The big-band leader, singer, songwriter and composer died on January 17th at the age of 90. Known as the "Godfather of R&B," Otis was also a talent scout and discovered such stars as Etta James, Hank Ballard and Jackie Wilson.
Don Cornelius, the television host and creator of Soul Train, helped bring countless black American musicians into the pop mainstream starting in the 1970s. On February 1st, Cornelius was found dead at his home in Los Angeles from a gunshot wound to the head; it appeared to have been self-inflicted.
MC5 bassist Michael Davis died on February 17th from liver disease. He was 68. Davis joined the influential political rock act after studying art in college.
The Monkees' Davy Jones died on February 29th of a heart attack at the age of 66. The English singer's last performance took place 10 days earlier at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York.
Hard rock guitarist Ronnie Montrose died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound on March 3rd. He was a member of the band Montrose and recorded with such artists as Van Morrison, Boz Scaggs and the Edgar Winter Group.
Legendary bluegrass banjo player Earl Scruggs died from natural causes on March 28th in Nashville. Known for such hits as "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" and The Beverly Hillbillies theme "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," Scruggs revolutionized banjo playing with his singular picking style.
Jim Marshall, "the Father of Loud," died of cancer on April 5th; he was 88. He created one of rock & roll's most defining tools, the Marshall amplifier. A drummer, drum teacher and music store owner in London, Marshall helped bring affordable instruments and amps to artists everywhere.
Radio and TV personality Dick Clark, "America’s Oldest Teenager," died on April 18th of a heart attack. He was 82. The entertainment icon served as host for 30 years of America's longest-running television variety show, American Bandstand, and was a frequent host of other TV and radio programs.
Levon Helm, singer and drummer for the Band, died of throat cancer on April 19th in Manhattan. He was 71. Helm provided gravelly vocals and rock-solid backbeats for Band favorites including "Up on Cripple Creek," "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" and "Rag Mama Rag," and had a late-career resurgence leading "Midnight Ramble" performances at his Woodstock, New York home.
Greg Ham, saxophonist and flutist for the chart-topping band Men at Work, died on April 19th at his home in Melbourne, Australia. He was 58; cause of death was not determined immediately. Ham's distinctive saxophone riff helped carry "Who Can It Be Now?" and his flute work did the same for "Down Under."
Donald Dunn, bass player for Booker T. and the MGs, died on May 13th in his sleep in Tokyo at the age of 70. Dunn’s contributions to the Stax Records house band helped create such Memphis soul classics as "In the Midnight Hour" and "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay."
Chuck Brown, known as the "godfather of go-go," died of pneumonia at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on May 16th. He was 75. Brown played a crucial role in Washington, D.C.'s music scene as a singer, guitarist and songwriter starting in the 1960s.
Disco queen Donna Summer died from lung cancer on May 17th in Florida at age 63. Summer scored some of the Seventies' and Eighties' biggest hits with songs including "I Feel Love," "Love to Love You Baby" and "She Works Hard for the Money."
One of the founding members of the Bee Gees, Robin Gibb died on May 20th in England from pneumonia, preceded by a battle with cancer. He was 62. Along with his brothers Barry and Maurice, he helped score a remarkable string of hits over several decades, reaching new levels of worldwide fame in the disco era.
The blind country, folk and bluegrass master Doc Watson died May 29th in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, shortly after undergoing abdominal surgery. He was 89. The guitarist and folk singer took the acoustic instrument to new heights with his influential flatpicking technique.
Herb Reed, the last surviving member and founder of the Platters, died on June 4th in Boston from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 83. Reed founded the Platters in Los Angeles in 1953 and sang bass for such Number One hits as "The Great Pretender," "Twilight Time" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."
Deep Purple co-founder Jon Lord died on July 7th from cancer at the London Clinic. He was 71. The British keyboardist co-wrote some of the hard rock acts biggest hits, including "Smoke on the Water."
Singer Scott McKenzie died on August 18th in Los Angeles after a battling Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disease that affects the nervous system. He was 73. McKenzie was best known for his 1967 hit "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)."
Songwriter Hal David died on September 1st at Cedar Sinai Medical Center from complications following a stroke. He was 91. As Burt Bacharach's longtime songwriting partner, David wrote the lyrics for major hits including "Walk On By," "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "Promises, Promises" and more.
Singer-songwriter Joe South died on September 5th at his home in Buford, Georgia, after suffering a heart attack. He performed such hits as "Games People Play" and "Walk a Mile in My Shoes," as well as writing songs for Elvis Presley, Deep Purple and others. South also served as a session guitarist for artists including Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Aretha Franklin.
The singer and host of NBC's The Andy Williams Show died on September 25th at home in Branson, Missouri, from cancer. He was 84. His memorable hits include "Moon River," "Music to Watch Girls By" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You."
Top agent Frank Barsalona – whose clients included the Who, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, U2, Van Halen, Tom Petty and Black Sabbath – died at age 74 in his New York City home on November 22nd, after a long battle with dementia. As one of the first agents to embrace rock & roll in the Sixties, Barsalona was hugely influential on the growing concert industry.
Jazz piano great Dave Brubeck died of heart failure on December 5th in Norwalk, Connecticut. He was 91. Brubeck's best-known work, 1959's Time Out – including the classic "Take Five" – became a huge pop hit, selling more than one million copies.