Musicians Who Passed Away In 2018
Musicians inspire all of us, and their lives are never truly over because their work persists through time, delighting and inspiring others for years to come. These musicians may have left us in 2018, but their compositions, performances, and works of brilliance will live on forever.
It can’t be easy joining a band after it has already had major success – and its beloved stars have left. It’s almost always a no-win situation unless you’re talking about Dennis Edwards. After the Temptations delighted millions of fans throughout the ’60s with perfect pop songs like “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” lead singer David Ruffin left the group in ’68 – and Edwards had the seemingly thankless job of replacing him.
However, this was right when the band was heading into its psychedelic-funk phase, and Edwards was just the guy to hold listeners’ hands-on innovative, future-thinking songs like “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Edwards was part of the Temptations off and on until 1989 – the year the act entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. According to Edwards’ wife, the pop icon passed away from complications of meningitis on February 1st, 2018, just two days shy of his 75th birthday.
Thanks to musicians like Billy Ray Cyrus and Garth Brooks, country music boomed in popularity in the early ’90s. Even more traditional country acts like George Strait and Randy Travis got a visibility boost, and the doors were opened for new singers like Daryle Singletary. While he made do playing bars in Nashville, Singletary’s demo for the song “An Old Pair of Shoes” caught the attention of Travis, and his then-wife Elizabeth jumped at the chance to manage the young singer.
Randy Travis produced Singletary’s self-titled debut album, which included big country hits like “Too Much Fun” and “I Let Her Lie.” By 2017, he teamed up with singer Rhonda Vincent to release American Grandstand, a collection of covers of classic country duets. On February 12th, 2018, the 46-year-old Singletary died unexpectedly at his home in Tennessee.
Ellen Joyce Loo
Born in Toronto, Ellen Joyce Loo moved with her family to Hong Kong at the age of 4 and signed her first recording contract as a teen. In 2002, she broke through as one half of the “Cantopop” duo, at17. But by 2010, Loo dissolved the band, moved to Taiwan, and went solo. In 2017, Loo won a music industry prize and used the occasion to publicly come out as a lesbian during her acceptance speech.
But Loo also struggled with mental illness, having been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2013. Sadly, it appeared that she was overcome by her illness. On August 5th, her body was found outside the high-rise building where she lived in Hong Kong, following reports to local police of a falling woman. The singer was 32.
Rapper Mac Miller first gained attention in 2010 for his mixtape K.I.D.S. when he was just 18. It spawned the hit single “Knock Knock,” and the next year his first studio album, Blue Slide Park topped the charts. Miller went on to release even more hit singles, produce music for other rappers, and star on his own MTV2 show, Mac Miller and the Most Dope Family. Miller also made headlines for his personal life, including his high-profile relationship with pop star Ariana Grande.
They split in May 2018, shortly before Miller hit a utility pole with his G-Wagon and was charged with DUI and fleeing the scene, according to TMZ. Miller was open about his struggles with substance abuse and depression, both in his songs and in interviews. According to police officers via TMZ, Miller was found in his home in California, where he was pronounced dead on September 7th. He was 26.
Amidst all the angst present in early 1990s grunge and alternative rock, the Cranberries offered something different: alternately exuberant and melancholy pop with a traditionally Irish-inspired through-line. Much of that came from the unforgettable and haunting voice of the band’s lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan. Born in Limerick, Ireland, her voice propelled songs like “Linger,” “Zombie,” “Dreams” and “When You’re Gone” to international hit status. She did cancel some Cranberries tour dates, taking most of 2017 off because of back issues, but when O’Riordan was found dead in her London hotel room on January 15th, 2018, friends and fans were shocked. She was 46 years old.
There are only a handful of film composers who enjoy name recognition among even casual movie or music buffs, and Jóhann Jóhannsson was among them. He was extremely prolific and had a unique sound among modern film musicians – and his scores were minimal, haunting, and experimental. Jóhannsson was routinely recognized by his peers, with two Academy Award nominations for his work on Sicario and The Theory of Everything, along with multiple Golden Globe, BAFTA, and various critical kudos for those films, as well as for his spooky work on Arrival.
More than a lauded film score composer, the Icelandic musician also wrote original works for the theater, dance companies, and TV – and found time to release six solo albums, too. Jóhannsson was discovered deceased in his Berlin apartment on February 9th, at 48 years old.
South Florida rapper XXXTentacion was among the most notable “Soundcloud rappers” in 2014. His first “official” single, “Look at Me,” hit the top 30 on Billboard’s pop chart in 2017. Later that year, X dropped his first non-Soundcloud album, 17, which peaked at Number 2 on the album chart.
His follow-up, ?, went all the way to Number 1.
All that success came amid a troubled personal life. Vulture reported that in 2016, he allegedly assaulted a lover multiple times. Prosecutors charged the rapper with aggravated battery of a pregnant woman, domestic battery by strangulation, and other charges, although he never resolved the case. On June 18th, 2018, X was fatally gunned down in what police believe to be a robbery. The rapper was only 20.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is the definitive Southern rock band thanks to hits like “Free Bird,” “Tuesday’s Gone,” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” But oddly enough, it took a guy from California to help the group nail its sound. West coaster Ed King joined Skynyrd in 1972, as the third guitar in its unique triple-guitar sound. He also co-wrote “Sweet Home Alabama,” and he can be heard doing the “1-2-3” countdown at the beginning of the iconic tune.
King’s work appears on Skynyrd’s first three albums. He left the band in 1975, but in 2006, more than 30 years after his departure, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd. According to King’s Facebook, he died at his home in Nashville on August 22nd, having recently battled lung cancer. The guitarist was 68.
Among the four- and five-member boy bands of the ’90s, came LFO to disrupt the TRL rankings and Backstreet Boys-patented formula. There were only three of them, and they didn’t sing so much as they half-sang/half-rapped in a style now most associated with Drake. But LFO – short for “Lyte
and charming, especially one Devin Lima. His vocal stylings helped propel the band to the upper reaches of the charts with singles like “Summer Girls” and “Girl on TV.” At just 41, Lima passed away on November 21st after a yearlong fight against adrenal cancer.
Jim Rodford played bass with two of the most popular and most loved classic rock bands of the twentieth century – although he wasn’t an original member of either. In the mid-1960s, he helped his cousin Rod Argent’s band, the Zombies, get their start, and go on to score hits like “Time of the Season” and “She’s Not There.”
After the Zombies broke up, Rodford went on to form the band Argent with his cousin, and then moved on to the Kinks, replacing original bassist John Dalton, and staying with the group until their split in 1996. Rodford finally did become a member of the Zombies… in 2004, when the group reunited. Rod Argent posted via Facebook of his cousin and collaborator’s death “after a fall on the stairs” on January 20th, 2018. He was 76.
Since the dawn of the 2010s, superstar DJs have been the new rock stars. EDM, short for “electronic dance music,” has grown into a mainstream genre thanks to performers like Calvin Harris, Skrillex, and Tim Bergling, a Swedish DJ and producer better known by his stage name, Avicii. The DJ parlayed his success as a masterful live entertainer into short-form radio hits, such as “Levels,” “You Make Me,” “I Could Be the One,” and “Wake Me Up,” which hit Number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013 and became one of the most inescapable tracks of the decade.
But while Avicii was doing great, Tim Bergling was not. At 21, the musician was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, which he attributed to excessive drinking. By 25, he had his appendix and gallbladder removed. Not long after, he announced that he was quitting touring and live gigs, but would keep making as much music as possible in the studio. Sadly, he passed away on April 20th, 2018 at just 28 years old.
Aretha Franklin brought her soaring and unbelievable voice to the world of contemporary music in the ’60s, with hits like “Think,” “Chain of Fools,” and “Respect,” which spoke to the civil rights and feminist movements of the era. Franklin enjoyed a rare second
All told, Franklin scored 17 Top 10 hits on the Billboard pop chart, and 20 Number Ones on the R&B; end. In 1987, she became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and she sang at inauguration festivities for Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama. Franklin died at her home in Detroit on August 16th, of pancreatic cancer. She was 76.
In 2018, we lost brilliant musicians across all genres and eras, also
Ray Thomas from the Moody Blues…The Buzzcock’s Pete Shelley…Motorhead’s Eddie Clark…singer Lari White…guitarist Josh Martin…The Staples Singers’ Yvonne Staples…Elvis drummer D.J. Fontana…HeeHaw’s Roy Clark…Hardy Fox from The Residents…We Came As Romans vocalist Kyle Pavone …Oli Herbert from All That Remains…DJ Ready Red…D.O.A.’s Randy Rampage…Scott Hutchison from Frightened Rabbit…guitarist and composer Glenn Branca …”Father of South African Jazz” Hugh Masekela …classic crooner Vic Damone…country music’s Randy Scruggs…Fleetwood Mac’s Danny Kirwan…Mark E. Smith from The Fall…Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul…rapper Craig Mack…Marty Balin from Jefferson Airplane…and hip hop’s Lovebug Starski.