Those We Lost in 2014

The older we baby boomers get, the more that our pop culture heroes pass away before us. As my good friend (and highly regarded behind-the-scenes music biz guy) Cary Baker recently wrote, “The only takeaway is to closely monitor your own health (and that of those you love), get out and enjoy life, and make every living moment count.” I don’t have anything worthwhile to add to that succinct statement other than to second it.

Some of the people responsible (at least in part) for some of my most treasured music left us this year: Jack Bruce, Scott Asheton (The Stooges), Gerry Goffin, and Tommy Erdelyi (the last surviving member of The Ramones), just to name a few.

And – as has happened most years since I began this music journo gig – several of the people I have interviewed have passed away this year. Here are the most notable:

Johnny Winter
Though I had the privilege of interviewing the blues-rock legend twice, it’s safe to say that I spoke with him less than any other music figure I’ve ever interviewed. The man just didn’t say much. His manager/second guitarist warned me in advance of my first interview with him back in the noughties, advising me, “Hit him hard.” It didn’t work. Each of my many questions was met with little more than a “Yup” or a “Nope.” So when another opportunity came around, I was ready. Or so I thought. I realize it’s more than a bit of a cliché to say that Winter let the music do the talking, but that about sums it up. Winter left begind an extensive catalog of music, and his career was fairly well documented in the form of live recordings, bootlegs and video. I’m glad I got to see him onstage; even though his health was clearly failing for his final several years, his guitar playing never lost its fire. John Dawson Winter III passed away on July 15.

Dick Wagner
Had he done nothing more than lay down the transcendent extended guitar duel with Steve Hunter titled “Intro” on Lou Reed‘s Rock’n’Roll Animal, Dick Wagner would be worthy of honor. But he did much more: his early band Ursa Major cranked out some guitar heroics. And he was responsible for much of what made Alice Cooper worth listening to in the 70s and 80s. Though I could muster only lukewarm praise for his autobiography Not Only Women Bleed (though interesting, it’s about as imaginative as its title), his music was always worthwhile. Richard Allen Wagner left us July 30.

Ian McLagan
It’s a mark of the appeal and success of The Rolling Stones that they never shied away from enlisting the musical help of top-notch musicians. And though – somewhat inexplicably – Keith Richards continues to roam the Earth, both Bobby Keys (sax) and Ian McLagan (keys) have followed Billy Preston (keys) into the hereafter (Preston passed away in 2006). McLagan, of course, achieved fame long before playing with the Stones, as a member of The Small Faces and then later The Faces (with whom Rod Stewart closed the worthwhile chapter of his own musical career). 2014 saw two major Small Faces releases, a sprawling compilation and a reissue of one of their best albums. Mac – as he was affectionately known – stayed busy with his own band (his final album was a corker), but he took time to grant me an extensive interview about the old days. Ian Patrick McLagan died on December 3.

Paul Revere
I’ve written more about Paul Revere & the Raiders than about any other musical act. I only got to meet Revere once, and though I pestered him (mostly by proxy) to cooperate on a book-length history of him and his band, that didn’t happen in his lifetime (note: stay tuned). Revere was equal parts musician and entertainer, with a healthy dose of businessman thrown in. But unlike, say, Gene Simmons of KISS, Revere was never smug and cynical in his approach to music. Long after the hits (and TV shows, and record deals) ended, and the key members of his group left to do their own things, “Uncle Paul” soldiered on, always with the goal of entertaining. And he always succeeded. Paul Revere Dick passed away at his home in Idaho on October 4.

And with that, I’ve wrapped up my look back at 2014. Onward into the future: normal blog posting – reviews, interviews, features, essays and more – resumes Monday.