In Memoriam 2014 NPR Music remembers musicians — singers, songwriters, instrumentalists — and other visionaries we lost in 2014. Explore and celebrate their musical legacies.
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In Memoriam 2014

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In Memoriam 2014

In Memoriam 2014

In Memoriam 2014

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Many musical voices went silent in 2014. We lost singers, instrumentalists, composers, conductors, producers, DJs and other visionaries. Explore their musical legacies here.


Giorgio Lotti/Getty Images
Claudio Abbado: Consummate Condutor
Giorgio Lotti/Getty Images

Claudio Abbado

June 26, 1933 — Jan. 20, 2014

Directing the premiere orchestras and opera companies of the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic and La Scala, Abbado was a self-effacing conductor whose inspired interpretations breathed freshness into music from Mozart to modernists. His devoted fans called themselves "Abbadiani."

Claudio Abbado - Mahler: Symphony No. 7 - III. Scherzo

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Joanne Savio/Courtesy of the artist
Robert Ashley: Opera's Restless Clarivoyant
Joanne Savio/Courtesy of the artist

Robert Ashley

March 28, 1930 — March 3, 2014

Beginning in the 1970s, this trailblazing composer wrote his idiosyncratic works not for opera houses, but for television. His intricate song-like recitations mused on everything from Renaissance philosophy to The Wall Street Journal.

Robert Ashley: The Park

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Amiri Baraka: Controversial Poet, Author And Jazz Essayist
David Corio/Getty Images

Amiri Baraka

Oct. 7, 1934 — Jan. 9, 2014

This controversial poet, author and essayist wasn't the first African-American to write seriously about black music, but he made it sing of history, community, struggle — that is, the blues.

Amiri Baraka: 'Obama Poem'

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Louis Melancon/Metropolitan Opera Archives
Carlo Bergonzi: The Elegant Italian Tenor
Louis Melancon/Metropolitan Opera Archives

Carlo Bergonzi

July 13, 1924 — July 25, 2014

With its robust blend of velvet and bronze, the voice of this durable Italian tenor was perfectly suited to heroic roles in Verdi's operas. Bergonzi's power and elegance were on display at New York's Metropolitan Opera for more than 30 years.

Carlo Bergonzi - Verdi: Il Trovatore - 'Ah, si ben mio'

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Dave Brockie: The Shock-Rocker From Another Panet
Shirlaine Forrest/Wire Image/Getty Images

Dave Brockie

Aug. 30, 1963 — March 23, 2014

With buckets of fake blood at the ready the GWAR frontman (known onstage as Oderus Urungus) was a gleefully obscene, shock-rock satirist with a foam latex phallus.

Dave Brockie: 'Sick Of You'

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Michael Putland/Getty Images
Jack Bruce: One Of Rock's Great Bassists
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Jack Bruce

May 14, 1943 — Oct. 25, 2014

One of rock's greatest bassists, he was also a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who worked as a solo artist. He experienced his crowning musical achievements with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in the 1960s blues-rock powerhouse Cream.

Jack Bruce: 'Sunshine Of Your Love'

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Gustavo Cerati: Father Of Latin Rock
Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images

Gustavo Cerati

Aug. 11, 1959 — Sept. 4, 2014

Fronting the band Soda Stereo in the 1980s and '90s, this Argentine musician was the first true Latin American rock superstar. He had a prolific solo career, and it's fair to say Latin rock would not exist without him.

Gustavo Cerati: 'Puente'

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Joe Cocker: Britain's Rock Growler
Central Press/Getty Images

Joe Cocker

May 20, 1944 — Dec. 22, 2014

Woodstock catapulted the gravel-voiced singer into the stratosphere, thanks to an electrifying Beatles cover. He went on to cut some of the most indelibly soulful tracks in history, from the rocking "Feelin' Alright" to the ballad "You Are So Beautiful."

Joe Cocker: 'With A Little Help From My Friends'

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Buddy Defranco: Master of the jazz clarinet
Andrew Lepley/Redferns/Getty Images

Buddy DeFranco

Feb. 17, 1923 — Dec. 24, 2014

A master of the jazz clarinet, DeFranco earned his stripes in swing bands. When that music gave way to harder-edged bebop, he made a brilliant transition to the new sound, always playing with a rich tone and lyrical style with a broad range of artists from Art Blakey to Billie Holiday.

Buddy DeFranco: 'Gone With The Wind'

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Paco de Lucia: Flamenco Innovator
Paco Junquera/Getty Images

Paco De Lucia

Dec. 21, 1947 — Feb. 26, 2014

By blending jazz and other strains of music into his playing, the forward-thinking Spanish guitarist pushed flamenco to places it had never been, while always remembering its roots.

Paco de Lucia: 'Patio Custodio'

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Phil Everly (left): Pop Music Partner Extraordinaire
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Phil Everly

Jan. 19, 1939 — Jan. 3, 2014

Taking the high parts in duets with his brother Don, Phil Everly (left), a harmonizer beyond compare, blended country, blues and pop in stories of young love, loss and ambition, pioneering a sound that became a basic building block of rock and roll.

Phil Everly: 'All I Have To Do Is Dream'

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Cheo Feliciano: Salsa Music Pioneer
Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

Cheo Feliciano

Jul. 3, 1935 — Apr. 17, 2014

The velvety-voiced salsa pioneer from Puerto Rico trained with New York's Latin dance orchestras in the 1950s and became one of his generation's most recognizable voices. After bouts with addiction and homelessness, Feliciano roared back in the '70s as a superstar in the Fania Records stable.

Cheo Feliciano: 'Esto Es El Guaguanco'

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Juan Formell: Popular Cuban Music Bandleader
Desmond Boylan/Reuters/Corbis

Juan Formell

Aug. 2, 1942 — May 1, 2014

Modern Cuban music sounds the way it does largely because of Formell's contributions as bandleader of the legendary Los Van Van an enduring group with violins, trombones and a deep catalog of transcendently sensual songs.

Juan Formell: 'Permiso Que Llego Van Van'

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Charlie Haden: Bassist, Composer And Jazz Icon
Catherine McGann/Getty Images

Charlie Haden

Aug. 6, 1937 — July 11, 2014

The adventurous bassist and composer is well remembered as the low end of Ornette Coleman's free jazz revolution. But Haden was wherever beautiful melodies were to be found, with hundreds of varied recordings — from American folk traditions to hard bop — to prove it.

Charlie Haden: 'No Moon At All'

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Teenie Hodges: The Soul Of Memphis Soul
Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images

Teenie Hodges

Nov. 16, 1945 — June 22, 2014

Without guitarist and songwriter Mabon Lewis "Teenie" Hodges, you don't have "Love and Happiness." You don't have "Take Me to the River." You don't have the man wearing green alligator shoes in his nephew Drake's "Worst Behavior" video, which pays tribute to Memphis, the city that has Hodges to thank for a sweet spot in its soul.

Teenie Hodges: 'Love And Happiness'

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Marco Borggreve
Christopher Hogwood: Early Music Evangelist
Marco Borggreve

Christopher Hogwood

Sept. 10, 1941 — Sept. 24, 2014

This early music evangelist brought new life to music by such composers as Bach and Mozart. A conductor, keyboard player and musicologist, he helped transform Boston's formerly sleepy Handel and Haydn Society into a historically informed performance powerhouse.

Christopher Hogwood - Handel: Hornpipe

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Paul Horn: New Age Pioneer
Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis

Paul Horn

March 17, 1930 — June 29, 2014

The Manhattan School of Music graduate became an accomplished jazz musician and film score composer. But he's perhaps best known for ethereal flute solos recorded in the Taj Mahal in 1968. The resulting album, Inside, made him a New Age music pioneer.

Paul Horn: 'Mumtaz Mahal'

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Casey Kasem: Pop Music's Authoritative Announcer
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Casey Kasem

April 27, 1932 — June 15, 2014

For 39 years, Kasem was the voice in America's ear, the disc jockey with the cheerfully mellow tone hosting American Top 40 and his own Casey's Top 40. He counted down the hits, fielded dedications and made pop music a warm and winning part of millions of lives.

Casey Kasem: American Top 40

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Frankie Knuckles: Godfather Of House Music
Getty Images

Frankie Knuckles

Jan. 8, 1955 — March 31, 2014

There was no such thing as house music when the DJ and producer born Francis Nicholls Jr. first put his needle on the record. The godfather of house music's mid-1980s productions, like "Your Love," rank among the greatest dance tracks ever.

Frankie Knuckles: 'Your Love'

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Chris Lee/New York Philharmonic
Lorin Maazel: Globe-trotting Conductor
Chris Lee/New York Philharmonic

Lorin Maazel

March 6, 1930 — July 13, 2014

The polymath and former child prodigy was a violinist and composer who turned George Orwell's 1984 into an opera. But this American was best known as a peripatetic conductor who served as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and New York Philharmonic.

Lorin Maazel - Strauss: Don Juan

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Cosimo Matassa: Sculptor Of New Orleans R&B
Jacob Blickenstaff/Corbis

Cosimo Matassa

Aug. 13, 1926 — Sept. 11, 2014

Matassa was the mastermind of the New Orleans sound. At his J&M Recording Studio on North Rampart Street, this former chemistry student worked with producer Dave Bartholomew to create classic recordings by Roy Brown, Fats Domino, Little Richard and countless others, putting the roux into rock 'n' roll.

Cosimo Matassa - Professor Longhair: 'Mardi Gras In New Orleans'

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Ian McLagan: Rock 'n' Roll Keyboard Chameleon
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Ian McLagan

May 12, 1945 — Dec. 3, 2014

A rock 'n' roll keyboard chameleon, whose style popped with strains of jazz and R&B, McLagan played with melodic vitality as a member of the Faces and as a sideman with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

Ian McLagan: 'Stay With Me'

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Magda Olivero: Soprano Of Supreme Emotion
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Magda Olivero

March 25, 1910 — Sept. 8, 2014

Singing in public for more than seven decades, the tenacious soprano thrilled audiences with expressive portrayals of passion and heartbreak, spinning the finest threads of vocal silver to the farthest reaches of the opera house.

Magda Olivero - Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur - 'Poveri fiori'

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Tommy Ramone: Headbanging Drummer
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Tommy Ramone

Jan. 29, 1949 — July 11, 2014

The original drummer of The Ramones was born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest before emigrating to the United States. After starting a career as a recording engineer, he was supposed to manage The Ramones, until the pioneering punk group realized he was the only one who could keep up with them on drums.

Tommy Ramone: 'Teenage Lobotomy'

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DJ Rashad: Dance Music Pioneer
Courtesy of Ashes 57

DJ Rashad

Oct. 9, 1979 — April 26, 2014

The shining light of the upbeat genre known as "footwork," this Chicago DJ and producer was on his way to international stardom. Born Rashad Harden, he teased rapture out of repetition in unprecedented fashion — and always with a smile.

DJ Rashad: 'Let It Go'

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Jean Redpath: Scottish Soul Force
David Gahr/Getty Images

Jean Redpath

April 28, 1937 — Aug. 21, 2014

The Edinburgh-born singer became a star in New York City's folk scene within weeks after her 1961 arrival in the U.S., sharing stages (and an apartment) with Bob Dylan. A lifelong ambassador for Scottish songs and Robert Burns' poetry, she also became a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion.

Jean Redpath: 'The Fife Overgate'

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Courtesy of the artist
Julius Rudel: Champion Of Homegrown Opera
Courtesy of the artist

Julius Rudel

March 6, 1921 — June 26, 2014

Through commissions and cheerleading, the New York City Opera general director and conductor did as much as anyone — if not more — to show the richness of American opera. He also fostered such talents as Plácido Domingo and Beverly Sills.

Julius Rudel - Massenet: Cendrillon Overture

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Jimmy Ruffin: Motown's Smooth And Sturdy Tenor
Ivan Keeman/Redferns/Getty Images

Jimmy Ruffin

May 7, 1936 — Nov. 17, 2014

Raised on gospel with his younger brother David (the future lead singer of The Temptations), Jimmy Ruffin had a smooth and sturdy tenor but a career that stuttered. He had a modest string of solo hits for Motown in the late 1960s and early '70s, including one immortal classic, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted."

Jimmy Ruffin: 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted'

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Sabah: The 'Singing Bird' Of The Middle East
Ramzi Haidar/AFP/Getty Images

Sabah

Nov. 9, 1927 — Nov. 28, 2014

Blessed with a vivacious smile and an unbelievable voice, a struggling Christian girl from a very small town in Lebanon became the sultry toast of the entire Middle East for decades as a singer and actress, with more than 90 films and 50 albums under her sparkly belt.

Sabah: 'Yana Yana'

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Joe Sample: Dexterous Jazz Crusader
Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images

Joe Sample

Feb. 1, 1939 — Sept. 12, 2014

More than the "smooth jazz" label thrust upon him, the pianist was a melodic force in jazz from his earliest days as a member of the Jazz Crusaders to his days as a festival headliner.

Joe Sample: 'Nite Crawler'

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Jimmy Scott: Honey-Voiced Jazz Vocalist
Andrew Lepley/Redferns/Getty Images

"Little" Jimmy Scott

July 17, 1925 — June 12, 2014

One of the most distinctive voices in jazz was coupled with a story of bad breaks at the wrong times in his life. Still, his intimate style and distinctive influence endure in performances by his disciples and recordings of his preternaturally high, unforgettably expressive voice.

Jimmy Scott: 'Everybody's Somebody's Fool'

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Pete Seeger: Trailblazing Folk Singer
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Pete Seeger

May 3, 1919 — Jan. 27, 2014

In The Weavers, as a solo artist and as mentor to generations of folk balladeers and activists, the gentle agitator preserved America's songlines and reminded us all of the power of raising our voices together.

Pete Seeger: 'If I Had A Hammer'

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Horace Silver: Hard-driving Jazz Pianist And Composer
Bob Baker/Redferns/Getty Images

Horace Silver

Sept. 2, 1928 — June 18, 2014

The jazz pianist and composer's tunes were little nuggets of joy — earworms that rang of the church, the blues, the dance floor and all the Americas, sometimes simultaneously.

Horace Silver: 'Opus De Funk'

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U Srinivas: Indian Mandolin Hero
Aparna Subramanian/Wikimedia Commons

U. Srinivas

Feb. 28, 1969 — Sept. 19, 2014

The Indian virtuoso took the unlikeliest of instruments — the mandolin — and made it sound like honey. His remarkable musicianship spans traditional recordings of South Indian classical music to Remember Shakti, his supergroup with jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and percussionist V. Selvaganesh.

U Srinivas: 'Gajavadhana'

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Elaine Stritch: Broadway Legend, Barstool Sage
Duffy-Marie Arnoult/WireImage

Elaine Stritch

Feb. 2, 1925 — July 17, 2014

Between post-World War II Broadway and 30 Rock, the fresh-faced bit player became a battle-scarred star — a Broadway legend and barstool sage. While she could have been a lady who lunched, she stayed onstage, defying time to preach a gospel of Sondheim and survival.

Elaine Stritch: 'Ladies Who Lunch'

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Kenny Wheeler: Graceful Trumpeter And Composer
Fin Costello/Getty Images

Kenny Wheeler

Jan. 14, 1930 — Sept. 18, 2014

Whether with the freest of free improvisers, or devising intricate melodies for large ensembles, the composer and trumpeter spoke with a singular and influential voice.

Kenny Wheeler: 'After All'

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Gerald Wilson: Big Band Composer, Arranger And Bandleader
Education Images/UIG/Getty Images

Gerald Wilson

Sept. 4, 1918 — Sept. 8, 2014

The jazz composer and bandleader mastered colorful, extended orchestration, which kept him employed arranging in the studios. He also deployed those skills toward his true love: leading his own big bands for more than half a century.

Gerald Wilson: 'Viva Tirado'

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Johnny Winter: Best-Selling Blues-Rock Guitarist
Diego Tuscon/AFP/Getty Images

Johnny Winter

Feb. 23, 1944 — July 16, 2014

The best-selling blues-rock guitarist produced Grammy-winning late-career albums for Muddy Waters, but by then he'd already enjoyed a vast, decades-long career in his own right, both solo and with his brother Edgar.

Johnny Winter: 'Be Careful With A Fool'

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Bobby Womack: Gritty-Voiced Soul Man
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty IMages

Bobby Womack

March 4, 1944 — June 27, 2014

The gritty-voiced soul man and controversial Sam Cooke collaborator gifted us with 50 years of hard-livin' tunes that later influenced a generation of hip-hop era crooners, like Jaheim and K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci.

Bobby Womack: 'You're Welcome, Stop On By'

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Correction Dec. 30, 2014

A previous version of this report mistakenly included a photo of DJ Rashad Hayes. The correct photo, of Chicago DJ Rashad Harden, is now posted. For the record, Hayes is alive.