Dangerous Work

Written by Bill Leebens

If 2016 was Snakebit, in terms of the number of musicians who died—what should we call 2017?

Sure, last year saw incredible losses in the music world: David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Pierre Boulez, Paul Kantner, Leon Russell, Ralph Stanley, Maurice White, Sir George Martin, Sharon Jones….and on and on. If you haven’t noticed, 2017 has been a rough year for musicians, as well.

Should we just say that being a musician is dangerous work?

You already know the big names, especially the most-recent ones. But still: seeing the sheer volume of familiar names is a little shocking. And this list is far from complete:

1/7/17: Nat Hentoff, 91 [Longtime Village Voice jazz critic]

1/24/17: Butch Trucks, 69 [Suicide]

2/12/17: Al Jarreau, 76

2/18/17: Clyde Stubblefield, 73 [Drummer for James Brown and many others]

3/16/17: James Cotton, 81

3/18/17: Chuck Berry, 90

4/11/17: J. Geils, 71

5/1/17: Col. Bruce Hampton, 70

5/18/17: Chris Cornell, 52 [Suicide]

5/27/17: Gregg Allman, 69

7/20/17: Chester Bennington, 41 [Suicide]

8/8/17: Glen Campbell, 81

8/22/17: John Abercrombie, 72

9/3/17: Walter Becker, 67

9/8/17: Don Williams, 78

10/2/17: Tom Petty, 66

If this partial list isn’t overwhelming enough, take a look at this list.

As was the case last year, many of these folks lived to ripe old ages. Allman, Becker, and Petty could still be considered reasonably young, but the first two had been seriously ill for a long while. The cause of Petty’s recent death is still rather uncertain.

The deaths that really caused twinges for me were the suicides. I’ve written before about the suicides of Cornell and Bennington ; unlike them, Trucks didn’t have a long history of depression, but was apparently overwhelmed by debt.

I’m not sure which type of death is sadder.

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