Troy Gentry, Glen Campbell, Don Williams, Mel Tillis and more
Sadly, 2017 saw the world of music lose so many great talents. Every year, we have to say farewell to some of our favorite musicians, but in 2017, we seemed to experience more than the usual number of passings.
Among those we are mourning…
Mel Tillis, 85, who wrote or co-wrote more than 1,000 songs and recorded more than 60 albums, overcoming a speech impediment to give us so many hits such as “Coca Cola Cowboy, “I Ain’t Never” and “Good Woman Blues.”
Troy Gentry, 50, tragically killed in a helicopter crash on September 8. With Eddie Montgomery, as part of the duo Montgomery Gentry, he recorded more than 20 charting singles that showed the early influence of Southern Rock on these Kentucky boys.
Glen Campbell, 81, who found steady work as an in-demand session guitarist in Los Angeles (on cuts by Elvis, Nancy Sinatra, Dean Martin and many Phil Spector tracks), before finding fame as a singer with worldwide pop/country hits including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Gentle On My Mind” and “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.”
Tom Petty, 66. The singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist was also known as a staunch advocate for artist control over music. With his band, The Heartbreakers, he had scores of pop hits and was also part of The Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne.
Gregg Allman, 69, a Nashville native who was a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band. Despite setbacks and tragedies (including the death of Duane Allman in 1971) the band continued playing, on and off until the 2010s. (Drummer Butch Trucks, another founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, died in January 2017, aged 69.)
Don Williams, 78. A 2010 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Williams’ career included 17 number one Country chart toppers, including the Roger Cook & Sam Hogin-penned crossover hit “I Believe in You.” He was also seen in movies such as “Smokey and the Bandit II” and “WW and the Dixie Dance Kings.”
Robert Knight, 72. The R&B/pop singer and Franklin, Tenn., native was discovered singing at a Vanderbilt frat party and immediately signed to a record deal, resulting in the smash hit “Everlasting Love,” described as “one of the most enduring songs ever to come out of Nashville” by Michael Gray, the Country Music Hall of Fame historian.
Chuck Berry, 90, the rock and roll pioneer whose songwriting and guitar playing influenced generations of pop, rock and country artists. Almost until his death on March 18, 2017, Berry was performing and even recording one final album. His massive hits include “Maybellene,” “Little Queenie” and “Roll Over Beethoven.”
And so many others, including…
David Cassidy, 69, teenage heartthrob singer who found fame as part of TV’s Partridge Family… Della Reese, 86, the phenomenal R&B/Soul singer who later became a move & TV star… Fats Domino, 89, the unique New Orleans rock and roll pianist and singer… Al Jarreau, 76, the multi-Grammy-winning singer of bluesy pop hits such as “We’re In This Love Together”… Walter Becker, 67, the singer/songwriter who, with Dan Fagen, formed Steely Dan… Malcolm Young, 64, guitarist, singer and co-founder (with brother Angus) of the hard rock band AC/DC… Johnny Hallyday, 74, known as the ‘French Elvis,’ he released an astonishing 79 albums, selling more than 80 million records worldwide… Wayne Cochran, 78, the ‘blue-eyed soul’ singer whose flamboyant stage performance influenced Elvis, wrote and recorded the original version of the teen tragedy (‘splatter platter’) hit, “Last Kiss.”
Yes, there were more, and all will be missed. As The Righteous Brothers sang in 1974: “If there’s a rock and roll heaven, you know they’ve got a hell of a band.”