Bat Out of Hell. Rumours. Grease. Not only three of the most iconic and popular albums of the late-’70s, but among the biggest ever. No wonder so many Gen X and Baby Boomers felt a tinge of sadness on this past New Year’s Eve, as they looked back and remembered huge parts of all of those albums passed away during 2022.
It seems a bit gloomy to ruminate over death, especially when we are full of hope for the new year, but it seems appropriate to have a bit of a glance back and remember some of the great musical talent that went on to, as the Righteous Brothers put it years back, “Rock & Roll Heaven.” That “hell of a band” has expanded greatly since the days of Jimi, Janis and Otis they recalled.
Big old Meat Loaf didn’t look like a rock star, but he sure could sing like one as the world found out in ’77 with Bat Out of Hell. He follows his songwriter extraordinaire, Jim Steinman, into the Great Beyond; Steinman died in 2021.
Christine McVie wasn’t as flashy as Stevie Nicks, and all things considered, might have been the most low-key member of Fleetwood Mac, but she certainly created some excellent songs for them through the years – after, it should be noted, a successful career in Britain as a member of Chicken Shack. She passed away on November 30; ironically barely two weeks later Canadian Shirley Eikhart did as well. Eikhart made a name for herself in the Great White North with a cover of McVie’s Fleetwood Mac hit “Say That You Love Me”, then went on to bigger success writing tunes for the likes of Bonnie Raitt.
And of course, anyone who had a heart and lived in the ’70s was probably saddened to say the very least in August when the lovely Olivia Newton John finally succumbed to cancer which she’d been trying to keep at bay for two decades. Sadly, as planes get safer, now it seems cancer is the primary reaper of musicians, but that’s probably not that different than the rest of society. From country to pop to disco, ONJ was the biggest of the big when it came to female singers of the ’70s and early-’80s, scoring 21 top 20 singles in the States and helping make “grease” much more than just a kitchen nuisance.
Just as Olivia had success singing in Hollywood musicals, so too did Irene Cara, who also is on the sad list. Cara actually did that twice, with Fame and again with Flashdance.
If Olivia was the “queen of pop”, country had a queen that passed away too – Loretta Lynn. The great had a 57 year career touring and is recognized as the most awarded female country singer ever. And Naomi Judd and Mickey Gilley added to the losses in the country music world.
We remember Alan White, a drummer in Yes for 50 years who also was with John Lennon for his first concert with the Plastic Ono Band. And another friend of Lennon’s, Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, a redneck country-rocker who grew up in Canada, where he was immensely popular as a live performer in the ’60s and ’70s…and happened to have a pretty good backing band. Most of The Hawks went on to work behind Bob Dylan, before going it alone as The Band. And the other member of the Hawks in that era, David Clayton Thomas, went on to sing with Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Even rowdier and more controversial than Hawkins was one of rock’s first real “bad boys”, Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away in October.
And alas, the list seems endless. We might not know all the names but we remember the music by the likes of drummer Taylor Hawkins– no relation to Ronnie – (along with Nate Mendel, Taylor was the longest-standing member of the Foo Fighters besides Mr Foo himself, Dave Grohl), Andy Fletcher, one of the Depeche Mode constants, and Terry Hall, singer in Fun Boy Three and co-writer of “Our Lips Are Sealed” with his then girlfriend Jane Wiedlin. And Christmas wouldn’t be the same without the music of Jules Bass, who wrote lyrics to many of the great specials of the ’60s like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
R&B and soul losses were plenty too. Thom Bell helped make the “Philadelphia Sound”, co-starting Philadelphia Intl, Records, producing The Spinners, and writing many songs including most of the Stylistics hits like “Stone In Love With You.” Anita Pointer joined her two sisters that formed the original trio the Pointer Sisters. And one of the great songwriters of any age, Lamont Dozier, who helped pen a good chunk of Motown’s 1960s hit catalog as well.
Ronnie Spector, the “first bad girl of rock and roll”. Sister Janet Mead, who actually had a gold single with an upbeat version of “The Lord’s Prayer” in 1974 (she donated all her income from it to charity.) Bill Pitman lived to a ripe old age of 102; he was a popular session man who among other things played ukulele on “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.” Dan McCafferty, singer from Nazareth. Movie score great Vangelis. Keith Levene, basically the lesser-known half of John Lydon’s Public Image Ltd. Canadian alt rocker Dallas Good from the Sadies, whom I never met but shared a couple of mutual friends with. Barry Bailey, long-time guitarist for the Atlanta Rhythm Section. Jim Seals, half of Seals & Crofts.
The list doesn’t end there, in fact it could seem endless. But rather than be sad, let’s listen to some of the great music they left us with and feel blessed. And perhaps be sure to appreciate some of the older artists still putting out records and playing gigs for us just a little bit more.