×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

In Memoriam: Musicians We Lost in 2016

The music industry was hit particularly hard in 2016, with the passing of many notable artists, producers, and managers.

The year got off to a rough start with David Bowie, who died two days after his 69th birthday on January 10. The pioneering British rocker had been diagnosed with liver cancer 18 months earlier but did not disclose his illness. Perhaps knowing that his days were numbered and as a parting gift to his fans, he released his 25th and final album — “Blackstar” — on his birthday. In December, Blackstar was nominated for the 2017 Best Alternative Music Album Grammy, and many consider it one of the best albums of the year. It featured a number of Easter eggs for fans such as a vinyl album cover that turned into a galaxy of stars in the sun. (Read his obituary here.)

April marked the unexpected death of Prince Rogers Nelson, best known by just his first name. Like Bowie, Prince was known for his incredible showmanship, style and musicianship. Prince died of a fentanyl overdose on April 21 in his Paisley Park recording studio and home in Minnesota. He was just 57. His magmum opus, the 1984 soundtrack to “Purple Rain,” earned him two of his seven career Grammy Awards and an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score in 1985. (Read his obituary here.)

Country music legend Merle Haggard also died in April. His career spanned five decades and spawned 38 No. 1 hits on the country charts. He died on April 6, his 79th birthday, in California. Haggard was honored with the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, a Kennedy Center Honor in 2010, and even performed at the Grammys in 2014 with longtime friend Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Blake Shelton. (Read his obituary here.)

Leonard Cohen died on Nov. 10. The Canadian poet and novelist, who became a singular international presence as a singer-songwriter with songs like “Suzanne,” was 82. Only a month before, he released his final album, “You Want It Darker,” a deeply introspective work that focused thematically on mortality. (Read his obituary here.)

George Michael died on Dec. 25 at age 53. The pop star was part of the popular ’80s duo Wham! before branching out into his solo career. His powerful stage presence and overt sexuality were balanced by a giving spirit and desire for privacy. He was one of the earlier celebrities to come out as openly gay. (Read his obituary here.)

Numerous notable producers and managers died in 2016, including Beatles producer George Martin and Celine Dion’s husband and manager Rene Angelil.

A Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, The Surfer Blood’s guitarist Tom Fekete, and rising star Christina Grimmie all died too young. Grimmie was murdered by a deranged fan at the age of 22.

Other influential musicians lost in 2016 include musician and songwriter Leon Russell, who died Nov. 13, and two-thirds of progressive rock trio Emerson, Lake and Palmer: Keith Emerson in March and Greg Lake earlier in December.

To see more notable deaths from 2016, check out the gallery below.

Hollywood Stars and Icons Lost in 2016

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Midland Offers a Clever Take on

    Album Review: Midland's 'Let It Roll'

    At the end of 2019, if you tally up all the steel guitar playing that appeared on a mainstream country album released by a major label this year, chances are that at least 80 percent of it will have occurred solely on Midland’s new album. That’s not the only reason to buy “Let It Roll,” [...]

  • Taylor Swift: Borchetta 'Conveniently Forgets' Scooter

    Taylor Swift: Scott Borchetta 'Has 300 Million Reasons to Forget' Scooter Braun Warnings

    In an interview with “CBS Sunday Morning,” Taylor Swift charged that the president of her former label, Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta, has a selective memory when it came to recalling just how she’s long felt about Scooter Braun, who acquired her catalog when his Ithaca Holdings purchased the record company. “I knew he would sell [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein, Katie Holmes, Taylor Swift'The

    Taylor Swift Downplays Association With Harvey Weinstein

    Taylor Swift’s association with disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein was among the topics the singer addressed in a revealing new interview with The Guardian. Weinstein held producer credits for the movies “One Chance” and “The Giver,” both of which featured Swift — in the former, a song, and in the latter, a supporting role. She [...]

  • Tanya Tucker Finds Fresh Footing With

    Album Review: Tanya Tucker's 'While I'm Livin''

    Before there was a name and a place for it, an “outlaw” was what Tanya Tucker was in the years following her gentle country smash with the gospel lilt, “Delta Dawn,” in 1972. A hellraiser and heartbreaker (Merle Haggard and Glen Campbell were just a few of her noted lovers), Tucker made as many headlines [...]

  • A pair of handcuffs

    D.C. Concert Biz Heavyweight Seth Hurwitz Arrested for Solicitation

    Seth Hurwitz, a highly regarded figure in the Washington, D.C. concert scene, was arrested Wednesday on solicitation of prostitution after a massage therapist who felt harassed by Hurwitz helped police set up a bust. Hurwitz, owner of the 9:30 Club and Anthem venues and chairman of the Merriweather Post Pavilion, was released on $5,000 bond [...]

  • Major Lazer Fortnite

    Major Lazer Remixes Fortnite Soundtrack and Releases New In-Game Skins

    Major Lazer, one of Diplo’s many creative outlets, has teamed up with Fortnite to offer fans access to a unique character skin and new remixes of the game’s Default Dance track. The Lazerism set includes the Major Lazer Outfit, Lazer Wings, Lazer Aze, the Lazer Blast emote and the EDM group’s remix of the “Default [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content