In Memoriam: Remembering those we lost in 2020

a montage of those we lost this year
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As 2020 draws to a close, we're taking a moment to reflect on the losses the rock and metal worlds have felt this year.

Here's to the rock'n'rollers, among them musicians, producers, writers and more, who sadly left us in 2020. 

Thank you for the music.

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Neil Peart (September 12,1952 - January 7,2020)

Neil Peart behind drum kit

(Image credit: Fin Costello / Redferns / Getty Images)

Drummer and lyricist with Rush, Neil Peart was an inspiration to a generation of drummers, including Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, who inducted Rush into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2013.

Neil joined Rush in 1974 after the departure of original drummer John Rutsey. “I remember him pulling up and unloading his gear and we thought he was kind of goofy looking,” said bassist Geddy Lee of their first meeting. “And we thought we were pretty cool cats! But he started playing and Al and I just sort of caught each other’s eye. He was astounding, he blew us away. 

"After he left this other guy turned up and he was setting up with his sheet music and I felt kind of bad for him because after Neil’s audition he had absolutely no chance.”

Read Neil Peart Remembered

David Roback (April 4, 1958-February 24, 2020)

David Roback was the singer, guitarist and co-founder of American alt-rockers Mazzy Star, best known for hit track Fade Into You, which tallied number 44 in the US charts, and boosted their second album, So Tonight That I Might See, to platinum status.

Martin Griffin (September 15, 1949 - January 6, 2020)

Martin Griffin became Hawklords' drummer after he was signed up by Hawkwind to record the 25 Years On album. Following this, he appeared with Hawkwind on 1981’s Sonic Attack and went on to play on 1982’s Church Of Hawkwind and Choose Your Masques the same year.

"A complete and irresistible force of nature," Hawklords said in a statement. "He was a very welcome participant at several Hawklords shows over the last 10 years and always a splendid guest when attending the many shows that we have played in the Plymouth area of the UK. 

"Martin was a fine officer and gentleman of the old school and a terrific drummer, with a style as thoughtful and equally laid back in it's approach as he was.

"He will be very much missed by those of us that knew him, by Harvey in particular and by the Hawk-Fraternity around the world. Our thoughts are with his son Jack and family at this sad time."

Chris Darrow (July 30, 1944 - January 15, 2020)

Hailed as a pioneer of country rock music in the late 1960s, Chris Darrow, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter, performed with numerous groups. However, he is most famously known for his work with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Kaleidoscope. 

Andy Gill (January 1, 1956 – February 1, 2020)

As well as working as an in-demand record producer, Andy Gill was best known for his work as lead guitarist for the British rock band Gang Of Four, which he co-founded in 1976. Gill played on albums Entertainment! and Solid Gold, as well as hit singles such as At Home He's A Tourist, Damaged Goods, Anthrax, What We All Want and I Love A Man In A Uniform.

Gill’s partner, the author and activist Catherine Mayer, believes that he might have been an early victim of COVID-19. In a lengthy, heartfelt piece of her website, Mayer wrote that she observed changes in Gill that are now associated with those hardest hit by coronavirus. “We may never find out whether COVID-19 killed Andy," she concluded. "Yet I will always know, in indelible detail, how he died. I will always know, intimately, how COVID-19 kills, the suffering it causes and the unbearable stillness that follows. 

“I will always know this – that we must do what it takes, whatever it takes, to prevent such deaths.”

Read “I’m a Bit of an Awkward Bastard”: an interview with Gang Of Four's Andy Gill

Ivan Král (May 12, 1948 – February 2, 2020)

Ivan Král was a guitarist, bassist, producer and songwriter. He moved from Czechoslovakia to the US in 1966, played with Blondie in 1974 before going on to work with the Patti Smith Group on their four albums recorded between 1975 and 1979: HorsesRadio EthiopiaEaster and Wave.

His next appearance was on Iggy Pop’s 1980 album Soldier and Party the following year, before he hooked up with John Waite on the IgnitionNo Brakes and Mask Of Smiles albums.

Kral also worked with other artists including John Cale, Eastern Bloc and Noel Redding, and released a number of solo albums.

Steve Priest (February 23, 1948 – June 4, 2020)

Steve Priest

(Image credit: Michael Putland / Getty Images)

Steve Priest was founding member and bassist of glam legends Sweet. The band embarked on a successful career with single hits including Wig-Wam Bam, Block Buster!, The Ballroom Blitz, Fox On The Run, Action and Love Is Like Oxygen.

"Then there was one! I am in pieces right now," said fellow Sweet member Andy Scott. "Steve Priest has passed away. His wife Maureen and I have kept in contact and though his health was failing I never envisaged this moment. Never. My thoughts are with his family.

"He was the best bass player I ever played with. The noise we made as a band was so powerful. From that moment in the summer of 1970 when set off on our Musical Odyssey the world opened up and the rollercoaster ride started! He eventually followed his heart and moved to the USA. First New York then LA.

"Rest in Peace brother. All my love."

Kelv Hellrazer (September 8, 1963 – March 2020)

British journalist Kelv Hellrazer was best known for his work within the glam rock universe, and helped the UK and Europe learn about the music scene of the Sunset Strip, consisting of artists such as Poison, Sweet Savage, Guns N’ Roses, Ruby Slippers, Warrant, Pretty Boy Floyd and Tuff. 

Wes Wilson (July 15, 1937 – January 24, 2020)

Wes Wilson was one of the most influential designers of the 1960s. His original poster designs inspired a style that is now synonymous with the era's psychedelic period and peace movement. 

Bob Shane (February 1, 1934 – January 26, 2020)

Bob Shane was an American singer, guitarist and founding member of the folk group The Kingston Trio, whose chart hit Tom Dooley earned them a Grammy.

Reed Mullin (February 12, 1966 – January 27, 2020)

Drummer Reed Mullin co-founded Corrosion Of Conformity with guitarist Woody Weatherman and bassist Mike Dean in 1982, with the band releasing their debut album Eye For An Eye in 1984. He left the band in 2001 due to a back injury. 

“A badass drummer," said the band in a statement. "Reed could play all of the metal stuff, cymbal grabs, proto blast beats with only one bass pedal. He could cop one hundred different styles and reference them in his own way.

“Everything from Earl Hudson and Clive Burr to Neil Peart (RIP) to Mitch Mitchell and Bill Ward. From John Bonham to Phil Taylor and Nicko McBrain.

“All the while he was creating his own thing, odd times and polyrhythms played nonchalantly, powerful, simple, deliberate sections, all of the possibilities were in fact possible but utilised thoughtfully, in the proper place, for the proper effect, as the song demanded. 

“Musically speaking, what more could you ask for?”

Genesis P-orridge

Genesis P-Orridge was a musician, poet, artist, occultist and gender-nonconformist, most famously known as being the founder of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV.

"It is with very heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved father, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge," Genesis's daughters, Caresse and Genesse, said in a statement.

"S/he will be laid to rest with h/er other half, Jaqueline ‘Lady Jaye’ Breyer who left us in 2007, where they will be re-united."

Neurosis' Steve Von Till spoke of h/er influence, saying: "Tuning in to a late night program on my local cutting edge community radio station, for the first time, I would be truly terrified by music and sound. Throbbing Gristle. Disturbing, unsettling… this is the sound of confronting society’s taboos while its facade fades into an industrial wasteland."

When Throbbing Gristle disbanded P-Orridge founded another experimental band, Psychic TV, a force in the early days of the Acid House movement who went on to release over 100 albums.

Read The extraordinary life and times of Genesis P-Orridge

Sean Reinert (May 27, 1971 – January 24, 2020)

Drummer Sean Reinert formed prog metal pioneers Cynic back in 1987, and released their ground-breaking debut Focus in 1993. Reinert also appeared on Death's 1991 album Human, a seminal album in the development of the technical death metal genre.

"I was luckier than most," said Cynic bassist Sean Malone in a statement. "Complete musical trust – especially between a bassist and a drummer – is a rare and precious thing. Rare, because it’s not something you find by looking for it. Precious, because some may go an entire lifetime without ever having experienced it. But I was luckier than most. 

"Sean offered his trust during every rehearsal, every recording, and every performance we ever did, and it’s likely that I’ll never experience the same again. The truth is that we’re all lucky – lucky to have been alive while Sean Reinert was making music."

Buddy Cage (February 18, 1946 – February 5, 2020)

Buddy Cage was an American pedal steel guitarist, performer and session musician, widely known as long-time member of the New Riders of the Purple Sage. His ventures as a session player saw him work with many bands and artists, including Anne Murray, Bob Dylan and Brewer & Shipley.

Ron Thompson (July 5, 1953 – February 15, 2020)

Ron Thompson was a Californian blues rock guitarist, singer and songwriter, who worked with artists including Little Joe Blue, John Lee Hooker, Lowell Fulson and Etta James.

Andrew Weatherall (April 6, 1963 – February 17, 2020)

Andrew Weatherall, English musician, DJ, songwriter, producer and remixer was one of the flagship DJs in the acid house wave of the late 1980s. He also remixed tracks for Happy Mondays, New Order, Björk, My Bloody Valentine and more, and has been credited in helping Primal Scream's classic Screamadelica win the first ever Mercury Music Prize in 1992.

Keith Olsen (Died March 7, 2020)

Keith Olsen was an acclaimed producer who worked with artists such as Ozzy Osbourne, Fleetwood Mac, Whitesnake, Heart and Foreigner. Most famously, he produced Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham's first and only album as a duo, Buckingham Nicks, in 1973.

“We just learned about the passing of our dear friend and producer Keith Olsen," said Scorpions in a statement. "Keith produced many iconic albums, including our album Crazy World

“Keith was a wonderful guy, and the making of Crazy World was such an inspiring journey, containing outstanding songs like Wind Of Change and Send Me An Angel, which had the Keith Olsen touch on every single note."

Phil Phillips (March 14, 1926 – March 14, 2020)

Phil Phillips, was an American singer-songwriter, best known for his song, Sea Of Love in 1959. Other notable tracks include No One Needs My Love Today, and an anti-drug spoken word track titled The Evil Dope, in the late 1960s.

Jason Rainey (February 14, 1967 – March 16, 2020)

Guitarist Jason Rainey played on Sacred Reich’s debut album Ignorance in 1987 and went on to appear on 1990’s The American Way, 1993’s Independent and 1996’s Heal.

“Jason started the band after only playing guitar for six months," the band said in a statement. "With sheer determination and will, he led us through the early years of the band. He worked tirelessly. Sacred Reich was his life.

“In recent years he faced some serious medical issues. He ultimately succumbed to a heart attack on Monday, March 16. He was 53 years old. Jason, we wish you peace and love.”

Kenny Rogers (August 21, 1938 – March 20, 2020)

Kenny Rogers was an American singer-songwriter, musician, actor, record producer, entrepreneur, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013. He scored hits with the famous Islands In The Stream and Lucille. 


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