The music world lost many major artists in 2018, but perhaps none more beloved or impactful than the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who died of pancreatic cancer at her Detroit home on August 16 at age 76.
The first female performer ever to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Franklin had had health problems for the past few years, and she often had canceled concerts. In late 2017, she appeared alarmingly thin at a charity event but claimed it was a side effect of an unspecified medication. After announcing she was retiring from the road in 2017, Aretha still lined up shows for 2018, but in March, she was ordered by her doctors to cancel all of her performances and rest for two months.
In the days leading up to her passing, news reports emerged that Aretha was gravely ill and had received visits from her friend Stevie Wonder and Rev. Jesse Jackson.
A free tribute concert featuring The Four Tops, Patti LaBelle and many others was held in Detroit’s Chene Park Amphitheatre on August 30, the night before Aretha’s funeral. The funeral service itself, held at Motown’s Greater Grace Temple, was a nine-hour affair televised and streamed live online.
The memorial featured speeches by former President Bill Clinton, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Tyler Perry, Cicely Tyson, record executive Clive Davis and Aretha’s childhood friend Smokey Robinson.
Musical performers at the service who honored the Queen included Faith Hill, Ariana Grande, Ron Isley, Chaka Khan, Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson, Gladys Knight, Wonder and Jennifer Holliday.
founding Jefferson Airplane singer and longtime Jefferson Starship member Marty Balin passed away of unspecified causes on September 27 at age 76. Among the memorable tunes Balin sang with his famous groups include “Today,” “Volunteers,” “Miracles,” “Count on Me” and “With Your Love.”
Shortly before his death, Balin had launched a medical malpractice lawsuit against a New York City hospital, claiming that poor care following a March 2016 heart operation had left him with major health issues, including a paralyzed vocal cord and kidney damage. He also had to have his thumb amputated, and lost half of his tongue. Despite his ailments, Marty was working on a new album at the time of his death.
Early in the year, on January 4, founding Moody Blues flute player and singer Ray Thomas died of unspecified causes after a long period of ill health. A month earlier, Thomas had found out that he was to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with his band in April 2018.
Thomas was perhaps best known for playing the flute solo in The Moodies’ signature song “Nights in White Satin” and he also wrote and sang such tunes as “Legend of a Mind,” “Twilight Time,” “Dear Diary” “And the Tide Rushes In” and “For My Lady.” He retired from The Moody Blues 2002.
AND THE REST
Here are many of the music figures who died in 2018, in chronological order:
Ray Thomas — January 4 — singer and flute player with The Moody Blues. Died at age 76.
Dolores O’Riordan — January 15 — frontwoman of Irish pop-rock band The Cranberries. Died by accidental drowning and extreme alcohol intoxication. She was 46.
Jim Rodford — January 20 — played bass with Argent, The Kinks and The Zombies. Died after a fall down a flight of stairs at his U.K. home. He was 76.
Hugh Masekela — January 23 — South African jazz trumpeter, topped the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968 with the instrumental “Grazing in the Grass.” Died of prostate cancer at age 78.
Dennis Edwards — February 1 — former singer with The Temptations. Died of complications from meningitis at age 75.
Pat Torpey — February 7 — founding drummer of Mr. Big. Died of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 64.
Mickey Jones — February 7 — character actor and drummer who played with Kenny Rogers’ band The First Edition and toured with Bob Dylan. Died of complications of diabetes, He was 76.
John Perry Barlow — February 7 — wrote lyrics for many Grateful Dead songs. Died of unspecified causes at age 70.
Craig MacGregor — February 9 — longtime bass player for Foghat. Died of lung cancer at age 68.
Vic Damone — February 11 — singer and actor, born Vito Farinola, best-known for the hits “You’re Breaking My Heart” and “On the Street Where You Live.” Died from complications of a respiratory illness. He was 89.
Barbara Alston — February 16 — member of the famed girl group The Crystals. Died from complications of the flu. She was 74.
Nokie Edwards — March 12 — longtime lead guitarist of the instrumental surf-rock band The Ventures. Died following complications from hip surgery. He was 82.
Mike Harrison — March 25 — founding lead singer of Spooky Tooth. Died of unspecified causes at age 72.
Yvonne Staples — April 10 — member and manager of gospel/soul group The Staple Singers, whose memorable hits include “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” Died of colon cancer at age 80.
Charles Neville — April 26 — saxophonist for The Neville Brothers. Died of pancreatic cancer at age 79.
John “Jabo” Starks — May 1 — influential funk/soul drummer who played with James Brown. Died after a battle with leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes. He was 79.
Danny Kirwan — June 8 — guitarist, singer and songwriter with Fleetwood Mac from 1968 to 1972. Fired from the band due to alcohol abuse. Died of unspecified causes at age 68.
DJ Fontana — June 13 — drummer who played with Elvis Presley from 1954 to 1968. Also played with country greats Webb Pierce and Faron Young, and ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. Died in his sleep at age 87.
Matt “Guitar” Murphy — June 14 — blues and rock guitarist and in-demand session player, member of the Blues Brothers band, appeared in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers. Died of a heart attack at age 88.
Alan Longmuir — July 2 — bassist was a founding member of The Bay City Rollers along with his younger brother, drummer Derek Longmuir. Died at age 70.
Aretha Franklin — August 16 — legendary R&B singer known as “The Queen of Soul,” and the first female performer inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Hits include “Respect,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools” and many more. Winner of 18 Grammys. Died of pancreatic cancer at age 76.
Ed Willis — August 20 — longtime guitarist of Motown Records’ in-house session band The Funk Brothers. Died from complications of polio. He was 82.
Ed King — August 22 — guitarist and bassist for Strawberry Alarm Clock and then for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama” and played the classic song’s opening riff. Died from complications of lung cancer at age 68.
Maartin Allcock — September 16 — multi-instrumentalist who was a former member of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull. Died of liver cancer at age 61.
Marty Balin — September 27 — co-founder and co-lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, singer with Jefferson Starship and solo artist. Born Martyn Buchwald, he died of unspecified causes at age 76.
Otis Rush — September 29 — influential blues guitarist and singer. Died from complications of a stroke. He was 84.
Tony Joe White — October 24 — singer/songwriter whose compositions included “Polk Salad Annie” and “Rainy Night in Georgia.” Died of a heart attack at age 75.
Wah Wah Watson — October 24 — guitarist, born Melvin Ragin, played with Motown Records’ in-house session band The Funk Brothers. Died of unspecified causes at age 67.
Hugh McDowell — November 6 — cello player with Electric Light Orchestra during the 1970s. Died of cancer at age 65.
Roy Clark — November 15 — Country Music Hall of Fame member, renowned multi-instrumentalist and longtime co-host of TV’s Hee Haw. Scored a top 20 pop hit in 1969 with “Yesterday When I Was Young.” Died of natural causes at age 85.
Joe Osborn — December 14 — bassist in Ricky Nelson’s band during the early 1960s, then played on many artists’ classic hits as a member of the Los Angeles session outfit The Wrecking Crew from 1964 to 1974. Died of pancreatic cancer at age 81.
Norman Gimbel — December 19 — lyricist who co-wrote such hits as Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly with His Song,” Jim Croce’s “I Got a Name” and Astrud Gilberto’s “The Girl from Ipanema.” He also wrote the words the theme songs to many TV shows, including Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Gimbel died of unspecified causes at age 91.
Ray Sawyer — December 28 — singer, founding member pop-rock group Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show and Dr. Hook, which had such hits as “Sylvia’s Mother,” “The Cover of Rolling Stone” and “When You’re In Love with a Beautiful Woman.” Sawyer died of unspecified causes at age 81.
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