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In Memoriam 2018: The Musicians We Lost

Soul singer Aretha Franklin poses for a portrait in 1964.
Michael Ochs Archives
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Soul singer Aretha Franklin poses for a portrait in 1964.

From standard-bearing singers and instrumentalists to genre innovators, from businesspeople who introduced new ways of listening and sharing to activists who made performance their platform, vital voices from all over the music map left us this year — some far too soon.

Hear a few of their legacies discussed in this episode of All Songs Considered, featuring NPR Music's Tom Huizenga and Robin Hilton, and explore many more in the list below. (You can also hear an audio montage of these artists' work here, courtesy of Morning Edition.)

Robert Mann

July 19, 1920 – Jan. 1, 2018

A violinist and founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet, Mann was a performer, composer, educator, conductor and mentor to generations of musicians. ( Read the full obituary)

"Fast" Eddie Clarke

Oct. 5, 1950 – Jan. 10, 2018

Clarke was responsible for the punk chugs and cascading, peak-metal riffs within some of Motörhead's most enduring songs, including "Ace of Spades," "Capricorn," "Overkill" and "Fast and Loose." ( Read the full obituary)

Guillaume Souvant / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Dolores O'Riordan

Sept. 6, 1971 – Jan. 15, 2018

O'Riordan defined the sound of The Cranberries with hit songs like "Linger," "Salvation" and "Zombie." She brought an Irish inflection to pop charts around the world, particularly in the 1990s. ( Read the full obituary)

Edwin Hawkins

Aug. 19, 1943 – Jan. 15, 2018

In 1970, the Edwin Hawkins Singers' "Oh Happy Day" won a Grammy for best soul gospel performance. The unusual pop hit wished goodwill to mankind, regardless of religious persuasion. ( Read the full obituary)

Hugh Masekela performs in New Delhi in 2004.
Prakash Singh / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
Hugh Masekela performs in New Delhi in 2004.

Hugh Masekela

April 4, 1939 – Jan. 23, 2018

The legendary South African jazz musician — a trumpet and flugelhorn player, composer, bandleader and singer — was also a leading international voice against apartheid. ( Read the full obituary)

Jim Dyson / Getty Images
Getty Images

Mark E. Smith

March 5, 1957 – Jan. 24, 2018

As the lead singer of The Fall, one of the defining post-punk bands of the 1980s and beyond, Smith speak-shouted his way through class-politics diatribes and stories of scummy people. ( Read the full obituary)

Lovebug Starski

May 16, 1960 – Feb. 8, 2018

A pioneering DJ and rapper from the Bronx, Lovebug Starski helped coin the phrase "hip-hop" during the late 1970s, when the culture was still in its infancy. ( Read the full obituary)

Jóhann Jóhannsson

Sept. 19, 1969 – Feb. 9, 2018

A renowned avant-garde composer, Jóhannsson worked at the intersection of electronic and classical music. He received a best original score Oscar for The Theory Of Everything in 2015. ( Read the full obituary)

Tower Records founder Russ Solomon above his Sacramento, Calif., store in 1989.
/ Courtesy of 'All Things Must Pass'
Courtesy of 'All Things Must Pass'
Tower Records founder Russ Solomon above his Sacramento, Calif., store in 1989.

Russ Solomon

Sept. 22, 1925 – March 4, 2018

The founder of the enormously influential and widely beloved retail chain Tower Records, Solomon spent his life championing physical music. ( Read the full obituary)

Craig Mack

May 10, 1970 – March 12, 2018

The South Carolina rapper made his name with the Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling 1994 song "Flava In Ya Ear." ( Read the full obituary)

Thomas Coex / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

José Antonio Abreu

May 7, 1939 – March 24, 2018

Abreu was a Venezuelan musician, economist and educator who created the acclaimed network of youth orchestras known as El Sistema, which has been widely copied in North America and Europe. ( Read the full obituary)

Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images
Getty Images

Cecil Taylor

March 25, 1929 – April 5, 2018

An icon of the avant-garde for more than half a century, free jazz pianist and composer Cecil Taylor used the entire range of the piano to create a unique musical language. ( Read the full obituary)

Yvonne Staples

Oct. 23, 1937 – April 10, 2018

Along with her siblings Mavis and Pervis, Yvonne Staples began singing in church choirs in the 1940s. She would eventually join the family band — the renowned soul, gospel and R&B group The Staple Singers. ( Read the full obituary)

Mike Lawrie / Getty Images
Getty Images


Sept. 8, 1989 – April 20, 2018

The 28-year-old Swedish EDM star was one of the world's most successful, fusing broad dance textures with pop melodics on tracks like "Wake Me Up," "Levels" and "Sunshine." ( Read the full obituary)

Bob Dorough

Dec. 12, 1923 – April 23, 2018

Arkansas-born and Texas-raised, Dorough began his career as a composer, arranger and singer in the New York jazz scene of the 1950s and '60s before becoming the musical keystone of Schoolhouse Rock!( Read the full obituary)

AFP / Getty Images
Getty Images

Charles Neville

Dec. 28, 1938 – April 26, 2018

The saxophonist was the second oldest of the four brothers who would go on to form the legendary Crescent City band The Neville Brothers. ( Read the full obituary)

John "Jab'o" Starks

Oct. 26, 1938 – May 1, 2018

The drummer provided the clockwork-steady groove for James Brown's iconic mid-'60s band, and stayed with the godfather of soul through the early '70s. ( Read the full obituary)

Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images
Getty Images

Scott Hutchison

Nov. 20, 1981 – May 10, 2018

As the leader of the Scottish indie band Frightened Rabbit, Hutchinson wrote bleak but often triumphantly arranged rock songs tackling depression, anxiety and self-doubt. ( Read the full obituary)

Hiroyuki Ito / Getty Images
Getty Images

Glenn Branca

Oct. 6, 1948 – May 13, 2018

The guitarist and composer merged noise and art music, saturating audiences and players alike with walls of sound and influencing a generation of New York artists. ( Read the full obituary)

Getty Images / Getty Images
Getty Images

Clarence Fountain

Nov. 28, 1929 – June 3, 2018

The last remaining co-founder of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Fountain was a foundational American gospel singer. ( Read the full obituary)

Lorraine Gordon

Oct. 15, 1922 – June 9, 2018

Jazz champion Lorraine Gordon spent three decades running New York's Village Vanguard, a club that may come closer than any other to embodying the spirit of jazz itself. ( Read the full obituary)


Jan. 23, 1998 – June 18, 2018

Killed just months after releasing his first No. 1 album, the 20-year-old was one of the biggest names to emerge from "SoundCloud rap," and the focus of protests following charges of domestic assault and other violence. ( Read the full obituary)

Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Getty Images

Richard Swift

March 16, 1977 – July 3, 2018

A collaborator of The Shins and The Black Keys, as well as an in-demand producer for acts including Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Foxygen, Swift also left behind a beloved body of solo work. ( Read the full obituary)

Lorrie Collins

May 7, 1942 – Aug. 4, 2018

Collins became a star in her teens, singing and playing guitar with her brother Larry in the rockabilly duo the Collins Kids, whose style and stage presence made them a hit on 1950s television. ( Read the full obituary)

Walter Iooss Jr / Getty Images
Getty Images

Aretha Franklin

March 25, 1942 – Aug. 16, 2018

The "Queen of Soul" sold more than 75 million records during her life, took the form to new levels, gave a voice to the civil rights movement and inspired generations of singers. ( Read the full obituary)

Khaira Arby

Sept. 21, 1959 – Aug. 19, 2018

The Malian singer and songwriter wove together the "desert blues" of Saharan artists and funky grooves from further south, and often used her songs as a platform to address social issues. ( Read the full obituary)

George Walker

June 27, 1922 – Aug. 23, 2018

The Pulitzer-winning composer, pianist and educator produced nearly 100 compositions, ranging from symphonic works and concertos to intimate songs and solo piano pieces. ( Read the full obituary)

/ Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ellie Mannette

Nov. 5, 1927 – Aug. 29, 2018

In most people's minds, banging on a metal trash can would only create a racket. But Mannette, the father of the modern steel drum, imagined a symphony. ( Read the full obituary)

Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Randy Weston

April 6, 1926 – Sept. 1, 2018

The composer and pianist devoted more than half a century to an exploration of jazz's deep connection with African music. ( Read the full obituary)

Rich Fury / Getty Images
Getty Images

Mac Miller

Jan. 19, 1992 – Sept. 7, 2018

The 26-year-old, Pittsburgh-born producer and rapper released five chart-topping albums, beginning in 2011. His skill for arrangement and vulnerable lyrics built him a dedicated following. ( Read the full obituary)

Rachid Taha

Sept. 18, 1958 – Sept. 12, 2018

The Algerian-born Taha was one of the most charismatic and influential singers to come out of France, proudly proclaiming his immigrant origins and enmeshing the traditional sounds of Algeria with punk. ( Read the full obituary)

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images
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Marty Balin

Jan. 30, 1942 – Sept. 27, 2018

Balin was a co-founder, vocalist and songwriter for psychedelic mainstays Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, helping define the sound of San Francisco counterculture. ( Read the full obituary)

Victor Blackman / Getty Images
Getty Images

Charles Aznavour

May 22, 1924 – Oct. 1, 2018

Aznavour was a pillar of French culture for decades. The singer, songwriter and actor sold more than 100 million records worldwide and acted in more than 60 films. ( Read the full obituary)

Jerry González

June 5, 1949 – Oct. 1, 2018

The percussionist and trumpeter embodied the convergent spirit of modern Latin jazz, primarily as the co-founder and leader of the Fort Apache Band. ( Read the full obituary)

Monti Spry / Getty Images
Getty Images

Geoff Emerick

Dec. 5, 1945 – Oct. 2, 2018

An audio engineer best known for his role in the inventive and exploratory studio work of The Beatles, Emerick won four Grammys, including two for Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. ( Read the full obituary)

Hamiet Bluiett

Sept. 16, 1940 – Oct. 4, 2018

For more than four decades, Bluiett combined the avant-garde with traditional jazz and redefined the role of the baritone saxophone, co-founding the World Saxophone Quartet. ( Read the full obituary)

Daniel Perez / Getty Images
Getty Images

Montserrat Caballé

April 12, 1933 – Oct. 6, 2018

One of the last of the old-school opera divas, Caballé is remembered for the breathtaking beauty of her sound, and produced a staggeringly wide array of recordings. ( Read the full obituary)

Sonny Fortune performs in Amsterdam in 1986.
Frans Schellekens / Redferns
Sonny Fortune performs in Amsterdam in 1986.

Sonny Fortune

May 19, 1939 – Oct. 25, 2018

For more than half a century, the saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist's powerful sound and assured style made him a steadfast presence in jazz. ( Read the full obituary)

Matthew Eisman / Getty Images
Getty Images

Roy Hargrove

Oct. 16, 1969 – Nov. 2, 2018

The 49-year-old Hargrove embodied the brightest promise of his jazz generation, both as a steward of the bebop tradition and a savvy bridge to hip-hop and R&B. ( Read the full obituary)

Roy Clark

April 15, 1933 – Nov. 15, 2018

The country music guitarist and singer was beloved by generations of fans for his work on the TV show Hee Haw, for which he acted as joyful co-host for nearly a quarter century. ( Read the full obituary)

Cyril Pahinui

April 21, 1950 – Nov. 17, 2018

Grammy-nominated master of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar, Pahinui was part of the music of the Hawaiian Renaissance of the 1970s. ( Read the full obituary)

David Corio / Getty Images
Getty Images

Pete Shelley

April 17, 1955 – Dec. 6, 2018

Shelley was the co-founder, singer and guitarist of the influential British band the Buzzcocks, which added pop sensibilities and space to the still-nascent genre of punk. ( Read the full obituary)

Nancy Wilson onstage in Los Angeles in 2007.
Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images
Getty Images
Nancy Wilson onstage in Los Angeles in 2007.

Nancy Wilson

Feb. 20, 1937 – Dec. 13, 2018

During her decades-long career, Wilson performed jazz ballads, standards, torch songs, show tunes and pop songs — and hosted NPR's own Jazz Profiles documentary series from 1996 through 2005. ( Read the full obituary)

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Tom Huizenga
Tom Huizenga is a producer for NPR Music. He contributes a wide range of stories about classical music to NPR's news programs and is the classical music reviewer for All Things Considered. He appears regularly on NPR Music podcasts and founded NPR's classical music blog Deceptive Cadence in 2010.
Robin Hilton
Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.