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Gone But Not Forgotten: 2012

Musicians of the 50s, 60s, and 70s who passed away in 2012


Gone But Not Forgotten: 2012

The "Queen of Disco," Donna Summer

Far too many of oldies music's greats -- the ones who made the music you love, even if you don't realize it -- have passed away unsung, the result of an industry that rewards celebrity, sometimes to the point of ignoring hard work and talent. Here's a day-by-day list of the rock, soul, and R&B artists who passed away in 2012, the famous and the not-so-famous, just a few names in the crowd that create the music millions of us sometimes take for granted.


Fred Milano was the second tenor backing up Dion in the Belmonts, the widely influential Brooklyn doo-woppers who had hits with “I Wonder Why,” “Teenager in Love,” and “Where or When.” (72, lung cancer)

Larry Reinhardt was a guitarist who played in an early band with two future Allman Brothers members before replacing Iron Butterfly’s guitarist on their third album, then going on to form Captain Beyond. (63, cirrhosis)

Bob Weston played lead guitar on Fleetwood Mac’s Penguin and Mystery to Me albums before going solo and working with Murray Head and Steve Mariott. (64, stomach hemorrhage)

Johnny Otis was best known for his 1958 hit “Willie and the Hand Jive,” but the "Godfather of R&B" also discovered and produced everyone from Little Richard to Jackie Wilson to Gladys Knight while in the process of transforming West Coast Blues into R&B. (90, natural causes)

Etta James was the ”At Last” singer who helped kickstart the rock and roll craze with her raunchy R&B hit “Roll With Me, Henry” before transforming herself into a highly influential blues diva. (73, leukemia)


Jim King was saxophonist and blues harp player for Family, one of the founding bands in the English psych-rock (and later prog-rock) scenes. (69, unknown)

Joe Moretti was one of the premier British rockabilly guitarists, one whose axe can be heard on Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac,” Johnny Kidd and the Pirates’ original “Shakin’ All Over,” not to mention several tracks with Gene Vincent. (73, lung cancer)

Russell Arms was the featured singer on NBC’s chart countdown show “Your Hit Parade” in the 1950s, though he was also an actor of some note, mostly in golden-era Hollywood b-movie Westerns as well as ‘60s and ‘70s TV cop shows. (92, natural causes).

Dory Previn worked with husband Andre as lyricist on his many popular songs, mostly movie soundtracks such as Valley of the Dolls, though she did score an occasional pop hit with numbers like the Sandpipers’ “Come Saturday Morning” before issuing a series of acclaimed solo albums. (86, natural causes)

Billy Strange, guitarist, songwriter and arranger, was a triple threat, performing on the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album as a member of the famed Wrecking Crew, arranging Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots are Made for Walkin’” and co-writing Elvis’ “A Little Less Conversation” and Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock.” (81, brief illness)

Davy Jones was the resident Brit and Cute One in the pre-fabricated “American Beatles” known as the Monkees, and was out front on some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Daydream Believer,” his signature song, and “Valleri.” (66, heart attack)


Ronnie Montrose was the lead guitarist of the ‘70s hard-rock band that bore his name, but was also highly in demand as a session musician during that decade, performing on Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey album and providing lead for the Edgar Winter Band on their classic singles “Frankenstein” and “Free Ride.” (64, suicide)

Robert B. Sherman was, working with his brother Richard, one of the most celebrated children’s-music composers of the era, penning the soundtracks for Mary Poppins, Snoopy Come Home, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and the original Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte’s Web. All this after liberating Dachau as a teenager in WWII! (86, natural causes)

Terry Teene was a singer, songwriter, and musician who worked with Norman Petty before releasing a popular Halloween novelty tune called “Curse of the Hearse.” (70, car crash injuries)

Marion Marlowe was one of the featured singers on Arthur Godfrey’s popular TV show and often sang duets with partner Frank Parker; she later went on to a successful Broadway career. (83, natural causes)
Nick Noble was a Countrypolitan singer who had several minor hits in the mid-Fifties, including "The Bible Tells Me So," “Moonlight Swim,” “The Tip of my Fingers,” "To You My Love," and "A Fallen Star." (85, natural causes)

Earl Scruggs was half of the groundbreaking bluegrass duo Flatt and Scruggs; this banjo player popularized the picking style used widely today, opening up America to the music for the first time with the massive hit “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.” (88, natural causes)


Graham Simpson founded massively influential art-rockers Roxy Music and played bass on their first album before leaving music entirely. (68, unknown)

Levon Helm was the drummer for The Band, those Godfathers of Americana, and also sang lead on several of their most famous songs including the hit “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” He later became a respected actor (The Right Stuff, Coal Miner’s Daughter). (71, throat cancer)

Bert Weedon was one of the most popular session guitarists in ‘50s England. Weedon had a hit there with his version of “Guitar Boogie Shuffle,” but his “Play in a Day” tutorials were his real contribution to rock, inspiring the entire first generation of British Invasion rockers. (91, natural causes)

Kenny Roberts was one of the last original country yodelers, who scored postwar “hillbilly” hits with "I Never See Maggie Alone," "Wedding Bells," "Jealous Heart," "Choc'late Ice Cream Cone," then formed a group where he mentored a young Bill Haley. (84, natural causes)


Charles Pitts, known as “Skip,” was a Memphis session guitarist from the age of 17; he later came up with the riff of the Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” and, most importantly, the wah-wah guitar of Isaac Hayes’ phenomenal “Shaft,” inspiring an entire generation of “action funk” musicians. (65, lung cancer)

Donald "Duck" Dunn, as bassist for the Stax label house band Booker T. and the MGs, was the funky bottom end on loads of soul classics, not to mention the band’s own hits like “Green Onions” and “Time is Tight.” He also played for Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Muddy Waters, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Nicks, and was a member of the backup band in the original Blues Brothers movie (the theme “I Can’t Turn You Loose” was based off of Duck’s riff). (70, unknown)

Chuck Brown was best known for his 1978 funk hit “Bustin’ Loose.” Brown’s guitar, vocal, and unique rhythm made him a cornerstone of the DC “go-go” brand of funk, which later had a profound influence on hip-hop. (75, heart and organ failure)
Doug Dillard, of the family band The Dillards, led the second wave of bluegrass popularization in America, mostly as the Darlin’ Boys, the Dillards’ fictional band on the "Andy Griffith Show." Incorporating rock into the music, he influenced the entire first generation of Southern California country-rock. (75, lung infection)

Donna Summer, The Queen of Disco, was discovered in Europe by Giorgio Moroder, got notice with the novelty orgasm record “Love to Love You Baby,” helped create EDM with “I Need Love,” then took disco into the mainstream with a series of classic hits before engineering several comebacks in different styles. (63, lung cancer)

Robin Gibb, the most diminutive of the Bee Gees, sang lead mostly on their '60s hits -- “I Started a Joke,” "Holiday," "Massachusetts," among others -- but he also was an integral part of the band’s trademark harmonies, both on their '60s British Invasion ballads and during their phenomenal disco explosion (“Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep is Your Love,” “Jive Talkin”). (62, liver and kidney failure)

Toni Arden was a postwar big-band vocalist who had several ballad hits, including the original version of “I Can Dream, Can’t I?" as well as “Kiss of Fire,” “Too Young,” and “I’m Yours.” (88, natural causes)
Doc Watson was a major figure in the ‘60s folk revival, an authentic North Carolina mountain musician who was famous for his crosspicking style of guitar but equally adept at banjo and harmonica. (89, complications from surgery)


Herb Reed, the founding and only continuous member of vocal group legends the Platters, was also its bass voice, lending his talents to all of the band’s classic singles including “Twilight Time,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” and “The Great Pretender.” (83, heart disease)

Bob Welch stepped in on guitar when founding Fleetwood Mac member Peter Green became an acid casualty in the late ‘60s, helping transform the group from the epitome of British blues into a soft-rock mainstay. He later had big hits with “Ebony Eyes” and “Sentimental Lady.” (66, suicide)

Jimmy Elledge had the original hit recording of Willie Nelson’s “Funny How Time Slips Away” in 1961, selling a million copies. A true one-hit wonder, he never made the charts again. (69, stroke)

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