David Bowie 1
Rock stars, movie stars, TV stars... there is a timelessness about modern fame that is still relatively new to us in terms of our history and how we see it. The age of electronic communications has increasingly preserved our icons in ways no statue or painting ever could.
We are often shocked when we see photos of aging celebrities looking... old. This is especially true of celebrities who we have known since they -- and we-- were young and beautiful.

"Every time a musician's name is trending, I hold my breath." -- Sugapablo

davidleeroth young davidleeroth 2016
David Lee Roth (who is alive and well) was a sex symbol with a full head of hair when Van Halen exploded on the music scene in 1979. The videos, posters and album covers all preserved that image for decades, so it's little wonder fans were shocked when Van Halen did their recent reunion tour and Roth looked more like the doctor from Lost in Space than a rock star.
It's hard to age gracefully when the music is about sex, drugs and rock n roll. There's a point when a sex symbol singer starts to become a creepy old man.
Robert Plant Aug 20 1948 68

Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant understands that. He realizes he is no longer the sexy rock God with a mane of golden locks, crooning and preening for the screaming young women in the audience.

"I just can't do that anymore" he said in a recent interview. Plant, who is now 68 years old, is in a different place artistically and as a person-- he knows he is not the same man he was 40 years ago, both physically and mentally.
The open shirt, tight jeans and moaning, "Baby, baby, baby" just doesn't work the same when it's coming from a man approaching 70.
His musical partner, legendary guitarist Jimmy Page, is 72, and with his white hair looks more like Beethoven than a lead guitarist. Roger Daltrey, another rock God frontman from The Who, is also 72.
Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger
Mick Jagger, the very embodiment of the swaggering lead singer, and his partner in crime and definition of rock star excess, Keith Richards, are both 73. All the above have lived what most definitely constitutes a full life, but the element of tragedy that we have so long associated with rock star deaths simply isn't there.

The thought is, however, a stark reminder of our own mortality, which is perhaps even more shocking to our sensibilities.


"I literally broke down in tears when I heard about David Bowie. It was devastating." -- Joey Granati, Granati Brothers

Prince 2
Prince, who was found dead in an elevator at the age of 57, was tragic. There was no reason the expect something like that to happen. He was still relatively young. Chuck Berry, who pretty much helped invent rock n roll, is 90 and is still with us. That is more surprising to me than his death will be.

"2016 was like a punch to the gut - especially Bowie and Prince, but man, let's face it - a few of us chatting here are old enough to expect some truly difficult years as people that we loved since our childhood or teens will certainly pass on to the next world - it happens to the best of 'em, no matter who. What will it be like when the remaining Zep guys, Gilmour, remaining Who alumni, McCartney & Ringo, etc,? Let's be thankful we still have some greats left,and a few of us that genuinely care as well! No disrespect to Prince, or especially Bowie, who worked tirelessly til' the end. Live in this moment - it's the one we have." -- Gabriel Ceyrolles

The 27 Club
Any death at the age of 27 is tragic. When it's a rock star at the height of their fame, it becomes magnified a thousand fold.
 robert johnson
Legendary Blues musician Robert Johnson is the original member of the Club, having died in 1938 after drinking tainted whiskey. His music would live on to influence the British invasion of the 1960s in bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
The suicide of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain is, after Michael Jackson (who was not in the club, btw), perhaps the most widely reported and well known rock star death in history. The band had literally blown up the entire music world when their video for the mega hit "Smells Like Teen Spirit" first appeared on MTV. The anger and angst of an entire generation found an anthem and everything changed after that.
Cobain was at the height of his career and still rising. He had a new baby. He had everything to live for and then in a flash, he was gone. Just gone. By his own hand. It defies logic. It challenges our most deeply held beliefs at their very core. We demanded answers for what we perceived as a senseless act of tragic proportions. There MUST be an explanation.
So many of the members of the 27 Club have one word in common that explains their untimely demise: Overdose.
amy winehouse
Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Alan Wilson, Kristen Pfraf, Jeremy Ward... even the 'deaths by misadventure', like Brian Jones, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix, involved drugs and/or alcohol.
Although Cobain was battling addiction to heroin, he didn't overdose. He took a shotgun and blew his brains out.
It was so shocking even non-fans of Nirvana had a moment of introspection when they heard the news.
A rock star death by OD is not shocking beyond the sudden loss. Society expects rock stars to live dangerously and party hard, so the cause of death doesn't challenge our sensibilities, at least not in the way it really should. An OD is really just slow suicide by other means, and was probably proceeded by unanswered cries for help, because at that level of success, no one wants to rock the boat. No one wants to kill the cash cow.
The warning signs were all there in retrospect. Band members, management and even family members say it in hindsight.
Cobain unfortunately shares the tragedy of suicide with singer songwriter Peter Ham of Badfinger, who hanged himself in a garage just days before his 28th birthday.

 "I wish 2016 would end!" -- half the people on the internet.

Glenn Frey
Glenn Frey of the Eagles.
 Don't blame the year.
The hard truth is, Rock Music is getting a bit long in the tooth. The Who said it 40 years ago. "Talkin' bout my generation". And my generation is past our prime. We fancy ourselves to be young, but we're not. We are middle-aged adults with a mortgage and car payments and a couple of kids ready for college. We are basically our parents with better music.
My friends are thrilled when their kids 'discover' a band they grew up with. They post about it on the internet like their kid just graduated with honors. "My kid likes Pink Floyd!!!"
The fact is, some music is timeless. It appeals to the heart and soul and crosses barriers that transcend, "My Generation."
There was once a musician who was writing music that was very different from what was considered 'good music' at the time. It was becoming popular with young people, who were starting to express themselves through fashion, art and music in ways that alarmed their parents. Indeed, they were considered rebellious and even dangerous by the establishment.
Wolfgang amadeus mozart 1 revert
That over-the-top musician was Mozart. He was arguably the first "rock star".
It's kind of odd to think that in the distant future, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Nirvana will be our Mozarts.
It's important to understand that we have far more opportunities to become famous than they did in Mozart's day. Back then, it was uncommon for average people to even attempt to play a musical instrument, let alone become a professional musician.
We on the other hand have mass media and a huge number of musical icons from just the past 50 years-- probably more than the entire rest of human history combined-- who in turn inspired millions of kids to pick up an instrument in numbers that dwarf what was common before the 1950s. And the Fifties was when so many of our musical icons were kids, picking up a guitar and learning the riffs of Chuck Berry. 1960 was 56 years ago. Think about it.
Leon Russel
Leon Russell
The death toll we are starting to see might be startling, but it is not tragic. It's a natural process. It's the perceptions we have, coupled with the sheer number of famous people in the world and the speed at which news travels that we find shocking. It's not just the member of a band dying, it's an entire generation of music passing away. The soundtrack of our lives has become the score for our own mortality.
And not meaning to be a downer, but there's much more to come. This year saw an average of 1.5 rock star deaths per month and there is every reason to expect that to rise in 2017, because although some were tragic, most were age related.
Merle Haggard
Although Merle Haggard wasn't a 'rock star', he was most certainly an icon of music.

"We lost local musicians as well as nationally known ones. B.E. being probably the most prominent. Others struggling through illnesses. Some taking their own lives. 2016 can please stop. It's almost like the biblical rapture in the entertainment industry." -- Cathy Stewart

B.E. Taylor
Pittsburgh's B.E. Taylor was in his 60's when he passed away this year. Not a ripe old age, but also not tragically young. The tragedy in his passing is the loss we as a community will experience each year his celebrated Christmas Shows slip away into the past, and the loss felt by his friends, fans and of course, his family.

This year almost all of us have experienced the loss of a musician who has touched our lives in deeply personal ways. Some have inspired us creatively, others were there for us during the good times and the bad. As stated earlier, the soundtrack of our lives.

We lost some musical greats this past year, no doubt about it.

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen

"Keith Richards lives. Ozzy is alive. Iggy still stalks the streets. 2016 was amateur year. Mourn your heroes, even the OD'S. But you ain't seen nothin yet."  --James Van Fossen

 George Michael
George Michael
The death of George Michael on Christmas Day, at the young age of 53, served to add an extremely poignant exclamation point to a year that saw so many of our favorite musicians passing on to the great gig in the sky.
David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones, Leon Russell... The list of names is truly a Hall of Fame in the Afterlife.

"I was saddened by Bowie's death. I always loved the classic hits, and he seemed like such a cool guy that would treat his fans with respect. But I was truly devastated by the death of Prince. He was too young and still had great music in him. When I read the news I cried like I'd lost a friend. Ever since hearing I Wanna Be Your Lover in 1979, I've been in love with his music. It peaked in the 80s and continued through the 90s. Saw him live at the Arena in '04 and was blown away." -- Scott Blasey, The Clarks

david bowie 2015
The Thin White Duke of Rock: David Bowie
Of all the deaths this year, it was David Bowie who hit me hardest. He was a favorite of mine. A Star in the truest sense of the word who was at once an epic, shape shifting chameleon, and yet as constant and bright as the sun itself.
It felt like the sun didn’t rise when I heard the news.
Bowie embodied the spirit that animated music since the 1960s. He turned convention and collective wisdom on it’s head, spun it around a few times, and presented life to us in ways that forced us to react. He demanded our attention and in return, gave us something that was truly worth paying attention to, and more importantly, made us think and feel.
David Bowie made being “different”, “odd”, “strange”, “unique”, into a most visible template for many musicians who followed. From Glam to Goth, Bowie inspired millions of young people to be who they are, and to embrace the ever changing nature of how we present ourselves to the world around us. And he did it ways that will resonate long after he left us.
And perhaps most importantly, he did all that while entertaining us, and he did what all the greats do: he left us wanting more.
Each of us lost someone this year, someone who was more like losing a friend, or even a member of our family, and not simply a performer. We lost a part of ourselves.
Below are some additional comments about 2016 from Pittsburgh musicians

"If there's one thing I've learned from losing so many amazing artists in 2016, it's this: buy the damn concert tickets." -- Katie Simone

"There's always the Rolling Stones. There will always be the Rolling Stones. What kind of world are YOUR grandchildren planning to leave for Keith Richards?" -- John Perkovic

"I haven't read the article yet, but I promise I'm still wandering about on this earthly plane...."  -- Phat Man Dee

"People grow old~they die...musicians are not exempt from this but I believe in Reincarnation~the Energy of these amazing people will return to produce beautiful art again! Meanwhile, their music lives on in this lifetime." -- Terry Filia Popovich, Cosmic Attack Blues Band

"Each year we come closer n closer to the end of the "rockstar". 2016 felt like the cheat code from Hell n put us into a bit of warp speed...sadly." -- Robbie Perrone, East End

"Emerson, Lake and Squire were big ones for me." -- Ketan Bakrania, Chaibaba

"Much like every year....We've lost too many this year, not only musical geniuses, but loved ones as well. Savor the moments left with loved ones...." -- Sean Nestor, Homicide Black

"I'd like to say that, like the George Harrison album, all things must pass. All artists, whether an actor or musician will live on through their fans and art. It brings us closer as fans and brings us closer as an artistic community. I was 15 when SRV died and to this day it makes his music more important to me. Enjoy each other while you're still around. Tell your friends you love them. It might be your last chance." -- Martin Feick

"The brightest stars often are the first to fade out. For me, Prince had this biggest impact, as far the amazing artists that we have lost in 2016. Although, each had their role in changing the musical landscape for many." -- Chris Roy, Vermithrax

"I think that it will continue in 17. Unfortunately, our music idols are at that age... We have stayed young though!" -- Joe Reibling

"It's been pretty ill for awhile now." -- Khaleef D. Williams

"This is a post from my page the day that Bowie died. It was accompanied by a photo that hangs over my home studio desk. This is one of three photos that have hung above my home studio desk for years. I'm not usually one to weigh in on things like this via facebook. But, it's Bowie.

Because my parents are righteous, intelligent, cool and open minded people I have known Bowie's music for longer than I can recall. The cover of the Diamond Dogs LP used to freak me out a little as a young child. I remember JBL's slamming to Suffragette while vinyl spun.

A few years back, a friend of mine who is in the audio recording business got me hip to a quote from Stephen King. It goes something like this. "Talent is never static, it's always growing or dying."

I kept thinking of this when trying to conceptualize Bowie's greatness. He represented so many fantastic forms, and stasis, was surely never a part of his various incarnations.

It is no coincidence that the list of his many styles are exactly what makes up popular music today. Folk, space, rock, jazz, synth, dance, orchestral, we could keep going. Combinations of these forms are the fabric of modern popular music. As if we are all building off of a blueprint created by the man.

There will be countless songs shared and farewells noted. But maybe most importantly, think of stasis. Battle the stasis. Don't stop wearing different clothes or reading new books. Don't be afraid to pick up a new instrument or take a foray into a new genre. If the brilliance of the man is to be paid tribute to and emulated. Swear off the static."

-- T.j. Connolly

"As I am about to turn 60.. and have spent the last few years becoming "that" person that checks the damn obits every morning to make sure nobody I know is gone.. :P Here's the thing about the musical and entertainment world losses this year.. Yes it seems the Grim Reaper brought in a hell of a harvest this year.. Starting at the end of '15 with Lemmy and continuing all the way up to today with "Leia" Soo many of our musical and entertainment world heros fell this year.. I think the problem is, as the heros of the past, die off.. I see very few, if any, young bucks stepping up to the plate.. in 20,30, 40 years.. how many of the young rising stars of today will have stood the test of time, prove to have been trail blazers and not copiers.. Still be relevant? That's the loss I think people feel the most.. As for me, even though it was coming and expected.. the one that got me in the feels the most was Ali.. not a musical loss.. but a personal hero.. Rest in Power all.. Strap in folks.. '17 doesn't hold much promise..."  -- Mama Jo

"One generation yields to the next...what's new?" -- Ken Smelko






Category: Main Stage