Support the news
Many musical voices went silent in 2014. We lost singers, instrumentalists, composers, conductors, producers, DJs and other visionaries. Explore their musical legacies here.
June 26, 1933 — Jan. 20, 2014
Directing the premiere orchestras and opera companies of the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic and La Scala, Abbado was a self-effacing conductor whose inspired interpretations breathed freshness into music from Mozart to modernists. His devoted fans called themselves "Abbadiani."
March 28, 1930 — March 3, 2014
Beginning in the 1970s, this trailblazing composer wrote his idiosyncratic works not for opera houses, but for television. His intricate song-like recitations mused on everything from Renaissance philosophy to The Wall Street Journal.
Oct. 7, 1934 — Jan. 9, 2014
This controversial poet, author and essayist wasn't the first African-American to write seriously about black music, but he made it sing of history, community, struggle — that is, the blues.
July 13, 1924 — July 25, 2014
With its robust blend of velvet and bronze, the voice of this durable Italian tenor was perfectly suited to heroic roles in Verdi's operas. Bergonzi's power and elegance were on display at New York's Metropolitan Opera for more than 30 years.
Aug. 30, 1963 — March 23, 2014
With buckets of fake blood at the ready the GWAR frontman (known onstage as Oderus Urungus) was a gleefully obscene, shock-rock satirist with a foam latex phallus.
May 14, 1943 — Oct. 25, 2014
One of rock's greatest bassists, he was also a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who worked as a solo artist. He experienced his crowning musical achievements with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker in the 1960s blues-rock powerhouse Cream.
Aug. 11, 1959 — Sept. 4, 2014
Fronting the band Soda Stereo in the 1980s and '90s, this Argentine musician was the first true Latin American rock superstar. He had a prolific solo career, and it's fair to say Latin rock would not exist without him.
May 20, 1944 — Dec. 22, 2014
Woodstock catapulted the gravel-voiced singer into the stratosphere, thanks to an electrifying Beatles cover. He went on to cut some of the most indelibly soulful tracks in history, from the rocking "Feelin' Alright" to the ballad "You Are So Beautiful."
Feb. 17, 1923 — Dec. 24, 2014
A master of the jazz clarinet, DeFranco earned his stripes in swing bands. When that music gave way to harder-edged bebop, he made a brilliant transition to the new sound, always playing with a rich tone and lyrical style with a broad range of artists from Art Blakey to Billie Holiday.
Dec. 21, 1947 — Feb. 26, 2014
By blending jazz and other strains of music into his playing, the forward-thinking Spanish guitarist pushed flamenco to places it had never been, while always remembering its roots.
Jan. 19, 1939 — Jan. 3, 2014
Taking the high parts in duets with his brother Don, Phil Everly (left), a harmonizer beyond compare, blended country, blues and pop in stories of young love, loss and ambition, pioneering a sound that became a basic building block of rock and roll.
Jul. 3, 1935 — Apr. 17, 2014
The velvety-voiced salsa pioneer from Puerto Rico trained with New York's Latin dance orchestras in the 1950s and became one of his generation's most recognizable voices. After bouts with addiction and homelessness, Feliciano roared back in the '70s as a superstar in the Fania Records stable.
Aug. 2, 1942 — May 1, 2014
Modern Cuban music sounds the way it does largely because of Formell's contributions as bandleader of the legendary Los Van Van — an enduring group with violins, trombones and a deep catalog of transcendently sensual songs.
Aug. 6, 1937 — July 11, 2014
The adventurous bassist and composer is well remembered as the low end of Ornette Coleman's free jazz revolution. But Haden was wherever beautiful melodies were to be found, with hundreds of varied recordings — from American folk traditions to hard bop — to prove it.
Nov. 16, 1945 — June 22, 2014
Without guitarist and songwriter Mabon Lewis "Teenie" Hodges, you don't have "Love and Happiness." You don't have "Take Me to the River." You don't have the man wearing green alligator shoes in his nephew Drake's "Worst Behavior" video, which pays tribute to Memphis, the city that has Hodges to thank for a sweet spot in its soul.
Sept. 10, 1941 — Sept. 24, 2014
This early music evangelist brought new life to music by such composers as Bach and Mozart. A conductor, keyboard player and musicologist, he helped transform Boston's formerly sleepy Handel and Haydn Society into a historically informed performance powerhouse.
March 17, 1930 — June 29, 2014
The Manhattan School of Music graduate became an accomplished jazz musician and film score composer. But he's perhaps best known for ethereal flute solos recorded in the Taj Mahal in 1968. The resulting album, Inside, made him a New Age music pioneer.
April 27, 1932 — June 15, 2014
For 39 years, Kasem was the voice in America's ear, the disc jockey with the cheerfully mellow tone hosting American Top 40 and his own Casey's Top 40. He counted down the hits, fielded dedications and made pop music a warm and winning part of millions of lives.
Jan. 8, 1955 — March 31, 2014
There was no such thing as house music when the DJ and producer born Francis Nicholls Jr. first put his needle on the record. The godfather of house music's mid-1980s productions, like "Your Love," rank among the greatest dance tracks ever.
March 6, 1930 — July 13, 2014
The polymath and former child prodigy was a violinist and composer who turned George Orwell's 1984 into an opera. But this American was best known as a peripatetic conductor who served as music director of the Cleveland Orchestra and New York Philharmonic.
Aug. 13, 1926 — Sept. 11, 2014
Matassa was the mastermind of the New Orleans sound. At his J&M Recording Studio on North Rampart Street, this former chemistry student worked with producer Dave Bartholomew to create classic recordings by Roy Brown, Fats Domino, Little Richard and countless others, putting the roux into rock 'n' roll.
May 12, 1945 — Dec. 3, 2014
A rock 'n' roll keyboard chameleon, whose style popped with strains of jazz and R&B, McLagan played with melodic vitality as a member of the Faces and as a sideman with the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.
March 25, 1910 — Sept. 8, 2014
Singing in public for more than seven decades, the tenacious soprano thrilled audiences with expressive portrayals of passion and heartbreak, spinning the finest threads of vocal silver to the farthest reaches of the opera house.
Jan. 29, 1949 — July 11, 2014
The original drummer of The Ramones was born Erdelyi Tamas in Budapest before emigrating to the United States. After starting a career as a recording engineer, he was supposed to manage The Ramones, until the pioneering punk group realized he was the only one who could keep up with them on drums.
Oct. 9, 1979 — April 26, 2014
The shining light of the upbeat genre known as "footwork," this Chicago DJ and producer was on his way to international stardom. Born Rashad Harden, he teased rapture out of repetition in unprecedented fashion — and always with a smile.
April 28, 1937 — Aug. 21, 2014
The Edinburgh-born singer became a star in New York City's folk scene within weeks after her 1961 arrival in the U.S., sharing stages (and an apartment) with Bob Dylan. A lifelong ambassador for Scottish songs and Robert Burns' poetry, she also became a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion.
March 6, 1921 — June 26, 2014
Through commissions and cheerleading, the New York City Opera general director and conductor did as much as anyone — if not more — to show the richness of American opera. He also fostered such talents as Plácido Domingo and Beverly Sills.
May 7, 1936 — Nov. 17, 2014
Raised on gospel with his younger brother David (the future lead singer of The Temptations), Jimmy Ruffin had a smooth and sturdy tenor but a career that stuttered. He had a modest string of solo hits for Motown in the late 1960s and early '70s, including one immortal classic, "What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted."
Nov. 9, 1927 — Nov. 28, 2014
Blessed with a vivacious smile and an unbelievable voice, a struggling Christian girl from a very small town in Lebanon became the sultry toast of the entire Middle East for decades as a singer and actress, with more than 90 films and 50 albums under her sparkly belt.
Feb. 1, 1939 — Sept. 12, 2014
More than the "smooth jazz" label thrust upon him, the pianist was a melodic force in jazz from his earliest days as a member of the Jazz Crusaders to his days as a festival headliner.
July 17, 1925 — June 12, 2014
One of the most distinctive voices in jazz was coupled with a story of bad breaks at the wrong times in his life. Still, his intimate style and distinctive influence endure in performances by his disciples and recordings of his preternaturally high, unforgettably expressive voice.
May 3, 1919 — Jan. 27, 2014
In The Weavers, as a solo artist and as mentor to generations of folk balladeers and activists, the gentle agitator preserved America's songlines and reminded us all of the power of raising our voices together.
Sept. 2, 1928 — June 18, 2014
The jazz pianist and composer's tunes were little nuggets of joy — earworms that rang of the church, the blues, the dance floor and all the Americas, sometimes simultaneously.
Feb. 28, 1969 — Sept. 19, 2014
The Indian virtuoso took the unlikeliest of instruments — the mandolin — and made it sound like honey. His remarkable musicianship spans traditional recordings of South Indian classical music to Remember Shakti, his supergroup with jazz guitarist John McLaughlin, tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain and percussionist V. Selvaganesh.
Feb. 2, 1925 — July 17, 2014
Between post-World War II Broadway and 30 Rock, the fresh-faced bit player became a battle-scarred star — a Broadway legend and barstool sage. While she could have been a lady who lunched, she stayed onstage, defying time to preach a gospel of Sondheim and survival.
Jan. 14, 1930 — Sept. 18, 2014
Whether with the freest of free improvisers, or devising intricate melodies for large ensembles, the composer and trumpeter spoke with a singular and influential voice.
Sept. 4, 1918 — Sept. 8, 2014
The jazz composer and bandleader mastered colorful, extended orchestration, which kept him employed arranging in the studios. He also deployed those skills toward his true love: leading his own big bands for more than half a century.
Feb. 23, 1944 — July 16, 2014
The best-selling blues-rock guitarist produced Grammy-winning late-career albums for Muddy Waters, but by then he'd already enjoyed a vast, decades-long career in his own right, both solo and with his brother Edgar.
March 4, 1944 — June 27, 2014
The gritty-voiced soul man and controversial Sam Cooke collaborator gifted us with 50 years of hard-livin' tunes that later influenced a generation of hip-hop era crooners, like Jaheim and K-Ci Hailey of Jodeci.
Correction: December 30, 2014 12:00 am — A previous version of this report mistakenly included a photo of DJ Rashad Hayes. The correct photo, of Chicago DJ Rashad Harden, is now posted. For the record, Hayes is alive.