From Taylor Hawkins to Takeoff to Loretta Lynn, here are 11 influential artists we lost in 2022
As we say goodbye to 2022, it feels natural to remember the musical legends who we lost. Below, the Star pays tribute to some — but of course not all — of the influential singers, songwriters and musicians whose legacies will live on.
Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, Hawkins got his start as a touring drummer for Alanis Morisette in the mid-90s, but he rose to fame after joining the Foo Fighters in 1997. His loud and thunderous style made him a perfect fit for the emerging post-grunge group, as did his easy and humorous chemistry with the band’s frontman Dave Grohl.
Together, Grohl and Hawkins formed the beloved core of Foo Fighters — a band that toured endlessly and recorded eight albums between 1999’s “There Is Nothing To Lose” and 2021’s “Medicine at Midnight.”
Hawkins died on March 25, 2022, in the midst of a Foo Fighter tour through South America. He was 50.
In September, the Foo Fighters paid tribute to Hawkins with two massive, star-studded stadium concerts in London and Los Angeles. Performing for the first time since his death, Grohl called Hawkins his “dear friend, bandmate and brother.
“No one else could make you smile or laugh or dance or sing like he could,” a visibly emotional Grohl said. “So sing and dance and laugh and cry and scream and make some noise so he can hear us right now.” — RA
Further viewing: Unforgettable Taylor Hawkins Moments
She was of course more than the infectiously catchy “Be My Baby.” But “Be My Baby” Ronnie Spector was, the glimmering lead singer for The Ronettes, an artist hailed as being “the original bad girl of rock and roll.”
The Ronettes, comprised of Spector, her sister and cousin, fronted a string of hits in the 1960s, from “Baby, I Love You” to “Walking in the Rain.” Under the musical supervision of Phil Spector, The Ronettes soared to a place of girl group royalty, one whose legacy endured even after the group’s split.
Spector’s star continued to burn bright post-Ronettes (and post-divorce from Phil) with a vibrant solo career, as well as an explosive memoir named after The Ronettes’ most iconic single. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 as a member of The Ronettes.
“Every song is a little piece of my life,” Spector said in 2007. “I’m just a girl from the ghetto who wanted to sing.” — AM
Further reading: Ronnie Spector, ’60s icon who sang ‘Be My Baby,’ dies at 78
Known for his expressive and meditative playing style, Sanders was an influential saxophonist who played a key role in the development of the “free jazz” and “spiritual jazz” movements.
Born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sanders became a member of John Coltrane’s band in the 1960s, playing tenor sax alongside the jazz legend on albums “Ascension” and “Meditations.” He would later collaborate with vocalist Leon Thomas and pianist Alice Coltrane. In the 1970s, he released several experimental albums as a solo artist, including “Black Unity,” consisting of one album-length improvisation and “Thembi.”
“Spirit was the overwhelming force in Sanders’ music,” wrote Andrew Flanagan and Nate Chinen of NPR. “It emanated from his tenor and soprano saxophones in fiery blasts or a murmuring flicker, and it suffused his ensembles, which featured several generations of improvisers equally willing to dig in or soar free.”
Pharoah’s swan song arrived in the form of “Promises,” an extraordinary collaborative album with the English electronic producer Floating Points and the London Symphony Orchestra. Recorded over the course of five years and released in 2021, the sprawling, nine-movement odyssey is a seamless fusion of ambient electronica, masterful saxophone solos and dramatic string arrangements.
He died at age 81. — RA
Further reading: Remembering Pharoah Sanders, Who Sought Divinity on Earth
Born Kirshnik Khari Ball, the rapper known as Takeoff was the youngest member of Migos — an iconic hip hop trio whose explosion in the mid-2010s brought the sounds of Atlanta trap music to the forefront of popular culture. Alongside his uncle, Quavo, and his cousin, Offset, Takeoff helped popularize the “triplet flow,” a unique style of rapping that became synonymous with Migos thanks to massive hits like “Versace,” “Stir Fry” and “Bad and Boujee.”
“What became known as the iconic ‘Migos flow’ was defined in large part by Takeoff’s razor-blade precision, and his unique ability to shift his speed and cadence without losing any of the sharpness of his rhymes,” wrote Nadine Smith in Pitchfork. “Never one to hog the spotlight, he knew when to step into position as a commanding officer and when to slide into a back-up role, using his own voice to accentuate the delivery of his comrades.”
Takeoff’s final record, a collaboration with Quavo titled “Only Built for Infinity Links,” came out in Oct. 2022. The 28-year-old was murdered in Houston, Texas, less than a month later. — RA
Indie rock, dream pop, slowcore, noise, glitch, ambient music. Low — the Minnesota band formed in the early 90s by vocalist/drummer Parker and vocalist/guitarist Alan Sparhawk — covered a lot of ground over the last three decades. Looking back on their catalogue, it’s astonishing to hear their sound evolve into new and experimental realms every few years, from the slow-churning beauty of “Lullaby” in 1994 to the fuzzed-out catharsis of “Days Like These” from 2021.
Central to Low’s success, of course, was the inimitable chemistry between Parker and Sparhawk, two childhood friends who grew to be lovers, spouses and parents. But it was Parker’s “singular voice” that took immediate hold over listeners, according to Nina Corcoran’s obituary for Pitchfork.
“Technically speaking, she was a seasoned singer, optimizing breath control, harmonizing with contrasting volume, and employing a subtle trill. She sang gently, and yet her voice always carried far, commanding attention even in the most crowded rooms. It was assured and knowing, as if she were relaying a message from a gutted place, certain that others needed to hear it, too.”
Parker died from ovarian cancer on Nov. 6 at the age 55. — RA
Further reading: Mimi Parker Was The Aching Spirit That Shaped Low’s Incomparable Sound
Canadian country-folk legend and real-life cowboy Ian Tyson gained prominence alongside his first wife Sylvia — recording as Ian & Syvlia — during 1960s folk revival in Toronto. In the early 1970s, Tyson hosted a national television program, “The Ian Tyson Show” on CTV.
After his marriage dissolved, Tyson moved to a ranch in Pincher Creek, Alberta, where he trained horses and penned songs based on his experience as a cowboy.
“He’s kind of our Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen,” Alberta country-rock singer Corb Lund told CBC in 2019. “He’s a guy who’s most embodied the region in art, musically at least.”
Tyson’s most iconic song, “Four Strong Winds,” was chosen by CBC Radio One listeners as the greatest Canadian song of all-time.
He died at the age of 89 on Dec. 29. — RA
Further reading: Folk legend Ian Tyson, known for ‘Four Strong Winds’ as part of Ian & Sylvia, dies
Olivia Newton-John endures as one of the 1980s’ finest exports, a pop sensation with a flair for the theatrical. Her starring performance opposite John Travolta in “Grease” secured her as one of entertainment’s most famous faces, and an illustrious solo music career followed the iconic film.
Born in the U.K. but raised in Melbourne, Australia (with the accent to prove it), Newton-John was destined for the limelight from a young age. Early attempts at pop stardom led to the discovery of her acting abilities, which landed her on Australian television for a number of years. The rest — “Grease,” “Physical,” a 2010s appearance on “Glee” — is history.
“Listen, I think every day is a blessing,” Newton-John told The Guardian in 2020. a “You never know when your time is over; we all have a finite amount of time on this planet, and we just need to be grateful for that.”
She died at age 73 in California following a lengthy battle with cancer. — AM
Further reading: Olivia Newton-John, superstar singer and actress, dies at 73
English singer-songwriter Christine McVie performed as a solo artist and as a member of the blues band Chicken Shack before joining her then-husband, bassist John McIvie, in the rock group Fleetwood Mac in 1970. As keyboardist and one of the band’s vocalists, McVie helped pen a number of Fleetwood’s greatest hits, including “Over My Head,” “Say You Love Me” and “Don’t Stop.”
After she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of Fleetwood Mac in 1998, McVie left the band, staying mostly out of public view until she rejoined in 2014.
“Her soulful contralto could sound by turns maternally wise and sexually alive,” wrote John Farber in the New York Times.” Her tawny tone had the heady effect of a bourbon with a rich bouquet and a smooth finish. It found a graceful place in harmony with the voices of (Stevie) Nicks and (Lindsay) Buckingham, together forming a signature Fleetwood Mac sound.”
McVie died after a brief illness on Nov. 30 at the age of 79. — RA
Theatrical, brash and larger than life, you’d be hard pressed to find a contemporary equivalent to the iconic singer and actor known as Meat Loaf.
Born Michael Lee Aday in Nashville, Tennessee, Meat Loaf was working as a theatre actor in New York when he met songwriter Jim Steinman. Meat Loaf and Steinman struck up a friendship and working relationship that would result in “Bat Out of Hell” in 1977 — an operatic hard rock epic featuring “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” which became one of the best-selling records of all time, moving 43 million copies worldwide. The two would collaborate again on 1993’s “Bat Out of Hell II,” which contained one of Meat Loaf’s most famous tracks, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).”
Beyond music, Meat Loaf had a successful career in theatre (he was in “Hair” and the original Broadway cast of “The Rocky Horror Show”) and as a movie and TV actor (“Fight Club,” “Spice World,” “The Mighty.”). He was also known for his racous live shows.
“Meat Loaf perspired through his ruffled shirts and split the seams of his pants during his animated stage performances,” explained Matt Schudel in a Washington Post obit. “During a concert in Ottawa in 1978, he fell off a stage and broke his leg. He continued the tour from a wheelchair.”
Meat Loaf died at the age of 74 on Jan 20. — RA
Further reading: Raising ‘Hell’: That time Meat Loaf rode a horse in the Sheraton Centre ballroom in Toronto
Born Artis Leon Ivey Jr., Los Angeles rapper Coolio is known around the world as the force behind “Gangsta’s Paradise,” easily one of the most iconic hip hop tracks of all-time. The song made Coolio one of hip hop earliest superstars, one who gained mainstream success with a string of acclaimed albums throughout the 90s.
“Building off the gangster rap and G-funk sounds and images of N.W.A, Ice-T, Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg, Coolio gained a following by combining his credibility with a willingness to appeal to a broad audience by means of softened language, dance tracks, recognizable samples and other nods to past hits,” The New York Times explained.
Coolio, who also appeared in dozens of movies and TV shows, died on Sept. 28 at the age of 59. — RA
Further reading: ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ rapper Coolio dies at age 59
Lynn was one of country music’s biggest stars — as of 2022, she is the most awarded female country recording artist of all-time with 24 No. 1 hit singles and 11 number one albums.
The daughter of a Kentucky coal miner, Lynn’s “frank songs about life and love as a woman in Appalachia pulled her out of poverty and made her a pillar of country music,” wrote Kristin M. Hall in an obituary.
“As a songwriter, she crafted a persona of a defiantly tough woman, a contrast to the stereotypical image of most female country singers. The Country Music Hall of Famer wrote fearlessly about sex and love, cheating husbands, divorce and birth control and sometimes got in trouble with radio programmers for material from which even rock performers once shied away.”
In 1980, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” a biographical musical film based on Lynn’s life, was released theatrically, grossing over $67 million.
Lynn died on Oct. 4 at the age of 90.
Further reading: Loretta Lynn obituary in The Guardian
Other artists we lost
Dallas Good, singer and guitarist of the Toronto rock band The Sadies.
Angelo Badalamenti, composer best known for working with director David Lynch on “Twin Peaks” and films like “Blue Velvet.”
Terry Hall, British singer best known as the lead vocalist of the ska revival band The Specials.
William Hart, singer of the soul group the Delfonics; Thom Bell, singer, songwriter, record producer and one of the creators of Philadelphia soul.
Irene Cara, actor and singer known for “Fame” and “Flashdance.”
Vangelis, Greek composer, best known for arranging the scores for “Chariots of Fire,” “Blade Runner” and other films.
Ronnie Hawkins, Canadian rockabilly and bluegrass singer and key player in Toronto’s 1960s rock scene.
Aaron Carter, pop singer.
Lil Keed, emerging rapper from Atlanta.
Lamont Dozier, legendary Motown singer, songwriter, producer.
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