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One last goodbye

Celebrating the lives of classic rock artists who died in 2013


Didn't see that coming. Seems like it was a few weeks ago we were kissing 2012 bye-bye and looking ahead to this year. Somehow it sneaked by, and already it's goodbye 2013, you old year you, and hail the new year. Here's one last retrospective on the past 12 months, then we'll set the clocks to 2014, and see how fast it passes.

It isn't always easy, but each time another artist from the classic rock era passes away, I try to note the passing by celebrating their lives rather than mourning their deaths.


Richie Havens

Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images

Such was his influence on fans and artists, there was much to celebrate about the life of Richie Havens, who died at age 72 following a heart attack in April. Havens' influence went well beyond his music.

Stephen Stills said Havens was "one of the nicest most generous and pure individuals I have ever met."

Producer Joe Henry said Havens was "a heroic and generous spirit; a most singular artist. He changed me. He changed you too, know it or not."


Ray Manzarek

Photo by Matthew Peyton / Getty Images

The musical legacy of The Doors was kept alive in the years after Jim Morrison's death in large part by the efforts of Ray Manzarek, who died of cancer in May at age 74. His motivation had been as much personal as professional. "We really had the feeling that we had something very special, something that only happens once. We thought we were going to change the world."

There are now two surviving members of The Doors. Robbie Krieger, who frequently toured with Manzarek in recent years, said, "I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate. Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him."

John Densmore's comments echoed the sentiment. "Ray, I felt totally in sync with you musically. It was like we were of one mind, holding down the foundation for Robby and Jim to float on top of. I will miss my musical brother."

JJ Cale

Photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images

JJ Cale, who died in July at age 73 as the result of a heart attack, could always be counted on to tell it like it is, both in his song lyrics, and in talking about his life. "I never considered myself a singer," Cale was quoted as saying in his official biography. "I always considered myself a songwriter, so my singing got on my nerves so I'd always pull my vocals back."

Eric Clapton, whose 1970 cover of Cale's "After Midnight" boosted both artists' careers, was once asked by an interviewer to name the living person he most admired. Clapton's answer, without hesitation, "JJ Cale."

Alvin Lee

Photo © Alvin Lee

Because of complications resulting from what was called "a routine surgical procedure" Alvin Lee passed away at 68 in March. He left his musical mark in many ways, most notably as the face and voice of Ten Years After.

In 1974, Lee left what he called "the road to fame and fortune" with TYA so that he could ""make music of my own choice without worrying about what other people thought or expected."

Queen guitarist Brian May wrote on his website that Lee was "a legendary and influential guitarist and very nice bloke. His speed and dexterity, in the days when I would go as a student to the Marquee Club to see Ten Years After, was scary and exciting. He was daring enough to play and sing close to his limit every time.”


Lou Reed

Photo by Roger Kisby/Getty Images

Lou Reed's life was saved by a liver transplant in May, but resulting complications caused his death at age 71 in October. As a founding member of Velvet Underground and as a solo artist, Reed's legacy was his willingness and ability to explore, experiment, and test the boundaries.

David Bowie eulogized Reed as "a master." Alt rocker Morrissey said, "Thank God for those, like Lou, who move within their own laws, otherwise imagine how dull the world would be."

"Let no one weep for me"

We also said goodbye this year to way too many songwriters, sidemen, producers, and others who helped shape classic rock into what it became. There are too many to list here, but I include all of them in our celebration of the lives that influenced our lives in so many ways. In the words of Quintus Ennius, a writer who lived in Rome more than 21 centuries ago, "Let no one weep for me, or celebrate my funeral with mourning; for I still live, as I pass to and fro through the mouths of men." So it is with those whose lives we're celebrating today.
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