Music world lost Rawls, Pickett, others in 2006

Friday, December 29, 2006; 3:59 PM

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - Following is a list of some leading lights in the music world who were silenced in 2006.


Velvet-voiced singer and longtime community activist Lou Rawls, 72, January 6 in Los Angeles. His trademark song "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine," was released in 1976 and exemplifies the classic "Philadelphia Sound." Rawls recorded 52 albums in a career that spanned nearly five decades and won Grammy Awards for hits "Your Good Thing (Is About to End)," "Natural Man" and "Lady Love." He also played a major role in United Negro College Fund telethons in the '80s that raised more than $200 million and appeared in 18 movies and 16 TV series.


Soul/R&B legend Wilson Pickett, 64, January 19 in Virginia. In 1965, Pickett signed a solo deal with Atlantic, scoring a No. 21 pop hit with "In the Midnight Hour," which he co-wrote with legendary sessions musician Steve Cropper. A slew of late '60s R&B/soul hits followed, five of which reached No. 1 on The Billboard R&B charts. Pickett was a 1991 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His last studio album, "It's Harder Now," (1999) won W.C. Handy Awards for soul/blues album of the year and comeback album of the year, and Pickett himself was named soul/blues male artist of the year.


R&B vocalist/songwriter Gene McFadden, 56, January 27 in Philadelphia. McFadden was half of the Philly soul duo the Epsilons with John Whitehead. As McFadden & Whitehead, the pair's best-known song, "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," reached No. 1 on Billboard's R&B chart and No. 13 on The Billboard Hot 100 and was nominated for a Grammy Award. The duo also wrote several hits performed by others, including the O'Jays' "Back Stabbers" and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes' "Wake Up Everybody."


Rapper/producer James Yancey aka J Dilla, 32, February10 in Los Angeles. Since forming the rap trio Slum Village in the late '90s with MCs Baatin and T3, J Dilla worked closely with such artists as A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip, Common and the Pharcyde. J Dilla later left the group to pursue a solo career. Before his passing, he had been working on "The Shining," which was released in August on BBE Records.


Africa's best-known blues singer and guitarist Ali Farka Toure, in his late 60s, March 7 in Mali. After emerging on the global scene with a bluesy, self-titled 1988 release, Toure won a best world music album Grammy Award for his 1994 release "Talking Timbuktu." The album stayed at No.1 on Billboard's Top World Music chart for 16 weeks. His World Circuit recording with countryman Toumani Diabate, "In the Heart of the Moon," won Toure a second Grammy in February 2006.


Rapper Lumumba Carson aka Professor X, 49, March 17 in New York. The Brooklyn MC was best-known for his role with the '90s hip-hop group the X-Clan. The group's second and final album, "Xodus," reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart in 1992.


Singer/songwriter Gene Pitney, 65, April 5 in Wales. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Pitney peaked on The Billboard pop singles chart at No. 2 with "Only Love Can Break a Heart" in 1962. Pitney also had some success as a country singer, and in 1990, he scored his first U.K. No. 1 single with the Marc Almond duet "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart."


Pointer Sisters singer, June Pointer, 52, April 11 in Los Angeles. As part of the Grammy-winning quartet, which also featured sisters Ruth, Anita and Bonnie, the Pointer Sisters are best-known for a string of '70s and '80s R&B/pop hits that included "He's So Shy," "Slow Hand" and "Fire."


Rap star Deshaun Holton aka Proof, 32, April 11 in Detroit. Proof helped build the Detroit scene by hosting rap battles at the Hip Hop Shop. Proof was later a valued member of the group D12 led by rapper Eminem. "Without Proof there would be no Eminem, no Slim Shady, no D12," Eminem said.


Go-Betweens' principal Grant McLennan, 48, May 6 in Brisbane, Australia. With longtime partner Robert Forster, McLennan led the Go-Betweens to critical, if not commercial, success. After the band split in 1989, McLennan released four solo albums. The Go-Betweens reunited in 2000 for the acclaimed album "The Friends of Rachel Worth."


Jazzman Hilton Ruiz, 54, June 6 in New Orleans. One of the most accomplished pianists in the contemporary Latin jazz world, Ruiz was as versatile with bop and stride as with Afro-Cuban music. Aside from countless collaborative albums with the likes of Tito Puente, Freddie Hubbard and Mongo Santamaria, Ruiz also released more than 20 solo albums.


Renowned soul musician Billy Preston, 59, June 6 in Scottsdale, Ariz. In addition to his healthy Grammy-winning solo career, Preston collaborated and toured with superstars such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Little Richard, Ray Charles, George Harrison and Aretha Franklin. Preston recorded 20 solo albums and had two No. 1 songs, "Will It Go Around in Circles" in 1973 and "Nothing from Nothing" in 1974, on The Billboard Hot 100. He also wrote "You Are So Beautiful," made famous by singer Joe Cocker.


Guitar legend Johnny Jenkins, 67, June 26 in Macon, Ga. Jenkins worked with Otis Redding in the early '60s and influenced Jimi Hendrix through his acrobatic style. His last two albums, in 2001 and 2003, were released by Mean Old World Records.


Enigmatic Pink Floyd co-founder and reclusive cult hero Roger "Syd" Barrett, 60, July 7 in Cambridge, England. Starting with Pink Floyd's 1967 debut album "The Piper at the Gates of Dawn," Barrett blended elements of pop and psychedelia in ways that would influence generations of rock acts. Leaving Pink Floyd in 1968 after a drug-influenced mental decline, Barrett released two beloved solo albums in 1970, "The Madcap Laughs" and "Barrett." Barrett's music can also be heard on the 1993 boxed set "Crazy Diamond."


R&B/funk keyboard player, Milan B. Williams, 58, July 9 in Houston. As a founding member of the Commodores, Williams helped the band achieve their first hit with the synthesizer-pumped 1974 instrumental "Machine Gun," which he wrote. The group went on to score seven No. 1 R&B hits--two of which, "Three Times a Lady" and "Still," also notched No. 1 on The Billboard Hot 100 chart.


Pianist Bill Miller, 91, July 17 in Montreal. Miller was Frank Sinatra's pianist for nearly 50 years until the singer's last performance in 1995. He also played with such giants as Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman and Charlie Barnet.


Blues singer and guitarist Jessie Mae Hemphill, 71, July 22 in Memphis. Making her recording debut in 1981 with "She-Wolf," Hemphill went on to win the W.C. Handy Award for best traditional female blues artist in 1987 and 1988. Her sophomore album and first U.S. release "Feelin' Good" won the Handy Award for best acoustic album in 1991.


Acclaimed jump-blues and R&B pianist/vocalist/songwriter Floyd Dixon, 77, July 26 in Los Angeles. Best-known for the 1954 song "Hey Bartender," Dixon recorded for Supreme Records and Modern Records in the late '40s. He reached No. 4 on The Billboard R&B singles chart in 1951 with "Telephone Blues," and in the next year with "Call Operator," both on Aladdin Records. His album "Wake Up and Live!" won a Blues Foundation Award as comeback album of the year in 1997.


Singer and guitarist for L.A. rock pioneers Love, Arthur Lee, 61, August 3 in Memphis. Lee formed Love in Los Angeles in 1965 and recorded three albums with the group's original lineup, including 1967's psychedelic classic "Forever Changes." The band was once the leading light of the Los Angeles scene that included the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and the Doors. Love's early material proved perennially influential, with acts from Led Zeppelin to Echo and the Bunnymen citing Lee as an inspiration.


Freddy Fender (Baldemar Huerta), 69, October 14 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Fender hit it big in 1975 when "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" climbed to No. 1 on the pop and country charts. "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" rose to No. 1 on the country chart and top 10 on the pop chart that same year. Fender won a best Latin pop album Grammy Award in 2002 for "La Musica de Baldemar Huerta." He also shared in two more Grammys with the Texas Tornados and with Los Super Seven.


Sandy West, 47, October 21 in San Dimas, Calif. West was a founding member and the drummer for the '70s rock band the Runaways, which featured fellow rockers Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie. After the band broke up, West continued to perform as a drummer, guitarist and vocalist with the Sandy West Band.


Pianist, composer, musical director and arranger Gerald Cook, 85, October 22 in Chicago. He performed with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra and in nightclubs, starting out in a duo piano act with Margaret Bonds, then going on to accompany singers and personalities including Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Carmen McRae, Shirley Jones, Johnny Hartman and Sammy Cahn. Cook was the pianist and musical director for Libby Holman's one-woman show, "Blues, Ballads and Sin-Songs," and he helped fuel cabaret/blues singer Alberta Hunter's comeback.


Producer and songwriter, Rudy Taylor, 52, October 28 in Baton Rouge, La. Taylor toured with Bobby Womack, for whom he acted as musical arranger. Taylor co-produced, arranged and co-wrote many of the Gap Band hits, including "Oops Upside Your Head," "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" and "Early in the Morning."


Popular R&B singer Gerald Levert, 40, November 10 in Cleveland. The son of O'Jays lead singer Eddie Levert came to national attention in 1986 as a member of Atlantic Records group Levert, then emerged from his father's shadow to become a well-regarded singer/songwriter and producer in his own right. Topping the R&B and pop charts both with the Atlantic group and in his solo career, Levert released eight solo albums.


Tony Sylvester, 66, November 26 in New York. Sylvester was a founding member of the R&B trio Main Ingredient. The group, known for its smooth harmonies, initially recorded on the Red Bird label as the Poets and eventually scored the 1972 No. 2 R&B hit "Everybody Plays the Fool" and two subsequent top 10 R&B chart hits.


Mariska Veres, 59, December 2 in The Hague, Netherlands. Singer for the Dutch group Shocking Blue, Veres started out in 1964 as a vocalist in Les Mysteres. In 1970, the Shocking Blue song "Venus" reached the top of the American music chart; a later cover version by Bananarama topped the chart in 1986 as well. After the Shocking Blue disbanded in 1974, Veres made a number of solo records.


Jazz vocalist Anita O'Day, 87, November 23 in West Los Angeles. O'Day joined Gene Krupa's band with trumpeter Roy Eldridge in 1941. Her duet with Eldridge, "Let Me Off Uptown," became a million-seller. Striking out solo in the late '40s, she teamed up with drummer John Poole, with whom she played for the next 32 years. She later performed with such musicians as Louis Armstrong, Dinah Washington and Thelonious Monk. "Jazz on a Summer Day," a documentary filmed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1958, made her an international star.


"Godfather of Soul" James Brown, 73, December 25 in Atlanta. His frenetic singing style and bold rhythms brought funk into the mainstream and influenced a new generation of black music, The so-called "hardest-working man in showbusiness" emerged from extreme poverty to send more than 100 singles into the charts, including "Please, Please, Please," "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," "I Got You (I Feel Good)" "Get Up (I feel like being a Sex Machine)" and "It's a Man's World." In later years, he ran afoul of the law, and wound up behind bars on several occasions, but he toured the world constantly, reminding fans of hip-hop music that it all started with him.


© 2006 Reuters