A Look Back at Musicians/Entertainers Who Died in 2020


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Rock Cellar Magazine
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The year is drawing to a close. As we all look ahead to 2021 (and hopefully a return to our “normal” way of life that the COVID-19 pandemic made impossible this year), it’s time to reflect upon those who died in 2020. In addition to everything else going on, 2020 brought with it the deaths of several music and entertainment icons, as well as others whose deaths were covered here at Rock Cellar.

Below, a chronological list of those deaths we covered on the site (click each hyperlink to read each individual news story).

May these artists and entertainers — as well as everybody else the world over who passed away in 2020 — rest in peace.

Neil Peart of Rush — Jan. 7

neil peart drums

Peart, the massively influential and beloved drummer of Rush, Peart died after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. Peart’s band mate, guitarist Alex Lifeson, would say in June in a podcast how Peart’s passing left him disinterested in playing guitar, saying, “I just don’t feel inspired and motivated.”

Terry Jones of Monty Python — Jan. 21

terry jones money python

Jones, one of the core members of the legendary English comedy troupe Monty Python, died at 77 after going public with a dementia diagnosis in 2016 per the BBC. Jones’s passing came a few weeks after the death of Neil Innes, a frequent collaborator of the Python crew.

Kobe Bryant — Jan. 26

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers

The sports world was rattled by the sudden, tragic death of NBA icon Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash.

Andy Gill of Gang of Four — Feb. 1

Gill, a guitarist and co-founder of Gang of Four, died of “multiple organ failure and penumonia.” 

Kirk Douglas — Feb. 5

kirk douglas

Douglas, one of the most enduring icons in Hollywood history, passed away at the age of 103 in early February.

Lyle Mays (Jazz Keyboardist/Pat Metheny Group Member) — Feb. 10

lyle mays rip

Mays, who won 11 GRAMMY Awards as a key member of the Pat Metheny group, died at age 66.

David Roback of Mazzy Star — Feb. 24

Roback, 61, was a co-founder of alt/rock band Mazzy Star. He died from metastatic cancer.

James Lipton (Bravo’s Inside the Actor’s Studio) — March 2

james lipton

Lipton, esteemed host of the longtime Bravo television series Inside the Actor’s Studio, passed away at the age of 93.

Max Von Sydow — March 8

max von sydow rip

The iconic Hollywood legend passed away at the age of 90.

Kenny Rogers — March 20

kenny rogers

Rogers passed at 81, surrounded by loved ones while under hospice care.

Drummer Bill Rieflin — March 24

bill rieflin

Rieflin, drummer and multi-instrumentalist known for decades for his work with R.E.M., Ministry and King Crimson, among other acts, passed away at the age of 59.

Bill Withers — March 30

Bill Withers

LOS ANGELES – MAR 6: Bill Withers at the Ray Parker Jr Hollywood Walk of Fame Star Ceremony at Walk of Fame on March 6, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA

The legendary singer/musician known for several classic hits including “Lean On Me,” “Use Me,” “Just the Two of Us,” “Lovely Day” and more, passed away at the age of 81 due to heart complications.

Jazz Trumpeter Wallace Roney — March 31

wallace roney

Renowned trumpeter Wallace Roney passed away at the age of 59 from complications from COVID-19.

Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne) — April 1

Jack Dolgen, Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger

Jack Dolgen, Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger

Schlesinger, a GRAMMY-winning songwriter/producer, died due to complications of the coronavirus. He was just 52.

Jazz Pianist/Educator Ellis Marsalis — April 1

Ellis Marsalis Jr. (Photo: Tulane Public Relations/Wiki Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ellis_Marsalis_October_2010.jpg

Ellis Marsalis Jr. (Photo: Tulane Public Relations/Wiki Commons) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ellis_Marsalis_October_2010.jpg

Noted jazz pianist and New Orleans icon Ellis Marsalis Jr. passed away at the age of 85, with the New York Times reporting that he passed due to complications from the coronavirus.

John Prine — April 7

John Prine (Photo: Facebook.com/JohnPrine)

John Prine (Photo: Facebook.com/JohnPrine)

The country music community mourned on April 7 as Prine, 73, passed away after a battle with the coronavirus.

Producer/SNL Music Expert Hal Willner — April 7

Hal Willner (Photo: SNL)

Hal Willner (Photo: SNL)

Willner, 64, passed away after  Rolling Stone quoted a source close to Willner as saying he was “suffering from symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.”

Brian Dennehy — April 15

Chris Farley and Brian Dennehy from Tommy Boy (1995)

Chris Farley and Brian Dennehy from Tommy Boy (1995)

Celebrated Hollywood and stage actor Brian Dennehy died at 81 of natural causes.

Brian Howe (Bad Company) — May 6

Brian Howe (YouTube.com/BrianHoweTV)

Howe, who filled in for Paul Rodgers in Bad Company between 1986 and 1994, died at 66 after suffering cardiac arrest.

Little Richard — May 9

Little Richard in 2007 (Photo: WikiCommons)

Little Richard in 2007 (Photo: WikiCommons)

Richard, undeniably one of the most important figures in the history of rock and roll music, died at the age of 87.

Jerry Stiller — May 11

jerry stiller

Stiller, a comedy legend whose career spanned decades (and included stints on Seinfeld and King of Queens), died at 92 of natural causes according to his son, Ben Stiller.

John “Moon” Martin — May 11

Martin, singer/songwriter who wrote Robert Palmer’s 1979 hit “Bad Case of Loving You,” died from natural causes in Los Angeles, per the L.A. Times.

Beckett Cypher (Melissa Etheridge’s son) — May 13

Melissa Etheridge

Cypher, the son of Etheridge and her former partner Julie Cypher, was 21. His biological father was David Crosby.

Jorge Santana (Carlos’s younger brother) — May 14

jorge santana

Santana, younger brother of Carlos Santana and a gifted guitarist who toured occasionally with the Santana band, died at the age of 68.

Phil May of the Pretty Things — May 15

phil may pretty things

May, vocalist of the English band The Pretty Things, passed away at the age of 75.

Fred Willard — May 15

Fred Willard

Willard, beloved for years for his irreverent roles in mockumentaries including This Is Spinal Tap from Rob Reiner and the Christopher Guest films Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman and many other roles, died at 86.

Guitarist Bob Kulick (KISS, W.A.S.P., Lou Reed, Meat Loaf, More) — May 28

bob kulick kiss kruise

Kulick’s younger brother, Bruce Kulick, announced his passing at age 70.

Steve Priest of The Sweet — June 4

steve priest the sweet

Priest, founding member/bassist of the English glam-rock band The Sweet, passed away at the age of 72.

Producer/songwriter Rupert Hine — June 4

rupert hine cherry red records chat

The acclaimed English songwriter/producer/music advocate known for his work spanning decades and genres passed away at 72.

Bonnie Pointer (Pointer Sisters) — June 8

bonnie pointer

Pointer was 69.

Filmmaker Joel Schumacher — June 22

joel schumacher

Schumacher died at 80 after a cancer battle.

Composer Johnny Mandel (M*A*S*H Theme Song) — June 29

johnny mandel

The acclaimed composer was 94.

Comedy legend Carl Reiner — June 29

Carl Reiner (on 'Conan' in 2017)

Reiner was 98.

Composer Ennio Morricone — July 6

ennio morricone

The revered Italian composer/conductor/orchestrator passed away at 91.

Charlie Daniels — July 6

charlie daniels

The country icon died at 83 after suffering a hemorrhagic stroke.

Joe Porcaro — July 6 

Joe Porcaro (Photo via Steve Porcaro on Facebook)

Joe Porcaro (Photo via Steve Porcaro on Facebook)

Jazz drummer/music educator Joe Porcaro died at 90.

Fiona Adams (Beatles photographer) — July 10

Beatles Twist and Shout (Fiona Adams RIP)

Adams, responsible for one of the most iconic Fab Four photos ever taken, was 84.

Kelly Preston — July 12

john travolta and kelly preston

John Travolta announced the death of his wife, Kelly Preston, after a breast cancer battle. She was 57.

Benjamin Keough (Lisa Marie Presley’s Son) — July 13

Benjamin Keough and Lisa Marie Presley (Photo: Instagram @LisaMPresley)

Benjamin Keough and Lisa Marie Presley (Photo: Instagram @LisaMPresley)

Keough, 27-year-old son of Lisa Marie Presley and the grandson of Elvis Presley, died of a suspected suicide.

Grant Imahara (Mythbusters, more) — July 13

Grant Imahara

Imahara, an electrical engineer/roboticist and TV host known for stints on the program Mythbusters and the Netflix series White Rabbit Project, died at 49 after a brain aneurysm.

Emitt Rhodes — July 19

emitt rhodes rip

The acclaimed and mercurial singer/songwriter died at 70.

Regis Philbin — July 24

Benjamin Keough and Lisa Marie Presley (Photo: Instagram @LisaMPresley)

The legendary television host and personality  passed away at the age of 88.

Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) — July 25

Peter Green (Facebook.com/RealMickFleetwood)

Peter Green (Facebook.com/RealMickFleetwood)

Green, the co-founder of Fleetwood Mac and an integral part of the band’s early era, passed away at the age of 73.

Wilford Brimley — Aug. 1

The character actor died at 85.

Singer/guitarist/actor Trini Lopez — Aug. 11

Trinin Lopez Guitar Dave Grohl

Lopez, a versatile American singer/songwriter/actor known for a string of hit songs in the 1960s, died at 83.

Pete Way (U.F.O.) — Aug. 14

Pete Way UFO

Way, co-founder and bassist of the band UFO in addition to a number of other high-profile rock gigs over the years, was 69.

Frankie Banali (Anthrax, Quiet Riot, W.A.S.P.) — Aug. 20

frankie banali siriusxm

The drummer died at 68 of pancreatic cancer.

Justin Townes Earle — Aug. 20

The gifted songwriter/guitarist (and son of Steve Earle) was just 38.

Chadwick Boseman — Aug. 28

chadwick boseman

The Black Panther star died at just 43 after a private battle with cancer.

Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell of Kool & the Gang — Sept. 9

Ronald 'Khalis' Bell (Photo: Tia Sinclair Bell)

Ronald ‘Khalis’ Bell (Photo: Tia Sinclair Bell)

Bell, a co-founder of Kool & the Gang, was 68.

‘Toots’ Hibbert of Toots & the Maytals — Sept. 11

toots hibbert

The Jamaican reggae legend and lead vocalist of the long-running reggae/ska group died at 77.

Alan Kozlowski (Photographer) — Sept. 17

alan kozlowski

Alan Kozlowski

The acclaimed musician/photographer/cinematographer was 72.

Lee Kerslake — Sept. 19

Kerslake, an English drummer known for his work with Uriah Heep, Ozzy Osbourne and more, died at 73 after a lengthy fight with prostate cancer.

Mac Davis — Sept. 29

mac davis interview clip

Mac Davis (PBS Digital Studios interview)

Davis, a renowned country songwriter who penned hits for Elvis, died at 78.

Helen Reddy — Sept. 29

helen reddy i am woman

The Australian singer/songwriter/actor and activist known for her early 1970s single “I Am Woman,” was 78.

Rocco Prestia (Tower of Power) — Sept. 29

Rocco Prestia of Tower of Power RIP

Photo: Tower of Power Facebook

Prestia was 69.

Eddie Van Halen — Oct. 6

eddie van halen rip

The guitar legend died at 65 due to complications of throat cancer, as announced by his son, Wolfgang Van Halen.

Johnny Nash — Oct. 6

Nash, known for his feel-good 1972 hit “I Can See Clearly Now,” was 80.

Spencer Davis (Spencer Davis Group) — Oct. 19

Spencer Davis (Photo: SpencerDavisGroup on Facebook)

Spencer Davis (Photo: SpencerDavisGroup on Facebook)

Davis died at 81 while being treated for pneumonia.

Jerry Jeff Walker — Oct. 23

Walker, an “outlaw country” icon best known for having written “Mr. Bojangles” in 1968, died in October at the age of 78.

Billie Joe Shaver — Oct. 28

billy joe shaver pic fb

Billy Joe Shaver (Photo: OfficialBillyJoeShaver on Facebook)

The Texas-based country singer/songwriter died at 81 after suffering a massive stroke.

Sean Connery — Oct. 31

sean connery

The Scottish acting legend, who first brought James Bond to the big screen, was 90.

Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep — Nov. 4

Hensley, 75, passed away after a “short illness,” per his representatives.

Alex Trebek — Nov. 8

Alex Trebek

The beloved Jeopardy! host died at 80 after a lengthy (and public) fight with pancreatic cancer.

Diego Maradona — Nov. 25

diego maradona

One of the biggest soccer stars in the world, Maradona died at age 60.

David Prowse — Nov. 28

david prowse darth vader

Prowse, the esteemed English actor known for roles including Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films, was 85.

Charley Pride — Dec. 12

charley pride pic

Pride, the first Black musician enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame, died at 86 from complications related to the coronavirus.

Chad Stuart of U.K. Duo Chad & Jeremy — Announced Dec. 20

Stuart, 79, passed away after developing pneumonia from a fall, per Chad & Stuart’s Facebook page.

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Chad Stuart, a father, a husband, a brother, a grandfather, a friend,…

Posted by Chad and Jeremy on Sunday, December 20, 2020

K.T. Oslin — Dec. 21

Oslin, the country music singer/songwriter whose 1987 single “80’s Ladies” made her the first female songwriter to win the CMA Award for Song of the Year, passed away at the age of 78.

Leslie West of Mountain — Dec. 23

leslie west

West, the renowned guitarist and co-founder of the band Mountain, died at 75 after suffering heart failure.

Rebecca Luker — Dec. 23

Rebecca Luker and husband Danny Burstein

Rebecca Luker and husband Danny Burstein

Luker, the acclaimed Broadway star with three Tony nominations and a rich history of work on the stage, died at 59 after a fight with ALS.

Tony Rice — Dec. 25

Rice, a Grammy-winning and International Bluegrass Musician Association Hall of Famer, died at the age of 69.  Friend and fellow musician Ricky Skaggs  called Rice “the single most influential acoustic guitar player in the last 50 years.”

Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island — Dec. 30

dawn wells

Wells, whose portrayal of Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island made her a beloved star of the classic TV show, died at 82 due to causes related to COVID-19.

Alto Reed — Dec. 30

Alto Reed (Photo: @BobSeger on Instagram)

Alto Reed (Photo: @BobSeger on Instagram)

Reed, the esteemed saxophonist whose work alongside Bob Seger predates the formation of the Silver Bullet Band, died at 72 after a battle with colon cancer.

Comments

  • Peter Schönherr says:

    It makes me very sad to see so many very wonderful musicians and actors
    passed away in this year 2020!- RIP for all


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