2017 saw the loss of a number of influential musical artists, many of which are unheard of by younger generations. Despite this, many of the musicians that died in 2017 have shaped the music world into what it is today, and deserve to be recognized.
Today we consider rock to be one of the main genres of music, but it couldn’t have gotten to the level of success it has today without the people that shaped it. Chuck Berry was one of the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, whose onstage charisma and resonating voice helped him to become one of the first rock hits. His unique guitar style was influenced by blues, country, and R&B; inspiring rock groups for decades to come. Berry died at 90 years old in his home state of Missouri.
One of the original stars of rock ‘n’ roll was Fats Domino, a piano player with Louisiana Creole roots, hailing from New Orleans. His composed voice and lyrics matched with his wild piano playing made him a legend, helping to bring rock & roll to mainstream popularity. Domino’s musical style and personality influenced some of rock ‘n’ roll’s most famous artists, including Elvis Presley.
“Rock ’n’ roll was here a long time before I came along. Let’s face it: I can’t sing it like Fats Domino can. I know that.” said Presley to Jet Magazine in 1957.
Tom Petty, who first got his musical inspiration from Elvis Presley, was one of the most popular rock artists of the 70’s and 80’s. Petty experienced success with his bands Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Travelling Wilburys, as well as a successful solo career. Petty’s relatable lyrics and on-stage persona spoke to many, leaving him as one of the great rock artists of the twentieth century. Petty died in Los Angeles at the age of 66.
The 1950’s are often seen as a heyday for country music, with sensations like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash. Glen Campbell, who died last year, was one of the most successful country artists of the fifties. Campbell, the son of a sharecropper, left his native Arkansas at the age of 14 to start a music career that would last six decades. His striking voice paired with clear guitar playing and creative lyrics led him to wild success, one of the first to combine country and pop. He later starred in a John Wayne movie, and hosted his own variety show. In his later years he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and died at the age of 81, in Nashville.
Many other important musicians passed in 2017, such as soul and gospel singer Della Reese, and Prodigy, part of the NY rap duo Mobb Deep. Their raw and outspoken music inspired many influential rappers and hip-hop artists to pay their respects.
We have these musicians that died in 2017, amongst many others, to thank for making the music world what it is today.