Roll of Honour for Music Greats who left us in 2020

Peter Donnelly, Editor

2020 will go down in the annals of history as ‘The Covid Year, The Time of The Pandemic.’ So it was. During the year we sadly lost pioneering figures on the music scene- musicians, singers, producers and promoters.

2020 was a somber year for music. In the midst of a global, public health crisis, the music world lost some of its most prolific and ardent adherents, whose music has provided us with much solace in troubled times both past and recent.

Pictured are some of those musicians who died in 2020 – (top-down) – Rocco Prestia, Californian guitarist and founding bass player of funk band Tower of Power; Andy Gill of the post-punk Leeds band, Gang of Four; pianist and music instructor Diane Moser; funk legend, Hamilton Bohannon whose music soundtracked the dancefloors during the disco boom of the 1970’s and early 1980’s; Bonnie Pointer, founding member of the eponymous hit-making soul girl group, The Pointer Sisters; Toots Hibbert, rightly regarded as the founder of the raggae sound as we know it today, best known for his work with his band Toots and The Maytals, who released an album just before Hibbert’s death in the Summer; Hal Ketchum, country and western icon of the 1990’s, best known for ‘Past the Point of Rescue’, who regularly toured Ireland and Britain, mentoring Belfast musicians in the early 2000’s; Juliette Gréco French singer, Resistance fighter and cultural icon and Ryo Kawasaki, Japanese jazz guitarist who, as well as releasing solo material, played on albums by Gil Evans.

The Gown pays tribute to those musicians, singers, producers and promoters we lost in 2020.


  • MARTY GREBB
  • TOMMY HANCOCK
  • LORRAINE CHANDLER
  • BO WINBERG
  • BOBBY COMSTOCK
  • TONI SMITH
  • BILL WITHERS
The legendary soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers came relatively late to music after spending a decade in the US Navy. His music is regarded as the holy grail of soul with timeless classics such as ‘Grandma’s Hands’, ‘Use Me’ and ‘Lean On Me.’ See The Gown’s obituary to Bill Withers from March here. Michael Putland/NPR

  • ANDY GILL (GANG OF FOUR)
  • BETTY WRIGHT
  • DEREK FOWLDS
  • TONY HOOPER (THE STRAWBS)
  • WALTER LURE (THE HEARTBREAKERS)
  • TOM FINN (THE LEFT BANKE)
  • BOB SHANE (THE KINGSTON TRIO)
  • ELLIS MARSALIS

New Orleans jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis was patriarch at the helm of a jazz dynasty, until his death in April 2020. As well as being a prolific solo performer and releasing his own material, which included over twenty studio albums, he is credited for working alongside some of the greats in jazz music. These include Cannonball Adderley, Nat Adderley, Snooks Eaglin and more recently English saxophinist Courtney Pine. Marsalis was also a jazz music teacher at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Both of his sons, Branford and Wynton, are professional jazz performers. NPR

  • HAMILTON BOHANNON
  • TONY ALLEN
  • BEN CHIJIOKE (TY)
  • MIKE HUCKABY
  • MATTHEW SELIGMAN (THOMAS DOLBY/THOMPSON TWINS/WATERBOYS)
  • LEE KONITZ
  • LITTLE RICHARD (WAYNE PENNIMAN)

Little Richard is regarded the world over as one of the founding fathers of rock n’ roll before Elvis Presley came on the scene. He had most notable success with hits including ‘Long Tall Sally’, ‘Tutti Frutti’, ‘Lucille’ and ‘Rip it Up’ during the 1950’s and 1960’s. A cultural icon, he had five Grammy Awards to his name. Michael Ochs Archive/Getty

  • WALLACE RONEY (WAYNE SHORTER/HERBIE HANCOCK)
  • DAVE GREENFIELD (THE STRANGLERS)
  • FLORIAN SCHNEIDER (KRAFTWERK)
  • RICHARD TEITELBAUM
  • TAMMI LYNN
  • MANU DIBANGO
African jazz-funk saxophonist and performer Manu Dibango died from Coronavirus complications in March 2020. He rose to popularity with his ingeniously afrobeat, funk-flavoured single, ‘Soul Makossa’ in 1972. He continued to perform up until his death, notably at London’s landmark jazz club venue, Ronnie Scott’s. He developed musical partnerships with musicians diverse as Peter Gabriel, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Fania All-Stars, Sly and Robbie and one of afrobeat’s founding drummers, Tony Allen, who also died in 2020.

  • OLIVER STOKES (BLACK N MILD)
  • BOB ANDY
  • GIUSEPPI LOGAN
  • MILLIE SMALL
  • STEVE FARMER
  • HILLARD “SWEET PEA” ATKINSON – WAS (NOT WAS)
Singer Hilliard ‘Sweet Pea’ Atkinson was one of the original members of the Detroit funk band Was (Not Was) with Don Was and David Was in the 1980’s. The 1987 hit ‘Walk the Dinosaur’ was the band’s first release to garner worldwide acclaim, hitting Top 10 in the UK Singles Chart. In later years, as well as maintaining his funk connections, Atkinson toured with Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett.

  • ANDRE HARRELL (MOTOWN/UPTOWN)
  • BILL RANDLE (BROADCASTER/PRODUCER)
  • TRUDY MELVIN (‘THE NEW’ HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES)
  • SANDY ANDERSON (UNLIMITED TOUCH)
  • HAROLD ‘HAL’ WILLNER (PRODUCER)
  • SKIP MAHONEY
  • FRAN O’DWYER
  • JOE DIFFIE
  • JOHN PRINE

Lyrics which took his listeners on trips through the landscape of the American Mid-West, the mind, body and soul, John Prine captured the complexities of the human condition so aptly with his own brand of folk-infused country. It was his time in the US Army and later as a postman which provided the inspiration to begin writing songs in his early twenties. On seeing Prine performing at a small venue in Chicago, in the late 1960’s, Kris Kristofferson commented, “He sang about a dozen songs…Sam Stone, Donald & Lydia. The one about the Old Folks. Twenty-four years old and writes like he’s two-hundred and twenty. We went away believers, reminded of how goddamned good it feels to be turned on by a real Creative Imagination.” ‘Sam Stone’, ‘Angel from Montgomery’ and ‘Illegal Smile’ all featured in Prine’s 1971 Atlantic records self-titled debut and would become his signature songs. In later years he released the widely covered country classic ‘Speed of The Sound of Loneliness.’ His final recording was released online following his death, in April 2020 from Covid-19, in Nashville. He was posthumously bestowed with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Artist of the Year at the Americana Music Awards.

  • KENNY ROGERS
  • GARY MCSPADDEN (THE OAK RIDGE BOYS)
  • BARBARA MARTIN (THE SUPREMES)
  • ERIC WEISSBERG (THE TARRIERS/LOUDEN WAINWRIGHT III/TALKING HEADS)
  • DEAN GRANT (KENI BURKE BAND)
  • MCCOY TYNER

McCoy Tyner was a jazz pianist of the classic kind. He had an eminently distinguished career both as a solo performer and as a session pianist with the greats of jazz music during the defining Blue Note era including Benny Golson, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter. The five-time Grammy holder died in August 2020.

  • CHRIS DARROW (NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND)
  • ONAJE ALLAN GUMBS
  • JAMES CARMICHAEL
  • ALLEE WILLIS (SONGWRITER – EARTH, WIND & FIRE’S ‘SEPTEMBER’)
  • ROBERT PARKER
  • ED STROUD

Ed Stroud was a session guitarist who played on hip-hop group OutKast’s debut album ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ in 1994 and their subsequent 1996 release ‘ATLiens’. Stroud featured on productions by female group TLC also in the early 1990’s. He died suddenly in his native Atlanta in January 2020.

  • BOBBY LEWIS
  • HAROLD BEANE (FUNKADELIC)
  • RONN MATLOCK (RICK JAMES BAND)
  • DAVID OLNEY (X-RAYS/ELVIS COSTELLO)
  • NICK BLIXKY
  • NICOLE MITCHELL
  • JAN HOWARD

Jan Howard developed her style as a female country performer when pioneers such as Patsy Cline, June Carter Cash and Patti Page reigned supreme on the Nashville scene. Howard released her 1962 debut, co-produced with her husband, Harlan Howard. She honed a distinct vocal delivery on her debut, performing renditions of tracks such as Brook Benton’s Looking Back’, ‘Belle of the Ball’ by Buck Owens and a staple country classic ‘Heartaches by the Number’ written by her husband. The 49-year-long Grand Ole Opry member passed away in Gallatin city near Nashville, Tennessee aged 91.

  • BOOTSIE BARNES
  • SAM CLAYTON JR.
  • GENE SHAY
  • RYO KAWASAKI
  • KASONGO WA KANEMA (ORCHESTRA SUPER MAZEMBE)
  • BUCKY PIZZARELLI

Bucky Pizzarelli began his professional career as a jazz guitarist in 1944, aged 17 with the Vaughan Monroe dance-swing band. He began performing on the ‘Benedetto Bucky Pizzarelli Signature’, his guitar which was custom-made for him. From the 1960’s he toured and recorded with jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan, Roberta Flack, Janis Ian and later Anita Baker and Paul McCartney. Pizzarelli was 94.

  • MARCELO PARALTA
  • EDDIE SETSER
  • PAUL ENGLISH (WILLIE NELSON BAND)
  • JOHN ERHARDT (WUSSY)
  • HENRY GRAY (BILLY ‘BOY’ ARNOLD/MUDDY WATERS)
  • ANDREW WEATHERALL

Andrew Weatherall represented all aspects of the underground UK music culture from his days as a club DJ to being credited on the albums of New Order and the genre-defying and defining ‘Screamadelica’ debut by Primal Scream. His name became synonymous with the UK club culture scene and the transportation of acid house, in the early 1990’s, championed by Chicago-based DJs, DJ Pierre and Frankie Knuckles, to the dance floors and rave ‘functions’ of England. His credited discography alone is well worth a study in order to comprehend his awe-inspiring contribution to music. He sadly died from a pulmonary embolism in February 2020.

  • CHRISSY STEWART (FRANKIE MILLER BAND)
  • W. S. HOLLAND
  • PHIL MAY (THE PRETTY THINGS)
  • PETE CARR
  • DAVE BOOTH (DJ MANCHESTER)
  • YVONNE BAKER
  • MORY KANTÉ
Guinean singer, Mory Kanté rose to international critical acclaim in 1987 with his ‘Yé ké yé ké’, which underwent remix treatment for the dancefloors of clubs and festivals around the world. It was an unlikely progression for a traditional African folk musician fluent on the kora harp. He joined the Malian group The Rail Band, which honed a distinctly Latin-jazz sound, in the 1970’s led by Salif Keita. Kanté died aged 70, in May 2020.
  • LUCKY PETERSON
  • WILLIAM ‘WILLIE WILD’ SPARKS (GRAHAM CENTRAL STATION)
  • JIMMY COBB
  • GEORGE GALWAY
  • BOB KULICK
New York Guitarist Bob Kulick did not garner the attention he deserved in his early career. He played on three of Kiss’ albums in the late 1970’s, for which he was not credited. For his work as a session musician for artists such as Lou Reed, Motörhead, Alice Cooper and Diana Ross he held a Grammy Award. He died from heart disease in May 2020.
  • BRENDAN BOWYER (IRISH SHOWBANDS)
  • MAJEK FASHEK
  • BONNIE POINTER (THE POINTER SISTERS)
  • DJ ANDY TAYLOR
  • LAROME POWERS
  • DAME VERA LYNN
‘The Forces sweetheart’ Dame Vera Lynn died in the year of the 75th anniversary of VE Day. During the Second World War her handsome charm and tenderly crisp voice lifted the spirits of Britain in the darkest days of the war effort with the optimistic and faintly romantic ballads ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘There’ll Be Blue Birds Over The White Cliffs of Dovers.’ She continued to release music in the 1960’s and 1970’s at London’s Abbey Road studios. Dame Vera Lynn died in June 2020, aged 103.
  • FRANK THOMPSON (BAR-KAYS)
  • DON WELLER
  • FREDDY COLE
  • JEANIE LAMBE
  • KEITH TIPPETT
  • ENNIO MORRICONE
Ennio Morricone’s name and music are synonymous with countless film scores, not least the Westerns which featured Clint Eastwood. Eastwood’s 1964 ‘Spaghetti Western’ debut, ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, was soundtracked by Morricone as well as ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ in 1966. Morricone’s epic compositions were featured in over 70 award-winning productions on the silver screen. He died in July 2020.
  • CHARLIE DANIELS
  • JOHN GANNON
  • STEVE SUTHERLAND
  • EDDIE GALE
  • JUDY DYBLE (FAIRPORT CONVENTION)
Judy Dyble was ‘the first lady’ of the English folk-rock outfit Fairport Convention, in the late 1960’s. Her dreamy, haunting ‘made for folk’ voice transformed the early incarnation of the band which would become something of a British institution, including Dave Pegg and Richard Thompson. She continued to be one of the undisputed queens of English folk alongside her successor in Fairport Convention Sandy Denny and Linda Thompson. Dyble sang with Giles, Giles and Fripp which would later morph into King Crimson. She released solo material collaborating with Mike Mooney of Spiritualized and Andy Lewis. Her final album release, 2018’s ‘Earth Is Sleeping’, was released on Acid Jazz Records. Judy Dyble died in July 2020 following a lengthy battle with cancer.

  • EMITT RHODES
  • TIM SMITH (CARDIACS)
  • ANNIE ROSS
  • PETER GREEN (FLEETWOOD MAC)
  • CP LEE
  • JOSEPH B. JEFFERSON
Philadelphia soul music producer and musician Joseph B Jefferson co-founded funk group Nat Turner Rebellion in the era of the African-American civil rights movement in the 1960’s. He would refine his later productions to fit with the lush instrumentation which characterised the emergent ‘Philly soul sound’ of the 1970’s. He penned hits for groups such as The Detroit Spinners, their 1976 hit ‘Then Came You’ with Dionne Warwick, New York City, Billy Paul, Phylis Hyman, Major Harris, Anglo Saxon Brown and LL Cool J. Keys and Chords

  • WAYNE FONTANA
  • MARTIN BIRCH
  • JULIAN BREAM
  • DAVID ‘COWBOY’ SANDERS (THE MASQUERADERS)
  • LEE BARRY
  • JACK SHERMAN (RED HOT CHILLI PEPPERS)
  • D.J. ROGERS
  • DENISE JOHNSON
The much cherished daughter of Manchester’s vibrant music scene, Denise Johnson died in August 2020. Initially making her breakthrough providing voice on Primal Scream’s landmark ‘Screamadelica,’ she would go on to feature on releases of Manchester bands during the ‘Madchester’ era; including Graham Massey’s dance group 808 State, A Certain Ratio, The Charlatans, Biting Tongues, Ian Brown and Electronic’s 1996 album ‘Raise The Pressure.’ Johnson died prior to the release of her debut album, ‘Where Does It Go.’

  • ERICK MORILLO
  • IAN MITCHELL (BAY CITY ROLLERS)
  • GARY PEACOCK
  • BRUCE WILLIAMSON
  • RONALD ‘KHALIS’ BELL (KOOL & THE GANG)
  • SIMEON COX (SILVER APPLES)

Simeon Coxe was one half of groundbreaking psychedelic, electronic duo Silver Apples, formed in the 1960’s. The Silver Apples’ performance set up was dubbed ‘The Simeon’ comprising 16 oscillators, foot pedals, telegraph switches, echoplexes and synths – still in their relative infancy. In 1968, Silver Apples released their debut album; the same year as they released a version of ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ with Jimi Hendrix in the run-up to his Woodstock gig. Portishead’s Geoff Barow said that Coxe was “an inspiration.” Robin Rimband also paid tribute to Coxe’s unique musical brand which, he said, saturated the music of Beak, Portishead, Suicide and Stereolab. Uncut/Gaelle Beri/Redferns
  • TOOTS HIBBERT (TOOTS & THE MAYTALS)
  • DANNY WEBSTER (SLAVE)
  • EDNA WRIGHT (HONEY CONE)
  • ROY C. HAMMOND (ROY C)
  • JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE
At 38, Justin Townes Earle was one of the young generation of Americana and folk artists who was making his own unique mark on an established music fraternity. Son of country rock legend Steve Earle, he had nine albums to his name. His music exhibited an ingenious ability to craft a song which dealt with the confusion of contemporary American society and personal relationships while allowing his own musical talent to speak for itself. Steve Earle releases a tribute album to his son, ‘JT’, on his birthday (4th January 2021), featuring ten songs he wrote before he died in August 2020. Jeff Ross/Shutterstock
  • FRANCIS DONNELLY
  • GEORGIA DOBBINS DAVIS (THE MARVELETTES)
  • HAROLD HAL SINGER
  • JULIETTE GRÉCO
  • ROCCO PRESTIA (TOWER OF POWER)
  • TONY COOK (COOKIE MONSTA)
  • HELEN REDDY

Australian vocalist Helen Reddy won a Grammy in 1973 for her 1972 feminist anthem ‘I Am Woman.’ The lyrics forcefully railed against established misogyny “you can bend but never break me cause it only serves to make me more determined to achieve my final goal.” Following Reddy’s death in September 2020 ‘I Am Woman’ peaked once again on the Australian charts at Number 2.
  • EDDIE VAN HALEN
  • RAPHAEL PETER PARKINSON
  • IAN MCDOWELL
  • JOHNNY NASH
  • BUNNY ‘STRIKER’ LEE
  • PIO MCCANN
  • BILLY JOE SHAVER
  • JOSÉ PADILLA
The creation of Ibiza’s ambient, Balearic sunset vibe is widely attributed to the late DJ and producer José Padilla. His club, Café del Mar, on the Spanish island became the site from which Padilla’s ambient sound would be championed by DJ’s from around the world. Getty
  • SPENCER DAVIS (SPENCER DAVIS GROUP)
  • TONY LEWIS (THE OUTFIELD)
  • JIMMY WILLIAMS
  • GORDON HASKELL (KING CRIMSON)
  • MALIK B (THE ROOTS)
  • RANCE ALLEN
  • PEDRO ITURRALDE
  • STAN KESLER
  • JERRY ‘JEFF’ WALKER
Mr Bojangles himself, Jerry Jeff Walker’s music career spanned five decades. He was at the forefront of the old-style, outlaw country movement which emerged in the early 1960’s led by Hank Williams. Born Ronald Clyde Crosby, in New York, Walker scored initial success in 1968 with ‘Mr. Bojangles’; a song inspired by a short stint in prison in 1965. He died at his home in Texas in October 2020, aged 78. KXAN
  • LEN BARRY
  • BRIAN COLL
  • CANDIDO
  • DES O’CONNOR
  • RITA HOUSTON
  • COURTNEY ROBB
  • BRUCE SWEDIEN
Record producer and mixer Bruce Swedien was a master of his craft and an ingenious pair of hands on deck. During his illustrious career he achieved critical acclaim for his production duties on Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons’ 1962 hit single ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry.’ It was his work on albums by George Benson, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson for which he received his five Grammy Awards for Best Engineered Album. He engineered Michael Jackson’s first number one album on the Billboard’s Top LPs and Tapes, ‘Thriller’ in 1982. Bobby Holland
  • LANDON BROWN
  • GORDON KEITH
  • HAL KETCHUM
  • GARRETT FALLS LOCKHART
  • DOUGIE JAMES
  • KEITH MINSHULL
  • RON MATHEWSON
  • HAROLD BUDD
  • EDWARD ‘BUDDY’ BANKS
  • CHARLEY PRIDE
Charley Pride set many precedents within country music. He was the first black man, in the white dominated country music scene, to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Pride was one of RCA Records’ biggest selling performers of the 1970’s since Elvis Presley. He is credited with being one of the few hit-makers to travel to Northern Ireland during The Troubles in the 1970’s. Pride tried to persuade Co. Tyrone country singer, Brian Coll who died in November 2020, to remain in Nashville and pursue a career. Such was his deep attachment to Ireland and its talented array of country performers. His health having declined in recent years, Pride died in December 2020, aged 86. ABC Photo Archives
  • RICHIE ROME
  • LEON CHUE
  • PABLO GONSALES (CYMANDE)
  • STANLEY COWELL
  • CHUCK OWENS
  • KIMBERLY WASHINGTON
  • TOM LAURIE
  • TONY RICE

Bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice died on Christmas Day 2020, Fellow musician Mark O’Connor said of Rice: he was “a bluegrass God, but when we hung out together, he would have me listening to John Coltrane. Yeah. Trane. He was way into it. That might shock some of the bluegrass traditionalists, but that is where our relationship began, Tony turning me on to Trane when I was a young teen. He was my big brother on the guitar.” In the late 1990’s Tony Rice, his brother Larry Rice, founding member of The Byrds, Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen former the bluegrass/Americana ‘anti-supergroup’ Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen.
  • JEFF CLAYTON
  • DIANE MOSER
  • BARBARA WINDSOR
  • JOHN ‘ECSTACY’ FLETCHER
  • GWENDOLYN OLIVER WESLEY (THE RITCHIE FAMILY)
  • RUDY SALAS
  • DALE HAZE (GINA, DALE, HAZE & THE CHAMPIONS)
  • EUGENE WRIGHT (DAVE BRUBECK QUARTET)
  • JOE CUDDY
  • ALTO REED (THE SILVER BULLET BAND)
  • DEBBIE DUNCAN
  • DANIEL DUMILE (MF DOOM)
To be awarded the title of pioneer at 49 is quite something. MF DOOM captured a generation with his lyrical brilliance and cadence which maintained only the highest standards with each release and contribution. Having the best of both worlds, growing up with the club culture scene in Britain and then emersing himself in the vibrant New York hip-hop community, his impressionable stages gave way to his genius. Following his release of multiple demo tapes, taking influence from one of his icons, J Dilla, 2004 was the year the genius of MF DOOM was released on the world. The acclaimed ‘Madvillainy’ album showcased DOOM’s profound attachment to a genre which he would mould in his own image and likeness. ‘Madvillainy’ was DOOM’s joint enterprise with another hip-hop institution, Madlib. Writer Majeedah Johnson said that MF DOOM occupied “his own universe…he reminded me of a lyrical Charlie Parker – pursuing uncharted territory and carving his own lanes and inspired a cult-type following for decades to come.” Hear Gilles Peterson’s tribute to MF DOOM at Worldwide FM. His passing was announced on New Year’s Eve 2020, following his death in October. MF DOOM performing at The Forum in London (2013). C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images

It is possible that we have left out someone deserving of a mention on our 2020 Music Roll of Honour. Please place their name into our comments section for them to be included in the future.

Their extraordinary musical legacy continues to live on. RIP.


Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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