballroom Blitz is a song I first found out bout in the later part of the 80’s when it was covered by the German band Krokus. But the original is by a band called “Sweet”, and on it was their bassist, Steve Priest, who we lost this year.
22) Roll the Bones – Rush
Why: Rupert Hine, producer
Rush makes it onto the list a second time this year, but this time not for a band member, but for the album’s producer Rupert Hine. He’s produced albums for a lot of people, including Tina Turner, The Fixx, Bob Geldof, Stevie Nicks, The Thompson Twins, and many others.
I know people gave Rush a bunch of crap about the “rap” in the middle of the song, but I always thought it was a fun track, nice light one. When I saw them on the R40 tour, they really leaned into the rap in the live performance too. I enjoyed it.
23) Yes We Can, Can – The Pointer Sisters
Why: Bonnie Pointer
The Pointer Sisters are legends, and when I saw that one of them had died, I just had to include something from them. They have other songs that are more well known (Jump For My Love, I’m So Excited), but I always liked the vibe of this song.
24) Around and Around – Waysted
Why: Paul Chapman, Guitar
While Pete Way and Paul Chapman are most known for UFO, I preferred their work in a band Pete formed called “Waysted”. This is an underrated track, and one I wish more people knew. Pete shows up again on this list later on, sadly.
I know this a cover song (originally Chuck Berry), but I really love the metal jam of this.
25) We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
Why: Vera Lynn
I first found out about Vera Lynn from Roger Waters and Pink Floyd. One of the foundational albums of my teen years was “The Wall” by Pink Floyd, and on there is a song called “Vera“. While I’m still not entirely sure WHY it’s on The Wall, that’s how I found out about Vera Lynn. This is by far her signature song, as it encapsulates everything she was.
26) The Ecstasy of Gold – Ennio Morricone
Why: Ennio Morricone
While this song was known as being from the movie “The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly”, it’s more recently become known as the song that Metallica plays on tape right before they come out on stage for concerts.
I love this tune, it gets me moving, and is one of those that when I hear it, I usually have to listen a couple of times in a row.
27) Devil Went Down to Georgia – Charlie Daniels Band
Why: Charlie Daniels
This is one of those country songs that I always felt could transcend country and go into metal. I always hoped someone would do a metal cover of these, as I could very easily see this working as a metal song. Any takers? :)
28) She’s Waiting – Eric Clapton
Why: Jamie Oldaker, drummer
When I saw Jamie come over my news wire, I looked into what he did, and saw he played with Eric Clapton, and then on this specific song, so I had to put it on there. Loved this song when it was new. He also recorded with Peter Frampton, Leon Russell, Ace Frehley, and the Bee Gees.
29) Cryin’ – Joe Satriani
Why: Phil Ashley, keyboards
When I first moved to Texas, a Joe Satriani show was the first one I saw in Texas (at the old Bronco Bowl). It was on the tour in support of the album this song came from (The Extremist). I’ve always had a soft spot for that album because of that.
So when I heard that the keyboardist from the album had died, on to the list it went.
30) Black Magic Woman – Fleetwood Mac
Why: Peter Green, Guitarist
Fleetwood Mac had like 9 albums before the world heard of Stevie Nicks, and the earliest of these albums were led by Peter Green, a guitarist that deserved more public acclaim than he ever got. He also co-wrote the song Black Magic Woman, which is really a Fleetwood Mac song, not a Santana song.
31) Die Young – Black Sabbath
Why: Martin Birch, Producer
The death of Martin Birch is epic. He did SO MANY albums, and so many bands, that to pick one is near impossible. In the end, I settled on this track from the first of the two Black Sabbath albums he did. But he did so much more.. Deep Purple, Rainbow, Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, Blue Oyster Cult, and possibly he’s most well known for his work with Iron Maiden. His reach was truly epic, and his loss is tragic.
32) Love Loaded – Waysted
Why: Pete Way, bassist
As I mentioned earlier when I brought up Waysted… I prefer Pete’s work with Waysted to UFO. I know that’s an affront to a lot of people, but I truly find more enjoyment in Waysted. That first album theirs (Vices) was an extremely great album. The singer had a great voice, and I loved the tunes.
But Pete himself is a massive loss to metal. No matter what band he played with, he demanded attention and brought something to the tunes being played. He also had a short stint playing bass for Ozzy’s band.
This video is the height of 80’s cheese metal videos, but I REALLY love the song.
33 & 34) Evil Woman – Quiet Riot
Why: Frankie Banali, drummer
Quiet Riot has a lot of albums, but the bulk of them aren’t available on streaming services. As such, the song I really chose for Quiet Riot to represent Frankie Banali isn’t available on streaming. The song is “Evil Woman” and from the 2007 album “Rehab”. Sadly, it’s not on the iTunes or Spotify lists – for those I subbed in “The Wild and the Young“. But if you’re reading this here, my preferred track is shown below.
35) Sweet Revenge – John Prine
Why: John Prine
Another country track. Oddly enough country is on here more than I realized it would be.
36) Harlem River Blues – Justin Townes Earle
Why: Justin Townes Earle
When I saw that he had died, I had never heard of him, but I looked into what he did and discovered this song, which I REALLY liked. Harkens back to the Johnny Cash era of music. Really liked this track.
37) Celebration – Kool & The Gang
Why: Ronald Bell, K&TG Founder
Another one of those tracks that everyone knows. If I recall right, my wife is burnt out on it, but I still like it from time to time. The reason it’s on here is because Ronald Bell died. He was one of the founding members and the saxophone player from Kool & the Gang.
38) Over the Mountain – Ozzy Osbourne
Why: Lee Kerslake, drums
Of the Ozzy Osbourne solo albums, his second – Diary of a Madman is probably my favorite. Lee Kerslake played drums on those first two, and when Lee died, it was annoying. Not a shock, as he’d been very ill, but it was still sad. I first knew him from these first two Ozzy albums, but he’s done a crap tone more with Uriah Heep. Amazing dummer, and will be missed for sure.
NOTE: The embedded song says it’s a 2002 remix, which is the awful re-recording, but it isn’t.
39) I Am Woman – Helen Reddy
Why: Helen Reddy
I have no idea why this is on here. I really shouldn’t like this at all. But it works for me just the same.
40) Please Mr. Postman – The Marvelettes
Why: Georgia Dobbins
Another older track that I always liked, but doesn’t fit my mold. This is on here as Georgia Dobbins, one of the founding members of the Marvelettes and the writer of this song died.
41) Hot for Teacher – Van Halen
Why: Eddie Van Halen
This song came out when I was 18, and was the PRIMARY target for this kind of song and video. It’s a total masterpiece in every sense. Sonically, visually, and from song construction. I really thought about including Van Halen’s “Eruption” for Eddie Van Halen, but went with this one, as the video tops the other songs. Plus I like EVH’s solo here.
42) I Can See Clearly Now – Johnny Nash
Why: Johnny Nash
A classic track. Always loved this. Really smooth voice that’s lost.
43) Gimme Some Lovin’ – The Spencer Davis Group
Why: Spencer Davis
This song originated in the 1960’s, but man it doesn’t sound like it. One of my favorite songs by anyone – it’s a damn great track.
44) Mr. Bojangles – Jerry Jeff Walker
Why: Jerry Jeff Walker
I originally had picked Mr Bojangles for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band further up this page, as they popularized it. But then when Jerry Jeff Walker died, I moved the song here. Jerry wrote the track, so I wanted him to have it on my list.
45) I’m American – Queensryche
Why: Jason Slater, producer
The 1988 album “Operation: Mindcrime” by Queensryche is my favorite album by anyone. When they made a sequel to it some years later, I wasn’t figuring it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good. It wasn’t. However, this song is the best on the album, it’s a great damn song. The album’s producer Jason Slater died ,which is why this is here.
46) Kiss an Angel Good Mornin – Charlie Pride
Why: Charlie Pride
Charlie Pride is a person I’ve always known more for baseball. Since the Texas Rangers moved to TX in 1972, Charlie Pride came to spring training and did a concert for the players, and would play too. Much later on, Pride became a partial owner of the team, too. I didn’t discover his music until much later. Here’s one of my favorites.
47) Mississippi Queen – Mountain
Why: Leslie West
What a riff! While it’s not quite as common as Smoke on the Water, anyone who knows rock knows the riff for this song. Leslie West died, and Paul Stanley of Kiss said this.. “So very sad. Leslie’s tone could stop a rhino in a full charge. Mountain sound was massive.”. It’s true. He had a different sound.
48) Turn the Page – Bob Seger & Silver Bullet Band
Why: Alto Reed, saxophonist
Not often a sax player leads a song, but it happened here. Seger’s Turn the Page is a classic track, and the sax in this song is VERY distinctive. I was putting this together on 31 Dec 2020, and in the middle of doing this I found out about Alto Reed dying, so this was the last one for 2020.
I really hope that 2021 provides a smaller list than 2020 did. 2020 was the largest of these that I’ve done. But with so many more of the musicians I liked growing up aging, I fear next year’s will be worse.